The Holidays are stressful. Did you get the right presents for your extended family and all their annoying children? Will Diana from Accounting like the scarf you got her for Secret Santa? Is your new boo going to bail before your family Christmas party even though they promised they’re coming? We hear you, and we understand.
If it’s your turn to DJ the office holiday party, or if you are deciding to throw a festive bash, you’ve come to the right place. While you stress about decorations, drinks, and food, we’ve got your back with some playlist suggestions to keep you Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree.
Mariah Carey – All I Want For Christmas Is You
I couldn’t start off this list without putting the Queen of Christmas herself at the top. I’ve heard a rumour that Mariah Carey disappears for most of the year until we reach the Holidays, when she emerges stronger than ever, whistle tones and all.
The Jackson 5 – Christmas Album
Add a little Motown into your playlist with The Jackson 5 holiday album. This album plays all the classics that we know and love with flair.
Ariana Grande – Christmas & Chill Album
Queen of pop, Ariana Grande, brings us perhaps the most lit Christmas album ever. This album is so good that you can listen to it all year round but it will especially have your party guests throwing it back on the dance floor during the holidays.
*NSYNC – Home For Christmas
Let’s take it back to the ’90s. If you miss JT’s ramen noodle looking hair as much as I do, then you’re going to want to revisit *NSYNC’S Home For Christmas album. This album is certified platinum and will have everybody up on their feet.
TLC – Sleigh Ride
There’s nothing quite like ’90s Christmas R&B. TLC is iconic and of course we are going to do all we can to include it in this list. This tune is an underrated Christmas classic.
Sia – Everyday Is Christmas
Sia has released her first Christmas album and it shouldn’t go unnoticed. This album includes some fun, up-tempo songs, and a few savoury ballads that will be the perfect background noise.
Destiny’s Child – 8 Days of Christmas
I do whatever I can to include Destiny’s Child into many areas of my life. This throwback album will be the perfect start to your Christmas season.
RUN-DMC – Christmas In Hollis
This song is a Christmas classic. It would be impossible to create a holiday party playlist without including RUN-DMC.
There are no shortage of good books out there. If you are wondering what to gift your book-loving kin but don’t know where to begin, here are some titles at the top of my to-read list this holiday season.
Canadian: The Selected Short Fiction of Lisa Moore by Lisa Moore
Lisa Moore is an all time favourite when it comes to short fiction. She is a distinctly Canadian writer, often alluding to her native Newfoundland or to neighbourhoods in downtown Toronto. Her writing is inimitable — matter of fact and freely imagistic. She is interested in human relationships and devises rich emotional worlds that linger invisibly over commonplace settings and events. I look forward to reading her very best in this collection.
Award Winning: Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
I’ve yet to read Kazuo Ishiguro, but Never Let Me Go seems as good a place as any to begin. Set in dystopian England, it follows the lives of human clones, manufactured for the purpose of donating vital organs to prolong the lives of ordinary citizens. It was short listed for the 2005 Booker prize and included in TIME’s 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. Ishiguro was awarded this year’s Nobel Prize in Literature.
Oddball: Notable American Women by Ben Marcus
I sincerely hope that this strange and wonderful-seeming book finds its way onto my shelf. Ben Marcus experiments with language as he tells the tale of the fictional Marcus family. In the beginning, a young Ben recounts his mother’s rituals as she works to make the world perfectly still; she “chooses not to move, refuses to speak” to eliminate the “wind violence” of words. What’s next, I don’t know, but I’m sure that it’s equally bizarre.
Best Seller: Swing Time by Zadie Smith
Swing Time sits comfortably in the window of nearly every other bookshop and in the hands of café dwellers and subway riders alike. Once, I even saw somebody walking down the street with it, unfazed by the likelihood of tripping or bumping into a stranger or wandering into a burning building. This must be a good book. It’s a bildungsroman, following two girls who meet in a community dance class. While the friendship between them ends in their early twenties, it is never forgotten. According to the back cover, it’s “a story about friendship and music and stubborn roots, about how we are shaped by these things and how we can survive them.”
Non Fiction: Essays Against Everything by Mark Grief
Mark Greif refers to Essays Against Everything as a critique of the things he does. He looks culture in the face and questions it head to toe; topics range from the overvaluation of exercise, to the hipster, to the concept of Experience. In the preface Greif says, “To wish to be against everything is to want the world to be bigger than all of it, disposed to dissolve rules and compromises in a gallon or a drop”.
Let’s say you’ve got a beauty junkie in your life.
