Small Business, Small Steps: Faves


No new Small Business, Small Steps post today, but don't be too sad, I'm going to share a couple of my favourite small biz links with you, so you can get your fix anyway.

I'm not being lazy - I still love writing this series, it's just that there are some small people between the ages of 8 and 13 who have been sucking all the energy out of me at a fun event I like to call English Easter Camp. So, while I'm tackling prepositions and painting clay pots, you can check out these small biz goodies...

The Etsy Success Reading List - love these!
week 6 (most recent)

Craft MBA - can't get enough, great series on designing "sticky" products

Creative Thursday - I am a Thriving Artist (me too!)

Have a great Wednesday!

(photo credit: clumsy bird)


Canadiana: bespoke uprising

bespoke uprising

How adorable is this little onesie? It's from the London, Ontario based shop bespoke uprising. Everything in the shop is handmade and printed by textile artist, Roisin Fagan. You can find more sweet clothes for kiddos as well as pillows, tea towels, badges and buttons in her shop.

Enjoy your Tuesday!

ps. Posting is going to be a bit lighter this week as I'm super busy with teaching and English Muffin projects. I'll be back to my old self again after Easter :)


Music Monday: Jennie Arnau

Jennie Arnau Cover Art

While that man in the artwork looks pretty scary, there's nothing to be afraid of when listening to Jennie Arnau's music. Her Americana/folksy tunes are the perfect companion to a lazy Sunday afternoon. I'm a sucker for anything with a banjo in it, and already love the few new songs off Jennie Arnau's new album, Chasing Giants I had a chance to listen to. To get a preview of the upcoming album check out Jennie's MySpace page. Unfortunately, her album won't be available until April 13, 2010 so we'll just have to wait a little longer to purchase it ourselves.

Jennie Arnau CD Art

Happy Monday!

(photo credit: Steve Morris)


Friday Flickr Faves


Something simple for today's post, my most recent favourites on flickr. I used Big Huge Lab's Mosaic Maker to make the collection of images above. It's the simplest thing ever, and it even creates the image links and titles for you! They also have a ton of other applications for you to use to make fun things with your photos. (I'm not being paid to say this - I swear!!)

Big Chuck and I are heading out tonight to try a new Indian restaurant with our favourite foodies. Hopefully the nice spring weather sticks around for the weekend, and we can officially welcome spring with the season's first ice cream cone.

Hope you have a great weekend :)


Pretty Pairs

1. fork and spoon 2. Vintage Movie Marquee Letter


Other pairs I'm enjoying this week...

peanut butter + strawberry jam
warm spring air + evening walks

Have a lovely Thursday!


Small Business, Small Steps: How to make it in America

How to Make It in America

Last night, Big Chuck and I were watching our favourite new show, HBO's How to Make It in America, and at the end of the episode he said, "I really like this show, it's all about the small victories." He was right, How to Make It in America is exactly what it claims to be, a show about two young guys living in New York who set out to start a denim line, and essentially, try to make it in America. What's great about this show is how realistic it is. They're broke, they're hustling and they're trying to make it anyway they can. So, when every step forward is greeted with three steps back and opportunities come packaged with even bigger challenges, the honesty of their struggle really comes through, and their small victories are that much sweeter.

How to Make It in America

Why am I writing about a TV show for today's Small Business, Small Steps post, you ask? Because you know what else is all about the small victories? Our small businesses. I wanted to use today's post to remind us that the small victories are the best ones. You can't break too long to celebrate them because they are often just another part of a hectic day, but you should take a little time to give yourself a mini pat on the back, say a little "Hey, look what I did!", or get a high-five from your four-legged office mate. I really do believe that life is so much more about the journey than the destination. So enjoy your small victories along the way, you deserve them!

Any small victories you'd like to share, business or otherwise?

Have a great Wednesday!

ps. If you haven't seen How to Make It in America you can watch the first episode online here if you live in the US.

