Archive for the 'Ontario' Category

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.”


Nora Camps, Business Storyteller in Toronto

in Blogging, Culture Blogger, farm blog, food blog, gardening, Ontario, Painter, Personal Blog, Toronto and visual arts

business storyteller, Nora Camps blog, Strategy and Design, web marketingbusiness storyteller, Nora Camps blog, Strategy and Design, web marketingNora Camps is a graphic designer, web marketing strategist and fine arts painter living and working in Toronto, Ontario. She is one of the two principals of Duo Strategy and Design, a cost effective business storytelling company with a green mandate; they’re bent on changing the world one project at a time. Nora’s blog is filled with insights into the business of being an artist and her struggle to make change and remedy societal malaise through art and interaction.

Duo Strategy and Design Blog is chock full of rare and precious wisdom from a professional artist that runs a marketing company for A list clients. She helps the greenest institutions in Canada demonstrate their innovations and environmentalism with amazing print publications and high concept websites. Her portfolio of business stories inspires other artists and imbues her own blog with status and authority.

Her diction and prose are easy to read, and her text is emotionfull; each blog post is a story. In just about every dispatch the reader can glimpse Nora’s humanity, especially when she writes about life in Toronto, or her escapes to the country. She writes, I love Toronto, grit and all. When I’m not in the city I can be found in the country and sometimes join Terry, in his Skybolt, to fly over the countryside.

Imagineering is a word created by Disney, but co-opted by Nora Camps. Her vision embraces any use of imaginative narrative to realize, create, or catalyze in real life the potentials we are imagining. It often involves complete stories, in any form. But it can also involve one or more story elements — metaphors, images, themes, perspectives, conflicts, problems, questions, goals, knowledge, possibilities, and imagined characters, situations, plots, events, resolutions, dialogue, etc.

Imagineers use these story elements consciously to inspire and guide people to reshape their consciousness, their lives, and their social and physical circumstances.

Nora has a unique storytelling process that she executes for corporations which I want to share here,

Step 1 – Buy-in, decide who will sit at the table. Listen and learn stories.

Step 2 – Draft the story

Step 3 – Diction – refine the language, syntax, tone and perspective.

Step 4 – Test the story tell the story, develop launch plan, creative brief, speaking notes, and syntax.

Step 5 – Map the story, grow the story, share the Final Brand Story as many ways as possible

Nora laughs at something opening night of Sarayu gallery exhibit, paintingsOn being a blogger, Nora writes, I have discovered that in order to move forward through life, as opposed to simply standing still, I must live consciously. Writing about my adventures of thought and deed seem to propel me forward and the connections have produced very cool new products, client projects and paintings.

Nora tells me that she gets a lot of feedback on her blog posts. People email her and ask questions because they are looking for experts on some subject. Some folks respond to blog posts in comments to say that her thoughts have helped them or encouraged them to write more, to blog, to journal, or to question something.Nora writes, To me, questioning why something is happening is important to growth. For business, zeroing in on their biggest obstacles produces the fastest wins – that is asking: This is our biggest problem – why is it happening? All my stories transcend life, business, and art.

A conversation is always better. business storytellingNora doesn’t get involved in online debates, or flame wars. She doesn’t even respond to comments that are filled with obvious negativity. She will publish all comments however, unless they are profane or spam, but she won’t get into bickering matches with her readers, She writes, Blogging must never be bashing. Sometimes a comment about local politics takes on a life of it’s own. Time is short. I do not wish to waste my time ruminating on the minutia. Online is not the place for a debate. A conversation is always better.

Probably the best thing that Nora ever did for society with her blog was Mugs With Frames – Portrait of a City. The project was done to demonstrate that the people of Toronto are friendly. She blogged about this ambitions first and asked for stories. “Thank you to everyone who shares their opinion with me.” Nora writes, “I treasure your opinions”.

