Monday, August 31, 2009

Buying the right car seat for baby

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Rebecca Atkinson shares her experience buying baby’s first car seat and learned an interesting lesson along the way. A must read for all expectant first-time parents!

One of the most important purchases you make for baby while you’re still pregnant is choosing a car seat. Mark and I knew we had a line on a bassinet/stroller combo, so we didn’t need/want one of those three-in-one car seat/stroller deals. My husband, Mark spent countless hours researching car seat options for us. As an automotive journalist, he often has a different car each week, which means the space for a car seat varies greatly. We also don’t have a ton of storage space at home, so we thought it would be nice to have one car seat that could grow with the baby as long as possible.

We finally settled on the Sunshine Kids Radian Car Seat because it was foldable for easy storage, and the narrowest car seat around. The company claims you can put three abreast if needed. The price was a hefty one, nearly $300, but a worthwhile investment since it would definitely grow with our child.

It was a great concept in theory, until Meredith was born and we actually needed to use the seat.

We first began doubting what we thought was the smartest purchase we made before we’d even made it out of the hospital. When they discharge you, you’re required to bring your car seat inside and show the staff you a) have one and b) know how to put the baby in it. The nurse took one look at our car seat and asked my husband how he planned on carrying it. He looked at her and said, “With the carrying strap.” After rolling her eyes, she said, “I meant, how do you plan on carrying it with the baby?”

We stopped and looked at each other. We hadn’t planned on that. I guess in our heads thought we would just carry the baby if we had to take her out of the car seat and weren’t using the stroller or Snugli. Mark said he’d just carry the seat, with the baby strapped in, the nurse rolled her eyes yet again, sighed and sent us on our way. Before we even got to the car we realized how awkward the car seat was and that we hadn’t considered portability on our list of requirements when we bought it.

We spent the next week or so taking the baby out of the seat every time we had to run an errand. Neither we nor baby liked this method of transport as it often woke her when she was sleeping. Neither of us wanted to admit our mistake, but one night as we were going out to get stock up on diapers, we somehow got on the subject of the car seat and sheepishly admitted to one another that we should perhaps look at an easy-to-carry infant car seat.

I can tell you now, that was the best $100 (with tax) we ever spent, and the same seat has been on sale for about $60 since. Sure she’ll outgrow it and it takes up a fair amount of space when rear facing, but both Mark and I can carry it (for now at least) and if she’s asleep, she can stay asleep which any parent will agree is definitely a plus.

While the other car seat will come in handy down the road, it is not something I would recommend for new parents.

Biggest lesson learned? You can do all the research in the world but sometimes you have to learn things the hard and expensive way – by living through it.

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Sunday, August 30, 2009

Exploiting Chaos sparks innovation and a free preview

Here’s a little guessing game for you. Stick with it until the end, and you’ll get a little treat. Promise.

Did you know...
These iconic companies were all found during times of chaos, specifically during economic recession?

Disney, CNN, MTV, Hyatt, Burger King, FedEx, Microsoft, Apple, Gillette, AT&T, Texas Instruments, 20th Century Fox, IBM, Merck, Hershey’s, IHOP, Eli Lilly, Coors, Bristol-Myers, Sun, Amgen, The Jim Henson Company, LexisNexis, Autodesk, Adobe, Symantec, Electronic Arts, Fortune, GE, and Hewlett-Packard.

(Candice Faktor made a similar case about innovation at a TGGD, earlier this year.)

Jeremy Gutsche, chief trend hunter, TrendHunter, lives in Toronto?

I was invited to attend my first flash mob today to help launch his new book, EXPLOITING CHAOS: 150 Ways to Spark Innovation During Times of Change, arriving in stores this Tuesday, September 1?

I missed the flash mob fun because I’m sick? Ya, I know, it sucks big time. He was giving away all kinds of free stuff including advance copies of his book to the first 100 people – and I would have been there on time for sure.

Fleishman Hillard’s Innovation Practice Group and Trend Hunter have arranged for you to have a sneak peek? It’s true. Download chapter 1 for free.

After you’ve read the preview, let us know what you think.

