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I Heart Spring

Retail Tales
by Alana Sprague

Spring, what a magical word that can be. It normally beings to mind the beginning of new life, snow melting away for another year God willing, rain bringing forth crocuses and tulips and daffodils, and all the wonderful colours of the season. This year I wasn’t sure it was ever going to come, in fact, I’m still not sure. I don’t remember the last time there was still some lingering snow on my birthday, but this year there was. We may have more yet before this endless winter finally breathes its last breath.

One thing that can bring me out of this kind of slump, something that brings a smile to my face and a “spring” in my step, putting away the heavy, bulky, pain in the butt winter attire. Oh the joy! Now comes the time to spruce up your tired, drab, lifeless, stuck too long in winter wardrobe. Here’s some insight into what’s new and fabulous for spring 2008.

The fashion forecast for men and women this spring is an amazing assortment of colour and print. Lemon yellow, bold turquoise, pinks, reds, and greens, as well as graphic patterns and animal prints are tops on this bright glorious season. It’s time to put away the greys, blacks, and browns of fall and winter and to move onto something fresh.

For women skirts will be lengthening their hemlines and raising their waistlines for a more 70s feel although they say that most retailers will be sticking to hemlines closer to the knee and remember if you are of the shorter variety keeping to a shorter skirt will help in making you look taller, don’t go for the duster, it will do you no justice.

Metallics are still packing a punch this season as in years past and you will find them in everything from footwear, to clothing and accessories. Wide leg pants and tunics are also sticking around and work well for almost any body type. Flowing dresses are still very popular and look for lots of items in linen and chiffon.

For those men out there that also like to stay on top of the fashion trends here’s what to watch for. The classic biker jacket is back this season and ladies you know you can’t resist a man in leather!

Lightweight layers and fitted tees under blazers are classic and will be seen everywhere this spring and summer. Bold button down shirts and loose fitting dress pants make a stylish statement. As for accessories, look plaid to appear in a big way in belts, caps, and shoes. Have fun this season and don’t be afraid to express the fashion inside, trust me, the women in your life will take notice. I’ve read several different places that the “MC Hammer” or “Parachute Pants” are back and take it from me; these should be avoided at all costs. Some things vintage should just stay that way!

Tip of the Month: Spring clean your wardrobe. This time of year everyone’s doing their spring cleaning so why not take the time to do that with your closet. Get rid of those worn out, too small, too boring articles to make room for your new bright, bold, and beautiful spring attire.

Gotta Get Away

Retail Tales

by Alana Sprague

I finally did it, I took the plunge, I spent the bucks, and I am overjoyed. Yes that’s right; I booked my first ever all-inclusive vacation. This is something I’ve always wanted to do but until now just didn’t have the resources to do so. I knew I didn’t want to end up making this kind of trip for the first time in my 50s like my Mother did. I knew it was something I wanted to do prior to retirement, when I was still young and single. So my friend and I found a fantastic price and are heading to Holguin, Cuba during what’s turning out to be one of the nastiest winters in years. Now I’m sure that I am not the only person making this kind of trip for the first time and that I am not the only one wondering what those items are that you must not leave home without. So after speaking to a few people that have made these kinds of trips before I have come up with some must haves before you even step foot on the plane.

Let’s start with the basics, skincare. No matter what your skin type you must ensure you have a good sunscreen with a high SPF when traveling to a tropical destination. Also, after sun moisturizer or Aloe Vera just in case. Bring a hat to protect your face and sunglasses with UVA/UVB protection are a must.

Now for your medicine cabinet. You just never know how your body is going to react to the food or all the drinks you might consume while on vacation, and no one wants to spend their whole trip feeling ill. Just in case bring your preferred pain reliever, Gravol or Imodium, an antacid, cold medication, allergy medication even if you don’t typically have allergies, and Band-Aids or a small first aid kit. Hopefully these things will ensure a pain free good time.

