Sunday, December 25, 2011

A tale of two Tassimo brewing systems

My new Tassimo brewing system
Yesterday, I received my second Tassimo thanks to some quick action by the caring team at Veritas who wanted to right a wrong before the holidays. It’s nice having one that works again, especially since Nabob now makes a decaf cappuccino and my kids enjoy Cadbury hot chocolate Tassimo discs a lot.

This holiday season seems to be a big one for coffee… whether your a retailer, fast-food chain or manufacturer of home brewing systems. Starbucks is well, Starbucks and decaf Via holds the current top spot for our household. McCafe has sent some goodies my way and incentives to try their premium caffeinated drinks. Like Tim Hortons’ premium coffee beverages, I have to wait for the decaf ones to hit the stores. Last but not least, home brewing systems for the third year running have been working hard to gain market share – for both gift items and holiday entertaining.

The Tassimo backstory...

I was one of many Twitter influencers selected to receive a free Tassimo machine and a supply of discs. Since then around this time of year, I receive a box of Tassimo discs. Last year, they offered to send Tassimo machines to two of my friends who were active online. You can read Bargainista’s Tassimo posts from 2009.

Several weeks ago, I received an impersonal email from Trapeze, an online marketing agency, conducting social media outreach for Tassimo. They sent me an email asking if I was interested in receiving discs (they actually sent the same email twice). I obliged and as a decaf drinker was pleased to see a new decaf cappuccino in their product offering.

A few weeks later I received another email from the same person. Like the previous ones, it was impersonal and requested I tell people in my network about how Tassimo stacks against Keurig:
“It’s the only home brewer with barcode technology. And when compared to the competition, we think TASSIMO comes out on top. We’d love if you could spread the word to your friends, family and followers about how the TASSIMO brewer stacks up against the Keurig®.”
I was stunned. I’ve never been given any opportunity by Tassimo or any of their agencies to test the Keruig machine, either at home or at an event (granted I’ve used the industrial brewers but how would Erin at Trapeze know that.) I’ve since learned there’s been a heated battle between these two companies.

Regardless, their approach is a poor example of how to engage with influencers. The agency is asking for influencers to praise one brand while trashing another online and off, in order to increase word of mouth, share of voice and positive sentiment at the expense of a competitor, etc. I replied to the consultant asking her why she asked me to spread the word but never heard back. I also emailed to tell her my Tassimo brewer broke (coincidentally, it broke a couple hours later). She responded by sending me a link to their online customer service and a phone number to call. Not a cool way to treat influencers in my books, when agents for other products go out of their way to make sure influencers are happy and continue using them.

Coincidentally, two days ago, a woman from Veritas emailed me asking if I’d consider reviewing a Tassimo brewing system before Christmas. I’m not sure if she was aware of my participation in the earlier program or how she decided to contact me but I was curious. So, I replied to her email and told her about my recent experience. She asked me if I’d mind calling her to discuss it further. I did. I was impressed by how quickly she responded at 9 p.m. on December 22. She told me I’d be hearing back the next day. I did hear back, from a former colleague who wanted to make things right.

As you know, this story did have happy ending. Within less than 24-hours, Veritas and Trapeze worked together to send me a new Tassimo brewer on time for the holidays. I was impressed by their quick response and ability to right a wrong. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about me wanting to get free stuff but more about understanding the hows and whys of relationship building between bloggers, brands and their agencies. Some other bloggers who had been reached out to in 2009 by a former representative at a third agency as a result of the Tassimo program, and since felt they had been treated in a personal manner, the initial approach this year has been disappointing to say the least. Let’s hope my experience is a sign of change and recognition of the importance of personal relationships. Spray and pray doesn’t work, even if it’s less expensive at face value.

As for the comparisons between Tassimo and Keurig brewers, I’m staying out of that battle. I haven’t seen any bloggers weigh in, have you?

Do you have a Tassimo or another brewer? If so, are you happy with your machine? What's your favourite coffee?
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Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Rita Tesolin Jewellery holiday sample sale


Rita Tesolin Jewellery holiday sample sale

Canadian jewellery designer Rita Tesolin is having a holiday sample sale with up to 90% off her regular prices and below cost. You’ll find a mix of goodies including array of one-of-a-kind belts, costume, sterling silver and semi-precious jewellery. New items added daily.

