It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year!

When I type the headline to this post I hear the song in my head. Sadly, I've been well marketed-to because I also picture parents dancing through the aisles of a popular office supply chain picking up back-to-school supplies. Clearly that advertisement worked.

I've always loved Fall. For the most part, I loved school. I love wearing sweaters. I especially love Halloween, Thanksgiving, my birthday (October), and Oktoberfest. And this year, I've added my first vacation in Las Vegas to the Fall calendar and I couldn't be more excited. Look for a blog post on that in late October!

While it seems conventional thinking assigns life re-invention to January, I have always felt the Fall is the best time to reinvigorate personal projects, re-evaluate goals, and to focus on things like healthy eating, exercise, and sleeping well. So in this post, I decided to take a moment to consider the past 8 months and look ahead to 2015.

If you're a regular reader you already know that 8 months ago I quit my job, found a new job, and relocated to small-town eastern Ontario...for love. It's turned out to be a great decision. While I certainly miss some friends and old haunts (a particular pho restaurant comes to mind), the new life I'm building more than makes up for those losses. Friends and family can be visited, there's plenty of new restaurants to be discovered in Ottawa and Montreal, and I'm constantly experiencing new things.

I realized over the past few years that trying new things is essential to my happiness. I'm not alone in this, psychologists agree that new experiences are one key to feeling happy. Once I realized this I found myself able to thrust myself into new experiences with a greater passion. The fear sometimes associated with new experiences is easy to overcome if I simply remind myself of how happy I will feel in the moment.

Some new things I've done in the past 8 months, in no particular order:

Organic Local Hops

  • Learned Zumba.
  • Travelled to Edmonton and saw the Rockies (well, from the airplane)
  • Worked at a trade show...partly in french. (and spoke more french than I realized I knew!)
  • New tattoo by Wes Pratt 
  • Got a tattoo (actually my second, but the first was at 18 and it was very small, so this felt new)
  • Ate an arepa sandwich
  • Visited a new brewery in Halifax (North Brewing)
  • Learned to work from home. (OMG I love this, no wonder everyone wants to do it.)
  • Learned how to administer the 'back end' of an app.
  • Bought my first pair of high-waisted jeans since the 1990's.
  • Started "Walking Wednesdays" with some local friends. It's not complicated, but to paraphrase Mean Girls, "On Wednesdays, we walk"
  • Played softball (To brag; I got a hit at every at-bat. To self-depricate; I never caught a ball.)
  • Visited Griffin Gastropub in Bracebridge
  • Ate a Lancaster Perch roll
  • Caught a show at the House of Targ in Ottawa
  • Visited the ruins at St. Raphael's
Ruins at St. Raphael's
I'm pretty sure there's even more things I did that were new. 
In the next few months, I want to:

  • Learn more French!
  • Do more art
  • Get cross country ski equipment and try out the trails
  • Blog more...always, blog more.
  • Try as many new things as possible

In my blog post about moving 8 months ago I listed five things I wanted to be doing more of:
1. Blogging more often (see above, a perpetual goal)
2. Going to Zumba (check!)
3. Fermenting Things (check...ish. I fermented sauerkraut but it's exceedingly salty and inedible. Will try again.)
4. Making Art. (see above...I'm thinking Christmas gifts will be my motivation yet again)
5. Community Involvement. I've been in touch with the Arbor Gallery and plan to join their board. I am still in the initial stages, but it looks like I will be a volunteer graphic designer with them in the next few weeks.

In closing, I set out in writing this post because yet again I was feeling cruddy that I've neglected my blog. I always enjoy making time for it, because it helps me review my life, and acts as a living diary of places I visit. Recently I got to thinking about the kinds of posts I used to do, about colour, trends, or illustration, and realized that the blog has become less about general topics and more about me. I'm ok with that, because when this blog started it was mainly to establish some of my writing on these topics on the web to help my career move forward. But as my career progressed, and I became published more often on other platforms, this blog became anything I wanted it to be as it struck my mood in the moment.

That said, I want to develop some new direction for my writing in this space and that's on my goal list for the coming months. (Side note, if you are aching for more of my writing, be sure to follow the blog over at Pottery Lane Imports where I talk fashion trends and colours on a regular basis.) What should this space be? What kinds of articles do I enjoy writing most? This is for me to contemplate, before aiming for a blog re-launch in the new year. Feel free to let me know in the comments, what do you like about my blog? What do you want more of? I'd love to hear from you.


