Monday, 29 October 2012

Most Popular Post: Elmo takes the cake

I like looking at stats. Numbers. All so orderly. It just gives me chills. As I look at my blog stats every few days, there is one thing that is consistent. The number of pageviews I get from a single post: my How to make an Elmo cake post. It is ALWAYS the highest ranking, and has been since I published it. I'm guessing it is because my post title matches so well with search criteria. The most popular being:

  1. how to make an elmo cake
  2. how to make elmo cake
  3. how to make a elmo cake
Coming in a close fourth is "wedding cake disasters" search keywords which leads me to my second most popular post of a wedding cake delivery gone terribly wrong for me. Very little writing, but in this case, the picture told it all. It's still painful for me to look at. I guess a lot of people like to look at painful things. 

So, what's the point of this little exercise? At first I thought maybe I should change how I write my blog post titles, and even the subjects, to garner the most views and bigger audience. I could research trends and write that way. But I don't want to do that. I don't write this blog because I want a huge following. I write because I find something that interests me and if it interests someone else, that's all good. I like to share what I know, and start conversations. I believe that information should be free. It's why, to the chagrin of many of my colleagues, I don't mind giving away the "secrets of the trade" or sharing my recipes when someone calls to ask me. Don't get me wrong, I expect to be paid for teaching a class because I'm preparing and delivering information in a specific way, but my advice is free. 

Does that mean I'll stop looking at stats. Absolutely not. I still love the chilly feeling of looking at numbers. 

Friday, 26 October 2012

Let's do the time warp, again.

I like all kinds of music, but I mostly have two channels: oldies and modern rock. Oldies are good to sing along to, clean the house, work, listen in the car with the kids. Modern rock I love for hard beats, edgy tunes. You know, modern rock like Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, The Tragically Hip, hey...wait a second.

Where exactly did I lose a decade of my life? Ok, to be fair, the Hip are still around and awesome, but if I look at a list of my go-to songs, I realize that most of them are from over 10 years ago, a lot over 20. What happened? Did I step through a worm hole and disrupt the time-space continuum? Did I watch too much Star Trek? Apparently, I've just been a mother for the last 10 years. Losing track of the little things to take care of other little things.

I assume the next time I wake up will be when the kids are in university. Mumford and Sons better still be popular! Help me catch up. What's in your Walkman? ;)

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

New look!

Hee hee! It's finally done. So.... what do you think? About my new blog look, that is.

I do so like to mess around with different looks, and changing up a blog template is a little frightening, if not downright terrifying. I was afraid I'd lose all my information, that I wouldn't get my widgets back. [Who likes losing widgets?] But it's over now, and I can breathe.

My design came from here: Very straightforward instructions, but you need to be a teensy tiny bit tech savvy to troubleshoot any issues.

My follow buttons came from here: Super easy and no registration needed, unless you'd like to track results.

Cost: Free (unless you count the hours searching online for usable tools that I actually like.)

I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Tat's all, moms!

Since I knew they existed, I've wanted a tattoo. I love the idea of body art and expression. [Even if right now, I seem to be expressing my body's love of medium double doubles.]

A few years ago, after many years, pregnancies, and discussions with my husband, I finally took the plunge. I was ready. But what to get? And where?

I knew for sure I wasn't going to go for anything "girly". No roses on my ankle, or unicorn on my butt. Puh-lease. When I was a teenager I wanted a scorpion with its tail wrapping itself around my breast. Yeah...if I had gotten that, it would definitely be hidden now! So, what design did I want permanently inked on my body. I briefly considered getting my husband's name tattooed accross my back Black Dagger Brotherhood
style, but recalled that I was a sensible woman. What is the one constant that would never change. Ever. My kids. No contest. But how? Their faces? Names? Hand prints? I decided for a little whimsy that included my penchant for all things ladybug. Something that was uniquely mine, just like my little beasts.

Design: check.
Tattoo artist: check - one of my girlfriends had a trusted artist: Boris. I trusted my friend, and I liked that work she had done by him.
Body part: not so fast, Mama.

