12Apr

A little bit of time…

Everyday at the sound of our alarm clocks, much like the horses at the Kentucky Derby (although probably a bit slower), we are off. We all have our routines. Shower, coffee, drive to work, get through work, drive home, dinner, TV, bed or something like that. We all rush through the day, sometimes on autopilot.

I have been lucky enough to have some down time over the past year. Fifty percent of my work week is done at home. Its been a weird transition. I had to reset my routine, and I had to make sure I stuck with it. Not always the easiest thing to do. I try not to watch television during the day and if I can avoid doing things like laundry and cleaning (because OCD) AND shut off my damn phone for a bit, I have time. REAL time.

Time is a weird thing because we all want it, but once we get it, we are kinda like what are we supposed to do with this. And for someone that suffers from anxiety and has spent most of her life in constant motion, it was hell. I had to learn to live with myself and actually enjoy it. I basically had to ask myself, what do I even like to do? Hence all the crafts, cooking and, well, this blog. I figure if I can be proud of one thing I do a day, that’s pretty good.

A lot of my friends are very active in Pittsburgh, whether its through networking or volunteering. They are constantly on the move. Kinda works out for me because I can jump on the bandwagon whenever I feel like it, which isn’t often, but who’s counting. (Clearly not them because they continue to invite me. Thank you!!!)

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Recently I was asked to make a basket (hand-painted wineglasses and wine) for an upcoming event held by PERSAD CENTER, a human service organization whose mission is to improve the well-being of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning) communities, and the HIV/AIDS communities. A friend of mine has been involved for years and, honestly, I am super excited. Art for Change, held May 2 at the Wyndham Grand Downtown Pittsburgh, features verbal and silent auctions. The art at this thing is incredible and (because my friends are the best) I AM PART OF IT! If you love art and want to be involved in this fabulous evening, tickets are on sale now and they are looking for volunteers

IMG_8152Giving to this organization and others is really a great feeling, which is kinda my focus right now. Plus, who doesn’t love free advertising!? I could probably write a book based on lazy marketing. But enough of this laziness. Go do your thing. And take some time to stop and smell the roses or the tulips or whatever isn’t still frozen in this city.

7Apr

A little bit of two cats, two eyes…

If you were to cut my heart open, you would find that a large chunk of it is purely devoted to my love for animals. When I was asked to paint wine glasses featuring not only one, but TWO one-eyed cats, my heart swelled. I have never painted animals before, so I was extremely nervous. I mean it’s basically like painting someone’s child. Pet owners are crazy! I know. I am one.

IMG_8150Frankie Jean (the darker one) and Jovie Jade are one-year-old cats, who coincidentally, are both missing an eye. Frankie and Jovie were adopted from C.A.R.E Rescue in Columbia, SC. When Frankie was found, she was a sick little kitten with a terrible eye infection. In order for her to make a full recovery, her eye had to be removed. Jovie was hit by a car as a small kitten and had many injuries, including a broken mandable. As a result of the trauma to her face, her eye also had to be removed.

Frankie and Jovie, currently living in South Carolina with their loving owners, are happy and have no idea they are different from any other cat. They spend their days running around as fast as they can, climbing on their cat tree and taking naps in their favorite sunny spots.

In addition, like me, they love social media. Frankie and Jovie are the co-owners of their Instagram and Facebook accounts. Their goal is to raise awareness for special needs animals and prove that they deserve happy fur-ever homes as well. Also, they’re kinda famous.
4Apr

A little bit of spice…

If I had to name one food I could not live without, it would probably be hot sauce. I know its not technically a food, but good lord I love it. Yesterday was Opening Day in Major League Baseball. The Pittsburgh Pirates got a Sunday opener this year. I don’t like baseball at all, but I do love a good tailgate. The day was spent with friends drinking in the cold, although very sunny, weather. I know the whole city (baseball fan or not) was feeling the hangover today. If its one thing Pittsburghers know how to do, its celebrate a game, especially when we win.

IMG_8127Nothing feeds my hangover quite like spicy food. I’ve spent many of Sundays on the couch wishing Qdoba delivered or cursing myself for not having jalapeños in the house. Today’s medicine of choice? Buffalo Cauliflower “Wings”.  I know some people hate recipes that use veggies to replace meat or carbs, but come on, it’s delicious!

