The Friday Five: Goodies from Studio McGee

Yesterday, BlogPodium – the Canadian conference for design and lifestyle influencers – announced its keynote speakerMs. Shea McGee of the Studio McGee. If you’ve been online searching for design inspiration, I’m sure you’ve come across some of Studio McGee’s work. It’s just one beautiful design project after another. Studio McGee brings so many gorgeous rooms to my laptop screen, and I love all the design candy! Here are just five of the spaces that may have you drooling…

Mountainside Remodel

Los Altos Kitchen

Robin Road remodel

Modern Mountain Home

Haddonfield Project

Tickets for BlogPodium go on sale on Friday, May 12th. To see what’s happened in the past, check out my recaps of previous BlogPodium events.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

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The Friday Five: My Thoughts about BlogPodium 2014

Did you know that¬†it’s actually possible to¬†be tired and energized at the same time? It’s true. This is exactly how I’m currently feeling. I¬†have been pretty worn down this week for all sorts of reasons (full-time job, taking on¬†an additional course, blogging, MBA, trips to Toronto, social events, back-to-school germs, etc.), but I am so full of ideas and energy (in my mind at least)¬†after last weekend’s BlogPodium conference. I have been itching to write this post, but I have spent every ounce of my free time in bed this week trying to get back to feeling normal. Concentrating on computer work has been just a bit too challenging. Anyhoo, enough about me and my bout of sickness. Let’s get to the good stuff…five thoughts about BlogPodium.

1. White Cabana + Inspirations Studio

One of the major highlights for me at this year’s conference was the fact that I had the opportunity to design a collection of pottery. Although the design¬†timeline was tight, I had fun¬†brainstorming ideas,¬†sketching up my designs, and consulting with Victoria at Inspirations Studio. Victoria and her team of women brought my designs to life. Under her guidance,¬†the Inspirations Studio women learned new skills that they can apply to their future projects. The pottery was auctioned off at the conference, and I’m beyond happy that my pieces sold. I¬†managed to squeeze in at the last minute to buy three little bowls, but I will be placing an order for additional items.

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 chatting with Lindsey, a table full of blogger-designed handmade items

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If you’re interested in purchasing any of my designs¬†for yourself (and you live in Toronto or Waterloo), please email me asap (white cabana at gmail dot com). Prices range from $30-$50, and all money goes directly to Inspirations Studio. Ordering¬†anything from my collection will put money directly in the hands of women¬†in need.

Avery Swartz bought the two vases/pitchers, and she set them up on her beautiful white mantle:

Avery-Swartz-fireplace-potteryphoto by Avery Swartz

2. Learning about SEO and Google Analytics

I attended two fabulous sessions in the morning. The first was led by Nicki Lamont¬†and the topic was SEO (Search Engine Optimization). Even though I’ve been blogging for 4+ years, I never give SEO as much thought as I know I should. I’m usually focused on creating content and photos, and I make little (or no) time for the more technical¬†side of blogging. SEO is important and I now have more tools in my toolbox to make SEO work for me and White Cabana.

I learned about bounce rates, keyword searches, and short-term and long-term keywords, meta-tags, alt-tags, etc. If you’re a blogger, I would recommend that you read up these concepts, especially if you aim to grow your blog.

I also learned about a new search engine – DuckDuckGo – that is supposedly going to be even better than Google. Yes?

Nicki was a clear, amusing, and professional speaker, and she obviously has a very relevant skill set. Thanks, Nicki!

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here I am listening attentively during a presentation

The second session I attended was Avery Swartz‘s session about Google Analytics. Avery has a really personable and engaging presentation style, which I completely appreciated.¬†She brought humour into her presentation about tech and stats and analytics settings. Awesome.¬†I followed Avery’s advice when I got home from BlogPodium – I¬†transferred to Universal analytics (do this if you haven’t),¬†refined some of my settings, and I am now feeling much¬†more confident about understanding my Google stats. I know that this information will¬†help me speak with brand partners in the future.¬†I’m now eager to sign up for one of Avery’s CampTech courses¬†(offered in Waterloo, too!).

You can see by my session choices, I was really focused on learning¬†about the more technical side of blogging. One of my current goals (and ongoing goals, I guess) is to increase my technical skill set. I don’t have much time to focus on this side of the blogging world, which is why I think it’s taken me 4 years to get to the point where I can actually use terms like SEO and analytics without sounding like I’m really clueless.

