Archive for the 'niche blogs' Category

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. 


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.


Mark Goodfield, The Blunt Bean Counter

in Financial blog, niche blogs, Ontario, Scholar, Teacher and Toronto

The Blunt Bean Counter logo

Blunt Bean Counter, Mark Goodfield is a tax expert and author of a tax blog.

Mark Goodfield is a Canadian income tax expert who shares his insights and knowledge about the Income Tax Act, and that makes him rather unique. There are countless consumer blogs and political pundits and even a few good government blogs, but Mark is the first income tax expert blogger I’ve come across. More accurately, he’s a financial blogger who reports facts, statistics and strategies to help his readers pay the least amount of income tax to the taxman.

The Blunt Bean Counter focuses on income tax, business and investing topics and is meant for taxpayers no matter their income bracket, but in particular for high net worth individuals and entrepreneurs who own private corporations.

Mark Goodfield is a chartered accountant with over twenty five years of experience at four different firms.  He’s studied the science of taxation for a long time, and his unique perspective on investing and tax accounting transforms his posts into fascinating firsthand accounts of how tax affects people and business in Canada.
In his own bio on Blogger, Mark writes, I’m a sports fan, avid traveler, epicurean and accountant. I hope my blog can teach you a couple of things you didn’t know about building wealth and that you’ll indulge me as I wander into topics close to my heart / stomach.

It’s no coincidence the top book on his favourites lists is Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead.  Much like Howard Roark, the protagonist who chooses to struggle in obscurity rather than compromise his artistic and personal vision, Mark Goodfield chooses to express his creativity in what most folks would consider a tedious niche. His uncompromising principles and attention to detail are obvious right in his very first post.

Mark started his blog in September 2010 with a first post entitled, Let’s See Where This Goes.  He described his background and his choice of the word ‘blunt’.  He writes, I am an accountant, but not a classic bean counter. I have tried to move away from being a bean counter every step of the way. I quickly switched from counting beans to calculating tax and then I happily became managing partner and moved into quarterbacking our clients’ wealth management advisors. But I can’t hide from it, I am an accountant.

How Mark Became A Chartered Accountant

In his own biography, Mark relates how it happened that …one summer in the late 1970’s I worked for my father, an accountant, to make money for a trip to Europe. To my father’s consternation (he was asked to try out for the Cleveland Indians but became an accountant instead due to family circumstances) I continued along the path of becoming a Chartered Accountant.

Along the way Mark moved from accounting to income tax. He transitioned from a Big 4 firm (PWC) to a boutique firm, to a two person partnership, and finally to Cunningham LLP North York accountants as the managing partner, and in charge of their Wealth Management division.

Mark Goodfield is not a greedy guy, just the opposite – he’s super generous with his time, information and money. He’s a Big Brother, and has acted on the Investment Committee for the Reena Foundation, and has been involved in the Make A Wish Foundation on a committee level, and as a wish grantor alongside his wife.  Together they intend to grant more wishes in the years to come.

What is a Tax Blog?

Mark Goodfield, Tax Expert, The Blunt Bean Counter is a Tax BlogMark’s most popular blog post is his piece on the Canada Revenue Agency CRA Audit- Will I Be Selected?

The Blunt Bean Counter answers common questions like How Long Do I have To Keep My Income Tax Records?

And the little-known benefits of filing income tax returns for your children.

He delves into education in At Least My Kid Does Not Go To School In The States.

And discusses David Trahair’s Smoke and Mirrors in which this DIY investing author and well known speaker debunks myths about retirement savings.

In the post entitled Taxing the family unit, Harper almost got it right Mark Goodfield compares Canadian and US taxation models. Its here in this post where he writes the line, …This sighting of a T5013, was rarer than sighting the Ivory-Billed Woodpecker. Good metaphor.

And of course this income tax blogger wrote a dissertation on both government’s fiscal preparations, the 2011 Ontario non budget and Finance Minister Joe Flaherty’s Budget or what Mark calls the Federal 2011 Yawn.

The Psychology of Money

As a chartered accountant, Mark deals on a daily basis with the tracking of money, saving money and the spending of money; he thus has a unique perch to observe human nature in respect to these activities.

