Tuesday, June 30, 2009
Bill Hennessey took an entrepreneurial approach. But what Ryan Taylor is doing is an inspiration to us all. Ryan developed a plan to pick up people’s garbage with help from his partner Asaka Yamashita and friend Michael Penny. The cool thing is all money collected will go to War Child Canada, a charity helping children in war torn countries.
Ryan Taylor isn’t a guy with extra time on his hands. He devised this plan while working on his new business venture, Fair Trade Jewellery Co. (The FTJCo) set to launch in mid-July. (Stay tuned, it warrants a post of its own.)
I recently interviewed Ryan for Bargainista:
B: Where did you get the idea to pick up garbage during the garbage strike?
RT: I’ve read and heard a lot of negative feedback regarding the labour dispute, a lot of anger but nothing constructive. I think people are upset with changes to their routine and illegal dumping is always unacceptable for locals, who take pride in their neighborhoods.
While the city and union work out their differences, I thought a simple solution to ease tensions would be to offer a small scale pick-up and drop off service especially for families, seniors and those physically unable to get their garbage to an official drop site. By offering this service for a fee we achieve two things: people are more considerate of what is essential to dispose of and with all the proceeds we support a worthy cause in War Child Canada.
B: How can Bargainista readers arrange to have their garbage picked up and where does it go?
RT: We’ve tried to make it as simple as possible visiting my “trashman” blog and use the form on the site to enter your pick-up details, if your readers are paying by credit card they can do so direct to War Child. It’s an honour system so just make a note that payment was made using that method on our form.
B: Will you pick up garbage from businesses as well as households?
RT: Both absolutely.
B: What are the three most important things we need to do if we want to arrange to have our garbage picked up?
RT: Ask your neighbors if they’d like to take part, help those around you in need, and consolidate your trash.
B: What can we do to help?
RT: Blog about it, tweet about it, and better yet print off the 8.5 x 11 posters and show your support offline.
B: How big is your team?
RT: My incredible partner Asaka, my videographer, Michael and me.
B: How did you decide to donate all proceeds to charity, specifically War Child Canada?
RT: My relationship with War Child was really solidified after NetChange week. I really enjoyed working with James, the War Child team is incredible and of course the cause really needs our support.
B: What has the reaction been from Torontonians?
RT: Generally positive, I think these ‘spark’ programs are new and hard to grasp. People like long planning sessions, big brand sponsors and traditional media coverage to confirm legitimacy. Is it shameless promo or good community? I leave that for the public to decide, in the mean time I’m renting a truck, up at 3 a.m. hauling 50lb bags dirty diapers from around the city. ;)
B: What has surprised you most since you announced this initiative?
RT: I’m getting more attention speaking to people in the community using good old-fashioned DIY posters than Social Media. There’s something to be said about a smile and a handshake from a neighbor.
Where can you find Ryan when he’s designing treasures instead of collecting trash?
The Fair Trade Jewellery Co.
Atelier: 523 Parliament St. (map)
Toronto, Ontario M4X1P3
photo of Ryan Taylor from http://blog.ftjco.com/blog/
poster concept designed by Jason Murphy
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Daniele Rossi will be getting a 4GB iPod Shuffle and iTunes gift card courtesy of Canadian Chiropractic Association’s Fit-in 15 program.
Here’s his comment:
“Did a power walk as a warm up before my workout in the gym today. Set it for 15 minutes and found it was the best warm up I've ever done!”I just happen to have another prize pack lying around so, Tanya McGinnity who took a 30-minute power walk with her sweet little pug, will receive one too. Congrats to both of you!
As for the random draw, I invited Caroline Fernandez from Parent Club to do the honours. She had a little help from a sweet tool called Random Interger Generator. Thanks Caroline!
Oh ya, and I guess you’re all wondering how I’ve been managing my Fit-in 15 for the past week. Well, here’s the rundown:
June 17 – I took a brisk lunchtime walk, then after work headed over to the Toronto Girl Geekl Dinner in a brisk walking mode only to learn I was early. I headed home and did some more brisk walking too.