IMG_8126My carnivore of a husband does not feel the same, so I threw in a main dish for him. A super simple dish containing chicken, spinach (I used kale), garlic and parmesan cheese. I’m actually not sure if I like spinach or kale more. To me they are green, so they are the same. I doubled the recipe for leftovers, so if it looks like a lot that’s why.

The cauliflower, which was doused in RedHot and Sriracha, hit the spot. The texture of the cauliflower is, in my opinion, better than chicken wings. You can dip the “wings” in ranch or blue cheese dressing, if you like. I took them straight to the face and my craving for salt and spice was fulfilled.

2Apr

A little bit of yoga…

For nearly two years, I have suffered from back pain. We will call it that. If I try to explain what is really going on with my body, you would be like what the hell is wrong with this girl. I’m pretty positive it was from sitting at a desk for years, stress and not taking care of myself. You know, all the stuff they warn you about.

The pain is pretty constant and I have tried many treatments. I did the whole physical therapy thing, which didn’t seem to even touch it. I am pretty much best friends with my chiropractor, although I’m not sure I’m his favorite patient. I had acupuncture done. It actually did seem to make a difference, but for some reason, I never went back. I’ve been tested for arthritis and had an MRI. Luckily, I’m healthy, but that doesn’t solve my problem. 

I started doing PiYo at the beginning of the year, which I highly recommend. For anyone that thinks yoga is boring but wants similar benefits, this might be for you. I bought a trigger point massage tool and a foam rollerThese are both amazing. I have tried so many different vitamins and minerals. Anything someone suggests, I buy it.

The thing that seems to help me the most is stretching, so I started doing yoga. Today I got to experience hot yoga for the first time and I LOVED it. If you haven’t tried it, basically they jack the temperature of the room up to, I don’t know, maybe 80 degrees. It really loosens your muscles and helps you move easier. You know what else it does? It makes you sweat. A lot. I went with a friend, and she swears we were under a heat vent. Some of the girls looked like they worked up a nice warm glow. My entire body was soaked. Maybe it wasn’t sweat and actually wine.

The place went went is called Amazing Yoga. They are based in Pittsburgh and have locations in Shadyside, Lawrenceville, Wexford and the South Side. I was a little nervous being that it was not only my first hot yoga, but my first yoga class ever. The atmosphere and the instructor were very welcoming. She told us to leave our egos at the door. There were no grunting men or guys hitting on me. Gosh, I am so over the gym. And, BONUS, newbies get two weeks unlimited for $25, so I will definitely be going back. However this time, I am going to avoid the hour and a half class and maybe ease myself in a bit.

31Mar

A little bit of smart social media…

Unless you live under a rock in Pittsburgh, you have heard that Wendy Bell, an award-winning journalist with WTAE-TV for 18 years, was fired Wednesday for comments she made on her Facebook page. The post, which I am not going into at all, has since been removed, but unfortunately the damage is already done.

I see people posting dumb stuff on social media CONSTANTLY. I am one of them, but I tend to keep my opinions to myself. Social media gives everyone a soapbox. And I completely support this, but I know the rules. Even if they’re unsaid. There are rules.

I worked at a newspaper for 10 years. I started before social media was used in the industry. Even then there were SO many guidelines. When social media came along and the paper decided to use it, I think they were even a bit scared that they didn’t know what they were getting into. Because one little slip can be dangerous. Look at US Airways. Their tweet was definitely not safe for work. In a different ballpark, but just as unfavorable, was McDonald’s hashtag #RonaldMcDonald. I don’t know a lot of people that like clowns, so I get it. They should’ve thought that one through. Side note, good work, Heather Oldani. She snatched up the Twitter handle @RonaldMcDonald in 2009.  I can only hope she gets some money for that. And what about when LG, whose smartphones are naturally curved, poked fun at the bendy iPhone 6? Good idea, except they sent the tweet from an iPhone

You get the point. Nobody wants to make this mistake. So, let’s go over some basic questions to ask yourself before you post anything online.