Some of Mark’s best blogs relate to the psychology of money. In fact Rob Carrick of the Globe in Mail in his online Reader column has recommended several of Mark’s blog posts dealing with the psychology of money including: The Kid in the Candy Store: Human Nature, RRSP’s, Free Cash and the Holy Grail, Investment Bravado, Little White Lies and Why Kiss and Tell Investing can get you shot and One Big Happy Family- Until We Discuss the Will.

Investing in Stocks

Resverlogix Corp, As a CA Mark cannot provide investment advice, however, he openly discusses his investing mishaps and provides information on websites of interest for investors.

Mark is especially blunt when it comes to talking about investing; no little white lies are allowed on this subject.

Keeping the market interesting justifies our interest in it and, by extension, validates our collective social financial activity and identity. Not only do we need to like to feel good about ourselves, we would rather hear sketchy hyperbole from borderline sources than bad news from an honest one.

Mark wrote a heartfelt piece in which he described his experiences as an investor in Resverlogix, A Cautionary Tale. This piece was picked up as an article by the prestigious US website Seeking Alpha.

The Blunt Bean Counter is a valuable resource for all taxpayers, businessmen, entrepreneurs and investors. On many levels, this blog chronicles how taxation affects life in Canada.
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Photo Finishes from Cobourg Ontario

in Canadian pop culture, niche blogs, Ontario, Photography, Scholar, Teacher, testing, Toronto, Tourism, visual arts and Web Designer

Picks of Canada, picks of images,

Jacques Surveyer is a writer, a web developer, and a very passionate photographer that lives and works in Cobourg Ontario. Years ago he studied photography at the Ontario College of Art and Design in Toronto before getting an MBA (Masters of Business Administration) from the University of Western Ontario. With this background he found that blogging allowed him to ‘indulge his avocations’ while helping with his consulting business. Jacques is a skilled multimedia magician with a good head for business.

Photo Finishes / Picture That along with TheOpenSourcery.com are two very different tips and tutorials blogs that offer tactics and product reviews for graphics and multimedia processing people. These sites are core to Jacques portfolio as a developer, and they demonstrate to potential customers his expertise in many diverse programming and photo finishing subjects.

Jacques SurveyorOver time Jacques’ two original blogging websites have expanded into ten different blogs. He uses free blog web hosting sites to create multiple presences for specialized tasks. For example JavaScriptures is dedicated to some of the more interesting developments in JavaScript, as applied to lean manufacturing which is serious process to which he jokingly describes Java as the ‘gets-no-respect-like-Rodney_Dangerfield’ programming language.

About ten years ago Jacques Surveyer started blogging on a website platform that he made himself. He built his own blog from the ground up, and people did come, but more people came after he switched over to WordPress.

“WordPress with themes, plugins and a WYSIWYG editor was a vast improvement over my own homemade CMS.”

After six or more years, Jacques is still a WordPress devotee, even though he’s used Drupal and Joomla and has built projects for clients using both programming languages. But he’s quick to reason, “WordPress has stayed ahead of the curve with widgets, jQuery support, and automated updates of not just themes and plugins but also the blog engine itself”.  Jacques did all of society a favour when he weighed in on the classic debate, which is the best open source platform, Drupal, Joomla or WordPress? and in that post it becomes real clear that WordPress is this craftsman’s preferred software.

Jacques loves to take pictures and gradually his interest spread out into photography and travel destination review blogs. He created PixofDetroit, PixofToronto, and PixofCanada to host the photos and stories of his adventures abroad. Later he added commentary blogs like Takethe5th.com and Bookraft.com (his only active Drupal blog) so he could properly articulate his thoughts on government and society.

Then blogs started appearing all over the place. JavaScriptures and NearlyFreeWebsites are two examples which take advantage of nearly free blog software.  Consulting work and help for friends resulted in two gallery sites – ARTSurveyer.com and NeelsPlace.com which are efforts using Gallery blog software and Joomla respectively.

“As Free blog/CMS software has improved I have switched from doing custom websites over to using free blogs like Joomla and WordPress, Weebly and Wix for my nearly cost free blogging and broader web development work.”

Jacques Surveyer prevented from taking pictures of volleyball game on cobourg beach

Jacques’ popular PhotoFinishes blog dips into the political space too. Last summer the intrepid explorer wrote a terrific piece about how the officials at a beach volleyball tournament in Cobourg successfully prevented him from taking pictures of the participants in action, despite the fact that it was public space, with no photography ban signage posted, and no advertisements or precedents prohibiting photography are known.  According to Jacques in this article, the same thing happened at the Royal Winter Fair to his friend a year earlier.

