True business perseverance…. Small business spotlight!

In New England we have gotten a LOT of snow.  They say this was worse than the blizzard of 78.  I heard one news reporter say Boston got over 100 inches since January 28th.

giant snowman

To say that it has been difficult to run a business is a complete understatement!  Between closing full days mid-storm, closing early, opening late,it has been a nightmare for my business and all of my small business friends.  Then when it finally stops snowing, there is the cleanup.  After the 70 inch mark, there was just no place to put the snow anymore.  The snow mounds are so high, you can barely see out of most windows.  Then there are problems that come with so much snow that you just don’t even think of, leaks that never existed suddenly appear.  Heavy snow on weak roofs have caused some roofs to cave in and collapse.  My husband had to get on our roof twice and shovel.

My deck, you can see the umbrella attached to the picnic table

My deck, you can see the umbrella attached to the picnic table

A local business in my neighborhood has had to close their business for the four weeks.  It is a dance studio called In Sync Center of the Arts.  They are one of the most well run and talented dance studios in my area.  What drew me in to this dance studio 5 years ago was how many classes they offered- not just for dance, but taekwondo, lego club, music lessons, and drama. I have four kids and I loved that all of them could take a class at once and I would get a whole hour all to myself :-). In the lobby, they have big screen tv’s that show all of the classes so you can see everyone at once.  LOVE IT!

The week before February vacation,  Insync’s next-door neighbor’s roof collapsed.  Thankfully it was empty and nobody was hurt physically.  Financially, it is devastating.  There are 5 business all in this little strip mall and they are all closed.  If I had to guess how many people were employed between the five businesses I would say hundreds.  Hundreds of people out of work because of something out of their control!  It’s heartbreaking!

The UPS store is the roof that collapsed, to the left of Insync.

The UPS store is the roof that collapsed, to the left of Insync.

Teri, the owner of Isync, was trying to unplug and relax for a few days during Feb vacation with her husband and kids.  She actually left her phone in her hotel room while out for dinner, only to return to hear about the nightmare she has now been living for weeks.  She had to cut her vacation short and rush home to make sense out of her new situation.  She was not allowed on the property. The electricity and gas is shut off and everything is roped off until it is deemed safe.

Most people would curl up into a ball and feel sorry for themselves, but not Teri.  She had her team up and running the next day seeking out temporary space for her business.  They brought their phones and laptops to a fabulous little coffee shop (mine 🙂 ) and worked as a team and didn’t stop until they found space that would work.

She ended up with two spaces, one by day and a high school for the night classes.  The high school is perfect because there are so many class rooms that it allows many dance classes to go on at the same time.

Amazing strength, creativity, and the drive to go on.  All admirable qualities that I believe most entrepreneurs have.  Teri has a crazy awesome team loaded with talent and is clearly flexible.

Awesome, talented staff!

Awesome, talented staff!

I am honored to be a customer of theirs and I love how they are handling this situation.

There is so much negativity and tragedy shown on the news and social media, I just had to share how a real life woman turned some serious sour lemons into delicious lemonade 🙂

insynlogo

Why Aren’t These Vocal Smoke Alarms For Sale?!

Somehow, this video of Hank Phillippi Ryan’s investigation of smoke alarms from 2004 has made a resurgence today on Facebook. It is alarming (no pun intended!) and extremely moving. It caused me to spend over an hour searching online to find a product.

In case you didn’t click the link above, or can’t watch it right now, the video shows Hank Phillippi Ryan meeting with families of fire fighters and filming nighttime testing of their smoke alarms, with frightening results. None of the children wake to the sound of the beeping alarm. OH MY GOD- they sleep right through!!! In the second half of the video, they test a (then) new kind of alarm- a vocal alarm that allows the parents to record their own voice- calmly but urgently calling their children to wake up and evacuate the home. ALL of the kids wake up and all but the child in his crib leave their rooms! By this time, I feel a bit shaky- quite emotional. seriously- I WANT THIS ALARM!!! Like, now. I’ll pay $100 and I want 2. Immediately.

Poking around online, I see that they are not currently for sale. I read several papers, including this very official study from 2006, that demonstrates the same outcome. In fact, the median time to awaken was 20 seconds in the voice alarm group compared with 3 minutes in the tone alarm group!!

WHERE THE HELL CAN I GET ONE?!