63 Wingold Ave., Suite 103 (map)

Friday, Nov. 11, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 12, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 13, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 18, 10 a.m. - 7 p.m.
Saturday, Nov. 19, 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
Sunday, Nov. 20, 10 a.m. - 5 p.m.

Cash only!

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Help make death wait. Win big and pay it forward

This morning while getting dressed I saw the incredibly powerful TV PSA (below) The Heart and Stroke Foundation using to reach out to women and let them know that heart disease and stroke is the number 1 killer.

Heavy, isn’t it? Did you know heart disease and stroke are the cause of death in 1 out of 3 Canadians? Pretty staggering, huh?

I was contacted by Karen Geier at OgilvyOne, asking if I’d participate in this program. I’ve been open about my family history and friends who have dealt with cancer, breast cancer in particular but I’ve been quiet about how heart disease and strokes have touched those I love as well. So, without hesitation, I agreed to help spread the word about the Heart & Stroke Calendar Lottery and hopefully help raise some awareness about the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

What is the Heart & Stroke Calendar Lottery?
For $25 you can buy a calendar with lovely photos by local photographers. In addition to helping the Heart and Stroke Foundation, you’ll have a chance to win great prizes every day of the year. There are some early-bird prizes too.

How to win a calendar
So now here’s a chance for you to win big and pay it forward by doing something to raise awareness about the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

I’m giving away two Heart  & Stroke Calendar Lottery calendars to each of five lucky people. The idea is you’ll keep one of the calendars for yourself and pay it forward by giving the second one to a friend or family member. For the blog, all you need to do is leave a comment sharing why you want to support the Heart and Stroke Foundation, by Thursday, November 10.  For Twitter, you’ll need to stay on the look out for two “tweet to win” opportunities over the next week. Keep an eye on the #GiftAndWin hashtag. Note you have to be an Ontario resident to win.
Update: I’ve decided to keep the giveaway on the blog an not run a Twitter giveaway as previously stated. 

How to buy a calendar
You can buy The Heart& Stroke Calendar Lottery until December 20 at midnight online, by phone at 1-888-514-7767 or by mail while supplies last (Ontario residents’ only.) For more information, visit the website or the Calendar Lottery page on Facebook.

Buy you calendar before November 10 and you’ll get a chance to win an Early Bonus Prize of $25,000! Order your calendar before December 15 and you’ll automatically be entered for a chance to win the Early Bird Prize of $250,000!

Disclosure: As an independent consultant, I work with Hill & Knowlton on some client accounts. I was unaware when I was contacted by Ogilvy that Heart and Stroke Foundation of Ontario was also a Hill & Knowlton client. I do not do work on this account.
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Friday, November 04, 2011

Lida Baday sample sale - November 11

The one you’ve been waiting for is back...

What?Lida Baday’s semi-annual sample sale

Her collection is available in only the finest department stores.

It’s one great sale you won’t want to miss! Whether you’re looking for something sophisticated for a day at the office, a night out on the town or that special something for an upcoming garden party or wedding, this Canadian designer is not to be missed.

Friday, November 11, 2011
8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

70 Claremont St.. (See map.)

Let us know what you get if you go.

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Sunday, October 16, 2011

Test driving the Fuji F550EXR camera

Fuji F550EXR
About a year after I started blogging, my friend Michelle suggested I start a weekly wish column, so I did. My intention was to highlight products I liked (sort of like Bargainista’s version of Oprah’s Favourite Things) and shower some link love on brands doing cool things in the social media space. Weekly wish was never really meant as a call out for brands to shower me with free gifts but one such brand, Fuji, showed they were listening and the next day decided to offer me a camera. For three years, I used that Fuji FinePixZ10 religiously. It took amazing photographs for a digital point and shoot but I’d been ogling DSLR cameras from my photoblogger friends for those times when I’ve wanted to try a bit more advanced photography.

A few months ago, Katie Noble at MS&L asked if I’d like to test drive a Fuji camera while vacationing over the summer. I jumped at the chance. I had the choice of three models and selected the Fuji F550EXR because I liked the combination of its compact size and DSLR features. I’m not sure I took advantage of all it had to offer but it took excellent pictures and when we visited Vermont, otherwise known as The Green Mountain State, the panoramic feature was amazing – even if spinning in circles made me dizzy. ;)

And more pics...
Flowers left at the top of the hill after the hurricane. 

