Monday, September 28, 2009

Word of the Week: Retro

Retro Part I: Poladroid Pictures

What's the first thing we do when our photo technology is vastly improved and we can take clearer, better photos? We become nostalgic for the crappy old photos we used to take!

Remember how much fun Polaroid cameras were? Click and the photo shoots out, then you wait for the image to develop. First it's dark, then you see details emerge from the shadows. Some of us would wave them around to speed it up (did that even help?). Then voila! (Almost) instant photos.

Poladroid is software that does it for you. Drag and drop your digital photo onto their cool camera icon, then wait as the photo is processed on your desktop. I highly recommend the sound effects for the full experience. The final photos include the hinky coloring and vignetting (loss of clarity and darkened corners and edges) we all know and love.

Download Poladroid for free (donations are recommended) and try it out. Once installed, launch the program and under the Poladroid menu, select Preferences. Select your Destination Folder (so you know where your files are going); under Image, make sure you've selected Sound Effects (cause they're fun); and in Post processing, choose your blur effects and vignetting (these examples here have the blur effect and strong vignetting).

This is the first in a series of Retro posts I'm working on, so stay tuned for more. If you have any suggestions for taking retro pictures, please share them!

Friday, September 25, 2009

Procrastinators Unite! 3 Steps to Get It Done

I am extremely fortunate to be self-employed and to love what I do. As a small business owner with no employees, I wear a lot of hats (just call me Bartholomew Cubbins...) and have to stay on top of lots of little jobs. Lots and lots. I find that I enjoy most of these job-ettes, but every so often some Dreaded Task rears its ugly head and the inevitable ensues: procrastination.

You know what I'm talking about. Somehow that item has taken up permanent residence on your to-do list—at the bottom. You pretend not to notice as it slowly becomes the albatross you carry around your neck. You find yourself perfecting avoidance techniques for countless hours on Twitter. Suddenly you have all the time in the world to chat with your neighbor, your mailman, your mother-in-law... You're cleaning the house, for crying out loud, just to avoid that Dreaded Task. I feel your pain, and I can help stop the madness.

When I know I have to finish something I'm hesitant to even start, I find it helpful to use these three steps:

1. Schedule. We make it so much harder for ourselves when we let something settle in without a plan for doing it. Look at your calendar and choose a time (preferably within the next day or two, definitely within the week) that you can devote to completing it. Make the commitment. Let other people know you've committed to it so they'll support your efforts.

2. Prepare. What do you need to complete this task? Special tools? A piece of information? An assistant? Line it all up so you have everything you need when you sit down to finish it. If you're like me, you will be looking for ANY excuse to put this off just another day, so don't give yourself an easy out.

3. Get psyched. Huh? I know, it sounds crazy, but this is the most important part of the whole thing. If I have something I hate to do (sales tax, anyone?) I pair it with something I like to do, like watching a movie. Or eating m&m's and popcorn. Or both. Then the Dreaded Task becomes an Event. And I sorta look forward to it. (Kind of.)

Okay, so maybe I'm easy to bribe and eating m&m's with popcorn wouldn't motivate you. The point here is to psych yourself up about the task rather than torturing yourself with it. It's a mind game, so be creative. I found a few weeks ago that I could clean the house without the same mind-numbing boredom if I listened to my iPod. In fact, getting excited about something may be as simple as changing the soundtrack you play—in your ears and BETWEEN your ears. Instead of saying, "Ugh, I can't believe I have to do that on Thursday," say, "I am so excited to have this finished on Thursday!" You may not believe yourself at first, but repeat it a few times and see if you don't change your mind. Listening to good tunes, renting a new flick, ordering takeout from your favorite restaurant— whatever you choose, making it a treat will help you get that task off your list for good.

Schedule. Prepare. Get psyched. This is what I do when faced with something I don't want to do. What techniques do you have for getting difficult things done? Do you need to play mind games with yourself like I do? Please share your tips!

(photo from istockphoto.com)

Monday, September 21, 2009

Word of the Week: Candy

Sometimes when I'm helping a customer with their party favors, they'll ask for a favor idea that the guys will like (let's face it, not all men are thrilled to get lip balm or lotion favors). I always recommend edibles, and candy is at the top of my list. It's readily available, can be selected to match any theme, and just about everyone likes it. Added bonus: if you want your candy favors to match the favors we make for you, we can provide additional tags, bags, and bows so everything goes together. (Make sure to ask us about these extras when we're planning your favors!)

But beyond favors, candy can make really attractive centerpieces, "bouquets", and (of course) snacks at your parties and other events, and there are so many interesting kinds of candy to choose from. If you don't have a cool local candy store (always a good choice to support local business, and it saves on shipping cost, too), there are lots of places you can order candy online.