Someone that takes at least 30 minutes to get ready, someone who plans their makeup before their outfit (or even coordinates them, which is pretty next level), someone who knows the difference in tones between red lipsticks or someone who enters Sephora and actually knows what they’re looking for.
What do you get this person for Christmas?
Firstly, don’t underestimate the power of a good snoop. See what brands they seem to like, items they go through quickly. Listen to them when they talk about makeup. Maybe there’s something they wouldn’t necessarily buy for themselves, but something they’ve always wanted.
While you can always go the gift card route — tried and true, though a little uninspired — you could also dive headfirst into Christmas-shopping-mania and find the perfect gift for the beauty lover in your life.
We can help you there.
tarte Limited Edition Treasure Box
This is a wildly-well-priced gift set from a wonderful makeup brand, containing almost everything you need to do a full face of makeup except for foundation. tarte’s makeup is good, in the nature of full disclosure they are one of my favourite brands, and is entirely vegan if your beauty junkie is concerned with the ingredients of the product. This guy will keep on giving: the potential for a lot of use, over a long period of time.
Fragrance is so specific to every person that it’s hard to get it right unless you know someone really well. A good solution to that, of course, is to bombard them with so many scent options they have no choice but to find one they really like (and possibly regift the rest.) Mini perfumes are perfect to take on the go, not to mention Juliette Has a Gun have some wonderfully unique and gorgeous scents available. This is the perfect way for someone to be introduced to the brand.
So yes, scent is specific to every person, but come on, I think everyone likes Tom Ford. His makeup brand is the pinnacle of luxury. The packaging! The scent! The price tag! This is a splurge gift for sure, only for those who have made peace with a high budget, but if you know your intended gift receiver is a bit of a lush, the you know this gift will be a hit. Like, when you wear this, you smell expensive.
If you can’t decide on one lipstick to get someone, or if you go spying in their makeup collection see so many brands you don’t even understand how its possible, I will point you in the direction of the Sephora Favourites lip set. This gift set has lippies from Kat Von D, Buxom and Bite Beauty and contains both liquid lipsticks and, well… lip-sitcks. And they’re all nudes so they’re guaranteed to actually be used. Basically the perfect gift for the person you have no idea what to get for.
Okay, so we all know Rihanna is a goddess who can do no wrong, and it was a surprise to absolutely no one that there makeup collection is damn good. Even if someone already has pieces from the collection, it seems unlikely someone would say no to getting more Fenty Beauty. Nearly everything from the collection is a safe bet, but may I point you towards:
Galaxy Eyeshadow Palette
Glittery eyeshadows galore in beautiful, limited edition packaging.
“Limited edition” and “collaboration” are words that are pretty exciting and hysteria-inducing in the beauty community and MAC is on top of the game. Their collabs are always timely, well-made, and beyond tempting. They do have a few available right now, such as the Nicki Minaj and Robert Lee Morris collections, and, while both are exquisite, my personal favourite is the collection with Spanish actress Rossy de Palma partly because she’s fabulous and partly because the packaging is so luxe.
If you know your gift-intended loves some glitz and glam in their life, why not give the gift of glitter? MAC pigments are famous for their staying power and potency and these colours are perfect for the winter. Not to mention they come in a cute little disco ball clutch for even more glam.
Colorpop is a well-made, incredibly fairly-priced makeup brand, so most of their products are good for the more modest budget but will make a huge impact. The Yes Please! palette is a real show-stopper for the brand. The palette was on Nylon’s beauty hit list of 2017 and features 12 gorgeous warm-toned shades, guaranteed to look good on everyone.
At this point, it’s getting close to the wire, but I had to include one beauty advent calendar, firstly because they are just the best and secondly because they are so difficult to find in Canada that we all need to share the good ones when we are able to find them. L’Occitane’s advent calendar is pretty iconic already, at a decent price point for the amount of high-quality products you get from it. This year they’ve also put out a premium advent calendar for the big spenders, but the original is a great way to introduce someone to the brand if they’ve never tried it before.
For the skincare fanatic in your life, L’Occitane is a good way to go, and their Divine collection is a particularly well-advised gifting idea. It’s anti-aging, but you won’t necessarily offend anyone by giving it to them because the products in this line are also moisturizing, luminizing and all-around nice-skin-makers. (That being said, maybe don’t gift this to anyone who is real sensitive about aging.) The set contains an all-over cream, an eye cream, a cleaner and a face oil — a full skincare routine ready to go.
Lastly, I’ve got something pretty different from everything else we’ve talked about on here. Inspired Soap Works is a smaller Canadian company with a big impact, selling hand-made affordable skincare products. One of their last launches are a line of salves for the entire body, from head to toe. The salves are formulated without water, so despite them coming in small packages, they really will go a long way. These are the ideal ~stocking stuffers~.