A cowboy and his horse in Stowe

View from the mountain top.
Here’s the blurb Katie sent me about the F550EXR:
“The F550EXR is fully equipped to give you the best photos in low light or split-second action scenes. With High Speed Shooting at 11fps, the unique EXR-CMOS Sensor Technology and 15X Super Wide Angle Optical Zoom, this camera gives you unprecedented performance to capture clear subjects and vivid backgrounds. And Fujifilm’s latest GPS technology automatically geo-tags your photos and identifies over half a million locations.”

With an MSRP: $349.99, I think the F550EXR is a pretty sweet deal but would be sweetened with the addition of a travel case. (Thanks Fuji!) Don’t ask what I carried it around in while visiting Nova Scotia, Vermont and Montreal. ;) Hint: It wasn’t this large spy suitcase thing accompanying it when it arrived at my house.

I felt like a secret agent for a minute. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Reflecting on a year of renewal and on the fence about enhancing my eyelashes

A year ago, I left a secure full-time job as a digital strategist at an awesome integrated agency to find new balance in my life and pursue my dream of being my own boss and doing more of what I love. The path has been amazing. I have few regrets (still not blogging as much as I thought I would) and haven’t looked back or second-guessed my decision for a minute. 

Having more control over my work life afforded me the opportunity to overhaul some other things:
• Improved my dilapidated house with the help of Norrland Homes and Meredith Heron.
• Lost more than 30 pounds thanks to Dr. Dukan (yes, the same 30 pounds I lost three years ago).
• Added highlights to my hair; and,
• Whitened my teeth.

Yet, I’m reluctant to take any measures to turn back the clock on aging despite things like Botox, Restylane and Juvederm fills making it so easy. You no longer need to go under the knife to remove the visible signs of aging from your face (and other body parts.)

Thanks to a couple invitations from Morgan Cates at Environics, I attended an event last summer where Dr. Lisa Kellett of DLK on Avenue, the #1 spa in Canada according to Glow Magazine. Dr. Kellett reviewed advances in cosmetic dermatology over the past 10 years. Jeanne Beker shared some of her current beauty secrets her not-so-great experience with plastic surgery many years ago, when she was pressured into a procedure. Both these women looked fantastic, tall, thin and aging well – with a little help, no doubt. I had no idea Jeanne Beker was almost 60! Unfortunately, due to scheduling constraints, I didn't book an appointment with Dr. Kellet as was offered for attending the event. Maybe one day.

As you can see, I’ve been learning about some of the non-invasive ways women can set back the clock on their appearance and how important it is to take care of ourselves and feel good in our own skin – medical intervention or not. Thanks to Morgan, her client Allergen and a quick visit to Dr. Nowell Solish, I’ve been giving the opportunity to test out Latisse – an eyelash enhancement product approved by Health Canada.

Check out this promo video for U.S. audiences with spokesperson, Brooke Sheids:

I was given a Jessica Jensen leather clutch and an eye grooming kit from Sephora too. I owe them all a big apology. I’ve had my supply of Latisse for quite some time now but due to living somewhat of a nomadic existence this past summer and then contracting some annoying sinus and eye infections, I’ve yet to test it out. 

I’m getting closer to taking the big leap. Besides, it will help me make up for the eyelashes I lost a couple years ago and according to Dr. Solish, after a couple weeks I probably won’t need to use it daily and I won’t need to use mascara. I’ve learned hyperpigmentation (or darkening of the eyes around the lashes) is a side effect that is known to happen in only 4% of people who use the product.

Why am I still sitting on the fence for this one? If you were me, what would you do?

Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Lida Baday Sample Sale - May 13

The one you’ve been waiting for is back (and so is Bargainista)...

Lida Baday’s semi-annual sample sale

Her collection is available in only the finest department stores.

It’s one great sale you won’t want to miss! Whether you’re looking for something sophisticated for a day at the office, a night out on the town or that special something for an upcoming garden party or wedding, this Canadian designer is not to be missed.

Friday, May 13, 2011
8:30 a.m.-7 p.m.

70 Claremont St.. (See map.)

Let us know what you get if you go.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

PodCamp Toronto 2011: Feb. 26-27, 2011

Once again this year, I’ve had the pleasure of working with a stellar and dedicated group of volunteers busily getting ready for PodCamp Toronto 2011 – a free unconference for podcasters and other new media enthusiasts – February 26 and 27.

PodCamp Toronto is less than one week away and almost 1,000 people have registered to attend. There are more than 80 sessions covering a wide variety of topics that will appeal to almost everyone and their grandma. Whether you’re new media curious, a dedicated online storyteller or a seasoned pro, there will be lots to keep you busy.


