Friday, January 29, 2010


In NYC a few weeks ago my husband and I enjoyed a rare date-night out at Centrico. We wanted to savor every moment and every bite of our dishes that were so delicious. After a reasonable amount of time, the wait staff tried repeatedly to remove our plates, but we kept begging for a few more bites because it was so scrumptious. After finally allowing the staff to clear and thanking them for being patient with us, the chef sent over two desserts -on the house!

When you think about which businesses you admire- which stores you repeatedly shop at- do these businesses express gratitude to their customers in unexpected but appropriate ways? I bet they do. Gratitude goes a long way. Hats off to you Chef Aarón Sanchez.

If you are in the NYC area, we highly recommend dining at Centrico. Here are some of our favorites!
You can’t go wrong with an appetizer of:
Guacamole and Chips $12

Give the staff a break because the Schlesiers will be here a while:
Birria al Estilo Jalisco $23
braised short ribs jalisco style, ancho chile broth

Homenaje a Mi Familia Enchiladas de Res $11
braised beef cheeks, chile colorado sauce

And our two new favorite desserts:
Tamal Dulce $8
corn tamal filled with mezcal marinated dried fruit, dulce de leche sauce

Molten Mexican Chocolate Cake $8
choco-chile salsa, helado de maíz

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Mom Leaves Corporate America for Small Business Venture- Can You Picture It?

Your family singing "Happy Birthday" at your daughter's first birthday, an imaginative wish list for Santa from your 4-year-old, your baby's ultrasound heartbeat. Have you ever looked back at your photo albums and tried to remember those sounds?

PictureThatSound was founded to meet an unmet need in the memory-keeping market. The product pairs a creative photo matte with a recordable device for sound. Some of the product features include:
  • Archival paper
  • Replaceable batteries
  • High-quality memory chip to ensure your recording lasts generations
  • Attractive themed designs to inspire your photo album/scrapbook- or to use as a stand-alone project
Another reason I love this product is that it was developed by a fellow mom-preneur, Jennifer Furr. Like many busy moms in America-- a wife, mother of two, corporate employee, community volunteer, she decided to leave her corporate job to bring a product to market that she could not find on retail shelves.  She pledges to grow a "customer first" life-experience company that creates, markets and delivers products that help preserve memories pairing picture with sound.

Check out some of my personal samples pictured below.  My family and I had a ball this weekend creating two birthday gifts where Natalie (my 4 year old) sang "Happy Birthday" to her 2 year old cousin and her PopPop.  We affixed a magnet to the back of one and created a shadow box display for the grandparents to display in their home.  The hinged door on the shadow box easily opens to allow you to push "play" on the PictureThatSound card.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Customer Service: Lessons Learned

There is nothing like a few poor customer service incidents to make you truly thankful for a positive customer service experience.

A Charlotte hub, USAIR is the most common airline that my family and I use for personal and business travel. While I prefer JetBlue, it was USAIR that could get us to Orlando and back for a family vacation planned back in December.

On the heels of a national weather back-up, our flight was cancelled leaving us with no other choice but to drive the 9 hours to Disney World. We lost an entire day of theme-park fun, but in the end, we got there. Tea Cup wackiness ensued.

A few days after arriving home, the refund-chasing began. Do you know that the USAIR Refund department only has access to fax machines and not telephones? Each time we phoned, every customer service rep gave us a different story and no one could tell us anything different than the information we could see on the website. (which was not helpful).

Finally, weeks after our travel had concluded, we received refund checks for our flights. But what about the $40 baggage fee that we prepaid online (as suggested by the airline to expedite check-in and save money?)

Our travel was 12/20/09, and one month later, I’m still refreshing the USAIR website daily looking for information on my $40 refund. I feel like the paperboy in Better Off Dead. I want my $40!!!!

Lesson Learned: If you feel like you are getting a canned response from the Customer Service rep, ask to speak to a manager, or hang up and try again. (I realize this is hard to do when you’ve been on hold for 20+ minutes the first go around.) We found after three different reps we finally found one willing to give us a hint of information that we had not previously uncovered. Ultimately, don’t ever give up. It's your money.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Underminer

Everyone has at least one in their professional life. An Underminer.  A person who knows you so well that they can casually destroy your career. 
  • Are you going to wear that to the presentation?
  • I was unaware you could work from home the day after taking a personal day. Have the policies changed recently?
  • "So how's the job hunt? Ugh, what a difficult time to find work, much less do something fulfilling.  Please let me know if I can do anything, 'kay?"
  • "Oh wow I see you're putting your resume on blue paper, with a Helvetica font! Wow, how nontraditional.... You are always pushing the envelope, so to speak. And it's great.  People need to see that kind of resume every now and then."
In his satirical book, Mike Albo describes The Underminer as a passive-aggressive master.  We've all had a colleague like this. He/She knows exactly how to pull the rug out from under you- just when you thought you were finally standing on firm ground.

