Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The E-Domain

Though the focus of The Do-tique is life in our physical domains, I wanted to take a look at the world of the virtual home as it is full of DIY projects waiting for attention! 

Over the past few months, in anticipation of an effort to connect face-to-face with colleagues in my own industry and to meet and learn from new contacts in another related industry, I thought it would be wise to create a business card that represented me as a professional contact. 

Wikipedia: Attorney's Card, 1895

The personal business card is about acknowledging that networking takes place on both a personal and professional level in many sectors. We network with other professionals to learn from each other as colleagues. In the business/sales setting, we work to create connections on behalf of our employers when we are representing them to potential or existing clients. Two functions, two cards - use each appropriately.

Some options I looked at for personalized cards were: and
Both had great design templates, but I went with the local (and awesome!) student print shop this time around since they had the best price, quickest turnaround and it allowed me to order a small "tester batch" and I'll save the larger order until I'm done "testing" this look.

The big question that came out of this thinking was how to create an email address that would be connected to my "personal brand" and communicate professionalism. I understood that was going to make me look like a teenager. See Marketing Actuary for a discussion on this very topic. 

I ended up with a custom website and matching email address that are perfect for my purposes. The process was not as intuitive as I thought, so I wanted to share what I learned in case it is something you might be considering yourself.

Step 1 - Purchase your site name

Did you know that you have to buy a URL? I didn't. 
I spoke with my telephone and internet provider about purchasing the name from them. The service included email addresses at that URL, but their pricing was fairly high.
Instead, I purchased my site from an online retailer called
I chose the very most basic plan and the cost was $4.95 per year and I got that pricing by searching "netfirms promo code 2011" in Google and finding a coupon code that was valid.

Step 2 - Create a Google Apps account

The reason for this is that there is a cost to create an email account at your URL through Netfirms. Google allows you to create an email account with the ending for free through their Apps program. In essence, it is a Gmail account without any visual association to Google.
Google will take you through a process to confirm that you own that URL before initiating the account. You can also migrate the website over to Google Apps and use their free templates for web design if you are a novice like me.

Step 3 - Download onto your desktop

Do you want to deal with more webmail? Really? The answer for me is, "NO."
The solution: I was able to set everything up as a POP account that automatically downloads into my MacMail program. I can check email remotely through webmail if I want to, but for everyday use, it's all nicely automated.

I am certain that there must be another way to set all of this up at a low cost, but this was the path of least resistance that I was able to find. What do you think? Is there an easier way? Is anyone else thinking along the lines of carrying two cards?

As Joan tells Peggy about her typewriter in Episode 1 of Mad Men:

"Try not to be overwhelmed with all this technology. It looks complicated, 
but the men who designed it made it simple enough for a woman to use."

DIY Rating: 5 

As the Marketing Actuary suggested, the most knowledgeable 
person I spoke to happened to be an undergraduate student.

In terms of the DIY aspect, I regret that I didn't employ 
an expert here who could have set this up in much less time.

Perhaps my road map will help other DIY'ers!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Score at the Grocery Store!!

Image Credit: Life

Ok, so just a quick post today since time is short and I want to get cooking!

I scored big time at FreshCo today in Kingston where almost all of their meat was 50% off! The best before on everything is January 27th (today is the 25th) so if I get cooking and freezing today, I'm not too worried about anything spoiling.

The strategy here at The Do-tique is always about frozen dinners. We cook about once or twice a month in a big way and then the rest of the month we cook up quick stuff and work through the freezer stash. By setting aside one or two afternoons (usually Sundays) a month to make up some extra meals for the freezer, the week seems to go smoother with way less clean up and hassle.

Here are some ideas of things I'll be making up in the next day or so and maybe the list will inspire others in terms of good ideas for make ahead meals:

(All of the meat ingredients were on sale today)

The recipes are just samples. All of these allow for some play to adjust ingredients to what you have on hand - so feel free to substitute or search the web until you find a recipe that matches what you have in the kitchen.

