CONTEST: Get Your Mardi Gras On, Winnipeg!

We know of a sure fire way to beat those winter blues. It’s your chance to experience the tastes, sights and sounds of Louisiana, get your beads on, dance the night away to the chucky sounds of Zydeco–all without leaving town, AND supporting a worthy cause at the same.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Winnipeg’s Mardi Gras party is now its 7th year and it shows no signs of slowing down. It’s the one event in town where you can see people from the ages of 18 to 80+ getting down with the sounds, sights, and tastes of N’awlins. This year, a portion of tickets sales to Winnipeg Mardi Gras will benefit JDRF, the Juvenile Diabetes Research

Shake Your Tail Feather

This year’s main Winnipeg Mardi Gras attraction is C.J. Chenier and The Red Hot Louisiana Band. Having been called “the Crown Prince of Zydeco,” Chenier’s musical style ranges from traditional zydeco to modern funk, blues, R & B, ‘swamp pop’, and even country. Chenier’s mastery of the accordion combined with his rich, satisfying voice is the driving force behind this powerhouse zydeco band, straight from the Deep South.

Party In Your Mouth 

The food at this year’s Mardi Gras will be nothing short of spectacular. Here’s a sampling of the dishes we tried at a the Manitoba Food Bloggers sneak peek. The Fried Oyster Po’Boy was DEE-lish. If you love oysters, you will love this taste of New Orleans. And of course, you’ll have to ask to try a Burt Reynolds at the shooter bar. 😉

New Orleans Creole Shrimp

Fried Oyster & Cheese Po’ Boy



We’re going to make really easy for you go! All you have to do is leave a comment below and let us know which day you and your N’awlins party go’ers would like to attend the festivities. We have TWO (2) pair of tickets to give away (1 set for each night) for February 15 and February 16.

To purchase more tickets for your Mardi Gras crew, click here.


You gotta come see the baby!

It would appear there is a bit of a baby boom going on this year. I know so many pregnant ladies, it’s unbelievable. We see our friends (and friends of friends) sharing their pregnancy excitement and swollen ankles, ultrasound pictures, and bump photos on Facebook, even baby rooms on Pinterest and it’s enough to make us go, “Squeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”

Once mama and baby are home, we are SO excited to come on over, cuddle that sweet new baby and visit. While we look forward to these visits, they can be a source of stress for new parents. It can be overwhelming to be breastfeeding seemingly around the clock, dealing with the sudden onslaught of total sleep deprivation, hormonal cocktails bubbling over, and STILL new mamas and papas feel like they have to entertain when people come to <cue the gratuitous Seinfeld reference> “SEE THE BABY!!”


New parents do want to share their beautiful bundles with you. Really. But there are few things you should do to make your visit one where the parents are refreshed after you leave versus more exhausted. Here are 5 tips to show some mad baby love to the new parents in your life, be helpful and not a royal PITA.

  1. CALL FIRST. Please ask permission to see if you can come over. Don’t ever “pop by” a home with a new baby in it. You never know how that household slept the day or hour before and if they’ve finally just crashed after a marathon breastfeeding session. Normally I love and am very pro-pop-in but not where it pertains to new mamas and papas. Just don’t.
  2. BRING FOOD. Or Starbucks. Or something those parents can use. When a rash of babes were born a few years ago, I brought a coffee and care package to all my mama friends. A new trashy magazine, a Maybelline mascara (hey, mamas like to feel sexy too even when we might not look it), and a bubblebath bomb. Casseroles are also a great alternative. Be sure to include the cooking instructions and don’t put it in a container you “just have to get back”.
  3. WASH YOUR HANDS. I know you want to grab that baby and just “Mmmmmmmmmm” inhale that sweet, baby smell. But please don’t make the new parents look like paranoid freaks. Any and all baby handlers should wash their hands before holding the baby. It’s just good manners and helps keep newborns with new immune systems safe from your cooties.
  4. CELEBRATE SIBLINGS. If you’re bringing a gigantic diaper cake or other enormous gift for baby, please bring something small for siblings too. Little ones are dealing with enough feelings of jealousy, anxiety, and stress (even if they appear happy, their world has been changed forever). When I had my middle child so many thoughtful people brought a small toy or token for my oldest to make sure he felt special and loved too. It’s a gesture I’ve never forgotten.
  5. DO SOMETHING. I know it’s so tempting to just sit there and snuggle that baby. But it would be so super cool if you would, you know, run a vacuum or something. Put away a full dishwasher, run a load of laundry, fold something, and take a to-do off that new mama/papa’s list. I guarantee they will love you for it. Once you finished your chore, then you can volunteer to smell/snuggle that new baby while mama and papa go for a much needed nap. 😉