Of course when heading to some of these locations you must remember that the people in these countries don’t have a lot and any little thing you can bring to make their lives a little easier will make a world of difference. Including beauty products for the women, water floaties, small toys or candies for the kiddies, school supplies like scribblers, pens, pencils, erasers, etc., and pain relievers. These will bring a smile to the faces of those who will make your vacation relaxing and unforgettable.

Lastly, the items that you should have but may not even think about when planning your vacation! Voltage adapter/reducer (from 220V to 110V), flashlight, extra batteries, a thermal mug for drinks to reduce some of the many trips you will make to the bar, facecloths, tea bags, ant traps for your room to avoid some unwanted visitors, bug spray, a pouch for your passport, money, credit cards, travel insurance card etc., snacks, and a smile. I know I’ve had my smile packed for weeks now.

Here’s hoping everyone experiencing the tropics for the first time or heading down south for their umpteenth vacation has an amazing and safe break from this old school Canadian winter.

TIP OF THE MONTH: The one thing every traveler must ensure they have with them at all times is courtesy. Remember, it’s not going to be exactly like you have it at home; things are going to taste, feel, and be different. It’s all an experience and you should respect the people and places you are visiting.

Shopping for Love

Retail Tales

by Alana Sprague

Do you, like me, have a love/hate relationship with Valentine’s Day? Do you think this is a holiday created by card and flower stores to increase their sales at a slow time of year? Well there are millions of women out there who believe this occasion is a time to show the one you love how much they mean to you. If their significant other doesn’t remember (how could you not, there’s hearts everywhere in February) they won’t hear the end of it until next year. I am here to help out the men that may fall into this category or the ones that just aren’t sure where to start.

You want to start now to figure out what it is that will bring that smile to your lover’s lips. Don’t be caught walking into the flower shop at 6 pm on February 14. Yes there are men out there who are guilty of this. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t buy flowers, some women love them, but if this is the route you decide to go then you must order them in advance. This is key to ensuring you find her favorite flowers or any for that matter. You may also want to have them delivered to her at work; this little extra touch that will make her feel wonderful. If you don’t want to get flowers since they don’t live forever then perhaps a flowering plant is a better option. It’s something that will last if properly taken care of and there are lots out there to choose from. We have a number of wonderful flower shops on PEI so you can shop around for the best price.

Many couples head out on the town for a romantic dinner at one of our great restaurants but here’s a twist on an old tradition. Make a romantic dinner at home. Cook your partner’s favorite meal, set the table with candles, your best china, a wonderful bottle of wine, throw on your best duds and make a CD of your favorite romantic songs to play during dinner. Trust me, she will notice.

If you decide to go down the lingerie road make sure you take note of sizes and styles your partner currently wears. You don’t want to give her something that is too small or too out of her comfort zone. Just because you think she’ll look hot doesn’t mean she will. Lingerie can be expensive so you don’t want to waste your money on something that will sit in a drawer and never see the light of day—no fun for you or your wallet. Ask the sales person; they can help you determine with a few simple questions what might be best for the special person in your life.

TIP OF THE MONTH: Plan ahead. The more time you put into your Valentine’s Day idea, concentrating on making it personal and meaningful, the more worthwhile it will be in the end. Those extra touches may help you get a little extra.


Retail Tales
by Alana Spraque

Since I know I’m not the only one who spent a little too much this holiday season, I thought to welcome in the New Year I would do a review of the things I love and dislike about the used clothing stores in Charlottetown.

The items that call these stores home were once loved or hated by someone and were brought there for a reason. Whether it never fit in the first place and you held onto it just a little too long, or it got worn out and you didn’t want to just throw it out. So when shopping keep your eye out for stains or something that may need to be mended, do you have the time and desire to really fix the issue? I myself don’t shop used clothing nearly enough. I’m a Mom and I know how quickly children can grow out of clothing. You can find some really great quality items that possibly were never worn.