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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Learning Spanish with Speekee TV

In this week’s baby bargainista column, Jenny shares her daughters’ experience with Speekee TV, an online Spanish-language learning program. Bargainista was approached by Speekee founder, Jim Porter, who offered us a free two-month trial.

Young kids are hungry for language acquisition. My 2-year-old is constantly pointing at objects and asking “what’s that?” and my 6-year-old has been asking for the French and Spanish words for things since she found out that I studied both languages in high school (more years ago than I care to count, but I still retain some key nouns and verbs).

Learning Spanish with Speekee TV, a series of online webisodes with optional accompanying worksheets and parent study guides, seemed like a great opportunity for me to give both girls some extra language exposure. It’s a deceptively simple setup: you log onto their website with a username and password, then view each webisode as often as you like. They’re short – about 10 minutes – and feature Speekee, a friendly purple puppet host, as well as a number of children engaged in interacting with their environment. Each webisode centers on one activity – a trip to the park, a visit to a café – and the accompanying vocabulary. The webisode dialogue is entirely in Spanish, with English and Spanish subtitles.

After a few days of watching one Speekee webisode a day, I asked my 6-year-old what she thought of the program.

“Really cool,” was the verdict, “but a little confusing. I think they should say the word in English, too.” She’s not the fastest reader, and she often found it hard to keep up with reading the subtitles to connect the Spanish words she heard spoken with the corresponding words in English.

That said, through repetition (several of the webisodes repeat key phrases such as “hello”, “how are you,” “my name is”), she has picked up some vocabulary already, and is keen to learn more!

An unexpected result was how engaged my 2-year-old was in the webisodes. She doesn’t usually sit still long enough to watch TV or online shows, but she was rapt whenever Speekee or his puppet friends were on the screen, and after one webisode she took to shouting “Hola!” (Hello!) at anyone who comes to the door!

If you’re looking for something akin to an educational TV show to teach your kids Spanish, I would recommend Speekee – with the caveat that older kids or faster readers will get the most from it. However, even youngsters as little as my toddler can absorb the simple language lessons Speekee offers!

Speekee TV offers a free two-week trial. You can also connect with Speekee on Twitter and Facebook.

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Sunday, January 09, 2011

Turning green waste into vegetable stock

It’s a new year and time to add some new perspectives to Bargainista. Welcome Kathryn Lagden, a regular contributor from Cooking with Kathryn, who’s focus will be primarily but not exclusively on food and cooking, you may remember her from our holiday wish list.

For many people, the New Year is a time for resolutions, new goals, or perhaps renewing commitment to previous goals. I’m not good at hard and fast rules (yep, I’m an Aquarius!) but I do use the changing of the year to think about where I want to focus my attention.

I’ve been thinking a lot about garbage so far this year. My new found interest in trash is probably a subconscious reaction to receiving two tags from the City of Toronto, each good for one extra bag of garbage above and beyond our allotment in 2011. And like many families at this time of year, we’ve made many trips to the bins with the cellophane, twist ties, and plastic wrap that keep all new toys impossibly difficult to access.

And then I read about how I can boil my garbage and create yummy goodness. Yep, you heard me right, I’m going to boil my garbage! I’ve often wondered why most recipes call for a few veggies like celery, onion, carrots etc. when we boil chicken bones to create stock but all the peelings and ends from these same veggies are tossed out. The folks at The Sweet Beet make it sound perfectly natural to boil up a whole bunch of food scraps into a delicious stock so I’m jumping in and giving it a try.

First step was getting my hubby on board. After all, collecting a bag of garbage in the freezer takes some commitment from everyone who is diving in looking for frozen treats and ice cubes for beverages. His only stipulation was that we don’t refer to it as “garbage”, we need a friendlier name. I’m thinking something along the lines of “Scrappy”, it would let me say things like, “please feed Scrappy those egg shells when you’re done cooking breakfast”.

I received a big soup pot from my sister for Christmas. I doubt that boiling garbage is what she had in mind when she gave it to me but with a bit of luck I’ll be serving up a delicious soup made with my own Scrappy Stock next time she visits.

I’ll be sure to report back and let you know if boiling garbage is a tasty way to reduce food waste! (And would love to hear suggestions and tips from anyone who has tried this.)

Note: Originally published as How I’m going to turn green waste into vegetable stock at Cooking with Kathryn.

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