small business + small steps

photo via flickr

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed these days, like there's so much to do that I don't know where to begin. January is just motoring along and it's beginning to make me anxious about all things I want to do this year, namely, launch English Muffin into the stratosphere. Lately, I've been feeling like my thought process is one big roundabout with no clear place for me to safely enter and merge with the rest of the cars. For example, I want to re-design my website, but that doesn't make sense until I re-shoot my product photos, which shouldn't happen until I have created and printed my new designs, but I don't feel comfortable starting those until I've really developed a clear vision for English Muffin, that can't be done until I've researched for at least a few hundred hours about how to run a "real" business.

You can see how I might feel a bit overwhelmed. So today is all about researching for future research. I've found some really interesting blogs, videos and websites about how to run your own small business. Reading the thoughts of people who are professionals in this field has already raised a few flags in head - things I had thought were true, or never really questioned to begin with, that I know see differently. I'll be honest, I don't have a business brain, but I am determined to make it a least a little bit more business-y asap. Somewhere along the way business became an evil word for me, perhaps all those years as a contemporary dancer, hmmm.

Of course, I want to share all my discoveries with you. So here are some goodies from today's spoils. I hope you find them as helpful and business-y as I did. And if you have any of your own small business gems, I'd love to hear about them.

- my new obsession
1000 True Fans - what a concept!
Seth Godin - marketing guru
Design*Sponge Biz Ladies - I've read every one, some of them twice. Practical advice from the experts
BAKERY blog - they've even got an online course that I really want to take

Have a great weekend,


My Downtown: Vienna

My Downtown

A few weeks ago I saw kate's 'your downtown' photos on Montreal featured on the blog reading my tea leaves. I loved the idea of sharing little snippets from your own personal downtown so much, that I mentioned to Erin I would be interested in sending her some photos of Vienna too. So, last weekend while out doing a few errands, Big Chuck and I snapped some photos. I'd love for you to check them out, and Erin's lovely blog too. Thanks Erin :)

Happy Thursday,


flickr/my faves

flickr faves

To see all my faves go here.

It's interesting to look at all the photos I fave on Flickr over a couple weeks. I think it ends up beign a pretty good representation of all my favourite things.

top left corner: some beautiful save the dates
2 hops right: a little inspirational quote
1 hop left, and 1 down: Charles and Ray Eames on a motorcycle - cool!
4 hops right: fish and a dock and a cottage-y feeling
2 down: nice
1 down, 2 hops left: a dancer, I used to be that cute
3 left, 1 up: swimming, I love the water - I'm a Pisces afterall
1 hop down: a striped shirt and camera, two favourites in one

Have a great Wednesday :)


9 years ago today...

summer 2001
... I had my very first date, with this very cute boy.

We met for a drink at Gypsy Co-op and then went for a delicious Thai dinner on Queen Street in Toronto. I can remember so vividly my favourite things he said that night; how if he didn't find a suitable career, removing plastics bags from trees and ensuring restaurant tables weren't wobbly would be a very noble job indeed; how shopping in the off-season is when you can get the best bargains, and had I ever noticed that before?; and how we talked without stopping about our favourite books, our views on life, art, etc...

I can't believe it's been 9 years. It makes me a little teary to think about it all.

We have shared so many adventures Charlie Brown, and I hope it never ends...


(photo: Summer 2001 on Drag Lake, taken by Bess Callard)


julius meinl

The Little Coffee Boy

This weekend, while strolling through the city, we decided to stop by Julius Meinl - Austria's prettiest supermarket (at least, in my opinion). I'm so happy I had my camera with me, because once I started shooting, it was hard to stop. The Little Coffee Boy in the photo above is the company's logo. He was originally designed in 1924 by Viennese artist Josef Binder to "combine Turkish Sultanate and Arabic traditions with those of the Baroque Angels of European architecture."