Here is my pro and con list for five local second hand clothing stores:

Value Village
Pros: This is by far the largest of all stores so you know there is going to be greater selection. All clothing is on hangers so there is no bin surfing which I love and they have a great return policy on items if you don’t remove the tag. 
Cons: Sometimes I feel like I could go to the mall and get a better price on some items then I could here. It is used clothing after all and has been pre-loved by someone else.

Pros: You can find great items for a great price if you are willing to really look around. Even though Halloween is already over, a tip for next year, this is a great place to find accessories and wigs to spruce up your costume.
Cons: Bin Surfing. I don’t know what it is but I just have a hard time rummaging through the bins, there is just something about it that makes me itchy!

Pros: The very friendly staff. It feels more like a retail store in the way they treat their customers, willing to help but not overbearing. There is also a good selection of costume and specialty items.
Cons: Location. It is on the TCH so if you don’t have a car it can be difficult to shop there. You could take the bus if you really wanted to make the trip.

Lou Lou’s
Pros: They do consignment. You can bring items that you don’t wear anymore but hate to just give away and try and get a little cash for them. Also their new location has ample parking.
Cons: Because it is a smaller store you don’t get the variety that you’ll find at the larger stores.

The Green Man
Pros: They are fresh and new and totally cool so that’s always a draw. The clothing has already been sifted through and you are left with the best. You can also find refurbished clothing here that’s Maritime made.
Cons: All the work has been done for you in the rummaging department; you will pay a little more, but not too much.

Tip of the Month: Donate. You know you all have clothing that you haven’t worn in what feels like forever. Well, it has been forever, so bag it up and drop it off. You’ll be better for it.

Holiday Shopping Survival

Retail Tales

by Alana Spraque

You know how some people say that Christmas is more about the giving than the receiving, well I will admit I am one of those people. There is nothing I love better than heading out for an afternoon of buying gifts for the people in my life that I care about. My ultimate goal is to make someone cry. I know that sounds a little foolish but when you see tears well up in the eyes of your mother or your sister because of something you took the time to pick out, something that you knew they would love the minute you laid your eyes on it, well that for me is a great feeling.

There are always those people in life that are just hard to buy for. You can’t possibly think of something that would be just right and you run for store to store like a person gone mad just trying to find the right thing. Here are some tips for surviving the holiday gift buying season and not being burnt out and broke come the New Year.

First: Make a list. Make the list as accurate as possible including the people you need to buy gifts for and some ideas of what you would like to get. Really think about this, you can reduce the number of stops by having an idea what you’re looking for and the stores that might carry them.

Second: Set a limit. One good way to keep to your budget is to set a cash limit with those people you exchange gifts with. Talk to friends that you exchange with and suggest $20 being the limit or in lieu of gifts plan a dinner and buy a great bottle of wine. Who wants to be still paying for Christmas in February?

Third: Buy a few extra gifts. There is nothing more embarrassing than being handed a gift from someone and not having anything to offer in return. I’m not saying that everyone that gives you a gift expects one as well but how great would it be to have something tucked away that you could present to that person that though about you. It doesn’t have to be something big and extravagant for it to mean something.

Fourth: Watch for sales. There are some great holiday bargains leading up to Christmas and you all know how much I love a bargain. Most of us get flyers on Sundays, even if you don’t read them any other time of year this is the time to bite the bullet. This will also aid you in the making of your list and help you decide where you want to shop for those perfect gifts.

Fifth: Don’t over do it. Everyone is in a mad dash in the month of December leading up to the big day. Weekends become a fight over that last Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle your child’s been asking for every day for the last three months. When you feel yourself being bogged down by the hustle and bustle of the season, stop, grab a cup of coffee and regain your strength. Meet an old friend, have a conversation, and remember what this time of year is all about.

Tip of the Month: Enjoy this time. There really is something magical about it. People smile brighter, they laugh louder, and who couldn’t use a little bit of that in their life? Merry Christmas everyone!