(Full disclosure, Fleishman Hillard is the parent company of iStudio, my employer. When people download chapter 1 of Exploiting Chaos from this page, TrendHunter will help drive traffic to Innovation What are We Thinking, FH Innovation practice’s blog. My invitation to the flash mob launch was a totally random, I received it from a Facebook friend. Oh ya, and I’m thrilled to be a new member of the FH Innovation practice group.)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

SPC cards - worth the $8.50 investment

I’ve told some people who asked me to if I’d be writing another back-to-school post that I’ve written one and I’m done. Well, that’s only sort of true. I’m done writing about anything that isn’t from direct personal experience doing back-to-school shopping with my kids.

A couple weeks ago, I was with Mr. B at Shoppers Drug Mart and saw a display full of Student Price Cards (SPC cards). I remember our eldest son mentioning something about them last year so I called him and asked if he’d like one. Immediately he told me about all the discounts his friends got during lunchtime at the nearby food court – yes, he wanted one. At $8.50 a year and a 10-15% discount from participating retailers and restaurants, it was a small investment and worth the gamble. It seems like the list of companies participating in the program has grown – not surprising during tough times when many retailers are doing what they can to earn your business.

The card has already paid for itself and it’s good through the end of July 2010. You can also buy it at other stores, university and college book stores, high schools (and get a $10 Bluenotes gift card) or online and choose a $10 gift card from Blue Best Buy, Bluenotes, Esprit, Jean Machine or Pizza Hut – if only I had known.

You can check the SPC website, follow along Twitter or become a Facebook fan to learn about weekly perks and other offers.
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Friday, August 28, 2009

SwapSity Swap Meet & Garage Sale

It’s great when members of the community are starting their own swap meets and ask me to help them share their event news with you. SwapSity is a new community founded by Marta Nowinska, that’s focusing on helping Torontonians live a little greener through swapping.

SwapSity Swap Meet & Garage Sale
This green event will bring together savvy swappers, eco-enthusiasts, parent barterers and thrifty shoppers, all under one roof. Keep useful things out of landfills, find new treasures, free yourself from the clutter and have tons of fun trading! With both swapping and selling taking place, it will be the ultimate garage sale and a swap meet rolled into one.

Walmer Road Baptist Church
Ground floor, enter from south side
188 Lowther Ave. (Spadina & Bloor) (map)

Saturday, Aug. 29
1:30 p.m.-5:30 p.m.

How Much?
General Admission: $3.50, now $2
Table Rental: $5, $9, $16 (book in advance)

(Note: I don’t know Marta and this event seems less grassroots that then swap meets you’re used to seeing posted on Bargainista.)
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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Bargainista’s High Low beauty review - Calia Texture Curl Cream and Tousle Me Softly

I’ve been quietly trying some new products over the summer. Some because I found them in stores and wanted to give them a try. Some were sent my way from friends at PR firm or directly from the brands themselves.

Let’s start with the hair. You may remember I’ve got a cool tool to help me straighten my hair. Well, actually, although it’s awesome it’s quite hot and the process of blow drying my hair first (it’s got a mind of it’s own and needs a good stretch first) then using a straightener is time-consuming.

So, for summer I decided to go with the flow rather than fight it. Calia, my current hair salon launched a new line of products and for $18, I bought a tube of their new Texture Curl Cream for curly hair with the promise of soft curls without frizz. A dab the size of a quarter will do you. On a good day, my hair has soft waves and curls, little frizz and no crunchy or sticky residue.

Shortly after I started using this new product, the folks at Palette PR sent me the complete Tousle Me Softly product line by Herbal Essence totally by coincidence. When it comes to hair products, I’m a bit of a snob and usually stick to salon quality brands. I’m not a big user of drugstore brands per se, even if they often sell for a quarter of the price.

But, I couldn’t resist since the timing was right and I decided to give the Tousle Me Softly finishing touch cream (approximately $5 per jar). I tried it and put it through exactly the same process as the salon brand since both products had similar instructions, once I dissected the marketing speak on the containers.


Tousle Me Softly finishing touch cream provided great hold and little frizz. However, my hair did feel a bit crunchy. If you’re on a budget and can’t afford the higher-priced stuff, this did an impressive job.