Here is a brief look at Nora’s work as a fine arts painter,

Readers can follow Nora on Twitter @NoraCamps and they can see all her artwork on NoraCamps.com

Sarayu is a river in India

SARAYU is the name of a river in India. It is the name of a spirit, and sometimes it’s the name for wind that catches you by surprise. Women are comfort givers, they are life and energy givers and in their actions they channel the spirit of the creator. They are representative of the holy spirit, though not necessarily as chronicled in the scriptures, but more specifically they are all that is warm, loving, gentle, kind and refreshing – SARAYU is every woman in every circumstance all over the world

With an eye on the future, Nora hopes to make her blog more perfect by making it a little less cerebral, and even easier to read and digest. She takes a camera with her everywhere now, to best capture one-of-kind original pictures that are life’s fleeting moments. Nora wants her blog to be the entry point for people learning about her web storytelling company. In her words, “DUO does really cool projects – because of who we are and how we learn and live and synthesize. It’s a continuous circle. The blog is an important and obvious contributor to the process.”


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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Erin Bury’s Random Musings in Toronto

in Blogging, Ontario, Start-Ups and Toronto

Erin Bury's Random Musings masthead

Erin Bury

Erin Bury is a twenty something year old blogger who writes with confidence and originality. Her blog posts are insightful and thought provoking. She stands out in an age of repeaters, because her writing is easy-to-read and uniquely informative. Less than two years after graduating from Carleton University in Journalism, and after interning at some mid sized tech firms, Erin became the Community Manager at Sprouter a social networking site for start-ups and entrepreneurs. In 2008 she became the voice of Sprouter, connecting fans and the world to the website. Today she has helped define what it means to be a Community Manager, and indeed she has become the quintessential example of this new vocation, perfectly harmonizing her personal identity and her firm’s business agenda.

Erin Bury’s Random Musings is the first and best place to learn about this young person’s life and what its like to be on the ground floor of an internet start-up.  She blogs about time saving software, VIP events and social gatherings, and PR and marketing in Canada. She has herself sprouted an amazing career, and now leads sessions at Podcamp Toronto, North by Northeast, Net Change Week and more. She’s frequently quoted in the press about Community Management and social media for small business, and her tweets and quotes have appeared in the New York Times, AOL Small Business, Forbes, CNN, MSN News, and on CBC.

Erin Bury is a tech writer at BlogTO and a columnist at Women’s Post, and she has written for other publications including VentureBeat. She’s one of the co-organizers of Twestival Toronto, and one of the founders of GenYTO .  She can be found on Twitter at @ErinBury and of course she has lot of followers. It just so happens that Erin was once retweeted by Oprah Winfrey.

Erin Bury retweeted by Oprah Winfrey

Erin Bury uses Tumblr, and her blog archives keep getting better with age. Unlike the other ‘minimalist’ bloggers that choose Tumblr, (for its ease and simplicity) Erin fills her domain with long copy posts full of original pictures and text. Her entries usually garner lots of comments because they’re chock full of great insights from a detail orientated author who’s not afraid to share her perspective on popular issues. Her valuable asides and comments make the material more interesting, and more valuable.

When asked why Erin chose to blog on Tumblr she writes,

“Sure, the simple blogging platform has its downsides – it’s notorious for going down and losing your posts. But I love how simple it is – I always describe it as a blogging platform that my mom could figure out in five minutes. It’s easy to share text posts, videos and photos, and there are tons of beautiful free themes to choose from. But the best part of Tumblr is the social aspect – you can follow other Tumblr blogs, and quickly reblog other people’s posts with your comments. If you’re just getting started with blogging I highly recommend it. “

An image search of Erin Bury yields many wonderful portraits from Sprouter related events.