When asked what he likes most about being a blogger, Jacques Surveyer admits that he covets traffic and feels rewarded when his sites grow popular. He recounts with satisfaction the time when his post on KeepanOpenEye debunked Steve Jobs contentions that Flash was slow and buggy, and received over 30,000 visits in one day – that was very gratifying. Also, the Fall Drizzle story on PixOfCanada which visualized the autumn colors in Ontario took in over 75,000 visits in the last months of 2010. To see a pictoral story getting that much attention was also very satisfying for this webmaster.

Jacques Surveyer, yellow leaf road, pixofcanada

Blogging has been good to Jacques, because he’s a new breed of storyteller, a free thinker with real knowledge to communicate.  When I asked him if he’d  do anything different a second tine, he noted that he wished he’d switched to open source or free blog software sooner, and he wished he had taken the time to improve his JavaScript skills earlier. “Skills in JavaScript and CSS make such a difference in the proper styling of a blog.”

This Cobourg Ontario blogger just loves being creative, inventory management and building platforms that push the envelope of the technology.  “The revenues are enough to pay the freight but not much more. But telling photo tales and being able to add my two cents on Toronto, or World scene is both fun and soothing to the spirit.”

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Fredericks Artworks is a Canadian Art Blog

in Culture Blogger, niche blogs, Scholar and visual arts

Fredericks Artworks bannerFrederick winston of Fredericks ArtworksFrederick Winston is a Canadian painter, and his blog celebrates his own passion for the visual arts in Canada. By documenting great art, and detailing little known artists, he gives Canadians a beautifully painted perspective on their own cultural identity.

FREDERICKS ARTWORKS is a veritable volcano of historically responsible, easy-to-read content that’s firmly centered on the visual arts. It’s an online periodical that reviews paintings and the people who painted them, yesterday and today. It’s very frequently updated, and there’s even sidebar text informing readers of when to expect future posts! Frederick, like so many other personal bloggers, feels guilt and angst inside what he perceives is an overwhelming obligation to an invisible audience. He doesn’t want to let his readers down, but will he burn out if he keeps up this pace?

Ladies Tea, a painting by Frederick WinstonOut in front of the curtains, Fredericks Artworks has certainly become a very valuable resource for anyone interested in the history of Canadian art or insights into exhibiting art in this country. The blogspot is part history, part biography and a big part reflection that includes unique social commentary. Reading this material everyday is very healthy for painters, and anyone passionate about supporting the arts and promoting Canadian cultural values.

A look back through the archives reveals many thought provoking glimpses into the nooks and crannies of making art as a business in Canada. Frederick praises small town art galleries, and reviews festivals and visits friends with whom he paints and describes the places at which they glimpse unusual landscapes and why they choose one particular venue over another. It’s truly fascinating stuff.

Bruno Cote, blog bruno cote Soleil Couchant sur la TaigaThe artist biographies and Fred’s presentation of other artists’ works are both well researched and focused on the market. There is some borrowing of public information from sources such as the CBC, the NFB, Wikipedia and You Tube, but whenever possible the author attempts to personalize the text with special insights, unusual facts and personal anecdotes. Frederick likes to write about painters from the early 1800s, and the early nineteen hundreds; its truly remarkable is how well these historic biographies juxtapose his critiques and reviews of contemporary artists, including many fresh young faces still studying art in Toronto and Montreal.

Frederick has no agenda. For the first few years he wouldn’t even show his own paintings on his blog. And he doesn’t ever want to be appear political or even opinionated. If there’s even a hint of controversy he runs away – for example when his piece about Norval Morriseau spawned some spurious comments, he apologized and then deleted the whole post. Ha ha!

St Martins, a painting by Ken TobiasSome of Frederick’s best work includes critiques or studies of certain pictures, such as Robert Harris’s A Meeting of the School Trustees, June 1, 2010, and Prudence Heward’s ‘Sisters of Rural Quebec,’. Recently Frederick had creative exchanges with singer, songwriter Ken Tobias after doing a search on him in which he discovered that this musician is also an impressive painter. Frederick communicated with Ken and shared a personal story about how Ken’s song, Dream Two impacted his life. Later it gave the art blogger a lot of satisfaction to write a positive critique of Ken’s art,

Here’s a bit of what Frederick had to say about Ken’s painting, St Martin (above), This delightful landscape work by Ken Tobias, creates a sense of solitude. The picture covers such a vast panorama of sea and distant land that I cannot help but feel a sense of diminution. The recognition of one’s finiteness against the vastness of earth and sky creates for me a sense of awe at the beauty of the earth.