Back to Cool

Retail Tales
by Alana Sprague

"Oh no!" “Say it isn’t so". “It can’t possibly be". “Where did the summer go?" “Back to school already?!" I’m sure this is the reaction most parents are hearing this time of year. It is time again for the kiddies to return to their classrooms to continue feeding their brains with knowledge. This is one of my favorite times of year to get out there and take in the bargains. Here is your “Back to School 101" guide to what’s new and hip for those returning to the classroom.

Many of the summer styles are moving into the fall for those girls heading back to class. Flowing tops with empire wastes are still big, paired with the skinny jeans, for those of us blessed enough to be able to wear them, or leggings which are still packing an impressive comeback. Feminine dresses are also in this fall. Keep them light and airy but don’t be afraid to mix it up by using a belt to make it a little more form fitting. Unlike this past summer you want to try and keep your dresses around knee length in lieu of the minis we have been seeing. You will see the “Rocker" style back this season but aimed less toward dark colors and skull and crossbones and more toward classic glamour rock. Don’t be afraid to bring out the inner rock chick in you. Shoes, we can’t get out of here without talking about shoes. Ballet flats are still out there with a vengeance but look for them to have more variance this season from patent leather to canvas. Also look for sneakers to have more of an impact in terms of color and design. As for jewelry, embellish this school year and go for great jewel tones like turquoise and jade.

Don’t worry boys, I haven’t forgotten about you. For those boys in your life heading back there is just as much out there for you as your female counterpart. Rocker styles are big for you as well with great printed T’s and denims. There is talk of acid washed jeans but that’s just too scary to think about! Back in my school days it was called “preppy" but I’m not sure what it’s called now. Regardless, it’s in fashion! Khakis with polo shirts or light button down shirts are a must. Keep the button-down shirt casual by pairing it with solid colored T’s with just the first few buttons undone. As for shoes, the slip-ons are back and similar to the girls ballet flats range from leather to canvas. Also sneakers for the boys are bolder than ever. Look for bold color combinations and unusual closures.

I remember back in the day when everyone looked forward to those great back to school sales that every store had, large signs advertising the amazing deals just beyond the entrance. Well I made a trip to the mall for just this reason only to discover that the “back to school" sales of yore no longer exist. But don’t fret, every retail store I went into had some sort of end of the season sale so there is still a chance that when you hit the mall with your children to get their back to school wares or if you are just shopping for yourself, you will find that bargain you’ve been waiting the whole summer for. I know I did!

Before you leave the house for the grand back-to-school shopping excursion, make an agreement with your child that he/she can pick our a few special items for the new school year. This will ensure that you will get to pick out some things you feel they need, but will still allow them to pick things that will make them feel comfortable and confident.

No Fun in the Sun

Retail Tales
by Alana Sprague

It is that time of year again ladies, time for the dreaded swimsuit shopping. No one likes to think about it, let alone go out there and actually do it. If we all loved the little flaws about our bodies then it wouldn’t be so bad, but alas not all of us do—myself included. However, there are ways to make this difficult task more bearable. Knowing what type of suit will work best for your body type will make the process a little easier and allow you to feel better about your body. Here are a few suggestions for finding the perfect swimsuit for enjoying our beautiful PEI beaches

If you have a large bust, you want to ensure you find a suit that will support you properly. It can be difficult to find a bikini top that will keep you covered and supported but try finding a suit that has underwire and larger straps. You may also want to try going for a darker color on top with a lighter color on the bottom, this trick will help to camouflage your bust. If you are going for a one piece, find a suit that is higher cut in the underarm; this should prevent any “spillage” from the sides of your suit.

Smaller busted woman—you are in luck! There are more options than ever before to help enhance your bust line. We must, we must, we must increase our bust. A top with underwire or one that ties around your neck will work for you by lifting the “girls” and making them look fuller. Avoid foam inserts or falsies, trust me on this one, because they can stay wet long after the rest of your suit has dried and that’s one of those things you don’t want happening on a beach full of hotties.

