Wednesday, July 29, 2009

A Year of triiibes - Thank You Seth Godin

Three years ago my precious nephew was born, all the way out in California. For my birthday my parents gave me a plane ticket and some new luggage so that I could fly out to meet him. I had a great time snuggling with the baby, entertaining my niece, meeting their friends, and even having some one-on-one time with my own little brother.

When I arrived home, my husband picked me up from the airport with a surprise; he had found a restaurant that he wanted to buy. Now, if this sounds abrupt to you, let me add that we have never been in the restaurant business or even really worked in one unless you count teenager jobs. I don't. Especially now. My husband, however, is a serial entrepreneur. He loves ideas and making them come to fruition. His business at the time was just humming along quietly, taking up about 20 hours of his week, and going a little too smoothly. He was bored.

Let me tell you, if you want to shake up your life, add a little drama, keep every day different, buy a restaurant. You just never know when your delivery driver is going to have a flat, your best server's boyfriend will break up with her, the ice machine will go on the fritz, or an entire baseball team will show up just after you sent most of your staff home on a slow evening. I'd say it was a roller coaster ride, except on the coaster you know that the slow uphills will be followed by a fast down and then up again. Eventually it will end safely. No such guarantee with your own business. The highs are fantastic - when everyone is raving about the food and cheering the home team on TV while your servers can't pour fast enough and the register is ringing. But the lows...the days when you can't give the food away and the weather and the economy keep everyone shut in their houses and the produce truck driver needs a check before he can unload your order...those days are really low.

So my husband is a business guy. Our managing partner is a chef, and a good one. Say what you want about us, but we have the best pizza around. Folks are regularly surprised when they order dinner and it's delicious - they were expecting ordinary and they got food with heart.

But the marketing? Neither one of them has the time or the inclination. Oh sure, they could do it if they had to, but it's low on the list. So who's left? Me.

I am not a marketer. I am a teacher, a mom, a quilter - in that order for chronological purposes only. What I know about marketing is what I learned from making bulletin boards, convincing small children to eat their vegetables, and laying out block patterns. Being in charge of this makes me anxious, and my response to that is to read everything I can find.

It didn't take long to find Seth Godin's blog. It took even less time to realize that this was some of the best advice I was ever going to get, and it was free. Even though he wasn't speaking directly to restaurant owners, his pithy little posts were enough every morning to wake me up to what I should be doing. I followed along and tried to absorb it all.

Then, last year, in advance of his latest book, Tribes, Seth opened a forum. I don't even know how to explain it, except to say that some of the most knowledgeable and energetic marketing minds gather there to swap ideas. It's unlike almost any other forum I have visited - it's free (other than the fact that we pre-ordered a great book), no one is selling anything, and no one is asking for anything. The collaboration and exhange of ideas is inspiring.

Since I know virtually nothing about marketing or sales or social media or...well, anything...I mostly just read there. But the people who post regularly are changing how our society looks at capitalism. I have received a tremendous amount of support on how to market the restaurant, and never once felt slighted because I'm not officially one of them.

This has been a way-too-long post for most people to read, but brevity is not my forte. If you've skimmed to this point, here's the meat of it: thank you, Seth Godin. Because of you and triiibes I have found my voice, my confidence, my tribe; our business has a twitter following and a facebook fan page, an email list and a marketing plan. Through triiibes I have met neighbors with mutual business interests and a friend in India who helps me with our company website on iChat. You lead me down new pathways every time I log into triiibes, and inspire me with each blog post. I only hope that the past year has been as exciting and fulfilling for you as it has been for each of your triiibes members.

Happy Anniversary!

Read more posts in the triiibes anniversary ring.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Better tUesdays - Week 9 - If You're Not the Lead Dog, the View Never Changes

This has been my view a LOT this past week. A friend and I have been walking our dogs together while Gracie and my friend's son ride their scooters. It has made for a lot less whining about "how much further?" from Grace and some adult conversation for me. Plus the puppies love each other!
This was after they were all good and tired out. Finally! So cute to watch them play together.