So how do you combat an underminer?  First, take a deep breathe. Second, have a true friend wriggle the knife out of your back.  Third, smile gracefully, excuse yourself and run for the hills. In a sea of underminers there are also loyal, encouraging, respectful professionals who can talk you off the ledge of self-doubt.  Find those people, surround yourself with them and vow never to turn into an evil underminer.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Have you Googled yourself lately?

I have a new exercise suggestion that doesn’t include entering a gym. Are you interested? Visit and enter your name and see what reveals itself. Is the person looking back at you from cyberspace the successful, fit persona you want to embody for 2010? Or are you seeing the “before” picture that you’d rather leave back in 2009?

They don’t call it the world WIDE web for nothing. For your own personal standing, your businesses reputation and especially if you’re a job seeker in 2010, I highly recommend googling yourself at least once a month. Here are some additional tips:

• Personal status: So what if you enter your name into google and you come up with nothing but an article on a foreigner with your same name? If you’re in the market for a new job and haven’t put yourself out to network, you may be at a disadvantage. But overall, a blank search is preferable to 20 unsavory links to bad behavior.

• Job seekers: Companies will be using the web to learn about you before your resume is even considered for employment. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? Does it match the resume you submitted? Do you have any other links that you’d rather bury than discuss in an interview? If you do, the best way to counteract this is get positive press out there on yourself so that the deep dark embarrassing link gets buried to page 2 and 3 where an employer is less likely to dig. How do you get positive press? Start a blog, join other social networking sites like Plaxo and Facebook and keep the good links coming.

• Business Owners:
o If you don’t have a PR agency on retainer you should be out there yourself checking on what the world is saying about you and your business. A few weeks ago I searched myself and to my surprise a few new links that I was unaware of rose to the top. One of which was a fantastic article that ended up linking back to my blog (Thanks again Lauren Shapiro!). I was thrilled for the mention but wouldn’t have known about it without doing a little digging on my own.

o This is also a great opportunity to evaluate your advertising spend. When you google your company name, do two or three other similar businesses top yours in ranking? Believe me, your competitors are out there doing this same exercise. Have the stamina in 2010 to be diligent about this exercise and embrace the search results.

Happy googling!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Who says you can't be organized and fashionable?

Did I see you in Target this weekend with a cart full of Rubbermaid bins? I was there, family in tow and was so excited to see an endcap display of new products by Franklin Covey and Jean Chatzky

If you are an NBC Today Show viewer like me, you've seen Jean Chatzky in her Money 911 segments.  For two decades this debt and money management expert has has been counseling real people about real money issues.  Her philosophy is a simple one: If you want to own your life, you have to own your money.

Now with a brand new line of products she is empowering us to own our finances.  Here's to healthy (financial) 2010!

Friday, January 1, 2010

Decluttering for home and work

Ah, here we are January 1, 2010. I have my laptop, well, in my lap and we’re slowly but surely taking down the holiday decorations. It’s now time to fix and/or trash the broken ornaments, make lists of needs for next year and pack it all up in nice Rubbermaid organizing bins to stack neatly in the garage.

I’m technically still on vacation, but am already thinking about getting back to work Monday. A nice entrée to the year will be carrying over our personal de-cluttering activities to the home office. Sorting stacks of mail. Reviewing bank statements. Prepping 2009 taxes. What tricks do you have for staying organized in your work environment? Some ideas from the SleeveShirt home-office:

• Keep the paper shredder handy. We always seem to burn ours out, so this year I think we’ll invest in a better model and ensure to clean out the blades at first clump
• Have a singular place where you deposit mail. You should have already sorted out the bad junk, reviewed the good junk and recycled, so now you have a place for correspondence that needs tending to, coupons and bills.
• Hit Target. There’s a reason the circular is chock-full of storage solutions right after the holidays. It’s a great time to clean up not only your personal space, but your work haven.

May your 2010 be organized and focused! Happy New Year.