Sunday, August 31, 2008

Celebrating BlogDay with five new finds

Blog Day 2008
Hey, did you know today is the 4th annual BlogDay? Well, it is so I’m going to share five blogs I’ve discovered and thought you might like too.

Here they are in random order:

tinku tales -
About: “the not-so-secret life of a contemporary art gallery owner/intrepid traveler/international marketing maven/adventures”

I “met” author Amrita Chandra (“tinku” is her childhood nickname) on twitter and right away was enamoured with tinku tales – a blog about opening her first art gallery, art and life through her insightful eyes. Learn about the modern art world, the challenges of opening a new art gallery and the incredible life experiences of this amazing woman as she embarks on a new career.

Zoey’s World
About: “And this is..? Zoey Castelino blogs about life as a writer and journalist, sharing her insight on social media, mainstream media, trends, pop-culture and stories from her life.”

Zoey Castelino found me on twitter shortly after the launch of Community Divas and I’m so glad she did. She’s a brilliant writer with lots of juicy stories about her life. I think you’ll love her take on trends and pop-culture and even if you’re not into reading about media, you’ll want to read what she has to say.

Rags and Mags – haute on the hog
About: “Rags and Mags is a voyeuristic peek into the thoughts of two fictional characters as they work and play within the real fashion industry in Toronto, Canada. It is written by Carolyn Rohaly and illustrated by Danielle Meder.”

I became friends with Danielle and Carolyn through the now defunct TFBB (Danielle was the founder.) I love their humourous take on the local fashion scene through the eyes of their uber fashionable alter egos, Rags and Mags.

so you wannabee a Domestik Goddess?

About: “So you wannabee Domestik Goddess is about helping you to create a living space that reflects your own unique personality and style.”

Jen your hostess is the alter ego of author Rebecca Leaman (another interesting woman I’ve *met* on twitter), guides you through a multitude of ways to simplify your every day home life and achieve domestic bliss effortlessly - oh don’t I wish.

Independent Fashion Bloggers
About: “… a blog in reaction to corporate networks and media companies springing up faster than I can keep track of. Most of us are not business people, and are not familiar with the ins and outs of the industry, and are often left without knowing where to go for information and who to talk to and ask questions. I don’t have the answers, just like many of you, I have questions that together we can all figure out in a safe and open environment.”

I’m so glad I came across this blog founded by Jennine Tamm who blogs at the The Coveted. It’s rich resource for fashion bloggers looking for information about building successful commercial blogs. Oh, and best of all, membership in the IFB community is FREE!

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Bargainista gets a little greener

I drink a lot of water and I’m usually seen carrying a bottle of water around with me wherever I go.

Two things about this habit have really been bothering me:
Bisphenol A; and,
Waste from all the empty plastic bottles

Some of my friends were giving me flack.

As part of our green office initiative at work, all employees were given Bisphenol A-free water bottles. It still didn’t solve my problem after hours, especially during my commute to work and on weekends.

My search for stainless steel bottle was on. For most of the summer, they’ve been impossible to find. I found some SIGG bottles when I visited Halifax in July. This may sound lame but I found most of them awkward to carry. I waited until my kids came home from sleepover camp so I could try the $5 bottles I bought them from Wal-mart. Yuck! The water had an awful metallic taste. Pass.

I was walking on Yonge St. with Mr. B when he spotted a collection of water bottles in the window at Higher Ground. Inside they carried a few different brands so I had more to choose from than SIGG. The coolest thing is they came in a wide variety of colour, shapes and sizes. I ended up buying a fuschia one (surprised?) by Laken. What sold me was the carbineer attached to the bottle top. I’ve been using it for a few days now and I’m sold. BTW, it was $22 – $1 less than the same sized SIGG.

The next day I was at ToyTown and one of the employees asked me where I bought my Laken bottle because his friends swear by them. We started talking about stainless steel water bottles and as it turns out ToyTown claims it was the first store to carry the SIGG line in Canada. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised they carry a wide selection of SIGG accessories including snack containers for toddlers.

What have you been doing to make the world greener?

Friday, August 29, 2008

SportChek manager makes the grade with buggy BOGO promo

Back-to-school shopping used to be a big deal in our household. As my kids get older, they’re losing interest.

Down to the wire, today we shopped for school supplies and skateboard shoes. No, neither of my guys are skateboarders, just suckers for the footwear.

My eldest son needed new shoes and he wanted to go to SportChek. After coming to the realization that his feet and Vans don’t get along, he found a perfect pair of Adidas. Despite a BOGO promo, he only needed one pair and I’ll be damned if I was going to buy him another pair he didn’t need just because the store needed to clear out some inventory.

