Here is an excerpt from a guide we wrote in 2014 to help clients learn WordPress. It covers general setup, blog categories and tags, writing posts, and adding pages, and includes instruction for some commonly used plugins.
Welcome to your new WordPress site!
We prepared this quick start guide to show you how to manage the content on your website. This guide covers the basic functions you need to add and update content, but it is not a comprehensive WordPress manual. For information on more advanced WordPress options, we recommend that you consult the WordPress Codex at http://codex.wordpress.org/.
This guide assumes that you have some familiarity with word processing, and with locating and uploading files from your computer to another location.
What is WordPress? Most people think of it as a blogging platform, but it can be used to build websites with or without a blogging component. WordPress has become very popular for a few reasons:
Terms You Need to Know
Before getting started with WordPress, we want to define a few terms for you:
We know you’re excited to get going, so let’s move onto the really fun stuff: logging in and adding new content!
Here is an excerpt from an ebook we wrote about coffee: its origins, how it is harvested, the impact of roasting on flavour and aroma, the best way to prepare it, and what is meant by "single estate," "fair trade," and other designations seen at the average coffee shop.
Chapter Four: Getting the Beans from Tree to Cup
How do the bright red cherries of the arabica tree become the small brown beans we grind for our morning brew? Here is a quick overview of a process that is, in reality, quite long and laborious.
Harvesting can be done by machine or by hand. Because coffee cherries ripen at different times, even on the same tree, machine harvesting can result in many unripe cherries being picked. The harvesting is faster, but the quality is poorer. For that reason--and the fact that many coffee trees grow at high altitudes on steep slopes where machines cannot be used-- hand-picking is the preferred method of harvesting. Pickers carefully select ripe cherries to ensure the best quality beans: too green and the beans may have a sour taste; too ripe and the bean may be past its prime and even close to rotting.
On average, a coffee tree produces about 2.2-4.4 kg (1-2 pounds) of roasted coffee beans annually. Kicking Horse Coffee presents the numbers in a more relatable way: a 2-cup-a-day coffee drinker consumes the annual harvest of 18 coffee trees.
Each coffee cherry contains only two beans. (The anomalies that contain only one bean are called “peaberries.”) According to Kicking Horse, it takes 2,000 cherries (11 kg/5 lbs) to make 2.2 kg (1 lb) of roasted coffee, and a “good” picker can between 220-880 kg (100 and 400 lbs) per day. After picking, beans must be sorted by hand or, if a grower’s budget allows, a flotation tank. (Ripe beans sink to the bottom making for faster sorting.)
The bottom line? Coffee harvesting is exacting and difficult work. (Labour is a big part of production costs. More on that in the Fair Trade section.)
Extracting the Bean
Coffee cherries consist of several layers: outer skin, mucilage, parchment skin, silver skin and, finally, the two beans. Getting to the beans is not exactly easy. Once the fruit is removed, the beans must be dried to a moisture content of about 11-12%. There are two main types of processing involved in removing the fruit from the bean: wet and dry.
When coffee beans leave the farm, they don’t have the rich, brown colour we all know and love. They are green, as shown here. Green coffee beans have virtually no aroma and a bitter taste.
Roasting transforms the green beans, infusing them with their highly recognizable aroma and various flavours. Generally, lighter roasts preserve the acidity along with the herb and fruit notes, while darker roasts have more smoky flavours and lower acidity. (Coffee & Health) Roasting also changes the colour of the beans and brings out some of the natural oils.
You can parse the list of roasts in many ways--Coffee Cuppers has nine categories on its site--but the basic divisions are light, medium, and dark. Each roast has typical characteristics:
As with any food that is cooked, the roasting process causes a number of chemical reactions in coffee beans. There are five main stages, outlined in The World Atlas of Coffee:
After roasting, the beans are quenched, or cooled, to ensure the roasting process is abruptly stopped. Without this step, the heat within the beans could continue to “cook” them, potentially changing the flavour and aroma and imbuing the coffee with an off-taste.