Where, where, where? My shoulder? No. Legs? Ridiculous. Face? Come on. I realized it needed to go on the trunk of my body. Somewhere I could see it and appreciate it, so not on my back or bum. Boobs? Absolutely not. That leaves only one area, my friends. Somewhere on my belly or hips. I figured, with such a wide expanse of canvas, surely there would be a few square inches to spare for a little art.

Picture this: I'm lying on the table in Boris' work room. My dress [don't wear a dress to get a tattoo on your abdomen - knowing is half the battle] is rucked up around my waist. Professional Dr. Boris [it helped me to imagine I was at the doctor and this was a routine shaming] is peering at my belly, poking and prodding and muttering things like "hmmmm...maybe it can fit many...this about..." and so on and so forth until I asked exactly what was going on. He told me he was trying to find the best place for my masterpiece. I pointed to an area near my left hip. He answered with a cryptic "Too many." Too many what?

Stretch marks. 

How ironic that I wanted a tattoo to represent my kids, but I couldn't get it because of the number of stretch marks acquired due to creating said kids. Did you know that you can't get a tat over stretch marks because the skin is too thin and will break? Neither did I.

Boris the Magnificent did find a place [gee, thanks] high up on my flank and all went well. It took about half an hour of pinching pain, but the result was exactly what I wanted.

My Tattoo [and stretch marks]

Two little ladybugs, with vines and tendrils that make up the years my bugs were born. Can you see it?

Do you have any body art? Are you given any flak about it?

Monday, 15 October 2012

Business Bathroom Decor: How NOT to

To follow the theme of October as small business month, I would like to draw your attention to an overlooked part of many places of business: the washroom. This tiny little room often speaks volumes of what you think of your customers. I guess it must be a required afterthought for most people. But I can't be the only customer to have ever cringed when entering a disgusting little hole of what was originally thought of as a nice store/restaurant/office.

To date, I've not heard of anyone who doesn't need to use the facilities now and again. Why not make it as pleasant for customers in there as in your showroom? I'm not even going to touch on the cleanliness aspect, because that should be a given, but I would like to show a couple pics of the washroom of a coffee shop that shall remain nameless.

This is what greeted me when I turned the [sticky] handle of the door. An empty frame. Perhaps an existential statement on art? Doubtful. Maybe they had an original that was stolen? Riiiiight. What I do know is that the owners were too lazy to put something in and just left an empty picture frame on the wall above a sketchy toilet. I would also like to draw your attention to the reflection of the uncovered fluorescent lighting. Nice touch. 

And this? A handwritten sign on a ripped piece of paper, right above the tp dispenser. At first glance, am I to understand that the hand dryer should be used instead of toilet paper? For what? After thinking for a moment, you realize they mean that the hand dryer should be used instead of toilet paper to dry your hands. But the Girl was with me, and asked "how on earth am I supposed to dry my bum if the dryer is so high!!?"

What's not shown: The exposed industrial-sized plunger; cleaning supplies; dirty rags; a mop and bucket.

I understand space constraints in a small shop. Really, I do. [I have all of 250 sqft for my showroom and washroom]. But there is really no excuse. There is always room for a sink. Instead of using a hanging wall sink, get a cabinet. At least you can hide your cleaning tools and extra supplies. If there is absolutely no room for your mop and bucket, at least make it pretty. But if there's room for your extra stock, there is room for that. Cover the exposed necessaries. There are plunger covers, toilet brush holders etc.

It really made me reevaluate the postage stamp of a washroom I have in my shop. Because the building predates the current construction/accessibility codes, my washroom is about 4'x5'. Yep. Tiny. I have room for a sink and toilet. But, it's completely tiled, halfway up the wall (to make it easy to clean) and everything but the plunger (in a holder) and toilet brush (in a holder) is hidden. Extra tp is not on the floor, it's under the sink in the cabinet. Same goes for cleaning supplies. I don't treat this room as a storage room. There's not a lot in the way of decoration, but it's clean, has decent [covered] lighting and doesn't scare people. I treat it as a place that my customers will see, use and judge the quality of my business. As well they should.

Am I being too picky again? Are you as crazy about this as I am?

Friday, 12 October 2012

Easy and cheap 3-minute Halloween wreath!