Jacquie's Job Search Tips

Here's something I've never blogged about before, but I get asked about all the time. I don't know why I'm asked about this topic often, but it seems people think I have good advice to give. And to toot my own horn a bit, I have helped a lot of people along the way with how to improve their resume, how they should handle their social media lives during job searches, and have given loads of interview tips. I even was the ghost-writer of a resume for someone who had been jobless for many months who shortly after landed a great job. I don't know, I don't have any hard evidence it was my re-draft of her resume...but she was very pleased. So it seems I know a bit about the topic.

I was giving advice again recently and typing out a long-winded email to a former intern on the hunt for a job, when I decided that maybe I should post this to my blog, so that the next time someone asked, I could just give them the link.

This is geared towards people looking for their first "adult" job after university, or people looking to change careers.

1. When searching for work, I would suggest being persistent and following up your dropped off resume, and if you get an interview, send a thank you card afterwards no matter how it went. Don't burn any bridges and say thank you often. You never know when you'll need those contacts down the road. And people LOVE getting hand written notes.

2. Always write a resume customized to the job post. Take key words from the job post and include them on your resume, in case they digitally review them, but it also helps for old fashioned review styles. Make sure you take the job post point by point and reference all items between your cover letter and your resume. I can't stress this enough...be very specific to the job you are applying for, a general resume will rarely work.

3. Don't write a novel. Ideally, a resume should be 1 page, 2 pages if you have loads of relevant work experience or you need to include published articles and so on. Don't list every task at every job you've ever had. A resume is an advertisement that gets them hooked -- leave things to be discussed in an interview. Just include interesting and the most relevant experience you have.

4. Write a custom cover letter for each job. Don't tell them what they are going to read in your resume, instead let your personality shine through, and tell them why you want that job in particular. Be honest and be fun to read.

5. Never say you are "responsible, reliable, punctual, hard-working" or any of those other general words on a resume or cover letter. If you are applying for the job, it's assumed you can handle it if you are applying. Talk about your skills. Managing multiple projects and deadlines is a skill; being a hard worker is not a skill.

6. Before the interview research the heck out of the job and the employer. Read their entire website. Google them and read articles about their industry. Then if they ask you if you have questions you will have questions to ask specific to the company, and it will show you have done your research. It's ok to ask questions you already know the answer to. The point is to show them you know what you are applying for.

7. On the day of the interview, dress conservatively, even if that isn't your style day-to-day. I never wear nude nail polish....except for job interviews and sales meetings with new clients. Once they love you, you can get away with wearing more crazy stuff. The exception to this is if the job is at a fashion company or somewhere else where dressing with flair is encouraged.

8. Know the answer to standard questions and practice them. What is your weakness, what is a challenge  you've overcome in a workplace, how do you handle stress, how do you organize your time, where do you see yourself in 5 years....your answers can be only vaguely true (especially the 5 years one) but practice them and know the answers in advance so you don't have to sit there thinking about it.

9. In the interview don't be afraid to ask them to repeat the question mid-answer (to make sure you are on track) and don't be afraid to tell them you are nervous-if you are. This is an interview, not a contest at being perfect. At the end of the interview, try to find a way to ask for the job. Either ask if they will be doing second interviews, or what their timeline is for hiring. This gives them the impression you're hungry for it, and gives you a chance to tell them you're really interested and can't wait to hear from them.

10. Bring things to the interview. If the job is creative, bring a portfolio of some kind. Don't email them a link to a website, or ask them to download a pdf, or to read your blog. Print stuff out and bring it, or bring an ipad loaded with samples. Always take a copy of your resume and cover letter to an interview in a folder. For one, it's good if the person doesn't have it handy, and two, it gives you something to do with your hands so you don't fidget.

11. Be early. Sit in the waitiing room, or use the washroom, or walk around. Eat a healthy meal with protein beforehand. (This tip in particular is one I've mucked up before and it was a disaster. I was so hungry I got blubbery in the interview...not good).

12. Be aware that the employer may have googled you. Especially if you work in any social field (communications, social media, pr, design) you need to know what your google results say about you. If you don't like what they say, get working on fixing your google results so you do like them (sidebar, should I do a post on how to do that too?) so that you are proud of what the results say. If they google you and there are no results...that is bad, possibly worse than embarrassing results. Put up a LinkedIn page at the very least.

13. On the topic of social media, do NOT say you have "social media" as a job skill if you only use it for personal reasons. Having a facebook or twitter account is not a job skill, unless you have done it for an employer in the past, or to promote something specific other than yourself. Instead, focus on the software you use, for example you might say that you are comfortable in both a Mac or PC environment, and are skilled in using a wide range of software including...

