Sunday, July 19, 2009

What Grows

My first year growing more than tomatoes and flowers in containers has yielded real crops. I ate my first cucumber today and it was delicious. Beans are slim and sweet. When will my tomatoes turn red?

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bag Lady

I knew there was a problem when my Mom opened the extra large Saks shopping bag that had been carefully folded among a 10-inch pile of "collected bags," and her eyes opened with a mix of wonder and triumph. It was a really big shopping bag. But in her mind, it was a one of a kind treasure. For some reason it was easier for her to part with the Russian antique urn worth over $5000 than this large heavy duty bag with corporate logo.

She folded it back up and brought out a smaller, even sturdier grey bag from Saks that didn't hold the aura the much larger, more unique temple to shopping bags had held.

I filled it with lovely linen table mats and one old white tablecloth, and a few packs of paper doilies she begrudgingly agreed to part with during our purge of her drawers. We had spent several hours paring back centuries of belongings to make her move to a smaller apartment easier.

Somethings it appears, are harder to part with than others. Back to the bags.

My mother has mountains of bags. She has gorgeous pocketbooks with labels from Hermes, Channel, Judith Lieber, Ferragamo. The creme de la creme of leather pocket books. Then there is her collection of canvas bags amassed from golf outing goodie bags, airplanes, cruises, and who knows where. I'm guessing if we took count, we'd find over 100 such bags.

But the real "collection" is the Mount Everest of paper and plastic bags accumulated over a lifetime of saving. For some reason, these reminders of shopping trips past are not as easily discarded as the already mentioned antique. Or the slightly worn white channel now destined for a thrift shop.

I know she's not collecting bags to save the planet. Or to win an award as these enterprising Junior High school students did in Boise See here

In my search for the cases of this irregular compulsion, I discovered that the town of Newark actually held it's 6th annual exhibition of shopping bags in 2003. Open the bag exhibit here...

Bag Lady today has a different definition than it did when I was younger and it meant a lady who literally lived on the streets out of a bag. I'm hoping with therapy we can get Mom through the purge and convince her that tattered, useless bags over 10-years old are not worth moving to a new home. But that may be wishful thinking....

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

My Garden

This beautiful Peony is from my garden. And I picked it. I have a habit of picking other people's flowers. Lilacs, Peony's a rose from time to time if I can maneuver around the thorns. But this one grew up in my garden. And more are blooming.

On my deck, the vegetables are all green thanks to the abundance of rain. My gardening lesson is to follow the sun. It took a while for me to realize that not everything was going to grow in my garden because of a lack of direct sun, that's why the veggies are on the deck. Photos coming soon.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Philip Johnson's Retreat

Today I visited the Philip Johnson Glass House in New Canaan. It is really more of an "experience" than a house. The house is actually one small part of the 47-acre retreat that Johnson and his partner David Whitney built into an oasis. The surroundings -- the trees, pathways, meadows, use of shadow, sky and horizon - all play a role in the experience.

The entrance is protected by a gate that features an aluminum bar that is the mast of a ship. The pathways are specifically designed to lead you down to the house and to enter the house at an angle. The grass surrounding the house itself is carefully mowed to be a "carpet."

Opposite the glass house itself is the brick house, the guest house. It has no windows that face the glass house because Philip Johnson didn't want to see his guests -- and he didn't want then to see him. The house overlooks meadow and pond with a vista of trees carefully planted. The property was farmland so when Johnson and Whitney planted the trees, they would sit a top the landing where the house stands and through a bullhorn, instruct those planting the trees exactly where to plant them.

An art gallery is built into the side of a hill and is constructed in a clover leaf pattern. Inside the clover leaf's form three circular spaces that allow the gallery to turn the walls and display different art work from the collection (Jasper Johns, Julian Schnable, Frank Stella - you get the idea). Then there is a sculpture gallery that is also wonderfully built to allow light to play of shadow and sun.

I ordered tickets 6-months ago. They only go on sale once a year. I got tickets for summer and fall - hopefully when we return in October, we can see it a new.

You can visit the site here.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Speak- easy

You know you have a trend when you can cite 3 examples of the same thing. That's what happened today -- three different times the word "speakeasy" was part of the conversation. And in two of its uses - it meant a different thing.

First - a new Wall Street Journal section that they are calling "Speakeasy." A mash-up of culture, trends, the arts, style, etc that shows a softer side to the newspaper. I'm guessing it's their attempt to build readers online while the paper itself sticks to harder news.
You can see it here.

Then, I heard about a mobile marketing campaign for Remy Martin that was called "Speakeasy" a program that provided a mobile link to those who opted in to secret bars and clubs. You gain admittance by bringing your phone and downloading the secret invite.

Finally at the end of the day was the ultimate story about what a real speakeasy is in the NYTimes Dining section. Seems that the cocktail party of prohibition era is once again hot (which I knew from my sister and her neighborhood hot spot "Drink.").

You can see the NTY story here.