When making crafts, I usually only have 2 criteria: easy and cheap. I don't mind working at it for hours or days at a time, but luckily this one took me all of 3 minutes to make.

The inspiration came from pinterest [as usual]:

Pinterest Link
It's been sitting on Christmas board forever, but I hadn't gotten around to it yet. I thought about it again as I was walking through Michael's for some inspiration/instant gratification on Halloween decor. I saw some cute wreaths, but they were well over my budget of as-cheap-as-possible. They did bring to mind the aforementioned pin though. Handily enough, there was a dollar store right next door! I figured I'd pick up a wreath form, a couple boas and some little accents and I would be all set. Here's how it all went down:

Step 1: Gather supplies
I bought a 1m feather boa ($2) and a sparkly hanging sign ($2). 
[They didn't have any wreath forms, so I used a wire hanger from home.]

Step 2: Bend the hanger
I just stretched out the hanger until it was a rough square shape. 

Step 3: Start wrapping the boa around the hanger.
No need to secure it in any way, just wrap and wrap. To make my wreath I only needed 1 boa to go around a standard hanger.

 Step 4: All wrapped up.
I left the hook part up at this point.

Step 5: Add your decoration.
Since I chose a hanging sign to begin with, I slipped it over the top. The wire of the sign hangs over the wire of the hanger.

 Step 6: Hang it up and bask in your awesomeness. 
When I hung it on my door, I realized I didn't like the hook of the hanger, so I bent it back and wrapped it around the rest of the hanger. This also served to keep the boa in place. If you're having issues, use some thread to hang and secure. 

That's it. The kids loved it. What do you think? 

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Top 5 Mom-Specific Business Skills

So, you're not sure you've got what it takes to run a business? Are you just just a mom? [What a terrible thing to say!] I've been a mom for over 9 years, and a business owner for over 6 years. In yesterday's post I promised a list of skills that moms have in spades. There are definitely many, many skills you need to run a business, but here are my...
Top 5 Mom-Specific Transferable Skills:

1. Multitasking Prioritizing: Chances are, you can change a diaper, wipe a spill, pull up a child from the floor, talk on the phone, check your text messages and prevent a building block tower from collapsing seemingly all at the same time. We all know this is impossible, since we only have two hands, yet it happens. The reason for this is that we know how to prioritize. We know what needs to get done first, even if it's in rapid-fire time. This translates well to business when you wake up in the morning and you know there are 17 activities that must be accomplished and you need to decide which one to do first.

2. Patience: We've all gone through the stages of reading the same book every night for 63 weeks. Singing the same song over and over again. Answering the same questions every day. We may not like it, but we do it knowing that the stage will pass and we will be rewarded. This is the same for standing in line waiting for permits. Dealing with suppliers. Answering the same questions from customers over and over again. Keep at it. As long as you're doing something that is of value to someone, your reward will come.

3. Salesmanship: If you've ever had to convince your child that broccoli is the superhero of the dinner plate or that sweet potatoes are "just like candy!" and succeeded, you will do well in sales. If you've ever extolled the benefits of bathing more than once a week and had sweet-smelling success, you can make it in the business world. You know that the benefits ["Broccoli makes you strong!"] outweigh the features ["Broccoli has lots of vitamins!"] and that's what sells.

4. Empathy: You understand your kids. You understand that their feelings are just as important as yours. They have thoughts and ideas that are worth sharing. When you put forth the effort to understand them and function on their level, without being condescending or patronizing, you both have a rewarding experience. You must do the same for your customers. They have a need that you can fill. If you can understand what that need is and how you can serve it [not sell it], you will gain their trust and their business.

5. Saying "NO": This would seem to be an easy one for moms. I can say it a thousand times a day and not blink an eye. "Can I have cupcakes for breakfast?:" No. "Can I leave off cleaning the table tonight?" No. "Can my sister and I hit that wasp nest with a baseball bat?" No. See? Easy peasy. How does this translate to a business skill? It's important to know that it's okay to say no to demands that are beyond what you can offer. "I didn't want to pay that much. Can you do it for less?" No. "I need 75 of your products for tomorrow morning, can you deliver that by 8am?" No. "If you do it for free, I'll tell all my friends. It'll be really good advertising for you." No. Like with kids, you pick your battles. Think about whether a request is reasonable, and if it's not, or doesn't fit in with your vision, then it is okay to say no. Your business will not collapse because of one "no". And it won't collapse after 50 or 100 times either.