(photo credit: HBO)


Canadiana: Hindsvik


I've mentioned Hindsvik on the blog before, but yesterday, while perusing their shop, I realized that I had yet to do a feature Canadiana Tuesday post on them. So, boy oh boy, is today your lucky day!

The online vintage home decor and furniture shop, Hindsvik, was started in June 2009 by Daniel and Valeria who live in small town Canada. They opened their Etsy shop to share their love of vintage pieces and design with others. There are many wonderful vintage shops on Etsy but, in my opinion, theirs is definitely one of the best. From the beautiful pieces that they find, to the bright and lovely photos they take, it's really a treat to pop in and see what's new. Speaking of new things, Hindsvik recently announced the arrival of Large Custom Letters in their shop.


The goodies seem to never end with Daniel and Valeria. In addition to their shop, you can also visit their wonderful blog, sign-up to their newsletter to get product updates, and best of all check out photos of their in-progress home in the country.

Have a great Tuesday!

(all images are from: Hindsvik)


Music Monday: Françoise Hardy

Françoise Hardy

There's been a french vibe at our house lately; french radio, french baked goodies, practicing our french and, thanks to Françoise Hardy, pretty french music too. What can I say, we've got all things french on the brain.

So, why don't you join us? Here are a couple of our favourite songs from the beautiful and talented Mademoiselle Hardy:

If you're a fan of Canadian singer Feist, then you'll probably recognize this next one:

Bonne journée!


Small Business, Small Steps: My Business Manifesto


Last week's title "Presto, Your Manifesto!" was a bit misleading as those of you who did the exercise of writing your manifesto probably found out. The word presto conjures up a magic wand and an immediate outcome, but writing a manifesto, or mission statement, is far from immediate, although it might be a little magical.

The process of writing my manifesto has made me realize a few very important things about my business and myself:

1. English Muffin has gotten away from me over the past few months.
I have lost sight of the reason I started this company and been more caught up in making sales, blogging and social media-ing. But that's ok, I'm not mad at the Muffin or at myself. It's all part of the process and I'm just happy that in the end my blog has helped me to re-focus on the core ideas of what my company is all about.

2. I love kids, I really do.
Although over the past few months I have been having a hard time staying motivated at my teaching job, it doesn't mean that I have lost my love of teaching and working with children. They really are an inspiring force in my life, and the reason I decided to start English Muffin in the first place.

3. I want to make a difference - a big one.
I've recently been watching some TED talks (if you haven't heard of them, check them out, they're so interesting and inspiring) and feeling really excited about what is going on in the world. For every bad thing there are so many good ones, and I want to be part of those good ones. So, I was left wondering what a girl like me could possible do? I had yet to come up with an answer when I tackled the "What are the underlying values that guide your work?" question in the manifesto exercise. Of course! Young people and education have always been important to me. I can make a difference with English Muffin, at first small, but one day, big!

I guess it's time to reveal English Muffin's Manifesto. Be kind, it's still a work in progress. Although at the moment, I am not doing all the things I hope to be, I decided to dream big and let this manifesto be a guide for English Muffin's journey forward. Here it is:

We believe...

simple shapes are happy shapes.
that two colours are better than one.
that lions and tigers and bears can be friends.
and, that learning is the best part of life, second only to great design.

That's why we create...

simple illustrations to encourage your child's imagination.
thoughtful colour combinations to stimulate their curiosity.
illustrations that are open to wild interpretation.
products that inspire young minds and nurture an appreciation for good design.

We are wholeheartedly dedicated to...

supporting young learners in our community through outreach and donations.
being kind to the environment by using eco-friendly materials whenever possible.

Thanks so much to all of you who shared your manifestos with me this week. I've really enjoyed reading them. As always, I'd love to hear your feedback.