Personally, I've been obsessed with mixology since my first visit to drink where each cocktail came with ice carefully molded for each drink. Chopped, blocked or simply shaken and strained, each drink made as much out of the ice as ingredient as the tinctures, alcohol and mixers that were included.

Of course if you look at the etymology of the word, all of the cases cited seem to meet its meaning: From the online Etymology Dictionary a "Speakeasy" is:
"unlicensed saloon," 1889 (in New York "Voice"), from speak + easy, from the practice of speaking quietly about such a place in public, or when inside it, so as not to alert the police and neighbors. The word gained wide currency in U.S. during Prohibition (1920-1932). In early 19c. Ir. and British dialect, a speak softly shop meant "smuggler's den."

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Fish of a Lifetime

I grew up fishing. My father was a die hard fisherman. Every weekend, evenings in the summer after he came home from work, early in the morning. Whenever he could get out, he'd take us with him. My best memories are out on the boat with the whole family catching blue fish after blue fish.

The one fish that eluded my father was striped bass. He spent days and nights in search of this fish -- that in the early 70's had nearly been wiped out. We trolled, we used fresh bait, fresh bunker, every trick in the book. He never caught one. He caught his fair share of other fish. I have a huge Wahoo that was mounted that I watched him catch in Florida. And he'd go away and fish for Salmon in Canada and to the keys for bonefish with my mom.

I got the fishing gene. It is my favorite past time. I could be out on the water and not catch a thing and have a good day.

I broke the family striper curse about 7 years ago in Martha's Vineyard when we went out with a guide one early morning, and in a fog bound bay hooked into a mess of stripers. I called my brother who had just gotten a boat and told him that it was now his turn.

My brother has since caught stripers in the same fishing grounds that confounded my father. But until today, I'd never caught one in the Long Island Sound.

We got up early and left the dock about 6 am and by 6:30 were fishing off Rye Playland where a week before, my husband and friends pulled out a 40 pounder. Just after dropping our bait, my line took off. I jumped on the reel and brought in a beautiful striper. We continued for about 3 hours catching about 10 fish in all with my son pulling in the catch of the day at about 17-lbs.

A perfect morning, The sun not too hot, the water calm and the fish seemed to be everywhere. As we motored back to dock all I could think about was that I was a year older than my father when he died. And I wondered if perhaps he'd had just a little more time, he would have caught the one fish he had searched so hard to catch.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Office - Changing the Space

I have two offices - one at home that is my very favorite place. It comes with snoring dog, very short commute and allows for my day to start with Yoga, spinning or some sort of exercise.

The other office is in NY at my clients building - the photo above does not really capture the real beauty of the view. I've worked for this client for almost 11-years and it's taken me that long to finally get a really lovely office with a beautiful view of the Hudson River. I know this sounds weird, but when I open the door to that office I feel a calmness. I'm sure it's the proximity to the water and the view out the window. But I really love it. And now I have to leave it.

The company is moving into new space with an open floor plan. Instead of private offices, we will be sitting in an open space with cubicles - really just desk, chair and a drawer for files. No room for photos. No place for a calendar. No way to shut the door.

I am all for collaboration - but I actually think that open space is detrimental to work - at least the kind of work I do where if I'm not on the phone, I'm writing. And when I am on the phone, I'm loud. I once had a boss whose office was next to mine tell me to stop laughing -- I was laughing so loud. I'm not quiet.

Here's the conundrum: the open plan gives me the perfect excuse to work from home more. BUT, the more I work from home, the less I'm seen at work. This should be interesting. NOT looking forward to it. Move is Thursday.

Thought this piece from Wired was interesting on the evolution of office space. Wish it had answers on which space works best. Read it here.

Friday, May 8, 2009

What have I learned? Driving 101

Since I know my son does not read my blog, I feel ok blogging about his recent car accident. It was a true example of boy not understanding the power of the machine and driving too fast.

I'm wondering if it is genetic. He get is from both sides.

He's lucky. And we're lucky. He rolled the car into a ditch, blew out the windows, smashed all sides of the car, smashed the hood and was able to walk away with a scratch on his side.

We all know that a new driver is going to have an accident the first year or two of driving. But as Eric said, he was thinking it would be a fender bender.

When I was working for Grey Advertising, they had the account for the Australian Driving safety organization. The ads depicted hard core car accidents and the aftermath of the accidents. Harrowing ads that I said at the time I'd like to make sure my child saw before getting behind the wheel.

Now I have to consider what he has learned. This is a tough lesson. It's about responsibility and being responsible for your actions. What happens as a result of things you do. And the shock of understanding what might have been...


Sunday, May 3, 2009

This Year's Vegetable Garden

While I live in the country and have lots of room for a garden, my property is surrounded by a canopy of trees leaving me with unsuitable area for growing vegetables. It's taken me about 15-years to really figure it out. I've always had a vegetable garden. When I was a kid, my job was weeding. Still is.

But not this year. With failure comes wisdom. My garden this year will live on my deck -- the only spot where I get a good 6- hours of sun, a requirement for good plant growth. And with plants all in containers, the weeds will be non-existent (theoretically).