My little one decided he wanted a new pair too. I knew it was either buy them now or in a month, so I agreed knowing at half price, besides it really was a good deal. So while he went cavorting around the shoe department making sure his new Nike boarder shoes were comfortable and wouldn’t be hogging space in his closet, the sales guy told Mr. B. BOGO wouldn’t apply.

What?! The sales guy told me the computer couldn’t handle two pairs of shoes from different sub-departments (one pair from men’s, one pair junior/youth.) Watching other parents in the store with kids trying junior sizes, I told him they were discriminating against parents whose kids needed shoes from different departments and I’d ask to speak to a manager at the cash. He thought it was a good idea but asked me not to tell anyone he said so.

Other than annoying customers, I’m not sure why SportChek doesn’t allow customers to take advantage of the promo if they want to mix and match shoes for kids, men and women.

The cashier told me the BOGO didn’t apply because I was buying one adult pair and one junior pair of shoes. I asked to speak to the manager. When he arrived, the cashier looked at him and pointed her finger at me. (Rude or what? Hello, I’m a customer.)

I was expecting some drama. Didn’t get it. Common sense prevailed. The manager was a pretty reasonable guy. Despite a strange company policy, he was empowered enough to make me happy and close the sale. He agreed the promo guidelines were confusing and said SportChek should have stated the complete BOGO policy on their BOGO signs. In the blink of an eye, he told the cashier to sell me Little Spo’s shoes at half price. I thanked him and asked him to speak to her about pointing fingers at customers. ;)

Had a similar experience lately? What did you do? Would you have asked to get the promo too? Leave a comment.

photo credit: heraldpost on Flickr

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

iPods piss me off

Now that I’ve got your attention…

If you’ve been reading my blog for a while, you probably know I’m a bit of an Apple fan girl. This week alone, I bought two iPods as gifts for family members and I bought my husband one for his birthday last year.

Yes, iPods and iTunes have dramatically changed the music industry and the way we consume music, not to mention other forms of multimedia. As far as the technology goes, they are phenomenal. I just don’t understand why they don’t come with everything you need in the box.

Okay, I can understand them not coming with car adapters but why do we need to buy cases too? I swear the little case I just bought for an iPod nano looks like it costs about $2 to make and sells for $25-$30. Can’t Apple either make iPod exteriors with scratch-resistant materials or include basic cases so we don’t need to shell out more cash for them?

Third Tuesday gearing up for another great season

Last season I became a regular at Third Tuesday Toronto, the local contingent of Canada’s social media meet-up led by Joseph Thornley.

Third Tuesday events are absolutely free thanks to the efforts of hard-working volunteers and sponsors. This season the scope is expanding to include Social Media Breakfasts too. I’ve added my name to the list of volunteers.

Perhaps you can help too. We’re looking for dynamic speakers who:
have something unique and thought provoking to say about social media;
are developing social Web applications; or
have applied it to community building, communication, public relations or marketing.

If you have any suggestions for speakers who fit the bill, sponsors or locations for Social Media Breakfasts, please let me know by leaving a comment.

Want to attend? Sign up for updates. Hope to see you there.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Six random things about me

I was tagged again! It usually happens every few months and I don’t always participate. This time I couldn’t refuse the ever-so-talented Daniele Rossi who illustrated my laptop bag (pictured).

Here are six random things in random order:

1. I went to the mall today, wore a different colour of blush on each cheek and took polls at 3 different cosmetics stores before deciding which colour to buy.
2. I loved 80s fashions in the 80s but I’m not digging them now.
3. I have a hard time finding shoes that fit; otherwise, I’d spend way too much money buying them (a girl can never have enough).
4. Scallops make me violently ill.
5. I got suckered into the vortex on twitter this weekend (my avatar is pictured)
6. Launching a podcast and public speaking help me step outside my comfort zone because I’m shy and hate the sound of my own voice.
7. I can’t count. Contrary to what some of you may think, I do have a life away from the computer. ;-)

I am tagging the following bloggers: Amrita Chandra, Rayanne Langdon, Jay Moonah, Nancy Zimmerman, Glen Farrelly and Mitch Canter

Random rules (hat tip to Connie Crosby):
1. Link to the person who tagged you.
2. Post the rules on the blog.
3. Write six random things about yourself.
4. Tag six people at the end of your post.
5. Let each person know they have been tagged.
6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

photo credit: The Finished Product by Daniele Rossi on flickr

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Win a pair of handmade earrings from Lil Did

Local jewelry designer Jessica Wilding asked me if I’d tell you about her jewelry business, Lil Did Jewelry & Accessories. In return, she’s giving away a pair of black onyx sterling silver eardrops (pictured) as a gift to one of you.

