Tuesday, January 31, 2012

What I Learned at Blog Podium: "Blogs+Media"

On Friday, I attended Blog Podium. This was the first of a series of conferences created by Jennifer Flores of Rambling Renovators and Lindsay Stephenson of Little House Blog. The topic of this first Blog Podium was "Blogs + Media" and the panel was made up by a fantastic line-up of women!

Left to right: Leigh-Ann Allair Perrault, Jennifer Flores, Kimberley Seldon. Photo by Jason Hudson
Left to right: Kimberley Seldon, Kate Moore, Margot Austin. Photo by Jason Hudson

The conversation was awesome! I tweeted throughout and took notes like a fiend! I was the sponge and they were the water. I was there to learn and learn. I. did.

From my notes, I focussed on the messages that were repeated by most members of the panel. So I present you with my:

1.     Have a clear and authentic message I.e.: be original and have a distinct voice. People want to read blogs that are 60% content and 40% entertainment. 

2.     Focus on having a beautiful, well-edited blog. I.e.: Do not use your flash for photos, create posts that are less than 500 words, and break up the text with photos... photos that are properly credited!

3.    Consistency! Be consistent with your brand and the regularity of your posts (minimum of 3 posts per week is ideal) 

4.     Create an editorial calendar!

5.     Social media (Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook) and guest posts are a great way to get exposure 

I had never heard of an editorial calendar, so I looked it up - it's supposedly a very efficient way of controlling content publication. I'm all for efficiency and have had issues in the past with coming up with post ideas. Using an editorial calendar, everything would already be planned out. So I spent a couple of hours finding a good template and then altered it a bit to suit my needs. Then amalgamated all the notes I have for post ideas (in emails, on my phone, written on paper) and organized them into the calendar (for the most part). Then thought "OH EM GEE. Why have I not been doing this ALL ALONG?!" Well... I didn't even know such an idea existed until very recently. That's probably why. But now I know, there's no going back! Up until now, my blogging has been spontaneous. I draft a post and usually publish it that same day, so I don't have any backup posts on the ready. I'll work a bit over the next couple of weeks to create more content (drafts for publishing) to add to my calendar. I'm so excited! I haven't been this inspired or felt this motivated in a long time. 

Does anyone else have any great blogging tips? Do you like my condensed list? Are YOU going to start an editorial calendar now? Seriously... do it! Do it now! You can thank me later :)

Here's what went down at my very first blogger meetup: The Canadian Design Bloggers Meetup 2011

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Canadian House & Home - February Roundup

The February 2012 issue of Canadian House & Home features lots of home makeovers - just the thing I love to see! Who doesn't love a  good "before and after"?

I found one feature to be especially relevant to me, Old Is New Again, Reno No. 3. The homeowners Joel Bray (a designer) and Ryan Baldeo gave their 690-square-foot condo in downtown Toronto a huge facelift... and I loved the results! I'm always attracted to makeovers of smaller spaces as that's exactly how Kevin and I lived in our old apartment and how we will continue to live in our new condo being built this year.
Joel and Ryan bought a condo with a very generic layout and turned it into a space with great flow and traditional touches. They made the space feel much bigger by using light colours on all surfaces (floor excluded) throughout most of the home. The traditional touches were brought in with the use of moudling, panelling and cornices in the common spaces and white dolomite marble on the floors and walls in the bathroom.
I love this dresser. The two-tone look is great and I love the tall legs. It's also styled very nicely!

In other news, I found two other features to touch on that would bring great style to a smaller space. The first is flush mount lighting. Some condos (and houses) are built with 8-foot ceilings (ours, luckily will be 9-foot) so having a pendant light or chandelier can prove challenging. In this scenario, a flush mount light fixture would work perfectly. I'm particularly fond of the drum shade and chandelier ones below.
The other feature was the February Style Files, which suggests replacing builder hardware with decorative knobs and pulls. This is a great idea. I'm not too big a fan of brass, but I love the style of these knobs...Perhaps in an oil rubbed bronze finish?

What do you think are the top design ideas to create flow or give a custom look to a small space?

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Happy Birthday Mom!

Today is my mom's birthday. She's now twice my age. I know I always say it, but I hope I age as well as she does! I can't imagine being wrinkle-free in another 27 years...

