Archive for the 'Mom Social' Category

Contest Queen in Oshawa Ontario

in Mom Social, niche blogs, Ontario and Toronto


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Carolyn Wilman is the Contest Queen, a successful professional contest consultant with over twenty years experience participating in, and promoting Canadian contests. She’s probably the most web savvy mom you’ll ever meet. Back in 2004 she became a full time stay-at-home ebusiness entrepreneur and was soon recognized at the forefront of the coupon & contest website niche. She’s now perhaps the most findable contest guru in Canada.

Carolyn writes From the Contest Queen You Can’t Win If You Don’t Enter – all things sweepstaking, contesting, lucky and fun which is pastiche of tips and tactics, news and events reporting, reviews and recommendations. This summer (09) Contest Queen wrote about Capital C web challenges, local festivals, online events and promotions.  She writes about really interesting things like how to use Twitter to help win contests, and why Canadian companies host contests? and she gives hard-to-find statistics and links to other experts.  Carolyn even attempts very subjective topics like how to attract good luck.

This woman is really likeable, and unusually knowledgable about many different things.  She once told me to watch the movie The Prize Winner of Defiance Ohio so that I would better understand ‘contesters’ and what that term used to mean in the Golden Age of contests (when skill was required in every entry) in North America.

Forget the nostalgia, the Contest Queen is quick to talk to anyone about internet marketing.  When I called her on the telephone using the phone number on her website, she answered in person. And when I identified myself as the author of Canada Blog Friends she cried out with positive cheer, and told me that she has been putting out positive messages into the ethersphere, which includes the blogosphere and that I was destined to call, or at least email, to help her achieve her quest. So all this is predestined.

Winning contests changes people

Carolyn Wilman has been both a contest producer and participant, many times.  So she knows the rules inside and out and can help her clients visualize their creative promotions from their customer’s perspective.  She can answer the tough questions like, ‘Do these rules make sense? What pitfalls are we missing? What’s our exposure to liability?’ and of course the simple questions too like ‘Why not Quebec?’ and ‘What happens if someone under age 13 wins the prize?’, and ‘Do we really need a skill testing question?’ Wilman’s sage advice helps corporations avoid the types of mistakes that currently plague contests in Canada. Her website contains links to Contest Auditing, Contest Pre-testing and Contest Education and Strategies services allowing companies to ensure a contest is designed to meet their objectives, and the promotion is operating properly, within government regulations, before public release.

In addition to her consulting skills, I must add the Contest Queen is also a gifted marketer.  She has developed some powerful social media portals and can now spread messages to thousands of other potential contestants each week via her Contest Queen Blog, and also @ContestQueen on Twitter, her Facebook group and on her bi-monthly newsletter, The Winning EDGE.  Indeed her compelling stories had me clicking her links. Great opening hooks like “Would you like a pocket full of mad money? Would you like to cruise around town in a brand new set of wheels? Would you like to bask in the tropical sun?” make me eager to know more of her wisdom. Because of this blogger we all have more insight into the business landscape of Canadian contests and sweepstakes.

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That Artist Woman in Calgary

in Alberta, Mom Social and Teacher

Gail Bartel is a happily married 43 year old mother of three kids aged 11, 9, and 6. These little people are the core of her being, and her first and best test subjects for new kids art projects. Gail’s blog details her gardening, cooking, love of art history, and her miniatures and dioramas. But besides all this good stuff, it has become famous for sharing unique art project recipes for kids. Gail lives in Calgary and teaches art to children.

That Artist Woman is the work of teacher, and a mother. This is a mini instruction manual that reminds parents how much some paper and glue can excite youthful imaginations and engender creativity. “My passion is to create art and to share this process with kids. I find young kids to be so self-confident when it comes to creating art…no limits, no self-doubt, which is so refreshing. When I teach adults or older kids I spend a lot of time working on that confidence level. This in turn has pushed me to be more experimental in my own work and made me more willing to take creative risks.

Gail painting with kids

Gail Bartel only started blogging July 8th, 2008 and she chose the name “That Artist Lady” because when she set up her blogspot, her real name was already taken. While pondering names and how to appeal to woman over 50 she remembered how parents of students would say “oh there goes that artist woman”, or “we need to ask you know…that artist woman”, so this unusual blog handle was familiar to her, and strangely compelling.

Artistic and prolific, fueled by her success, Mrs Bartel has already posted over 100 articles, including more than fifty clear and easy to follow tutorials. How to do Batik with Kids was the first post to get serious attention from other arts and crafts sites, and it continues to be Gail’s all-time most popular post in terms of traffic and insulated wall panelsThe technique is foolproof and has sparked a lot of creative projects from readers. One Mom made a quilt out of squares she and her kids ‘glue batiked’ one for every month of the year.” This author also recommends Glue Resist Dinosaur and How To Make A city Skyline art recipes.