As for the other tousle me soft products, I tried the tousling spray gel too. It didn’t work on my hair nearly as well as either cream. My hair was crunchy and sticky. I’m keeping the flexible hold hairspray ‘cause I’m sure it will suit me fine and the wild violet and pomegranate scent is fresh but not overpowering. I gave the shampoo, conditioner and mousse away to a couple friends.

Whether I’ll keep the curly, tousled look over the fall, the verdict is still out but the tousled look seems to be sticking around for a while.

Have you tried either of these products? Do you have hair like me that’s neither naturally curly nor straight but somewhere in between? What are your favourite summer hair tricks?
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Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Christmas in August aka Disney Interactive’s Family Fun Event

Most of the time I have to refuse invitations to media events because they take place during the day and like many of you, I work full time. To be honest, I don’t get to too many evening events either.

When Jess Myers from High Road Communications (part of Fleishman-Hillard Canada and a sister company of my employer, iStudio) invited me and my kids to Disney Interactive’s Family Fun event preview of new games for the holiday season, being that it’s summer and all, the event was late in the afternoon and it provided me a chance to do something cool with my 11-year-old, I accepted. (I extended to the invitation to Jenny but she was unavailable.)

We made it to the ROM for 4:40ish and were privately escorted up to the event room. L’il Spo felt like quite the VIP. When we arrived, gamers and families with young kids were moving about the room playing with about 10 different games on a mix of consoles – DS, Wii and Xbox. It was really welcoming and felt like a safe place for kids to explore and engage with the games including:
Princess and the Frog, and A Christmas Carol as extensions of the upcoming movies
Club Penguin: Elite Penguin Force
Toy Story Mania
Sing It: Pop Hits and,
Split Second

During summertime when kids are used to waiting in long line-ups, it was nice they were able to avoid them here. They had the freedom to mull about and take their time playing and previewing new games without anyone nagging them to get off.

Another really cool part of the event was the opportunity for kids (and their parents) to meet and speak with members of Disney Interactive’s game development team. Alicia Mirelez, an associate producer at Disney Interactive, befriended L’il Spo while he was playing Toy Story Mania – a game she produced – based on the Toy Story Midway Mania ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios. We also had a great chat with her while we indulged in some yummy, kid-friendly snacks provided by Daniel et Daniel. As a parting gift, the kids were given “extremely generous” loot bags with a variety of Disney non-electronic swag. L’il Spo loved his Club Penguin mascot.

What wasn’t so cool is the fact that he just had to have is own version of Club Penguin for his DS and I got suckered into buying him one on the weekend. ;-)

If you were invited to an event like this with you kids, what would you like to see? What type of information would you like about holiday gifts? (Jeez, I can’t believe it’s only August and we’re talking holidays already.)

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

Winner what ageless beauty means to you giveaway

We have a winner! Thanks to Random Interger Generator, commenter #6 The MeFest Team gets the Olay product prize pack. Congrats! (Please email me with your contact info. so we can make sure to get you your goodies.)

Here’s her winning comment:
“As long as there is a smile on your face, you are beautiful!”

I thought all your entries were wonderful, creative and captured the essence of the ageless beauty theme. You can read the rest of them on the original post.

Thanks everyone for playing and to Palette PR and Olay for the awesome giveaway package . Stay tuned for some more giveaways in the next few weeks.

Note: My comments were excluded from the count.
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Monday, August 17, 2009

Baby-friendly sightseeing in Toronto

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Jenny shares her summer staycation experience and tips for venturing out with your little ones this summer.

This summer, instead of attempting to navigate the logistics of travelling with a breastfeeding 6-month-old, we decided to save time, money, and aggravation, have a family staycation and do some sightseeing right here in Toronto.

There are so many things to do, and so many places that we’d been promising ourselves (and our 5-year-old) that we’d visit “soon”! We picked two that are great value for the money (Centreville and Ontario Place) and one VERY touristy spot that was a special request by our 5-year-old: the CN Tower. So this week, I can’t offer you any money-saving tips, but I can help you to save time and aggravation by sharing what I learned.

