30 May 2012

BlogPodium Made A Liar Of Me

I could totally dine out on the fabulosity (is that even a word?? It is now) of BlogPodium for the next two weeks, to be honest. The people, the information, the networking, the vendors, the venue, the food, the decor .... I could easily dedicate a post or two to every detail. But my goal is not to deter you from coming with my overly obsessive post-event analysis; rather the opposite, in fact. I'm aiming to make you just curious enough and just envious enough that, if you haven't attended in the past, you'll be first in line to buy your ticket for the autumn seminar (but not in line before me; I'm totally first. Is that a deal?)

So the 'curious' bit I think I've got covered through my BlogPodium recap (want to make your blog a bigger blog? a better blog? or maybe you just want to hang out with some smart, funny and generally super-cool bloggers? then BlogPodium is for you!) but 'envious'? Are mushroom tartlets that taste like little bites of angels enough to make you envious?? No??? Well how about this...


Way before any of the 150+ bloggers set foot in the incredible Arcadian Loft; well before Nicole's plane touched down at Pearson and a little bit before the swag bags were locked and loaded, Delta Faucets, one of BP's fabulous vendors and a major supporter, stepped up to the plate with an amazing giveaway. Yeah, let's go ahead and give their logo a little love for a minute, shall we?


That's nice ...

So as I was saying, beyond just sponsoring the event so it could actually happen, Delta also jumped into the pre-event excitement with a little swag of their own, namely two faucets - one kitchen, one bathroom - for two lucky winners. Contest participants needed to have a ticket to the event, of course, and it was as simple as submitting your name to the draw, along with which faucet you'd choose for your home.

Now, I've been very honest with you about how often I win things. Specifically, I NEVER WIN ANYTHING. I won't go so far as to say "I'm a big fat loser" in print, but I'm sort of thinking it. So when I filled out my little email ballot and typed in the words "I'd like the kitchen faucet, please!" I expected, as always happens, that I'd be congratulating someone else in the very near future for winning a pretty swank little faucet. I was so prepared to lose, actually, that I didn't even bother checking the BlogPodium blog for the winner's announcement, and it wasn't until nearly a week later than Jennifer finally tipped me off via Twitter that "Hey, maybe you should check it out?!"

And here's how BlogPodium made a liar of me: I WON. I WON! I WON!!

WHOOOOOO-HOOOOOO!! That's right! This little beauty is mine ... ALL MINE!!


Awwwww, yeah baby!
{via}

A little bit about the faucet? Don't mind if I do: This little gem is from Delta's Pilar Collection. It is equipped with a hugely convenient pull-down faucet (very restaurant-y ... very professional) AND the new and innovative Touch 2O technology that will allow me to turn it on by touching anywhere on the faucet. You've seen the commercial about what hands can do, when they're covered in egg and paint and batter and plasticine and all manner of gross and disgusting things? It's true that sometimes you wish you could turn your faucet on to wash up with you wrist or elbow or nose or whatever, and NOW I CAN. By touching the faucet anywhere at all, with any part of me. Just another example of technology using it's power for good. And for clean.

My faucet is in the Arctic Stainless finish, but the collection is also available in Venetian bronze and chrome (which I'm actually secretly hoping I can exchange for, even though I've already opened the box, because I'm a total chrome junkie. I'll have to tweet them today and start my campaign of begging). Better yet, all the Pilar products feature Delta's Diamond Seal technology for "worry-free, leak-free, lasting durability." Which is awesome, because once my kids get their hands on it there's no telling what will happen: leaks with our existing faucet are frequent and prolific, so hopefully the Diamond Seal is tough enough to stand up to them!

So what is the universe trying to tell me, besides the fact that I was clearly meant to attend BlogPodium and that Delta is an awesome (and very generous) company? Clearly, that a kitchen renovation is in order! My husband swears I'm misinterpreting the universal feed but I swear it's true. How else can you explain winning a beautiful new faucet within the same 48 hours as the fridge breaks and has to be replaced? AND that I met a woman at BlogPodium who sprays kitchen cabinetry who is local to me? Obviously the powers-that-be feel the same way that I do and are proving it in spades: the kitchen needs an update ASAP. Now if they'd just float us a chunk of cash we could really kick this thing into high gear ....