My two best tips here are if you see a cut of meat on sale that doesn't look like what you're looking for, you can get creative about butchering it yourself. For example, if you are looking to make stew, look for a roast on sale and cut it up yourself. If you need pork chops, a roast pork may be more affordable and you can cut the chops from that. Whole chickens are often cheaper than chicken quarters and you can make soup broth from the leftover parts when you quarter it yourself.

My second tip is that if you are at the store and thinking about doing some pre-cooking, pick up some ziploc containers and aluminum casserole trays so that you can easily portion out servings for your freezer without tying up your more permanent dishes.

Avoid intensely complicated recipes for maximum bang for your time input!

DIY Rating: 7
The ease and convenience of frozen dinners at 
a fraction of the cost and without the unhealthy stuff.

The time commitment here is front-end loaded, 
so you will need at least a couple of half-days a month
 to get ahead, but the time saved during the week is substantial.

Monday, January 24, 2011

God Bless this Mess!

J. over at Rambling Renovators decided to share one of her family's messy secrets today. Namely, a dysfunctional entry closet that they cleaned up this past week. Inspired by J., I thought I would share our family's not-so-secret mess and show off my toy storage solution. It looks like this:

Yes, I realize that this is a tiny, tiny amount of toys - there are in fact a few other similarly sized piles elsewhere in the house - however, I still think a pile on the floor is not quite the level of decor solution that I'm looking for in my main living room.

We went to IKEA yesterday to do some brainstorming on solutions and came up with this option. This Hemnes cabinet would work well with Baby's books and we thought a good idea might be to mount something behind the glass - fabric or peel and stick frosting - to hide some of the chaos inside. 

A much more affordable solution would be the Expedit bookcase below that can be left vertical or used horizontally. I think it might provide more storage, but without doors, the toy-jumble remains exposed and the cubbies aren't very wide.

Anywhere besides IKEA that I should be looking? Anyone have some ideas I could use? 

In answer to, "where are the rest of Baby's toys?" there are quite a few downstairs in the den and a whole bunch up in her bedroom. We are trying to keep the toys to a reasonable minimum without reducing the fun factor around here by letting Baby play with other safe items around the house that she finds interesting like plastic water bottles and cardboard boxes and containers with rice or pasta and the pots, pans and tupperware. Her stash currently includes some wrapping paper from Christmas that she is interested in scrunching up. Another strategy was to take her to free play groups run by the Ontario Early Years program where you could play for a while with their toys and sign a few out to bring home and borrow. 

I often remind myself that children all over the world and in past ages were quite satisfied with only 2 or 3 toys and that the pile we have is indeed quite substantial!

That being said, I still want to get the ones we have up and off the floor!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Warn Graphic Design

I took a course in Photoshop way back in the early 1990s. It was brand new back then and we were working on "386's" - being lucky enough to go to a high school that could afford to build such a state of the art computer lab in those days! Needless to say, though the concepts I learned haven't changed that much, my skills are seriously rusty these days.

That being said, when I needed a photo for my professional image, the DIY avenue was not really an option. Thankfully, my friend Warren Nowosad stepped up to help me out at the last minute and transformed my pic into something that looks good and will be useful to me. I want to send out a big "Thank You" to Warren and I thought I would showcase his online portfolio here so that you can get an idea of the work that he does as a designer.


I'm hesitant to reveal the "magic" that Warren worked, but since Brittney Spears decided recently to release her raw images, I thought I could follow her suit! (Needless to say, but Brittney does not really look bad at all in her more realistic photos!)

Do you use LinkedIn as part of your own professional networking strategy? Have you thought about investing in a professional photo? I see some out there that haven't been updated since I took that photoshop course in the 90's! Others are low-res or look like they belong on Facebook. What does yours say about you?

DIY Rating: 0 
Leave this one to the experts! 

It would have taken me hours to do this myself
and since I need the image for business,
the professional job looks, well, more professional!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

More Adminitrivia...