I've planted lettuce, peas, radish, cucumber, broccoli and herbs. Tomatoes to follow as it gets warmer, I've always grown tomatoes on the deck, but this year I'm trying out this new planter that lets them grow upside down.

So far, I'm optimistic. While something seems to be nibbling on the cucumber, they still look robust. The lettuce is filling out. And for the past two days I've been visited by an indigo bunting - a vibrantly blue bird that is of the finch species. And not for nothing, but birds are nesting in my old bird feeder... I feel like this could be a good growing season.


Thursday, April 23, 2009

My lesson from Peter Kaplan

Here's the gist - where there's smoke there's fire. Or, if a reporter is asking about something -- and it's not good news -- there's usually some truth in it.

Yesterday, Read it here,Peter Kaplan, the editor of the New York Observer for the past 15 years announced he was leaving the weekly newspaper about New York and its personalities. Clearly he had problems with the new owners. This photo tells it all (he's the one looking down).

But, he was a visionary editor. In fact, he was a reporter's editor. Because he really was a reporter at heart.

I met Peter Kaplan about 20 years ago when he was an editor at Manhattan, Inc. magazine - once a powerful business magazine that chronicled the inner workings of business in NY. I was working on the Manhattan, Inc. account while at Howard Rubenstein, trying to get PR for the magazine. Mostly I was fighting rumors about layoffs, troubles at the publication and with its owner.

As I read the story in today's NYT about Peter assembling his staff to let them know he was leaving, I was transported back in time to 20-some years ago when I witnessed another meeting that Peter was on the outside of. I was called to a meeting with the editor of Manhattan Inc. at the time, the very great Clay Felker and his staff. As we entered the offices, a staff meeting was underway. There in the middle of the entryway, the publisher of Manhattan, Inc. was announcing to his staff that he was shutting down the magazine. It was a stunning moment. We were there to talk about promoting the next issue -- but there was not to be a next issue.

Clay and Peter were shell shocked. They had no idea this was coming. And as for PR - we were sent into crisis mode.

Prior to that moment, our PR efforts had been about denying the rumors of problems at the magazine. Apparently the media covering the industry knew more about what was going on on the inside than those inside knew. Lesson learned? After many years, I've come to expect that there is always truth in those rumors. It might not be right on, but there's always a little something. If you hear it from the press, be prepared for it to happen. At least that way you can be prepared when you walk into a meeting in progress and bad news is on the agenda.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Am I A Twit?

Ok - don't answer that. The truth is that I do tweet as part of my day job. Twitter has become one of the most important tools in the PR tool kit because it lets you be part of the conversation about your brand, your company or even yourself.

As it becomes part of mainstream media there is apt to be backlash. It seems to me that the media -- those are the most fervent twitters -- need to be more careful with what they tweet about as it becomes more about them as personalities and less about the publications they represent.

Same for companies. If a company is tweeting, it needs to have the voice of the company, not someone talking about what they had for lunch (unless it is the CEO giving us a taste of his or her personality).

I know I'm not the first to make this prediction, but I wonder what impact twittering will have on blogging? If we get used to posting our thoughts and opinions in 140 characters - who will want to read or write something more in-depth. In our attention deficit world, perhaps we are all twits at heart.

I know my mother will have no idea what I'm talking about when I say "twitter" even if my twitter feed is on the right column. So please take a moment and read today's op ed by Marueen Dowd. I thought she lost it, but she is in rare form today. Read it here.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Mine - Needs some Work

I got my first issue of "Mine" magazine this week. I tore right into it, interested to see how a magazine with content that I asked for would read.

I quickly realized that the very nice editors at Mine didn't get "my" order. In place of "Money" I got "Golf Illustrated." While the rest of my family might find that an interesting read, it puts me to sleep. I was hoping for a "here's how to pay for college" story and instead got a photo by photo breakdown of Tiger Wood's swing.

The first story from Real Simple was about juice drinks. Not top of mind for me but an interesting fact: grapefruit juice can extend the duration of prescription drugs. Probably not a good think for those on Cialis.

Second up from Food & Wine - travelling to South Africa. Again, not in my interest area - if they talked about fishing, perhaps.

My favorite story was from InStyle, a magazine I just can't ever find the time or inclination to read. It was about the writer's experience buying custom sized/designed jeans online. If I ever had the courage to take my own measurements I'd definitely try out or

Mine is an interesting experiment. I was apparently not the only one to get the wrong issue. Time admitted to a few mess-ups. Hey, this is new, I understand. There's still time to try it out they have room for more subscribers


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

YouTube Everything

I recently put out a press release for a client that I built in a lot of social networking tools to better enrich the news that was being announced and to actually have control over some of the messages. As part of the announcement we filmed a video with the new individual joining the company talking about how changes in the industry were accelerating and his point of view on technology, etc.

Ideally I wanted it to be 3 or 4 videos that we'd post on YouTube of 2-3 minutes each. But due to time it became 1 video, 7-minutes long. Still, after the first day that the news broke, the YouTube Video scored over 1,000 views. All the major news outlets included links to the video and some even referenced the conversation.