PS - I wasn't paid or perked by Delta in any way to promote their product(s). I'm just super-excited to have won a fabulous faucet and wanted to give Delta some love! So a big, huge THANK YOU, Delta, for sponsoring the BlogPodium event and for supplying such a great contest prize!!

  

28 May 2012

BlogPodium II: The Rundown!

This weekend was a super-busy one around the Money Pit: we bought a new fridge (yay!) after the old one cacked out on us again (and since there are only so many straws this camel can take, it was time to give it the old heave-ho and replace it with one that won't give us the botulism any time soon). Littlest got her social butterfly on, and the house was a revolving door of giggling, screeching, bouncing, babbling 9-year-old girls. We cooked, we cleaned, some of us played a lot of video games and oh, did I mention? I also attended a little event called BlogPodium on Saturday; maybe you've heard of it?

The brainchild of bloggers extraordinaire Lindsay Stephenson {Aubrey + Lindsay's Little House Blog} and Jennifer Flores {Rambling Renovators}, BlogPodium is a one-of-a-kind conference series specifically for Canadian design bloggers (though bloggers of any stripe would find the content helpful and worthwhile), designed to build, support and promote the blogging community. It was by sheer good luck that I was able to squeak in to the inaugural seminar (held in January at IDS2012); I was wait-listed for a ticket and by chance another blogger dropped out with just days to spare. I was beyond excited to attend, which Lindsay can attest to: I stalked her pretty much every five minutes for two days straight to confirm my registration and that there would, in fact, be a ticket in my name and that I wouldn't be turned away at the door. My ticket was indeed waiting and the very first BlogPodium was, if possible, even better and more worthwhile than I had hoped. Every bit of information was valuable, and being in the same room as so many accomplished bloggers made me start thinking very differently - bigger, and more seriously - about the Money Pit. So when Jen and Lindsay announced a second seminar to take place in early summer, I knew I was going to be first in line for tickets.
BlogPodium's sophomore efforts did NOT disappoint! It sounds cheesy, but I honestly loved every. single. SECOND of it. First up to the podium was the incomparable Nicole Balch, author and curator of uber-blog Making it Lovely (and striking one off of her life list, no less, with her very first trip to the great white north), whose keynote address was honest, engaging and hugely informative.


I took pages ~ literally, pages ~ of notes, ranging from the fundamental (types of advertising/sponsorship; basic ad sizing; general guidelines around when to begin soliciting advertisers) to the detailed (pros vs. cons of utilizing the services of ad networks). Here are some of my key take-aways:
   

  • On content ~ "Anything I would want to read on another blog is fair game for mine."
  • On getting started ~
    • 10,000+ page views per month is a solid threshold from which to start courting advertisers
    • Offer inexpensive rates (or for free!) until established
    • As traffic grows, increase your rates correspondingly
    • At 50,000+ page views per month, consider representation with an ad network
  • On ad types ~
    • Direct sales (to boutique companies {ie.Etsy}); generally buttons sized 125x125 or similar
    • Network Co's (under contract; larger blogs only); generally buttons sized 300x250 or similar
    • Text links
    • Affiliate links
    • Google ads 
    • Sponsored posts
  • On rates ~
    • Collaborate with other bloggers to create pricing consistency (see what others are charging, and charge approximately the same)
    • Placement matters: ads located "above the fold" ("ATF," or before the jump) may demand a higher price than those located below the fold ("BTF," or after the jump)
    • By employing shifting ad positions, you can ensure all ads share an equal amount of time ATF and therefore can charge the same {higher} rate to all advertisers
  • On contacts ~ It never hurts to ask for what you want! The worst a vendor can say is no, and rejection is never personal. Take the rejections and move on; take the acceptances and move forward!

And while we were still scribbling furiously to commit all of Nicole's hugely helpful advice to paper, the stage was taken up by the expert panel: fab bloggers Christine Dovey {Bijou and Boheme} and none other than Lindsay Stephenson herself, Cheryl Kozoriz of Gluckstein Home, Laura Muirhead of Tribal DDB, and moderating the whole she-bang, the always lovely Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault.


