Honeymooning in Portland, Maine

HONEYMOONING IN PORTLAND, MAINE

By Karen Cleveland on December 09, 2014

Portland, Maine, is a humming little city that is seemingly built for food-loving honeymooners. With its heady mix of artistic and outdoor adventures, Portland manages to be stylish and sophisticated, yet genuine and unpretentious. You’ll find award-winning restaurants dotted through the pretty seaside port, but without an air of fussiness.

Steeped in history, the Portland peninsula was established by the British in 1632 as a trading and fishing settlement. A great fire in 1866 levelled the city (for the fourth time: those east coast folk have heart) and the Portland that visitors see today was almost completely rebuilt during the Victorian era. As such, the city is defined by charming 19th century architecture that makes every street picture-book pretty. It’s the perfect blend of art, food, and romantic seaside scenery, in an area that is easy to explore on foot.

Fly into Boston and rent a car for a beautiful (and quick two hour drive) north to Portland, Maine. Stop in Marblehead for a taste of a classic American yachting town, or take in some spooky history in Salem. Alternatively, hop on the The Amtrack Downeaster train that operates five daily round trips between Portland and Boston’s North Station. And if you prefer to venture by sea, the Nova Star Cruise transports visitors from Nova Scotia.

Given its seaside exposure, Portland’s air is crisp, so pack accordingly. And bring your appetite. Rumoured to have one of the highest restaurants per capita in North America, but without an ounce of pretence, the dining scene is impressive. Brunch is serious business here, so fuel up at one of the city’s beloved destinations such as Hot Suppa,Bintliff’s or Bido’s Madd Apple Cafe.

Once brunched plan to spend some time strolling around town. Grab a coffee from Tandem Coffee Roaster and head to Portland’s charming shops. Stock up on heritage, all natural his-and-her skincare from the Portland General StorePortland Dry Goods stocks a fantastic selection of brands for both men and women, in a gorgeous building across from the docks.

Up on the eastern part of the city’s peninsula stands the Portland Observatory, the only existing maritime signal station in the U.S.. This beacon of maritime architecture offers gorgeous, unobstructed views of the harbour.  Rent a bike from Gorham Bike & Ski  and peddle a few miles down to Fort Williams Park for panoramic views of Casco Bay and a tour of Portland Head Light — one of the most photographed lighthouses in the world. Try your hand at hauling in a crustacean on Lucky Catch Cruises for a first-hand account of how your dinner gets from the sea to your table.

All that exploring is bound to work up an appetite, so find some snacks that appeal to your Canadian roots. Portland just might serve up better poutine (like the one at Duck Fat) and donuts (like those at Holy Donut) than can be found on home soil.

The Pomegranate Inn, a plush converted historical mansion that’s the perfect distance away from downtown Portland, is a great place to stay in a picturesque stretch of residential Victorians. This charming abode offers a handful of rooms, all decorated by local artists. As romantic as it is luxurious (be sure to book a room with a fireplace) it also happens to serve up a complimentary delicious breakfast that leaves absolutely no reason to venture out. In fact, if the temptation to sleep in wins, they can arrange to bring a breakfast basket to your room with hot coffee, fresh juice, fresh delicious pastries with artisan jam – perfect for honeymooners.

 

Originally published in Today’s Bride, December, 2014

How to Pull Off Leather at the Office

Here, 10 of the new wearable leather silhouettes showcased on the runways you’ll want to add to your wardrobe workwear now. We’re talking strictly business

NOVEMBER 27, 2014

As soon as fall merchandise started rolling into stores, leather shot to the top of my shopping list. But not the teen-pop legging look I saw on racks everywhere. I was more drawn to its grown-up sisters: lean sheath dresses, beautifully cut skirts and refined fitted jackets.

I’ve flirted with leather over the years: A favourite pair of leather jeans, long since sold on consignment, a well-loved collection of bomber jackets, biker jackets and a knee-length coat all had their places at some point in my closet. But leather for daytime just seemed too much. To ease myself in, I stuck to my cardinal uniform of black and found a few key leather pieces to gussy up my wardrobe of basics.

But first, some important reconnaissance. Susie Sheffman, fashion creative director and consultant, has sage advice for making leather look professional: Wear one piece at a time, and mix it with tailored pieces, like a well-cut blouse or tweed blazer. This, she points out, “takes the toughness down.” She advises me to remove anything too clubby or vampy from my outfits, and when wearing leather pants, to keep the stomach, waistline and bum covered up. She also recommends keeping shoes simple—skip the sky-high heels in favour of a flat, a mid-heel or an oxford to keep the sexiness in check.