Have a great weekend!

ps. I've decided to move Small Business, Small Steps from Fridays to Wednesdays. I don't always feel so business-y on Friday and figure you probably don't either ;)


Perfect Pairs

1. Sailor Tote Bag 2. Red, White and Blue

Some perfect pairs for you today. I think I'm craving warm and sunny spring weather - all of my pairs are so summer-y! Other perfect pairs I'm loving this week:

pink tulips + rays of sunshine
birthdays + wishes
big dogs + little dogs, black dogs + white dogs (i've been reading Go, Dog. Go! by Dr. Seuss to my Kindergarten classes this week)

And, last but not least...
Last week pen.ny challenged me to find a perfect pair for this Calhoun Glass Pendant from Pottery Barn. It sat on my desktop all week and I had a few finalists, but it in the end I think the Industrial Lab Funnels from Ethan Ollie worked the best. What do you think? Did I get it right?!


Do you have a perfect pairing challenge for me? Leave me a link in the comments, I'd love to give it a try.

Have a happy Thursday!


Supermarket Sarah + Patternity


My mom sent me a great link this week to the Patternity website. I checked them out this morning and saw that they're selling a handmade and globally sourced selection of patterns in collaboration with the super cool Supermarket Sarah.

Patternity bag

Up for grabs: pillows, clothes, bags, shoes, magazines, and prints, and all covered in some eye popping patterns.

Have a great Wednesday!



lovely design3

I have always been a fan of the work coming out of Vancouver based designer Sharilyn'slovelydesign studio. Her talent for mixing and matching colours and patterns, and her clean design aesthetic are definitely my cup of tea.

lovely design2

Way back in September 2008 I featured her Beautiful Leaves of Canada poster that at the time was sold out. Good news though, it's available once again in her shop! Also in her shop these days are those gorgeous wooden address files that can be ordered in both maple and black walnut. I'm pretty sure I read on her blog at one point that her dad makes them for her, so sweet! Do you think it's too early for me to drop hints for next year's birthday present? Imagine how pretty a black walnut address file would look on my white English Muffin desk. And then I could flip through all the assorted cards to find your address and write you a thank you note, a for-me-for-you gift!

lovely design1

You can see more of lovelydesign by visiting:

Have a wonderful Tuesday!

(photos: lovelydesign)


Happy Birthday to Me + Music Monday


Today is my 29th birthday! Since having a birthday on a Monday is really not festive at all, we decided celebrate it on Saturday instead. Big Chuck and I started the day by heading out to our favourite market and visiting our friends at the Italian table. Oh how I wish we had learned Italian instead of German (no offense to anyone who speaks/loves deutsch, but I'm sure you understand where I'm coming from). We bought some prosciutto, funghi antipasti, and mortadella, our friend even threw in a focaccia bread on the house/stand. Then we walked down to the flower part of the market and bought those gorgeous pink tulips you see in the photo. They are in our living room and every time I walk by them I exclaim, "they are soooo beautiful!" I can't help myself. After a winter of grey days and damp weather it's the most joyful thing in the world to have a bunch of fresh flowers in the house.

Saturday night Big Chuck, our good friend the Guerilla Gourmand, and I, went out for a really fabulous meal at Hidori, a japanese restaurant here in Vienna. Our friend, the g.g., made me the most beautiful handmade book. She printed out the entire text of Romeo & Juliet and hand bound the entire book herself. She wrote a really sweet inscription in the front that I must say brought a few birthday tears to my eyes. I have never had a handmade book before and love it so much. (thanks g.g.)

I'm so happy to be turning 29, it took a little while to get over the "one more year to 30" shock, but I'm convinced the year ahead is going to be a great one.

Have a happy Monday,

Oh yes, Music Monday! Don't worry, I didn't forget...

(photos: Bess Callard)


Small Business, Small Steps: Presto! Your Manifesto.


How fun is the word manifesto?! In coming up with today's title I had a few excellent choices to choose from:

a) Man, I need a Manifesto.
b) Just like pesto, you need a fresh manifesto.
c) Feeling depressed-o? Write a manifesto.
d) Mani-fiesto!
and the winner...
e) Presto! Your Manifesto.

