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Baseball Season Is Upon Us

I’m struggling to express the joy I felt when our son let us know that he wanted to give baseball a shot this year. Having played ball for my entire youth and well into adulthood, I was excited to have the opportunity to help him on his way to baseball mediocrity as my father had done for me.

We are two weeks into the season and things seem to be going according to plan. The kids love kicking their feet around in the dirt, creating mini dust tornadoes and making it impossible for anyone to see what they are doing, as we did in our youth. Wrangling twelve 7 & 8-year-old boys and getting them all to pay attention at the same time is always a fun challenge but you learn to appreciate all of their individual quirks and mannerisms. That said, one of the many perks of volunteering to be on the coaching staff is that you can always keep your own child inline and paying attention!

True to the chaos that is parenting, right before the season started we realized that our son had no proper baseball equipment. Flashing back to my youth I can remember the excitement of my dad bringing me to Canadian Tire because I always new I was about to get some new gear. The only downside to shopping when I was a kid was that we were at the mercy of the stock on the store shelves. We live in a slightly different time now so I was excited to present my son with the new Canadian Tire WOW Guide so he could pick out the items he wanted and then I had them ordered right to our store.

Canadian Tire Baseball

Tell me this kid doesn’t look like a seasoned baseball player now! Through the Canadian Tire WOW Guide, we were able to score him a new Troy Tulowitzki glove, a Raptor baseball bat, a new Rawlings baseball, new cleats and an amazing Easton bag to carry it all in. I loved watching his face as he flipped through the WOW Guide and excitedly circled all the things he wanted. I obviously had to shave the list down as he circled about 6 pages worth of sports gear but it reminded me about the fun of going through catalogues when I was a kid.

I highly recommend that you grab the WOW Guide from your local Canadian Tire store or check it out at Canadian Tire’s website. The guide covers everything from lawn and garden and home décor to power tools and tires, plus you can use the Canadian Tire app to hover over the products you love in the WOW Guide to unlock dynamic digital extras like videos, how-to’s and DIYs. Well, what are you waiting for?!

Canadian Tire WOW Guide

Disclosure: I was compensated for my participation in this program, however I used that money to buy more baseball gear from Canadian Tire because I have no self control.

Canadian Tire WOW Guide

Prepare to be WOWed! {Plus, Win a $200 Canadian Tire Gift Card}

Remember the joy of grabbing a coffee, kicking back and flipping through your favourite store’s catalogue? Those days seem to have been replaced by the digital age, with most companies opting to focus more on online content and less on printed materials. I thought I was transitioning well to this change until I received Canadian Tire’s WOW Guide in the mail earlier this week.

Now I find myself taking on the role of the traditional male and carrying this folded catalogue around with me in my back pocket as if it were Marty McFly’s Almanac, so I can take breaks to look at power tools, yard equipment and baseball gear any time I want. Sometimes even, to my wife’s dismay, with a small grunt.

On top of that, with two birthdays in the coming weeks, both of my children were able to easily flip through the WOW Guide and circle some things they would like to receive. Everybody wins!

Canadian Tire WOW Guide Kids

What is the WOW Guide, you ask?

Being delivered to over 12 million homes, the WOW Guide is full of thousands of products, countless ideas, and pages of inspiration that will help you make the most of spring and summer 2016. The guide covers everything from everything from lawn and garden and home décor to power tools and tires.

There is great news for you techie types as well, as you can use the Canadian Tire app to hover over the products you love in the WOW Guide to unlock dynamic digital extras like videos, how-to’s and DIYs. Simply Download the free Canadian Tire app and Hover your phone over the digital extras sections to Discover videos, deals and more; be sure to look for your WOW Guide on your doorstep this week and visit canadiantire.ca/wow.

Win A $200 Canadian Tire Gift Card!

Ummm, Chris, I believe you mentioned something about a gift card??? That’s right, to celebrate the launch of the WOW Guide, Canadian Tire has given me a $200 gift card for me to pass along to one of you. All you have to do is complete as many of the Rafflecopter entries as you feel comfortable with and I’ll notify the winner at the end of the contest!