The older I get, the more people say I look like my mom. I always thought my sister looked like her, but as I look through this collection of pictures of me and my mom (ones I've used on this blog) I can see the resemblance... the nose... the smile... the lack of brow bone lol. One thing I know for sure is that me and my siblings are like carbon copies - definitely cut from the same cloth.

What do you think? Do I look like her? Do you look like your mom/dad? 

Happy Birthday Mom!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Tutorial: DIY iPhone Charging Station

Kevin loves his iPhone. It's probably his most prized procession. For his birthday I wanted to make part of his present, in addition to the store-bought present he got. I was inspired by something similar I found on Pinterest, but in Canada our plugs are flush (not indented) to the wall and I was worried about the material touching the charger prongs and causing a fire.

Enter this idea!
I had an empty shampoo bottle sitting on the edge of the bathtub when inspiration hit. "Would an iPhone fit in there?" I thought. Yes! It would. And so began my project :-)

iPhone Charging Station Tutorial

  • Shampoo bottle
  • Scissors or utility knife
  • Sand paper
  • Fabric
  • Marker
  • Modge Podge
  • Card stock (optional)
  • Glue gun (optional)


Step 1: Peel off the label and clean the bottle inside and out. 
Step 2: Cut off the top of the bottle
Step 3: Draw the outline using a thin marker. Don't worry if you scribble all over it because this will be covered up.

Step 4: Using scissors or a utility knife, carefully cut out your outline. Tip: To ensure you cut the right sized hole for where the charger plug goes into the wall, trace the outline directly onto the bottle. 

Step 5: The edges will be rough, so go ahead and sand those down until they're smooth. Tip: If your bottle is light coloured and your fabric is dark, run a dark permanent marker over the cut edges of the bottle. This will help give a more finished look.
Step 6: Cut a piece of fabric slightly larger than the diameter of your bottle. To do this, I just laid my bottle on my fabric and rolled it over, then cut about 2 inches of excess fabric around all sides to give myself some wiggle room.

Step 7: Ensuring the seam is in the back (this part goes against the wall so no one will see it), start gluing your fabric to the bottle using Modge Podge. This is the method I used to wrap the bottom of the bottle. When you're done wrapping and gluing, rest the bottle upside down to dry until the fabric is dry and stiff. I rested my bottle upside down on a paper towel holder.
Step 8: Now that the fabric is dry and stiff, use sharp scissors or a utility knife to cut away the excess fabric. Cut as close to the fabric as possible. 

That's it! You're done.

Bonus Points: I went one step further and added a little Apple logo for some pizzazz. I free-hand drew the apple and stem onto a piece of thin paper using a thin marker. I placed that paper backward onto the back of my glitter card stock and then traced around the apple using a heavy hand so that the apple became embossed onto the card stock. I cut out the apple and used a glue gun to adhere it to the front of my bottle.

This project was fun, easy, and very inexpensive. I spent just over $2 on this pretty fishtail fabric and only used about 25 cents worth of it! This project can also be slightly altered for any brand of phone - you could even do it for a slim point-and-shoot camera! It's a great way to keep cords and counter clutter to a minimum.

Friday, January 20, 2012

My Trip to St. Lucia

I don't go on vacation very often, but I was lucky enough to go two times at the end of 2011. The first trip was to an all-inclusive resort, Sandals St. Lucia, with my family and some friends. I've been meaning to share some photos for a while now, so here they are!

Alright, to start off, here's the crew. From left to right we have Luke (with his Movember moustache), Jody, Alana (Luke's girlfriend), my mom, Daniel (my brother), me, Katie, my dad, and Michelle (my sister). After looking at this photo, I laughed because it reminds me of old school 90210 with all the bright colours.

I have so many beautiful pictures I wanted to share from St. Lucia, so keep reading after the jump to check out the rest of them!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

My First Gingerbread House

Wow, is this post late or what?! Kevin and I made a gingerbread house right before leaving for our cruise. I snapped some photos, but unfortunately forgot to post about it! I'm not the most patient person so I was interested to see how working with Kevin on the house would pan it. Well, we're both still alive and you know what?... It was fun! We worked well together :-)

I had a 50% coupon for Michael's so I used that to buy the gingerbread house kit. I can't remember the exact price, but it ended up being $5 or something like that. 