The store is full of products from all over Europe, all beautifully designed and I'm sure delicious. The pasta section is quite inspired. So many colours of pasta (green, pink, yellow), and so many shapes (hearts, flowers, fortune cookies), but these bags really jumped out at me. I love the combination of the yellow with the black text, and that typeface is so cute.


French Macarons in the frozen food section, I could get used to that!


Big Chuck's favourite section: Beers of the World.


Hot cocoa mix pyramid. Just waiting for some curious little hands...


Oh the baked goods... we have a love/hate thing going on. Did you notice the little Meinl logo etched into the glass?


Wild packaging.


The freshly made truffles have their own section, between the exotic teas and the fancy marzipan creations.


We couldn't resist the meat counter (I can't believe I was a vegetarian for 10 years!). We got some prosciutto di parma and some parmesan encrusted salami - yum.


So there you have it - a delicious way to spend a Saturday afternoon. If you're in Vienna, do yourself a favour and visit Julius Meinl in person.

Julius Meinl
Am Graben 19
1010 Vienna

Have a wonderful Monday :)

(all photos: Bess Callard)


Valentine's Day Contest Entry

Cool Mom Picks and Etsy are having a Valentine's Day Colouring Card Contest (say that three time fast). The details are here and the deadline is 12pm midnight tonight . Here's my entry:

Cool Mom Picks Valentine's Card Entry

Keep your fingers crossed for me :)

valentine's day printables

printable valentine's cards

printable valentine's cards

I just wanted you to know that English Muffin is now selling Printable Valentine's Day Cards. They're perfect for kids both big and small to share with friends or among classmates. Come on by and take a peek - there must be someone you're bananas for ;)

Today's weather is partly sunny and cloudy, which means that for the first time in a while I was able to take out my camera and redo a few product shots. The weather here drives me crazy in the Fall and Winter, the sun hardly shines which means not only am I deficient in Vitamin D, but also that I have to brighten my photos in Photoshop a lot more than I would like. Oh well... only a few more months, right?!

Big Chuck and I don't have anything special planned for the weekend. I think tomorrow we'll go out and try to find me a pair of snow pants for our trip to Finland in February. Maybe grab a bite to eat at the World's Best Falafel Restaurant (can you believe it's located right here in Vienna!).

Have a great weekend :)


my mom always said...

'eat your vegetables' 8x10 print
'eat your vegetables' 8x10 print

... to 'eat your vegetables'!

Wouldn't this print be cute in your kitchen? I think so! I'm definitely going to be hanging this in our next apartment, the current one doesn't really have the space for kitchen art.

The 'eat your vegetables' print is the newest addition to my shop. I've got a fruit salad print on the go, I'll let you know when it's ready for public consumption - pun intended ;)

Have a great Thursday!


courtney & parry's wedding website

Courtney & Parry's wedding website

The lovely Ms. Courtney, soon to be Mrs. Parry (!) gave me permission to share her wedding website with you. I've been working on it for the past little while and am really pleased with how it turned out. We discussed a forest/animal friendly theme (Courtney and Parry live in an adorable little house in the woods) complete with Jack Pines and little birds. I also wanted to incorporate the images from their engagement photo shoot into the site, and played with the colour a bit to give them a warmer and more 'vintage' feel.

I always thought the land of web design would be my nemesis, but I actually really enjoyed working on this site. I tried to keep the format simple (I am a newbie after all) and let the colours, photos and artwork do the talking. I'd love to hear what you think, any tips/advice/etc...?

Have a great Wednesday :)


welcome + downhomeamy

Hi everyone!