According to Jessica, “The inspiration for this piece started from one of my first designs where I created these wire birds’ nests. They were interesting to look at and I had many compliments on them. From there I made “tornado” style birds’ nest earrings that were simply a wire funnel, then I decided to incorporate gemstones into that style.”

I love giving props to local artists and designers so I agreed. All you need to do is send me an email telling me what special offer Lil Did has on now no later than Tuesday, August 19 11:59 p.m. EST. Each email will count as one entry (limit: one entry per person). A draw will be held and the winner will be announced on Wednesday, August 20.

An interview with Jessica Wilding, Lil Did Jewelry & Accessories

Recently, I interviewed Jessica Wilding of Lil Did Jewelry & Accessories. She sells her handcrafted jewelry designs on Etsy. It’s a wonderful online marketplace providing artists a hassle-free way to sell their crafts directly to consumers.

When did you start designing jewelry?

I began making jewelry for friends and family as Christmas gifts and really did enjoy the process of creating wearable art. Relatives started buying my jewelry to give as gifts. I decided to try opening a simple shop online to showcase and display my jewelry. I dedicate almost all my spare time to it, while still working full time.

I started out making earrings with silver plated components and glass beads, now I use semi-precious gemstones and sterling silver or gold filled components so that the pieces last longer, and are safe for those allergic to nickel.

Tell us about your experience on Etsy.

I’ve had 74 sales on my website since last Oct. and most of my clients are in the U.S., but I have had quite a few sales in Canada. I've also sold to a few people in the UK, Norway, and Germany as well.

What would you like people to know about your approach?

I do custom orders, and have worked closely with my clients to create pieces or recreate pieces they've lost, and all of those experiences have been wonderful.

I like to price my jewelry so that it is affordable, yet original and different. I don’t think you have to pay hundreds of dollars to own a unique piece. Jewelry should be fun and affordable. Keeping my price points low allows customers to pick up a few different pieces to go with many different outfits.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Announcing Community Divas!

I’m passionate about a lot of things.

One of them is Bargainista. Why? Because of you! Without you, it wouldn’t exist. If no one was here reading, leaving comments or writing guest posts, I don’t think I’d still be here doing this almost two years later. We are all part of this community.

And that leads me to another one of my passions: community, especially the ones I belong to online. They are made up of real people sharing common interests and ideas while forming real friendships. Many of us have been able to get together offline too.

The podcasting community is one of those online communities very near and dear to my heart. With the urging of my friend Connie Crosby, I joined the PodCamp Toronto organizing team last fall and attended Podcasters Across Borders (aka PAB) in June. I didn’t have a podcast but I didn’t let that stop me.

Now all that has changed. With the help and support of many of our friends, Connie and I teamed up and we decided to host our own podcast about online communities and some of the social networking tools that help build them. It’s called Community Divas. The first two episodes feature an interview with our friend and community builder, Jay Moonah. We hope you’ll listen and participate by giving us your feedback and offering suggestions on how we can make it more meaningful for you.

Follow Community Divas on twitter; join the fan page on Facebook.

If you’re interested in learning more about podcasts and social media, consider attending Niagara on the Lake Podcasting and Social Media Meetup next weekend and PodCamp MontrĂ©al, September 20 & 21. Admission is free for both events.

photo credit: Glow Bracelets on PAB Cruise by Andy Caster on flickr

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Tip of the Week: Shoppers Optimum points

Despite what you may think, I’m not a huge fan of loyalty programs. Not because they don’t help me save money but because I hate carrying all kinds of extra cards in my wallet. With most programs, it takes forever to get the even smallest reward.

Shoppers Optimum card is one exception. Shoppers’ Drug Mart is my neighbourhood drugstore. Here’s how it works: For every $1 you spend, you earn 1o Shoppers Optimum rewards point. Once you earn at least 3,500 points you can cash them in for store credit. [Update, I accidentally transposed the amount spent with the number of points earned. It has been corrected. Thanks Chris for alerting me to the error.]

There are also all kinds of products with extra bonus points and other special offers when you can earn all kinds of bonus points. I make a habit of stocking up on days when they offer 10x or 20x the points on purchases. For example, starting today if you spend $50 or more at the cosmetics counter, you’ll get 20x the points.

I’ve also learned a big secret. Twice a year Shoppers’ offers extra credit when you cash in your Optimum points (July and November). At 75,000 points (the max.), instead of getting the usual $150 credit I’ve been getting $200 to use towards a shopping spree (I have to pay the tax.) It’s also the time when I pamper myself and try out a new high-priced goodie from the cosmetics counter.