Once we read through the instructions a couple of times, I got to making the icing. I had to add quite a bit more water to the icing than the directions specified, but eventually I got the right consistency. The icing is what holds the walls together...

We had to wait in between "mortar"-ing each wall for the icing to firm up a bit. Eventually, our house was intact!

I wanted the entire roof to be covered in "snow", so I watered down some of the icing and flooded the roof with it. A bit of the icing dripped off, but we just wiped away any excess, no biggie.

Then came the fun part: the candy! After eating about 25% of it throughout the icing process, we proceeded to attach what was left of it to the house. We used every. last. piece. on this house! And I gotta say, I'm pretty pleased with how it turned out!

And my favourite part...the icicles!

Gingerbread houses aren't something that we do in my family, but I really enjoyed it! I think I might try making a gingerbread from scratch next year! Hopefully (fingers crossed) our condo will be done by then so I'll get to do it in MY OWN KITCHEN!! Wooohooo!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Style at Home - February Roundup

The February 2012 issue of Style At Home is my favourite to date! I think I love it so much because it's all about kitchens and I have kitchens on the brain as-of-late.

If you look through my kitchen inspiration folders, you'll find I have a definite style when it comes to kitchens: white shaker cabinets, dark wood floors, stainless steel appliances, chrome hardware, gray tile backsplash. So that being said, you can see why I would love to have any of the kitchens featured in this issue! So beautiful.

This kitchen belongs to designer, Elle Maison. And look! It has everything I love in a kitchen. Swoon... She also opted for a large single sink instead of a double so that she can soak larger pots and pans. Kevin is the dishwasher in our relationship, so I'm sure he would appreciate something like that.

This home is owned by Sarah and Aaron Smith, and was designed by Aly Velji. I love everything about this kitchen too. The glass-tiled backsplash adds just a hint of colour to the space and I love the effect. I also really love the pendant lights, the roman shade, the marble counters, and the micro-suede island stools. 

This homeowner, Christopher Craib, hired designer Jessica Kelly for his kitchen reno. While this kitchen is just a tad too industrial for my tastes, I love love love the backsplash. I love that it's textured and that it is continued all the way to the ceiling. At the other end of the kitchen (not pictured) is a built-in bench. I'm such a sucker for banquettes and benches in kitchens!

Up next is Style At Home Editor-in-Chief, Erin McLaughlin's Ikea kitchen makeover. The kitchen plan was created and executed by Ryan Martin, Amy Kent, and Michelle Lamontagne of Toronto's Croma Design. This is a real chef's kitchen for sure. My (and Erin's!) favourite element in this room is the hand-cut Calcutta Michaelangelo marble from Antica Tile & Stone laid in a herringbone pattern for the backsplash. It's just gorgeous. 
A snippet from an article from Scott McGillivray caught my attention and applies to 3 out of 4 of the kitchens mentioned here because a lot of people (me included) probably can't afford counter-to-ceiling marble backsplashes - Scott suggests saving money in a kitchen reno by applying more budget-friendly tiles in a creative way (ie: subway tile in a herringbone pattern like below) or just use the expensive tiles as a trim or in a feature area. Smart! 

And last up is fellow Canadian blogger of Rambling Renovators, Jennifer Flores, whose home was featured in Style at Home!! Congrats to her! It's very cool to see a magazine spread of someones home whose blog you've been reading. Her home is already gorgeous and S@H did a great job with the photos. 

There are two things that I really love about how Jen and her husband renovated and decorated their home: 1. I love that they use yellow and blue as the accent colours and carry it throughout the home. It creates great flow. 2. I love that they decided to keep the original layout instead of tearing down all the walls to create an open concept house. Sometimes open concept has its benefits, but I think I favour more the division of rooms. Yes, it might make the house seem smaller, but it also creates more intimate spaces (and allows you to make a huge mess in the kitchen without anyone being the wiser :P )

Did you enjoy the February issue of S@H as much as I did?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Discuss: Is Martha Stewart's Reign Over?