And here’s one more that is really, really important: According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, it’s estimated that between 50% and 80% of mothers experience the “Baby Blues”. Post-partum depression is still under-diagnosed and grossly under-treated. Therefore, any help, support, and resource you can provide to a family with a new addition is a BIG help. Tell those parents you’d happy to come and sit with baby on Saturday so they can nap. You’d love to take the other kid(s) to the park to build snowmen while she enjoys the quiet. Every little bit counts. It does take a village. And although we have technology and all the comforts we can possibly ask for–a helping, caring hand still goes a long way.

Windows Phone Review: Confessions of an iPhone addict

Mount Rundle, Banff

Mount Rundle, Banff, AB

You can imagine my initial discomfort when I was asked by Microsoft Canada to trade in my trusty sidekick (aka my iPhone) for a new Windows Phone last December for their #HolidaySwap campaign. I’ll admit I was excited to try the phone but also so scared to step away from my iPhone. Anyone who knows me knows I’m attached to my iPhone. Madly. Switching to the Windows Phone over the busiest time of the year was a touch nerve-wracking. But I’m so glad I did it! Learning how to use the Windows Phone was an interesting experience and it drove home how important the user experience is in any technology adoption. Overall, I really loved the phone. There is a ton of potential here, dear readers.

Windows Phone home screen

Home screen shot

I had heard the Windows Phone described as “slick”. This is not an understatement. The Windows phone is very attractive. The hardware, courtesy of Nokia, is nothing short of stunning. From the larger screen, HD 1080p video and 8-megapixel PureView camera, and super smooth curves and screen, it’s a looker.

Windows 8 Phone and Minding My Business

As a business owner with a boutique social media marketing firm SPARKER Strategy Group, I run a *lot* of my business from my superphone. It is my lifeline. It is like another child. I’m always checking where it is. I never leave home without it.

Switching over to the Windows Phone from my trusty iPhone made me very nervous. How was it going to handle my business? Email interface and user experience was simple. I was able to integrate my personal and work emails with no issues. Sorting and deleting messages was easy especially because the option to group emails by conversation was available.

Manage social profiles from one screen.

Manage social profiles from one screen.

At SPARKER Strategy, we manage multiple social media accounts for a variety of clients. I wondered if I’d be able to manage these as seamlessly as I do on the iPhone. Also, would the phone have the basic business capabilities I require on a daily basis? The short answer here is that the interface was so easy to use. Any apps or utilities used regularly could be “pinned” to the home screen. This means no time-wasting surfing. Instead everything I needed to be visible on one screen where I could scroll down and find whatever I was looking for.

Working in MS Office on-the-go with Windows Phone

One of the major benefits of the Windows Phone is the integration of MS Office. Users have the ability to create Word docs, PowerPoint presentations, even Excel spreadsheets right within the phone. This was terrific and handy as I used them a few times to create documents on -the-go for clients. To email them to clients was also very intuitive and easy. The Windows Phone made creating, viewing, sharing, and editing MS Office docs easy and simple—a major bonus for this busy mama and businessperson.


The one downfall with the Windows Phone is the current shortage of Windows-based apps. There are native Facebook and Twitter apps available for download. There are also a variety of developer-generated apps, many of which are great for social networking, photo sharing, etc. In my opinion, it was disappointing there is no native Hootsuite app or Instagram app. The Twitter app I did end up downloading–Rowi–was really good. There were also a few apps I hadn’t used before that I found on the Windows 8 Phone and they very useful –the Flashlight X and NORAD Santa Tracker apps were great. As the popularity of the phone grows, the apps will come, but it’s tough when you want them right away.

Windows 8 Phone and the Busy Mama

As a participant in the Microsoft Canada’s #HolidaySwap I was nervous to try the phone for my business. My fears were soon washed away by how much I actually loved this phone. But how would this phone handle the other, larger part of my life. The part as a busy mama of three, wife, chauffeur, errand girl, note taker, personal secretary to four (or more), party planner, extra-curricular activity planner, courier, etc. Could this Windows Phone handle all of these demands on my time and energies?