Ok, maybe they're not that great - but they're fun right?! And that is the goal of today's Small Business, Small Steps post. I am encouraging you to set aside a few hours to indulge in your biggest, brightest hopes and dreams, your greatest strengths and your most honest intentions, and how they relate to your business.

Before we dive in though, lets define what a manifesto, or the more commonly used term, mission statement, is:

man·i·fes·to [man-uh-fes-toh]


a public declaration of intentions, opinions, objectives, or motives, as one issued by a government, sovereign, or organization.

(via dictionary.com)

Man, I need a manifesto.

I recently picked up my copy of Craft Inc. again this week, if you aren't familiar with Meg Mateo Ilasco's book I would encourage you to check it out. I was re-reading an interview she did with potter and designer Jonathan Adler where she asked him about the importance of having a mission statement when it comes to the design process and ensuring your work is charged with your own values. His response was that indeed it is important, and that for him "[his] manifesto is an expression of [his] philosophy of design and of life in general. [He] strives to make stuff that adheres to the ideas and values in [his] manifesto." To read Jonathan Adler's complete manifesto you can visit his website.

Reading this interview in Craft Inc. made me realize that I don't have a manifesto for my own business. Such important and powerful ideas as English Muffin's purpose, core values and contribution to the world have not been organized into a clear and concise statement. The very foundation of my house has yet to be poured and I am already hanging out on the second floor with plans to add on more. Oops!

Just like pesto, you need a fresh manifesto.

So now that I've realized the importance of creating a document that will guide myself and my business from first idea to product delivery, where do I begin? If you google 'mission statement' you will get a ton of results that link you to small business how to's, examples and templates, there's even a website called missionstatements.com if you're really stuck. But the business writers of the world can take you down that path much better than I. So, I would like to talk about crafting the creative/idealist/dreamer mission statement, the kind of manifesto that Jonathan Adler would approve of!

Here are a couple ideas on how to get the manifesto juices flowing from another book I often turn to for small biz advice, The Boss of You by Lauren Bacon and Emira Mears. Grab a pencil and paper, or keyboard and screen, and jot down your answers to the following questions.

• What do you hope to achieve through your business?

• How will you get there?

• What are the underlying values that guide your work?

Your answers to these questions will provide you with the raw materials you need to shape your manifesto. When sitting down to write it, remember that it can be long or short, in full sentences or a point form list, the important thing is that the more personal it is to your business the better. So use these questions as a jumping off point and see what you can come up with.

Here is an example of a unique and humourous mission statement from Betsy Ross Patterns that I found via The Boss of You.

"Our Constitution:
We at Betsy Ross believe that it shouldn't be so darn hard to make
hot clothes. We believe in good looking clothes and flattering fits.
We believe that all of the shoulder pads in the world should be piled
up and lit on fire. We offer women the chance to make their clothes
instead of buy them."


Having a manifesto is something I have never really given great importance to (or else I would already have one). I know what I like, I know what I want and I know when something is right for me. But on second thought, do I really? Do I make every decision for English Muffin based on a clear list of ideals and values? Have I looked at ways of aligning the values of my company with those of other companies and projects? Can my manifesto both help me to focus my brand as well as expand it? I believe it can. We are creative people whose creativity does not stop at our fingertips, we need to find fulfillment on many levels. Do I believe that paper and ink will make my life complete? No, but creating work that inspires and educates, reaching out to others who do the same, connecting with customers and my community, I can see all of those things making my life very fulfilling.

So, I'm proposing a SBSS challenge!!

1. Write your manifesto. Take an afternoon, a day, heck - even a weekend and ask yourself the above mentioned questions. Write and re-write, and then write some more. Hammer out a manifesto that works for you and your business.

2. Share your manifesto. I would love to see what you come up with, or if you already have a manifesto, what it currently is. Post your manifestos to the comment section of this post, or to your own blog (leave the link to your blog post in the comments below).