Erin Bury, community manager at Sprouter

Sprouter Logo

Erin Bury loves her job and her life working with Sarah Prevette at Sprouter, because she gets to utilize her passion for technology, networking, community building and web 2.0 enterprises. Her role involves social media strategy, PR, customer service, writing and speaking, organizing and attending events. And at times she’s the office secretary, and then out in the public eye at night she becomes the media spokesperson for the company, discussing everything and anything Sprouter.com

Erin helps students get sprouted too…

This blogger has a penchant for helping students get started, and she even helps them land their first jobs in the industry. Erin amplifies the voice of students and represents them positively whenever she can.

In one of her many online biographies, Erin writes that when she’s not organizing events, writing, or working you can find her hanging out with friends, playing guitar, attempting to cook, reading, or watching her favourite TV shows which include, The Biggest Loser.  She also spends lots of quality time with her boyfriend, Kevin Oulds.

Kevin Oulds, Erin Bury Michael Nus describes Kevin Oulds and Erin Bury as the Ken and Barbie of Toronto’s social media scene.  He nailed it.

It was great to watch these two work together in October 2010, when @KevinOulds entered an online contest held by Sauza Tequila that was designed to promote their new Sauza Sin shot (tequila with cinnamon and orange) by pitting it against the classic lemon-and-salt Sauza shot, and getting entrants to represent either side.

Tequila Revolution - Kevin Oulds

Kevin won the prize, and some of the details emerge in a terrific blog post by Erin Bury on how to win a campaign style online voting contest where she writes about the experience of campaigning for votes on Facebook and Twitter. She describes the fine line between persuading and pestering, and she documents how the competition took over their lives. Erin admits she grew obsessed and gives several helpful tips to anyone else ‘campiagning’ for such a prize. Some of her wisdom includes going offline to family and friends, be creative with incentives for your supporters, and whenever possible try not to be too annoying.

Erin writes this about her ‘tweeting up’ Kevin’s campaign,

I had over 7,000 Twitter followers at the time, and if every one of them voted for him just once we’d have it in the bag. Well guess what – I learned the difference between a follower, aka someone who once clicked follow because your profile looked interesting, and a FOLLOWER, aka someone who pays attention to you and is willing to take a second out of their day to help you. There were so many amazing people on Twitter who took the time vote, but there were thousands more followers (and spambots) who didn’t. A big network does not equal a big impact on votes, which I learned the hard way (by the way, thanks to everyone who did vote!)

Last month, Erin wrote about how she was approached by Dentyne gum to be a Kissing Ambassador and, together with boyfriend Kevin Oulds, conduct a Valentines Day survey regarding Canadian attitudes toward kissing in public. They got on Canada Am, and it was pretty significant success; Dentyne sales probably rose nationally.

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Michelle Basic Hendry in Muskoka

in Muskoka, Ontario, Painter, Photography, Scholar and visual arts

Artscapes blog logo, Michelle Basic Hendry

Michelle Basic Hendry is an artist, painter and writer living in Central Ontario. She blogs her thoughts about her art and her life, and especially about the timeless beauty preserved in old buildings all over Muskoka. She shares stories of the structures and elements of her own life in many different ways. She writes articles and takes great digital pictures and even paints her stories in acrylic on canvas, and so of course her blog is fantastic.

Michelle Basic Hendry, a painter in Muskoka OntarioArtscapes Blog is a beautiful scrapbook of architectural art paintings and Canadian heritage information where Michelle Basic Hendry serves society by sharing her knowledge and ‘visions’ of Canadian artscapes. In this portal Michelle writes about the beauty of old buildings found around her central Ontario home.  The girl admits she has always been a doodler, and she loves a good story.  Years ago she got a degree in history and stayed passionate about old rural buildings and their stories. She writes that ‘buildings are characters of the landscape; they are a reflection of their builders and their times.’

While at university, Michelle spent a couple of summers wandering the landscape in search of old buildings for a local heritage group inventory and research project. It was a dream job. She could hardly believe she was being paid to do something she loved so much anyway.  She was hired as an artist and researcher and she had a sketchbook/notebook in the car and would quickly draw the houses and their locations for future research. The recession of the early nineties sapped a lot of government jobs and Michelle followed her skill and abilities as an artist into graphic design.