3. Panel Presentation with Jennifer Flores, Scott McGillvray, Monika Hibbs, and Leigh-Ann Allaire

I am generally a fan of panel presentations. You get to hear¬†from several speakers and panels present a variety of points of view within a dedicated time period. I have been¬†attending BlogPodium since it began, and Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault has¬†often moderated the panel presentation. Half the reason why I enjoy the panels is because Leigh-Ann¬†is such a quick-witted, smart, and on-the-ball moderator. She asks intelligent questions, keeps the discussion moving, and always¬†always makes the audience laugh. She didn’t fail us this year. She¬†worked her magic and the panel presentation¬†was informative and¬†entertaining.

This year’s panel was made up of BlogPodium founder Jennifer Flores, Income Property whiz Scott McGillivray, and fashion blogger extraordinaire Monika Hibbs. They have three very different backgrounds,¬†which made for an interesting presentation. Jennifer’s spoke intelligently about¬†the importance of collaboration and networking in blog life, Scott¬†encouraged bloggers to set achievable goals, and Monika generously shared her secrets to gorgeous photography (apps to try: SnapSeed, WhiteaGram, AfterLight, PicTapGo).

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Jennifer, Scott, Monika, Leigh-Ann

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me, Scott, and Sharalee

4. Working with Brands

Fortunately, I have had some¬†really positive experiences working with brands and PR agencies over the last 4 years. In my case, brand collaborations¬†have evolved rather organically and they continue¬†to do so. I do really enjoy learning about people, what they do, their¬†products, and their stories. I think – and I hope – my readers appreciate when I share others’ stories, and draw a personal connection to them.

Brand-Blog-Fit continued to be a theme at this year’s BlogPodium. If you’re a blogger, why should a brand work with you? If you’re a brand, what blog fits your mission? How do you go about making the partnership work for both sides?

I was pleased to see some long-time blog supporters at BlogPodium (e.g.,¬†Delta, FirstAlert, UrbanBarn, GlucksteinHome, Chapters-Indigo, Etsy, ParaPaints), and I was thrilled to have the opportunity to speak with newcomers as well (e.g., LinenChest, Metrie). Brands and bloggers are really learning how to work together, how to speak the same language, and how to create mutually beneficial and long-lasting relationships. I have been fascinated¬†by the¬†partnership opportunities, and I’m¬†interested in seeing how these partnerships will evolve.

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cookie jar from Urban Barn

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home decor items from Chapters-Indigo

5. The Venue РFairmont Royal York Hotel, Toronto.

Oh,¬†the Royal York. It’s a classic. I wanted each and every chandelier.

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Having a beautiful backdrop for BlogPodium is essential. We are design bloggers after all! The food, decor, and service at the Fairmont Royal York was top-notch. I have pretty high expectations of fancy high-end places, and the Royal York did not disappoint.

6. Bonus: Taking Friendships Offline

One of the things¬†that I value most about blogging¬†is the chances I’ve had to meet¬†new people. The Canadian design blogging community is full of people who are hard working, committed, interested,¬†friendly, and dedicated. I have reached out to other bloggers on numerous occasions asking them for advice, and¬†others have¬†reached out to me. Our community is strong and helpful, and¬†I think we should¬†be really proud of the work that we do on and offline. We are¬†a group that is committed to learning, sharing, and engaging with others.

Etsy-Photobooth-BlogPodium-WhiteCabana having fun in the Etsy photobooth with Brittany, Brittany, and Tia

And there you have it – my BlogPodium 2014 update in a few short paragraphs.

Thanks especially to Jennifer and her hard-working team for making BlogPodium another event to remember. You successfully brought a group of 300 friends together for a day of fun and learning! Thanks also to the many sponsors and exhibitors who filled our day with contests, giveaways, and beautiful products.

Photos by Flow Photo and Jordana.

Event: BlogPodium 2014 is this Saturday!

Every year at around this time, design and lifestyle bloggers gather in Toronto for BlogPodium. Led by Jennifer Flores, and organized by a crew of talented people, BlogPodium gives bloggers and brands the opportunity to take their conversations offline. Yes, of course there will be lots of Twittering and Instagraming going on during¬†this Saturday’s BlogPodium, but I know I’m not alone in saying that one of the best things about the event will be the face-to-face¬†conversations.

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There is so much to look forward to this year. I have no doubt that these speakers, these sponsors, and these exhibitors will make for a rich and informative day at the historic Fairmont Royal York.

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I’m especially looking forward to this year’s BlogPodium because¬†my first ever ceramics collaboration with Toronto’s Inspirations Studio will be up for¬†auction. Here’s a teeny peek:

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 White Cabana + Inspirations Studio

In addition, I will be presenting for the second time at BlogPodium. My roundtable discussion, titled Blog Writing 101: Crafting a cohesive, concise, and conversational post, will be centred on how to write effective and credible blog posts.