Frederick’s journey into blogging came from traveling several routes on his path as a writer, and an artist.

Way back when he graduated university with a degree in English and for many years in one vocation or another he produced hard copy newsletters. One publication was an award winner, and so he was published in trade magazines before he became a painter, later in life. The evolution into blogging seemed natural, and his computer literacy and digital photography skills have also improved in accordance with the ardours of the new publishing medium.

Frederick writes, …The problem with writing articles and producing newsletters and blogs is that you pretty much work in a vacuum. After my first year of producing daily blog entries I went through a process of re-evaluation. Even though the blog is ticking along with a healthy readership, a very small percentage of people comment on my postings. So few that sometimes it seems that what I work to produce has little value. One weekend, I was sitting at my art display in a nearby village and someone walked up to me, and said “Hi Fredericks, I enjoy reading your blog.” I was stunned. I told him that I was thinking of putting it to bed and his response was, “No…don’t…I read it every day.”

Art festival in Quebec, fine art, paintings for sale, montreal

Frederick has discovered readers in other artists, art schools, art galleries and among Canadian media and the communication industry in general.

When asked why people read his blog, Frederick Winston replies,

Because I paint, the blog reflects my love of the visual arts in Canada. My blog is unique because I give artists an opportunity of telling their story to Canadians, and the opportunity of sharing special events in their lives and presenting their works. Beneath it all, I strive to present, through art, the way Canadians see our country. Art tells the story of who we are and that story takes us into all parts of Canada, from the art of our Native brothers, into the forest and prairies and coasts of Canada and into our largest urban centers. It also takes us for a walk through time from the recordings of English military officers in watercolours, to the abstractionists of the 20th century, and we see it all through our rich diversity of the visual media.

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Lauren O’Nizzle in London Ontario

in Blogging, Canadian pop culture, Culture Blogger, niche blogs, Ontario and Personal Blog

Lauren OutLoud blog is home of Lauren ONizzleLauren O’Neil, aka Lauren O’Nizzle is a 24 year old journalism student at the University of Western Ontario. She’s working on her master’s degree, but she’s already the most sophisticated, web tech-savvy pop culture princess we’ve ever encountered.  This girl makes media, and in less than two years she has become an outstanding example of a new type of entertainer, a socially brilliant one girl band on a noble quest to “spew random hilarity” all over the internet.

LaurenOutLoud is the website that hosts her entire menu which includes Lauren O’Neil web journalism portfolio. In addition to this formal magazine like portal, Lauren O’Nizzle’s content is distributed across numerous social mediums including, her LaurenOutLoud blog which is complimented by her twitter page @LaurenONizzle her LaurenONeal Delicious bookmarks account, her Nizzle .Posterous email blog platform, and of course her Lauren ONizzle on YouTube account.

This isn’t your typical marketing student blog, or any form of high brow intellectual content, although her posts are smarter than you might expect from a 24yr old person; the largest search terms in her blog’s tag cloud are ‘funny, muchmusic, TV, youtube’ in that order, and these are followed by ‘jschool, internship, cute’ and ‘dating’.

lauren ONizzle looks shy sad quiet fragile and its an illusion

Lauren O’Nizzle is very creative, and a little nerdy in how she stretches ideas and goes the distance for her followers. She’s been know to scan and post original drawings, and apply advanced photo shop skills to borrowed images. Also impressive is her ability to infuse comedy into her video interviews.

The name O’Nizzle came about organically as a nickname her friends applied several years ago. When it came time to create her Facebook account etc, she decided to go with that handle to protect her future employers from seeing any scandalous photos that may or may not appear in that space. Now, most friends don’t even call her Lauren anymore, to them she is simply “Nizzle.”

When an digital artist named Cameron Stewart cartooned her, she remarked on how the picture was ‘the sickest thing she’s ever seen’,  and she used it on her menu page layout.  That menu is so compelling. This young journalism student already embodies the future of electronic news media and entertainment. She is a great example of how people will soon make media for other people.

lauren ONizzle in the bathrrom with a toothbrush and phone cameraBorn in Chatham Ontario, Lauren moved to Windsor for her undergraduate degree, and now she lives in London.  As a journalism student, her blog is a place where she doesn’t have to worry about journalistic integrity and reporting on hard news. On her blog, she can have the freedom to take sides and write about what ever she desires even if it’s about creepy old naked ladies.