Our first destination was the CN Tower. If you decide to go with the kids, there are a few VERY important things you should know:

1. Go first thing in the morning, when it opens at 9am, and you won’t have to wait in line. Otherwise, you’re looking at anywhere from a half-hour to a 3-and-a-half hour lineup just to get on the elevator – never fun, even less so when you have little ones in tow!

2. Aside from the main lookout area, the Tower is not stroller-friendly. One has to take narrow stairs down to get to the outdoor lookout and the glass floor, and the Skypod observation deck can only be accessed by narrow stairs from the elevator deck. Bring a carrier or wrap and leave the stroller with security at the bottom.

3. There are no baby-changing tables in the washrooms, and no seating (except in the restaurant), making breastfeeding a challenge. Desperate times call for desperate measures: when our baby got hungry, I copped a squat in a corner of the Skypod, whipped out a blanket to cover up, and commenced the World’s Highest Breastfeeding. Be prepared to do the same if the circumstances demand it!

Our next stop was Centreville. Obviously very kid-friendly (although they really need more washrooms)! Again, a few things to know before you go:

1. Again, go early to avoid lineups at the ferry, and for the rides!

2. The ferry is very stroller-friendly, although you’ll be restricted to the enclosed lower deck; if your older kids want to check out the view from the upper deck, arrange ahead of time which adult will accompany them to avoid holding up the line on the stairs while you discuss the matter!

3. The main ticket/ride pass kiosk is right at the entrance to Centreville, and almost always has a huge lineup. Here’s a little-known tip: the Town Hall Office also sells tickets and ride passes, and the lineup, if any, is MUCH shorter as most people (ie tourists) don’t know about this alternative.

Finally, on day three we hit up Ontario Place. Also very kid-friendly and stroller-friendly! However, they need more and bigger washrooms – I could barely fit our collapsible stroller in to use the baby-changing table. And more seating around the park would be greatly appreciated – I spotted many moms with tiny infants seated here and there on the grass or concrete to feed. Again, a couple of things to know:

1. Wear your bathing suits under your clothes and bring a change of underwear, so that when the kids get hot and tired of going on rides, you don’t have to wait in the lineup for changerooms before the little ones get cooled off in the water park area.

2. When it comes time to change into drier clothes, it’s worth lining up for the only family changing room – the male/female changerooms are crowded, with wet, slippery floors and NO privacy.

What are your best tips on seeing the sights around Toronto and the GTA with kids in tow?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Giveaway: what ageless beauty means to you

The nice folks at Palette PR keep sending me lovely gifts. (I’ve been using Olay Total Effects Daily Moisturizer for the past few weeks and so far, so good.) It will take me a while to try them all.

I really wanted to be able to share the goodness with you as soon as possible, so I asked if we could do a giveaway of some new Olay products that caught my eye. They agreed.

Here’s the prize:

Olay Complete Ageless Skin Renewing UV Lotion, SPF 20 (suggested retail price $30.99)
Olay Complete Ageless Rejuvenating Lathering Cleanser (suggested retail price $14.99)
Olay Complete Ageless Eye Brightening Cream (suggested retail price $30.99)
Olay Body Wash plus Tone Enriching Ribbons (suggested retail price $8.99)
Olay Quench Advanced Relief Body Lotion (suggested retail price $8.99)

It’s summertime and the living is easy so just leave a comment and in 140 characters or less, explain what ageless beauty means to you. Entries are due no later than August 21, 11:59 p.m. ET. A winner will be chosen at random and announced by August 23.

The fine print
You must be a Canadian resident to win, 1 comment = 1 entry.
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Saturday, August 15, 2009

Party at HoHOTo and support the Daily Bread Food Bank

Last December I attended HoHoTo - the coolest holiday bash of 2008 which raised $25,000 for the Daily Bread Food Bank.

According to the organizers, “HoHoTo is for geeks, phreaks, webheads, twitterfiends, techies, media, marketing, and PR types and all their friends.”

Cash bar, DJs, lots of interactive fun

The organizers wanted to keep the momentum going and they’re at it again with HoHOTo - sure to be the hottest bash of 2009. I’ll be there again this and time around I’ll be helping out by selling raffle tickets. Hope to see you there!

Aug. 18: 7 p.m.

