It’s All in My Head (My Cold, That Is!)

Well, I made it pretty far into cold season (almost two months!), but here I am: sore throat, cough, watery eyes.  Yes, a head cold.  I’m bundled up in my wooly blanket, on the couch with my cats, chain-drinking tea, and staring longingly out the window at the bright, beautiful, blustery fall day that I am missing.  On any other Sunday, I’d be out and about.  There are so many places to go, and things to do, that I tend to keep very busy, so today is an unusual day.  Though being sick would never be my first choice, I do try to make the best of it.  In some ways it’s kind of nice to feel at peace with the decision to stay inside and take it easy!

Here are my favorite ways to relax and sooth my symptoms:

Throat Rescue

  1. Tea, tea and more tea.  I like to brew a herbal tea like David’s Tea’s Throat Rescue and then add in some extras like raw honey, lemon juice, fresh ginger, and crushed garlic.  I admit that the crushed garlic is no delight, but it really does help.  If you’re serious about kicking your sore throat in the pants, eat the garlic once you have finished the tea.
  2. Green smoothies!  When I was a kid, my parents would coax me into eating healthy things when I was sick by telling me that the vitamins in the food would get on a bus in my body, and the bus would unload all the vitamins wherever the bad germs were. Image result for green smoothie Yes, that sounds silly, but even though I am all grown up, that image is still very vivid in my mind, and it has a psychological power to make me feel better (plus, with or without the bus, the vitamins will definitely help me out!).  Today, my smoothie was a mix of avocado, banana, kale, spinach, chia seeds, tumeric, ginger, honey and orange juice.  I usually just stuff ingredients into my blender until it’s full, but if you’re looking for tried and tested smoothie inspiration, I suggest the blog Oh She Glows.
  3. Naps and early bedtimes.  I’m not normally one to take a nap, but when I’m sick there’s nothing better than getting in some extra rest, even if it’s just a half hour here and there throughout the day.  I avoid caffeine on sick-at-home days, so that it’s easier to nod off!   It’s no big surprise, as it’s commonly known that our bodies heal and regenerate during deep sleep, but going to bed early is one of the best things to do to help get over a cold.
  4. When I am sick I love to re-read some of my favorite books from when I was a kid.Image result for dealing with dragons  I find it very relaxing to get lost in these familiar stories and pleasant memories.  Today I’m going to pull out Dealing With Dragons, which I first read when I was nine.  My copy is quite tattered from years and years of enjoyment.  I think that reading a book that I love and know so well gives my happiness a little boost, and also helps make a sick day feel kind of fun and extravagant!

What do you do to fight off a cold?  It seems like everyone has their go-to tips and tricks.  I’d love to hear about what works for you!

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How Black Cats Won My Heart

So I’m a cat lady.

I’ve previously blogged about my cat, Clem, whom I believe has what it takes to be a star.  Today, I’d like to talk about my other cat, Rupert.  He recently celebrated (read: I celebrated) his seventh birthday and five year adopt-iversary.  Before I adopted Rupert, I had never given black cats much thought.  I’d never really met one, or seen them except as decorations around Halloween.  But the moment I met this cat, I knew he was the one for me.  He had bright eyes and sleek fur.  He was friendly and quick, and I could just tell he had a sense of humor.  I found him at the Ottawa Humane Society, and I was taken aback by how surprised and grateful the adoption staff were when I said he was the one I’d like to take home.  Check out his goofy face:

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Rupert always finds the dusty spots.

You may be wondering if they were surprised because he is so weird that they never thought he’d find a home.  I certainly wondered if it was because there was something wrong with him.  Yeah, he’s weird, but it turned out that wasn’t it.  They were surprised by my choice because he is black.  And black cats are apparently adopted about 50% less than any other type of cat.

Whaaaaat?

That’s right.  It’s a well-documented fact that black cats are just harder to find homes for.  There are a few suspected reasons for this:

  1. This article suggests that black cats are harder to photograph (it’s true) and potential adopters are put off because they are worried that they will have difficulty showing their cat off on social media!
  2. People are just less likely to notice a black cat, because they don’t stand out the way cats with more unique colours and patterns do.  At the shelter, if people don’t connect with the first black cat they meet, they subconsciously rule out all the others.
  3. Superstition.  Can you believe it?  Black cats are still stigmatized because of their unfortunate association with witches from hundreds of years ago.  That’s why people think of them as a Halloween thing.  But that’s not fair, because who doesn’t like Halloween?
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Everyone loves pumpkin spice!