Fortunately, on the day I wanted to brave leather pants, the weather was perfect. I wore skinny black leather pants from Ann Taylor with a crisp white collared shirt, a favourite black J.Crew “schoolboy” blazer and nude flats. I felt completely comfortable, as the outfit was a small upgrade from my usual black wool skinny trousers. I got a few compliments on the pants (they fit really nicely), and it felt office appropriate but with a little something extra. This outfit will indeed be in the rotation on the regular.

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Ann Taylor pants, $116, anntaylor.com

On Fridays, without fail, I wear some variation of the skinny jeans and blazer combination. I subbed out one of my go-to blazers in favour of a moto-style jacket from Banana Republic with an ink-blue body and black fabric sleeves. Marissa Webb, Banana Republic’s new creative director (and J.Crew alumna), has already put her mark on the fall and winter line, with a ton of leather and mixed-medium pieces.

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Banana Republic jacket, $310, bananarepublic.ca

One week, I wore it with a white collared shirt (yup, again), black skinny jeans and ankle boots. It felt like a cooler, fresher version of my casual Friday uniform. Another week, I paired it with a knit black pencil skirt, black tank and simple black pumps. Both times, I received lots of compliments (especially from the young ones around the office).

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Here’s the thing: When you introduce a beautiful leather garment into your outfit, it instantly makes it more special or interesting, even in a subtle way. So as someone with an admittedly basic wardrobe, I felt good wearing leather to the office.

 Danier skirt, $250, danier.com

(Published originally for The Kit, November 2014)

Seven Ontario Wines to Fall For

Toronto-wines_3_large

A good bottle of wine makes staying in pleasurable as the weather turns chilly. We’ve rounded up the seven best bottles from our favorite local vineyards

The shift in seasonal wines isn’t unlike the change in our wardrobes. Just as we start to crave cozy knits and sumptuous leather when the weather cools, so our palettes turn to full-bodied wines to suit the chilly temperatures.

Save the grassy, fresh white wines for a summer patio and embrace the season for rich, bold bottles with intense flavours and higher alcohol content (hello, warming effect). And where better to find them than our own backyard? Here are seven fall picks, all sourced from Niagara’s wine region, a hop, skip and jump from Toronto.

1. Stratus Petit Verdot 2011
$38.00
The Winery: Stratus is a real stunner, settled on 62 acres near the southeastern border of the Niagara Lakeshore sub-appellation. Its glass and stone slickness feels a bit more Napa Valley than Niagara and the view from its back patio is simply perfect.
The Wine: Just released, this 2011 vintage is a great bottle to drink now, or save for a few years. Petit Verdot is typically used in small percentages for classic Bordeaux blends and is rarely bottled as a single varietal. This darkly-hued wine is full of juicy dark berry fruits and a touch of warm spice with a silky finish.
stratuswines.com

2. Château des Charmes Cabernet Sauvignon 2012
$14.95
The Winery: Founded in the late 1970’s, Château des Charmes has been family owned and operated for more than 30 years, culminating in five generations of winemaking expertise from the Bosc family.
The Wine: This delicious bargain drinks like a much dearer classic old world cab sauv. It is heavy on black cherry, dark chocolate and a bit of warm toasted vanilla. This classic cozy wine also has just the right amount of tannins.
fromtheboscfamily.com/

3. Pondview Bella Terra Cabernet Sauvignon 2010
$34.95
The Winery: One of Niagara on the Lake’s most charming wineries, Pondview brings a bit of la dolce vita to the area. The Puglisi family grew grapes and produced wines in Sicily, bringing their passion and expertise to Niagara-on-the-Lake in 1965.
The Wine: This is an outstanding red that is full-bodied but beautifully smooth. Aged for 16 months in French and American oak barrels, it boasts mocha, dark chocolate and vanilla flavors, with rich cedar and coffee nuances. Truly delicious.
pondviewwinery.com/

