Wednesday, July 31, 2013

How to Handle Sticky Situations

Since becoming a business owner, I've become very aware of the fact that how I conduct business is completely up to me. This freedom is empowering and exhilarating... until I encounter a situation I'm not sure how to handle.

You know... those instances when you aren't sure what the best course of action is. You're left to brainstorm options, evaluate the pros and cons, make a decision, and move forward, whether you feel confident about it or not. But that makes it sound a lot easier than it really is.

When it comes to writing, we often think of the solitary writer, hunkered down in front of his or her computer. But in reality, writing involves more than just the writer. Readers, clients, collaborative partners, and lots of other people are a part of the process. And while that provides an opportunity for wonderful business relationships and creative conversations, it also opens the door for some sticky situations.

Tomorrow is the first day of August -- a month that's notoriously hot and sticky. So Sarah and I felt it was an appropriate time to address some "sticky situations" in our weekly writing newsletters. We'll be covering topics that are often tricky to navigate: communicating with tough clients, determining boundaries for what you share, contracts and setting expectations, and pricing and negotiations.

If you're not yet signed up, hop over to my website to subscribe. The first newsletter of the month arrives in inboxes tomorrow (Thursday)!

P.S. The past couple of weeks have been busy with work projects, baby preparations, and fun with friends. It feels like I'm trying to cram in as much as possible before this baby's arrival. I'm so (soooo!) excited to meet him or her, but the planner in me is having trouble not knowing when exactly that will be. 

In the meantime, life is busy enough to keep me distracted from the fact that I actually have to give birth to this bundle of joy... I'm hoping to post a few fun updates after I wrap up the last of my work projects, so stay tuned, my friends!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Cooking and Baking

I've tried several new recipes over the past months and thought I'd share. My go-to resource for simple, quick recipes: Taste of Home. My mom has been getting the magazine for years and bought me a subscription. I also reference the website on a fairly regular basis.

Apple Chicken Quesadillas
Good sweet + savory combination. Though tasty, these quesadillas fell apart a little too easily. I'm thinking more cheese might prevent that from happening in the future. (Isn't "more cheese" always the answer?!)

Garlicky Beef and Tomato Pasta
A hearty meal that Scott liked. I think I was hoping for a little more flavor though. My shortcut: canned spinach.

(Another garlic + beef + tomato combo that we both loved: Garlic Beef Enchiladas... sorry, forgot to snap a photo!)

Caramel Brownies
My addition to the Fourth of July dessert spread (dense, fudgy, and rich -- my favorite kind of brownie!). They were pretty easy to whip up too, but the caramels did take awhile to melt over low heat.

I also made some Reese's bars from a recipe my family has been making for forever.

Salsa Skillet Pork Chops
Great flavor and mix of meat + veggies + beans. We both liked this one and it was one of the easiest dinner recipes I've tried recently.

(Looks like the link is now requiring a subscriber sign-in... but you can find it in the current June/July issue too. The basic recipe: salt and pepper 6 pork loin chops -- or I used cutlets; brown on both sides in a skillet; then add 2 c. corn, 15 oz. pinto beans, and 1 1/4 c. chunky salsa plus a little water and a teaspoon of cumin; simmer, covered, for 6-8 minutes.)

And this one isn't Taste of Home, but this simple steak salad and side of fruit was a great summer meal. I just sliced and heated leftover steak and served it over spinach salad with chopped red onion, halved grape tomatoes, and a light dressing. Blue cheese crumbles would have been another good topping to add.

What's your favorite source for easy recipes? What have you been cooking and baking lately?

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Book Club: Then Came You

I'm behind on my book club updates. It's been about three weeks since our last meeting... yikes!

But we had a great turn-out in June, and with everything going on these days, it was so good to catch up with everyone. We enjoyed a perfect summer dinner, thanks to our host, E. -- kabobs and baked potatoes off the grill, plus a big salad and margaritas (for those who could partake).

We discussed Fascinate, and those of us who had taken the survey to find out our top triggers -- that is, what makes us fascinating -- shared the results. Overall, the group had mixed reviews. Some wanted more examples that could apply to individual personalities and brands, rather than larger corporate brands. Some wanted more examples of actual application. But I was glad to hear that everyone found certain aspects to be really interesting, whether it was the idea of fascination, the examples, or the descriptions of the triggers.