This wouldn't be rightly called The Do-tique if we didn't tackle the question of To-Do lists! Yes, they are a major part of life around here and sometimes we even resort to taping a big page out of one of my sketchbooks onto the wall and working out the list that way! All the ideas go on the big sheet, but only the most important or doable tasks end up on the final list.

Promod Sharma included this link in his regular newsletter. It provides some tips on tackling your own to-do list. If you are running a business, thinking about business, working for anyone or really trying to accomplish just about anything, Promod does a great job of sharing his own insights on how to be better and do better. I have become a fairly regular reader of his blogs, so I'd like to welcome him to my blogroll here at The Do-tique.

As for my list, it's pretty short today. There are only about two things I need to "ship" today. Unfortunately, they're buried under a huge pile of stuff on my desktop! Wish me luck as I start digging!

Before I sign off, I'd like to thank my first two fans who have joined as "followers" of this site! Welcome  to you both! As for the rest of my readers and regular commentators, a special thanks to all of you for visiting and for your support over the past few months!

Filia Artis

PS. The offer of $50 off your next furnace cleaning or servicing is still open. No one has taken me up on the free coupons yet!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Craft-tastic! Bulletin Board

Image Credit: Mamacos, Cape Town

Above is a beautiful photograph I found for a company that does reupholstering in Cape Town.

I watch a fair amount of HGTV and the folks on those shows are always doing stuff involving staplers and fabric and they make it look pretty easy to reupholster just about anything.

Since I'm often dubious about the actual time needed to do crafts like this vs. the time it takes thanks to the magic of television, I've always been hesitant to try the technique myself.

Despite my doubts, I thought I might try something easy and cover a boring bulletin board that I bought for my office.

The "stains" in the fabric are just a bit of excess water from the iron!

Taking a piece of scrap fabric I had stowed away - it is a simple cotton that originally came from IKEA about ten years ago - I used a regular stapler to attach it to the back of the bulletin board. I followed the technique I've seen suggested on TV where you start on the long side in the middle, tack down in a few spots and then pull the fabric gently into place and work from the opposite side and then around the rest of the perimeter. For the corners, you just fold the edges over like gift wrap and staple everything into place.

Total time on this was extremely minimal - I think it actually came out in the twenty minute range including giving a quick ironing to the fabric before stapling.

My cool new office closet turned into a printing and filing station!

The results? It looks very simple but pretty good in my opinion. I probably could have used a more interesting fabric and done some embellishing with ribbon, etc., but then it would have been much more involved and I was in for the quick and dirty crafting here.

The cost was about $25 for the bulletin board and the fabric was a free leftover from another person. If you are not crafty, there are lots of this type of thing for sale on from $15 to $150.

Now, all I need are these super funky push pins for my board. My birthday is coming....

From seller Pegsboards

DIY Rating: 9  

The test run on this came out at 20 minutes, 
so it's an easy craft and way cooler 
than a boring old cork board. 

However, as I always say, if you're not a crafter yourself, 
Etsy has some great "home faked" options too!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Books and Miscellanea at The Do-tique

Image Credit: Wikimedia Commons

A little update on the viewing culture here at The Do-tique:

The big news is that Behemoth (our 1979 RCA floor TV) is going to be moving to the basement to make room for a new LCD TV. We're seriously moving from 1979 to 2010 in one fell swoop in terms of technology! 

Since the new TV comes with a grounded plug, we'll be replacing the old receptacle with a GFCI outlet that will provide the necessary grounding without re-wiring the whole house. If you live in an older home like we do, you might want to do some research on installing these in locations like kitchens, bathrooms, and living rooms - the job is pretty easy and it's a smarter way to go than the traditional jury-rigging that happens when you either cut off the grounded prong (not recommended!) or put in a regular grounded outlet and simply don't connect the ground to anything (also not recommended!). 

In short, our viewing experience will hopefully improve greatly when New TV arrives - especially since the sound on our Behemoth was pre-stereo, which made a lot of DVDs hard to hear properly!