If you have a tummy, like I do, you can try working out vigorously until the beach weather hits or you can hide it. I’m more apt to go for the latter so here are some tips for slimming it down without actually slimming it down. Try buying a suit with a high Lycra content; of course this will only work for a one piece. The Lycra will help to suck the tummy in and make it look flatter. If you want to go for a two piece, try a tankini with a looser fit or some texture over the tummy, this will be both flattering and gives you the comfort of a bikini.

Tankinis also work well for women who have short or long torsos. There are so many choices in tankinis these days so you should have no problem finding one that suits your style and comfort level. For women with a long torso that want to go for a one piece—try finding a suit that is high cut in the leg, this will make your legs look longer and not put so much emphasis on your torso.

I have two suggestions for where to shop for that perfect swimsuit. Island Beach Company, with many locations across the Island, always has a great selection in the latest styles, with prices ranging from $34.50 to $49.50. Also, for those of us that don’t want to spend too much on a suit this summer, try Wal-Mart. They always offer mix and match suits, that way you don’t have stick with the bottoms they suggest and vice versa. Their prices range from $15.00 to $35.00.

It can be a painful process ladies but I hope this will help you to make this swimsuit season the best one yet.

Tip of the Month: Don’t swimsuit shop after a big meal or when you are suffering from PMS. Try shopping early in the day when you are normally at your slimmest—you’ll be less sensitive while finding the right suit for you.

Spring in your Step

Retail Tales
by Alana Sprague

Now that the cold weather is moving out and the warmer weather is moving in, it’s time to think about reenergizing your life with a sexy stylish spring and summer wardrobe.

Sixties, seventies, and eighties styles are reemerging this spring, bringing with them some great blasts from the past including metallics, pleated skirts, and simple lace detailing. Many of these trends are continuations of past seasons but with a few varied styles. Here is your guide to a few trends for 2007 spring and summer season and local stores that carry them.

For women the mini dress is in. This is one of my favorites this season. There are many different versions of the mini dress and one out there that works for almost everyone. They range from girly to sexy and everywhere in between. The great thing about the mini dress is its unwavering versatility. Pair it with a blazer and heels for work or with flats, cropped tights, and a large purse for a casual weekend.

I was able to find a few different versions of the mini dress at Old Navy ranging in price from $34.50 for the babydoll style mini dress to $42 for the full length version of the mini.

To go along with the 60s and 70s inspired clothing you will see a wide variety of patterns. Floral is making a big comeback this season and by big I mean in size. Oversized and abstract flowers can be seen in a variety of fashions, including the mini dress. You will also find smaller more intricate patterns as well and they are just as versatile. These prints really work for any age group. When buying something with this type of pattern you want to pair it with a neutral, such as a solid color wide-legged pant or a khaki pencil skirt. Nothing feels more like spring than a great floral piece so get out there and bring home the garden! If you aren’t feeling brave enough to venture into the world of oversized bold prints you may want to try polka dots, stripes, or geometric prints this season, they are equally as fashionable. Le Chateau had tops ranging in priced from $35 to $69.99 in all these great patterns.

For men tailoring trends bring back the glory of the 70s. You will find suits tailored in the 1970s fashion. Tight waisted, slightly flared pants are paired with slim fitting jackets. Also, a more relaxed look is in this spring. Roll up the sleeves of your collared shirt and loosen your tie.

Great tailored suits are available at Dow’s Men’s Wear in the Confederation Court Mall with prices starting around $300. Moore’s in the Charlottetown Mall also has suits for those of you that aren’t willing to part so easily with your cash, starting at $169.

As with the floral prints for the ladies, you will see equally as vibrant prints for the guys. Bright floral patterns are being seen on comfortable, casual shirts as well as big oversized patterns on long shorts for summer. Colors are a must, from a bright yellow traditional polo shirt to an orange or an electric blue zip-up hoodie. Le Chateau and Bluenotes are two places that you can find these styles ranging in price from $9.99 for great graphic tees to $50 for bright button down shirts.

Tip Of The Month: Don’t be afraid to go outside your comfort zone. Let this be the year you let your guard down and bring some colour into your wardrobe.

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