Links I’m loving… Labour Day weekend edition!

Summer flower

It’s hard to believe summer is coming to an end soon. Feels like just yesterday I was snapping photos of cherry blossoms in bloom and strolling through an outdoor flower market, along with checking out the Junction’s adorable flea market and a massive outdoor music festival. After all those summer adventures, it’s already Labour Day weekend… where did the time go? I hope you all have a chance to rest & relax… and check out some of these lovely links I’ve been exploring over the past few days:

Want a getaway from the city this long weekend? Check out this awesome round-up of unusual day trips near Toronto.

Fellow musical theater lovers will appreciate celebrities with surprising Broadway beginnings.

10 awesome apps to throw the perfect party.

Condo dwellers rejoice! A selection of couches that actually fit in small spaces.

Who knew these existed? Some clever items to simplify your life.

If you’re looking for a new base for your makeup, try one of these primers.

Bloggers, take note: A great selection of tips to improve your blog subscribers.

And, if you’re having a bad day, these dancing ostriches will surely cheer you up.

PS: With Labour Day weekend here… enjoy my summer board on Pinterest one last time!

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Style: Metallic silver heels & loafers

Metallic silver shoes

1. J. Crew 2. Topshop 3. Zara 4. Gap 5. Shoescribe

I’ve been a little bit in love with silver shoes since I first spotted that top pair of heels at J. Crew. They’re glam at first glance, but totally versatile – they’d look just as cute with faded denim jeans as they would with a cocktail dress. And heck, if you keep them in good condition, they’d be nice wedding shoes too (what can I say? I’m thrifty & plan ahead!)

With all that being said, the loafer variety looks mighty comfy and more practical for day-to-day. Not sure which ones I’ll end up getting… what do you think?

Recipe: Pork & peppers with sriracha sauce

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Jordan and I have been on a mission to  get sriracha sauce for awhile (you know, that yummy, spicy stuff that you can get at Vietnamese restaurants) but it’s been totally sold out every time we go grocery shopping at our usual location. But we finally found it after randomly stopping off at another store one day – hurrah! I decided to experiment with it on some pork chops we bought, and it turned out to be delicious. The pork chops don’t taste overwhelmingly like chili peppers or anything, but it does add a burst of flavour and spice. Tossing some bell peppers in the same pan makes for an easy but flavourful weeknight meal.

Ingredients (for 2 servings):

  • 2 pork chops
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 yellow bell pepper
  • 4 tbsp. sriracha sauce
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp. sesame seeds
  • Salt & pepper

Directions 

  1. Marinate pork chops with an even coating of sriracha sauce, olive oil, garlic, sesame seeds and some salt and pepper. Leave in the fridge for at least an hour.
  2. In the meantime, chop red and yellow bell peppers into slivers.
  3. Add olive oil to pan and fry pork chops for 10 minutes (5 minutes per side).
  4. Add slivers of pepper and saute for another 5-10 minutes, until pork is fully cooked.
  5. Serve with juices from the pan drizzled overtop.
  6. Tip: This would go well with a side of smashed potatoes!

Pork & peppers with sriracha sauce
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Back from Simcoe’s Gentlemen of the Road festival

I was delightfully MIA this weekend – spent the past couple days down in Simcoe, Ontario for the Gentlemen of the Road music festival. While it was a lot of waiting around (epic lineups for food, merch, and all that jazz) it was totally worth it in the end. Mumford and Sons put on an amazing show on Saturday night! It was a hand clapping, foot stomping good time with tens of thousands of other music lovers. To see how busy the place got, check out this crazy time lapse.

Mumford and Sons

Mumford and Sons

Mumford and Sons

We were covered in dirt when we left the fairgrounds. Hope you all had a great weekend too!

Tools for building your blog – while working 9 to 5

Tools for blogging while working 9 to 5

When I first started blogging this past spring, I learned two big things pretty quickly. The first was that the sweet spot for getting traction on blog posts seemed to be posting them during the middle of the day. The second thing was a realization that this would be totally unfeasible with my 9 to 5 job. Right?

Well, not quite. If you’re a budding blogger, you’re probably gone through the same internal conflict – you’ve figured out the ideal time to post content, but it seems totally at odds with the job you work every day that actually pays the bills. It’s a juggling act! But here’s the good news: it IS doable.

Here are a few online tools I’ve started putting in place to keep myself organized and post regular content during the day, even though I’m at the office:

1) Pre-schedule your posts with WordPress
For folks who’ve been blogging awhile, this is old news – but figuring out that I could pre-schedule posts on WordPress was the best discovery to me! Now, I write content at night/weekends and generally schedule it to be posted around noon on weekdays when my readers are likely on their lunch breaks and craving some engaging content. You can also connect it directly to Twitter and Facebook so it automatically promotes the post there too.

