Nikki Fotheringham at Green Moxie in Toronto

in Activism, Blogging, Culture Blogger, farm blog and Toronto

Nikki Fotheringham blog, Green Moxie, content marketingNikki Fotheringham is Green Moxie, evironmental bloggerNikki Fotheringham is a friend of mine. I met her the day I almost hired her, and I reckon we’re still friends today because I didn’t. I took one look at her resume and knew she was too good for my action. It was on that day she intrigued me and caught my attention with her ideas about measuring personal impact; she confessed to me in our first meeting how she was affected by a personal obsession to calculate her impact on things, on people, and on the environment.

Green Moxie is a reminder that there is no Planet B. Nikki dedicates herself to the outward presentation of this blog to raise awareness about everyone’s impact on nature – individuals and communities can make a difference, and in turn can be affected by larger or smaller bodies with compelling ideas and examples of positive change.

“If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito,” African ProverbNikki Fotheringham explains Green Moxie to African VillagersNikki Fotherham grew up an independent headstrong daughter of a professional athlete in South Africa. She was a bookworm, but not a geek. She was a track and field star, a marathon runner that no boy could catch, and no parent could contain. She grew up in Johannesburg and studied Philosophy in university. A wonderful subject to behold and debate, she loved the program, but it was almost impossible to get a job upon graduation. Nikki’s first break was as a receptionist at a computer software company, and she hated that position. Instead of changing plans or perhaps quenching her fiery temperament, Nikki soon quit that job and made some radical changes to her career path; she writes “…as a true student of Philosophy, I decided it was the fabric of society that was at fault, so I gave it all up and moved to a hippie commune in the Drakensberg; a remote mountainous area in South Africa. The scenery was breathtaking and I reveled in my self-imposed asceticism. These were the days dreams are made from! With plenty of sunshine our little band of rag-tag gypsies sitting on the banks of the river that ran past the front of our rambling farm house, I really can’t remember how we managed to feed all five of us and a baby – we never really seemed to work. I bought the local video store…” Nikki Fotheringham

Green Moxie, Nikki Fotheringham in Venice Italy, blogger Nikki also typeset the local monthly newspaper which was antique but she loved the newspaper the most and so, when the commune disbanded after four fun years, she headed back to the big city of Durban where she took up a part-time position at the Natal Mercury – a local newspaper. It was her first foray into professional journalism and she was hooked. After gaining some recognition, Nikki discovered she was really employable and she soon got a full time position working at a home magazine called the HomeGuide. It was a great job and eventually she became the editor. After saving up her money, Nikki embarked on a world tour and she met her husband Ian while teaching English in Korea. She was 29 yrs old. Nikki Fotheringham the South Africa girl with Green Moxie blog in Mexico jungle Ian is from Canada and he’s is currently in his last year of a Sustainable Energy and Building Technology diploma at Humber College. He has Green Moxie. Eight years after they were married the couple worked all over the world in many different vocations – Korea, Taiwan, Kuwait, Oman and Frankfurt Germany. During that time she traveled through the United States, central and North America, all through Asia, to India and Nepal, the Middle East and, during one memorable year, drove the entire length of Africa. The environment has always been core to Nikki Fotheringham’s existence and those memories are the body of experiences she draws upon as upon today, as a much-sought-after environmental writer, and she works almost exclusively for a Jib Strategic content marketing company in Toronto who specializes in raising awareness for products designed for the green building industry. Her reward is seeing the new building products and services she extols become successful in the marketplace, and she takes great satisfaction in her own Green Moxie, her push to change the world one blog post at a time.

Post by Robert Campbell on Sunday Mar 3rd, 2013


Arianna’s Random Thoughts in British Columbia

in Activism, British Columbia, Coaching, Personal Blog, Photography and Professional Service

Arianna Random Thoughts blog banner, Hawaii beachArianna Merritt, blogger, BCArianna Merritt, M.Ed., is a Learning and Development Specialist in British Columbia who started blogging three years ago to serve up some random thoughts. Today she’s a tri-weekly source of inspiration for hundreds of regular readers, and has her own self help book on store shelves, Arianna’s blog offers unique insight into the human condition and a fresh perspective on the art of perseverance.

Arianna’s Random Thoughts is the sort of name a new blogger might call a test space upon which they practice handcrafting their first posts. Random thoughts are generally worth less than well ordered thinking only because abstract content is less findable in the grand scheme of things. New blogs filled with ‘random thoughts’ usually fade away after the first couple of posts, or get deleted when the author learns enough to find a proper style, or a suitably interesting cause. But Arianna persevered with her original portal because random thoughts and perseverance are her causes.

The author conceived the blog while on vacation in Hawaii. That’s why the banner is an artful representation of an ocean beach scene. Presumably she had a rush of random thoughts while sitting on the beach, but I suspect there’s more to this story than that.  Her first post is titled, Do Not Be Afraid To Ask Questions.

The About Arianna Merritt badge on her blog sidebarArianna Merritt, M.Ed. encourages her blog readers and the individuals she coaches to reach their full potential by finding their own voices and sharing their own stories.

Her own life experiences, including her career and her professional life, have caused her to study the positive effects of perseverance, mentoring, self-worth, body-image counseling, and bullying prevention.  She has seen the good she can do first hand.