One is not enough…

Black cats are not just for October, but I think this is a good time to share my story.   I’m so glad that I happened to pick Rupert out from the crowd, and learned about the challenges shelters face with black cats.  Less than a year later, I adopted Edna, a feisty senior cat, to keep Rupert company.  Edna passed away in the spring at the ripe old age of 15.  I could write a whole separate post about the benefits of adopting an older cat, but suffice to say that giving her a home is one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had.

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Best buddies.

I’m happy to share my love of black cats with anyone who is interested!  I can tell you that they are just as sweet and fun and interesting as any other kind of cat.  And, once I had one of my very own, I started noticing that they really don’t all look the same!  Now, I find them just as individual as any cat with other colours.  I almost didn’t adopt Clem because she wasn’t black, but I’m really glad I didn’t let that get in the way.  What I’ve learned is that the most important thing is that people find the pet that is best for them, whatever the colour (but maybe black cats deserve a little extra consideration!).

What do you think?  If you were adopting a cat, would you consider a black one?  Does knowing that they are less likely to find homes change your opinion?  Do you think I lose my black-cat-fan credibility because I adopted an orange cat?

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Orange and black: Halloween cats!

The Perfect Game for Halloween!

One of my favorite hobbies is playing board games.  Luckily I have lots of friends who share this interest, and the result is that I get to play games at least once a week.  Between myself and my friends, there is a pretty impressive selection to choose from!  One of my recent favorites is a game called Mysterium.  And it just happens to be the perfect game for Halloween…

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Oooh, spooky!  How does it work?

Mysterium has a number of similarities to the classic murder mystery game Clue, but there is so much more to it.  In Mysterium, players work cooperatively to solve a murder by discovering the answers to who did it, where they did it, and what the murder weapon was.  One of the coolest twists that Mysterium brings to this concept is that one player is the ghost of the person who died, and all the other players are psychics who are using the mystical power of All Hallows Eve to communicate with the ghost and uncover the truth.  The ghost can not speak, but is able to send “visions” to the psychics, in the form of picture cards with strange, beautiful artwork, like this:

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Throughout the game, the ghost will use the vision cards to try to connect each psychic to a particular set of clues, while racing against the clock—because if the players don’t solve the mystery after seven rounds, they have failed and must wait a whole year to try again on the next Halloween (Meaning the game is over and they have lost.  Luckily, the players are free to try again right away!).

Sounds pretty cool, what should I do now?

For a thorough explanation of the game, I recommend you check out this ten minute video.  It will show you everything you need to get started right away!

If you want to try before you buy, why not head over to The Loft Board Game Lounge?  But if I’ve convinced you, and you want to go all-in, you should pick up a copy of your very own.  I got mine at Mrs. Tiggy Winkle’s.

So, you think I should do this on Halloween?

Yes.  Yes I do.  You can play with up to seven of your best pals, and the game takes about 45 minutes (so you can play a few times and take turns being the ghost!).  Why not set the spooky festive mood with some candles and eerie music?  Then you just need some candy, and SHAZAM!  Best night ever.

Do you have any favorite games or Halloween traditions?

My Cat Could be a Star

I’ve been thinking a lot about animals on social media.  Of course there are the really big names, like Boo the world’s cutest dog and  Grumpy Cat.  But there are tons of other animals out there with huge followings!  Ariele Alasko is a (human) woodworker with 417k Instagram followers.  Her dog Mazie has amassed 5,646 followers in the 32 weeks she has been on Instagram.  Sure, it’s easy to say that Mazie owes her popularity to her owner’s established following.  But what about Sirius Black, Adventure Cat, who seems to live with an ordinary woman, in an ordinary home?  He has 13.4k followers and a budding modelling career.

What does it take for an animal to make it on social media?

  1. Personality.  Silly, sassy, sweet, sarcastic.  It humanizes the animal.  I notice that a lot of animal accounts are presented as being from the animals perspective.
  2. Hashtags, hashtags, hashtags.  This is the best way to attract attention, especially before things really take off.
  3. Great pictures!  The are no end of animal pictures on line, so having really good ones will stand out.

So, does my cat have what it takes?

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Hi, I’m Clem.  I’m a rolly, polly little rescue cat.  When I was first brought in off the street my ears were terribly frost-bitten, and my poor paw pads were so raw and rough that I made clicking sounds when I walked.  I like to sit on things in awkward ways, and enjoy taking toys out of my toy basket one at a time and putting them all in a corner.  The only thing I love more than dinner time is having a warm lap to sit on!

I know her photos could be better, but maybe with a little hashtag magic, she could be an Instagram star!  Check out #catsofinstagram and let me know if you think she could make it!

Listen Up!

People have a lot to say!