This Dateline video from 2013 features a doctor/researcher from a children’s hospital who also points to the child’s name and parent’s voice as important factors in waking the child quickly. The alarms we have in our home do have voice, but it is not my voice or my husband’s, and they certainly don’t call our the names of my children. Where is the study that shows my kids will wake up to this strange voice quicker than the beeping alarm?

I did find lots of old comments from people saying things like “well, wouldn’t the parents wake up and run to the kids anyway?” so, maybe there wasn’t enough interest in the personalized alarms until now. After seeing the videos, I’m guessing everyone I know will want one if it means their kids will wake up and get out in the event of a fire. Would you want one?

photo credit: Push and hold to test weekly via photopin (license)

Isn’t it Time to Put Pre-Prom Tanning to Bed?

I don’t know a mom or dad who doesn’t remember tanning before prom- or even just to feel some “sunshine” during a long New England winter. When I was a teen, I signed up for tanning in packages of 10 or 12 sessions at a local fitness center, at a price easily afforded on a teen’s meager budget, and I enjoyed baking in the bed or dancing in the heat to the too-loud music in a booth for 8-12 minutes.  Having never sunburned in my life, I didn’t give a thought to the dangers of the concentrated UV rays penetrating my young skin. No parental permission was required and, although that has changed in some states, it’s not enough.

At the Massachusetts Conference for Women in December, I met Meghan Rothschild, a vibrant and beautiful Marketing & PR Manager and Melanoma survivor. Meg told me the frightening story of her diagnosis and treatment. At age 19, she mentioned to her doctor that a mole on her abdomen was itchy. The doctor thought it looked “a little funny,” so it was removed and biopsied. Two weeks later, Meghan was told that she had Stage 2 Malignant Melanoma, the deadliest form of skin cancer. Her head reeling from the news, she headed in for surgery to remove eight lymph nodes, which left her with four disfiguring scars. Luckily for Meghan, her cancer was caught early and she was declared cancer-free after her surgery. She was now a survivor, but also a 20 year old covered in disfiguring scars, knowing that her own choices- her own pursuit of beauty through tanning- had led to her nightmare. Meghan is as tough as she is beautiful, so it’s no surprise that her next step was to share her experience to help spare others. Eleven years cancer-free, she is an outspoken advocate for Melanoma education and prevention and is the spokesperson and marketing & PR manager for Melanoma Foundation New England.

According to a 2014 study by Wehner and colleagues, more than 400,000 cases of skin cancer may be related to indoor tanning in the United States each year.

On July 29, 2014 the Surgeon General issued a Call to Action to address skin cancer as a major public health concern. Lawmakers are taking notice- at least 41 states have already passed some type of legislation that regulates minors using tanning beds. Just last Wednesday, New Hampshire’s House of Representatives passed a bill that will ban tanning beds and booths for minors, but leaving it up to states creates too much gray area. National legislation, like the laws that regulate alcohol and tobacco, would be the best way to reduce teens’ exposure to the dangerous UV rays in tanning beds. Today, Meghan is in Washington DC, with over 100 other survivors, working with MFNE, Melanoma Research Foundation and the American Cancer Society to push for national tanning legislation to protect others from Melanoma and other skin cancers.

As parents, it’s our job, not only to apply sunblock to our babies, but to educate our teens and ourselves about sun safety. As my 16 year-old excitedly plans for her prom- she already has her gorgeous dress!!- I’m happy to say that tanning will never be on her to-do list!

Check out your state’s tanning laws here. To learn more about preventing Melanoma, visit MFNE or Melanoma Research Foundation.

Meghan Rothschild, in DC to speak about Melanoma and push for tanning legislation.

Meghan Rothschild, in DC to speak about Melanoma and push for tanning legislation.

How to Not Build a Closet (Or, as Babble Titled it, Do We Unconsciously Pressure Our Kids to Grow Up Straight?)

I’m honored to be published again on Babble.com. This is an important topic and I’m anxious to hear about your thoughts and experiences, so please read, share and post in the comments!

❤M

 

Thick, creamy, dreamy, chocolatey HOT COCOA recipe!

Who doesn’t love hot chocolate? I know I do. Living in New England, hot cocoa, hot apple cider, fabulous coffee, all necessities of life.

I see first hand how many people love good hot chocolate. I have owned a coffee shop for almost 19 years and hot and frozen cocoa have been one of our most popular drinks since we opened. We add three different types of chocolate, hand steam the milk (if hot) with our espresso machine and stir it by hand. Our cocoa is so much better than the cheap kind you get out of a machine with hot chocolatey water.