I am so excited that there are so many new faces around here. Thanks so much for stopping by (and coming back)! Just a quick note for those of you who may not know, I'm Canadian (cringe, that sounds vaguely familiar to a beer commercial of days gone by). So, to pay tribute to the wonderful artists who come out of our little/big land, I devote each Tuesday to a new Canadian artist whose work I love. If you would like to see past artists and designers who have been featured, you can click on the "Canadiana" link under categories in the sidebar to the right. Also, if you know of anyone whose work you think I'd like please send me an email (bess [at] englishmuffinshop [dot] com), I'm always looking for awesome new Canadians ;)

Without further ado today's Canadiana Tuesday artist is downhomeamy

1... lunch bag (small)
2... lunch bag (small) close-up
3... lunch bag
4... snack pouch (small)

I love Amy's lunch bags, especially because of the adorable pocket for my napkin and cutlery! I found downhomeamy (great shop name) on Etsy where she sells aprons, napkins, tea towels, cards and more. Amy designs, illustrates, prints and sews original, handmade items for the home from her studio on the east-side of Vancouver.

To visit her website click here, or to go directly to her Etsy shop, click here.

Have a wonderful Tuesday!


le weekend + emersonmade

I spent this weekend working on my best-friend's wedding website and save the dates. Originally I hadn't intended on creating a website along with the stationary, but after looking through the pre-made sites online and not finding anything customizable enough, I decided to offer up my web-design services. Now, I must be honest here, I have only made a few websites in my short web-designer life, so this was the perfect opportunity to dive in and learn how to properly code a site. I've got to say - it wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be. I kept the design simple and focused on making it clean and clear and user-friendly. I'll have to ask her if she'd mind if I share it with you... hmmm?!

Being in wedding mode all weekend has got me thinking about my own wedding again... oh ya, remember that?! I think Big Chuck and I have come to a consensus that we are going to wait until the Summer of 2011. I know, it feels so far away - but now I have oodles of time to plan (and save for) the perfect event. Starting with the gorgeous handmade flowers from Emersonmade. They are so perfect. I think I might have to start with these flowers and design my entire wedding around them!

These would of course be for me...


And these for my mister...


And wouldn't these purses make perfect gifts for all my girlfriends?!


Hope you had a great weekend,

(photos: Emersonmade)


friday flickr faves

Friday Flickr Faves

I needed a little bit of cheering up this morning so I decided to play the favourites game on Flickr. You can check out all my faves right here. I'm sure I'm not the first person to have invented this little game, but let's pretend it's my very own bright idea.

Step 1: See a beautiful photo and click "Add to Faves"
Step 2: Click over to that photographer's Flickr page
Step 3: Click on their Favourites and add a new fave from their list to yours
Step 4: Repeat

A sure fire way to find some really great new photos on Flickr.

We're heading to a "Christmas Party" tonight, I know... I thought the holiday season was behind us too! Big Chuck's professor has a post-Christmas party every year around this time, apparently it's a tradition. Better start brushing up on my German!

Und du? (And you?) Any plans for the weekend?

Have a great weekend :)


daily drop cap

Daily Drop Cap - U
U by Jessica Hisch

Hi guys! This is going to be a quickie this morning. To be honest I forgot to get today's post ready last night and I'm about to head out the door to go to work. So what sprang into my mind for today's post but the awesome Daily Drop Cap series by Jessica Hisch that I have been following since it began (with the letter A).

U is for YOU, you lovely blog readers!

I hope you have a great day!


outfit - week 1

Lately, I've been spying on all the fun outfits of my fellow bloggers that are up on the new flickr group, bloganistas. The idea to start the group was simple enough... prove to the rest of the world (and maybe to ourselves as well) that bloggers don't spend the entire day in front of their computers in their pj's. I had wanted to post an outfit last week but... and here comes the big confession, I am so uninspired by my wardrobe at the moment. Before we moved to Vienna I had big dreams of soaking up all the European fashion trends and returning to Canada on holidays with amazing and envy-inducing new clothes. Sadly, this is not the case. I might have to nominate Vienna as the worst city in Europe for shopping (if you're under the age of 65).