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I’ll be sure to share a recap of the big day in the weeks that follow. If you are itching for the play-by-play, follow along¬†via Twitter and Instagram.

p.s. I haven’t yet figured out my outfit.
p.p.s. Walk down memory lane Рread my posts about BlogPodium 2012 and BlogPodium 2013.

Blog Headers 19: BlogPodium Bloggers

On September 13th, design and lifestyle¬†bloggers will gather at Toronto’s Royal York hotel for BlogPodium.¬†Like many of my blogging colleagues,¬†I’m very much looking forward to it. It’s a wonderful day for face-to-face learning and exploration for bloggers who generally interact like crazy online. Today’s theme for the blog headers round-up is BlogPodium. These are some of the many bloggers who will be attending the conference.

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Lesley Metcalfe (design)

blog-header-glitter-glimmer-sparkle-shimmer Glitter Glitter Sparkle Shimmer (fashion)

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Craftberry Bush (craft, DIY)

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The Shimmer (design)

Blogging: So, you want to be a blogger?

While blogging is not my full-time job, I am very committed to it, take it seriously (but not too seriously because that wouldn’t be so fun, right?), and approach my blog work as professionally as I can. I have learned so much from many bloggers I have met online and offline, and I really try to give back to the community when I can. I had the opportunity to give a presentation at BlogPodium 2013¬†(loved it!) and I hope to do so again in 2014. In the meantime, I had the pleasure of writing a guest post for the BlogPodium blog. It’s a great read (if I do say so myself) for people who are new to blogging or who are just about to start their blogging journeys. If you’re interested in reading my post, click here. Let me know if you have any questions!

Event: The BlogPodium 2013 report

Collaboration. Honesty. Respect. These are just some of the words that I repeatedly wrote in my notebook at this past weekend’s BlogPodium in Toronto. Bloggers, PR agents, and brands artfully invaded the Hyatt hotel on King Street on Saturday to learn and share strategies about the world of blogging.

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photo by Jordana

This year’s BlogPodium, just as in previous years, completely impressed me. Organized by co-founder Jennifer Flores (Rambling Renovators) and her BlogPodium 2013 crew, the event showcased the important work of bloggers, the brands that recognize their influential abilities, and the ways in which bloggers have come together over the last several years to form one of the most engaged, vibrant, and energetic communities around.

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decorations by Minted, styling by We Create Hoopla; photo by Jordana

This BlogPodium was an extra special one for me as I gave my first blog-focused conference presentation. Several months ago, I submitted a proposal to Jennifer after a BlogPodium Call for Presenters was released. A little while after I sent in my submission, Jennifer put me in touch with Giulia Doyle (Audrey’s) and suggested that we partner. Our topic? Balancing a day job and a successful blog. While Giulia and I had never met, I was excited to work with her and give back to the blogging community through this presentation.

Over the period of a few months, Giulia and I worked together (via Skype, telephone, Dropbox, and email) to write two posts for the BlogPodium blog (one and two) and to prepare a cohesive presentation for BlogPodium attendees. I am so grateful to Jennifer for brining Giulia and me together. Not only did I learn about Giulia’s approach to blogging, but I appreciated her professionalism, her commitment, and her creativity. Giulia – thank you. (It surprised many attendees to find out that Giulia and I only met about 2 hours before our presentation. Kind of cool, right?). For those who are interested in our full presentation, the slides should be available soon via the BlogPodium site.

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me and Giulia; photo by Anna With Love

Presenting at BlogPodium was hugely satisfying for me and it allowed me to connect with bloggers – new and experienced – on a whole new level. We were able to take our conversations offline and speak in sentences that were longer than 140 characters. While I love the online world, face-to-face interaction is hard to beat.

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photo by Giulia Doyle

Another highlight for me was Sarah Richardson‘s keynote speech. She was funny, intelligent, and engaging. She was approachable, spoke clearly and with ease, and really shared how hard work, determination, and talent, got her to where she is today. Having respect for colleagues, being nice, and working collaboratively, were just some of the points that she shared during her presentation. Creating successful relationships has been a really important contributing factor to her success.

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Sarah Richardson & Jennifer Flores; photo by Anna With Love

Lunch was good…but dessert was amazing! Way to go Hyatt!

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bloggers love chocolate, right?

Lunch was extremely enjoyable for me as I had the pleasure of sitting with such a talented and diverse group of bloggers. Thanks to Christine (Just Bella), Brittany (Gallery No. Eight), Megan (Hodge Podge), Gabrielle (Bee and Daddoo), and Sara (Saige Wisdom) for sharing your stories.

After lunch we heard from a panel of influential blog & magazine insiders: Margot Austin, Jacqueline Clark, Emma Reddington, and Rhonda Richie. This panel was moderated by the uber-talented Leigh-Ann Allaire. Oh man – she always¬†always asks the questions that I am itching to ask. She know what to say and when to say it – she’s a talented moderator and I look forward to seeing more of her soon. This group of presenters shared their experiences with publishing – online and offline.