In keeping with my New Year's Resolutions, I have been following @TorontoStarNews and @CP24. Both have been doing a great job at keeping me in-the-know. This morning, I saw a tweet by @TorontoStarNews that said, "Is Martha Stewart's Reign Over?" It lead me to an article by Tony Wong that really spoke to me. Here are a few snippets for ya


“In the current economic climate, this newer generation may not find the Martha Stewart lifestyle financially plausible or attractive,” says Jay Handelman, an associate professor of marketing at Queen’s University. “She has been known to a generation as representing certain lifestyle ideals — old-world cooking, fussy household nesting, and so on. It is likely that her style has come to be out of touch with a newer generation who are now just getting into home ownership...Issues of frugality and environmental sustainability speak to the current generation, and I don’t think Martha Stewart resonates on those issues,” says Handelman.

The explosion of the internet has also meant that it’s difficult to rule with authority even if you have your own TV show and printing press. An explosion of websites such as pinterest.com, where consumers can assemble different looks — from crafts to home design to fashion — has meant a democratization of design. Everyone can be a stylist.


I have been reading decor, design and DIY blogs for a few years now. During that time, the trend has definitely leaned more towards saving money by buying second hand, DIY-ing, and buying local where possible. Sure, I'd love to have a whole house filled with designer goods, but who can afford that?? If I think I can save money by trying to create something myself, I'll do it. I love saving the money, but half the fun is doing it myself. I love being able to point to my dresser and say, "I refinished that." Or point to some tissue paper poufs at a party I'm throwing and say, "I made those." I enjoy the sense of accomplishment. 

And Pinterest.... ahh Pinterest. I love it. Who doesn't. I have about a dozen boards on Pinterest and most of them are for projects that I would like to do, but haven't, for rooms in houses I would love, but will never have, for hairstyles and clothes I'd like to try, but won't. Pinterest doesn't make you a stylist, but it definitely helps narrow down your sense of style and can help inspire projects. This about sums up Pinterest for probably 90% of its users:

If you're laughing right now, you know it's true!

What do you think about this article and the movement towards frugality and environmental responsibility... or do you still live the Martha Stewart lifestyle? Bloggers and non-bloggers alike, what are your reasons for DIY-ing? What are your thoughts on Pinterest? Is it a useful tool or just a place for dreams?

I'd love to hear your thoughts on this!

image: here

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

What a Load of Crock (Pot)!

I went to my parents' house yesterday to find 2 packages waiting on the doorstep, both addressed to me!

The first one (the big one!) I had to assume was the Crock Pot I won in Brittany's giveaway. The smaller one on the other hand... I wasn't sure what this one was. I just ordered a running hoodie from Lululemon on Friday, but surely that couldn't have arrived so fast... But when I opened up the package it was a Crock Pot Best-Loved Slow Cooker Recipe book and 8 (that's right, 8!!!) seasoning packages for beef stew, pot roast, pulled pork, and chicken soup. Oh man is Kevin gonna love this! He calls himself a meat-etarian and considers chicken a vegetable. For reals! While I barely even eat chicken, that man practically eats like a tiger (in quantity and selection - re: meat and lots of it) so I'll be making use of this for meals for him for sure. 
 Thanks again Britt!!

Monday, January 9, 2012

Condo Finishes Waiting Game

In the beginning of December, Kevin and I (and Michelle) attended the most recent condo meeting. They informed us that they were up to the seventh floor with contacting people for selecting finishes. Michelle, being on the third floor, had long-ago been contacted, but didn't call back straight away so I think they've put her on the back burner for now. Our unit is on the tenth floor so I knew it would be a few weeks before we got contacted to select finishes. I'm so impatient though! I race home every day to check my email. Nothing! Zip! Nada!

As it happens, earlier last year I spotted a young woman named Kim (a purchaser), at one of the meetings and knew she looked familiar. Turns out she lived on the same street I grew up on and we went to elementary and middle school together (grades 1-8, although she was a year older so we never hung out). At the last meeting in December, she told me she'd already picked her finishes and had pictures! eeeek! Obviously I had to see them and bombard her with tons of questions. She bought alone and said she had a very easy time selecting her finishes. She kept some of the standard finishes (ie: the bathroom and kitchen floor tile) and upgraded others (ie: the living room and bedroom flooring and kitchen/bathroom backsplash). In total, she said she spent $7500. She went with a warmer tone for her finishes, which isn't really up my alley; I love cooler tones. And I was surprised at the cost of her upgrades! Very surprised! I know it can cost a lot and we've set aside quite a bit to cover the cost (more than what Kim paid), but I honestly thought I had more than enough wiggle room. Her unit is a little bit smaller, at about 670 sq ft if I remember correctly, and ours is 716 sq ft. 