Now comes a story in the New York Times Magazine here that talks about how Obama used YouTube as part of his communications strategy.

Every communications vehicle today HAS to be part of a communications plan. And YouTube is the second most used search engine next to parent company Google.

As a PR professional I think that what the new social media tools do is give us a greater ability to not only tell our story across multiple channels, but in someways have greater control and visibility over what gets read. All this is due to the magic powers of "search" and what happens when the consumer, reporter, analyst, whomever, goes to search for a corporate name, a product, a whatever and they find a plethora of mentions that rise to the top that have all been provided and created by the company in question. The key is to do it from a journalistic point of view - not a spin doctor. But the tools are changing the game and for me, making my job different every day.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

The BEST Cooking Guide

I recently discovered "The Best of America's Test Kitchen." It is an annual magazine that brings together the "year's best from Cook's Illustrated and the America's Test Kitchen TV Show.

While I never heard of the show, I've long enjoyed Cook's Illustrated. I've subscribed to a lot of cooking magazines over the past 20 or so years. I was a long time fan of Gourmet and really like Ruth Reichel, but found I never had enough time to get through the magazine. I read Cooking Light for years and even Food & Wine.

What Cook's Illustrated and its sister publication do so well is speak to actual cooking techniques. They test and test and test recipes and distill their learning so that when you make it at home, it comes out flawless. And they give you great hints for bringing out the best in the recipe. Most of the recipes have "Notes from the Test Kitchen" where they provide simple black and white illustrated tips. A recipe for Restaurant Style Hummas has a note on the "Best Canned Chickpeas" -- again tested, and tested and tested again.

Tonight I made their General Tso's Chicken. I have to say it was even better than in a restaurant with no funky MSG aftertaste.

Anyone who knows me would see that the reason I bought the magazine because of the Tiramisu on the cover. While the recipe inside sounds great. I was disappointed. It calls for using store bought lady fingers. While that's a traditional approach, I have made Tiramisu from scratch. It's so much more rewarding when you do it all. Still, it's worth buying - the tips alone are great.

You can see it here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I LOVE Candy

I have been spanked, punished and made fat by my love of sweets. Now it turns out that bad times are good times for sellers of candy.

As an emotional eater, even I could have told you that. But here is the front page of the New York Times extolling the virtues of tootsie rolls (yum) and other sweet treats. No wonder I can't stop buying those Nestle Butterfinger Easter Eggs.

Read about what the NYTimes found here

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reading Vs. Listening - My Affair with Audio Books

I started to listen to books on tape several years ago when I began driving to work. I felt that it gave me an opportunity to "read" books that I wouldn't ordinarily sit down to read but knew I'd get something out of.

I've wondered quite a bit during the years that I've been "listening" if I am actually "reading" the book as its read to me, or just hearing the book. As a lifelong reader and also a writer by profession, it is a question that I wonder about a lot. Sometimes, if I'm listening to a book that really grabs me through the language or story, I will buy the book and sometimes read along, or go back to sections that made me think about something important. I did that with Beloved by Toni Morrisson., among others. I'm not sure I would have bought "Beloved" if I hadn't listened to it. And I got so much out of hearing Toni Morrisson herself, read the story that when I sat down to reread sections, I could hear her voice in my head.

I'm now listening to Mark Helprin's "Winter's Tale." I read the book maybe 20-years ago when it first came out and thought it was one of the best books I ever read. I was transfixed by some of the imagery and the tale of New York City in Winter that is filtered throughout. But now that I"m listening to it, I realize that I don't remember much of the story. There are bits and pieces I recall, but LISTENING to it somehow makes the imagery come to life. I find myself thinking about the parallels the anaologies, the craft of the word. When I read, I'm not sure I reflect as much on the actual story inside the story and what the writer is actually saying.

I think I actually retain more of the story and allusions, illusions, language and nuance better when I hear it than when I read it. But I'm sure it is different for everyone.

What I do know is that I can recall details of some of my favorite books as I drive past different roads and remember driving the route while listening to one book or another.

I tried to find studies online about the difference between reading and listening and what one retains/learns, but apparently there's not much research out there. We begin our love of stories and books when our mother or parent or teacher reads stories to us. I know my son still has memories of some of the great books we shared together.

Here's what Steven King said about listening vs. reading on one blog I did manage to find. I agree with him:

"I've argued all my life that the story means more than the delivery systems involved (and that includes the writer). I have never been able to understand the prejudice some people seem to feel about recorded books, for instance. Not only are good stories better when they are told out loud; bad stories declare themselves almost at once, because the spoken word is merciless."

Steven King



Magazines, newspapers and television media have been double hit by both the recession and changing media habits.

This week Time Magazine (in partnership with American Express Publishing) announced a new magazine built by technology. Mine.

Building off the RSS Feeds concept that allows users to customize content delivered to their email based on interest, Time is letting consumers "customize" their own magazines. And they have the option to have it delivered by email or as a printed magazine. Interestingly, it looks like it's free. (But I'd pay just to support the concept).