Is this post valuable to my customers?

Social media provides companies with a marketing tool that wasn’t always available. That doesn’t mean it should be taken advantage of. Consumers don’t want to be bombarded with sales pitches over and over again. They look at you as the expert. Provide them valuable information.

Is my post shareable and likeable?

What do you do when you see something you like, think is funny, find interesting or important online? You share it. Companies need to think with that mentality when posting to social media. Customers don’t like a bore and will quickly hit the unfollow button.

Is my post offensive?

Whether it’s comments about news events, long-held beliefs or a bad joke, an employee’s offensive post can damage a company’s image. If not handled properly, racist, homophobic or sexist comments put an employer at risk for lawsuits and losing customers.

Is my post relevant?

Again, your customers follow you for a reason. I don’t visit US Weekly’s Facebook page hoping to read about car insurance. It’s as simple as that.

Am I posting at the best time?

Companies need to be aware of what is going on in the world. You do not want to be posting something promotional while everyone else on social media is reacting to a national tragedy.

If you are still unsure if you should post something, you probably shouldn’t. Double check with a coworker or simply hit delete. It will cause a lot less stress in the long run.

30Mar

A little bit of do-it-yourself beauty…

Yesterday I put glue on my nose. That’s right, Elmer’s glue. No, I am not crazy (shut it, friends). I was working from home yesterday and The Doctors came on TV. I don’t watch this show, but when I am home my TV is set to NBC pretty much all day. Anyway, they were discussing some YouTube sensation who used glue to remove blackheads. I am a bit obsessed with blackheads and pimples. It’s gross. I actually rewound the episode because I wasn’t paying attention. In the end, the dermatologist said its a bad idea and not to try it at home.

Well, I don’t like to listen. And I didn’t quite catch the girl’s name, so ended up at YouTube’s SweetCandyLine’s page. In the comments, Tamia Garner states ‘CL is queen’, so I knew I was ok. The concept is simple, you put Elmer’s glue on your nose and let it dry. Then, and this is the fun part, you get to peel it off. And guess what? It worked!

It got me thinking about the weird things women do to their bodies and the things I have tried over the years. I have been using Vitamin E under my eyes to erase bags and dark circles (another obsession), and again, just yesterday I had my face slathered up. Some guy came to my door and asked to repave my driveway. It wasn’t until he left that I realized I looked like Slimer. Poor guy.

Then there was the time in high school I made oatmeal face masks with a friend of mine. Seems normal, right? After we wiped the masks off our faces, we made no-bake cookies. Main ingredient? Oatmeal. That is just disgusting. Also, she better be glad I don’t have the pictures.

164HIf there was something that promised to make me beautiful, I tried it. Remember the horse shampoo from the 90’s? It promised to make our hair fuller, stronger, longer and healthier-looking.  I don’t know what I was thinking. I spent most of my teenage years trying to tame my thick hair. I went through another stage where I’d let my friends give me highlights. But not like pull the hair through a cap highlights. Just streaked on highlights. I went through a lot of high school with blonde stripes in my hair. Oh man.

I am sure there are plenty more, but it’s early and I am running out of coffee. Girls (and guys!), I want to hear your do-it-yourself beauty stories. Both good and bad.

29Mar

A little bit of Instagram…

You might notice something different and maybe a little annoying in your Instagram feed. In a recent blog post, the social network announced it would begin using an algorithm to sort what you see. Up until now, the photo sharing network arranged everything in simple reverse chronological order. Now, the accounts that you spend the most time liking and commenting on will appear prominently. The feeds that you follow as a courtesy, and typically scroll past, will appear less frequently.

This may sound familiar. Facebook did something similar earlier this year. And while these small changes usually cause an uproar at the time (remember when the company announced that Timeline was happening? made it clear that a user’s face was fair game for ads? or OH MY GOODNESS, hashtags became a thing? ), we tend to adjust and fall back into our normal social media routines. Also, Twitter did this too, with a lot less backlash. 