Suite 106 & Wetbar
106 Peter St. (map)
Toronto, ON

Tickets started at $10 per person, now they are $40 (it's all good ’cause the money goes directly to the Daily Bread Food Bank). They’re going fast. Buy one now!
You must be 19+ to attend, tickets are non-refundable
Donate to Daily Bread Food Bank

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bargainista interviews MeghanT

I’ve never met MeghanT in person. I follow her on Twitter and I’ve been impressed by her jewellery design and the way her love of life comes through in her both her craft and her tweets. I wanted to learn more and thought you might too, so I asked her a little about her business. Handmade artisan jewellery creations for the discriminating collector.

As a special gift to you...
MeghanT is offering you a 10% discount until the end of August. All you need to do go to and click on ”contact” and send her a note quoting the “Barganista” code and the item you’d like to buy. Meghan will adjust the price on her site and create a reserved listing for you so you can make your purchase.

What inspires you?
Designs [are] inspired by the Caribbean and my inner musings, Featuring gold, silver, gemstones, crystals and original organic material found in my travels around the globe.

When did you start designing jewellery?
I experimented with jewellery design when I was a little girl, but I was more into drawing and painting growing up. Everyone thought for sure that I’d be going to college to study the arts and were shocked when I did an about face and pursued a career in Psychology. I didn’t start designing jewellery until a few years after I graduated from university with a B.A. I felt like I had neglected a very important part of myself during my studies, and was yearning for a creative outlet once again. I started by training at a school in Toronto for makeup artistry. I got certified, but it wasn’t the right niche for me. It opened up my eyes to the world of photography and fashion though, so I was grateful for the experience. Shortly afterwards I began sketching jewellery designs. As I learned new techniques I was able to tackle more complicated projects and my passion and enthusiasm for design just grew and grew.

Tell us about your experience on Etsy.
Etsy gave me a chance to show my creativity to the world for the first time ever. I have always supported handmade artists and was looking for a way to make online purchases and not wait for the yearly art shows I was so fond off. Initially I was content to purchase other artists work in lieu of going to the mall, but slowly I began working on my own shop, and listing some of my favorite creations to get feedback from the public. Etsy gave me a way of showing my work to people all over the world – an audience I would not have had initially were I to try this all on my own.

What inspires you?
All my creations are motivated by something powerful moving through me. I am a lover of life and I’m constantly compelled by the things I see and feel on a daily basis. I spent many years of my life as a teen on the island of Grenada and go back yearly for extended vacations. The island is chocked full of bright, vibrant, compelling imagery and instead of painting what I see – I create jewellery. It’s hard not to develop an eye for rich bold color after living in the Caribbean.

What would you like people to know about your approach?
I look at my handmade jewellery designs as opportunities to create wearable art. My canvas is the human body and I am creating “paintings” to adorn it. I believe that there is a certain energy that goes into handmade work and it calls to one specific person for whom that item was intended. When my creation meets with a person who is in sync with my artistic vision, magic happens. A lot of my jewellery designs have individual stories paired with them because I want people to know what I was thinking and feeling during the items conception. I think this really helps customers with their selection process.

Art really is what sustains me and feeds my soul. If I don’t get the opportunity to create for several days I can feel a nervous sort of energy build. When I work in my studio I am motivated by a certain theme, feeling, or image held in my minds eye. I have my gems, crystals, and metals sorted out by color, so I am able to work just as if I were working off a palette on an oil painting. Sometimes I start off with a quick sketch, and then I begin experimenting by bringing certain colors, forms, and materials together. Often times, I get saturated by ideas and it’s hard to reign in my enthusiasm and not have several different projects going at once. I pour a lot of myself into whatever I am making, and when the fervor to create is over, I know that the jewellery design is perfect.

Why Twitter? Blog?
In this day and age taking advantage of social media is very important. It helps you connect with a targeted audience, meet other people in your industry, and forge new friendships. I love that I am able to chat with my customers online and I thoroughly enjoy connecting with other creative souls who offer ideas, feedback, and educated opinions.

Check out MeghanT’s Facebook fan page and her new shop on ArtFire.
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Monday, August 10, 2009

Back-to-school shopping tips for 2009

It’s almost that time again. School starts in a month and retailers are doing their best to lure us into making a whack of back-to-school purchases between now and then.