Recently, they’ve introduced a program where you can donate your Optimum points to a registered charity – I just found out while researching for this post. What a great idea!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Swap - Don’t Shop clothing swap party

When I received a request to share this event with you, I couldn’t resist. It’s just so grassroots and sounds like a lot of fun. Swap parties are also an inexpensive and green way to refresh your wardrobe, clean out your closet and give to those in need.

Swap - Don’t Shop clothing swap party: A fun and frugal way to revamp your wardrobe

Come out to our first bi-monthly clothing swap party with all of the unwanted clothing taking up space in your closet and drawers, and leave with bags of wonderful new wardrobe favourites!

All womens’ clothing, shoes, jewelery and other accessories (except undies) in clean and in good condition are welcome.

103 Bellevue Ave.
St. Stephen-in-the-Fields church (at College, between Bathurst and Spadina) (map)

Saturday, Aug. 16
11 a.m.-2 p.m.

11 a.m.: Drop off your clothes, socialize, and enjoy the yummy snacks and drinks.
Noon: The swapping frenzy begins!

At the end of the day, all unclaimed clothing will be donated to a local charity: Dress Your Best.

How Much?
$5 to cover the cost of food, drinks and location rental fee.


Join the facebook group

Monday, August 04, 2008

Clarins gave me baby-soft skin

I spend a small fortune on my make-up and tend to cheap-out when it comes to skin care.

A few weeks ago, I decided to treat myself and bought a $50 exfoliant (instead of either a) not using one; or, b) using one the one I bought from The Body Shop a year ago that leaves my shower full of sandy grains).

I had been messing around with self-tanning lotion and knew it was time to bite the bullet and buy a decent exfoliant. I asked the cosmetician from my neighbourhood Shoppers what she recommended. Without missing a beat, she suggested one of two products from Clairns. I sampled both and decided on the new Toning Body Polisher with essential oils. Why? Because it was a smidge cheaper than the Smoothing Body Scrub and I liked how it smelled.

After the first use, my skin was noticeably softer. There wasn’t a huge residue in the bathtub and I smelled amazing! Actually, my whole house smells amazing for an entire day after I use this product.

Anyway, now I’m hooked. How about you? Have you tried any new beauty products this summer that you don’t know how you lived without?

Saturday, August 02, 2008

IKEA showroom in downtowm Toronto

IKEA started distributing it’s 2009 catalogue last week. I always love flipping through mine but to be honest, despite my semi-annual visits and compact home, I don’t usually buy much.

IKEA seems to be on to something and it’s about time! This year they are trying something a little different. Recognizing the vast number of compact condos and townhomes in the downtown core, IKEA opened a temporary showroom (July 31-Aug. 3) in the fancy furniture strip along King St. E. If you’re downtown and looking for something to do tomorrow, you can have a look ’cause it’s closing at the end of the day.

Have you been to the downtown IKEA showroom? What did you think? See anything cool in the new catalogue? I’m loving the new pink chaises featured on the cover. Surprised?

My first impressions of Smart Set

You may remember I was contacted by Smart Set via their PR agency to participate in a program. In return, I got a mini-wardrobe consultation and a $75 gift certificate.

Instead of buying the suggested outfit, I bought a pair of casual cargo shorts for $26.99 (I’ve been living in them ever since). They were on sale from $35 and a week later, they were back up at regular price. I also picked up another pair of shorts for $9.99 but I didn’t love them so I took them back. Fortunately, Smart Set has a no-hassle return policy.

I’ve been keeping a close eye on the chain and noticed they have different specials every week. For instance, they’ve introduced lululemon knock-off yoga pants and co-ordinating jackets this week for an unbeatable price – any two pieces for only $50! (A set usually sells for $70.) I’m tempted to use the remainder of my gift certificate before they’re gone.

I also found a decent selection of jeans at very low prices. I think I’ve seen them on sale for under $30!

My friend Connie told me they’ve also started offering reusable bags and last week they were free with a minimum purchase of $40 or $50.

Bottom line:
I was pleasantly surprised to see so many women customers. I expected to find only teens. Staff was friendly, clothes seem to fit nicely and prices are very affordable. I probably won’t buy my work clothes at Smart Set because I find them a bit too junior and I prefer better quality. However, when it comes to basics and weekend wear, I’ll definitely pay Smart Set a visit.

Friday, August 01, 2008

Tip of the Week – Join ChickAdvisor’s Product Review Club

Want to test out cool products for free? All you have to do is join ChickAdvisor’s Product Review Club by completing a survey. From time-to-time you may be selected to test out some cool stuff. In return, you’ll beexpected to write a review on ChickAdvisor within 14 days of receiving the goodies.

So far, I’ve reviewed one product and I’ve just received some skin care products from pHisoderm. I’ll have my review posted on ChickAdvisor soon as well as this blog.