Nothing makes me feel more like being a kid in a candy store than being...a kid in a candy store. Or a Candy Warehouse. At this site, you can choose your candy by color and size, theme, flavor, brand...just about any criteria you can think of. They even have a special page just for wedding candy (I *heart* their heart lollipops). A lollipop tree centerpiece would be a colorful way to share these treats at a party or other event. Different sizes and colors of pops would add height and interest to an arrangement, and could even take the place of flowers.

Lollipops come in lots of shapes and sizes. How about one of my kids' favorites--the Ring Pop? I love this idea as a treat at an engagement party or bridal shower. (No offense, but I'm sure this rock will be bigger than the bride's!) Sugar Stand has Ring pops along with a huge assortment of other popular candies. Pastel round up lollipops might make a cute "bouquet" for a baby shower, while brightly colored rock candy swizzle sticks could be a sweet addition to a more sophisticated event.

One of my favorite places for lollipops is Candy Creek, a family owned and operated business in Massachusetts. While they have the traditional flavors like wild strawberry, tangerine, and watermelon, they also make Italian lemon lollipops (Tuscan theme, anyone?). The Atlanta bride might choose Georgia Peach. And what kid could resist Root Beer flavor? We also think their peppermint Zany Cane pops make a perfect alternative to candy canes for holiday-theme events. Other New England candy resources include Timberlake Candies, the colorful barley candy creations of the Timberlake family in Madison, New Hampshire; and Old Port Candy Co. in Portland, Maine, whose selection includes licorice, gummy candies, and award-winning fudge.

A hugely popular trend right now is the candy buffet, which offers a selection of candies at the wedding reception and guests can help themselves. Groovy Candies offers wedding candies like Jordan almonds and candy coated chocolates in all different colors to match every theme. Candy Direct even has a "black tie" almond assortment for the black and white theme. Chocolate lentils are also a favorite at receptions; you can find them at Hometown Candy. More bulk unwrapped candies can be found at George J. Howe Company, including gummie bears, jelly beans, and even circus peanuts for those nights under the big top. Bulk Candy Store has old time candy, just perfect for a retro event or just that nostalgic touch you were looking for. Tootsie rolls fit right in with a nostalgic assortment; try the fruity assortment for bright colors and unexpected flavors.

Licorice is one of those candies you either love or hate. If you're like me and can't get enough of it, Dutch Sweets is the site for you. Despite the name, they carry licorice from all over, including the Danish Trolledrop, twisted black licorice and brown salmiak licorice. I prefer sweet licorice, and one of my other favorites is Schoolkrijt or chalk licorice, a Dutch licorice with a candy shell and a strong licorice flavor. I also love Lonka Licorice Caramels, another Dutch treat. If you can't pick a favorite, no worries: Dutch Sweets will let you order custom mixed bags so you can try lots of them.

Our favorite baby shower candy idea was candy pacifiers; we picture making up tiny bags of these cuties for each guest. The top find for bachelorette parties: Champagne gumdrops. And for kids' parties, we really love these stackable, buildable candy blox.

Another option for kids' parties would be to match the candy to the flavor of your lip balm favor, like our candy corn balm (perfect for autumn birthday parties).

Hope this helps you find the perfect candies to sweeten up your celebrations! What are your favorite candies? Are there any candy flavors you'd like to see us make into lip balm flavors? Please share your comments!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Caramel Apple Lip Balm

Our brand new flavor this autumn is caramel apple, tart green apple with the sweet, buttery flavor of caramel. This is a Limited Edition flavor, only available this fall. Perfect choice for an autumn-themed bridal shower or baby shower! Talk with us about personalization, or order caramel apple lip balms with our standard packaging.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Word of the Week: Last

When I read some of the comments on blogs and Facebook lately, I'm struck by the focus a lot of people have on winning. Coming in first, being the best, biggest, fastest, or smartest seems to be the goal. In that world, getting second place is a failure.

I recently read this article about Meredith Strang Burgess, a cancer survivor from Cumberland, Maine who competes in the Tri for a CURE and intentionally finishes last. She chooses that spot so other women can participate without fearing it.

What does it mean to start something, to work at it, and to finish it? Does it matter if you're first? Best? Fastest? Last? What do "winning" and "losing" really mean?

Friday, September 11, 2009

We Can't Forget

It was a Tuesday morning, and I was running errands with my kids. We were in the bank just before 9 am, and the tellers were all abuzz over the news. Some little plane had flown into the World Trade Center, my teller told me. They'd heard it on the radio. I dropped my errands and went straight home, turning on the TV in time to see Flight 175 hit the South Tower.