June 18 – I attended the ChickAdvisor Recessionista Shop Crawl, skipped two subway stops after work and walked to the starting point plus another two hours of shopping on foot.
June 19, 20, 21 – Getting around in Kingston on foot during the three days of Podcasters Across Borders counts, right? ;-)
June 22 – 15 minute brisk walk at lunch for the Bargainista – Parent Club Smack Down and another brisk evening walk.
June 23 – 15-minute brisk lunch time walk (and I’m sure there will be much more this evening).
I’m certainly making an effort to add at least an extra 15 minutes of activity into my day. The bike is coming out this weekend too. You’ve all inspired me.
When it comes to daily physical activity, what inspires you?
Disclosure: Canadian Chiropractic Association is a client of Fleishman-Hillard, a sister company to iStudio and I've been working on this project.
Monday, June 22, 2009
As a final follow up to the Nursery on a DIY budget series, here’s a recap of two bargains we found/created for less than $20, which in theory could be applied to any room of your house really.
When painting, generally you take off the light switch and electrical plate covers, which of course got me thinking. They were boring, plain, white things. I wanted to dress them up somehow – and have them match the theme of the room if we could. I went looking in stores and online and saw lots of light-switch covers, but also saw the prices and thought surely this could be recreated for less.
During one of our trips to Michaels, Mark showed me some scrapbook paper he found for $4.99 which matched the flash cards we had. He wanted to know if there was something we could do with it. For $4.99 I said we must be able to and threw it in the cart.
It wasn’t until we got home that it dawned on me. Why not cover the light switch and electrical covers in the paper? I passed the idea on to Mark who is much better with a pair of scissors than I and he too was game. After wasting a few sheets trying to figure out how to make it work, we finally figured it out and found yet another use for that wallpaper glue we still had left.
After tracing the light switch cover (including showing the outline for where the hole would need to be for the switch itself and cutting out the shape, we affixed it by applying the wallpaper glue to the paper (minus where the hole cut out was traced) and then carefully sticking the paper on the cover. Once we’d let it set for a couple of days, we then took an exacto knife and carefully “exed” out the middle, affixing it with some more glue as needed. For a final touch, we applied al light coat of a shellac just to protect the paper so it wouldn’t tear prematurely from everyday use.
One other piece of the puzzle we wanted was to find a nice drape or shear for the room. We already knew from advice from friends that we wanted a blackout blind for the room so it could be closed during the sunniest of days allowing baby to sleep.
With an older style house, we have some odd-shaped windows so on a trip to Fabricland looking to buy fabric to make curtains for another room in our house, we thought we’d see if there was anything we could find for the baby’s room. Always one to look through discount bins, my husband and I were rummaging through the “clearance” bin for packaged draperies, when he exclaimed – “I found it!”
Sure enough, it was the perfect sheer for the room, the exact colours we were looking for and everything. We checked the price tag and found it said $7.99. Bonus! So excited with our find we immediately headed for the check out in case it was a mistake…
As I neared the cash register, I saw something on the package that made me stop. It wasn’t a sheer, it was a shower curtain! I immediately groaned, showed Mark and we went back and put it down looking for something else. Very disappointed we were getting ready to leave when we both stopped and asked ourselves why we couldn’t use that as a sheer? Immediately we went back and checked it out and discovered that if we didn’t tell anyone it was a shower curtain, they might not know. All we had to do was buy some nice curtain hooks and none would be the wiser.
However, we’re so proud of our find and our thought to use something “unconventionally” that we now proudly point it out to anyone who sees the room asking if they like our $8 shower curtain turned sheer. What do you think – can you tell the difference?