A six foot tall woman, Arianna once had some issues with her own body image, and she has suffered through long periods of low self esteem. She was bullied throughout her childhood, and today remembers being scared of standing out in the crowd. Consequently, she adopted a diminutive posture because she didn’t want to draw attention to herself.  And she was very shy. Perhaps that’s why the author’s first book is entitled, Stand Tall & Speak From the Heart: How to Find Your Way and seems to be about finding the strength to be proud and mentally independent.

She writes about where she was raised, and how the kids in her family, and other families around town were taught to mask their personal issues and put a brave face on their true feelings; she would say “I’m fine” even though she was struggling with body image issues, or worse.

After graduation from her undergraduate program, Arianna moved out west and started to crave deep connections – in relationships and life and hence that’s why she started blogging, to reach out and connect with other people on a deeper, more personal level. It’s an extreme act of bravery for a shy girl.

Arianna Merritt recording her random thoughts by the oceanShe writes, “In today’s society, the focus is on becoming successful, and being a success. So many of us focus on the outcome, and always look ahead without looking around them and enjoying the journey.  Many of us give up hope on our dreams because there are too many obstacles on their path.  They are unaware that everyone else has obstacles too and they just need to persevere to succeed.  Sometimes when our light dims, that’s when we need others to help brighten or change our perspective. “

In Arianna’s post, What it means to be a role model, she writes,

Two of the most important lessons I have learned on my journey are to persevere and to talk about issues.  I am not perfect, have obstacles on my path, and make mistakes.  I have also been a talker to them and would rather talk about issues than keep them inside. - Arianna

Arianna on rock beach for inspirationA truly unique individual, Arianna’s vivacious personality flows from her pen to colour her blog prose. Readers soon understand this girl loves traveling, teaching and connecting with others.  She loves water and is empowered by the ocean, lakes and rivers in British Columbia. She’s passionate about photography and uses the craft to help chronicle her life.  She writes,  “…that’s why my blog is set up in a travel journal form, as 1) I love the water and am empowered by it, and 2) its designed to share the lessons I have learned (in written form and through photos), and document the people I have met on my journey.”

I truly believe that when you share you story with others and speak from the heart, you give others permission to do the same.  I’m starting the conversation. Arianna Merritt

As she continues to learn and grow, Arianna’s blog will grow too and serve as a place where people can feel empowered and connect with others. Some of the authors best posts include,

The Power of Kindness

Standing Firm Against The Tide

Let’s Rock the Boat

Arianna made her first blog domain her permanent home and saw it through to success.  She even upgraded her WordPress.com account to buy the URL and host it herself, and truly be the master of her own .com domain; here she has built and decorated a beautiful shrine to her own random thoughts and we are all her fortunate guests.

Post by on Feb 13, 2013


Danielle LeBlanc is Poor and Gluten Free in White Rock

in Blogging, British Columbia, food blog, niche blogs and Personal Blog

Poor and Gluten Free

The misconception that healthy food tastes terrible has been proven wrong many times over, but what of the persistent complaint many Canadians make that health food is unaffordable? Danielle LeBlanc is a food blogger in White Rock, British Columbia, who has spent several years perfecting her take on a gourmet, gluten free diet–on a budget. A history buff with a Masters Degree focused on modern Middle Eastern and Egyptian cinema, she runs a small business that designs Middle Eastern dance costumes. When she’s not watching obscure old Egyptian flicks, you’ll likely find her writing about her latest “dangerous kitchen shenanigans,” as her husband likes to call them. “I come from a family of cooks,” says Danielle. “Not professionals, but people who love to make good, healthy food. Even my grandfather–he made a mean buckwheat pancake!”

Gluten Free Beet BreadPoor and Gluten Free chronicles the culinary adventures of a creative spirit who doesn’t let the restrictions of Oral Allergy Syndrome interfere with her prolific outpouring of scrumptious recipes. The blog was born out of her struggle with her condition: “I went through a terrible period where I was very ill,” says Danielle. “I was always exhausted, then hay fever kicked in, so I was stuffy and sneezy all the time. Suddenly I developed hives. I think my body kind of shut down–I got pink eye in both eyes and a sinus infection that was so bad it plugged up my left ear! I was wretched, and with two pink eyes and swollen sinuses I looked as awful as I felt.”

Danielle went to see an allergist and found out she had a gluten allergy, as well as Oral Allergy Syndrome (to learn more about OAS, see her excellent post). Both of these conditions are on the rise; in fact, studies have shown that North Americans today are four times more likely to suffer gluten intolerance than in the 1950s. Suspected reasons for this are the genetic modification and hybridization of the wheat plant, as well as the increase in glutinous substances in a variety of other processed foods.

“After spending a couple of years living on a tight budget while experimenting in the kitchen I felt that I Danielle LeBlanc - Poor and Gluten Freemight have something to offer other people, so they wouldn’t have to suffer as much as I did,” says Danielle.

She was right about having something to offer people. Shortly after getting started as a blogger, the comments started rolling in. People all over the world were trying her recipes and sharing stories about their own experiences living and cooking with OAS. She was also nominated under Best Health Blog in the 2012 Canadian Blog Awards.