Conversation was lively and all four ladies were brutally and beautifully honest; there were more than a few moments of "calling it like it is," which, at least for me, were some of the most rewarding moments of the discussion. Key take-aways (for me) from the panel were:

  1. Approach vendors that match the editorial arch and aesthetic of your blog
  2. ALWAYS identify yourself as Canadian to brands/sponsors (especially to Canuck companies)
  3. Brands are looking for true partners: what you can offer them in terms of amplification (your "reach" to your audience, including the blog and other social media outlets [twitter, facebook, instagram, pinterest, tumblr])
  4. Don't be shy: REACH OUT! If brands aren't coming to you (yet), go to them
  5. When approaching brands/vendors, put the time and energy into creating a quality pitch. Take your blog (and your requests) seriously, and potential partners will too
  6. Build relationships with the vendors you'd like to partner with before you ask to partner with them. Cold calling is a flash-in-the-pan touch-point but established relationships keep you top of mind
  7. Understand the analytics of your blog, and be prepared to communicate them (both formally and informally)
  8. If you're a young blogger, "fake it 'til you make it." {refer to point #5)
  9. Expand your brand/blog by reaching out to other bloggers and building/maintaining relationships within the community
  10. Giveaways are win-win, but avoid being an advertising reel for vendors. Important to find the balance between ad info and original content
  11. ALWAYS be 100% transparent about what you're doing, and who you're doing it with/for. Label sponsored posts and identify advertisers, so your readers are aware. Authenticity is the key to building your brand, and your brand is the key to advertising partnerships. Everyone needs to feel good about these relationships, and honesty is always the best (and most ethical) policy
  12. Stay informed: check out womma.org for appropriate disclosures around giveaways and compensation
  13. Don't forget about Revenue Canada! They like a little piece of your blog too (at least, the part you're earning money on). If you're accepting income, either in advertising dollars or as gifts-in-kind, it all needs to be claimed

Of course, what stylish blogger event would be complete without a stylish reception? Following the formal presentation component of the day, Lindsay and Jen outdid themselves in planning an superb cocktail party. The food, the drinks and especially the company were absolutely fabulous. Here's a little photo montage of the festivities, which I may or may not have put together to make you a little jealous:



Awww, yeah baby! And those little tartlets in the third photo? Um, to die for. Just sayin'.

And last but certainly not least, a BIG SHOUT OUT to all the aws-mazing sponsors of the BlogPodium event. Not only did they arrive with some fab giveaways in hand (because really, let's be serious for a second: who doesn't like free stuff?! No one, that's who) but their genuine interest in connecting and fostering relationships with bloggers is as much exciting as it is {potentially} lucrative for all parties. Opportunities for partnership abound and it's fantastic to engage with vendors who not only support the blogging community but actively seek to forge partnerships. So THANK YOU to each and every one of the sponsors: it was wonderful meeting you!

{ via }

There's so much more to tell you but if I give away all of BlogPodium's secrets in the recap, what would incite you to come? And you definitely should come: rumour has it there will be another seminar in the fall so if you haven't already, click over to the official BlogPodium page and sign up for the BP newsletter. It pays to be notified early as tickets go lightening-fast!

And if you've been admiring the beautiful photos in today's post (as well you should: they're incredible), you might be interested to know they're the work of Mango Studios. There are some incredibly talented artists at Mango so if you've got a mo', click on over to their website and give them some love. They deserve it.

Thank you again to Jen and Lindsay for all your hard work, and especially for your commitment to the blogging community. BlogPodium truly is an inspired series, and I look forward to being part of the phenomenon for as long as you'll have me! (or at least, for as long as you'll sell me tickets :)

xo April

PS - Have you noticed the new pages? No? My sidebar reading list was growing a titch out of control, so I've made a few changes in the form of dedicated pages for my blog roll links. Check out the Canuck Style page for my list of fave Canadian blogs, and International Style for all the blogs I {heart} in the US and overseas. And of course it goes without saying (but I'll say it anyway): if you're not on the list and you want to be, just shoot me an email! I'm all about the community, 'yo ... :)

  

14 May 2012

'AIEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!'

I don't know if you heard it, but it totally happened.