1. Practice with scrap paper first – especially good if you have paper the same thickness (scrapbooking paper is a thicker stock)
2. Once you glue on the outside, the middle gets hard so you need to cut with precision and trim carefully; don’t glue anything until you’re sure it will fit where you need it to
3. Just because something is labeled with a purpose already, doesn’t mean that’s what it has to be used for – get creative
4. Bargains are available to be found, you just have to be open minded
Sunday, June 21, 2009
Last Thursday, I attended the ChickAdvisor Recessionista Shop Crawl. The weather was a perfect ’cause the rain stayed away. My plan was to see how much swag I could walk away with without dropping a penny. Well, things didn’t quite go as planned. The deals were hard to resist and I spent some of my hard-earned cash. At least it wasn’t all on me. With an extra 25% off regular and sale items at Banana Republic, I bought Mr. B a Father’s Day gift too.
Anyway, I thought you’d like to know what I got for free, so I’ve included a photo. As you can see, I came away with a lot of goodies, including a $100 gift certificate towards an overnight stay at the Park Hyatt (another gift for Mr. B), a $25 gift certificate for Stillwater spa, 10% off at Roots online store and lots of beauty products from Maybelline – the event sponsor. All shoppers who completed the crawl got a swag bag with a bunch of stuff from the sponsor, a martini ticket and a lot of surprises on the way. Plus there were games and prizes at the FLOW after party.
Over the next little while, I’ll be coming up with a contest or two so I can share some of this swag with some of you.
This post wouldn’t be complete without a shout-out to Ali, Alex and the rest of the ChickAdvisor team for making the night a success, and especially to Sumaya – we finally met in person and she’s a sweetie.
What did you think of the Shop Crawl? Would you go again? What would you suggest to make it even better?
*Full disclosure: as a media friend, I received a complimentary ticket.
Friday, June 19, 2009
Full disclosure: now that I’m consulting full-time as a digital strategist, in addition to sharing my personal experiences as a consumer and my experiences with products, services or initiatives I’ve learned about through online outreach from other firms, I may also share my experiences related to my client work from time-to-time. This is one of those times.
By now most of you know I’ve been relatively successful with NutriSystem. My downfall has been integrating regular physical activity into my daily routine. So when I was asked to help with outreach on the Canadian Chiropractic Association’s Fit-in 15 program, I jumped at the chance to participate. Fit-in 15 is a program designed to help busy Canadians learn to fit a mere 15 minutes of physical activity into our day. Check out these helpful tips.
Since Wednesday, I’ve been incorporating at least 15 minutes of physical activity into my daily routine. By adding only 15 minutes, I’m gaining several health benefits. I’m keeping an activity log that I’ll share next week.
But this isn’t about me. It’s all about you and how you can win a 4GB iPod Shuffle and $20 iTunes gift certificate by getting involved too. Read on…
Bargainista and Parent Club have arranged a friendly Fit-in 15 competition between our two sites. Who will win the much coveted (very-non-official) Fit-in 15 trophy*?
Monday, June 22 (that’s this Monday people!) go for a 15-minute brisk walk. You can do it downtown – on your lunch break. Quick step your way to your favourite store for some power shopping. Push the stroller to the park. Walk to pick the kids up from school. However you can fit-in 15 minutes of fitness into your day.
Then, (pah-leez), come over to Bargainista and comment before 6 p.m. ET The blog with the most reader comments on Monday (by 6 p.m.) “wins” the competition and gets to display the virtual trophy.
So how can you win?
It’s easy. Do your bit. Take a brisk 15 min. walk. Leave your comment on the blog. All comments will be tossed into a virtual hat and one lucky commenter who is chosen by random will get a 4GB iPod Shuffle and a $20 iTunes gift certificate courtesy of Fit-in 15.
It doesn’t matter where you live to get involved. Only comments from Canadian residents will be eligible for the Shuffle and iTunes gift certificate.
[Disclaimer: we devised the trophy/competition all-by-ourselves. It is not an acutal competition endorsed by Fit-in 15. It's a buddy-system competition to get ourselves - and you - moving]
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Not that I always want the newest, shiniest pair I can find but the ones I’ve been wearing for the past several years were getting tired looking and the lose arm just kept getting looser no matter how much I fixed it. Check out the picture my friend Alexa Clark took of me wearing my at the post-BookCamp get together below and you’ll see what I mean.