Michelle has been blogging for three years. Her website and blog are always evolving as she improves her skills using these new communication tools. Right now she’s moving her whole website to WordPress to lose the static HTML pages that comprise most of what isn’t the blog. Her website is always evolving, but this upgrade is the biggest technical innovation and style alteration in three years.

With a background in graphic design, Michelle is conscious of her personal brand. She knows the new site will be altering her brand slightly, and she writes ‘I’m hoping the new look will allow the real brand – the art – to show better, to be front and center, and the theme design to be very secondary.‘.

Yellow Door by Michelle Basic Hendry“With my background in history, I was compelled to find the families, the stories from the past and merge them with the present in my art.  The blog became the vehicle for putting the art with the stories. All this has led to an upcoming book sharing the paintings, the stories and the history of the places in my work  over the last three years – the culmination of my passions for art, writing, and history.” – Michelle Basic Hendry

Blogging has helped Michelle rediscover her love for writing and it has kept her more accountable to her paintings and photography. It has helped her track how she works, where she has been and what she has been focusing on. And so it acts as a life journal of sorts, allowing her to share the stories behind her works of art with her readers and collectors. The blog has been a key driver in traffic to her website and she has garnered a fair bit of media attention over the years because she makes it so easy for researchers and other writers and media makers to find her.

Selling her paintings online was not part of Michelle’s original plan, but in the last three years she has made several sales and met great buyers and through her website and other online contacts she has met all manner of art patrons. She plans on increasing the online store portion of her website in the near future.

Lavendar by Michelle Basic Hendry in Muskoka

Readers that would like to explore the works of Michelle Basic Hendry, should investigate some of the following outstanding posts. Marvel at her photos and paintings of the Vanomi Hotel, now called the Sparrow Beach Lodge, a privately owned 100 year old resort that has only recently closed its doors.

She wrote about her time spent visting Uffington Muskoka and strikes a great balance of hero driven story mixed with art and history. Its wonderful writing that details Pete Marchildon and Judy Veitch, the new owners of the Fleger House and their historic property.

a painting by Michelle Basic Hednry called Waiting - Red ChairA natural storyteller, her piece waiting – red chair plants ideas about an old woman who spent her last days waiting…

Blogging isn’t for every artist. The most important thing you can do is create. But if you do enjoy writing or want to keep a relatively consistent public journal of what inspires you, a blog can be an invaluable tool. Plus it helps others get to know who you are as an artist, and learn about your work. It can be a powerful connection to your collectors, and help you in find your own voice. – Michelle Basic Hendry

Michelle’s blog is already very popular, and some of her posts garner over twenty comments from readers, which is the true mark of a popular and valuable blog. In sitting perfectly still in a canoe she’s discovering landscapes and her text gets mystical as she writes the inspiration, “An excellent photographer or an artist, or a writer or a musician occupies a state of complete presence when they are working on their art. Great art is more than an experience – it is a feeling that engages another sense apart from the one for which it seems designed to communicate.”

In her post Reflections on How We See , I learned something about Eckhart Tolle and something about myself.  Michelle wrote, ‘Buddhists and a number of authors including Eckhart Tolle suggest that peace and happiness are found through living in the moment and the resistance to judgment. We are trained from the moment we leave the womb to pass judgments. We experience the word ‘No’ for excellent reasons and some less valid. This is hot or cold, safe or dangerous, good or bad. When we are so well conditioned, it is no wonder we look to the few who seem to escape its grasp – to whom the world appears less black and white

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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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Canucklehead in London Ontario

in Canadian pop culture, humourist, Ontario and Personal Blog

Canucklehead Blog banner

Lincoln McCardle is a married father-of-two (awesome boys) who spends his days working full-time maintaining the VoIP network for one of Canada’s largest telecommunications providers, but who finds time to attend the University of Western Ontario in the evenings to complete his BA in English. On weekends, and when everyone else is asleep, Lincoln putters away as a humourist on a very unique web portal. There are two types of people out there, those who love Canucklehead straight away, and those who take a while.