The roasting process can result in the creation of over 800 volatile aromatic compounds--more than are found in wine. Each cup of coffee will have only a small number of these compounds, but they still pack a punch. As James Hoffman notes, “...the smell of freshly roasted coffee is so complex that all attempts to manufacture a realistic, synthetic version of this smell have failed.”
Further Viewing. For an interesting view of the roasting process, watch Roasted, a short video that places a camera inside a coffee roaster. (FYI: The video also promotes GoPro cameras.)
We wrote this post for a salon, about a new skin care practice that would be of interest to clients of the salon.
Facial or finger tapping has recently been described as one of the newest treatments for ageing skin. However, there are many who argue that tapping and applying pressure to points on the face is a proven therapy that has been around for hundreds of years. Either way, physical stimulation of the face produces visible results in a very short period of time.
You can choose to visit a facial tapping specialist or a reflexologist who practices finger tapping. You can also achieve significant results by practicing at home once you’ve got the method down pat. No pun intended.
Proponents say major evidence of skin tightening, improved skin tone, as well as a reduction in the appearance of wrinkles, is apparent after four weeks of tapping for just five minutes a day.
Stimulating the skin with pressure improves blood circulation, which in turn addresses the key factors affecting the health of our skin. Just five minutes a day of regular tapping:
Tapping is relaxing and refreshing, but the really good news is, you are likely to experience other positive benefits as well. Many people report fewer headaches, better sleep, and an increased sense of calmness to name just a few of the overall improvements they felt.
Five minutes a day to look good and feel better all over? That should get your toes tapping!
Image from Change Your Energy.
We wrote this post as a way for our client to share valuable advice with their customers in a lighthearted manner.
How to Buy a Sofa: Five Steps for Doing It Right
In most homes, sofas are high traffic pieces of furniture. When buying a sofa, you want to make sure you’re getting something that can stand up to heavy use for many years to come. Here are five steps you can take to be successful at sofa shopping.
Step one: get out your measuring tape and notepad.
You’ve got some work to do. Before thinking about anything else, be sure to measure:
Step two: educate yourself about the construction of sofas.
Yes, this sounds frightfully boring but you won’t regret it. To ensure you are getting good value for your money, you need to know what is inside a sofa. If you have a general idea about things like frames and springs, you’ll know how to interpret the information your salesperson provides. Here are a few things to consider:
Step three: consider colour and fabric.
When thinking about colour, ask yourself who will be using your couch: pets, kids, accident-prone friends, messy relatives? If you said yes to any of those, you may want to avoid white or even lighter shades altogether. Black couches can also show pet hair and some stains. Consider grey—we have more than 50 shades in our custom sofas—or a pattern. If you want your sofa to be a focal point, a bold colour is also a great option. Take a good look at your room and the accessories you already have then look online to see what’s trending in upholstery. You can also visit stores, like VHB, to see and feel the fabrics on offer.
Fabrics should be durable and you should know your options for cleaning them before buying. Do you want a fabric that is vacuum-only or dry-clean only, or something that can be scrubbed a little in case of spills? What about leather instead of a textile?
Factor the amount of maintenance required with any potential sources of damage to gauge whether the fabric fits your lifestyle, perhaps with questions like these: Will Kitty’s claws tear up your beautiful woven pattern? Does red wine stain taupe leather? Will you damage the fabric scrubbing out the butter from your movie night popcorn?
Speaking of stains, you may want to inquire about stain guards. Although very popular, the Scotchgard brand is also very toxic. Our Brentwood sofas are available in a wide selection of Crypton fabric, the latest innovation in Greenguard Gold Certified non-toxic upholstery fabric that resists stains and spills.
Step four: sit down and ask questions.
Once you have a general idea about what you want in a sofa, it’s time to visit your local store and put a few sofas through their paces. Sit on each model you are considering to see how they feel. Listen for squeaks, as we noted above, but also try to get a sense of the firmness of the cushioning. And ask the salesperson all the questions you prepared in steps two and three. If he or she can’t answer you, ask to see the manufacturer’s specifications.
Step five: read the fine print.
Before swiping your credit card, ask about warranties in workmanship and construction and care and cleaning (as noted above). Our Brentwood Classics custom sofas offer an industry leading lifetime warranty on frames and springs, 5-year warranty on cushion cores, and 1-year warranty on fabrics and leathers. And the fact that they are made right here in Toronto means you will get repair service directly from the manufacturer, not from a third-party tradesperson hired by a distant company.