Introduce my kids with food allergies and hot cocoa is no longer so simple. Chocolate is mostly off limits for my family. Our allergist told us to avoid chocolate since most of it is made on the same equipment as tree nuts.

I always feel bad that my children can’t join other children at the skating rink to gather for hot cocoa. Same thing after sledding or at the movies or wherever hot cocoa is generally served. I give them something special when we get home, of course, but I know it’s not the same.

A few years ago, I started making my own nut safe hot cocoa and it is DELICIOUS! So good, I had to share.

Whether you can have nuts or not, this recipe is a much higher quality cocoa then just opening a packet and boiling water. It is cheaper to make too. If allergies are not an issue, you can purchase any type of cocoa powder, as long as it is decent chocolate.

I usually cook by eye, but I did measure yesterday while making hot cocoa for the kids. I have been snowed in for a few days/weeks/months, who knows at this point!

You will need:
(To serve four people)
4 cups of milk (whatever kind you like)
1.5 cups of really good cocoa powder, can vary to taste (I use Vermont Nut Free cocoa powder)

Vermont Nut Free cocoa powder

Vermont Nut Free cocoa powder

1 cup of yummy chocolate chips,chunks, chocolate bars-whatever you like. (I recommend Enjoy Life because it is yummy and nut safe)

Enjoy Life mega chunks!

Enjoy Life mega chunks!

1 tablespoon of vanilla extract ( I use Neilsen-Massey)

2 tablespoons of sugar (more or less to taste) (I recommend Sugar in the Raw pictured, it is nut safe)

Sugar in the raw!

Sugar in the raw!

Whipped cream and marshmallows are optional (kind of 😉 )

Cant get any simpler.
Put all ingredients together in a sauce pan or pot and heat up. I like to use a whisk to stir because the powder can get a little clumpy.

Cocoa powder not dissolved yet

Cocoa powder not dissolved yet

I usually keep the flame on simmer because I like the milk to heat up slowly to let the actual chocolate melt and the cocoa powder dissolve.

Love my whisk!!

Love my whisk!!

The results are thick, creamy, perfectly chocolatey hot cocoa, better than what you find in the packet!

Yummy whipped cream and hidden marshmallows!

Yummy whipped cream and hidden marshmallows!

These cups have hidden marshmallows under the whipped cream, but the kids wouldn’t let me get a better picture because they needed to get their icy cold hands on them after building snow forts for the past few hours!

Tips from a Pro: How to Get That Coffee Shop Taste at Home!

I opened my first coffee shop (Coffee Break Cafe) at the age of 25 because I was sick of bad coffee and even worse service. I had exhausted all of the coffee chain possibilities in my area and knew there had to be something better. My husband and I (boyfriend back then) worked in the restaurant industry and had access to a lot of different coffee companies. We bought whole bean coffees and brewed at home back when people still bought instant coffee in a can (wait, maybe they still do?)

We drank a lot of coffee.

By the time we had opened our first location, we were completely hooked. Coffee is like wine or cheese- at first the cheap stuff tastes pretty good but, as your palate develops, you find that you can no longer tolerate the inferior. It happens to most people who drink a lot of coffee. Once you discover the good stuff, it is REALLY hard to go back.

I am asked, all the time, why brewing coffee at home doesn’t taste as good as it does when you buy it at the coffee shop. I think there are a lot of reasons why, but I am here to explain how SIMPLE and AFFORDABLE it can be to brew really good coffee at home.

The beans:
Starting with the best quality coffee is the most important aspect of a really good brew. You want it to be freshly roasted (within the past few days is best) and if you own a grinder, you should always buy your coffee in whole bean form. If you don’t own a grinder, buy smaller quantities of pre-ground coffee more frequently. That way it will always be fresh. You will want to ask for the beans to be ground for a french press, which is coarse.

Coffee should be purchased whole bean and roasted very recently.

Coffee should be purchased whole bean and roasted very recently.

Nice course grind for the French press.

Nice coarse grind for the French press.

 

One misconception I hear frequently is people think that darkly roasted coffee is “stronger”. Darkly roasted coffee actually has less caffiene than a bean that is roasted light or medium. It might taste “stronger” but it is not.

I am slightly biased, but we do have the best beans around!  Check them out here!

Equipment:

Let’s briefly discuss grinders.…. You always want a burr grinder. Blade grinders shred the beans with inconsistent results, while burr grinders make even particles that allow the water to steep evenly through out. You can get a decent, inexpensive burr grinder just about anywhere. Depending on how much you grind you might want to spend a little more, your choice. This is a decent inexpensive one here…   Higher end, more expensive, the one we use at home is here.