14. Lastly, in my view, little white lies are ok, so long as you will do the work needed afterwards to make it a truth. For example, I was once asked in an interview if I had used Excel before. I hadn't. I had used Lotus 123 (a very old spreadsheet program on my parent's computer as a child) and I understood Excel was a spreadsheet program in the Windows suite. I said yes. In the meantime, I learned how to use Excel and taught myself to write formulas and other basic skills. When the time came to use it I was ready to go, because I'd worked hard to get there.

Let me know in the comments what you think, are my job search tips useful?


Road Trip: Montreal

I'm now living about an hour from Montreal, and so Eddy and I decided to take advantage of our locale and visit Montreal for an evening during Nuit Blanche. Truth told, we only discovered it was Nuit Blanche after reading this article about sandwiches to eat in Montreal, and trying to decide what weekend we'd head out to see how the list holds up.

While trying to choose a weekend to book a hotel, I noticed that there was a 24 hour showing of The Clock, one of my favourite works of art. (I blogged about seeing it in Ottawa here.) So it worked out that we could eat a lot of sandwiches, and catch a showing of the Clock for free as part of Nuit Blanche, which seemed like a perfect plan.

We started out hungry on Saturday morning, aiming to eat at Patati Patata.  This was slightly misguided because there was snow and the drive took closer to 2 hours, and by the time we arrived it was noon and the lineup in this tiny place was almost out the door. If I'd had a light breakfast, or had anything other than black coffee at this point I might have been able to endure waiting in  line to get a seat. But that wasn't the case. So we walked for a while and found Cafe Code Black. It sure looked nice inside, with reclaimed furniture and minimal decor, and the coffee was served quickly and was of great quality. That said, we waited at least 30 minutes for our sandwiches, and they were a bit disappointing, especially since they were around $10. 

After leaving Code Black we started to walk back to the car to head to the hotel. We walked past Patisserie Nôtre Maison, a small Portuguese bakery. We went in, mostly because I was excited about fresh donuts, and we ended up splitting another sandwich there as well. (The donut was all mine.) This sandwich didn't have any fancy name, you just picked a meat and cheese and they put it on a fresh roll with lettuce and tomato...but it far outshone the previous sandwich, and was less than half the price. An important lesson here is that fancy coffee shops are good at coffee...but tiny independent bakeries that don't look cool at all are probably better at sandwiches.

After checking into the hotel, we found our room overlooking Place des Arts, where all the excitement was happening. Jugglers were warming up and the ferris wheel was already spinning. We found out that we could go from our hotel to the art gallery through an underground path without ever going outside, which seemed great, since we knew we would be waiting in lineups later on and not having a heavy winter coat would be a blessing. After relaxing for a while, we headed back out on foot to explore Rue St. Catherine for some window shopping, and a barber shop stop for Eddy, and then found our next planned sandwich shop, Bocadillo

Bocadillo was a total success. We ordered a passion fruit pulled pork arepa, some fries with spicy dipping sauce, and a couple of empanadas. This meal was a highlight and I would definitely recommend this restaurant. We will go back another time.

Luckily, we noticed that the restaurant was near Ye Olde Orchard pub, so we stopped in there to have a pint or two of St. Ambroise. Next on our walking tour was Benelux, a craft beer bar. We could have easily stayed there all night sampling beers, but after a flight it was nearing 10pm and our plan was to try to catch The Clock at midnight, so we headed back to the hotel to drop our coats and head to the Musée.

Like many events with thousands of attendees and loads of security, things were a little sticky getting into the museum, and we were forced to go above ground and outside (in spite of the supposed no-need-to-go-outside advice we'd received) to climb a ridiculous flight of wooden stairs, then descend another flight of slippery stairs, to get to the entrance. Note to Montreal Nuit Blanche: this would be hard to do in a wheelchair. 

Once inside, we began lining up for The Clock. The museum was packed with impatient people all wanting a look at the art piece, rarely able to be viewed past regular museum hours. It seems that other people had the brilliant idea of catching the midnight hour, because after lining up for nearly two hours we found ourselves frustratingly close to the entrance at 11:45pm. I suggested anyone in there at that time was staying for midnight, and I was right. The venue virtually cleared and we were allowed in and found seats at 12:09am. Alas, it was still a fun experience to see the film from almost midnight until after 2am. A lot of the piece at that time revolves around people in bed and people waking up or going to sleep, and I started to get drowsy, so we headed out of the museum. We took a quick walk through A Matter of Abstraction on the way out and I was excited to see some works from William Ronald. I guess those years at the RMG rubbed off on me because I feel like I could spot his work from a mile away. 

By this point it was a complete blizzard! After being forced outside again, and suffering our way back to the hotel (maybe the not bringing coats thing wasn't a great idea) we bundled up and headed to find some late night munchies. A massively disastrous service experience at Frites Alors! led to a stop in at Five Guys burgers. It was just as you'd expect it to be at 3am -- better than McDonalds.