In a way, Lauren began blogging when she was only twelve years old, after she discovered Angelfire.  In that strange space she created a diary web page called “Spaz Central.” She filled this page with animated gifs and pictures of her awkward, frizzy-haired adolescent girls posing like the young models in Seventeen magazine (pictures that had been taken with a disposable camera and scanned at the library, of course).

As a self-proclaimed soul mate of Tina Fey, Conan O’Brien and Lisa Simpson, Lauren colours her stories funny and smart.

lauren onizzle on the radio

Lauren loves to multitask and is always on the go; she’s a little obsessed with always creating content. When she isn’t being viral, she likes watching comedy TV shows, doing yoga, reading fashion magazines, dancing and eating sugar cereals.  She’s an active blog reader and prolific commenter.  And Lauren is not at all shy about having her picture taken, and her face can be seen mugging all over her media empire. Her openness gives followers a big window into the life of a young blond journalism school student in Canada.

Lauren ONizzle AXE contest promotion banner

She also defines herself as being the opposite of Sarah Palin, Jay Leno and Bart Simpson.

Recently, Lauren was named one of the 10 finalists in the in AXE Canada’s Ridiculously, Ridiculously Good Summer Gig Competition. Voting for the Axe Summer Gig ends on March 31st, which ironically is the very day in which her profile here on Canada Blog Friends was posted.

“Success for me is making people laugh. Every time I get an email from somebody telling me that something I’ve posted has made their day or cheered them up, I’ve succeeded. I don’t do this for the money or the perks or the mad groupie hoes. I do it for the lulz, plain and simple.”

lauren Onizzle cartoon by her friend, i cant remember his name

“I saw an episode of Ghost Writer when I was 9, where ghostwriter goes into a computer modem and fights a hacker. I thought that this was the coolest thing ever so I begged my parents for a modem until they finally got me one.”

Lauren’s considers her blog to have no true central theme. Her posts run the gamut. Funny things, weird things, pop culture, web culture, nerdities, schadenfreude and all things karma related and esp things that she observes while shopping. Half the time, she says it’s just brain vomit. Whatever is on the top of her mind at any given time is effortless transmutated into social capital. Lauren’s followers tend to be people who share her wacky sense of humour and have similar interests to her.

For Lauren (Nizzle) O’Neil, blogging is how she brings her humour, lifestyle, hobbies and career aspirations to one place so she can properly share them with the rest of the world.

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Weighty Matters in Ottawa

in Activism, food blog, niche blogs, Ontario and Scholar

Dr Yoni Freedhoff of Weighty MattersDr. Yoni Freedhoff is a 38-year-old married father of three that loves to read books, watch TV and BBQ meals at home.  Yoni is passionate about a lot of things in life, most notably martial arts, hiking and single malt scotch.  He also really enjoys being a medical doctor with a family practice in southwest Ottawa, and he’s addicted to blogging.

Dr. Freedhoff started blogging in December 2005 to give his patients more exposure to medical information about weight loss, proper dieting, and exercise training. Since that time, his web journal has matured into a fountain of first rate nutritional advocacy, and a powerful truth beacon; today Weighty Matters shines a bright light on the soft underbelly of Big Food.

Weighty Matters is an award winning health and science blog that currently ranks among the world’s top health blogs. The domain has been profiled in newspapers, and on television shows across the country, and Yoni Freedhoff even spoke to The House Standing Committee on Health in Parliament in December 2006.

Yoni jogs in the Try a Tri Challenge in OttawaYoni is a health nut that loves being outside and trekking in nature. He once hiked from Switzerland to Liechtenstein across the Alps without taking a single bus or car along the way.  So it should come as no surprise that he now has a triathlon named after him in Ottawa; the Dr. Freedhoff Try a Tri Challenge (100m swim – 11.4km cycle – 2km run) event is for anyone who wants to do a short triathlon, and is well suited for beginners and young participants.

Yoni is a trust agent debunking the food industry and his growing popularity is certainly well reflected in the views, comments, retweets and trackbacks that Weighty Matters accrues with every post.  His expert information is rare and precious, and he really is perhaps one of the most important bloggers of our time because his message is so unique.