4. Cattail Creek Estate Winery Creek Series Cabernet Merlot 2012
$14.95
The Winery: On a farming plot that was used to grow peaches, Cattail Creek Estate Winery has some of the oldest Riesling vines in the province.
The Wine: An excellent value, this medium-bodied dry wine is strong on cassis, berries and plum. A blend of Merlot (42%), Cabernet (30%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (28%), the finish is fantastic: it’s almost dessert-like. Refined tannins and lingering taste of toasted vanilla and cherry.
cattailcreek.ca

5. Jackson-Triggs Delaine Syrah 2010
$32.95
The Winery: Canada’s most awarded winery, Jackson Triggs is a pillar of Niagara-on-the-Lake.
The Wine: This Syrah is rich and spicy, with black pepper, cardamom and clove paired with dark fruit. It’s juicy and balanced, mellowed by notes of coffee. Enjoy it now, or put it away for a winter in years to come.
jacksontriggswinery.com

6. Mike Weir Pinot Noir 2013
$16.95
The Winery: Canada’s most famous golfer entered the wine business in 2005 and has since gone on to produce some of the top selling VQA wines in the LCBO. Winemaker Jeff Hundertmark is one of the area’s most affable talents.
The Wine: Famously fickle grapes to grow, pinot noir is a labor of love. And this is a bottle to love. As well-priced as it is easy drinking, the beautifully balanced pinot noir tastes of jam (heavy on the cherry) with just a hint of smoke.
mikeweirwine.com

7. Stoney Ridge Cabernet Franc 2013
$13.95
The Winery: For more than 25 years, Niagara’s “garden winery” has charmed customers with its exceptional wines and friendly atmosphere. The onsite artisan cheese shop doesn’t hurt, either.
The Wine: A steal at this price, stock up on a case of this Cab Franc. A gorgeous deep ruby color, this wine is peppery and heady. Full bodied, with a pinch of green pepper, and enough tannins to pack a punch.
stoneyridgewinery.com

—Written by Karen Cleveland

 

(Originally published for Soho House, November 2014)

You really, truly shouldn’t go to work when you’ve got a cold

Your martyrdom just spreads germs

Woman sneezing on the couch while home sick from work.

(Tom Merton/Getty)

What variety of martyrdom compels us to soldier into work, when we’re sick as dogs? The Journal of Occupational Health Psychology makes the case that there is a traditional understanding that attendance used to equate to performance in the workplace, a notion that should have been tossed out with the fax machine.

“I suspect that many people come into work when they’re sick because they’re scared of falling behind, or worry things will fall apart without them,” says Sheri Langer, an HR professional in Toronto. “For some, it is a demonstration of just how committed they are, when in reality, staying home for a day or two is better for your team as it keeps the virus from spreading.”

While we might feel like the honourable thing to do is to show our commitment by dragging our sick selves into the office, the more responsible thing to do for the greater good is to spare your coworkers from your gnarly germs and stay home for a day or two.

Here are five things to know about calling in sick like a grown up:

1. You’re doing the right thing

If you’re really sick, take solace in knowing that staying home is the best thing for your health and your colleagues. You’re heroically preventing others from getting sick and helping yourself recover sooner.

2. Pick up the phone and call

Call or email your boss explaining that you are staying home sick for the day. Millennials take note: a text message is too casual of a medium to convey this and isn’t conducive to providing context. Plus, if you sound like hell on the phone, it bodes well for lots of sympathy when you’re back in the office.

3. Give just enough information

While there is no need to go into the gory symptomatic details (save those your doctor), you should provide a cursory descriptor of what ails you. Mentioning that you have a migraine and are out of commission for the day is one thing: going into explicit detail to describe a gastrointestinal issue is quite another.

4. Be helpful

Touch on who-can-cover-off-what in your absence, and if you hazard a guess, say when you expect to be back in the office. If team members or anyone that reports to you needs to know you’re taking the day off, fill them in too. Set your auto reply on your email inbox so people know to expect a delay in your reply.

5. Get back to bed

Arm yourself with orange juice, cold meds, tea, whatever your weapon of choice is and rest up. If you use your sick day to truly recuperate, you will be better poised to nip your sickness in its early stages—and avoid wiping out your colleagues in the process.

Karen Cleveland is a Toronto-based etiquette writer and advisor. Follow her on Twitter or visit her site.