On Sunday, after my teenager slept in until noon (longer than I did!) and the little one took a brief break from her video games, we all sat around the dining room table in our pajamas and I was presented with this:


{ via }

It was, of course, exactly what I wanted, so kudos to the family for a) remembering and b) taking a mo' out of their day to pick it up for me. They don't read the blog, you see (one's too young, one doesn't care and one "forgets" pretty regularly), so getting them to pick up on hints (even ones as direct as, Please give me THIS book. THIS ONE. The author is Jenny Lawson ... L-A-W-S-O-N ... The Bloggess. You can get it at Indigo, I'm sure they have lots. Here's some money.) are sometimes hit-and-miss.

This time, though, was a BIG HIT! Out of the park!! Because I was given this book, I now own this book, and I love this book. And I've been doing the ugly cry-laugh since yesterday at dinner.

But my Mother's Day wasn't all about the freakish adventures of The Bloggess (regardless of how many times I came across an anecdote that made me say to myself, Oh my god, that totally happened to me. Which explains so much about me, actually.). It was also, most importantly, about this:

Rest stop at Mount Nemo

Looking over the edge of the world cliff
Spelunking
My boys


I am blessed, on Mother's Day and every day. Hope your weekend ~ be you a mother, father, grandparent, aunt, uncle or anyone who loves someone else and is loved in return ~ was equally as special.

xo April

11 May 2012

Happy Mother's Day, Peeps!

Mother's Day is traditionally a pretty laid-back affair around our house and this year is shaping up to be no different, which is exactly the way I like it. Our weekend (because I do flog the mama's day holiday for an ENTIRE weekend) will consist of a movie tonight with the little one and her BFF ~ hopefully with screaming tons of buttery popcorn ~ a family wedding tomorrow afternoon and barbecue in the evening, and finally a nice long sleep-in on Sunday followed by a long walk around the conservation area with the kids and dog, and a homey, homemade mac'n'cheese dinner. Like I said, pretty low key.

And our break from tradition doesn't just extend to holiday activities. While most moms are looking forward to receiving a bunch of these ...

{ via }

... or one or two pieces of this ...

La Coco Rope Necklace in turquoise, by Stella & Dot

... maybe a bit of this ...

{ via }


... and of course, who can forget the most eponymous Mother's Day gift ...

{ via }

All of these gifts are lovely (and I wouldn't say no to that necklace, were it to show up in a gift box) but they're not for me. Nope, I'm more of a THIS gift kind of girl:

{ via }

If you've never heard of Jenny Lawson (aka The Bloggess) or read her amazing, spectacular, hilarious and deeply honest and personal blog, you definitely should. The Bloggess is a major force in the blogging world and, by extension, on Twitter too (earlier this year her personal plea to Simon Pegg for a photo of him holding twine ~ it's a long story ~ started a WORLDWIDE trend. It was awesome, and I was happy to be teeny tiny part of the global ridiculousness). I was first introduced to her by accident through someone else's link to her post about Beyonce the giant metal chicken, and I've never looked back. This woman literally makes me cry, laughing (and not just a little teary, either. I'm not ashamed to say I do the ugly cry-laugh every time). Seriously, the woman is my hero and I don't say that lightly.

Most recently, Jenny's genius has been distilled into her "mostly true" memoir and I am desperate to read it. If it's even half as funny as her blog, I will have full blown laugh-snorts and a stomach stitch going on within five minutes of cracking the cover. So I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my peeps are on their way to the book store today to pick up my very own copy; you'll know if it happened because you'll hear me squealing "AIEEEEEEEEEEEEE!" in excitement halfway across the country. That's a true story: I'm pretty loud. And also I'll totally blog about it on Monday.

So to all my fellow moms out there, I wish you a very happy Mama's Day weekend. I hope your day is filled with love from all the special people in your life. And be sure to check out Louise's celebration of our big day in her Coffee, Tea, a Drink ... or Three? post. She's having a little tea party and yours truly is included!


Til Monday, y'all!

09 May 2012

Wordless Wednesday, But With Words





Two amazing little girls, BFFs like only 9-year-olds can be, movin' right along on a Sunday morning hike ...

... racing, chasing, skipping and laughing ...

... intrepid butterfly and rattlesnake hunters ...

... admiring the sun and the view, and careful not to step on the Trilliums ...

... eco-warrior Princesses, protecting bugs from being stepped on ...

... future botanists or biologists, or brave little spelunkers! ...

all in a day's work.