Next week I'll put up my brand new manifesto right here on the blog. I can't wait to see what you come up with, and with your permission hopefully use some of them in next week's Small Business, Small Steps post.

Good luck with the challenge, and as always I'd love to hear what you think :)



Pretty Perfect Pairs

1. Vintage 60s Mod Flower Tin Canister 2. Rain Drops

Some pretty perfect pairs to please your eyes today. New and classic pairs I'm loving:

rays of sun + sprouting daffodils
paper + pencil
tea + gingersnaps

Any perfect pairs you'd like to share? Or better yet, send me a link to an item you'd like me to perfectly pair. I can't make any promises but I'll give it a try.

Have a great Thursday,



in the kitchen

I think that you can tell a lot about a person by observing their habits around food. And, I am no different.

For instance, I have been eating the same sandwich almost everyday for lunch since high school (that's over 10 years). Ok, not the exact same (the bread changes), but pretty much. Tomato, avocado, cucumber and cheese. In my vegetarian days I'd throw in a slice of veggie ham. In my carnivorous days, a slice of real ham. And as of late, when it's around, a slice of turkey. If you were so inclined you could probably extrapolate from that semi-regular slice of turkey that these days I'm on the fence about my decision to start eating meat again.

I also have this same day-in-day-out habit when it comes to my breakfast. Toni's sheep's milk yoghurt, muesli, occasionally a few berries, a cup of rooibos tea and a glass of lemon water. The lemon water used to be orange juice, but the quality of o.j. in Austria is pretty low unless you squeeze your own. I did that for a while but then got tired of lugging home bags of oranges every week.

So, what can you tell about a girl who eats the same breakfast and lunch everyday? Well, that I like my routines. I develop habits (good ones, I hope) and stick to them. When Big Chuck offers to grab me a croissant for breakfast I usually say no thanks. I'm not sure why? I love croissants but somehow I love the predictability of my own breakfast more.

I know what you're thinking, "Bess! Live a little!". Well, I do. In all the other areas of my life I would consider myself to be quite the risk taker. After high school I went to school for, and then worked as, a contemporary dancer = risky. I quit design school and moved to a foreign country where I didn't know the language or a single person besides Big Chuck = risky. I have started my own business and have the nerve to think I could make living from it = risky.

I guess it's in the small everyday moments of life that I still crave a routine, a predictable bowl of muesli to greet me each morning.

How about you? Any habits that you can't (don't want to) let go of?


(images: Bess Callard)


Eva Juliet


I came across the work of Eva Juliet for the first time without even knowing it. I often read Nikole's blog, forty-sixth at grace, and she had posted a beautifully illustrated recipe for some adorable button cookies. In my haste to download the recipe I must have completely missed the link to Eva's wonderful work. Luckily, I found her again via another blog I love, elephantine. I was so happily surprised when I clicked over to the Eva Juliet Etsy shop to find out that she's a Canadian girl, from Montréal to be exact. So, of course I couldn't resist doing a Canadiana Tuesday post on the lovely work of Ms. Eva Juliet.


I find her illustrations and calligraphy so charming. I would love to have one of her prints in my kitchen, and while she offers most of her prints in both French and English, I think I'd definitely opt for a French one! Her work has a lovely vintage feel, its delicate simplicity is perfectly paired with soft washes of colour and the occasional water spot, wrinkle or smudge.


You can purchase Eva's work in her Etsy shop. And, while you're there make sure you check out her other (equally wonderful) shop, eveluche, for her paintings and plush animals.

Have a wonderful Tuesday!


Music Monday: Mayer Hawthorne

mayer hawthorne

Mayer Hawthorne is a favourite around our house. Late last year we went to see him in concert at the Roxy here in Vienna for Big Chuck's birthday. It was a great concert and we both enjoyed the experience of seeing him and his band live. Big Chuck's two cents: "Plain and simple, he's a soul man. There's also a pretty good chance he dresses better than your boyfriend." And, I completely agree. The man's got style and soul, and his music is sure to please your ears.