Good Luck and don’t forget to Download the free Canadian Tire app, Hover your phone over the product you like the guide and Discover more of what you love at Canadian Tire!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was compensated for this post

An Evening With The Cake Boss!

Last night I had the pleasure of being invited by Canadian Tire to hang out with the one and only Cake Boss, Buddy Valastro, as he launched his new line of bakeware, which will be exclusively available at Canadian Tire. The new line is designed to give people at home the chance to bake like boss and create their own masterpieces! The night was amazing and I even had the chance to sit down one on one with Buddy to ask him a few questions.

At the event, Buddy teamed up with Ottawa Senators head coach, Paul MacLean and Paul’s daughter, Erin, to show off some basic techniques that can be done by the every day non-baker. It was a light event with a lot of laughs, especially when Buddy offered to hire Paul MacLean if the Sens ever decided to let him go.

cake boss paul maclean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Interview With The Cake Boss

I was also excited to have the opportunity to sit down with Buddy before the show started, to ask him a few questions. Here is what he had to say.

Q: What advice do you have for kids who dream of someday opening their own bakery?

Buddy: Definitely go work in a bakery first, just to make sure that you love it and get as much experience as you can. If you decide that this is the life for you, go to culinary school and aim for your dreams. The business part of this is covered by working at a bakery. They don’t teach you about the business side in culinary school, what it’s like to live and work in a bakery and really see the ins and outs of the real environment.

Q: Any advice for dads who want to be more hands on in the kitchen, to show their kids that it’s cool to try new things?

Buddy: Part of the reason I decided to do this product line with Canadian Tire is to make it easy for anybody to get in to the kitchen and get baking. It’s actually not that hard to do and I’m hoping to give you things that are achievable. We want people to go cake decorating and feel excited about it. For you, I’ll say that fondant is a lot easier than butter cream, especially when you are starting out, and that’s why we did videos with it.

Q: I saw your hockey cake you made for the draft and wondered what is your favourite/hardest project that you’ve worked on?

Buddy: Yeah, the hockey cake was a cool one and, you know, Canada! But definitely the coolest one I have done is the transformer cake. From a challenge standpoint, out of everything I’ve done, the transformer sets the bar on how far you can take a cake.

Q: You are a part of the Make-A-Wish Foundation, but you also founded the Momma Mary Foundation and I was wondering if you would talk a bit about what that’s all about?

Buddy: The Momma Mary Foundation is something I started in lieu of my mom having ALS. What we do is we take donations and do fundraisers, to give money for research and to people that can’t afford treatments. We’ve worked with Mass General in Boston, ALS Worldwide and different things. We take the money and give it to organizations that we feel are really trying to make strives in it. It’s especially important to pass that down to my kids and the charity is close to my heart because of my mom having it.

Q: How often does a cake need repairs upon delivery?

Buddy: Oh man, I can remember last year, we got a call that a cake that was sent out to Louisiana had tipped over. We had to spring in to action and get down there to fix it. But, for the most part we only have a few incidents a year and have been pretty lucky in that regard.

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Buddy couldn’t have been any nicer and he even recorded a video greeting for my mom, who is a huge fan of him and his family. His speech about how cake decorating gave him the confidence to go after his dreams really resonated with me as I am currently chasing a dream of my own. He also hopes to open up his own shop in Canada sometime in the next year or so, which is exciting. I had a great time meeting Buddy and want to thank Canadian Tire for the invite and for the very cool samples of some of Buddy’s new products. If you guys don’t a cake post from me in the next 3 months, feel free to call me out as a failure!

Buddy Cake Boss SensCake Boss Canadian Tire

Lessons Learned and Memories to Last a Lifetime

Happy Birthday

It started with a single email to another Dad blogger, which fittingly enough, was also my first mistake: “Hey man, I am just starting a new blog and was wondering if you could tell me how you go about getting to do the cool reviews of kid stuff?”

His reply: “Just network and be yourself. You’ll figure it out”

I left that interaction kind of confused and felt like he hadn’t really help me at all. Looking back at it a year later, it was actually a perfect answer and one that I have nothing more to add to. Just be yourself.