Rancilio is the one we use at home but there are many others out there.

Rancilio is the one we use at home but there are many others out there.

Our grinder with freshly roasted beans.

Our grinder with freshly roasted beans.

Our Rancilio burr grinder!

Our Rancilio burr grinder!

Up next is a French Press. You can get them for as little as $10.00 or as much as a couple of hundred dollars. The one we have at home was about $40.00 and is perfect, check it out here.

Water:
Since water is the main ingredient in coffee, it needs to be clean, and free from any foul odor or taste. A good filter goes a long way. If you are using a french press you have to get the water to a boil. If you are making iced coffee, your ice cubes should also be made with filtered water.

How to:

While waiting for the water to boil (just fill a pot, no need to measure) put the beans in the grinder. We add the grinds right to the french press. The ratio of coffee to water is typically one tablespoon of coffee to a cup of water. You can adjust to your taste of course.

I don't measure the water, just fill the pot and let it boil.

I don’t measure the water, just fill the pot and let it boil.

At home we usually don’t measure. At work, we don’t brew without measuring. (Consistency is the key to success in business!) At-home brewing can be a bit more flexible; you can brew to what you like best. Add a little more coffee beans if you like it a little stronger and a little less if you like it a little weaker.

When it’s just off the boil for a minute, pour the water right on top of the grinds in the French Press and let sit for about a minute and a half. You will see the top looks like foam. (This is called bloom.) This means the grinds are starting to release some of their aroma. The water is becoming infused with delicious flavor, and did I mention the smell? Your house will smell so good!

Coffee foam!

Coffee foam!

After about a minute and a half, agitate with a wooden stirrer. Wood is best because metal may accidentally tap the sides and break the glass. I usually use chopsticks.

Chopsticks make great stirrers!

Chopsticks make great stirrers!

stirring the coffee!

Let sit for another minute and a half or so.

Next, press the top plunger stick down, using just the weight of your hand. You don’t want to press too hard or fast, or the grinds will escape into the coffee you are about to drink. You want to push all of the grinds to the bottom.

pressing down, coffee french press

You are ready to drink. OMG, nothing better than freshly brewed, high quality coffee.

Hot, freshly brewed coffee!

Hot, freshly brewed coffee!

I almost always drink my coffee iced. So, I let my coffee sit until it reaches room temperature and then pour over ice…. YUM.

Feel free to post questions in the comments below- I love talking coffee, business and mommy business.

**Affiliate links are included in this post. The products are actual products that I use and recommend. Amazon is an easy, reliable place to order them. If you choose to purchase through these links, Mommy Business will receive a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you.

My Daughter Asks Why ‘American Idol’ Contestants Are Judged on Their Looks

It is Saturday night, so I let the kids stay up a little later. We were all kind of lazy and didn’t feel like playing a game so we thought we might watch a movie. It was past 8:30 and too late to start a movie, so I decided to check out the DVR to see what we had waiting for us.

We had a few American Idol shows recorded and none watched. Although American Idol is a great family friendly show, it is rated PG and makes me cringe…a lot. Not sure why most shows have to go over the line with swearing and topics (spoke of virginity with one of the guests on the show we watched tonight) and lots of bleeps and hell, and “fricken” (hate that word). I don’t need my 7 year old walking into school Monday saying this “fricken sucks” because he heard it on tv!

Back to our night- we have a nice fire in the fireplace, snuggled in our pjs and warm blankets watching the audition shows of American Idol. I keep hearing my 9 year old daughter saying something under her breath. I didn’t know what she was saying and kind of ignored her because it is nearly impossible to watch anything with four kids, two dogs, two loud gerbils running on wheels and my guinea pig squealing for attention. Everyone talks, or jokes, or laughs and I CAN’T HEAR the show. So I ignored her. A few times.

Microphone American Idol post

Finally I hear her crystal clear saying “why do the judges keep mentioning what they look like?”. I pause the show and ask her what she is talking about. She is seriously angry that the judges keep talking about contestants’ smiles, hair, legs, body, booties, total package and looks over all. “Why does it matter what these people look like when this is a singing competition?”

Oh, how I love to hear this. I must be doing something right. I have worked SO HARD to not mention how unhappy I am with my looks. I have been overweight since the sperm hit the egg with kid number one and that was 13 years ago. I got bigger with each one and now cannot lose it. I want to complain all of the time. But I don’t- Ever. We don’t say the word fat. We don’t say ugly, I don’t discuss size or weight. I never speak badly about myself or anybody else. When the conversation starts to head in that direction with others, I try and steer it in a healthier direction.