Check out his most recent album, A Strange Arrangement, to hear some of our faves: Maybe So, Maybe No and I Wish It Would Rain. Go on, have a listen.

Have a great Monday!


small business, small steps

store front
store front

Wow!!! The response to this small business, small steps post was amazing, overwhelming and so very much appreciated. As I write this, there are 59 (!) of you wonderful readers who left comments, and although I could not respond to all of them, I certainly did enjoy reading them. One of the most frequently mentioned ideas from that post, was the idea of being patient. It seems like we are all struggling with this concept and I've done a lot of thinking about why that might be during this last week. So I'd like to carry on talking about patience this week, and ask the question, what can we do in the down time while we're waiting for our businesses to take off?

Being Patient ≠ Being Lazy

I think that patience is such a tricky quality to master because as entrepreneurs we are doers, creative hands-on people, perfectionists and (ahem...) perhaps a wee bit controlling. We are determined and demand a lot of ourselves, our goals and expectations are high, and when we do not see the results we hoped for our minds quickly turn on us, raising doubts and questions about our skills, abilities and talents. I've heard it said that even your greatest strength can be your biggest weakness when it is not properly harnessed. So let's not allow our ambition and ideals get the better of us while we're laying the ground work for our future success.

What to do in the down time?

So you've just launched your business and you're patiently waiting for that first sale. Or, you're like me, and you're patiently waiting for business to pick up again after the Holiday rush. While you're practicing patience, is there anything else you could be doing? Heck, yes! Making your business even more 'awesomer' than it already is.

be creative
Your creativity is at the heart of your business, it is your business. Spending most of your time trying to will yourself a sale will only use up your precious energy and creative juices. Why not put that energy and drive into expanding your product line, developing new ideas, planning for the coming months? Things will begin to pick up in Spring/Summer, but that's when you should be gearing up for Back to School, Halloween, and even the Holidays. So, do it now. Calendars, Christmas cards, Holiday gifts, Winter accessories, etc... always be a few months ahead. You will not only be giving yourself a productive task to do, but will be prepared when those customers come a knockin'.

be curious
It's time to do some research. Who are your product peers (or some may call them the competition)? What are they selling? How is it selling? Do you see areas in your market where a need is not being met? Are you the gal/guy to meet that need? Who in your market is selling successfully and what can you learn from them?
The internet is a great tool to scope out other designers who are selling similar products to you. You have access to the whole spectrum, from those who have just begun to those who are pros. Go to their sites, read their bios, search for interviews, be a sponge! Of course you are not looking to steal, knock-off or copy, just for inspiration, for little nuggets of information that you can use as jumping off points in your own business.
Another great research resource are books and blogs. Again, the internet is a gold mine, there are so many e-books and blogs about how to run a successful small business. While things are a little slow this would be a great time to check them out.

be social
Many of you mentioned in the comments how alone you felt now that you were working for yourselves. Although blogs and social media are great ways to connect with like minded individuals, I still think nothing beats a nice chat over a cup of tea or coffee with someone who really understands what you're going through. I'm jealous of all of you who are living in Canada and the US, your countries are full of Etsians (and English speakers!) so why not connect with a few of them. Perhaps you could even start a monthly meet-up to discuss work, your questions, successes, failures, etc..., something your friends and family may not completely "get". Finding a like minded buddy goes a long way to lessening some of those lonely small biz feelings.

be supportive
Support your business by making sure it's ready to respond when you need it to.
Have you made business cards? How's your website looking? Do you have clear policies for your customers? Are there ways to improve your customer service? How do your product photos look, and your product descriptions sound? Have you contacted any blogs about your products? Have you started your own blog? Do you have a Twitter, Facebook or other social media account?
I know you've heard all this a million times, because I have too, but supporting your business by making sure you've dotted all your i's and crossed all your t's is what will set you apart from your competition and give you a professional feel.