I’m a bit late on this one but back in February my little site celebrated its first full year on the internet. I would be lying if I used any other excuse but procrastination at the magnitude of putting together a “year in review” type post. In the end, I have found the exercise of looking back to have opened up a well of emotions that I never knew I had in me.

I’m not even sure where to start, to be honest. I guess the best place would be with my first post, which was a mangled tale that looks exactly like what someone’s first post should look like. In my excitement, I even approved and replied to a spam comment, like a true newbie, and have decided to leave it there to remind myself that everybody has to start somewhere.

Oddly enough, my second post was my first experience in dealing with a brand. I wrote an innocent post about how my daughter loved the website, JibJab, and received an email a week later from the owner of the site, who wanted to thank me for the post by sending t-shirts for the whole family. It was an awesome experience but also one that set me off on my year long journey of self discovery that I could have never imagined when I started this thing.

It wasn’t all roses, of course. I think I made every mistake in the book, not that there is a literal book, but if there is something people in the social media/blogging space frown upon, I did that thing. The thing I realized though is that everyone frowns on something, so you have to do your best to stay ethical and true to yourself. I have been lied to, had my ideas stolen, gotten deservedly schooled for writing crap, and even got called a sellout by someone who I thought should be working with me to help spread the good word of Dad. In fact, that particular interaction almost scared me enough to shut it down altogether after only two months of blogging. I’m glad I didn’t.

For every stress wrinkle this journey has caused, there has been at least ten positive and life changing experiences. I’ve attended a lot of events filled with incredibly kind people; some of whom went completely out of their way to make sure I fit in. For that, I am eternally grateful and will absolutely pay it forward when the time comes to do so.

The two big events, Blissdom Canada and the Dad 2.0 Summit, were both experiences that I will never forget. It is impossible for me to explain the impact that both of these conferences have had on my life as a human being or as a father. The opportunity provided to me by the organizers of Dad 2.0 to share a story about the passing of my father, is one that I will cherish for the rest of my life. It showed me that I am allowed to show vulnerability without feeling like less of a man and that I may even be able to help someone else by sharing my story. A lot of things changed for me that weekend.

I’ve always tried to give back where I can but the power of social media has opened my eyes to the endless possibilities that are out there to help others. From sharing stories about bullying and featuring amazing children doing incredible things, to sharing inspirational stories from citizens and brands alike, I feel I have evolved into a different and much better person. The day I spent with my daughter in the waiting room at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, handing out Tim Hortons gift cards to staff and other worried parents, is something that I will be forever grateful for.

I’ve been presented with many great opportunities in my short time in this space and I am continually humbled by them. A few of my highlights include skating with the cast of Disney on Ice, playing CandyLand against a Harlem Globetrotter, being featured monthly on a radio show, convincing Jann Arden to call my wife on her birthday and being featured on the cover of the Lifestyle section of the Globe and Mail. I have also been fortunate enough to provide my children with things that we would otherwise never have been able to afford and I never take any of it for granted.

All of this said, there are two highlights that stand above the rest.

The first happened just recently when Canadian Tire responded to a commenter on one of my posts, by providing her children with new hockey skates because she has been unable to afford them. For me, it was a moment of inspiration in knowing that there is still a lot of good in the world. I have never worked with Canadian Tire and have no idea if I ever will but they won me over that day and showed me that I can help make a difference in the world.

The second is simply, the blogging community. Something that I think is often lost amidst the laughing, fighting and discussions about Pinterest is the fact that when this community comes together, we can do amazing things. Looking back at an improbable Movember campaign in which we raised $10,000 more than our original goal, or the amazing show of support for our ill or fallen comrades, the community is really the most inspiring part of it all. Knowing that you have the collective power to exact change is a strong motivator to continue building this thing. To me, the people of this community are more than just avatars or good contacts to have, they are friends and I’m not sure if you can quantify that.

It’s been a wild ride. People I idolized when I started out, now talk to me as friends and equals. I still idolize them, but I do so with a little less sweat than before. I have learned how to be a better person, father, husband and writer because of these people and hope to inspire others in the same way they have for me.