I'm not even too sure at this point what finishes we're selecting. I'm thinking it'll be

  • Floor tile
  • Counter tops
  • Cabinets (and hardware maybe?)
  • Backsplash tiles
  • Faucets maybe?
Common spaces
  • Flooring
  • Ceiling (stippled is standard...yuck)

These designer people had better contact me soon! Patience is not my strong suit and the suspense is killing me! 

photo source is here.

Friday, January 6, 2012

New Year's Resolutions

When I was in school, I used to make about 10 resolutions every year. I would print them off and put them on the fridge, in my locker, in my bedroom, etc to keep me on track. I haven't made any resolutions in the last few years and I'm not sure why. I'm actually pretty good at sticking to resolutions, as long as they're specific and somewhat realistic. I'm never gonna stop eating junk food and exercise regularly - at least not long term - so I avoid resolutions like that. I started to make a list of resolutions for 2012 after talking to one of my coworkers about her list. I thought I wouldn't be able to think of any. My list started off slow, but then grew, and grew and GREW. I had to cut it off somewhere so I'm gonna list my top 7, in no particular order


1. Stop swearing
I swear like a sailor! I'll casually throw down F-bombs like they're nothing. It's horrible, and so tacky.. I know. But it's also something that I turn off easily when I'm around new people/parents/bosses etc. I'm not too sure how I'm gonna stop swearing. I need some substitute words... but they have to have some pizzazz. When I'm angry/upset/excited, it just ain't gonna cut the mustard for me to say something lame like "oh fudge". Some people say I should put a quarter in a jar every time I swear, but honestly, I don't even notice when I do it, so I don't know if that would work. Any suggestions would be appreciated!

2. Improve my photography skills
I clearly fell off the bandwagon with my photography challenge, but I'm gonna hop back on it this year and finish it off. 

3. Learn Photoshop  
This seems daunting to me. I have the program and I've tried to use it a bunch of times with no success. I think it would help me with my blog images, but there are just SO many buttons and I don't understand the layers...  I guess I just need to spend a few weekends fiddling around with it. If you know any good websites for teaching how to use Photoshop, please let me know!

4. Read more news
I'm the worst when it comes to knowing what's going on in the world. On the cruise I was watching this recap of big news stories in 2011. It was on CNN so a lot of it was American, but a lot of these "recaps" were things I was hearing for the first time. I need to test out all my news methods (internet, radio, TV, paper) and see which one is more engaging for me. I already know this will be the hardest resolution for me to keep.

5. Do more DIYs on my blog
I want to do more tutorials and DIYs on my blog so that my readers feel like they're coming to my blog and learning something. I think it's a reasonable goal for me to set out to do one quality DIY or tutorial per month. I know that's not a lot, but it's more than I'm doing now and will ensure I'm putting out more quality content on the ol' bloggy.

6. Declutter each season
I'm not sure what happened in between the apartment and now living in the 'burbs but it seems my possessions have just EXPLODED all over the bedroom. I literally have to climb over and move things every day just to get in and out of bed. What happened?? I don't know. But I do know that I will be decluttering this month and doing it at the beginning of each season this year to keep things in check!

 7. Spend more quality time with the ones I love 
I think this one is the most important resolution for me. I think I fell off the bandwagon last year. Kevin and I used to go out more, I would hang out with my friends, I would write letters to those out of town. I barely do any of that anymore. As much as I like being social and chitchatting, I only have a few close friends, so I resolve to send more texts, emails and letters to them and make more time to hang out with them. For Kevin, I resolve to make more time for quality dates at least twice a month. It's so easy to fall into the habit of eating at home while watching TV. Everyone I know uses Facebook to keep in touch, but I don't have an account. I'd like to prove to myself that I can keep in touch with family and friends without the use of Facebook!
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