Linking up with more Wordless(ish) Wednesday posts
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and
 then, she {snapped}          

  

08 May 2012

Foodie Tuesday | Garlicky White Bean & Chicken Soup with Dark Greens

After a weekend of more than a little over-indulging in the rich-and-tasty (read: fattening) food department, D. and I decided we wanted something a little lighter for dinner last evening to kick-start a week of healthier eating. Inspired by the return of the cooler weather I definitely felt like a soup was in order, and in a grand total of 20 minutes I whipped up this deliciousness. If you're looking for a quick and easy, healthy and delicious weeknight meal that will render LOTS of leftovers (and may also factor heavily in your anti-vampire arsenal), give it a whirl! I promise you won't be disappointed.



GARLICKY WHITE BEAN & CHICKEN SOUP WITH DARK GREENS
Preparation: 20 minutes | Cooking Time: the longer, the better, but minimum 30 minutes | Serves: 10-12

Ingredients:
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tsp oregano
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 4 cubes chicken bouillon
  • 1 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 2 cans white kidney or navy beans, with liquid
  • 10 cups water, divided into 2 cups and 8 cups
  • 3 large chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
  • 5 - 10 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • 6 cups dark greens
    (I prefer kale, but spinach or Swiss chard or any dark green of your choice will work)
  • Salt and pepper

Cooking Directions:
  1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat
      
  2. Add garlic, bay leaves and oregano; saute until fragrant (approximately 1 minute)
      
  3. To the garlic, add tomato paste and 2 cups of water. Bring to a low boil, then crumble all 4 chicken bouillon cubes into the mix along with the sugar, and stir until dissolved. Lower heat to medium-low.
      
  4. Add both cans of beans with liquid; stir to combine. Add the remaining 8 cups of water plus Tabasco sauce
      
  5. Finely shred the chicken breasts and add to broth. Let simmer for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste (the broth will need very little salt, on account of the bouillon, but add substantial amounts of pepper. I usually use 1/2 - 1 tsp)
      
  6. Meanwhile, wash the dark greens thoroughly and roughly chop. Add to soup.
      
  7. Simmer on medium-low for minimum 30 minutes, but ideally for an hour or more. The longer you can leave the soup to cook, the more the flavours will mellow and blend. Kale is especially well-adapted to longer cooking times, as it retains its crispness unlike spinach, etc.
      
  8. Serve hot topped with shaved fresh Parmesan cheese and crusty bread. It will definitely taste like a second bowl, or a third!

Bon appetit!

{adapted from this recipe at The Nourishing Gourmet}
 

07 May 2012

The Gratitude Project: An Update

Way back when at the turn of the new year, I mentioned my project for 2012: chronicling all the blessings in my life, one day at a time. As I said at the time, too often I find myself bogged down in the negative and mundane, and too often I was missing all the small, nuanced, wonderful moments of my life.

I decided, instead, to make a commitment to notice all those unnoticed blessings, and that 2012 would be the year of my unending gratitude. And after four months, I thought you might be interested in an update on the project.

In brief, it's going very well! It took quite a bit of time to fall into the habit of recording those blessings on a daily basis: often in the beginning I would forget for a day or two and have to force myself to sit back and reflect on the few days previous in order to mine the gold from each day. By March, however, it had become a habit, and now I look forward each night to those few moments sitting quietly and reviewing the events of the day; finding that one bright spot (often among many) that stood out as being particularly sweet or satisfying or delightful. And though I won't give away the entire show until December 31st of this year ~ when all 365 blessings are accounted for ~ here's a sneak peek of some of the wonders of my life, one day at a time ...

365 Blessings
January
01       Time spent with family (on the couch, in our pyjamas, watching movies) is time well shared
18       My eldest, who made me a grown up and us a family ~ happy birthday, “Little” Kilf
19      “Girl’s” lunches with my best girl
February
01      Spontaneous afternoon naps
05      Reading a novel start to finish in one day
March
07      Fleece blankets
11      Reconnecting with family, and laughing until we cramp up
25      Free tea and donuts! (courtesy of ‘roll up the rim’)
 
April
13      Playing dress-up with the little one to get her ready for “Super Hero Day” at school
15      Finding the humour in things going all wrong
25      Lights that need replacing are standard size, rather than custom
May
03      Energy. And clarity
06      The smell of freshly mown grass drifting in through open windows
What are you grateful for?