So, last week, with a bit of cash in hand from a birthday gift, I walked in Holt’s on Bloor and headed straight for the sunglass display. Presto, within five minutes I found the perfect pair of Marc by Marc Jacobs – oversized by not exaggerated. As my husband said, “Big, but not too big”. As Goldilocks would say, “They’re just right.”
When I got home that night I wondered why after looking for a new pair for so long, I was able to find the right pair within minutes. Was the selection that different? Was it my frame of mind?
Hmm, I thought some more. Then it occurred to me. It’s the way Holt’s merchandises their sunglasses that made the difference. Hundreds of pairs were on the wall. How was I able to sort through them so quickly? I’m convinced it had to do with the airy feel and the room between each pair along with more than lighting. Perhaps not so eco-friendly but definitely customer-focused.
What about you? Have any examples of smart merchandising to share? Oh yeah, and what do you think of my new shades?
top photo: Mr. B
bottom photo: Eden, Lex, Gerry & Sue by lexnger on flickr
Monday, June 15, 2009
As a new parent, perhaps the most important accessory in your childcare arsenal is one that you will be toting for the better part of the next two years: the diaper bag. Choosing the right diaper bag for your needs is critical. The wrong bag can leave you fumbling, wailing and/or smelly-bottomed baby in hand, for that elusive diaper/wipe/soother/bottle that has slipped to the bottom of a too-large bag or that is lost in one of too many compartments.
Happily, there are a multitude of options available, and diaper bags nowadays can even come in stylish prints or classic leather. I recommend checking out the bags that other parents are toting and asking for their opinion – ideally, ask a friend who’s a parent if you can give theirs a “test drive” by carrying it for them on your next outing together. This will give you a good sense of how awkward or comfortable that particular style is for you, and how easy or hard it is to find what you’re looking for within it.
Personally, I’ve used three diaper bags, each a different brand and style, for the varying needs as my oldest went through different ages and stages.
1. California Innovations makes a sturdy yet lightweight shoulder bag that I’ve used for both my girls in their infant stage. It boasts a multitude of compartments for the multitude of necessities that I won’t go anywhere without in the first year: diapers, bottles, Tempra, gripe water, wipes, extra burp cloths, my breastfeeding cover-up, soothers, and more. There’s even a thermal compartment with an easy-access double zipper that you can stand a large bottle in! Granted, in a stain-resistant solid navy blue it’s not the most trendy – but at this stage that’s not important to me, accessing what I need when I need it is.
2. skiphop makes gorgeous bags in a huge number of stylish prints and solids. I used one when my oldest was a toddler and found that its one big central compartment was perfect for toting toys, books, whatever would keep her amused when in a store, at the doctor’s, in a restaurant. I also liked the smaller side pockets for other necessities like wipes, a couple of diapers, and extra underwear when toilet training, as well as the top zip compartments for my own personal stuff – wallet, keys, etc. Since at this stage the diaper bag became my own de facto purse, I appreciated the wide array of trendy colors available!
3. Finally, during the preschool years, a simple Roots backpack became my mainstay – perfect for hauling toys, books, extra clothes, ballet gear, gymnastics gear, whatever – and best of all, small and lightweight enough for our #1 girl to haul her own stuff for a change!
Sunday, June 14, 2009
Yesterday was Village Day & Sidewalk Sale in Yonge-Lawrence Village. Merchants couldn’t have asked for better weather. The community was out in droves – I was there twice – once by myself and once with my family. There was lots of entertainment, freebies and special offers. There were also several spaces for rent and just as many new neighbourhood businesses popping up.
It’s in everyone’s best interest to support local businesses and keep our neighbourhoods sustainable.