Up in the Air with George Clooney was the most recent flick playing at The Do-tique. The main character, Ryan Bingham is a guy whose job it is to travel across the country firing people on behalf of their employers. He is the quintessential road warrior and he only spends about 40 (miserable) days a year living in his apartment, which he has set up exactly like a hotel room. His major goal is to amass 10 million frequent flyer miles and become member number 7 of an exclusive club of individuals who have attained this status.

One of the best quotes in the movie is, "Loyalty is valuable" and this becomes a theme that runs throughout. Ryan's most loyal relationships are with American Airlines, the hotel chains he uses and his car rental company. He is loyal to the company that he works for and also to his beliefs about how their business should be done. He resists the push to outsource the job of notifying employees from video call centers manned by "human automatons," but it's clear that if he doesn't get with the program soon, he might be the one without a job.

The question of loyalty is also examined in the reactions of the employees that are being fired: "This is what I get (ie. a hired gun coming in with a package) after 18 years of loyal service to this company!?!" The supporting actress, Natalie Keener, is fresh out of Cornell's business program and passes up a better job opportunity in San Diego to move to Omaha with her boyfriend. He later dumps her in a text message!

When Ryan finally decides to choose a human relationship based on love rather than a consumer exchange, it turns out that what he gets is exactly what he "paid" for - a casual, sexual relationship - as his girlfriend ultimately chooses to remain loyal to her "real life" of a husband and children and can offer no more in return to him than precisely the causal relationship he bargained for in the first place.

DIY Rating: 8 

for both installing GFCIs yourself 
and for watching this movie!

Monday, January 10, 2011

Serious Business

Photo Credit: Filia Artis

Apparently, since Mrs. Blankenship is no longer available, Baby has decided she should help us step up our game around here and spent some time pitching in with the filing and office cleaning.

Administrative Assistance

“I’d have my secretary do it, but she’s dead.” 
(Don Draper, MadMen)

How do you stay organized?

Since this is the time of year for resolutions about getting organized, I thought I'd share my best tip from 2010.

A friend of mine swears by the Moleskine notebook. Here is a crazy cool tip sheet that he found online for the many ways that you can put your notebook to work for you:

And why Moleskine? Is it because they are trendy and available at places that attract literati and latte drinkers like Indigo? Maybe...

For some of us, the key is to find a notebook that fits into your lifestyle. I wanted something that could fit into my purse or pocket with pages that could be torn out easily and a handy pouch in the back.

Over the years, I've had every sort of PDA and Blackberry and nifty electronic thing imaginable, but none of them have lasted more than a year or two and so, they have no archival value for me. They need to be charged and they provide other distractions like email and photos when what I really need is a calendar and a place to make notes.

My system for the past year has been to use the iCal function on my MacBook for tracking dates and appointments and to keep a small Moleskine in my purse to track things I need to do, ideas, prices, notes from meetings, grocery/shopping lists, etc. On January 1, 2010, I started a list of major tasks that needed to be address over the course of the year and every week, I'd return to that list and see if there was anything that I could do to advance any of the items. By December 2010, all of the tasks were completed.

There is a freedom inherent in this system because if it is in the book it will get done and there is no need to worry about trying to remember what those blue sky goals were at the beginning of the year - they're right here with me in my pocket!

I even created a price chart for diapers in my notebook! Since every store sells packages with different quantities, it's hard to compare when a sale price is actually a good deal and doing math on the spot is kind of hard with an unhappy infant along for the ride!

DIY Rating: 10

Unless you can afford to hire a secretary, 
you're going to need to get organized on your own!

Keeping it simple works for me and maybe all we need in this world 
is that ancient little packet of paper in our pockets 
rather than the newest and most-advanced electronic gadget!

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Guest Post - My Lucky Pencil

Mark J. Lacey Completing his 1945 taxes          Photo Credit: Life

Check out my guest post over at My Lucky Pencil!

The post contains some information for Canadian writers, consultants, etc. who might be thinking about working with customers in the US market. The question arose from a conundrum that a friend of mine found herself in when negotiations began with a US publisher for her upcoming book.