For many of us bloggers who talk about shopping, parenting and fashion, this is also a time when we get bombarded with a lot of information about what our kids must have before they go back to school. Unfortunately, most of what I’ve received has been directed at U.S. consumers. Since Bargainista is really a place where Canadians who love shopping connect, I thought I’d share the couple Canadian items with you.

Visa Canada (a client of Fleishman-Hillard and iStudio, my employer) released a study last week looking at the shopping habits of Canadians, what they buy and where they shop, in the weeks leading up to Labour Day.

Here are some of the findings:

Canadians parents and students plan on spending an average of $600 online before Labour Day, with approximately 15% going towards school supplies

Of the online shoppers who plan to make an online purchase between now and Labour Day; popular purchases include books (49%), travel (36%) and computers (31%)

Canadian online shoppers made an average of 7.1 purchases on Canadian websites, 4.8 purchases on U.S. websites, and 0.5 purchases on international websites

I don’t know about you but with two growing boys who have gone through tremendous growth spurts in the past few months, our back-to-school spending will be through the roof. We’ll be doing our best to keep costs down while knowing we need to buy school supplies, clothing, cell phones (their contracts have expired, we’ll opt for new plans with “free” phones) and have some money left over for some family fun before school begins.

For school supplies, read the comments on It’s School Supply Time in Canada! for tips.

For clothing basics, check out Bargainmoose shares her Old Navy bargain hunting secrets for great tips on how to save at Old Navy.

My kids love Threadless and they’re having a big sale now through August 17, 11 a.m. ET. If you shop today by 11 a.m. ET, you can use this code “awesome49243” to save an extra $3 on your purchase. Update: you can use this code at checkout “awesome27945” until August 13 11 a.m. ET to save an extra $3 on your purchase.

Looking for desks and other furniture on a budget? Don’t forget to check out sites like Craigslist and kijii.

If it’s big ticket items like laptops and cell phones you need, Wishabi* is a comparison shopping community that will help you find the best products at the lowest prices. Wishabi has just launched a text books search for university students.

“It’s an interface that allows students to find the best deals on text books compared to their University book store,” according to Wishabi’s CEO, Wehuns Tan, “Students being money savers love this kind of stuff and we compare books on both sides of the border. What we’ve seen is that with the high CAD/USD conversion, purchasing across the border is heating up significantly.”

And on the subject of cross-border shopping, if your finding unique items or better prices on U.S. websites, Visa Canada has partnered with Borderlinx – a new service providing Canadian’s with a U.S. address. Borderlinx will even calculate currency conversion, duties, taxes and shipping so you can see the total cost before you decide to buy. Also, if you want to shop at several U.S. online stores, Borderlinx allows you to consolidate your purchases so you can save on shipping costs.

Membership in Borderlinx is free (regularly $30) and you’ll save 15% on shipping costs for the rest of the year if you have a Visa card. Now I’ll be able to get my little one some of the licensed wrestling paraphernalia without the hassle of crazy shipping fees for Canadian residents.

Where do you do the bulk of your back-to-school shopping? Find any deals? What are your favourite shopping tips?

*Note: Mark Evans and Jodi Echakowitz on behalf Echo Communications provided information about their client, Wishabi.

Sunday, August 09, 2009

Mad about Mad Men

I’ve always been a fan of early 60s style, especially fashion and décor. And, although I understand the sociopolitical context, I’m still amazed at how one decade began with women aspiring to be like Jackie O yet ended with the Hippie generation.

I’d been intrigued by Mad Men for quite some time, especially with all the talk on Twitter most likely due to the fact I’m friends with a lot of people from the agency biz. As some of you know, I’m no stranger to agency biz myself since I joined iStudio last spring. As for whether or not things have changed since the 1960s, I’ll leave that for you to decide.

Back to Twitter, about 10 days ago, new avatars started popping up all over the place. Why? Mad Men season 3 starts on August 16 and it was one of the ways AMC decided to create some buzz on blogs, Twitter and Facebook. If I’m any indication, it worked. Last weekend I rented season 1 and we’ve been having a Mad Men marathon ever since. Season 2 is available for free on Rogers on Demand until the end of the month. A Twitter fan campaign emerged last summer when accounts were launched on behalf of some of the main characters, creating buzz for season 2.