Here are some of the places I “supported” yesterday:
• Cozy Nails
• Calia Hair Design
• Narnia – I bought a cute dress for ½ price
• Tim Hortons
Here are some of the photos I took. The Olive Oil Boutique was smart to take advantage of the passersby with big signs in the window. Had they been sharing samples of some of the gourmet foods they’ll be selling, the impact could have been greater. FYI, opening day is next Saturday, June 20.
What have you done to support your local merchants lately?
Saturday, June 13, 2009
“@Bargainista Any good recos for end of school gifts for teachers?”
In 140 characters or less, here’s my answer:
“@kristypryma Although some think they’re impersonal, I prefer gift certificates especially when the class pools together.”
Well, I cheated a bit:
“@kristypryma Yorkdale GCs are quite popular with teachers in our neighbourhood. So are GCs from @lululemon, Indigo and movie passes.”
Teachers, we’d like to hear from you too. Which gifts do you enjoy the most and why?
Parents, what can you add to the list?
Dear Bargainista would love to hear from you too! Have a question about shopping, fashion or food? E-mail us or send a tweet to @Bargainista.
Friday, June 12, 2009
I want a pair of skinny jeans and have my eye on a pair from Fidelity but I’m trying to avoid the just-shy-of-$200 price tag. So, I thought I’d check out H&M during my lunch on Tuesday. I found a nice pair. Not as detailed or as well made as the ones by Fidelity, but for ¼ of the price, I thought they were worth the try.
Have you seen the change rooms at H&M? One word of warning – the line-ups are long – avoid them if you can. Fortunately, H&M has a 30-day return policy. I picked up two different sizes to try on in the comfort of my own home.
The cashier told me she put the bill in the bag. When I got home, it was nowhere to be found. I’ve had this happen before. It makes me so uncomfortable. I always think they’re going to assume I’ve stolen the merchandise when I return to the store.
I thought I had lost the bill. Last night I called the store and told the guy on the phone what happened. He told me to return with the jeans and tell the person on the cash that I never received the bill (that way I’d have an easier time.) So, yesterday that’s what I did.
While waiting in line at the cash, I read the return policy. H&M accepts returns within 30 days with or without a bill! (Note: Photo ID is required.)
When it was my turn at cash, I told the salesperson I wanted to return the jeans but I didn’t have my bill. She asked for the approximate time of day the purchase was made, the type of payment and which cash registered was used. Turns out I was speaking with a manager named Jackie who explained it would take 5-10 minutes for her to locate the transaction. She suggested I go upstairs where there wasn’t a line-up and once she found the details of the sale, she’d issue a refund right away.
The clock was ticking and I had a meeting in 30 min. how long would I have to wait? Hmm, within two minutes, the salesperson that rang in the sale on Tuesday came right over and greeted me with a friendly smile. Her name was Sarah. She was so happy I came back because she knew I’d left without a bill and I was planning on returning at least one pair of jeans. Within seconds she had my bill in hand and took care of my refund!
Whoever said customer service sucks in modestly priced clothing chains is wrong.
And a couple more things…
H&M’s summer sale is on now. There are several tables and racks of clothes starting at $10 and up. I actually received a pitch from their PR rep in the U.S. when when I got back from H&M the first go round. She asked if I’d let you know their sale was starting on Wednesday. I let her know it had already started in Canada. ;) And by the way, I wrote this post because I had a great experience - the pitch story is a total coincidence.
Check out H&M’s Dressing Room and Fashion Against AIDS program. You can upload a video and create your own ringtones too.
What about you? Have any good news customer service stories to share?
Thursday, June 11, 2009
Like a lot of environmentally conscious parents, I suffer from “diaper guilt” – the knowledge that whether you choose cloth or disposables, the very act of diapering babies increases your carbon footprint exponentially – and I’m always looking for green alternatives that won’t break the bank.
It’s amazing how much has changed in the last four years. Between the birth of our first daughter and our second, the availability of environmentally sound or “green” options in diapering has positively blossomed! Not only are there a greater number of companies offering reusable diaper services across the GTA, but there are also green choices for those of us who occasionally or always depend on disposables.