At any rate, I've pulled up my socks and gathered my courage. Here is my offering to the bloganistas group. I'm going to try my best to do an outfit post every week, keeping in my that I am no fashion guru, just a girl who wants to dress a little snappier for her fiancé and her dog.

outfit week 1

'working from home' outfit

sweater: preloved, toronto (two sweaters made into one)

jeans: js denim, vienna (love the baggy jeans in the winter, all the better to hide my long johns under)

felt slippers: filzfaktor, vienna

How about you? Any outfits to share over at bloganistas? I'd love to see them :)

Happy Wednesday,

(photo: Bess Callard)


bliss in a teacup

bliss in a teacup

1. Vintage Rose Playing Card Magnets
Inspiration Hoop - tartan wool
Wooden Key Bookmark
Writing Slate

I love the vintage farm feel of the reused and reconstructed treasures I found in Bliss in a Teacup's Etsy shop. Each item is handmade with care in Vancouver, BC, by either Richard or Rebekah, or often both. I also can't get enough of the great styling in their photographs. It really brings together their whole line and makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside ;)

And... to check out Rebekah's awesome blog, bliss in a teacup, click here.

Have a great Tuesday!

(photos: bliss in a teacup)


Working weekend


Not much to report from the desk of English Muffin this Monday morning. I was all geared up on Friday for a big winter storm (50 - 80 cm of snow was predicted) that never materialized, it all came as rain instead. Needless to say we didn't venture to far from home. Both Big Chuck and I have some big projects on the go so we took advantage of the time to do some work. I got to listen to his presentation on tree rings (way over my head) a couple of times, and he got to listen to me go back and forth on a design project I can't seem to settle on. I'm designing my best-friend's wedding stationary and website and I want it to be perfect. The "problem" is that she loves everything I do and has basically given me free reign! So every five minutes I end up re-designing what I have so far. Do you ever find that? The less restrictions you have the more unsettled you are with your work? Don't get me wrong, I love working on it and more importantly being a part of her big day.

How about you? Did you do anything exciting this weekend?

Happy Monday :)

ps. Aren't those snowflakes amazing? I wish I could make magic like that with a pair of scissors and a piece of paper.

(photos: Decision Snowflakes)


dear sugar, it's over

Cereal boxes
photo: Alan Valek

Hi my name is Bess and I am a sugar and carbohydrate addict.

It's true, there is such a thing and I'm it. Last summer, in an effort to deal with some health issues, I went on a super strict detox/diet eliminating every grain of sugar and sprinkle of white flour from my food. I was an absolute success (for 5 weeks) and felt amazing. At the time, I was working from home so it was easy to plan meals and have healthy snacks on hand for when I was hungry. Big Chuck was in Australia, so the food I was eating didn't have to taste great so long as it followed my strict guidelines. It was a big challenge to feel satisfied at the end of the meal and I would crave a giant slice of white bread smeared in Nutella almost 24 hours a day for the first couple weeks. During that time I also experienced sugar/white flour withdrawal (!), it exists - I googled it.

Needless to say, this diet wasn't meant to be permanent, but a way to recalibrate my system and find a healthier and sustainable way to eat everyday. The holidays as well as some delicious brownies have thrown me off track so, one of my new year's resolutions is to take back control of what I'm eating. I figure an 80/20 balance should be do-able. 80 percent of the time I follow the rules and 20 percent of the time I get to indulge. It becomes tricky when you go out to dinner, or a party or want to do anything that involves other people and food/alcohol (so those situations would fall into the 20%). I think that's fair, no?

Do you have any resolutions that you'd like to share? I'd love to hear them!

Happy Weekend everyone :)

Update: I don't mean to say that I don't eat any sugar or carbs - just not the bad stuff, ie, foods heavy in refined sugar/fructose etc... (I still eat fruit for example) and foods that are made from primarily white flour like, pastries, pasta, some breads. I'm not a crazy diet lady - I swear!


schnee (sh-nay)


Some über-creative person in our building left us all a little present in the courtyard yesterday. Isn't it pretty?! We woke up yesterday morning (which by the way was a holiday!) to a city covered in snow. This is only the second time this year that we've had any real accumulation, and I love it! We took Tyke to the dog park and had a mini snowball fight (my aim really stinks), a perfect way to start the day.