What’s really fascinating is Gail’s own growth as an artist.

Gauil Bartel as Canadian watercolour artist

That Artist Woman is currently exploring and developing her own skills and abilities as a watercolour artist that clearly favours landscapes, street scenes and houses. “I love the unpredictability of watercolour as well as its ease. I can paint anywhere”.

Gail bought new basement flooring and recently acquired the complete set of The Family Creative Workshop, a reference book series from the 1970s. “I’m looking forward to a summer of reading and creating projects from this source material.”

When I asked her about contentious posts she remarked that, “I don’t tend to do anything to controversial. [But,] I do work at a Catholic school and I find any posts that have an art project with a religious theme don’t get picked up by the usual ‘high traffic’ blogs. The one thing I don’t do is show any faces of my kids or the students I work with. It just doesn’t feel right to me. I have had parents request that their kid be shown on the blog for different projects but it’s just a line I won’t cross.” And so Gail Bartel’s blog will never be accused of exploiting children to market her goods and services, which she gives away for free anyway.

Gail Bartel watercolour by That Artist WomanBecause children best understand conservation, Gail provides kid (classroom) tested art and craft projects that are unique, as well as use recycled materials and few if any purchased supplies.  Art intimidates a lot of people because anything is possible but yet kids get bored with the usual projects. Gail’s art project tasks children to imagine things they have seen and things they cannot see, but only imagine to exist in the real world.

Like most successful new bloggers Gail is very surprised by how supportive everyone has been, and so far she hasn’t received any negative comments. Quite the opposite, she’s formed amazing friendships with other artists. “I did not expect that I would get picked up from other sites and that the blog would be acknowledged outside my immediate community.” But because she is dispensing rare (and beautiful) data, Gail’s blog has become a hunting ground for a growing number of online arts and craft mavens.  Easter Bird decoration

Gail’s blog is a free resource for teachers and parents at school. Now when people write to her and ask for samples or advice on techniques and projects done throughout the year, she tells them to ‘go to the blog’ where it’s all laid out in a picture tutorials.

On so many levels That Artist Woman’s blog is a big success. This digital portal has become her dynamic resume, but more than that, it’s a functional index of her creative work, a useful portfolio of unique content. If anyone wants to know what this woman can do, they merely have to peruse the archives, or click on her tags to find wicked cool examples of her excellence.

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Holy Mackerel in Ottawa

in Mom Social, Ontario and Personal Blog

Mary Moore is a mom blogger in Ottawa who tells honest stories and gets points for being so candid. The woman just started out on the web last year, but her skill is obvious, and so is her dedication. Her latest passion is photography, and she shoots crisp digital images with her Canon EOS Rebel Xsi. Unlike other Ottawa citizens, Mary is not political; “It’s a waste of time”, she writes, “I’d rather spend my days smelling the fresh air and watching my kids enjoy life”

Holy Mackerel, Mary Moore in OttawaHoly Mackerel is a random gathering of anecdotes and daily inspirations. It’s a blog about homemaking from a loving housewife who calls her husband ‘Mr. Handsome’. She details her life with her two kids, their dog Gryphon, her quilting, old movies and television shows, Octamom, and sadly, cancer treatments.

When she wrote about a tornado that touched down in Ottawa last month, I bookmarked her blog because it was pure citizen journalism. A little while later, I went back and read more. When I found the post she wrote about the last month of her Dad’s life, she made me cry. The piece is filled with precious little details and perfectly painted with her own sadness. It’s how a blog should be, filled with reliable data and insights and observations mixed with the author’s opinions and emotions. I’ve never met Mary, but after reading her blog I feel like I’ve known her all my Mom Blog buttonlife.

What’s not so perfect is her blogspot template choice (personally, I’ve never liked white text on black), and there are so many sidebar widgets that some pages don’t load properly because of javascript conflicts. But let’s remember that Mary is still finding the balance between her content and all the other facets of social media available to Mom bloggers. There are lots of attractions out there and lots of distractions too.

Mary Moore face1Mary Moore was born and raised in Ottawa and got her start in journalism in high school working on the school newspapers. She was first employed as a journalist in Wetaskiwin Alberta, on a small weekly newspaper where she worked for two years as a reporter covering crime and local politics. Back in Ontario she landed a spot at the daily paper in Cornwall as a crime reporter and there covered a few national murder stories and found it to be “very exciting stuff”. That’s where Mary met Mr Handsome and right around the same time she landed her dream job as the new managing editor for Feliciter, the national magazine of the Canadian Library Association, where she worked for twelve years.

Today, Mary is a real estate agent in Ottawa. She’s thinking about setting up a photography business and has just begun to realize her blog’s potential as a marketing tool for that ambition. “My best friend introduced the whole world of blogging to me, and told me I needed to do this.Rockets So, after some humming and hawing, I just went for it, and now it’s a big part of my life, to my family’s consternation. As my husband puts it, there’s an umbilical cord connecting me to my laptop.”