I signed up as soon as I read about, selecting content from 5 Magazines that Time Editors will assemble. I selected Money, Food & Wine, Real Simple, InStyle and Sports Illustrated. Magazines I like, don't subscribe to and never seem to have the chance to read. I'll get 5 issues delivered (I still prefer to read a magazine the old fashioned way).

This is an interesting experiment by Time. Not only will they attract potential new readers, but they will have a growing list of emails that they can market products to - individuals who are looking for the next best thing.

To get your own copy of Mine, sign up here

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lessons on the Job

When I started this blog, the idea was to chronicle the little things I learn everyday.

Some "little" things that are actually big from the CEO at a Town Hall Meeting:

"Be Positive" - meaning even though the economy sucks, you're scared shitless about your job and our industry is at an unknown crossroads, if you have a positive attitude and approach everyday with a positive point of view, you will be happier and more successful. Agree.

On Leadership -- "You don't learn leadership from reading a book" - brilliant, but obvious observation.

Last - "there are no good Chinese restaurants in NY" -- well coming from someone who has lived in Asia for 15-years, that might be true. But I think if you head to Chinatown, you can't go wrong.

Friday, March 13, 2009

John Stewart - My Hero

Best line of last night's John Stewart/Jim Cramer interview: "I understand that you want to make finance entertaining, but it's not a... game," said Stewart.

Best opening - Cramer going on Martha Stewart that same morning and beating a piece of dough as Martha tells him to think of it as John Stewart.

A chastised Jim Cramer, apologetic, contrite, even a little fearful was a sight to see. You gotta give him credit for facing his toughest critic, going on the show and acknowledging he was wrong.

The real heart of the interview however, was John Stewart's relentless focus on the everyday investor. The millions of individuals who thought that saving their money in a 401K, putting it in mutual funds and maybe a couple of stocks, would serve them well for the future. (I'm raising my hand here).

We got screwed (Mom - would have used another word here, but I know you're reading).

Who is CNBC's audience he asked? Is it the Wall Street "insider" or is it the average American looking for sound advice. Stewart wanted to know why CNBC and all the other major financial news organizations did not see the problems in the market coming and warn the public. Cramer's answer: we were all seeing growth over a long period of time and thought it would continue.

When the company I work for moves to new office space, we'll be 4-blocks from where John Stewart tapes. I'm getting tickets.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Suicidal Bambi

I've lived in a wooded area of Connecticut long enough to keep a vigilant eye out for deer and other animals on the road. But this morning as I followed a line of traffic, a deer ran out in front of my car in what can only be described as a suiciadal panic. Of course, I hit it.

It landed off to the side of the road in one of those piles you pass all to frequently on side streets. Only this was not a side street. Perhaps the time change confused it and me. And while saying it was on a suicide mission may in some way make me feel less responsible, I just didn't see it coming. According to one statistic there are over 1.5 million crashes involving deer every year. That according to a website -- -- soley created to cater to those involved in car crashes with deer. (They even ask for your pictures!).

A CT site advises drivers to "move to Hawaii" to avoid hitting deer.

My husband and son both asked "Is the deer dead?" before asking if I was ok.

Our state has come to regard deer as rats with long legs. We now hunt them to cull the herd.

Regardless, I still cried this morning as I drove away. Not the way I wanted to start my day.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Used Cars

Sitting in a used car dealership can be quite an education. That's what I did the other day while my husband and son took a used 2001 Volkswagen Jetta for a test drive. My son found the car online. He's been looking for months. He and my husband have checked out a number of cars, but the one at the right price with the right stuff had yet to surface.

That is until Saturday. We got to Auto Trader in Stamford just in time. As soon as Eric and Michael left for a drive, another father and son arrived wanting to see the same car. After 20-minutes they left. I was still there. And I did learn a lot.

Despite conventional wisdom that consumers are downsizing, they are not getting rid of their cars. So that means there is a lack of inventory for used cars. The haggling that you'd expect to reduce the asking price to something a little more realistic does not happen with used cars today. They give very little. I watched it in action.

And no wonder. People are not buying new cars. And the supply and demand for used cars has shifted. If no one is trading in old cars (and some 15 million are taken out of supply every year due to accidents, etc), there are not enough used cars to meet demand.

What also struck me as I sat in the "office," was that this little used car shop was selling only foreign made cars. They told me they could not keep Toyota Land Cruisers for more than a day - they sold as soon as they came in. They had 3 or 4 Mercedes, BMW's, Volvo, Saab's, etc.

One guy was looking at a Volvo for his wife. He went over the car carefully. He reported that it was missing a lug nut. The tires were bald. The guys said, "yeah, the tires are low, but they are legal." Meaning, we're not giving an inch - maybe a lug nut - but no big deals. They guy wanted to trade his Ford Focus. They gave him $2,000. It's now on their site for $6,488.

Where one business suffers, there's always an opportunity.

Here's a hot tip - perhaps now's the time to buy Hummer NPR Reports here that GM will put this brand up for sale. Apparently in war torn countries, nothing beats a hummer.