We wrote this post for a client launching a new product. We needed a way to emphasize her unique selling points and thought a numbered list would be a good way to do that.
Why should you consider the Tiara Shower Cap? Here are five reasons:
One: Eliminate red marks on your forehead.
If you use shower caps regularly, you know the tight elastic can leave unsightly red marks on your forehead. We believe these red marks can contribute to wrinkles. The Tiara Shower Cap contains no elastic along the forehead. Instead, the cap has a soft terry-lined forehead band, with elastic at the back to secure the fit. No elastic on the forehead means no pinching and no red marks.
Two: Reduce the number of times you shampoo.
Daily washing can be very hard on the hair and scalp. Dr. Angela Lamb, cited in an article on WebMD, notes that shampoos trap the hair’s natural oils. Frequent washings mean hair may dry out and be prone to breakage. She and other experts agree that the majority of people do not need to shampoo every day. In fact, daily washings are a fairly new phenomenon. According to an article on health.com, shampoos were not invented until the 1930s and even in the 1950s, weekly washings were the norm. Use the Tiara Shower cap on the days you’d rather not shampoo: your hair will stay dry and you’ll retain the natural oils that keep your hair healthy.
Three: Extend the life of your blowout, eliminate frizz, and keep looking fabulous!
The Tiara Shower Cap provides a very secure fit, ensuring that no moisture gets in when you bathe or shower. So if you have a perfect hairstyle you want to keep, the Tiara is the shower cap you’ve been waiting for! Just think of all the hours of blow-dry time you’ll save! And if you have curly hair, you know that any amount of moisture seeping under a shower cap can lead to frizz. Because the Tiara Shower Cap is completely watertight, your curly hair will not get frizzy, no matter how long you soak in a hot tub or stand under the shower.
Four: Make an eco-friendly choice!
When we created the Tiara Shower Cap, it was essential to us that our product be eco-friendly. Unlike most traditional shower caps, the Tiara is made from recycled materials. More specifically, it is made from all of those plastic drink containers in your blue box! The fabric is called recycled PET and it not only makes use of our discarded plastics, but also saves energy and greenhouse gas emissions. According to industry association Napcor, every pound of recycled PET flake reduces energy use by 84% and greenhouse gas emissions by 71% compared to new plastic production.
Five: Enhance deep conditioning treatments.
Deep conditioning treatments, whether creams or oils, can be enhanced by using a shower cap. The cap traps heat from your body which intensifies the treatment. To generate even more heat, you can apply your conditioner, put on your cap, and sit in a warm bath. The Tiara is ideal for these treatments because it is machine washable. Just apply your conditioner and turn the Tiara inside out before putting it on. After your treatment, drop the Tiara in to the machine and dry it on low heat. It will come out completely clean and ready for your next use, unlike traditional caps which have to been thrown out because of oily residue from your conditioner.
We wrote this post for a vintage furniture store. The post promotes the offerings at this particular store, but also shares valuable information about the potential environmental impact of new furniture, something people do not often think about when shopping.
Buy Local: Salvaged Wood and Live Edge
Buy local has become a mantra for many food shoppers concerned about what is in their food and the distance it may have travelled from farm to table. But what about that table? What is it made of and where did it come from? Shoppers are increasingly asking those questions too.
Buying furniture has many potential ramifications for the environment:
Fortunately, there are eco-friendly alternatives when buying new furniture.
Salvaged Wood Furniture
Salvaged wood furniture offers both environmental benefits and one-of-a-kind looks. The wood used in this furniture is reclaimed from old buildings and re-purposed into something new. Barn beams are one example. Century-old barns were made entirely of wood and their large beams are the perfect size for side tables, benches, console tables, and coffee tables. Barn beam furniture is striking and has proven durability.
Live edge furniture is experiencing a boom in popularity, and why not? In Ontario, live edge is a local industry and, as with reclaimed wood, the products are quite unlike anything you will find in a mass market furniture store. While the wood is not always reclaimed, it is sustainably harvested and usually sourced locally.