“I’ve encountered some wonderful bloggers and readers,” Danielle says. “I also feel that I’ve helped some people learn a thing or two, whether it be cooking gluten free, using scrap fabric or dealing with lettuce allergies. Maybe it’s an ego thing, but it feels good to know that you’ve helped somebody in some small way.”

Making Gluten Free SpaetzleDanielle’s are indeed intended to teach and inform, like the article she posted on Canada Day 2012, entitled Canadian Food 101.

My Sprouted Lentil Bread recipe is the ‘best’ post in terms of traffic,” says Danielle. “It was an early experiment in trying to make cheap, easy gluten free bread…I’m glad so many people have found it helpful!”

 

For sentimental reasons, Danielle’s post on making German Gluten Free Spaetzle is one of her favourites. Her Polish grandfather met her German grandmother after WWII; he had been captured by Nazis and forced to work as a labourer. Her grandparents married and moved to Canada, where they served spaetzle to their children and grandchildren. “Creating this recipe brought back some wonderful childhood memories,” says Danielle. “Gluten free spaetzle is also the #1 search term by far that helps people to find my blog, so I hope it helps bring back good memories for other people, too!”

Writing the blog has also fostered Danielle’s growth as a gluten free cook extraordinaire: “My Gluten FreeGluten Free Ravioli with Squash Ravioli is one of my favourite posts,” she says. “And oh boy is it pride! Gluten free baking can be really tricky, so when my GF ravioli dough made with pureed beets came out perfect the first try I was totally stunned. I felt like I had finally ‘arrived’ as a GF cook. I think [it's] a great demonstration of how far I’ve come since I started my blog.”

Danielle’s plans for her blog’s future include delving deeper into the “…fabulously fascinating yet shockingly time consuming” world of social networking, as well as a new series she’s started on her blog called Waste Not Want Not, and sharing innovative ways to live more sustainably and frugally.

A perfectionist, Danielle is still working on her definition of what makes an ideal blog post. So far, she’s come up with: “I think a good blog post should be informative, accessible, easy to read (or skim as most people do), and maybe even make people chuckle a little.” It’s working for her.

**

NEXT Robert Campbell writes that to find me a dentist near home is an acid test for local search engines. 


Anum Khan and James Rubec, PB&J Mag in different parts of Canada

in Canadian pop culture, Culture Blogger, Fashion Blogger, humourist, NWT, Photography, Toronto and Web Designer

PB&J

Like the sandwich that is its namesake, this is a quick, tasty and unpretentious blog.  Its bulk – or the bread is in its commitment to quality content which chronicles local/world events and lifestyles in a down to earth tone. The protein - or peanut butter - is the hearty substance behind provocative articles like Three stories that prove racism is alive and well or A grave undertaking.  Last but not least, the flair – that’s the jam – of this online gem is in its entertainment and product reviews, recommendations and musings on the good old days, like When Tim Hortons took only cash.  Individually, the ingredients themselves are humble, but when they come together they create something that is nutritious, delicious and leaves you wanting more.

James Rubec and Anum KhanPB&J Mag is a lifestyle/ political/ social/ scientific/Canadiana blog that aims to “turn frowns upside down and get brains moving.” Founded by Anum Khan and James Rubec, both professional writers and marketers who have an aptitude for unique and buzz-worthy topics, PB&J is a general interest blog full of tips, recipes and useful information. The blog is uniquely Canadian: Anum, a coffee expert, lives in the heart of metropolitan Toronto, where she works as a social media marketer for Spark Internet Marketing Corporation in the biggest and busiest city in the country.  James, a photographer, lives several hundred kilometres below the Arctic Circle in Yellowknife, NWT, where he works in advertising for Kellett Communications Inc.

Anum loves cupcakes and James is into quilting; their interests and skills, which are alike and disparate simultaneously, fuse together to form a blog that is in turns funny, relevant and thought-provoking.

Yellowknife's Beer BargePB&J offers its readers insight into the diversity of Canadian geography and culture. For example, Toronto, often referred to as the New York of Canada, is a far cry from Yellowknife, which, situated so far up North, enjoys summer days where the sun never sets. “This isn’t the Yukon, the story isn’t about the Klondike gold rush that brought fools to stampede to their deaths for hope of riches,” James writes of the Northwest Territories. “It is a story of a community building something from nothing; on and under the hardest land in the world that was and is surrounded by untamed wilderness with winters that are maddeningly long and cold. If the story of the Yukon is about personal exploration and the great gamble that is life, then Yellowknife’s is about balanced risk and teamwork.” James’ posts about life in the NWT, such as Yellowknife’s Beer Barge, contrast between Anum’s coverage of events in the big city such as restaurant openings and Fashion Week. Writes James, “Cities have larger parties, with better beer served in bigger bottles, but they’ll never have an ounce of the unity that has been built in Yellowknife with gold, stone and heart.”

NHL lockout should be stopped by HarperIn addition to recipes from James and product review from Anum, you can count on PB& J to express opinions on politics in posts like NHL lockout should be stopped by Harper (“Why should the government stand by while important money for municipalities, charities and low-income workers is left idly sitting in the arguments of rich whining babies?”), Bruce Mau Design insults all of North America (“Canada has so much to do with Seth Rogen as the United States does with Michael Phelps. You can’t pin a nation on an individual as emblematic, you can only pin the nation on the individual as a factoid.”) and Republicans, Liberals and One Good Book (“I’m jealous of the power that voters actually have in America. I hope Americans feel lucky to be able to vote for their district attorneys, sheriffs and senators. Canadians are lucky if they have a chance to vote for someone once a year.”)