(Originally published for Canadian Business, October 2014)

Taking the Coloured Eyeliner Trend Out For a Spin

Coloured eyeliner: Etiquette expert and fabulous business lady Karen Cleveland tests out wearing bright hued eyeliner in a corporate atmosphere

AUGUST 29, 2014

The notion of coloured eyeliner conjured up the worst of the ’80s for me: Remember Joan Cusack in Working Girlher lids lacquered with a garish swipe of shimmery cobalt? But on the fall 2014 runways, we saw electric blue cat eyes at Kenzo, orange and green flicks at Chanel and winged-out iridescent turquoise lids at Dior. Cue Duran Duran! I was curious: Could I pull off this look as a grown woman in 2014, working in a corporate environment?

RELATED READ: Trend to try: Matte red lips

With a routine that’s equal parts lazy and minimalist (touch of concealer, bit of bronzer and well-curled, mascara’d lashes), I was skeptical. So much so that I sneakily popped a makeup remover wipe into my bag before heading to meet Stila Cosmetics’ national trainer, Melissa Ortins, for some coloured liner education. My assignment: an evening liner look in bold blue (her work) and a daytime look in rich green (my work).

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I met Ortins on the hottest, rainiest day of the summer—challenging conditions for testing a bold makeup look. She expertly swiped Stila’s Stay All Day Liner (the brand’s best-selling product) in Indigo across my upper lash line in a perfect cat eye. Pro tip: Start from the outside and angle the tip toward the outer edge of your eyebrow for precise symmetry. The more pressure you apply, the more dramatic the line will be.

RELATED READ: Jeanne Beker talks bold summer makeup

While working her magic, Ortins explained that coloured eyeliner has come a long way. Rather than adding pigment for pop (as we did so gratuitously in the ’80s), the goal now is to shape the eye, using a complementary shade. People should notice your irises, not the colour of your makeup. The result was a pretty, interesting swoop that was less harsh than black.

I bounded out into the rain and headed straight to a rum-tasting party. I expected my fella and my friends to notice my makeup (quite bold, by my standards) but had to prompt them for feedback. The consensus was that it looked nice, if heavier than I normally wear. Nary a mention of the colour, but one friend, who wields a liner like no one’s business, thought it made my baby blues appear darker.

The next morning before work, I attempted to replicate the look using Olive, a greyish green. To keep things office-appropriate, I didn’t extend the line past the end of my eyes. Throughout the morning, I was nervously aware that I was sporting more makeup than usual, and in a bolder shade. But when I checked the mirror in the ladies’, I instantly chilled out—the line defined the shape of my eyes and made them look a little more grey, without screaming, “This is green liner!”

Surprisingly, at no point from my 9 a.m. meeting to the end of my marathon workday (hair in a bun held with a pencil, pounding on the laptop at 10 p.m.) did my coloured eyeliner and I feel the least bit Working Girl. Though the ’80s were pretty fabulous, weren’t they?

Would you wear an electric blue cat-eye?

 

LAURA MERCIER CRÈME EYE LINER IN ENVY, $28, AT HOLT RENFREW; ESSENCE GEL EYE PENCIL WATERPROOF IN BLUE LAGOON,
$3, AT SHOPPERS DRUG MART; MAKE UP
 FOR EVER AQUA LINER IN IRIDESCENT FUCHSIA, $27, AT SEPHORA.CAVASANTI LIQUID EYELINER IN CALM, $18, AT SHOPPERS DRUG MART & REXALL; STILA STAY ALL DAY WATERPROOF LIQUID EYE LINER IN INDIGO, $26, AT MURALE

(Originally published for The Kit, in the Toronto Star, August 2014)

 

Are Dorm Room Registries a Thing? Interviewed by Maclean’s Magazine

Dorm room gift registries on the rise

Students are sick of hand-me-downs and are giving dorm gift registries the old college try

Rosemary Counter

Before 19-year-old Meaghan Vital moved away from home and into a dorm at St. Clair College in Windsor, Ont., she attended a baby shower for her cousin’s wife. As the soon-to-be-mom was opening blankets and onesies from her registry, she turned to Vital with a tip. “She told me there was one for dorms now, too,” says the hairstyling student. Vital headed immediately to TheBay.com and created her own.

Just a few years ago, Vital would likely have been scrounging through her parents’ kitchen for freebies. Now she can benefit from a gift bounty thanks to a plethora of registry options now on the market. The Bay’s include anniversaries and housewarmings, “wish lists” and “holiday lists,” as well as the event option, added quietly in 2012, which Vital was most excited about: “dorm life.”