This type of furniture is immediately identifiable: the “live” edge follows the contours of the original tree and creates a truly unique look.
The “Fine Print”
If you want to ensure your salvaged or live edge product is truly eco-friendly, it pays to read labels and ask questions to learn where the wood came from, where the artisan is based, and whether low-VOC finishes are used on the wood.
As with the food that sustains you, it is important to consider the health and origins of the furniture that surrounds you. Shopping locally is a good place to start.
We wrote this post way back in 2012 for a hair salon, but it could be used by restaurants, gourmet food shops, and sellers of chocolate. It ties into themes like winter, fine food, and even holiday gifts.
Homemade Hot Chocolate--The Best Way to Warm Up in the Winter
Who doesn’t love a cup of hot chocolate to warm up on a cold day? While powdered mixes might do in a pinch, there is nothing like the taste of real hot chocolate.
According to The Guardian, the key to a great cup is selecting the right mix of chocolate. Purists might suggest 100% cacao, the darkest and most bitter, to create the perfect mug of cocoa, but most people settle for a mix of dark chocolate (70% cacao) and good-quality milk chocolate. Some will also use a combination of dark or semisweet chocolate and cocoa powder, or even add some white chocolate to change up the flavour a bit. Just make sure you shave or grate the chocolate so it melts easily.
When making your hot chocolate from scratch, you can also ditch the kettle. The real stuff takes milk—no boiling water to dilute its delicious taste. For an even richer taste, you can combine milk and cream. And because you are doing it yourself, you can improvise with additional flavours, like orange, cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla, mint, or even hot chilies.
What about garnishes? You could use the tried and true marshmallows, but when you go to the effort of making hot chocolate from scratch, a little whipped cream with shaved chocolate or a sprinkle of cinnamon might be a better (and more sophisticated) choice.
Experiment with different types of chocolate and flavourings until you find the combination you like best. When you do, why not share it? Type up your recipe with a fancy font and print it out on festive paper. Buy a nice mug and a bar of your favourite chocolate. Add a small container of your chosen flavouring or a few cinnamon sticks. Put the recipe, chocolate, and flavourings in the mug, wrap it in cellophane, and tie it with a nice bow to make a lovely hostess or teacher gift.
To help you get started, follow this link to The Guardian’s homemade hot chocolate recipe, tested until perfect by the writer. Enjoy!
Image from Pixabay.
We wrote this post for Spark Innovations, a Toronto-based industrial design firm. This is a post intended to draw people looking for industrial design services, so it is focused on certain keywords. We put a different spin on the topic of industrial design by talking about five key concepts. With that angle, the post answers readers' questions about industrial design and highlights Spark's expertise. It also gave us a chance to use the Milton Glaser quote about design--it's one of our favourites!
What is industrial design? Toronto’s Spark Innovations has the answer. We’ve been in this business since 1989 so we are experts. In this post, we’ll explain the five key concepts of industrial design, providing essential knowledge for inventors looking to transform an idea into a physical product.
You already have an idea, but we can refine it into a marketable product. Product development involves working closely with you to learn all we can about your invention. Then—to use a sports metaphor—we take the ball and run with it. We’ll conduct detailed research into the marketplace to ensure we create a usable product that appeals to the consumer you are hoping to reach. In this phase we use CAD modelling and sketches to create initial design drawings that allow us to fine tune the product concept.
Your product won’t sell if it’s hard to use. We examine the ergonomics of your invention to ensure it will be comfortable, safe, and functional for the target consumer.
Famed graphic designer Milton Glaser once said: “There are three responses to a piece of design—yes, no, and WOW! Wow is the one to aim for.” In other words, appearance matters. In fact, the aesthetics of your design are a critical part of its marketing: if it looks good, it is more likely to get attention in a crowded marketplace. We use sketches, 3D modelling, and computer surface modelling to enhance the aesthetics of your product and improve your chances of success once it hits store shelves.
Before any prototyping can be done, we need to iron out any wrinkles in your design. We do this through virtual models and rigorous testing. You may have heard of Catia and SolidWorks. These are the software programs we use to create accurate virtual models that can undergo virtual tests, like stress analysis and materials suitability. Once we are sure of the integrity of the product to this point, we can begin making it into something tangible.