A new exhibition at Northern Contemporary Gallery features hundreds of art pieces under $100!
Looking for an inspirational gift for your artistic friend? Acrylic Sugar Skull, Coffin Jewelry Boxes, Drake-inspired painting, and many other interesting and affordable pieces are waiting for you at the art-show, Under 100.
The exhibition introduces you to talented North American artists and makes your holiday shopping entertaining in itself.
“You can get something that is really unique,” said Emily May Rose who runs the gallery. “Every kind of theme is covered because we did no theme for the show.”
Rose said they wanted to make it affordable for people to buy gifts for their friends and family. The artists could submit a work of any theme and medium, but it had to be priced $100 or under.
The idea worked out perfect. The gallery was full with customers on Dec. 8, the first day of the exhibition. They were scanning the walls with juicy paintings, breathtaking photos of Toronto, and funny digital illustrations.
“People mostly chose to do reproductions of their work like prints because you can set the price a little bit lower for those,” Rose said. “You can’t really do a big painting and sell it for under a hundred dollars.”
Some of the artists decided to use shampoo jars and broken pieces of cups in their mixed-media-works.
An OCAD University student Kevin Pham submitted two digital illustrations and one watercolour painting that he did for school. He said the exhibition is a good opportunity for him to show some of his work and get gallery experience.
“This one is about my grandmother,” Pham pointed at his watercolour painting. “She passed away. So this is her caring for thirteen kids.”
Rose said her favourite artist in this show is Ann Somers who submitted six pieces.
“She has a very painterly but still graphic style,” Rose said. “She did a lot of pop-culture references like Kim Kardashian or Stranger Things TV show and little Drake pieces. Those were very cute.”
The exhibition runs until Dec. 22, at the Northern Contemporary Gallery, 1266 Queen Street West, Toronto, Ontario.
It’s officially Christmas and your social calendar is filling up quickly. Chances are, you’ll probably have to do some holiday entertaining yourself and stress levels are rising. Well you don’t need 12 Drummers Drumming and 11 Pipers Piping to host a hearty, satisfying Christmas dinner party. Here are some tips to simplify your holiday entertaining this year:
1) Don’t decorate the whole space. If you’re like me, then you like it when it looks like Christmas threw up in your house. But you don’t need the festive couch cushions and themed plates to have a holly jolly time. You really only need to spend time on one or two focal points. If you have a mantel, then concentrate on that. A pretty holiday table centerpiece can also give your space the festive feels without being overbearing. Start with some moody fresh florals, throw in some candles, fill the gaps with some fall fruit and call it a day.
2) Only clean where your guests will be. There’s no point in deep cleaning your closet when your guests probably won’t be lounging in there. Tidy up the main spaces where your guests will be. This usually means the living and dining room, bathroom, and kitchen. Scrubbing down the rest of your home might just be a waste of time, better spent doing something else.
3) Minimize your table setting. Sometimes, you don’t need a different cutlery for every bite of food. A plate, a fork, and a knife go a long way for the main course. If you’re plating dessert, use a smaller plate and spoon to serve it. Matte black plates help modernize your place setting (Ikea usually has these and they’re affordable). Mixed metals silverware will also bring in an understated festive element.
4) Create a foolproof cheeseboard instead of hot food appetizers. We’ve seen enough of the Instagram posts, but cheeseboards are easy to put together and require no cooking. Get 3-4 different cheeses, usually one soft cheese, one semi-soft, and one hard. It’s good to have variety. I’m not that adventurous so I stick to the milder flavours. It’s brie, gouda, and a log of herb coated goat cheese for me. You can always ask for help when picking out cheeses at the deli — they’re experts. Use crackers and bread that won’t overpower the flavours of the cheeses, such as water crackers. Accompany the cheeseboard with olives, prosciutto, and nuts and make sure the cheese is room temperature before serving. There really is no right or wrong when putting together a cheeseboard, but it makes you look real sophisticated.
5) Ditch the figgy pudding and have s’mores for dessert. Put out some bowls with Graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate (the good kind — it’s Christmas). Give each of your guests a skewer and gather ’round telling stories of Christmases past. Now, if you want to be fancy, you can purchase a Pu Pu Platter. It’s a mini Hibachi grill that comes with compartments to place all your s’more essentials. The more common way to roast marshmallows inside is using ethanol gel cans. Tea lights will probably work just as well. Serve a cup of hot cocoa on the side and you’re good to go!