Do you agree with these as the "top 5"? What are your top 5 skills?

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

October is small business month!

That's right. October is "unofficially" known as Small Business Month in Canada. It's a time when small businesses are recognized and highlighted in their communities for their accomplishments. In my city, we have a Small Business Enterprise Centre and they go all out. Last week it was a [free] series of lunch and learn sessions. I attended Wednesday's networking and marketing session. Fab as usual. I also took a "Pledge to Proper" which means that I will work to accomplish a goal [hold a grand opening] that I set out, within the month.

Owning and running your own business is such a satisfying, if at times daunting, undertaking. Doing it with kids underfoot is just short of insane, but not impossible. It can be done. Sometimes the steps you need to take are not quite as big as other business owners, but that's when you remember that little people can't keep up with you unless you're going at their pace, and you wouldn't want to lose your little people along the way.

There are so many programs, networks, and support groups out there for women business owners and even specifically mom-run businesses. Most of these resources are free - you just have to look for them. If you're wondering whether, as a mom, you have transferable skills that would help you own and run a business, tune in tomorrow when I'll share my top mom-made transferable skills.

Do you have a small business? Are you considering starting one up? Share your website in the comments!

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

WW: September Cakes

Here are a few of my favourite cakes from September. I won't list all of them, but if you'd like to see more of my work, you can visit my other site at or on facebook at

What's been coming out of your kitchen this past month? With October in full swing, do you make a baking schedule?

free modern buttercream cake decorating class at

Monday, 1 October 2012

5-Minute Cleaning: Results

So... remember when I was talking about my 5-minute plan, and how I was hoping to keep it up for a month, or at least 2 days in a row. Well, I clearly didn't account for this weekend when I had 5 major cake orders, a wedding to attend and the bridal shower of my best friend, for whom I am the matron of honour. Yeah, so that whole 2-days-in-a-row thing didn't quite work out as planned. However, being the ever-positive soul that I am, I will focus on the fact that I did manage 2 rooms. Yippee! 

I don't want you to be scared when you see couple of the following pictures. No, my house wasn't hit by a freak, indoor whirlwind. No, we weren't ransacked and robbed. And no, we weren't attacked by a herd of angry wildebeests. This is just your standard after-school ridiculousness. 

My front hall: 
I feel a little queasy looking at this!
 Note the Man's sandals, artfully posed as if walking out the door, the papers that are seemingly thrown out of backpacks with disgust. Half a bathing suit. (?!?!?!) The 50lb box of kitty litter. *shudder*

After 5 minutes:
Not a terrible job.
Yes, the kitty litter was still there (it has since been removed) but only because I could not carry that thing down the stairs. I can carry a 50lb kid up to bed, but this box did not elicit the same feeling of love from me. 

I want to say it looks worse that it really is, but it really is worse than it looks!
Is it sad that I couldn't find a clear place to put my "Before" text? 

After 5 minutes:
Hey! There's a floor!
So, here's the scoop again: yes, I truly took only 5 minutes to clean. I obviously didn't do a deep-clean, but I also tried not to "stash and dash". I gave myself an additional 5 minutes to put things back in their proper places if they didn't belong in the family room. [If you're wondering: no, we don't have a tv.]It's not perfect, but at least if someone pops in, they won't immediately start offering condolences and apologize for dropping in at such a trying time. 

I think the most important success factor here was two-fold: First off, I set the timer for only 5 minutes. Secondly, I gave myself permission to stop once that timer rang. I knew that once it went off, I could move on to the next project, or if I wanted to sweep (which, crazily enough, I did!) I could.  That truly is the key. Normally I think that if I'm going to do it, then I better do it perfectly, or why bother with it at all. But even a little bit can make a huge difference, and perfection can come later [read: never]. It's pretty amazing how much I can do in just 5 minutes!

What can you do in 5 minutes? Have any cleaning tips for me?

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