Today I am officially back at work. Probably standing in front of a class of 4th graders trying to get their attention for the umpteenth time as you read this. I really enjoyed my extended break and the opportunity to work on English Muffin projects for the past couple weeks. I've been busy working on some surface designs for Juna Studios. It's a tricky process and I really have no idea if I'm any good at this kind of work. I wish I could share them with you to get some input, but alas I've got to keep them to myself.

Enjoy your Thursday


can I get an amen?

I've been finding the internet an incredibly inspiring place over the last few days, full of positive mantras, declarations of intentions, re-inventions, re-designs and general self-affirming statements. It must be January! My favourite, by far, was this one...

quote: Layne Beachley, found on The Bedlam of Beefy

Now go forth and get 'er done.

Happy Wednesday


teal and gold


Today I have a great little Canadian design company to share with you, teal and gold. The designers behind these beautiful wooden objects, Tyler and Kelly McKenzie, create their handcrafted pieces out of their Kelowna, British Columbia home. I found them via Poppytalk where they are participating in this month's handmade market. Big Chuck and I are big fans of anything wood and I could see us making many summer picnic memories with the lovely Picnic Tote below, and I quote "We bring you a finely handcrafted bent walnut bag, with durable latigo leather strapping and an attached vintage wool blanket. This bag has been designed around the standard 750ml wine bottle,a couple stemless glasses and maybe some cheese.". Yep, heaven...

Teal and Gold

Teal and Gold

Teal and Gold

One more thing - - - >
You can check out Teal and Gold's blog and follow them as they create this beautiful Nakashima inspired table.

Teal and Gold

I love how they put their logo on the little bow tie - cute!

(all photos: teal and gold)

Have a great Tuesday!


onwards + upwards


The new year has begun and, like many people, I'm looking at the next 365 (well, I guess now it's only 361) days ahead of me and trying to figure out how to make the most of them. My biggest personal goal is to get all my chickens in a line, or rather ducks in a row professionally and tackle the big question, 'How I can make a living doing what I love?'. This is a daunting task as I am sure many of you know. Initially, there is the other all important question - 'What is my dream job?'. I haven't necessarily nailed this down, but here are a few options:
  1. Queen of English Muffin ie, own my own business and be incredibly successful;
  2. Freelance Illustrator/Graphic Designer and part-time dancer (for those of you who don't know, I danced with a few different contemporary dance companies in my former Canadian life);
  3. Get a 'real' job, this would most likely involve going back to school to finish my graphic design degree.
To be honest, number 3 is really not a dream at all. The idea of going back to school makes me slightly depressed. I love learning, but at this point in my life I'm ready to take the bull by the horns and wrestle out a place for myself in the money making world rather than go back to school and spend another 2 or 3 years in limbo.

Number 1 on the other hand seems too good to be true, and on my craziest of crazy days I even think it might be possible. I have lots of ideas for English Muffin, ways to expand my line of children's art, paper goods and toys, as well as hopes of selling wholesale to brick and mortar shops. I have no idea how to be a savvy business lady but am inspired by so many of them I come across in internet-land. If there was ever a time to make a go of it I think it's now. The web is full of resources, info and examples of how to do something that 10 years ago I would have thought close to impossible for me to achieve, having my own business. I also have - and I think this is the most important - incredibly supportive people in my life. I can be so critical of myself, I couldn't imagine if those around me were naysayers too, instead they are my biggest fans and are always there to tell me that my 'too good to be true' dreams are possible. (cheesy, i know, but so true)

So, I guess I have my answer. I'm looking forward to sharing this adventure with you over the next 361 days, and beyond...

Happy New Year and Monday!

(photo: Christiaan Postma)