We do speak of eating healthy, bathing, brushing and flossing, why I wear makeup, why women shave and men don’t in the United States. We do speak of strong, healthy, talented people. We speak of following your dreams and not being afraid to try new things. We focus on the positive and eliminate negativity where ever possible.

I did hear her speak negatively about herself once. With a friend, she said something about not liking her hair. After the friend left I asked her about it. She told me she really does like her hair but all of the girls say negative things about themselves so she tried to think of something she could say and her hair was all she could think of. We spoke about lying, being negative and not being true to yourself. I haven’t heard anything like that again.

Who knows what the future holds, but her strong opinion tonight made me feel so good about how she feels now. She was disgusted that these judges were paying attention to the way people looked instead of just focusing on how they sound. She really understands that judging people based on looks doesn’t make any sense. It is such a simple concept, isn’t it? A singing contest should have fabulous singers. Now, how do we tell the judges?!

*Image used is from Shutterstock.com

New Year’s Resolutions…. NaBloPoMo day 1

I have decided to take the NaBloPoMO blogging challenge of blogging daily for a month!  Feeling a little nervous!

Today’s prompt:  What are you New Year’s Resolutions for the new year?  Tell us how you chose them.

I have been on a path of change for a long time now.  I feel like life is like an onion and I just keep peeling back the layers.  Some make me cry and others I am fine with.

I am pretty aware of making better choices for myself year round but I love starting a new year fresh!  I love creating vision boards and fun little resolution crafts with the kids on New Years Eve.  This year we made little people (see image below) and put whatever resolutions came to mind on the shirt.  These little resolution people will hang in our living room all year and we (four kids and my husband) will check in with each other to make sure we are all on the right path.

resolution pic

My personal resolutions are to focus on being more present, meditate daily, play more games with my children, get back to juicing weekly, reduce clutter, cut out processed foods, get out of debt, blog more frequently and learn more about investing.

I have been taking baby steps towards bigger goals for about 10 years.  For example I cut out g.m.o.’s last year, switched to raw milk, and began juicing two years ago.  I cut out gluten in September and am prepared to cut out processed foods now.  I haven’t quite  yet defined what processed food is to me but am working on it.

Baby steps have always worked for me.  I like to practice giving something up just before I go cold turkey.  It’s funny because I feel like I am SO FAR away from my goals but when I actually stop and look how far I have come, I can see real progress.

It is only one day into 2015 and I am loving it already.  It is going to be my best year yet, I can feel it.

 

So Often, It’s the Little Things (NaBloPoMo, Day 2)

Today’s NaBloPoMo Prompt: Talk about a surprise that made you happy.

I tend to lean towards happiness, in general. I just feel like it takes more energy to be unhappy, so it doesn’t take a lot to make me smile and I don’t need grand gestures to feel loved. (But grand gestures are always fun and welcome!)

One afternoon last spring, while I was on the phone (with my Dad?) my son quietly got my attention by showing me a note or a small drawing he was working on. I had just seen him zooming around the house, so I remember being slightly puzzled. He had a little sparkle in his eye and I could see he wanted my attention, so I followed- at some point, getting off the phone. It turned out that he had arranged a series of post-it notes around the house, each one hinting at the next in true scavenger hunt style. The exciting (read “very quick”) hunt around the house ended with a beautiful little love note, written inside a pen-drawn heart, which he had hung from the ceiling using a piece of pink ribbon, by standing on my bed. It was the sweetest surprise and his little sister copies his adorable idea from time to time. Not yet fully understanding the way one hint should lead to the next, her post-its usually just list the next location and don’t end with anything hanging from the ceiling, but it always brings back the burst of love and happiness I felt when her big brother surprised me. So often, it’s the littlest things that bring the most joy. ❤

The Orange Rhino’s Book is OUT!

A frequent guest and contributor to our radio show, Sheila McCraith has stepped out from behind her secret identity as The Orange Rhino to share her fabulous book, Yell Less, Love More. Sheila is an everyday mom who is just trying to do her best, like all of us. When she was stunned by an aha moment, she decided to share it with the world via her blog. Now, she shares more- and it’s AWESOME!

Order now:

Sheila is hosting a book club and it starts today!  Check it out!

Yell Less, LOVE More