If you're thinking of DIY-ing this sort of thing yourself, I hope my research might be helpful to you! (I am also happy to hear of any corrections that might be needed in case you are an expert in this sort of thing, which I am not!)


Filia Artis

PS. Thanks to the folks over at My Lucky Pencil for their support!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

$50 Giveaway!

Announcing my first official Do-tique giveaway!!

You might know that in my professional life as a fundraiser, direct mail solicitations are part of the "bread and butter" of keeping business going. One of the best ways to generate new interest is to remember to start by saying "thank you." This is probably no breakthrough when I say that it goes for the businesses that we deal with regularly as well.

Tonight I received a thank you letter from my furnace maintenance company 21 Degrees One Hour Heating and Air Conditioning. The letter was good. It was short, it was concise, it created a connection. It came with a $50 coupon for me to use toward their services and two $50 coupons to share with friends. There are no terms or conditions on the offers.

Here at The Do-tique, we have had our furnace cleaned and serviced twice and the motor for our furnace replaced once. For both cleanings, I received very good discount prices for booking during special promotions and the motor repair charges were discounted because we were members of their service program.

So, if you are in or near one of the areas that 21 Degrees services, let me know and I'll mail you one of my $50 coupons. (email me with your address at

Service areas include:
  • Trenton
  • Port Hope
  • Cobourg
  • Belleville
  • Kingston
  • Gananoque
  • Napanee
  • Picton
Good work on your letter, Kevin!

DIY Rating: 0 for servicing your own furnace!
Leave it to the experts! Good customer service from 21 Degrees!

Going Forth

The Lizard King                                                Image Credit: Art Car Central

Have you heard of The Lizard Brain? (Stick with me here, this IS heading somewhere...)

I read about the Lizard Brain a few times in 2010. What I'm talking about here is what is known as the Amygdala, the part of our brains that is in charge of the Limbic System - our fear, anger, revenge, instinct centre - functioning on the level just above the stuff in our brains that keeps us breathing.

Seth Godin talks a lot about the Lizard Brain. When the Lizard Brain is in charge, all higher mental functioning shuts down. I think of it as the "panic button." It will provide us any excuse to be afraid, to stop, to stall, to fight or to run away. It helps us to survive, but as Seth puts it, "survival and success are not the same thing."

I realize that the Lizard has had a few too many hours in the driver's seat of my life. Maybe you are in a similar situation? Tell-tale signs are procrastination, sticking with a course/job/plan/routine that doesn't make you feel happy or fulfilled, always putting off what it is you really want to be doing with your time, etc.

So I got to thinking about the New Year and what my resolutions would be for 2011. In so many ways, I faced several of my biggest and most obvious fears in the past year. And you know what, these things weren't as scary in the end as I thought they were going to be.

It helped me come to understand that living in fear of letting go of the stable and the constant things in life was not worth the trouble. Now, granted, here on the side where there is no longer any real "secure" future, things are not necessarily comfortable, but I'm less panicked about the future than I was when I feared losing that security.

This brings me to think about my resolutions for the coming year, 2011. There are so many things in my life that I have done that were big and scary and a hell of a lot of fun. At the same time, there are so many more that I've never made a serious effort to go about because of what the Lizard Brain tells us about fearing failure, fearing art, fearing to go "off track" in life. The fear that comes from not simply jumping though hoops, but choosing to chart a new course.

This year is going to be about listening to the Lizard Brain. Acknowledging the fear. But taking away his car keys for a while. He and I are going to be doing some trip planning in the next few months, maybe it will even take longer than that. 

Seth Godin sometimes calls the Lizard Brain the Resistance. He writes: 
"Making something that matters is hard. The resistance will help you find the thing you most need to do because it is the thing the resistance most wants to stop."

My resolution for 2011 will be to look for the resistance, question it and use it to guide me toward the things I need to be doing.

DIY Rating: 
10 for having coffee with the Lizard Brain!
0 for doing this all by yourself;
as with all good resolutions, 
get some friends to help you stay on track!