PB&J Mag offers both masculine and feminine perspective, urban and boonies, world news and Canadian content. Since both writers have a background in marketing, these two bloggers are great role models for people just starting out. There aren’t any gimmicks on PB&J; it’s good content on white bread to satisfy the soul.


KD Faustino, the girl with the messy hair in Calgary

in Alberta, Blogging, British Columbia, Canadian pop culture, Culture Blogger, Fashion Blogger, Personal Blog, Photography, style diary and Web Designer

thegirlwiththemessyhair.com

KD Faustino is a fashion blogger and ‘style diarist’ based in Calgary, Alberta, who describes herself as ’a 20-something fashion buyer and social media extraordinaire who left her sunny tropical islander life in the Philippines to live in freezing cold Canada.’  She has a lot of energy and is a prolific blogger; only four months after her arrival her blog was named one of the top fifteen Canadian fashion blogs of 2010*.  Her effortless style and discerning eye for fashion, made her blog an instant hit.

The girl with the messy hair is a style diary that KD (Kristine Diane) Faustino started in April 2009, while still living in Manila, to chronicle her daily outfits.

“I blog today simply because it makes me happy,” she says. “As narcissistic as it may sound, I blog for myself. It might seem shallow, but there’s really no hidden agenda behind my blogging, just that dressing up and fashion makes me happy. The compliments/recognition I get, inspiring other people with finding their style and the perks from brands/designers are just a plus for me.”

Faustino is a social media professional, and works as Social Media Head for Fashion Night Out Canada, Fabricated, and a fashion buyer for Citizen’s Planet. Her expertise in social media is apparent throughout her blog, and she’s a PR natural: “I think what makes my blog (or any blog for that matter) unique is the individual behind the blog itself,” she says. “If you stay true to yourself, your style, why you are blogging, your overall brand–it will show. You have to come to terms with the fact that blogging can be a serious business but at the same time, still having fun while doing it!”

Hailing from the tropical Philippines, KD’s had to adjust her style (not just fashion-wise but lifestyle as well) to Canada’s often frigid temperatures. Her islander spirit has brought a fresh new style to Calgary’s fashion scene and she’s embraced the challenges along the way–and posed for many a picture featuring piles of snow in the background instead of a beach. “I live in Calgary and the biggest [influence] it has on my blog is the weather!” she says. “As silly as it may sound, that’s the challenge of dressing in a bipolar city (in terms of weather) like Calgary.

#1 Holts Muse KD Faustino“I think the best thing that ever happened to me due to blogging was being recognized for something that wasn’t meant to be recognized at all,” says KD. “When I started blogging I was just doing my own thing but then I started getting recognized and awarded [Top 15 Canadian Fashion Blogs*, Honorary Blogger of the Year in the 2011 Calgary Fashion Honorary Awards, Top 5 Best Overall Blog & Top 4 Best Personal Blog at the Canadian Blog Awards 2011, 1st Place Holts Muse by Holt Renfrew, MTV Blogger Looks we Love, etc.] by the industry and being on the same lists as the people I look up to, or just by random people in random places (which is more flattering, to say the least). What makes it special is the fact that I started this blog all by myself without the help of anyone–it is certainly my baby, something that I am proud of.” See two of KD’s personal favourite posts: http://www.thegirlwiththemessyhair.com/2011/06/crochet.html, and http://www.thegirlwiththemessyhair.com/2012/01/brown-hues.html. The worst part? “Definitely the haters,” she says. “But you know what they say, you know you’ve made it when you’ve got them.”

KD at workKD isn’t certain whether or not she’ll keep the blog going after her thirtieth birthday in two years. “The good thing about my blog is that I don’t feel pressured,” she says. “I am at this point in my blogging career where I feel like I’m not anxious to get anywhere. I can choose which events I want to go to or not, what brands I want to work with–I don’t need to be everywhere, unlike when I was starting. I must say, it’s a good place to be at. And who knows, maybe after 30 I’ll turn my blog around to a travel blog or something like that!”

In the meantime, however, KD will be focusing on maintaining the high quality of her blog. “The ideal blog for me starts with decent hi-resolution photos,” she reveals. “People tend to look at photos first and then they start to read if your photos are interesting enough. A short, constructive write-up with readable font is a must for me, too. Above all, [the ideal blog is about] keeping your stuff interesting and making people come back for more.”



Niki Blasina is A Haute Mess in Vancouver

in British Columbia, Fashion Blogger and Vancouver

Niki Blasina write A Haute Mess, fashion blog in Vancouver British Columbia

"It's fashion, and it's fun!" -Niki BlasinaNiki Blasina is a fashion blogger living and working as a freelance writer in Vancouver British Columbia. Her passion for fashion could have taken her to style Meccas like New York or Paris, but she has spread her couture wings and helped build a scene in her own beautiful city. Vancouver has an active textiles, garments industry and many print media and web publishers, and Niki has become a respected local authority on style and fashion; she writes for MTV Canada’s FORA, for Huffington Post Canada as a style blogger, and of course she has her own hit blog.