And so Vital began her list of 20 must-haves: Basic kitchenware such as cooking utensils and measuring cups, a $160 oversized blender, $130 Tassimo single-serve coffee maker with matching $25 disc carousel, and a $90 portable chopping system. Longer shots, she’ll admit, included a pink cotton-candy maker and a stainless steel deep fryer. Bay gift cards, their amount unspecified and unlimited, were also appreciated.

Gift-giving etiquette and expectations are continually changing, but if anyone had a less-than-positive response to Vital’s list, they were too polite to say so. “I told my mom, and she told all my aunts and uncles and stuff,” she says. “So they could go here for my birthday and Christmas presents and get me exactly what I need.”

For stores, dorm registries are a winning model, a response, perhaps, to the popular phenomenon in the U.S. of “trunk parties,” gatherings held by families before their high school grads head off to college; guests bring gifts of kitchenware, linens and the like. Bed Bath & Beyond allows students and parents to create a registry in their local store and pick up at a location nearby the college (making moving day much easier). In June, Target rolled out its College Registry program in the U.S. Thousands of students have since enrolled, and plans to expand the program into Canada are in the works.

Already there is Wal-Mart’s recently launched a “school supplies list,” a collaborative wish list that both students and their parents can access and manage. “It’s very close to a registry, except that it goes far beyond move-in day and has no specific date or event that goes with it,” says Rick Neuman, director of site experience at Wal-Mart Canada. Thirteen thousand lists have been created at Wal-Mart in the past month, some with as many as 10 “collaborators.” Students here seem more practical in their choices; top products listed are Kraft peanut butter, chunk tuna, loose-leaf paper, pens and pencils and laptops, although Neuman has also seen a seven-speed electric bike, a Zoomer Zuppies Interactive Puppy and one 80-inch flat-screen TV. “Somebody is dreaming big,” he says.

But registry makers should proceed carefully when navigating between needs and wants, says Toronto gift etiquette expert Karen Cleveland. “A registry shows you unequivocally expect a gift, and that’s a gesture of entitlement. No one owes you a gift for taking a step toward adulthood.” But while it’s tempting to see the phenomenon as a cash grab of sorts by the Me Me Me generation, for Millennial and writer Heidi Oran, it’s not so simple. “All registries are created by companies for profit,” she says. “They reflect the commercialization of every event in our lives.”

For students who do register, the same rules apply as for bridal registries: “Have a balance of price points, and spread the word via word of mouth,” says Cleveland. “A mass email is in very bad form.” And don’t be upset with gift-givers who go rogue. In this case, they might know something that you don’t know. “I actually got a lot of things that weren’t on my list but were way more helpful,” says Vital. “I got an electrical frying pan instead of a deep fryer, a Crock-Pot instead of a blender, and a toaster.” She never got her cotton candy machine, but there’s hope. Vital’s left the registry open, just in case.

 

(Originally published in Maclean’s Magazine, August 2014)

Introducing The Skimm

A solid handshake, warm smile and immaculate manners go a long way, but the art of giving good, smart small talk is key. I read a great little book on the subject and a while back talked about the importance of knowing how to properly introduce your boss socially.

It’s pretty well impossible to make quality small talk without knowing what’s going on in the world. A quick skim of the daily news allows you to keep pace on light banter. Imagine how embarrassing it would be to be stuck in an elevator with someone you want to do right by, and they’re talking about the ground-breaking morning headlines that you know nothing about. No one wants to feel like a dumbdumb. Moreover, local and global news are typically safe terrain for small talk (provide you stay clear of the being fiercely opinionated on the loaded territory of politics, religion and investing, unless you welcome controversy).

While I love curling up with a coffee and getting all inky-fingered over a newspaper, I was recently introduced to The Skimm, which lives up to its advanced billing of a skim of daily news. The daily newsletter has become a part of my morning routine, giving me the what-I-need-to-knows for the day. From there, I can later go back and scope for what stories I want to read in more detail from my usual go-to sources.

While the content is bonafide news (its founders are NBC News alumni) short, it is served up in a pithy, witty tone. As The Skimm is published out of NYC, American headlines are requisite, but the coverage of international issues is mint. Maybe one day they’ll make a Canadian edition, if we ask them really nicely.

Manners are sexy, so is keeping up on what’s happening. You can subscribe (free!) here. And follow them on Facebook and Twitter.