I recently took advantage of a sale on baby items at Grassroots to try out Seventh Generation disposable diapers. I’d heard good things about them from other moms, and once our youngest was an appropriate size and weight to fit the smallest size I couldn’t wait to try them out.
I love that they are chlorine free, unbleached (after all, do we really need stark-white diapers to know when baby has wet or soiled a diaper?) and hypoallergenic. And perhaps most importantly, they work like a dream!
I’m happy to report that they are just as easy to put on, and equally absorbent as any other disposable we’ve used. Even after a marathon two-hour car trip, there were no leaks; most remarkably, the diaper even withstood our youngest’s most massive BMs (what we playfully call a “blowout”). My single complaint is that the diaper is a little stiff and not as soft as conventional diapers, which might be an issue for babies with sensitive skin.
Best of all, you can now buy them at Loblaws or at Real Canadian Superstores in the organics section, for a price comparable to that of conventional diapers! So you can have the best of both worlds – a clear, green conscience and financial peace of mind. And of course, a baby with a smaller carbon footprint as well as a dry bottom!
Monday, June 01, 2009
One good thing about having family – especially those who have already had children – is that when you announce you’re pregnant, you’re bound to get offers of hand-me-downs. This happened to us from both sides of our clan, and begat our ‘eclectic’ second-hand collection, which included a crib and a rocking chair/glider. We also included a wooden storage bench we’d had kicking around, simply because we couldn’t fit it anywhere else... The only problem was that nothing actually matched.
Having spent so much time on painting and decorating the nursery, we definitely didn’t want to just put a mishmash of coloured furniture in the room, but hadn’t saved room in our budget to go out and buy many new pieces besides a dresser/change table combo and a bookcase.
The rocking chair was a nice maple, and the other two pieces we had were more of a birch-y finish, although not ‘real’ wood. We’d though about staining them all to match, but realized it would take a huge effort to get it to look right, and my significant other doesn’t have the patience to sand. We then had another idea: if we found a change table to match the rocking chair, perhaps we could paint the other two pieces of furniture a colour to compliment the room’s existing scheme and the maple pieces. However, we wondered if it was possible to paint the crib or if it had to be done professionally, and if so that would cost a lot of money.
After doing some research, we learned it’s perfectly okay to paint a crib and/or other furniture in baby’s room if you follow these guidelines:
1. Paint it with enough time to cure before the baby will be using it (i.e. 3-6 months). This will ensure when baby gums it, he/she doesn’t eat or take off the paint
2. Replace the plastic guards on the top of the rails to make triple sure they don’t get gnawed
3. And of course, don’t use lead-based paint
In terms of the actual painting portion, Hubby experimented with any number of brushes, but discovered that the small-diameter foam rollers (about 4" wide) work wonders to get into all the crevices. Touch ups with a small brush were required, but not as much as if we’d used brushes exclusively. The larger, standard size rollers are too large to fit anywhere comfortably.
If you have access to a spray gun, use it! That would have made life immensely easier, especially if you’re not going to/able to take the piece apart. However, renting one isn’t cheap ($75/day from Home Depot) and buying even a cheap one ($90 and up) hurts the pocketbook, so if you don’t have one, don’t bother. It’ll look fine.
Once we had everything painted, we found that it looked kind of plain, so pulled on our creativity hats and decided that we could at least decorate the bench to match the theme of our room. We’d found some small, cutout chipboard versions of the flashcard animals we stuck to the wall, and used the same wallpaper glue to attach them to the bench. Easy peasy.
So whether it’s an inexpensive hand-me down or a family antique, go ahead! Adding a coat of paint or two can really spruce up a room for very little money.
1. You don’t have to go out and buy a matching baby-room set at inflated prices. Find a few used or free items you like (or can live with) and get creative!
2. Baby won’t care about paint drips or brush marks, so don’t get stressed if you aren’t Leonardo Da Vinci.
3. Talk to the paint people at the hardware store to see what they recommend based on the materials you’re trying to cover up.