Mary Moore admits that she’s “obsessed with getting old” and her posts sometimes evidence some contempt for the young. But for the most part her work is positive, especially when she shares invasive medical procedures with her readers to mitigate the psychological affects of these treatments in her own brain.  Mary is passionate about volunteering, designer swimwear, especially for kids with cancer and seniors.

Unlike so many other Moms who set out to chronicle one or another facets of their existence, Mary didn’t have a goal when she began blogging; “I found that just being able to write again, and actually have someone (anyone!) read it was an amazing feeling. I would love to be a successful, well-known blogger/writer, and maybe someday I will be, but right now, just writing and using my creative side is enough for me.”

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Crunchy Carpets in Vancouver

in Blogging, British Columbia, Mom Social, niche blogs, Personal Blog and Vancouver

Crunchy Carpets banner

Kerry Sauriol started Crunchy Carpets early in 2007 while raising two young children in a house in Vancouver. Given the circumstances, Kerry was destined to give birth to a Mom Blog. Two years later, her digital toddler is slowly growing into a Mom Blog monster.

Kerry Sauriol with Patrick at BlogHerUnless you’ve got kids, you may not understand the appeal of Parenting Blogs. It’s the premier shared experience for women, pregnant or otherwise. This genre has become increasingly popular as there are always plenty of readers, plenty of writers, and lots of good stories. Styled as a friendly conversation, Mom Blogs are usually short reviews or some relevant life observation followed by a long list of very opinionated comments.

Before blogging, Kerry spent time on parenting discussion forums. “I loved making friends and sharing news and views and generally being opinionated on whatever struck my fancy,” she explains. “With a blog…well, that is an ENTIRE site to warble on about what I think about things.”

Kerry SauriolBecause of the sheer numbers, it can be discouraging for some writers to carve their own niche and create an individual voice. Crunchy Carpets appeals to everyone in the niche because it’s a little different. While insisting that her blog is not a “parenting blog”, Kerry says she doesn’t give useful tips to parents. Building tips and recommendations, links to PVC trim suppliers for people remodeling their bathrooms. Ever since she started, she has offered plenty of insights into her family life, and always shares her thoughts on life from her perspective as Mom. She tells her readers the most personal things you can imagine – like how she is currently suffering from a painful hemorrhoid! She confesses her maternal anxieties over her kids’ schooling, family health issues, and she constantly alludes to her own moral, physical and spiritual shortcomings. Her simple prose is likable and compelling; it compels readers to comment on her posts. Even when they disagree with what she writes their admiration and respect for Kerry is obvious in courteous diction.

West Coast WomenStay at home Moms often feel lonely, and so Kerry is comforted by the sense of community and friendship that she’s discovered online. The ability to share advice and commiserate with other like-minded people has become Kerry’s favourite part of Crunchy Carpets. “When I lost my son last December, at 26 weeks along in my pregnancy, the out pouring of support that I received from readers was incredible. It was such a help to me during a truly horrendous and dark time” she recounts.

Reading Kerry’s posts is like chatting with a friend over a cup of coffee. An entry like More Bad Mothering gives readers her own straight-up views and lists her pet peeves in a sauce of motherhood anxieties. Clash O’ the Momma Bears is a well-written heartfelt post with an emotional trigger. And finally here is one of Kerry’s first posts, where she explains what it really means to have carpets with a crunch.

Aside from Crunchy Carpets, Kerry also controls another portal called Wet Coast Women that started as a community for female bloggers and has become enormously popular. The content on this portal is strictly non-parental. And also Kerry’s Twitter account gives her “instant access to new and interesting blogs and stories”. Blogging connects Kerry Sauriol to ‘mom friends’ all over North America. And you? Are you her next friend?

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Empress of Dirt in Ontario

in Mom Social, Ontario and Personal Blog


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Empress of DirtMelissa’s profile on Blogger has been viewed almost 10,000 times since she joined in October 2004. That’s because her blogs tell stories about gardening, fabric dyeing and how to make garden art from junk. She blogs about the birds and the bees, and about motherhood and vegan food, and she has an empire of dirt from which all this goodness grows.

MellisaEmpress of Dirt is a personal garden and nature site, with some life philosophy and humour thrown in. Melissa is the first to admit that she has little gardening or nature expertise, but she loves the outdoors and paying attention to how it thrives. And, she explains, “if you put a bunch of plants in the ground, they eventually get huge and fantastic looking.” And her blog nourishes that truth.

Back in 1999, Melissa had an online business selling hand-dyed fabrics, and it was through her monthly newsletters that she started sharing funny anecdotes from her home life. The response from readers was so favourable that she turned the stories into a daily blog entitled Pioneer Woman With Cell Phone.  The blog revolved around motherhood and the antics of her family members.