As for my better tUesdays, I guess the Wii was not totally off her battery crazed rocker last week. I am down 2.9 from the 3.5 lbs I was up, but not the complete recovery of her senses I was hoping for. I'm not sure where that extra weight has come from, but I'm going with muscle. Yeah, that's the ticket.

Then I measured my waist to see if there was any improvement in that area. It feels like there is in the way my clothes fit. The only problem is that I didn't write it down because I didn't want anyone to stumble across this top secret information. I assumed I would remember. And you know what happens when we assume! I have no idea if I'm losing inches, but I do have a cute pair of pants that is more comfortable than it used to be. We'll call that progress and move on!

I'm keeping my same goals for this week. I feel like they are good ones even if the scale isn't always reflecting that. Since I haven't gotten my gal-pals together yet, I'll keep that same reward. It's becoming less and less about the prize now and more about building the habit.

One other interesting thing that happened is that Gracie put on a sundress to wear to my mom's birthday. She was surprised to find that it was much looser in the waist than it used to be - she could grab almost an inch of fabric! I told her that all this exercise is helping her body grow stronger and healthier. It's a real challenge to be on this journey without my girl picking up all my body image issues, so I'm choosing my words carefully. So far she seems to be doing well, focusing on how much faster she'll be able to run when lacrosse starts.

How is your BetterU journey going? We're 2/3 of the way done now, but you can jump in anytime!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Listen Up! - Quilter's Podcasts

Another fun thing I've been doing this summer is downloading lots of podcasts.

Apparently some people didn't get the memo that it is SUMMER, so I am driving the kids back and forth to sports practices, camps, and workouts at an alarming rate. On one leg of the drive I am usually in the car alone or only with Grace, and it's a perfect time to listen to what's new or funny in the quilting world. Or at least the podcaster's studio.

I love listening to what other quilters are up to. I always have a burst of creativity and work after bee or guild. I suppose it is just inspiring talking about what everyone is working on. Did you ever notice that? I haven't been able to get to bee group much this summer, though, so this is a not-bad second best.

My favorite podcast is with Alison at Within a Quarter Inch. Alison is a mom of toddler twins engaging in some serious retail therapy to cope with the ups and downs of stay-at-home-motherhood. She frequently veers way off topic, so if you only want quilting info this may not be the blog for you; however, I find it hilarious and charming and engaging. I feel like I know Alison, Jared, Max and Sarah. I also end each podcast with a renewed gratitude that my children are past that precious, precocious toddler stage. Phew!

Alison lives in what I imagine is a smallish town in Ohio and travels to nearby larger cities for the twins' doctor appointments and so on. As often as Alison goes off on a tangent about the children, she also goes literally off the path to find quilt shops that are "only thisfar on the map" (as my husband likes to say) out of the way between her destination and home. With her trusty GPS she has visited and reviewed several shops that I would love to visit. It would be even better if you lived near her and could check out her favorites without an extended road trip, so if you are in that part of the country I would highly recommend it. I will have to settle for vicarious pleasure until we get around to visiting those cousins we've been swearing to drop in on forever.

The other quilting podcast I subscribe to is with Jean from The Quilted Cupcake. Jean's seems more structured and almost all quilt related (go figure - her kids are both over 10!). It's a trade off, though. I don't find myself laughing out loud and drawing stares from the driver in the next lane, but she does share lots of helpful tips and information.

One of the best of both of these podcasts was the episode they each posted after they got a chance to meet. I was so envious!

There are more podcasts than I could have ever imagined on every topic under the sun. I look forward to searching for other subjects I care about to sustain me through the long carpooling days ahead as we face the prospect of our three children being in three different schools for the first time in our lives.

Check these out, and let me know what podcasts you listen to and like.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Happy Birthday Mom!

Yesterday was my mom's birthday. You have to understand that my parents love to entertain, and my dad is a great sport, but Mom does not like to be the center of attention. She does not celebrate birthdays - not because she has any hangups about her age, but because she doesn't want anyone fussing over her. Speaking in front of a crowd would about give her hives.

