Archive for December, 2012

Out With The Old

Stack of DocumentsWell here we are, the last post of the year.  I know a lot of others are posting their resolutions for the next year, but I would rather focus on my top five goals for 2013.

1.  Eat more vegetables—especially local ones.  Recently my husband has perfected his glazed carrot recipe.  Not too sweet, and still having a little “tooth” to them, they are wonderful and have become a regular side dish in our house.  I would like us to expand this part of our diet next year, since I consider myself a flexitarian (limited meat-eater).  And, we have a lot of local options for shopping when it’s growing season; which is good for our economy.

2.  Expand my physical activity.  For the last five years I’ve been a half marathon runner.  When I was younger I used to do a lot of aerobics, and last year I took a belly dancing class.  I really liked both of these options.  I would like to get back into some other kinds of activities; maybe a Zumba class or some kick boxing to add to the running schedule to break up the monotony.

3.  Recruit more volunteers.  There are so many opportunities in our area for this.  One in which I’m particularly involved is our quilt-a-thon.  I belong to a homemakers’ club that puts this on in our local mall.  We get a bunch of basic pieces done ahead of time, then a big group of us sit and sew for hours until we have them done.  Last year we donated over 100 quilts to police/fire departments, shelters, hospitals, and the Red Cross.  If sewing isn’t your bag, there are tons of other options.  I would like to get more people out and involved in the community.

4.  Get something else published.  This year a story I wrote was selected for inclusion in a book about dealing with terminal illness.  I’m in a manuscript club that is working on a book.  God willing and fates aligning, we will publish a book of short stories in 2013.

5.  Get organized.  My stint on the Editorial Board of The Duluth News Tribune is wrapping up just as I step into the role of President Elect for the Douglas County Homemakers.  This will definitely entail much more paperwork and planning!  I need to have a system in place so that I have structure in this group and my other clubs/activities.  Not to mention work.  It’s no secret that mine is the…less-than-tidy desk in the office!  My defense is that it’s because I’m creative.  No one’s buying it.  I need to embrace binders and spread sheets to save my sanity, and spare that of the people around me as well.

Whatever your goals or resolutions are for 2013 I hope you write them down.  It will at least give you a chuckle next winter when you dig out your binder.


A New Kind of Normal

Boy Helping Girl Use ComputerI think it’s finally happening; I’m becoming my mother.  That’s not a bad thing mind you, my mom rocks.  But every once in a while I catch myself saying things about “kids” I know, kids in their thirties.  Then I got one of those emails about what it’s like to be in the youngest generation—where they don’t know what it’s like to only have three TV stations, what “Rabbit Ears” are, etc.  That got me to thinking about our business and how expectations have changed.

If you look back a decade or so, you’d see the hospitality industry beginning to make changes toward more sustainable practices.  We began recycling things, changing our light bulbs to fluorescent, and instituting laundry policies to save water and energy.  Now if someone tells you they are recycling, it’s not such a big deal; we expect that.  It’s kind of like the old signs that used to advertise air conditioning and cable TV.  The public is moving on.

So what are these new consumers expecting from businesses then?  Well, our research tells us it has morphed beyond the traditional “green” practices.  They are looking for community involvement, social responsibility, and a spirit of volunteerism in the companies with whom they do business.  Purchasers want to associate with people who live and work like they do.  If an establishment’s values (real or perceived) do not align with these shoppers, they’ll find somewhere else to spend their money.

And it’s not enough to do these things and advertise about it.  Gone are the days of shameless self-promotion and tooting your own horn.  Today’s skeptical buyers are looking for peer verification and approval before they make any commitments.  People have no problem putting their experiences and opinions all over social media.  Those comments are passed along faster than an old-fashioned game of telephone.

The upside of all of this?  Everybody can win here.  Through more local involvement and volunteering we can have stronger communities.  With the increase of social media usage and decrease of delayed gratification, we are destined to reach higher levels of customer service.  Maybe it’s not so bad to have this new kind of normal.


The Greenest Centerpieces

Cases Stacked UpHave you ever gone to a banquet or party with a big fancy centerpiece?  Sometimes they’re so tall you can’t even see over them to hold a conversation with someone on the other side of the table.  Sometimes they’re very elaborate and the jockeying begins to see who gets to take it home.  I recently took part in planning a large awards dinner for the Minnesota Lodging Association.  When we were discussing what to put on the tables, our first instinct was to go with something festive and expected at a holiday party.  Then I remembered an event I attended a few years ago in Washington DC.  Instead of flowers or greenery, they had baskets of donated food.  That was our A-Ha! moment.

Baskets Divided

Our idea started out with a prototype.  Once we knew what we wanted, and about how much we’d need to have to fill our baskets, we set out looking for sponsors.  It didn’t take long for USA Today and AAA to step up and volunteer to sponsor our donation.  We ordered the baskets from Michael’s, got some glittery tissue paper for lining, and made a detailed spread sheet listing what kinds of food and the amounts we would need for each.  After a quick trip to Sam’s Club, we had everything we needed to get ready.

Card in the Basket

We lined up our baskets and divvied-up the cans.  The food was arranged nicely, and a card was placed next to each basket on the center of the table.  No one missed the tall, view-obstructing traditional centerpieces.  The event went well, the room was full of lively conversation, and a very sizable donation of non-perishables was given to the Second Harvest food bank from the Minnesota Lodging Association.

Decorated Tables

Free Ornaments! well…almost!

Ornament WorkstationHere’s a great idea for homemade Christmas ornaments.  I saw a picture on Pinterest and thought I’d give it a shot.  I went to my local Menards home improvement store and got ten stir sticks–the long ones for five gallon buckets.  They were free–YAY!  I had my husband cut them into five pieces each and drill a small hole in each of the two upper corners; yes, that is 50 ornaments that you can make in a matter of a couple hours start to finish.

We live in a house that’s over a hundred years old and there are always projects going on.  So that meant we had rolls of wire already.  But if you don’t, it doesn’t need to be fancy or expensive.  You could maybe even use some old hangers if you still have wire ones laying around, or ribbon or floral wire.

You’ll also need some paint.  Again, nothing extravagant.  We have a couple wannabe artists in house, so there’s tubes of paint.  But I also used some old samples we had of wall color.  Hey, use it up, right?!  Just give each one a coat of color and let it dry.  For the ends where the handles were, we painted those white to make snowmen.

A Quick Dry

After the coat of paint was dry, I used a paint pen and wrote different words on the ornaments.  Pretty standard stuff!  After that was dried, I put the wire through the ends and gave it a twist with the needle-nose pliers.  Yeah, high tech!


Here is how we painted the snowman.  The top was black with a small red line for his hat.  Then just dots and a triangle, yes, easy peasy is sometimes best!  An old piece of yarn with a dab of glitter glue for a scarf and just one hole in the top (center) for the hanger.  I used narrow ribbon and tied a knot at the end.

Faith Ornament

Ornaments on Tree

Well, what are you waiting for?  Go get your supplies and have a wonderful, homemade, and recycled holiday!