Sunday morning we had a solid breakfast at Eggspectation, and headed out for a nice sunny walk through downtown Montreal in search of plaid shirts. After some success, and a drool-worthy stop in at one of my favorite Montreal shopping spots Simon's, we went to the movies and saw Monuments Men. It disappointed but I still enjoyed some of the art references and historical basis. I'd like to read the book, and it gave us lots to talk about on the drive home.

All in all attempting to eat 10 sandwiches in two days was a bit of a bust. On the upside, we are close enough to go back soon and make another attempt!

Read more:


On my Relocation to a Small Eastern Ontario Town

I woke up this morning thinking about this long-neglected blog. But my blog isn't the only thing I've been neglecting in the past few months. I thought perhaps getting a post up here is a first step to the next phase of my relocation.

I decided over a year ago now that I wanted to move to the small town where my partner lived and start fresh. This wasn't the easiest thing to tackle. I liked where I lived, where I worked, and my community. To make it happen, I needed to find a new job, sell my condo (which involved staging it as well) and wrap up a number of different projects and organizations I was involved in. I essentially wanted to tap the reset button on my life. I`ve lived a few places but never outside of the greater Toronto area. I now live in a town whose population is less than half the size of the high school I went to.

Looking back on the whole year of projects to make this happen it doesn't seem that bad, but there were times in the thick of it when I definitely melted down. I was sick in November and again in December, and again during my actual move on New Year`s Eve. Being that I'm a person who rarely gets a cold, being sick so many times in quick succession told me it was time to slow down and settle in. As such, following the move, I've decidedly done very little, save starting my new job, and focussing on that, as well as settling into my new apartment and nesting (read: cooking and eating, watching Netflix).

But now that February is wrapping up and it feels like Spring might actually come this year I think it's time to start to put together my plan of attack.

Some things I want to start doing

1. Blogging more often. I miss writing creatively. Plus, I went to Edmonton for work, and should write about that. Plus this weekend is a trip to eat sandwiches and see art in Montreal, so I will  need to make notes on that too. I'm working in the fashion industry now and I haven't blogged about fashion or trends in ages! Must do that too. In general, I want to pick up this habit again.

2. Going to Zumba. I need to get out of the house more, now that I'm working from home. Working from home also means no healthy walk to work in the morning. So, I'm going to try out zumba. I'll keep you posted on how the drinking of the zumba kool-aid goes for me.

3. Fermenting things. I got into the idea of fermenting right before xmas and asked for a book about it. I read the book cover to cover and I'm even more convinced that this is a good thing to know how to do. Further, it's a way to eat completely delicious savoury things and also contribute to my health. I started my first sauerkraut this week, and I want to get good enough to make my own yoghourt.

4. Making art. I've really let this part of my creative output slide over the last few years, oddly enough, especially during the time I worked at an art gallery. Short of Christmas gifts and a few assignments I gave myself I can't seem to finish a painting. I'd like to improve that. Not sure how. I've been thinking I might just need to start sketching more, but I include writing in this category. I have started and stopped many writing projects, and I'd like to try to see one through.

5. Community involvement. I know this is part of the satisfaction I have in life. I want to make some time to volunteer and get involved here, especially in the arts community. Some research is needed, and I'm sure opportunities will find me eventually. This is a longer-range to-do item.

I`m considering this post to be the first of a new string that tells my readers a little bit about my new life and its ups and downs. While for the most part, it`s all going very well (job is good, living arrangements are good, massive reduction in stress is good) but there are challenges. Being away from friends and family, feeling a bit fish out of water, reading menus in French, those sorts of things. Speaking of fish, here`s one short tale of getting to know rural eastern Ontario life...

In the next town over there is an Independent grocery store, which to me is as good as any Loblaws in Southern Ontario...it even has a Joe Fresh section. This has become something of a favourite haunt of mine, because of course I`m loving cooking at the moment and also because it feels a bit more like home than any other place to purchase food here. Recently as a treat to myself I bought some grocery store sushi. This is something I`d occasionally do in Oshawa, and though it's not very good, it's passable for the most part and good in a pinch when I'm hungry and don't want to make two stops.

While out at the Independent I decided to treat myself and picked up the special pack that isn't just california rolls, it's also the other style with the fresh raw salmon across the rice. This comes at extra cost but it always worth it as it is the best piece in the box. At Independent in this rural area though, it's not raw fish. It's smoked salmon. Sushi lovers will surely understand the range of emotions....the sheer disappointment....followed by the harsh lesson learned. Next time I crave sushi, I'll have to drive to Montreal to get it.

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