Of course, it wasn't a small plane, and it wasn't an accident as they had first assumed. I spent the day watching the coverage, knowing the world was changing. I had visited the World Trade Center with my cousin Kim during a high school trip. We had gone up to the observation deck in the South Tower, on the 107th floor. I remembered what it felt like to lean in toward the glass and look down, that awful feeling I got in the bottom of my stomach. How much sicker I felt watching the coverage, hearing that people chose to jump rather than burn. What a desperate choice. What a strange feeling to know that I'd been there, I'd visited a place that didn't even exist anymore.

I worried about Kim, knowing she lived in the city, not knowing where she was working, how far away she was, if she was safe. Another of my cousins was living and working in DC at the time, so it was a pretty tense time until we knew they were safe. Then we started worrying for everyone else: those people who waited, thinking they'd be rescued. People who still needed rescuing. The heroic firefighters and paramedics who rushed in and never came out. Did you know that 411 emergency workers were among the dead? I don't think I ever knew the number.

The thing that stands out to me most about that trip to the observation deck was waiting in line. We waited for what seemed like hours, in a roped off area that zigzagged across the lobby. We were surrounded by people of every ethnicity, from many countries, all speaking different languages. Coming from a less-than-multicultural state and community, to me this was noteworthy. It felt like a place where people coexisted peacefully, where there might not always be understanding but there was tolerance. It seemed like my ideal of being an American, the whole "melting pot" thing; how could you experience such diversity, look out at the Statue of Liberty, and not feel that? After 9/11 it didn't surprise me to read that citizens from over 90 countries died in the attacks on the World Trade Center buildings. It saddened me to think of that place as a target of someone's hatred. We lost a lot that day.

Every year I think how much things have changed since it happened. I think about the people who died and I send good thoughts to those who survived and who lost family and friends. Not long ago I read about those who were exposed to ground zero and how they had lingering problems with asthma and post-traumatic stress disorder for years afterward. I think all of us are still traumatized by this. I don't think anyone who was there--or who watched from afar--will forget it.

Do you remember what you were doing on 9/11? What went through your mind? I've heard people talking about making this day a national holiday--what are your thoughts?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wedding Color Ideas

If you're looking for a new way to put together inspiration boards or check out color combinations for your wedding, you have to visit The Dessy Group's Pantone page.

The How-to will show you the steps for creating style boards that you can share with your wedding party and with friends. Add the styles you like, accessorize them, even post them to your web site or blog. You can also order Pantone swatches that you can use for your vendors or while you're planning and shopping for your big day!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Word of the Week: Work

From Wikipedia: "The first Labor Day in the United States was celebrated on September 5, 1882 in New York City. In the aftermath of the deaths of a number of workers at the hands of the US military and US Marshals during the 1894 Pullman Strike, President Grover Cleveland put reconciliation with Labor as a top political priority. Fearing further conflict, legislation making Labor Day a national holiday was rushed through Congress unanimously and signed into law a mere six days after the end of the strike. Cleveland was also concerned that aligning a US labor holiday with existing international May Day celebrations would stir up negative emotions linked to the Haymarket Affair. All 50 U.S. states have made Labor Day a state holiday."

"When it comes to getting things done, we need fewer architects and more bricklayers." ~Colleen C. Barrett

"People might not get all they work for in this world, but they must certainly work for all they get." ~Frederick Douglass

"Opportunity is missed by most because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work." ~Thomas Alva Edison

Friday, September 04, 2009

5 Things That Make Me Happy

This is a list my daughter made when she was 7. I haven't changed the spelling, because that's one of the things that makes ME happy:

5 Things That Make Me Happy:
1. The fur on puppys
2. The cute little eyes on kittens
3. The horns on unacons
4. The sond of horses cloping
5. Mrs. Marsteler (her 2nd grade teacher)

This first week back to school has been hard. I finally gave myself an early bed time last night because I'm not used to getting up at 6 am and I was getting grumpy. ("Grumpy" is a polite word for what I was...)

I found that the day is much calmer and more pleasant when you can start it with a list of things that make you happy. I think it's going to be my first task from now on when I get to my office (at 7 am...grrrr...) Here's this morning's list:

1. Chocolate.
2. The way an 8-inch-tall bean plant can make 5-inch-long green beans.
3. Getting something right.
4. Late afternoon sunshine.
5. Sharing a good idea.

How do you start your day on a positive note? Do you have morning rituals or habits? What would be on your list of things that make you happy?
(photo from http://kittens.sytes.org/)

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