PS - we bought the car.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Good Karma = Good Coffee

My sister has this karma thing - everyday she tries to do one simple act of kindness. For her, most often that means letting some crazy Boston driver cut in front of her in traffice.

But in Illionis, paying it forward took on a different meaning on Sunday when one customer at a Starbuck's drive through paid for the drink for the car behind him. This set off a chain reaction. Apparently it kept going until 160 customers paid for the drinks for the person behind them. Bet that 161'st customer who broke the chain has a lousy day.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day

A post my friend Michelle will love - nothing but pictures of the glorious snow outside. Thanks to Michael for the artistic stills - wish he caught the dog as she vacumed up the snow as part of her favorite snack...

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Dogs Eat Dog Food

Alpo just came out with a brilliant commercial with the smart tag line - "Get that dog some Alpo."

Confession: for years I have made my dogs their "food." Brown rice mixed with ground meat. My oldest dog had some health issue and for some reason I thought home cooked was better than can. But you know what? I'm an idiot. My dogs actually seem to like canned food better than home cooked. I even tried to make them home cooked biscuits because they are so picky about their treats. Well, no more doggie yoga or gourmet for Roxy and Kayleigh. I may not get them Alpo, but I think Newman's Own makes a great can of chow.

My "Star" Trainer

In an effort to add more cardio to my fitness routine (hence, lose some weight), I started going to an advanced step class at my gym. I used to do step a lot and thought I was ok. But once I tried the advanced class I realized I was entering a new zone. The instructor had a cult-following. The girls would get there 15-minutes before class. Stake out their "positions" and guard them furiously.

Amy - the instructor - had her favorites. Some had nick names, others were just loyal followers. As I got into the swing of the classes I started to finally "get" her routines, her style and the fandom that followed. Then this week I went online and bought an advanced step video for the days I couldn't get to class. I found a video that looked good - Amy Bento Advanced Step 3 and it came yesterday. When I opened the package I was surprised. The Amy Bento in the video is the same "Amy" who teaches my Saturday morning class.

And those rabid followers in the class? A bunch of them are on her video! I actually find it really inspiring. Amy is in amazing shape and the women in the class are all athletic and toned. So maybe if I stick with it, so will I....

Amy's web site is here

Monday, February 23, 2009

Boston Bests

I've been to Boston a lot. My sister has lived there since she went to college and never came back. We've done lots of fun things and visited lots of fun places. And we've eaten at amazing restaurants.

We had dinner with Julia Child at L'Espalier. And we ate $300 worth of Sushi at O Ya.

My new favorite (and hers) is Drink. A lovely little bar around the corner from her apartment that would turn me into a daily/nightly imbiber in no time. They don't have a menu or specialty drink. Instead, they ask you what you like to drink and using home made bitters, herbs and even carefully crafted ice cubes designed for specific glasses and drinks, they create drinks just for you.

My sister's current favorite is a green blazer. Chartreuse set on fire, poured between two hot mugs until some of the alchol burns off and then poured into a charming little glass warm but not hot. And when you sip it, it warms you inside out. Just one and I was giggling on the floor.

A must visit.
Drink Here

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Stump "Best in Show"

I am a dog freak. I greet every dog I see when I walk down the street. And almost always I know what breed it is. Last night at the Westminster Dog Show, a 10-year-old Sussex Spaniel was the winner. Never knew this breed. It was clearly the crowd favorite. It had a great story. And it's tail never stopped wagging.

I went to Westminster about 12-years ago when I was working for Grey. They had the pedigree account and I got tickets to stand at the individual breed contests and after the best of breed was selected, I interviewed the winners to find out what they feed their dogs. It was fascinating. Back stage was like a side-show. Dogs in curlers, dogs upside down. And the people were even more bizarre than some of the dogs. It was quite an event.

The year I went a Clumber Spaniel won. Its trick: it could hold three tennis balls in its mouth. I'd never seen or heard of the dog in my life, but just the next month we went to LA to visit my in-laws and stopped by a friend's house who had --- you guessed it, a clumber spaniel.

What amazed me most about Stump, last night's winner, was that he is 10-years old. That's how old my dogs are now. I doubt they'd get best in anything unless it was snoring or sleeping. Still, according to this article TEXT, Stump does a lot of sleeping as well.

This was one of the first years I actually "picked" the winner.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Poor Michael Phelps

Sorry it's taken 3-days to get this post up. But as a result of the delay, I have more to say.

While I don't really feel sorry for Michael Phelps, I do think the media attention on the poor kid doing a bong hit is way over done. But I also think that's partly his fault. He sold out.

After winning big - and I watched every single one of his wins - the guy snatched up EVERY endorsement deal offered. Kellogg's made sense. Some of the others, not so much. So who drops him immediately? Kellogg's. His image is no longer right for cereal boxes. But Subway stays with him.

Who wins in this pr war? The kid is clearly contrite. He knows he messed up (Mom, I was gonna use another word there, but I thought about my promised - see previous post). His apology was sincere. And if there's one thing I've learned over the past 6-months, is that you have to respond immediately to media questions, no ducking allowed.