Sweetners in Weighty MattersStated formally on the bottom of his sidebar, his blog’s mandate is ‘to provide readers with critical appraisals of nutrition and weight related claims, products and policies so as to allow readers to make more informed decisions in those areas.’

The good doctor uses his growing authority to highlight backward government policies that cater more to well funded food industry lobbyists than on budget health industry advocates. Yoni likes to tell the truth around nutrition and weight management and isn’t scared of torching the merchandisers, marketing executives and government ministers that mislead Canadians so they can sell more breakfast cereal, or put more artificial sweeteners in their  ‘health snacks’.

“It’s definitely reader-beware out there. Mom bloggers getting trips paid for by the products they promote, health bloggers with no actual background or training, illness bloggers who rely on their own personal experiences to extrapolate to the disease as a whole. It’s tough finding reputable sources.”

Weighty Matters reads like a gossip magazine of food industry cover-ups, lies and licentious behavior.  Every post is a potential scandal that should get somebody fired.  Right now March 2010 a number of recent posts prosecute the claims of Saralee, Frito Lay, and catch Del Monte hiding sugar behind the word fruit concentrate in so-called fruit snacks aimed at children that have more sugar than Twizzlers and worse still, have earned the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s seal of approval in the form of their Health Check.

CBC Kids morning sponsored by Kelloggs - screengrab image copied from weightymatters.ca

Yoni remarks on how Kelloggs appears a featured sponsor on the CBC Kid’s website and includes CBC staff official reaction to his blog post and their denials that ‘Eggo’ was introduced into a recent script as surreptitious product placement for Kelloggs sponsor.  Good catch – who else do we have in Canada that is watching this stuff, and keeping an eye on these guys?

While Yoni goes after a great many people and policies, the two that he has hit the hardest are likely the Heart and Stroke Foundation’s Health Check which he calls a “misinformation program”, and Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating which he feels is better described as, “Canada’s Food Guide to Unhealthy Eating”.

10 potentially fatal, yet still approved by Health Canada “natural” weight loss products

Registered dietician on how Food Guide “servings” are stupid

Why Health Check’s serving sizes are inexcusable

Breaking News: Official Health Check endorsement of Pizza Hut

Overweight Canadian kids not eating enough according to Canada’s Food Guide

There is very little doubt that weight and diet related illness together are now the number one preventable cause of death in Canada.

Dr. Yoni Freedhoff is the founder of Ottawa’s Bariatric Medical Institute, which is a multi-disciplinary, ethical, evidence-based nutrition and weight management centre. He writes in his blog profile ‘Nowadays I’m more likely to stop drugs than start them, and love going to work in the morning.’ Yoni is referring to how as a medical doctor he once prescribed pills, but now seeks other more natural solutions.  I like how he combines the two ideas in his biography, taking drugs to go to work. That’s because such a large percentage of people do take drugs to go to work these days, and if you consider caffeine or nicotine to be drugs then the percentage is very high indeed.

“The studies on medical information and the web to date have been frightening with the vast majority of sites providing false and sometimes even harmful information.  It’s tough too when you see a patient who’s educated themselves from some of the more questionable sites (which in turn are often quite compellingly written) and they don’t want to hear your opinion.  Certainly it provides another degree of difficulty in effectively counselling patients.

Dr Yoni Freedhoff at home on the couch updating his blog March 10th 2010All in all I’m living a far more interesting, exciting and richer life than I had ever expected, and it’s not a stretch to say that much of that reward has come as a consequence of my tiny, little blog.”   Dr Yoni Freedhoff, March 5th 2010

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Whimfield, Modern Pre-Industrial Living in Prince Edward Island

in farm blog, food blog, gardening, niche blogs, Prince Edward Island and Tourism

Laura-Jane Koers started blogging in 2001 when the practice of writing personal stories on the web was still called journaling. She describes it as a ‘social outlet for a socially awkward girl’. The practice served her well, and now Canada Blog Friends is proud to present her portal as the most sophisticated blog on the index.

Whimfield, Modern Pre-Industrial Living is an online magazine quality niche blog that’s the work of one female genius. The portal centers on a 100-year-old farmhouse on 63 acres of field, forest, and streams, located in a small community outside of Montague, on Prince Edward Island. The stories are written by a girl who emigrated to PEI from British Columbia, with her boyfriend Cameron. It’s a 100% original ‘lifestyle content’ blog that paints the perfect picture of a beautiful young couple, very much in love, enjoying a modern pre-industrial life in rural paradise. They have no modern appliances, except an old tractor, and so they conserve and enjoy the goodness of nature in a manner similar to the pioneers.