(I remember the year she was the president of her golf association and had to give a speech at the end of the year party. She made my dad come in and do it for her!)

So yesterday she thought she was playing golf with some friends and coming back to the house for a quick swim. She suspected, much to her dismay, that "one of them got a cake." (They did. It was to die for!)

She was having such a nice, low-key time relaxing with her friends that she didn't even notice the husbands congregating and fixing drinks in the kitchen while the ladies swam and had wine out back. She never looked up to see me carrying in catering from EastSide or setting up the buffet. In fact, her only clue that something was amiss was when Gracie appeared with a gift.

But you should have seen the look on her face when the men came out the back door singing "Happy Birthday to you..." and put that hat and glasses on her! Once she got over her shock, all she could say was, "Next year, I'm leaving town!"

My dad gave her a Kindle for her birthday. The parents had all gone in one for my husband for Christmas, and Mom had been eying it. I remembered a cute tutorial at Moda Bake Shop for a Bookkeeper, and whipped one up. My mom is no ordinary mom, so why should she keep her books in a plain gray case?
I used some of my favorite fabrics from my 1 1/2" strip drawer (thank you Bonnie Hunter!) and had so much fun playing with Rene's decorative stitches.
I love the lining fabric that says "P.S. I love you." It is leftover from Gracie's nursery set and is the perfect touch to those special projects.

The one thing Moda's pattern didn't call for but I added was a closure of some sort. You could do whatever you wanted, but I just stitched on a little Velcro button so the Kindle wouldn't slip out of the case and get damaged.

I hope it works well for the Kindle and that Mom gets many hours of reading pleasure with her new toy. I also hope that every time she opens her case she remembers that

I love you, Mom!

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

better tUesdays - Week 8 - the Wii is a jealous mistress

Holy smokes! The Wii is a possessive witch! You know how I decided to start walking Daisy more? Well, it turns out that it's okay if you sit on your ass and don't exercise at all. The Wii is very forgiving of that. But if you go out and cheat on her with walking the dog, she gets all "Oh No You Didn't!"

I have walked Daisy for an hour every day since last Thursday. Outside in nature, up and down hills, for miles and miles. I've sweat and gotten my heart rate up and everything. She loves it! I've even brought Gracie with me so that her eyeballs don't turn square from watching the "He Could Be the One" episode of Hannah Montana too many times.

And how does the Wii repay me? Well according to her scale, I've managed to gain 3.5 lbs since THURSDAY!!! How is that possible? I even weighed first thing in the morning, before breakfast!

I did get a message that her batteries were low, so now I have to figure out how to change them and see if that puts her in a better mood. Geez, I feel like a man bringing flowers to his harpy wife. "But Honey, I have fresh Energizers! It didn't mean anything. Really! It was just a walk in the park. You know I'll come back to you when it's raining."

Anyway, on to the rest of the week. I have still be staying out of the fast food places. It's gotten to the point now where that isn't even an option for me. I do miss my diet Coke if we are out, but mostly just because there aren't any good zero calorie substitutes when you want a break from water. I got unreasonably excited at Jersey Mike's the other day when they had a "soda" button on their soda fountain. Then I could make my specialty drink like I do at our restaurant - club soda and a splash of fruit punch. It has the perfect combination of carbonation, sweet, and almost no calories or artificial sweetener.

It hasn't been quite a week, so I'm sticking to my same goals of walking with Daisy six days a week and my same reward of spending the day with my gal pals. So far so good. I'm just trying to get back on track to posting on tUesdays.

Hope you are all having a healthy summer and that your scale didn't get all Fatal Attraction on you this week!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Princess Protection Program Party Pics at Long Last!

I finally got the party pics freed from the sleeping computer. Sorry this has taken so long. I really meant for it to be quick for those of you doing your own party, but hopefully it will still be great inspiration for anyone wanting to buy the DVD and throw their own bash.