2) Line up advance promo with Buffer
When a post goes up, you’ve got to let people know it’s there… but it’s easy to let regular social media promo fall by the wayside when you’re busy at work. That’s where Buffer comes in. The service lets you schedule original tweets and Facebook posts. It doesn’t take long on my lunch break to schedule updates for the rest of the afternoon and evening, so my posts are getting promoted even if I’m stuck in back-to-back meetings.

3) Don’t lose good ideas with Trello
If you’re like me, you’ve probably had a random idea at the office that would be perfect for a blog post. Then, of course, you get busy at work, rush home, make dinner… and that idea is probably long gone by the time you sit down to actually work on the darn thing. I’ve been making use of Trello lately as a system for organizing these ideas so they don’t go to waste. It’s especially helpful if your blog is run by multiple people – since you can share ideas easily, all in one place.

 What do you think? What are your tips for maintaining a blog while working 9 to 5?

Have you been bitten by the busyness bug?

The busyness bug

Every so often, I read something that resonates so perfectly that I swear someone snuck into my brain and wrote it just for me, based on my convoluted thoughts. This piece fit the bill.

It’s a 2012 New York Times column by Tim Kreider, titled “The Busy Trap.” In it, Kreider writes:

If you live in America in the 21st century you’ve probably had to listen to a lot of people tell you how busy they are. It’s become the default response when you ask anyone how they’re doing: ”Busy!” ”So busy.” ”Crazy busy.” It is, pretty obviously, a boast disguised as a complaint. And the stock response is a kind of congratulation: ”That’s a good problem to have,” or ”Better than the opposite.”

Notice it isn’t generally people pulling back-to-back shifts in the I.C.U. or commuting by bus to three minimum-wage jobs who tell you how busy they are; what those people are is not busy but tired. Exhausted. Dead on their feet. It’s almost always people whose lamented busyness is purely self-imposed: work and obligations they’ve taken on voluntarily, classes and activities they’ve ”encouraged” their kids to participate in. They’re busy because of their own ambition or drive or anxiety, because they’re addicted to busyness and dread what they might have to face in its absence.

Well, Tim, I’ll let you know something: it’s not just America that’s “busy.” Here in Toronto, everyone I know seems to fit this bill too. We’ve been bitten by some chronic busyness bug, and boy, is it contagious. No one I know just has one job. There may be one that pays the bills, but then there’s volunteering on the side, or freelancing, or running a side-business. Or social networking. Or personal branding at every possible moment through every possible medium. Everyone my age (disclaimer: I’m almost 25) is a self-imposed workaholic. When did that happen?

I’m not immune to this busy bug, by the way. I typically have overlapping stresses each day – the regular busyness of my 9-5(ish) job, the constantly nagging busyness of my freelancing efforts, and the entirely self-imposed busyness of this blog. Sometimes, I will admit, these layers and layers of things-that-must-get-done take a bit of the fun out of… well, everything.

So what’s the cure for all of this busyness that we assume will lift our spirits – but often drags us down?

In Tim’s column, he writes about fleeing town for some undisclosed location that acts as a respite. And I love how the decision impacts him:

Here I am largely unmolested by obligations. There is no TV. To check e-mail I have to drive to the library. I go a week at a time without seeing anyone I know. I’ve remembered about buttercups, stink bugs and the stars. I read. And I’m finally getting some real writing done for the first time in months. It’s hard to find anything to say about life without immersing yourself in the world, but it’s also just about impossible to figure out what it might be, or how best to say it, without getting the hell out of it again.

Going away and doing nothing goes against all notions of productivity most of us subscribe to. But maybe that’s the way to get back all that stuff our constant busyness snuffs out – our unbridled curiosity, passion and creativity. You know, the good stuff that doesn’t always fit into a jam-packed Google calendar or Trello board.

What do you think?

Recipe: Baked pork tenderloin

Baked pork tenderloin

I realized the other day that if I’m cooking meat, it’s generally chicken. Jordan will sometimes bring home steak to feed his manly cravings for beef, but really, most weeknight meals are good ol’ fashioned poultry. When I realized how boring that makes me in the kitchen – I knew I had to try something new! Pork tenderloin seemed like a good idea… but I’d never tried it before. And we don’t own a barbecue. Those potential issues aside, this actually turned out quite nice in the oven – very juicy and flavourful. Jordan said it kind of tasted like chicken, but I’ll let you guys be the judge on that!

Ingredients (for 2 servings):

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 4 cloves of garlic (crushed)
  • 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • Ground black pepper

Directions 

  1. Preheat oven to 400F.
  2. Mix garlic, balsamic vinegar and olive oil together in a bowl.
  3. Slather half of the mixture on the pork tenderloin, coating both sides.
  4. Sear the tenderloin on the stovetop until all sides are browned (takes 3-5 minutes).
  5. Slather the tenderloin with the remaining mixture.
  6. Once oven is ready, bake tenderloin for 30 minutes or until fully cooked.
  7. Let sit for 5 minutes, slice, and serve.
  8. Tip: This pairs nicely with my smashed potatoes!

Baked pork tenderloin