As a business owner whose brand is essentially me, I found the online survey to be a helpful tool in understanding what strengths I have and what sets me apart. For those who are curious, I am considered a "Diplomat" -- with a primary trigger of Trust and a secondary trigger of Prestige. Common themes here: consistent, dependable, detail-oriented, ambitious, has high expectations. That sounds about right to me!

The tough part is the application. I've found with my business that once people work with me one time, they want to work with me again and again. Or they'll recommend me to other people. To make my triggers of Trust and Prestige apparent -- to show that I'm consistent, detail-oriented, and all that -- isn't an overnight process. I have to build a relationship, do the work, earn that trust. So I try to focus on the progress made, the relationships I've cultivated, and look back to recognize how my hard work translates to business successes -- because it often takes time to pay off or come to fruition.

I'd recommend the book for some marketing food-for-thought, but how helpful it'll be to you will depend on your situation, your knowledge base, and your needs or interests.

Next month (meaning this month!), we'll be reading and chatting about Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner. We figured July was a good time for a beach read, one that still had a little bit of substance and could prompt an interesting discussion. I think this book fits the bill!

Barnes & Noble Overview:
Jules Strauss is a Princeton senior on a full scholarship who plans on selling her “pedigree” eggs to help save her father from addiction.

Annie Barrow, a struggling Pennsylvania housewife, thinks that carrying another woman’s child will help her recover a sense of purpose and will bring in some much-needed cash.

India Bishop, thirty-eight (really, forty-three) and recently married to the wealthy Marcus Croft, yearns for a baby for reasons that have more to do with money than with love. When her attempts at pregnancy fail, she turns to Jules and Annie to make her dreams come true.

But each of their plans is thrown into disarray when Bettina, Marcus’s privileged daughter, becomes suspicious that her new stepmother is not what she seems . . .

Told with Jennifer Weiner’s trademark wit and sharp observations, Then Came You is a hilarious, tender, and timely tale that explores themes of class and entitlement, surrogacy and charity, the rights of a parent and the measure of a mother.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

A Sneak Peek of the Nursery

The nursery is still in progress, so it's not yet ready for a full reveal. But with this long holiday weekend, Scott and I did a ton of organizing, rearranging, and picture-hanging, so I want to share some sneak peeks. We've both been stopping in just to look around the room. I seriously love how it's coming together!

Yes, the "Just Keep Going" print was originally a part of my office decor, but we thought the saying can apply to parenthood too :)

Visited the Container Store for under-the-crib storage. Feels so good to get organized!

We recently put together the glider and stroller and installed the car seat. Still need to wash all the clothes, bedding, and other soft items, complete our registries, and finish my long list of shower thank you notes (we were definitely blessed by the generosity of many friends and family!).

How cute are these thank you notes? My sister-in-law gave them to me. Love!

About 5 weeks to go now!

34 weeks & 5 days, post-yoga class (top and pants from Old Navy Maternity)

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Writing and Reading

I've had a long-time love affair with reading. I devoured chapter books from an early age, stayed up late reading by flashlight, got in trouble for bringing books to the dinner table, and have spent hours in libraries and bookstores. And while I didn't usually mind reading for school (um, I ended up with an English major), summer was the ideal season for catching up on pleasure reading.

These days, I no longer have required reading, but I like to dive into a mix of genres. Lately, I've been craving business and baby-related books, along with a few novels and essay collections. And keeping up with my book club adds even more diversity to my reading rotation.

Inspired by the season, Sarah and I have chosen "summer reading" as July's Create.Compose.Communicate newsletter theme. Since the first newsletter of the month goes out on July 4th, we have a fun message planned for our subscribers in honor of the holiday.

And in the weeks after that, we'll be discussing our favorite writing books, as well as how we read and keep track of all the great information we find, where we discover new picks and recommendations, and what we've experienced while reading in community.

It's no secret: Reading good writing can make you a better writer.

If you're not a subscriber yet, sign up today! Our first July newsletter will arrive in inboxes tomorrow (Thursday).

P.S. Thanks for sticking around and reading along, even though my posting here has been sporadic at best. I'm wrapping up a bunch of writing projects and getting ready for Baby's arrival (six weeks till my due date!)... but don't worry, I'll still be checking in from time to time.


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