A Haute Mess is Niki’s fun filled approach to high fashion. She’s got style on page and in her pictures. What’s most interesting about Niki’s blog is how she presents her ideas – she’s got style on style as she blogs in a fun and unpretentious manner; ‘A Haute Mess’ is a blog that stays true to its title. There is plenty of forward-thinking fashion photos for readers to feast their eyes upon, but Niki combines her penchant for profiling trends with an approachable honesty,  earnestly publishing her own anecdotal stores about fashion blunders and the foils that all girls fall prey to: bad hair days, skin irritations and unflattering photographs.

A Haute Mess at home“I started blogging because I was a fan of fashion blogs, and a dear friend and fashion blogger said ‘Why don’t you start your own blog’,” says Niki. But “…the idea of putting pictures of myself on the internet seemed like a horror movie waiting to be written, and was way more narcissism than I could be comfortable with. But I did it anyway!” And she doesn’t regret it. Niki’s blog is stronger because readers can see her wearing the duds and leading the charge. Her posts often acrue twenty or more comments and a great many from other bloggers.

Niki, already a PR representative, found out immediately that writing a blog is a great way to open new doors. Within a year of writing her first post, opportunities were pouring in from all directions: “I owe so much to blogging and A Haute Mess,” she says. “It’s been a life-changing experience for me and I’ve had so many interesting and fun opportunities because of it.”

Niki Blasina as web star on the cover of Flare Magazine

Mixing cool prints with leather

Niki Blasina is profiled in FLARE magazine, February 2012

Niki’s adventures in blogging have connected her to a larger fashion community, and her readers have the pleasure of sharing this new found fame with her. In her recent post Sit DOWN Mayan Calendar: These Fashion Folk have Bigger Plans for 2012, Niki asked some of fashion’s darlings to spill their New Year’s resolutions, giving her readers an inside scoop into the thought processes of some of her contacts in the industry.

Style-wise, Niki likes to try everything–glam, retro, boho, rock ‘n roll–and her readers wait hungrily to see what she’ll be wearing next; in fact, Niki admits that she can’t keep up with requests. Most readers beg to to see her personal style diaries. She features two popular recurring series on her blog, Outfits and Outtakes, “which is basically a self-deprecating blooper reel of my personal style photos,” she says, and Terms in Fashion that Make Me Uncomfortable, “which is a vocab lesson on awkward terminology in fashion.” Of the series she says: “Like most of my blog, they serve as a reminder that fashion doesn’t need to be taken so seriously and that people do need to lighten up! It’s fashion, and it’s fun!”

sunny in hawaii, niki blasina relaxes by the ocean, author, haute messNiki has a Tumblr blog too which she uses like a reader’s digest version of her own domain to highlight her best pictures and call attention to the more significant journalism found there. Her Twitter persona @AHauteMess follows the same strategy but is peppered with celebrity gossip and cute photos and videos and is no doubt the source of some inspiration for her blog.

Niki Blasina, A Haute Mess on Facebook

A Haute Mess is a great resource for fashionistas and fresh apprentices – because its fun and flirty!

“I just want [my blog] to continue growing its audience and get bigger and better!” says Niki. “2012 is going to be a good year for me and me wee blog, and I have a lot of exciting projects in the works that I can’t disclose yet, but I am really looking forward to sharing soon.”


 


Mary Bratko is Wedding Girl in Ontario

in Canadian pop culture, Culture Blogger, event blogger, Fashion Blogger, niche blogs, Ontario, Professional Service and visual arts


Mary Bratko, wedding planner in TorontoMary Bratko eats, sleeps and blogs about weddings in southern Ontario. She shares her décor ideas, menu ideas, insights into popular traditions, decorating tricks and sweet thoughts about marital bliss to a growing following of daily readers. She’s an expert wedding planner with a seemingly endless flow of original ideas for making brides’ dreams come true. Funny thing is, she isn’t married.

WeddingGirl.ca believes that every bride should be able to afford a wedding planner. Her business is all about creating luxury on a budget and sharing her hard won knowledge on where to spend cash, how to save cash, what to skip, and when to splurge. The blog is built to both inspire and educate brides to make smart spending choices and turn their wedding planning dreams into happily ever after memories {swoon}.

wedding girl, cartoon character, polka dot dressMary came to this blog calling from an unusual angle. Through-out school she studied sciences and if you’d asked anyone of her university classmates they would have guessed that Mary was bound for a career as a surgeon, or a cancer researcher, or something that required her to keep her head buried in scientific journals, medical charts and diagrams. But when she was at school, she was also a bride, and she spent hours, days weeks months planning a beautiful wedding on a seemingly endless budget.

As a young adult, when she wasn’t reading brainy texts, Mary Bratko was thumbing through bridal magazines and developing an expensive taste for exquisite things, like high end linens, fancy embellishments, and couture designs. A twist of fate left her grand affair wedding canceled and her expensive taste became extensive debt. The rookie mistakes she made inspired her to create Wedding Girl.

diamond ring, wedding day bethrothalWith her own nuptials canceled, Mary hoped she could give away what she’d already bought to another bride, and dreamed up Wedding Girl after spotting a cry-for-help from a bride that had become pregnant during her engagement and was medically ill. The couples’ wedding budget was spent on keeping her and her unborn baby alive. She was desperate to have a wedding to one day show her baby that “Mommy and Daddy got married”. The ad was looking for anyone who could help her with décor, flowers, food, anything to create a wedding. At this moment Mary decided that no bride should ever have to beg for a wedding, or settle for second hand, or second best, and that every bride should be able to ask for, and get help.