Here’s Bargainista Mad Men style:

Despite 1962/3 being a time where most women were either perfecting their best Martha Stewart impressions long before Martha Stewart was a household name (no wonder Mother’s Little Helper was so popular), or belonging to a secretarial pool, I related more to Peggy Olson and decided to join the boys club. You can check out for yourself.

Better yet, if you think you really are a Mad Men (or Mad Women) material, you have until August 11 to get a special code from your local Banana Republic store (they’re not available online) and try out for the Mad Men Casting Call by entering the special code and uploading your photo – that fans can rate. A lucky winner will get a walk-on role in Mad Men season 3 and a $1,000 shopping spree at Banana Republic. Check out Banana Republic Mad About Style and Miranda Wickett from London, Ontario - looks like she may have a chance.

Update: As part of Banana Republic’s Mad Men promotion, spend $125 or more on new merchandise August 13-23 and save 25% off your purchase. (Note: Scroll down when you click on the link to see the BR promo.)

Do you watch Mad Men? What do you think? How much has the workplace changed in 40+ years?
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Thursday, August 06, 2009

Bargainmoose shares her Old Navy bargain hunting secrets

Welcome guest blogger Anna Moose. Anna is the author of Bargainmoose, a Canadian coupons and deal hunting website who has kindly offered to share her tried and true tips for big savings at Old Navy.

Here’s a hot tip for the fashion bargain hunters! I’m sure many of you shop at Old Navy, but did you know that you don't actually have to pay the retail prices in-store? With their printable coupons, you can save yourself a bomb on your clothing purchases. is a coupon hunting site from Old Navy. It is renewed weekly, with coupons that you can print out and use in Old Navy stores.

Here are examples of all the previous Old Navy coupons. As you can see, there are coupons to get a percentage off your shopping, or a flat rate discount. The biggest coupons are the $75 off $100s, but they are very hard to get! Even if you don’t manage to get the huge dollar discount coupons, a 25% coupon can still come in very handy!

Old Navy coupon hunting tips:
The Old Navy Weekly site updates once a week. Currently, this is late on a Thursday night, or in the early hours of Friday morning. If you want a chance at one of the really high value coupons, you need to be online when it updates, as the high value coupons are all gone within minutes.

To find the free coupons, you must click around the Old Navy site. Any time your mouse pointer turns into a hand (denoting a clickable link in your browser), click it and see if it is a coupon. Sometimes you have to drag and drop items to get the coupons. For example, one week you had to drag and drop a polo shirt onto one of the mannequins.

When you find a coupon, you will see a popup window where you can then send the coupon to your email. If the coupon has already expired, you still see the popup, but it usually has a “sorry” message.

If and when you find a coupon, you can usually send it straight to your email address. Normally, you can also send the same coupon to a Facebook friend.

Keep an eye on the banner at the top of the page, which shows how many of each of coupon remains. If you manage to find a coupon, maybe don’t accept it right away – you may find a better one if you keep looking.

Check out the Old Navy YouTube channel where they have lots of promotional videos. Some video contain information, which might be asked for on the coupon website to access a certain coupon. For example, one week they had a question, “Who is Christopher’s dad?”

Monitor the M80 website. This is blog which tells a bit about the coupon site each week, before it goes live.

Every week, there’s always something a little different, and sometimes it can be hard work to find those coupons!

The printable coupons are accepted at any Old Navy store in the U.S. and Canada. They are usually valid for about a week, but each week you can try and bag yourself a bigger and better coupon.

Happy shopping!
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Wednesday, August 05, 2009

My friend made it into Holts' window

This post is long, long overdue. At the end of June, Holt Renfrew unveiled a new series of windows as a tribute to some of the best fashion bloggers in the whole wide world.

I knew about the Holt’s windows and the shout out to bloggers for a while and I owe a huge apology to my friend Anita Clarke of I want – I got for not posting this sooner. In fact, I probably took one of the first photos of Anita’s window before it was revealed. Anita invited me to her “reveal” party the night of the unveiling and unfortunately, I wasn’t able to join in the celebration.