It’s amazing how much valuable consumer feedback gets put online.  People are constantly posting their thoughts about the important things in their lives, including: products they love or hate; why they love or hate them;  what they wish was different and how they perceive a brand image.  A quick Google search confirms my belief that reviews and word-of-mouth advertising have a huge impact on consumer decisions.  I know that is true for me!  While I won’t automatically reject a product with one bad review, it does have an impact.  And positive reviews have an even stronger impact on my own decisions.

But are businesses listening?

It’s also amazing how much of this information escapes online marketers.  It is pretty standard for a company to respond to emails or posts to the company social media.  But what about mentions where the company hasn’t been tagged, and could easily never see?  I really enjoy Shopify’s blog because it covers many interesting topics related to ecommerce and marketing.  They recently posted an article that focused on the importance of listening to online conversations in order to collect and take advantage of this goldmine of consumer feedback.

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So why should a business listen to online conversations, and seek out interactions that consumers didn’t intend to initiate?

  1. To learn what their consumers want.  Social media posts will provide the most honest opinion.  Businesses can use these comments to inspire positive changes that will increase customer satisfaction.
  2. To find opportunities to engage and educate new customers.
  3. To go above and beyond by offering solutions to complaints that consumers didn’t expect to have resolved.
  4. To gain exposure by “piggy-backing” on the social media reach of the account they are responding to.

With so much noise online, how does a business hear the real message?

The Shopify article lists their top eight services to facilitate online listening.  They include services like Hootsuite, that allow you to schedule your posts as well as as collect listening data, and other more specialized services like Sprinklr, that offer in depth listening and allow you to compare with the competition.  With all the clutter and noise online, it’s clear to me that social listening would be nearly impossible to do effectively without using one or more of these tools.

As more and more businesses take interest in the benefits of listening on social media, I am sure that there will be more and more social media listening tools popping up!  I expect that this will become the driving force behind many social media campaigns, because the ones that don’t will get left behind.

What is your experience?

I know I find it off-putting when I look at a business’s social media and see that customers have complained or asked questions, and the business didn’t respond.  Have you ever posted on social media about a product or service?  If so, what made you do it, and what kind of response did you get?

 

 

 

COM0011 Blog #1: My Relationship With Social Media

I was a late adopter of social media.  When I finally decided to join facebook in 2011, everyone I knew was shocked, and I had to put up with smug teasing from some people.  The thing that got me to join was that I was finishing a school program, and wanted to keep in touch with the friends that I had made.  Until then, all my friends lived in the same city as me, and I lost touch with most of the ones that moved away (except a few snail mail pen pals).  Five years later, I have 41 facebook friends.  This isn’t a weird “I have the fewest friends ever” brag, it’s just the result of the fact that I do not send out friend requests, and I am not afraid to turn down requests from people that I don’t feel comfortable with accepting.

What I have never liked about social media is the lack of privacy.  Yes, you don’t have to provide all your information, and are there settings, but many people don’t use them, and even if you do, there are always going to be scenarios that you don’t anticipate.  I don’t like the idea of random people seeing pictures of me.  I don’t want to share where I work, where I live, what my schedule is, what I own, and so on.  I’m not interested in the unsolicited, targeted ads.  I would never, ever, click through a link on facebook to buy something.  I found an article about the social media use of millennials, particularly those who have moved away from it: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/feb/01/millennials-not-on-social-media-twitter-facebook-instagram . I found that many of the concerns cited in the article are things that also concern me.

My social media of choice is instagram.  I love instagram.  I follow 32 accounts, and also look up others periodically if I am thinking of them.  I don’t often “like” pictures and I don’t leave comments.  What I like about instagram is how quick and concise it can be.  I can quickly absorb and scroll past the photos, pausing if I want to, but not being bogged down by the text, links to articles, sidebars, random notifications and non-stop advertisements that are part of facebook.  I do not post very often, but when I do, I never post pictures of myself or other people.  To be real with you, it’s pretty much all pictures of my cats.

Considering that I do not make much use of social media, you might think it’s strange that I am taking this class, and hoping to work with social media in the future.  I find there is a huge difference between how I feel about social media personally and how I feel about it from a business point of view.  I took a year away from my longtime job to work with a friend on launching her business, and in that time I was in charge of the businesses internet presence (facebook, twitter, instagram and online store).  I’m sure I only scratched the surface of the possibilities, but I really enjoyed it, and I think I did a good job.  I loved experimenting with what types of posts received the most likes and comments (answer: any picture with an animal in it would easily get five times as many likes as a picture of just product), and gauging how that drove traffic to our website.  It was interesting that I was trying to engage with people who had a relationship to social media that was very different from my own.

I don’t know if I will ever use social media in a big way personally, but I really hope I have another opportunity to use it as a marketer and brand-builder.

What about you?  Do you have a favorite social media platform?  Do you engage with businesses, or are you a lurker?