Archive for April, 2012

That’s My Bag

Have you ever sat in a hospital waiting room or doctors’ office when children were present?    Did you notice the “Activity Bag” that they were loaned to keep themselves busy?  Having children, I’ve spent many hours in hospitals and doctors’ offices and actually used these bags.  So then I got to thinking, why don’t businesses have these bags for adults?

When I was traveling in the hotel business I spent most of my time solo.  It doesn’t take too long to figure out in which seats you prefer to fly or what restaurants are most suited to single diners.  But day after day, it was mostly up to me to find things to keep myself occupied.  The last thing I wanted to do was sit in my room watching the idiot box for hours.  Enter the Activity Bag.

Now, I know many hotels and businesses may have binders filled with brochures they received from other local businesses.  And I’m not saying those are not good.  What I am saying is, maybe take it a step further.  As a runner, I appreciate your hotel’s fitness center.  But can you show me an outdoor running path that is safe for a single woman?  And please don’t tell me that you are located in a “pretty safe city”.  Be honest, all cities have problem spots.  If you are straight forward with me about neighborhoods to avoid, I will appreciate your opinion and that goes a long way.

If you have a restaurant in your facility, or maybe a stand-alone restaurant with which you are affiliated, you can recommend them.  And you should.  But please, don’t expect a guest to eat there for every meal!  Tell people where you like to go.  Perhaps you have a favorite meal there to suggest.  That means more to a traveler than what any brochure claims.  When I travel with my husband, we always make a point of talking to employees about where they like to go.  And when we go to those places, we make sure to tell them who referred us.  Hopefully in the future those people will return the favor to your establishment—win win!

In addition to eating and running, I also like to do some shopping when I travel.  I don’t want to go to a mall; we have one or two of those in Minnesota (yes, tongue-in-cheek intentional).  I look for the more obscure shops with local artisans.  People are usually willing to spend a little more for something made locally that is of good quality.  I always had to bring back trinkets for the kids.  It is helpful to have someone local that can point me in the direction of a good vendor.  In Duluth, for example, we have a very popular waterfront shopping area.  Numerous hotels and restaurants are down there, and that is where many employees would send visitors.  Again, there is nothing wrong with that.  It is a great area and the shops and galleries are terrific.  But if you traveled about a mile or two up the road, there’s a walkable community called Lakeside that boasts some fantastic shops, an old-time hardware store, bakery, and café.  When the steam train chugs through, it’s like stepping into your very own little piece of Americana!

Remember, the point of having a customer is to keep a customer.  And positive word of mouth is the best advertising you’ll ever get.  Assembling your business’ own Activity Bag or binder doesn’t have to be difficult.  Get your staff involved.  Ask some questions.  Explore your city and get to know the neighborhoods and what they have to offer.  Visit local shops and independent restaurants.  Talk to people and put font to paper.  And hopefully you can avoid the children’s activity bag, at least the medical ones.


Spinning Super Salads

 Last night as I was preparing supper, I expressed my delight in my husband Mike’s newest purchase.  It is nothing big and expensive, mind you, but to me it’s a little piece of heaven.  A salad spinner; yep, I’m a simple girl!  I’ve always fancied myself as somewhat of a salad snob.  You know the type, buys all the stuff in the bag already washed and ready to go.  As if I’m so busy in my little world that I can’t take five minutes to wash my own lettuce.  Mike used to tease me about my resistance to purchasing fresh produce for our salads, but with all the chopping, washing, drying, blah blah blah, it seemed like a lot of monkey business.  Enter the salad spinner.

I started looking into these gems a couple of months ago.  They come in numerous sizes and materials, and a very wide array of prices.  Mike (being the left brain that he is) studied them all.  He knew which designs worked best, what each material’s benefits and disadvantages were, the methods for cleaning, and how much they all cost.  Upon presentation of all these facts, I looked at which ones were cheapest.  After all, I was not yet sold on the idea of having to do all this work.  Was I really ready for a $50+ commitment?

Meet my rescuer, the kitchen outlet store.  While we were down in North Branch a couple of weeks ago, Mike popped over to the outlet mall located conveniently across the interstate from the AmericInn where we were staying.  Would you believe they had a salad spinner (extra large bowl, top-rotating handle, and plastic) for $9.99?!  I was so excited about this purchase that I was ready to dash home immediately to have a salad!  We didn’t, of course, but I couldn’t wait.  I’m not sure how someone so cheap spent all those extra dollars on packaged greens.

Since we brought home our new kitchen addition, we have turned into the salad family.  We enjoyed salads before, and ate a fair amount of them in many varieties, but now it’s gone up to a new level.  Instead of buying a bag of lettuce for three or four dollars, we can get two whole heads of lettuce for just over two bucks.  And another of my favorites, fresh spinach—not frozen, has been reduced in cost by over half.  Not to mention that purchasing these things fresh means they are not filled with chemicals, they will last longer than bagged, and when Minnesota weather cooperates, we can support our local growers.  I would call that a win, win, win situation.

A few tips I’ve come across:

  • Remove the outer (soft and wilted) leaves and core, tear into 4-5 pieces, and wash/dry in the spinner
  • Place the dried lettuce in a large zip-top bag and squeeze out the air
  • Remove any rust spots or hard pieces of rib and make sure to seal tightly after each use
  • Lettuce will stay good for about a week
  • You can also clean spinach, chard, kale, etc. in the spinner.  Dry well and follow the same procedures as for lettuce.  If you trim excess stems or ribs out, it’s easier to grab and go for cooking.  I wilt greens into all kinds of things…don’t tell my family.

Spring 2012 Newsletter

Spring 2012 pdf