My sister had the best response, he should do anti-drug PSA's. But I wonder, will it really ring true? What did he lose? He lost money. Is that the message we want to send today?

ps - full disclosure, I was known to take a bong hit or 2 back in the is NOT going to help his lung capacity.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Lesson from my Mother

There are many things in life that my mother has taught me. Some of them I apply on a daily basis. Some of them I have just forgotten, only to remember them suddenly in the midst of something else.

But she is a loyal reader of this blog so I feel I must do right by her complaint. She said that she loves me and my blog. But she takes offense at the "F" word in my blog post last night on mascara -- of all subjects. She thinks that words like that do not have a place in blogs.

Well, I guess I've just been reading too many f-ing blogs! Because the ones I read have the F-word and worse all the way through them. One of the blogs that I follow for work uses the word "Douchenozzel" every other sentence.

But I think my mother has a point. I don't need to use those words to convey my sentiment. It's actually very lazy. So I apologize to you Mom, and to my readers. I'll only use it when I really need to. And usually that's just yelling at my husband or my son...


Sunday, January 25, 2009

My buy of the Week

I'm not an overly girly girl. But I do require make up to look like a real person these days. It's an over 40 thing and probably an intense lack of sleep.

But like any woman, I am always looking for the best mascara. And by mistake this weekend, I found it. I'm serious. On a whim I bought this new Maybelline xxl "volumne + length" MICROFIBER mascara. It has two parts. You put part 1 on first and then part 2. It doesn't clump, but makes your lashers look long and full. (Sheesh, I sound like a fucking ad - that's what working for ad agencies will get you). Anyway. I had to share.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Taking the Train

Sorry for the poor quality of the photo but this was something you had to see to believe. I've been taking the train into NY lately. Between my son wanting/needing the car and my car having troubles -- not to mention my environmental karma points -- the train has been an ok change in routine. (It used to be my daily commute for 15-years until I started working on the West Side).

I've been getting a ride with my neighbor Scott to the train so I have a commuting buddy. When we got off the train in grand central on Friday, I noticed this guy. It was hard to believe a businessman was wearing Rodney Dangerfield golf pants to work. He was in front of us as we walked through the underground tunnel and then went left when we went right. Scott took some shots, but it was dark.

We wondered, what could he do? Golf writer? Garmento? Who would go to work dressed like that? Then as we were parting to head to our respective offices, the guy walks past us on 6th Avenue. That's where Scott got this picture.

I still prefer to drive, but the sights and sounds of NY come into much sharper focus when you take the train.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

History - Shared

Today I watched the inauguration in a room full of agency employees packed in as tight as could be. Every race, color and background seemed to be represented. I watched as co-workers male and female sat with tears streaming down their faces. The room held its breath as the oath was taken - giggled as Judge Roberts rushed it, and the as it turns out, read the oath of office in the wrong order. Our gallent new president repeated the words - still in the wrong order - back, knowing the Judge made a mistake.

NPR today reported on a 105 year old woman who spent 5-hours in the cold, wrapped in a sleeping blanket to watch the event.

It was a wonderful moment that I will remember as one of the most significant events I witnessed.

The balls - a fashion frenzy:

see here

Monday, January 19, 2009

What I've Forgotten

My son is going to a formal dance in two weeks. We had to go rent a tux. I wish it had been that easy for me to find a dress. Black tux - what could be more simple. Of course he had no idea what his date was going to wear so when he asked about a red vest, the very smart salesman said, "why don't you wait to see what your date is wearing. Black goes with everything. And you can match her with your boutonniere."

So all of sudden, thanks to him, I realize my son needs to get a corsage. Who remembers wearing a corsage? A wristlet?

Where did the word even come from? My son had no idea what a corsage was or a boutonniere. But he dutifully sent an instant message to the girl and promptly discovered she was wearing a navy dress. They decided on white roses for the corsage. Which means a white boutonniere for him.

To show him what these look like we went to google and sure enough, you can now get lovely corsages, boutonnieres and whatever online, overnight via 1800 flowers, ftd, you name it.

I somehow don't remember it that way. But still it is a nice old tradition that somehow seems to endure. I will be away visiting my mother when the Cadillac Escalade limo that a bunch of the girls have arranged for their transportation arrives to pick my son up. My husband will probably forget to take a picture. But if the magic moment arrives and the stars align, I'll post a photo. Don't hold your breath.


Sugar Pie Express

My friend Michelle started her blog - Sugar Pie Express - just before me. There's a link on the left under blogs I follow.

I love her blog. So this is a call out to my girl Michelle. Not a fan of her boot choice, but then I go for the high heals and she is all about walking tough.

One of the things she wrote about was "5 Things I Love Everyday." Top of her list was having coffee with her husband. Sweet. They are still newleyweds. I hope that continues til forever, but as for my husband of 23 years, morning is not good -- at least until the medicine kicks in.