HoneybeeFor a few years, the blog was a fun place to write for Melissa. But eventually her oldest daughter became self-conscious about being included in her mom’s posts, and asked to be kept out of it. “Gasp! That was the end of my best material! I continued blogging but it seemed muted to leave her out, but I had to respect her wishes…” And so, she shifted her blogging efforts to a new site, and Empress of Dirt was born.

Empress of Dirt is the site on which Melissa spends the majority of her time, but there is another place on Melissa’s personal blog roll. Fabric Dyeing 101 is where Melissa compiles all her notes and knowledge and experience in the fabric dyeing business. In conjunction with this blog, she’s also writing an e-book.*

ChipmunkBlogging comes natural for Melissa; she’s a compulsive photographer and loves to write. Her pictures are beautiful before Photoshop, and impress folks interested in gardening, flowers or rare butterflies. In a recent post named brown bees, Melissa posts images of honey bees collecting pollen. The pictures are filled with wildflowers and green leafy plants and natural medicine helpful herbs.  Even in her more humorous posts, such as guess who caused $279 damage?, her snapshots show the beauty of nature at a close range. She truly has a great eye for capturing the essence of her subjects, like this mischievous chipmunk.

When asked what she hopes her readers take away from Empress of Dirt, Melissa answers, “Inspiration and often a laugh or two. I have complete aw and reverence for the earth and nature, but I also have a rather ridiculous sense of humour and I don’t mind sharing it, no matter how embarrassing it can be. Laugh with me or at me, I don’t care. Just laugh.”

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Temporarily Me in Toronto

in Blogging, Fashion Blogger, Mom Social, niche blogs, Ontario, Personal Blog, Toronto and Web Designer

temporarily me blog bannerSamantha is a 27 year old married mother-of-two that works in the construction industry. During the day she (sometimes) wears a hard hat, coveralls and steel toed boots on downtown Toronto construction sites. But at home, in the evenings, she gently constructs beautiful social nets – she blogs and builds pretty web buttons that bind together a potent roster of rookie moms.

Designing TemptationTemporarily Me is the blog portal associated with a design shop called Designing Temptation. This is a textbook design firm / blog model and the synergy is obvious and powerful. But look closer, there’s more going on here. Go back to Temporarily Me and check the links page and see buttons for Mom Pack, Blogamama, Mom Blog Network, etc and of course Blogher. Suddenly I understand; this author is a participator, and she is so positively charged by the ‘mom genre’ networks that she has hit on an innovation and started her own club! Her husband is a commercial roofer, and now she uses her design skills to weave her own network called Being a Rookie Mom Ain’t So Bad. This is styled as a photo challenge, but Samantha will be the first to tell you its really just another great way for young moms to share pictures and socialize.

Upset cat is Tempting MamaSam is ahead of the curve in social networking, and her techniques are worth studying – her Tempting Mama Twitter account now has 380 followers, due in part to the brilliant avatar. One thing I noticed right away is how her blog incorporates lots of popular social networking buttons. Her Stumble Page is focused on motherhood, but assembled from lots of diverse source material.

When it comes to actually writing her own signature brand of Temporarily Me daily content, Samantha is very prolific and demonstrates good time management skills. Common themes include sleep deprivation and coffee appreciation, and experiences surrounding a summer of motherhood. I chuckled when I read in July about her taking a week off to have a 2nd baby, and promising an immediate return to readers one week later… this doesn’t sound like a rookie mom to me!

SamanthaOkay now the real reason why I love Samantha – she puts it on the line. She is genuine and open and writes from the heart. I remember reading the post she wrote back in January under her blog’s Marriage tag where she opened up about her own marital problems. I marveled at the honesty and the bravery of her self documentation – she had the courage to step out from behind the façade and face reality in confessional writing that becomes the ultimate public self exploration. The next day she started dismantling the facade and her readership helped.

Coming from broken homes, we have both witnessed parental fights, resentment and divorce. Over the past eight years, we’ve unintentionally fallen into the same pattern. Recently, our marriage has consisted of a constant barrage of verbal assaults, emotional abuse and constant reminders of the others faults.

This post caught my heart. It impacted me and now I will never forget this author, and her story. It compels me to follow her on Twitter and bookmark her prodigiously – she has opened up a new genre to me. Sam begins that landmark March 11th, 2008 post by saying that although the subject is taboo, she found the courage to write this by reading Mama Loves ‘the post I might delete later’ which encourages people who are suffering social discomfort to write about their plight. Mama Loves and Samantha both believe that taboo topics are finally seeing the light of day because of blogs. And so Temporarily Me is evolving into a wonderful animal. Because of her own hardships, Sam is the perfect host for a blog based social network that provides information and emotional support.

Being a rookie mom aint so bad

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