I am also pleased to recognize the generosity of the sponsors and exhibitors. They spoiled us with artistic, useful, and pretty supplies (everything from paint to caulking to candy to fabric)!

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Sarah Richardson + Kravet

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dishes at Urban Barn

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Poppin in white at Chapters-Indigo

BlogPodium 2013 will always be something that I look back on with incredibly happy memories. Thanks again to the attendees, presenters, and sponsors for making this day so fun!

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Cheers!

*Note: The original post vanished after it was published due to a server error. This piece was written from an earlier draft.

Blogging: Tick Tock

Time has just flown by today…only getting around to blogging now! Working on my new work-life balance-routine I guess.

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Rusch clock, $2.99

Oh – I have been forgetting to share the links to two posts that Giulia and I wrote for the BlogPodium blog: Getting Educated &¬†Organizational Wonders¬†to improve your blog’s function and style. There is a lot of great information on the blog so if you’re interested in learning more about blogging, I encourage you to go have a look. Happy reading!

Events: Coffee Station at BlogPodium

This past Saturday I attended the second BlogPodium event. It was a huge success and if you followed my Twitter feed at all over the weekend then you might have guessed that I had a great time! Toronto-based Mango Studios took some incredible photos of the event and I’m happy to share this one with you today.

photo by Mango Studios

I just love this photo because of the repetition of the perfectly arranged shiny coffee dispensers and all the white that surrounds the silver. Plus – you all know how much I like coffee (e.g., one, two, three)!

p.s. Shout out to my Mom who is celebrating her birthday today! She loves coffee too! (We’re Italian. We like a lot of lattes!)

Events: BlogPodium & Design Blogger Meetup

Canadian design bloggers have got it going on!

From their blogs, I already knew my blogger colleagues were a dynamic group of talented individuals. But meeting some of my blogger friends in person at two recent events – BlogPodium and the Canadian Design Bloggers Meetup – confirmed the fact that this community of bloggers is also friendly, supportive, stylish, and smart.

BlogPodium is the first and only Canadian conference series for design bloggers. I was delighted to attend the inaugural event at IDS2012 in Toronto. The founders, Jennifer Flores and Lindsay Stephenson, set the bar high and achieved success with this first event. They put together a wonderful panel of presenters – Margot Austin, Kimberley Seldon, Kate Moore, Jennifer Flores, and Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault – who shared their opinions about blogs and the media. The talk was informative, engaging, and entertaining, and the crowd of design bloggers eagerly soaked up as much information as they could. I think it is safe to say that we all wished it would have lasted just a little bit longer!

Left to right: me; IDS Founder Shauna Levy; The Panel: Kimberley Seldon, Kate Moore, Margot Austin, Leigh-Ann Allaire Perrault, Jennifer Flores (photos by Jason Hudson)

The event was well-designed, well-orchestrated, and best of all, it was fun! Many thanks to Jennifer and Lindsay for organizing this event and for making us all feel so welcome. Many thanks to the presenters for their candid advice, their approachability, and for making us laugh. And of course, thank you to the many sponsors, including Delta Faucets and House & Home, for supporting our design blogger community!

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As if BlogPodium wasn’t enough, I also had the pleasure of attending my second Canadian Design Bloggers Meetup at Brassaii in Toronto. Vitania and Daniella continue to amaze me with their dedication, their style, and their optimism. They designed a warm, welcoming, and entertaining evening of blogger fun. The meetup included talks by Cameron MacNeil and Lisa Murphy of House & Home, as well as Cassandra Lavalle of Coco+Kelley. Oh – and I must not forget the surprise speaker – Brian Gluckstein. It was great to hear the speakers’ different perspectives on the world of design blogging, the potential for collaborative opportunities, and what inspires them.

Clockwise: Cameron MacNeil, Lisa Murphy, Brian Gluckstein, Cassandra Lavalle (photos by Alessia Lamonaca)

The meetup also gave us bloggers a perfect opportunity to mingle with people who we’ve only known in the online world. For me, chatting with people whose blogs I enjoy was a real highlight of the event. So many people are doing such interesting things – hosting workshops, teaching classes, writing for magazines, designing products – the talents of this group of people is really inspiring!

Clockwise: Welcome to the meetup; Sponsor GlucksteinHome (photos by Alessia Lamonaca); Lindsay, Sharalee & me; me & Troy

Again – let me take this opportunity to thank Vitania and Daniella for organizing such a classy event, the speakers for sharing their experiences, the sponsors for their continued support, and to my fellow design bloggers for being such a cool group of people to hang out with online and in person!