Mary Bratko is Toronto Wedding GirlAs Wedding Girl, Mary Bratko’s goal is to help brides resolve their own unyielding desires for high-end, fancy, and couture, with a limited budget. While most of the wedding industry tends to focus on how to spend, her website is more about when to save and when to splurge and what to skip all together (and still make your wedding nothing short of FABULOUS!) What began as a hobby has now become her full time job.

Mary’s blog showcases the most recent wedding she planned and coordinated – alongside two professionals, Rick and Jay – and talks candidly about a sassy promotion with these two characters, and all the events surrounding their infamous Wedding Threesome contest.

Wedding Day Threesome, Rick Mary and JayLast year, Rick, Jay and Mary got together to create the Wedding Day Threesome contest. The inspiration behind the idea was to join forces and give one lucky bride and groom an amazing wedding package that included photography, cinema, and event design and planning. With some clever marketing, our creative talent, and lots of time, effort, the Threesome Contest was born. And as the things went swimmingly right up until the end. The trio was supposed to announce the winner on that particular day, but unfortunately one of the crew had an emergency; a child was in the hospital. The group didn’t get a chance to confirm and thereby publish their final pick for the grand prize winner.  Mary writes that “…The contest had grown a strong Facebook following and when we didn’t announce the winner (or have the chance to explain why), our Facebook followers lost their minds. We were being accused of having faked all three businesses …. of being scams, but yet we hadn’t even asked for any money!“   Mary wrote a comprehensive reply to squash the backlash and resolve the Wedding Day Threesome contest.

Wedding kiss, wedding dance, song, Stoney Creek, photographer

In less than three years, Wedding Girl has already made an impressive start and hopes to grow even bigger in 2012 with more guest blogging, content sharing, text link and banner advertising, site sponsorship and great articles about weddings, school for girls.  This blogger has found her niche.

Mary writes, ‘On a personal note – 2011 was a year for me to make mistakes, learn lessons, create new relationships, and indulge in new experiences. I’ve grown stronger as a woman, more creative as an entrepreneur, and more resilient as a business-owner. I’m thankful for every favour I placed, detail I tweaked, and bustle I bustled. Each and every bride I’ve been fortunate enough to meet has given me more than I could ever thank them for – and I’m honoured to have been a part of their big day.


Deb Lewis Blogs About Events in Toronto

in Blogging, Culture Blogger, event blogger, Ontario and Toronto

Deb Lewis of Toronto City Events, blog bannerDeb Lewis Toronto City Events blog sponsor charityDeborah Lewis runs an upscale event planning business in downtown Toronto. On average she designs, promotes and executes between thirty five and fifty of the city’s biggest and most memorable occasions each year, and she blogs about it and posts pictures on Twitter, Flickr and Facebook. Her blog gives readers the pertinent details and more – it shares a precious inside look at the makings of each happenstance.

DebLewis.ca is the home of an expert party planner and web savvy event promoter. This thirty something woman writes about parties, past present and future. The blog is rich with event summaries wherein she wraps up the best stories with photos and anecdotal accounts of Toronto roof food and music, and any outstanding memories. She writes about celebrity chefs and musicians, politicians, charities and of course the charismatic people that attend these events. She tweets her blog posts, and has an engaged Facebook following. Deb’s digital presence adds a lot of value to her events; the sponsors benefit from blog links, Facebook likes and social media ‘klout’.

Toronto City Events Logo As the founder and owner of Toronto City Events, Lewis shares her insights and her discoveries and successes using the web to promote events. When she speaks at gatherings, she can fill a room with people eager to hear her secrets.

Deborah started blogging four years ago because she was curious about this new trend and wanted a more candid less business vehicle to connect with people. She was enjoying reading other local blogs and felt it would be an interesting movement to experience writing her own. And of course she identified blogging as a key tool to complement her business communications.

Deb Lewis of Toronto City Events at Lenzr partyWhat are the results? Deb relates that immediately after starting her blog she found she was hearing more feedback from participants about the events. People were leaving comments and coming to Facebook to tag themselves in pictures. She also heard more stories and more opinions about hers and other people’s events which helped her develop better programming, but also helped increase her web and online marketing skills as she learned to respond to these queries and quips and compliments.

Deb’s most read posts are the ones that are most informative. She wrote a piece about the bars that stay open till 4am during the Toronto Film Festival that was retweeted constantly in September by the Toronto Twitterati and became a big hit with thousands of readers during TIFF and after.

Another popular post is The Beer Boutique in Liberty Village and that’s partly because the headline is phrased to resemble the search term that everyone types into Google when seeking this elusive location . It was also well shared on Facebook and Twitter around that locality. Some posts in Deb’s blog are made of what she calls ‘cultivated content’ and by that she means that her interns write the pieces from scripts that she finds or creates. Deb writes ‘…some stories I write 100%, where others I provide the framework and have the final edits and touches.’ Managing creative interns is difficult and this sentence hints at her process.