The short answer is “Hell yes.” There is really nothing this phone can’t do. I was truly impressed with the ease of use and ability to customize the look and feel of the phone. The phone speaker and sound quality are fantastic. The screen colour is vibrant and rich. The camera quality and video is nothing short of amazing. In all of these areas, it is a strong contender against the others.

One of my favourite things about the Windows 8 Phone is Kids Corner. This feature means you can give your child the phone and not be afraid your favourite apps will be deleted or that bizarre emails will get sent to your boss or in-laws. 😮  Here’s how it works: In the convenient Live Tiles, you can choose from a list of apps, games and photos that you want to grant access to. Set up a password, return to the lock screen and swipe to the left. You’ll then see a new lock screen, and all you have to do at this point is swipe up and you’re in. Kid’s Corner still has a Start screen that’s just as customizable as your own, but your kids won’t have an app list to take advantage of.

Windows Phone Kids' Corner

Windows Phone Kids’ Corner

This is probably the coolest thing about the phone. No other phone (unless jail broken) has this feature and EVERY parent I know nervously hands over their phones to the wee ones just hoping for the best. Kids Corner solves an issue and I think it’s FABU. The fact this phone also syncs and works with your XBOX is way cool. Many families will love this feature!

Our family took the Windows Phone with us on a road trip to Banff. Two adults, three kids, and a partridge in a pear tree road-tripping to Banff while a snowstorm was approaching. Good times. The built-in Nokia Drive with turn-by-turn navigation was amazing. I’ve used Google Maps before and Nokia Drive was so much better. We had a flat tire on the way home, and Nokia Drive was able to tell me our position to better direct the CAA truck coming to our aid. Loved this feature. A must-have for road-trippers and travelers.

Nokia Drive

Nokia Drive, built-in GPS with turn-by-turn navigation


Bottom line is the Windows Phone is a great phone for anyone who wants to experience a superphone with some freedoms. This superphone experience is much more like a computer and phone wrapped up in one glossy, great looking package. Apple and Android are still winning the app battle but this gap will soon close with Windows versions popping up faster and faster. If you want slick, functional, easy to use, and kid-friendly–this phone is the one for you.

This will be a keeper in our house for sure!

Tutti Frutti Launches at Polo Park Shopping Centre

Tomorrow I’m heading to Polo Park Food Court with the Mister and Kidlets to help welcome a new signature tenant your family is sure to love! Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt is the world’s largest self-serve frozen yogurt retail chains with stores across Canada and more than 600 locations worldwide. Customers can choose from more than 50 frozen yogurt flavours and more than 300 toppings. Needless to say, my Kidlets are going to have a delicious time! 😉


And Mama is going to have fun too. I’m going to be competing for the title of champion of the Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt Celebrity Charity Challenge by creating a treat in the name of my chosen charity (Children’s Hospital Foundation). Ours is called the **Parker Sparkler**. ♥ The public will be allowed to vote at the store and on Facebook, and the winning entry will earn a $500 donation by Tutti Frutti to their chosen charity. The Kidlets and I are so excited about this and really hope to win for the CHF!

Tutti Frutti Polo Park

Polo Park storefront

But YOU can come and join the fun too! Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt’s grand opening is Saturday, January 5, 2013 from 12 pm to 3 pm. Along with the ability to help a local charity, here are a few other sweet reasons to attend:

  • Free Tutti Yogurt to the first 1,000 customers
  • Free caricature sketches
  • An opportunity to vote in-person and online for your favourite Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt Celebrity Challenge treat
  • A chance to meet Dr. Goodbear from the Children’s Hospital Foundation of Manitoba.

See you there!

Susie xo

Poetry Challenge: 365 days–Day 4

I’ve made it 4 days. It’s a miracle. More like it’s a miracle I’ve remembered to do something for myself 4 days in a row. That, dear readers, is progress.


She slipped away while I held her cool, withered and gray hand
Sun was rising in the East against the wishes of the stars
Her legacy would endure, each moment like grains of sand.
Longing for a sight of her, hearing her voice in faraway corners.

Poetry Challenge: 365 days–Day 3

She didn’t even see it coming.
The hit was just the start.
How can this be happening?
Her loyalty’s not smart.
But strength’s not what she’s lacking.
Hers is an empty, hopeless heart.
She thinks she must try harder.
This crazy dance, she knows all too well her part.
Reality a distant memory, its truths fading fast.
Sanity is on vacation. Time to bring it back.