Why should you care?
A tribute to bloggers demonstrates Holt’s awareness of the importance of influential blogs, customer reviews and word of mouth (online and off) for sharing knowledge about fashion, what’s hot, what’s not and where to buy. They didn’t stop at the windows, they’re also having a contest where you can vote for your favourite blog correspondents on Facebook using a touchscreen computer outside their Bloor St. store or your own devices.

Here’s a list of the other incredible fashion bloggers who made the cut:
Scott Schuman
Tommy Ton
Jane Aldridge
Garance Doré

Why should I care?
Well, way back in the fall of 2006, shortly after I started blogging, I got an email from Anita. We had never met in person. Outside of some PR and marketing folks who I had met briefly at two-part AIMS events and my friend Glen, I really didn’t know any bloggers. I certainly didn’t know any who were blogging about fashion or shopping.

Anita invited me to join her and a small group of friends who were heavily engaged in the local and international fashion blogging seeing. She invited to me to join them for an upcoming Toronto Fashion Bloggers’ Brunch, a group founded by the ever-so-talented Danielle Meder from final fashion. I haven’t looked back since. We’ve all remained friends and I owe it to Anita and Danielle for welcoming me into their community.

So to those of you who think us bloggers are a bunch of computer nerds hanging out in our basements, think again. ;-)

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Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Swap-tacular Swap-iversary Clothing Swap Party

Glad to see Hope and the gang are celebrating their one year anniversary and as always, this one is bigger and better then the last. 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-tacular Swap-iversary Clothing Swap Party: A fun and frugal way to revamp your wardrobe

Refresh your fall wardrobe and help us celebrate a year of Swap - Don’t Shop events! Just show up with your unwanted (but clean & good quality) clothes, and leave with a revamped wardrobe!

There will be delicious snacks, on-site alterations, door prizes and more!
Workshops include:
Shibori,a traditional Japanese tie-dying technique
Alterations 101
Top 10 Styling Tips for Men and Women
Sewing workship

All clothing, shoes and other accessories (but no socks and undies please) which are clean and in good condition are welcome.

At the end of the day all unclaimed clothing will be donated to local charities.

St. Stephen-in-the-Fields Church
103 Bellevue Ave. (at College) (map)

Saturday, Aug. 15
noon-4 p.m.

How Much?
Admission (with at least 5 swap items)
Women $8
Men free


Join the facebook group
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Monday, August 03, 2009

Samples are your best friend – especially when you’re a new mom

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Rebecca Atkinson shares advice on using free samples to learn which products are best for your baby.

As a first-time parent you can do a lot of research and you can ask other parents what types of products they recommend, but one thing you learn pretty quickly is that every child is different. What works or worked for one parent or child may not work for you or yours.

We thought we were being smart, doing research on certain items and then going out and buying things. That worked for many baby necessities but doesn’t work so well for things like diapers. With so many brands out there we didn’t know what to choose – so we didn’t at first.

Having been to the Baby Time Show previously and having an aunt who works for a paediatrican, we were lucky enough to have received several diaper samples to get us started.

We quickly learned no two diapers are really that alike – strangely enough – not when it comes to how they fit on our daughter’s bottom. After going through several samples, we found one brand that worked best for her (right now). Considering the number of diapers you go through in a day with a newborn (8-15) and their cost, finding the right diaper is important before you decide to stock up on them when there are sales.

While we’re not currently using formula, the same principle would apply if we were. I am using bottles however for expressing breast milk and ease of convenience (Dad can feed too), and again, we were able to make some decisions on which bottles to purchase based on several sample ones we had received and tried with MJ. It really helped us learn what we liked to work with, as well figure out what good for the little gaffer (which ones did she take more air in with, spit up and so on).

We’re now going back through our baby show bags – that we’d thankfully kept – one more time to see what other goodies we have that we should try before going out to buy.

Lessons Learned
1. Stock up – Go to events like the Baby Show and/or sign up for special offers and samples online.

2. Ask your Doctor/paediatrician (or hospital) for samples – don’t be shy, they usually have cupboards full of them.
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