200HWhat’s this mean for you as a consumer? Nothing really. Want to continue to see things you like? Be sure to interact with posts via likes and comments and apparently even lingering will do the trick. So, what’s with the arrow? Instagram, which by the way, is a unit of Facebook, is allowing users to turn on post notifications. If you don’t want to miss out on a single post from an account. You turn on notifications and BOOM. The arrow pictures are accounts pleading for users to do this. People are annoyed. I get it. But that didn’t stop me from doing it for my Bows and Branches account. Because why not? If one person turns them on, that’s good for me. In other words, calm down people, it will die down. (I have since taken it down. After reading more and more about it, I felt weird having it on there.)

Right now, the media is kinda all over the place with this, so who knows what will happen. But if it does, what should brands be focusing on rather than making arrow pictures? Like anything else we do online, we need to analyze and now is the time. Photographer Jasmine Star did an amazing blog post explaining how a small business can better understand what their audience enjoys.

So, what do you think? Honestly, we have no say so we might as well just deal. Me? I will be running numbers all day.

28Mar

A little bit of artichoke pesto chicken…

It’s been awhile since I posted. Technically it’s been awhile since I’ve had time to do anything creative. Life just gets in the way, I suppose. I’ve already taken two trips this year, one to Philly and one to Denver. Both were with my nonbiological sister, Tomdee. After a long drive across country, which included a stop in Chicago and Kansas City and a week in Colorado, I said goodbye and left her to start a new chapter. I love everything Denver has to offer (especially now that it includes my best friend), but I was exhausted and glad to be back in Pittsburgh. I’m happy to have time to work on my crafts. I have a few new ideas in mind and I am donating to two upcoming fundraisers, Art for Change and Steins-Strong Golf Outing. I have also been cooking nonstop. I hosted Easter yesterday, which turned out marvelous minus a small mashed potatoes mishap (this is the recipe I should’ve posted! I am still so confused.) And I am slowly getting back into writing and researching all things social media. The warmer weather definitely helps. I am looking forward to summer days and working outside.

I’ve always been pretty healthy, but after visiting Colorado this month, I want to do more. Fortunately, Dave caught the bug too. Shortly after we came home, a wheatgrass juicer and fresh wheatgrass were delivered. For all you skeptics, it does make a difference. Another part of my plan is less beef. I hardly eat it as it is, but if you know Dave, well…

With vegetables on the brain and a little help from Pinterest, I came across a recipe for artichoke lemon pesto chicken pasta. I poured myself some wine and went to work. You’ll notice this recipe calls for spaghetti squash. I cannot stand the look or smell of squash, so I went with farfalle instead.

IMG_7905If you love artichoke hearts, you will love this recipe. The smell of them cooking mixed with fresh garlic was amazing. You’re basically making a pesto, so I got to bust out my new food processor. I am unfamiliar with these fancy gadgets and it took nearly 30 minutes for me to figure out why mine wasn’t working. The safety features they put on things these days, geez.

IMG_7904After combing all the ingredients and finally getting my pesto pureed, I added it to the chicken and pasta and piled on the spinach. If there is a way to add greens to anything (which there usually is), I’m in. The final product looks a lot different than the original, which I can only assume is because the pasta soaked up the vegetable broth. Or, more likely, I messed something up. Regardless, the outcome was delicious.

Two side notes. Yes, those pans are new and, yes, they are purple. They’re available on my girl Rachel’s site. Also, the wine glass featured in the first image is a custom design and can be ordered here (don’t worry, it wont be that exact glass!).

10Feb

A little bit of app insight…

I can’t turn on my computer without receiving an alert that I have a new chat message or an email or a heart on Twitter or a like on Facebook. I can’t even remember a time when we weren’t connected in every single aspect of our lives. I choose to be connected personally, so I happily accept these alerts. But when is it too much?
Today most work places have taken on some sort of digital communication. There are so many different kinds available from Skype to Google Hangouts to Slack. And these are piled on top of good, old-fashioned emails, phone calls and even the occasional fax. How many of you have experienced a voicemail letting you know that someone sent you an email or vice versa? It can be maddening and it can make the workday seem overwhelming.
Micromanaging is in full effect because of these technologies that were intended to make our lives easier. And they can be beneficial when used the correct way, which is not in overdrive. Its important to do your research and find what works best for your company. Here are five of my favorites:

  1. Google Apps for Work
    Organized into four categories, consisting of 12 products, Google Apps for Work provides tools for communication, collaboration, management and storage. Hold impromptu meetings with Hangouts. Share content with your customers using Google+. Create and simultaneously edit spreadsheets with your team using Sheets. Store, sync and share your files with Drive. And that’s only the beginning. Its a great, all-in-one solution for small businesses that don’t have much of an IT budget.
  2. Basecamp
    Basecamp, an online software package, allows you to manage multiple projects at a time with to-do lists, file sharing, chatting, messaging, calendars and time tracking tools. To-do lists allow you to manage assignments without a pen and paper. You can share files, such as photos, notes, designs and invoices with coworkers. With the Basecamp message board, you can post messages and comment on others. Deadlines and hours can be tracked using Milestones. Having all of these functions in one place make the software a must-have for any company.
  3. Slack
    At its base, Slack is a instant messaging app, but it provides a lot more. Channels help you organize your conversations into topics or based on team members. Private channels limit conversations to invite-only groups. You can direct message team members when you don’t want to share with a group. Sharing documents is a basic feature of the app, along with a search function. Slack also offers integration with more than 60 partners. https://slack.com/apps
  4. Asana
    While it can be difficult for the basic user to master, Asana provides management of team workflows. Businesses use it to keep an eye on daily to-dos, while giving employees a more-productive place to keep track of a particular job’s status. Within it, you can assign a task to an employee, give it a due date and track whether it is completed. Every task in Asana can have subtasks, attached files, discussions, tags, and followers.
  5. Wunderlist
    If you’re like me and love crossing off items on a list, this app is for you. Wunderlist can be used to manage personal and professional to-do lists. Wunderlist for Business provides a place to manage your team’s projects with centralized communication and unlimited collaboration features. Delegation becomes easier with shared lists and notes. Files can be shared with team members, while comments let others provide feedback.
27Jan

A little bit of Ivy…

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I am an animal lover. Like the crazy kind that chases dog walkers down the street, so I can pet their dog. I would break my television before I would watch another Sarah Mclachlan commercial. I cry at animal videos, happy and sad. And sometimes I cry about injured animals completely out of the blue. It’s awful, but it is something I want to turn into a positive at some point this year, whether it is through volunteering or dog walking.

Knowing that, you can imagine my love for my own animals and how sad I am to be traveling on Ivy’s sixth birthday. She is an adorable corgi with an abundance of energy and a bark you can hear down the street. She will fetch a ball until she cannot physically move and she loves, loves, LOVES to cuddle. She lays at the end of the bed to protect us every night and hates to have her feet tickled. She loves playing under a blanket and enjoys my midday dance parties. 

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We got her nearly six years ago when we had our other dog, Clover. Clover is a corgi mix we rescued from a shelter. She is a sweetheart, but from the beginning we could see the difference in the two dogs. Clover was a ball on my lap on the way home. Ivy barked the entire way. Clover was a bully with her toys. Ivy was timid and scared. After two years together, they started to not get along. It was heartbreaking. After more than a year of vicious fights, terrible bites (both the dogs and us), numerous vet bills and even a dog whisperer, we had to separate the two.

I have been against getting animals and giving up on them for as long as I can remember. This tore me apart. Fortunately, Clover adored my angel of a mother, who graciously took her in. After a week or so of tears and lots of anger towards Dave, I came around. Visiting her now, I see how happy she is and Ivy is much happier being the alpha dog.

Right now, I work half at home and half on the road, so I have the privilege of being home with Ivy most days. She has gotten me through some bad times with a cuddle and lots of licks, so because I am missing her birthday, I thought I would make her some pumpkin peanut butter dog treatsIMG_6722 (1)

The recipe was only four ingredients, whole wheat flour, eggs, pumpkin and peanut butter. It was super simple, which I like. Mix, roll, cut and bake. I didn’t have any fancy cookie cutters, so I used an empty pill bottle to make circles. This recipe made a lot of treats, and I swear she knew I was making something special for her. Happy Birthday, Ivy. Thanks for all the smiles. 

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