Of course, there are many more things to add to this list and, as always, I'd love to hear your thoughts... So, "What do you do in the downtime?"


(photo: nataliecreates)


Ice Fishers

here fishy fishy

Can you guess what Brand New Thing #3 was? Ice Fishing, that's right!

Big Chuck was so excited to go ice fishing, I on the other hand was perfectly happy to sit inside and play Rummikub with my cousin and aunt. So Big Chuck and my uncle went out one afternoon and unfortunately came home fish-less. The next day they went out again, and were still having no luck when my cousin and I skied by. We decided to give it a try, and of course as luck would have it within 5 minutes of holding the fishing pole over the tiny hole in the ice I was the first and only person to catch a fish that week. We named him Fred...

fred the fish

I am a reluctant fishergirl. I always feel so awful when I accidentally catch a fish, and I really wanted to put little Fred back. I am also a hypocritical fishergirl as I spent the entire week devouring salmon, hearing and eventually Fred the fish too.

I personally find fishing, especially ice fishing, to be rather boring. I think the most exciting part is drilling the holes in the ice. Big Chuck did his fair share using my uncle's Finnish made Rapala ice auger.

charlie's auger

Have a great Thursday, and don't forget to tune in tomorrow for the next post in my Small Business, Small Steps series.


ps. We have a trivia question for all you Northern guys and gals...

What is the blue thing hanging around Big Chuck's neck?

Leave your answers in the comments section. Unfortunately there's no prize, just the satisfaction of knowing that you are one smart cookie. Good luck :)

(photos: Bess Callard)


Ice Picnickers

Ice Picnic

Remember on Monday how I was telling you about the brand new things I got to experience when we were in Finland last week, well here's Brand New Thing #2: Ice Picnicking.

Have you ever been on an ice picnic before? Well, if you haven't I'd be more than happy to explain how the whole thing works. First, clear a spot on the ice to build a fire. I know what you're thinking, won't the fire melt the ice and cause it to break, essentially sinking our lunch and possibly us too? Apparently, no. (I thought it was a good question too.) Next, you collect all your lunch supplies: hot dogs, sausages and mustard, warm tea and juice, beer, a folding table and chairs, fire poker sticks, some paper towels to hold your wieners, cups for warm drinks and a cute red and white table cloth. Get the boys to carry the big stuff and bring the rest in a pretty little wicker picnic basket. When you're all set up, it's time to eat. Stick your sausage on a fire poker and roast. (Tip: avoid big flames, stick to the areas with nice hot coals.) When you've achieved a nice crispy outer layer on your sausage, it's done. Squeeze on some of your favourite mustard and, taa-daa, lunch is served! That's pretty much all there is to it. There may still be time before the ice melts for you to have your very own ice picnic!

Ice Picnic

Have a great Wednesday :)

(photos: Bess Callard)


Virginia Johnson - True Canadiana

Virginia Johnson Elk Scarves

I love these elk shawls designed Virginia Johnson, so Canadian! They were created especially for the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. The Hudson's Bay Company contacted her about designing custom shawls as part of a designer collaboration. The rest of Virginia Johnson's line of beautiful shawls can be found here. The Elk shawls are sold exclusively at Bay flagship stores in Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver.
P.S. What's the difference between an elk and a moose?

HBC display

I originally found these shawls through a new blog I've been reading, Red Glasses. Caroline Pelletier is the voice behind this design savvy and inspiring blog based out of Montréal, Québec. I'd encourage you to go over and have a peek, she has the best photos of girls in glasses.

Hope you're having a great Tuesday!