Deb Lewis with Camera at EventWhat’s in the future? More blog content and the domain will be expanding to include more rich media, more videos and podcasts. And the blog will be getting a face lift in 2012. But more substantially Deb wants to streamline the style of the posts to include more event tips and resources for people who are attending, and more content will be made available for folks who are “…interested in my area of expertise, and ideas for planning and promoting events. We’ve become a resource for what events are happening in Toronto and provide people with insights into how these events are created.”


Annie and the G Man – Country Living in a Cariboo Valley

in Uncategorized

Country Living in a Cariboo ValleyGraham Coombe at home in the valleyIt wasn’t long ago that Annie and Graham Coombe were city kids on the west coast of British Columbia. But they got sick of the noise, pollution and traffic, and so the couple decided to do what most city folks only dream of doing: they moved out to the bush to live a healthy new self-sufficient lifestyle. They are now situated in B.C.’s beautiful Cariboo Valley, a 40 minute drive from the grocery store, and 20 minutes from their mailbox, and the most basic necessities. While the Coombes have traded many modern conveniences to live a life off the grid, and on-the-land, thankfully they didn’t do away with the internet. Annie writes about their DIY experiments on their blog, which is nominated in this year’s Canadian Blog Awards in the Personal Blog category.

Country Living in a Cariboo Valley

Country Living in a Cariboo Valley is a blog that peeks into the lives of Graham and Annie Coombe, Da Wolf, (and their half-Malamute, half- wolf dog, Ginger, the barn cat, and 17 laying hens as well as meat birds and pigs), and becomes a platform for sharing the rare knowledge that the Coombes are learning every day “Since we were city kids, we did not know very much when it came to living way out in the country,” says Annie. “Probably the biggest lesson we quickly learned was to keep a list of needed items and only take that list to town once a week. Did something get missed? Too bad, it will have to wait till next week. Once we moved out to the bush I started thinking about everything I needed to learn. That led to my looking around on the internet for other people who ran homesteads or farms, so that I could learn from them. I didn’t find a lot of resources on the internet, and so started our own blog. I thought that we just could not be the only people who moved from the City to the Country who didn’t know what the heck they were doing.”

Annie at home

Graham is a millwright and a welder and is quite knowledgeable about machinery and logging, which, as Annie says, “mean[s] he is very handy to have around. We’re fortunate in that he only needs to work part-time, mostly because of the lifestyle we have.” Annie is a gardener, animal farmer, stock trader and writer for various websites such as moredollarsathome.com. They are “just over 50 and just under 50,” says Annie. “[It] should be noted that those are physical ages; in our minds we’re still teenagers.”

Annie started blogging in 2008 and her informative posts have attracted an interested audience spanning from Australia to Asia to Europe, then back to the U.S. and Canada, where most of her readers are located. Many readers have started their own mini-homesteads (some even in the city), beginning their journey of providing for their families by the same means that Graham and Annie use. “I write about things that city people would never need to know, such as the importance of having enough wood cut and stacked in the wood room (and how to build the wood room). Going to spend the winter in the country wilds of Canada? You better learn how much dry firewood you will need!” Annie quips.

Annie is inpsired by the following Alton Brown quotation, and encourages anyone who identifies with it to check out her blog: “We are fat and sick and dying because we have handed over a basic, fundamental and intimate function of life over to corporations. We choose to value our nourishment so little that we entrust it to strangers. This is insanity. Feed yourselves. Feed your loved ones. And for God’s sake feed your children.”

Choppy drinking from the hoseSince Graham and Annie grow/raise roughly 85 per cent of the food they eat, Annie writes a lot about gardening and raising animals in posts like this one entitled How to get started on the path to providing for your family.

“Over the years we have become advocates about growing your own food and the health benefits of doing so,” says Annie. “We call our food Naturally Grown and use zero chemicals in our gardens. I also write about freezing, canning and dehydrating the food that we grow. A lot of people today don’t know how to can foods or may be afraid to try. It’s not hard and as long as you follow the rules, it is completely safe and stays good literally for years.” Graham and Annie’s passion for natural growing, eating and living is evidenced further in posts like How I shop for groceries (hint: she doesn’t go to town) and How to make rhubarb wine just one of the many wine how-tos (Parsley, Saskatoon/Raspberry and dandelion wines, among others, are featured on the site.)

The garden in JuneThe Coombes believe there is nothing more forward thinking than becoming self-sufficient, particularly in this economic climate.

“Growing some of your own fruit, vegetables, herbs, etc. can go a long way to decreasing the food bill at the local grocery store,” says Annie. “That is a great incentive for any family! Many cities and towns are now allowing their citizens to have chickens in their backyard. This movement is one we wholly support. The advantage [is that] raising children with this kind of knowledge is very good for them.”

The natural beauty of the Cariboo valley is one of the main attractions for the blog’s readers, many of whom are, ironically, city dwellers. But Annie encourages everyone to garden in her instructional posts. “You don’t have to live in the country,” she emphasizes. “Many of the items covered on our website can be done in any suburban backyard.”


XOXO Jes Pop Culture in Calgary

in Alberta, British Columbia, Canadian pop culture, Culture Blogger and humourist

XOXO JES This is me sitting on a hay bale. Self-explanatory.