3D Models and Prototyping
How can you really gauge the quality and utility of your product? By holding it in your hands. We use our state-of-the-art 3D printer to create real-life models of your invention. Working with you, we use this 3D model to evaluate the function, aesthetics, and ergonomics of your design before moving onto production.
Ready to get started with our industrial design team? Contact us today for a free consultation and make your idea happen!
Light bulb image from Creative Commons.
Blog posts aren't always about SEO or page views. There are times when you have something on your mind you want to share. We wrote this post on a sunny summer Friday to remind people to enjoy their weekend downtime.
How often do you let your mind wander?
In this age of short deadlines and overextended schedules where there is considerable cachet attached to being busy, few people leave themselves time to do nothing.
Yes, some will take a break from work and do some leisurely reading, tidy up the house, or catch up on the news. But how many of us actually allow ourselves the luxury of kicking back and staring off into space, or taking a casual stroll to a beautiful place to enjoy the quiet? No devices. No information to absorb. No pressure. Just a time to quiet the mind and shut out the noise of everyday life.
I am certainly not the first person to discuss the value of mental downtime, but I was reminded of its importance today as I shared a quote from author J.R.R. Tolkien on our social media channels:
“Not all who wander are lost.”
Indeed. Those who take even a few minutes each day to free their minds will find the break rejuvenating and extremely valuable.
As a writer, I also find that inspiration strikes in these quiet moments. I discover the right wording for passages I had struggled with or come up with a new way to present an idea. On an average workday, there is just too much mental clutter in the way of clear thought, so letting my mind wander actually brings insight that I might never have arrived at without those precious few minutes of silence. As a businessperson, you may very well have the same experience.
A Friday afternoon in the summer seems the ideal time for a post about doing nothing. Here’s hoping that we can all find some time this weekend to wander and let our minds unwind.
We wrote this post for Vintage Home Boutique (VHB), a retailer of mid-century modern furniture. Instead of a direct "we sell couches" message, this post provides people with information they can share in idle conversation, as in: "Guess what I read today...". It also shows that VHB's owners take an interest in all aspects of the products they sell, including the history of the terms used to describe them.
Watching movies, catching a nap, curled up reading. You do all of these things on a couch. Or is it a sofa? A chesterfield?
What you call that particular piece of furniture may depend on where you live: Britons prefer “sofa,” Americans like “couch,” and Canadians tend toward “couch,” with “chesterfield” still used occasionally. (At VHB, we side with the Brits.)
While the three terms are considered synonymous, some will argue that there are distinct points of difference between them.
The Canadian Oxford Dictionary defines a couch as “an upholstered piece of furniture for several people; a sofa.”
But is a sofa a couch? Not really. The words are often used interchangeably but they are not technically the same. The etymology of the words gives the first clues as to their differences. The word “couch” stems from the Old French word “coucher,” which means to lie down or sleep. The word sofa comes from the Arabic word “suffa” which refers to a long bench covered with cushions used for seating.
The first couches were used primarily for resting and had either no arms or a single arm. Think of the “fainting couch” used by Victorian women, lightheaded from being cinched tightly into corsets as was the fashion of the day. Couches also tend to have tapered backs and may more closely resemble what we now know as divans or chaises. Sofas, on the other hand, have two arms and a uniform back. They are typically larger and designed to seat more people. (We found this information on eBay of all places.)
And what, exactly, is a chesterfield? It is closer in form to a sofa, although the word is also used interchangeably with “couch.” Its dictionary definition describes it as a padded sofa with arms the same height as the back, while Entangled English specifies that a chesterfield has buttons and is often made of leather. The term is thought to be related to the Earl of Chesterfield, but there seems to be no definitive proof of that connection. Use of the word is more common in Canada than anywhere else, although it is a bit dated now.
No matter what you call that thing people sit on in their living rooms, you can find it at VHB. We have a wide selection of eco-friendly, custom sofas that can be tailored to your exact space and design aesthetic. Browse our offerings on our Custom Sofas page.