I don’t like to pass judgment on the way people run their blogs but I will say this; if you are running your blog like it is a competition against other bloggers, you are doing it wrong and you are missing out on something amazing. Kindness will always win out, I can promise you that.

Finally, I want to say a special Thank You to a couple people who have made this journey possible. First to my web designer, host and the first person to offer assistance while asking for nothing in return, Shawn Merrikin; thank you for not only setting this all up for me but also allowing me to text you in a panic at 10pm on a Tuesday because I somehow locked myself out of my site and thought I was being hacked. I can’t offer you anything but money, which you have turned down, but I’ll figure something out. Also, if you guys are looking for a host or web designer, this is your guy.

I save the largest thank you for my wife and children. My kids don’t really get it but someday they will see how much they have inspired the positive changes in me. My wife on the other hand, has been nothing but supportive throughout the blogging whirlwind. In a space that features about 10 female bloggers to every man, the trust she has shown in me just further proves that I made the right choice in marrying her. My family is my ultimate inspiration and the day this comes between them is the day I close the doors on the site.

So, yeahhhhh, about 1500 words later and a million more thoughts on an incredible year, I think it’s best to leave you with the most important things I’ve learned so far. Be kind. Respect opinions that differ from yours. Think before you speak (or write). Don’t feed the trolls. Be yourself. Give back. Finally, there’s always a better answer than to attack someone on social media.

Thank you to everyone for all of this. I don’t feel deserving and am humbled by every single person who has stopped by to read, chat or help me. I still have no idea what I am doing but I’m happy that I am surrounded with good people while I figure it out. Here’s to another year!

birthday cake

cupcake

How Canadian Tire Made One Family’s Wish Come True

Canadian Tire

I believe very strongly in the power of giving. In the past few months, I have quietly started practicing a daily random act of kindness. It sometimes involves spending money but often is something as little as opening a door for someone or letting someone in line ahead of me. I never expect anything in return for any of this but I was lucky enough to be the recipient of some excellent news yesterday and I have to share it with you.

You may remember back in February, I posted an awesome commercial from Canadian Tire, that depicted a father and son going to the outdoor rink to skate and bond together. It was, and still is, my favourite commercial of all time. One of the commenters on the post mentioned that they hadn’t been able to afford skates for their boys but hoped it would happen someday. I’ve deleted that portion of their comment for their privacy.

The post faded into obscurity, as most blog posts do, until yesterday when I received an email from the people at Canadian Tire. They thanked me for sharing their commercial and asked for the contact info of the above noted commenter because they wanted to outfit her family with new skates. I’d be lying at this point if I said my eyes were completely dry after reading through their email and they didn’t get any dryer after speaking to the recipient of the gift. If I ever questioned what the ROI of sharing other people’s amazing content was, Canadian Tire answered it in incredible fashion.

I was already impressed with Canadian Tire for the way they portrayed the Dad in their commercial, but helping a family in need just put them way over the top in my books. When you do awesome things, especially in business, awesome things will come back to you. I hope creating two new life long loyal customers was enough for Canadian Tire in this instance, because they absolutely earned it!

Cheers!

Canadian Spotlight – My Favourite Commercial of All-Time

Canadian Tire

I realize it’s a couple years old but this Canadian Tire commercial absolutely wrecks me every single time. I wish more brands would consider portraying fatherhood in this way because these guys have earned my business based solely on how powerful this commercial is.

Do you know why it’s so powerful? Because it’s real!! And real isn’t boring! I think of this commercial every time I take my kid to the outdoor rink. I think of my Dad, who spent many winters building a rink in our backyard so that we could have fun anytime we wanted. That is what real fathers do. We don’t play with our kids because they bribe us with chips (looking at you, Doritos). We do it because we love them and want them to be happy.

I want to say thank you to Canadian Tire for getting it right and I hope we will see more of this in the future. It’s easy to go for the cheap laugh but it’s far more beneficial to tell it like it is. I hope you like this one as much as I did.