What’s most intriguing, is that both Laura-Jane and Cameron work in technology. They run a web marketing and web project management business called Brightflock, and Cameron also has a web application development company called Kibo Software. Follow Laura-Jane on Twitter @ljbrightflock Here are two smart people, and their love story is their most compelling component of their all natural lifestyle without manufacturing software or gadgets.

Cameron and Laura-Jane of Whimfield farm blog in PEI Cameron Lerch is a lucky guy, and his life is chronicled in hundreds of photographs, anecdotes and poems; indeed most of his thoughtfulness gets recorded online. One of the most popular posts on Whimfield is the long version of how they met. The story …It Feels So Good To Love and Be Loved define their characters to readers, as it relates how they themselves defined their characters. Laura Jane writes later that, “The short version is that we were both absolute social outcast teenagers who were ecstatic to find each other. In one another we found support, love, and a best friend. We’ve grown up together. It hasn’t always been easy. We both have a lot of respect for one another and for our relationship itself. Relationships are hard work, but the rewards are deep and many.”

cameron Lerch and Laura-Jane Koers in Buggy at Anne of Green Gables House in PEI Canada

Cameron embraces Laura-Jane’s blogging but, “…back in the old days he had a love/hate relationship with it because I didn’t censor anything. I swore, I gossiped about his irritating habits, and I left no stone unturned. As time passed, though, we developed a set of rules. In order for blogging to work for us both I have to respect his privacy.” And she adds that, “Now that we’re known in our community and we own businesses, he is even more protective of our privacy. He really respects what I do though. He reads all of my posts. And he’s written two of his own posts.”

At Whimfeld, there’s no conflict and that’s okay. Laura-Jane’s new web journal is an information rich look at the life in the country, and it can be grouped into multiple niches. It’s DIY home renovation, environmentalism, gardening, food, travel and photography. This female blogger has a good eye for photos, and a professional approach to blogging around compelling images. She writes, “…I still use my photography to illustrate my points. I love to combine my photographs with my writing. It’s some kind of symbiotic happy existence. I don’t like to write a blog post without an original photo to accompany it. Usually a photo will inspire the post.” 

“Blogging saved me in 2001. I love talking about blogging. I could cry talking about blogging.” Laura-Jane Dec 2009

Whimfield starts with a bang! A fascinating road trip story starts the Whimfield blog. Laura Jane opens the manifest by detailing her migration in Driving Across Canada: How To Sleep in Your Car In The Depths Of Winter with her boyfriend Cameron in a jeep like automobile. The couple slept in their vehicle and rigged a boat heater to run off the battery at night. The lessons learned and the manner in which they are related are truly unique and priceless.

Laura-Jane writes, “It all began with a desire to leave urban Victoria, mostly because of the expensive price of property there. We wanted a farm, but we did not want to be mortgaged to the hilt to get one. So we started looking elsewhere in Canada. It was a simple equation, really. Where could we go that was beautiful, idyllic, and affordable? We trolled real estate websites, and we looked at the most affordable properties that had all of the qualities that we were looking for. We saw a picture of our lonely little house, and it just called to us. We sold everything and drove across the country because of that little house. It was on Whim Road. We couldn’t resist it.”

Read Whimfield: Summer of Discovery to glimpse the passion for nature that drives Laura-Jane and read how she ‘discovered’ her own property blooming and coming to life in the spring. Portable solar power, because the couple closed on the farm in the winter, they more or less bought the property sight unseen and so took front row seats to Nature’s spectacle in the spring, summer and fall.

Cameron and Laura-Jane in Whimfield autumn lane

On the subject of deck building and Farming in Prince Edward Island, Laura Jane continues, “The dream for us was never to be farmers per se. The dream for us was to be able to have the time and freedom to dabble in a lot of things at once. For example, spending four hours a day on web projects, a couple hours outside in the yard gardening or farming, an hour reading a book, an hour playing music, and so on. Variety is the spice of life. Doesn’t that sound like heaven? It does to me.”