Canucklehead blog buttonCanucklehead is the blog most central to the life of Lincoln McCardle, a working class guy who addresses all Canadians from the living room computer in his London Ontario home. The humour filled portal has a navigation bar that’s divided into seven categories, and all with names that begin with the letter ‘L”. They are Look, Laugh, Life, Love, Lists, Listen, and Luck and this of course is every Librarian’s nightmare, because it is quite impossible for readers to know what’s stored where, and so they have to explore the site and have the Canucklehead experience for themselves.

The first stop is Look, which indexes Lincoln’s favourite web photos of course, and Laugh is his collection of jokes and funny stories. Life is where he keeps his blog – this is the section most frequently updated. Love is a storehouse of assorted family memories. Lists is where you read about a hierarchy of Top Canadians, and Lincoln’s favourite Canadian city names. Listen is where you will find audio and even video clips, including Lincoln’s Torch Run Dec 22 2009 through Paris Ontario.  And Luck is a long list of local contests and charity raffles and things involving an element of chance. So it all makes perfect sense in a knucklehead kind of way.

Lincoln McCardle of Canucklehead, a blog in London Ontario CanadaLincoln was born and raised in London Ontario, and has spent his entire life in that city, save six years in downtown Toronto. The megacity is an awesome place for a young couple to meet and fall in love, but Lincoln didn’t want to have a family or career there, and so after the birth of his first son, the family returned back to his hometown. Who are the people Lincoln loves most? After his family, he treasures Homer Simpson, Haruki Murakami & Conan O’Brien. Who does he hate? How about Glen Beck, Justin Bieber & the Montreal Canadiens.

Lincoln isn’t trying to get rich with his blog, but there are some text link ads to poker sites now, and some affiliate marketing in the sidebars.

I hate sandcastles canucklehead

McCardle is convinced he’ll never be truly wealthy, but he’s content that he ‘leads a comfortable life by most people’s definition of the word, although very little of that is due blogging‘.  While excited about how popular his website has become, it will always just be just a favourite hobby, and not a vocation. For Lincoln, the blog is something to do while the rest of the house is sleeping. His web smorgasbord of assorted passions is created for people like him, and those who want to be more like him.  He writes, …it covers its own expenses, with a little left over for beer, Lego and a growing collection of Apple iGadgets.

Lincoln McCardle believes that all Canadians should receive one case of beer without taxes at the Beer Store on the Friday immediately preceding long weekend holidays. He writes about the necessity of implementing a Canucklehead Case Day.

Lincoln McCardle on a rope swing, Canucklehead

Lincoln admits he has led a charmed life – and he’s forever thankful to his family, friends and well-wishers who constantly provide support and encouragement.

There are also a lot of bloggers, too numerous to list, that Lincoln offers a heart-felt thanks for their advice and encouragement in those early years while he struggled away learning and blogging at the same time.

Because of his kids and his active disposition toward loving all people, Lincoln is an active community member, whether it’s being team captain for the Walk for Kids Help Phone, or as member of London’s local Movember committee @MovemberLondon. Lincoln has also recently decided to run for a position on CIRA’s Board of Directors; have a look at Lincoln’s nominee statement on the CIRA website.  CIRA is the organization that governs .ca domain names, and Lincoln now runs a few .ca websites. He’d like to be part of the establishment. Another one of his projects is a site for merchandising text friendly gloves (the index fingers are somehow detachable to allow easier texting with mobile devices) called Twittens. Its a brilliant idea and we wish him luck. Above all else one thing is certain, Lincoln likes to keep busy!

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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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