Jes of XOXO is a humorous and often sarcastic voice situated in Calgary, Alberta, or “Calgs” as she calls it. She’s a prolific blogger that’s always up to date on the latest entertainment and events in her hometown, and she shares celebrity gossip from around the world. A self-proclaimed hater of many things, Jes loves writing; her blog is nominated in the categories of Overall Humour, Best Post and Pop Culture Blog in the upcoming 2011 Canadian Blog Awards.

XOXO Jes tagline is “There’s something fascinating about things you don’t need to know,” is a pop culture roundup (in the crass and vulgar tradition) of current events – its the only one of its kind in Calgary. “If I knew the secret behind people’s obsession with fame and celebrity I would totally capitalize on it,” Jes says. Kate Gosselin“All I know is that there is a large group of people who seem to care that Justin Bieber cut his hair and I would like to be the one to tell them…with some added sass and a couple zingers.”

Jes graduated university a year earlier than her friends, and she found herself watching a lot of Friends reruns after work while her real friends plodded through their homework. She was restless, and even though Friends has the distinction of holding an infinite place on her Love List, she knew she couldn’t watch the same episodes over and over forever. So, she turned to Jon and Kate Plus 8 and the rest is history: “Kate Gosselin annoyed me so much I would rage about her for hours, literally, to my roommate’s dismay,” Jes explains. “I finally decided to put in in writing and that’s when the blog was born. No joke, you can go back to the beginning and see that Kate started it all. Thanks Kate, you did one good thing. Only one.”

Jes didn’t start blogging with any intentions to be the next Perez Hilton–”there was no deep thought behind my first post, or any of the ones after that,” she jokes. “If I were to stop blogging today there wouldn’t be a domino effect of destruction or any kind of Backstage with Ben and Tyler of Said the Whale at Junofest void left in the universe. No, honestly, I started blogging because I like to write my opinions and I keep doing it because I still enjoy it and for some reason people seem to like it, grammatical errors and all.” Since that fateful first encounter with the Gosselin family, Jes has written over a thousand posts, interviewed some of her favourite entertainers like Vancouver band Said the Whale, been called a “Fairy Godmother” by a Juno winner, and even scored VIP access to the Cowboys Tent at the Calgary Stampede. “Trust me, it’s a big deal,” she says, adding, “Just kidding…kind of.”

Celebrities and entertainers choose a public life, and in so doing share their talents (and shortcomings) with the world. But why blog about them? “There are tons of crass rude blogs out there in every form, and since entertainers are such easy targets there are more of those types than others,” says Jes, although she’s the first to admit that her blog was not an original concept. What makes it unique, however, is that it’s the only one of its kind based XOXO Jes with Kevin Costner at the Calgary Stampedein Calgary. “Calgs is an interesting city that has hidden relevant-to-what-I-write gems that I explore,” she says. Of course, Cow-town celeb gossip is not an every day occurrence so I fill with various other Canadian entertainment stories or the more general stories of the hour. Most of my readers come from Calgary; [I'm] not sure if that is because they know me, heard of me or have searched something relevant to the city which has led them to my blog. All I know is that I have many Calgary faithfuls. That being said, I could probably live in the Yukon and still do the same thing. Live show reviews may be difficult, but I am sure they have the occasional performer up there…right?!”

It isn’t always easy for Jes to keep on top of work, life and blogging, but juicy celebrity scandals keep pouring in along with new TV shows, albums and viral videos. To maintain consistency, Jes established the XOXO Weeklies, three posts her readers can expect week after week: Top 5 comes out on Mondays, and lists a Jes’ top 5 picks for whatever is on her mind on a given week. Out This Weekend lists movies hitting theatres, and Jes’ pick for which one looks best. #NowPlaying: MG’s Pick of the Week is written by MG, a woman from Halifax, Nova Scotia–the only guest blogger featured on XOXO Jes–who recommends a tune every Friday.

For Jes, a good blog is an honest one. She doesn’t necessarily have to agree with what the author says, as long as they say it with conviction. “Because my opinion is, more often than not, extremely negative I have a rule: I must always be honest,” she says. “I love what I love and hate what I hate, no compromise. I know not everyone is going to agree with me, but I’d rather be hard-hitting than a puff writer who blows with Meaghan Smith at the 2011 Junossmoke up people’s asses to get on their good side. I may not always lean with popular opinion, but you know it is always my opinion and not someone else’s.” Jes’ frank, fierce and fearless approach is part of what makes XOXO Jes so appealing, but she’s had her fair share of haters, too. “I love my hate mail. It keeps me real,” she says. “If you are going to dish it out you have to be able to take it, so I appreciate that not everyone agrees with me.” Some of these strong opinions can be found in blog posts like the letter to the girl sitting behind her at a Ke$ha/Rihanna concert, an in-depth analysis of why she hates Nickelback so no one would ever ask her again, or this completely reasonable request she Standex electronics reed switch made of Oprah.

Jes has no plans to write her last blog post soon, or any plans at all, really. In an ideal world “some rich enlightened person” would pay for her to blog full-time, but until then she’s fully enjoying what she’s doing. “Hopefully I’m around for awhile and don’t get burned out trying to keep up with the many jailing of Lindsay Lohan,” she says. “Maybe one day I will go big and get an XOXO Jes Facebook page. Or not, again…no strategy here.”


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