But still I think 5 Things I love Everyday is a good exercise. Here's mine:

1 - The first cup of coffee
2 - Being greeted by my dogs when I walk in the door (unconditional love is the BEST)
3 - A kiss goodnight from my son (at almost 17, getting a kiss everynight is meaningful)
4 - Looking outside the window and looking into other windows - the view beyond my own four walls is always refreshing
5 - My family and friends

Friday, January 9, 2009

Layoff Mania

I am still decompressing from a bad week. But at least I am employed. Some out of work "cranky editor" has actually created a website with a daily list of companies that have laid off workers
See link here

At least he offers info on companies that are hiring.

When Google fires 6,000 people it means that we are all in trouble. When the US was at the depth of its recession in the 1930's, unemployment was 25%. We are still in single digets but it feels like a bomb has gone off everywhere.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Combat Journalism

It has been a long week. My oldest and largest client had the biggest layoffs its ever had.

Lesson 1 - as a PR person, push the point that in the age of transparency -- when we tell others that they need to be transparent -- WE also need to be open, honest and direct. If you know in advance that the shit is going to hit the fan, have a statement that puts in in perspective.

They refused to issue a statement and provide a figure of the employees cut. I didn't have the correct figures. In fact, they didn't even have the correct numbers until the CEO of the holding company created a shitstorm and insisted that the right numbers be provided because the blogs, online press and others overinflated the figures.

As a result, every article has the same erroneous figures as the first. Now I'm like a stupid dustbin trying to clean up their mess.

Lesson 2 - never underestimate the sleaziness of the press

As employees were leaving the building, the leading trade magazine sent a reporter over to the office to talk with employees on their way out. Now I understand when they did that at Lehman and others. But hundreds of companies have had lay offs. Why do that to innocent people on what is probably one of their worst days? Has our need for the ultimate human interest story taken us that low?

Now some think this was an obvious and smart way for this publication to show another side of the story. But I think it's tabloid journalism of the worst kind. In fact, it feels to me like combat journalism with no place to hide, no way to protect yourself and the shells and hits keep coming.

I need to stop taking work so seriously.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Life Goals

My husband's friend Dan from grade school recently achieved one of his life goals - he bought and completely renovated a house 100 steps from the beach in Westport, Ct. Last night he had the "opening" night party at his renovated "cottage."

With an amazing eye for detail and desire to create a model true to the "Arts & Crafts" bungalow, the home embraces and calms as one discovers unusual touches -- hand-tooled hinges, a copper kitchen sink (bought on e-bay for $795), images of mermaids playfully hidden within tile, a coupula with beautful stained glass images and a weathervane that has followed Dan to each new house he renovates. The bookcase in his office is filled with books on Arts & Crafts archetechture and bungalows. He did his homework and with help from his girlfriend designer extraordinnaire, has created a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. (I'll get a photo and post later).

I remember sitting down with Dan at one of the many gatherings of our crowd several years ago. He talked about how having a home on the water was one of his goals in life. Intrigued, I asked if he had a list of things he wanted to do. And he did. Travelling to great places and climbing mountains like Kilimanjaro is one - checked off and done. For his 50th, he's heading to Patagonia.

Last night he asked a bunch of us what we wanted to do with our lives. It's a hard question to answer. Getting through each day sometimes seems enough of a goal. But as I've spent time with Dan, I have started thinking about the things that I want to do. Travel is an obvious. There are places I've never been and want to see: Spain, Italy, Portugal, Australia, etc.

But when I think about my goals, I think more about what I personally want to make happen. I too want to live on the water - a home by the sea, a lake, a stream even -- is at the top of my list. I want to learn to make cheese. I want to learn to fly fish. I want to catch a permit (it is part of the 3 sport fishes that consititute a grand slam in the keys and I've already caught a tarpon and bonefish). I want to discover a new career path. And more.

I'm not sure having an actual list gets you there faster. It works for Dan. But I do think keeping track and thinking about what you want to achieve is what will make your life richer and more meaningful. I'm working on my list.


Saturday, January 3, 2009

A New Year

We brought back an old tradition this year - the New Year's Day family and friends party. After the crazy celebrations of High School, New Year's Eve has been a somewhat quiet time for us. Dinner, watch the ball, go to bed. What's the big deal?

But New Year's Day always seemed a great opportunity to reconnect with friends and family in a low key moment. A "check in" and reminder of friendships.

We had a nice gathering that started at 1pm. Our last guests (who also were the first to arrive), left at 9pm. I've never had a party like that. And while there were just four couples who stayed to hang out well past "closing" time, it was so much fun and so more intimate. We had eaten everything and even had to order pizza!

We've been to parties at these friends homes and I think what made this a special time was that it was our home. We don't have a mega house. But it is very comfortable. We can get 7 or 8 comfortably on our sofa. Our living room is a "living room" with big screen tv and old album covers as art work. Our parties are a little more contained. Less spread out. I think that makes for a more engaged and connected party experience. Whatever the reason -- maybe it was just the good food, drink and friends -- it augers well for moving forward in a New Year.
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