First, our "secret agent" arrived at each girl's house to take her into protective custody. They were whisked away from their families in our undercover vehicle, cleverly disguised as a plain blue SUV.
I had decorated the house with small tin buckets of treats, in honor of Carter's part time job in the bait shop. I couldn't find gummy worms, but Swedish Fish and Tootsie Rolls were fine with the girls. Of course we also had the cute shoe favors. Then there was my last surprise, which of course required a marathon sewing session right up until the morning of the party. Each princess got to take home her own frog prince, made from this simple and adorable pattern from Me and My Sister Designs:
The girls played out in the back yard, learning how to act like "normal American girls," while we waited for the pizza to arrive. After our yummy dinner, Gracie opened her presents. Then it was time for make-your-own ice cream sundaes.

While the countdown clock ticked away, we went outside and the girls found their "inner princess."

Finally it was time for the main attraction. We counted down with Selena and Demi to 8:00 and then, suddenly, there was near silence for almost two hours. We all watched the magic happen, loved the story, and sang with the songs. What a wonderful night!

As I dropped the last girl home, Gracie thanked me over and over for a great party. It was one of the easiest and least expensive I have ever done, but one of the happiest and most appreciated. It just goes to show that you don't have to spend a lot to make wonderful memories - but you knew that already, didn't you?

I hope you make some magical memories this weekend.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Mail Time!

One of the fun things that has happened this summer is lots of fun mail.

First, I was the lucky winner of a giveaway on Jonah Lisa's blog, The Toby Show. Such fun the day I went to the mailbox and opened up this clever and cute Nancy Drew Wallet from A Spoonful of Chocolate Hope.

(Some of you might remember that we did a Nancy Drew birthday party when Gracie turned 7, so you know this had my name on it no matter what you might say about that random number generator!)

Then there was the fabric postcard swap called Hot Fun in the Summertime on the Stashbusters Yahoo Group.

This is the one I received from Sandy:
On the back she wrote, "A life without love is like a year without summer." -Swedish Proverb

I thought that was such a clever idea that I put a quote on the back of the one I sent to Vicky:
It said, "There shall be eternal summer in the grateful heart." - Celia Thaxter

How fun are these? My favorite tutorial on how to make them is by Deb at Red Shoe Ramblings.

Of course, I also got lots of birthday cards, and the understated but not to be underestimated postcard from my doctor stating that all was well at my last visit. Wahoo!

All this reminded me of how much I love to go to the mailbox and find something besides junk mail. It makes me want to go crazy and write letters or send care packages. But I'll probably get over it. Carpools and know.

What's in your mail these days?

Thursday, July 16, 2009

better thUrsday? - back on the wagon

Oh, how I've missed you all! And I'm so sorry that I just vanished like that and never followed up on the Princess Protection Program Party - the snapshots are still stuck on the other computer, which isn't cooperating.

I have so much to tell you that it will take several posts. For now I am trying to crawl back up onto the betterU wagon and get my rear in gear.

The bad news, of course, is that I've hardly exercised at all and Daisy hasn't gotten her first good walk (with me - she loves to run with the boys). But that isn't all that much bad news as it turns out.

The good news is that I still have had no fast food or diet Coke. I did walk on the beach and swim and play a lot on our vacation and have somehow managed to lose another half a pound, despite eating birthday cake and pizza and everything else in sight. That's five pounds total since I started. Not exactly a world record for six weeks, but I'll take it.

I am starting with fresh new goals and rewards.
  • Goal: I will do some form of aerobic exercise six days a week. YIKES. I am scared just to type that. You'll learn why in a later post, but I'll bet a lot of you already know.
  • Obstacle: I hate exercise and am lazy as hell.
  • Solution: Keep using motivational rewards to drag me kicking and screaming into better health.
  • Reward: A day with my girls. Two of my best friends couldn't make it to the birthday party, so a day out with them getting our toes done and having lunch will be the perfect carrot to dangle in front of my face when I'm sweatin' like an oldie!
That's it for this quick hit and run. I promise there is more to come - interesting stuff, maybe I'll even mention quilting! Oooh! Aaahhh!

Have a great day.
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