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Rebellious Arab Girl in London, Ontario

in Activism, Blogging, niche blogs, Ontario and Personal Blog

Mona, profile picture, Rebellious Arab GirlMona is the living manifestation of her rebellious blog; she’s a strong female personality in the Arab world, and that’s rare.  Although core values are slowly changing, Middle Eastern culture still seems to discourage female participation; Mona’s blog is rebellious, because it exists.

Rebellious Arab Girl is emotional and writes her caustic journal to promote change. It’s a complaints blog from a girl who began blogging because she had built up a lot of anger toward “certain issues with the mentality of certain people within my culture. My message was to tell the world that I am just an ordinary girl who happened to come from a very conservative culture.

Mona will be 29 years old in December. She started blogging on her 25th birthday because that’s when she became a rebel and really felt alienated from familial and cultural expectations. Apparently being a 25year old unmarried Arab girl is not an easy existence, and the blog was an outlet for Mona’s feelings. This girl is single and complicated, and these realities give her blog colour and purpose.  She’s not using her domain to look for love, or at least not overtly, but rather to complain about not finding love, and to comment on the structure, traditions and expectations of Muslim Canadians.  She writes, “I didn’t want to fall into the following category: if you are 25 and not married, then you have to or else you are screwed for life! I rather find myself first and know what I want from life, then feel committed to someone who is not willing to accept my ideologies and beliefs. Hence, my blog is a very big part of me, and many men don’t accept it. So, it is either the blog or them, and obviously I chose the former!”

Mona's amazing digital artComputer Science grad from the University of Western Ontario, Mona now works as a computer programmer in London. “I love my profession since I create web applications that so many professionals out there can make use of. No more using a pen and paper, and everything is just a click away and processed in the background. I love it. I make life simple for so many people with my skills.” Earlier in 2009 Mona was unemployed, and she blogged about job hunting and complained about the process. In that time however she created some terrific digital art. Now that she has a job, I’m sure readers hope she finds time to continue creating her masterpieces.

Mona likes London’s diversity, “It is a very family oriented city with a very diverse population. Moreover, I believe the diversity is the main reason why London is a very unique city.”

Rebellious Arab Girl likes to speak out about issues within her culture that won’t work if you “live in this side of the world”.  She really believes people should keep their core values but try to change the way they perceive life and interact with the rest of the society around them. When she heard about Barack Obama winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his campaign platform she created and published one of her own:

Rebel Arab Girl for change!Vote for the Rebellious Arab Girl today!

1. She promises you peace in the middle east!
2. She promises you democracy in each Arab country with 4 – 6 year election time frames with citizens voting new leaderships!
3. She promises you a separation between religion and the state!
4. She promises you no more visa requirements for Arabs to visit other Arab countries!
5. She promises you Palestine to return to its rightful owners!
6. She promises you government funding for each Arab University to allow and contribute their scientific research to the world!
7. She promises you equality in the work force between the sexes!

Also along these lines, in June 2009 Mona wrote I Think its Time for Change about which she confides, “This is one of my favorite posts actually, because I created promotional fun banners because I love to create digital art. Also, I wrote this post because I always wondered when will there ever be a female leader of the Arab World?”

On Blogging & Writing
“I became a better writer over time since I exercise it almost daily though my blog. Also, last year, I decided for fun to take a couple of advanced writing courses at the University to enhance my writing skills for online publications. I wanted my writing to be convincing since I do enjoy it more than a hobby.”

Surprises?
“My biggest surprise is the size of the audience I have been receiving. It is quite extraordinary to be just another girl with hardly anyone to listen to in real life, to having such numerous amounts of readers who love you for being you, and are willing to take time out of their day to read what you have to say and comment. It is a great indescribable feeling having a blog.”

Two more of Mona’s favourite posts include, The Positives Outweigh the Negatives, of which she says “I really like this post because I wanted to tell the world that Arabs are great positive people, because they have great family values that distinguish them from other cultures.” And another on the subject of Arabs Marrying Non-Arabs, about which she writes, “I wrote this post because I receive several emails a day from people asking me if it is right or wrong for Arabs to marry non-Arabs. So I tried to explain my point of view, and I stirred a very long debate regarding this issue.

Rebellious Arab Girl in her own words,“I don’t believe my site is targeted only to the Muslim community or even to the Arab community. My site is targeted to everyone who is willing to read the life of just another girl who happens to be an Arab and Muslim. I wanted people to realize that I am no different than them.”


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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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