(photos: Virginia Johnson)

Helsinki 1952

Falling in the snow
Me and my camera bag falling in the snow, we were never apart (see below)

One of the best parts of visiting Finland, aside from ice swimming of course, is getting to hear stories and see photos from my family's past. Living in Canada for most of my life, I rarely had the opportunity to see my Finnish grandparents, aunt, uncle and cousin. So every time I go to visit I make a special request to see some of the old family photo albums. Of course, this last time didn't disappoint. Along with the classic black and white photos of my mom and her siblings as children, there were some new-to-me gems. For example, who knew that during the 70's my mom was rocking a hairstyle similar to Big Chuck's? And that my aunt had glasses whose frames were as big around as coffee mugs? Are they going to kill me for writing this, in a word YES!, but I love it - I love knowing the history of my family, the good, the bad and (especially) the questionable fashion choices.

On this last trip I learned a few new things about my great-grandfather. The first was that, similar to me, he always had a camera in his hands. My aunt said that I reminded her of him, and that was pretty neat. The second was that he was a talented artist and enjoyed designing and making furniture. When the 1952 Summer Olympics were held in Helsinki, he made this clever walking stick that doubles as a chair. He even painted the Olympic logo onto the seat, and on the back, the instructions on the correct way to sit on it. This way he was able to walk to the events and have his very own place to sit. Genius, no?!

Helsinki Olympics - wooden chair/cane
1. My male model showing us how to use the walking stick
2. 1952 Helsinki Olympic logo, painted on the seat

3. The bottom of the seat shows us how to properly sit on it (backwards)

4. From walking stick to chair

Stay tuned for Canadiana Tuesday later today.


(photos: Bess Callard)


Music Monday : The Baseballs

the baseballs

The Baseballs are a German Rock'n'Roll band who have become extremely popular in Europe (especially Finland, Sweden, Austria and Germany) by covering modern pop songs like Rihanna's Umbrella and Katy Perry's Hot'n Cold in a classic 60's Rock'n'Roll style. Their music is so fun and they expertly take on modern songs and make them uniquely their own. So put your dancing shoes on and take a listen to their cover of Umbrella.

Have a great Monday!

Ice Swimmers

tough cookies
Sauna towel

I'm back from my wonderful week in Finland and I feel refreshed and ready to tackle what I think is going to be a very busy (and exciting) March. But, before we leap into the future and all the many goals and plans I have to share with you, I'd first like to welcome the new readers who found the English Muffin Blog via this very useful Etsy link. I received so many nice and thoughtful comments on this Small Business, Small Steps post, and am really excited to keep moving forward with that series. So welcome everyone, or as we say in Finnish, Tervetuloa!

In addition to the regular weekly features on the blog, I thought I would share a few photos from our trip to Finland with you this week. We had an amazing time and got to experience some brand new things.

Brand New Thing #1: Ice Swimming
Last Saturday, only four short hours after we stepped off the plane in Helsinki, we found ourselves stepping (or more like hobbling) into the frozen Baltic Sea. That's right - the f.r.o.z.e.n. sea! My family took us to a public sauna and bathing area about 10 minutes from their home in Turku and we earned our very first Finnish badges (there would be more to come as the week progressed!). We all sat in the hot sauna for 10 - 15 minutes and then scampered down the icy dock, then down an even icier ladder and into the water. Believe it or not I repeated this scenario three times. Big Chuck and my cousin were a little braver and went for a fourth round. I'm not sure how to describe it, the whole thing was pretty surreal. It was about minus 20 outside, a dark and windy night, and there we were running from sauna to sea, sauna to sea, with steam coming off our bodies. At the end of it all I felt like I had just run a marathon: exhausted, hungry, thirsty and ready for bed. It wasn't the easiest of activities to photograph, but here are a few that I think capture the spirit of ice swimming.

Ice swimming
1. Some images of fellow ice swimmers
2. Big Chuck emerges from the sea, this was his fourth swim
3. I tried to capture the lovely lobster-red hue of my skin in the changing room
4. More swimmers; the man in the foreground was coming back from a jog in the snow

Stay tuned for Music Monday later on today.

(images: Bess Callard)