Thursday, April 29, 2010

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Friday, February 19, 2010

Book on adopting

I have a good friend from high school who has, over the past 12 years fostered over 25 children and adopted 12! He has revently published a book on the experience with the system and brought to light things that every prospective adoptive family needs to know.

If you are looking for an indispensable resource on the ins and outs of adopting, buy this book! It isn't a book about the tedious legal side, it's an emotionally charged information filled volume that was written from the parent's point of view. Most of Dave and Kathy's kids have special needs so there is some great info here that you wouldn't find anywhere else.

Hope you find it useful and inspiring. Here is an article with some info:


Here is the link where you can purchase the book: Proceeds go to the kids.


Tuesday, November 24, 2009

It might seem that way

It seems like I have abandoned my trusty blog.

I haven't. I just haven't felt motivated to write. I have run across some good stuff I wanted to share with you but got sidetracked and then POOF. It was gone.

I hope you all take a minute out of your busy lives to have a fabulous Thanksgiving and find things to be thankful for.

I find that even if you feel like you are at the bottom and struggling, depending on your outlook, you can always find things to be thankful for. Always. Remember to put things in perspective and don't sweat the small stuff.

Easy to say, sometimes hard to do.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Brand Image

Now, when these people named their business, did they do this on purpose? Look at the time they took to work out the logo with the F, S and W all working together... but Federal Screw Works? Really people?! Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love this sign but from a business standpoint, um... would you buy screws from these people?

Actually, maybe I would. Just because their sign made me smile all through the Bush era.

Friday, August 28, 2009

New Family Members

No, it's not a baby. Well, not a human baby anyway.
Our 8 year old has been asking for a dog since she was, well, born. So my husband, of all people said,
"I think we should get her a dog for her birthday."
"Seriously?!" I said. "How do yout hink that will make our other daughter feel? She has been asking for a dog too, since forever."
"Well get her in on it and make it a surprise." He said.
I didn't think it would work but it did. She was very excited at the prospect of surprising her little sister with the coolest present EVER. Plus, I'm sure she figured that she would reap the benefits of a puppy too.

Now keep in mind I realized that this would mean more work for me, being the one who is home and a grown-up and stuff. But I'm at a point where that is ok. Well, we rescued the best pup EVER from MiracleDogRescue. He is a little mini dachshund something mix. Smart as a whip and just a little cute.
Our daughter named him Arthur.

I was reading some stuff on why little dogs tend to be snappy and yappy and why that is. It turns out that 99% of the problems stem from how people treat the dogs. Entertain this:
A little dog jumps on you or up on your lap, growls at someone or barks in their tiny voice at a big dog or one of your guests. Ahhh how cute, he trying to be a big doggie.
Now picture a doberman or rottweiler doing the same thing. It is cute? No! It's a problem. Well guess what, to the dog, it is exactly the same thing, regardless of their size. Both are showing dominant behavior. For the big dog it's a problem that gets addressed, for the tiny dog it isn't considered a big deal because they are cute. But it is a big deal. I don't like most dogs because they lack respect and training and knowledge of certain boundaries.

Reading this was a big relief because it made a lot of sense to me. Dogs should never be allowed to exhibit dominate behavior no matter how big they are. That includes walking on a lead. They should never walk out in front (leader of the pack) they must always walk next to you or behind you. I don't think I know a single dog, of all my friend's dogs, that knows how to walk properly on a leash!

I'm looking forward to helping this little adorable bundle of love be the biggest small dog on the block. Well behaved, well adjusted, knowing his place in our "pack."

For more fabulous dog tips, check out this insightful website:
The number one biggest mistake dog owners can make with their dogs is to treat them like humans. The human race is such a kind, compassionate species that we tend to look at our canine companions as little humans. When in reality, they are canines and have a very different thought process. This is what differentiates mankind from other species in pack societies; there must be a specific order, from the leader on down to the last follower. Everyone has a place. The leaders are the strength of the pack. The followers need the leader to guide them. This primal instinct keeps the pack secure and happy...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Spoiled Children or Spoiled Parents

Now before you go thinking this is a professional assessment of child behavior, let me be clear: The child I am talking about is a dog.

My niece and her boyfriend brought their dog with them recently on a visit. They arrived very late and most of the house was asleep. Those of us still awake spoke in hushed tones, greeting each other with happy whispers and welcomes. The dog, a beagle, had had a long car ride and was VERY excited. She was sniffing and "tracking" smells from one room to another. A delightful little creature that didn't bark or misbehave, particularly, but was full of energy... at 1:30 am... toenails clicking rapidly along the hardwood floors as she cased the joint.

After getting them set up we said our good nights and went upstairs.

The next morning I come to find out that our niece slept in their truck... with the dog... Had she been past her spry 20s, waking up every half hour to move her hip off the gearshift might likely have killed her, as it would me, having one foot in the grave here in my 40s as it is. Sleeping in the cab of a pick-up truck is not presently on my bucket list.

So the reason she chose such stellar sleeping arrangements was because the dog, essentially her child, wouldn't settle down and she was afraid it would eat something or chew up a DVD player or pee on the floor... So they put her in the truck for the night, by herself at first. But apparently she was whining because she was as excited about sleeping with a steering wheel in her rib cage as I would be. So after 15 minutes of whining and howling, my niece caved and slept in the truck... with the dog... all night... in half hour increments...

Due to various scenarios causing potential anxiety anticipating a sequel of the previous night, they put the critter in "Doggie day care" for the rest of that day and the next night. This is where I decided to blog about it... In chatting about the ins and outs of doggie day care, I found out that this small dog got to spend the next 24 hours on an 8 acre farm running and having a ball. Cool, what a great thing. Then she mentioned that she paid extra for a few things... Like what? I said.

"Well, we bought her a nature walk and a play date."

"I'm sorry, you bought her w h a t ?"

"And a bedtime story."

"You bought your dog, who gets to run her butt off and play, ya know, like a DOG, an additional "nature walk, play date and BEDTIME STORY?!"

Um, now I'm a rational person and I understand liking your pet. I really do, but WTF?
It's a dog, people.
They drink from the toilet.
Do they really need a bedtime story? The one night they aren't with you?!!?!


It ocurred to me that this pattern might be an indication of future parenting techniques. The anxiety of the kid acting up late at night, so you attempt to remedy the situation but eventually cave in and cater to the child's manuipulation of the situation rather than figure out a comprimise on your terms.
And then the whole buying crazy extras designed for you, not the dog child just cracked me up big time.

I am in the wrong business! Pet sitting is the thing!

Thursday, June 18, 2009


I think it's important to get totally out of your element every once in a while. If you are lucky enough to have the kind of work situation where you can leave for a month or more and take a nice low-maintenance break, and still have a job when you get back, I highly recommend it.

France does it. China does it. What is wrong with the US? China has a mandatory vacation for several weeks around their New Year. France takes most of the month of August off. It's brilliant. The soul needs to refuel, rest and rejuvenate in order to be more productive.

Now I'm not talking about slogging through your bucket list, planning 15 bus tours in three weeks from Alabama to Guam... you shouldn't feel like you need a vacation after you've come home from vacation. How about two weeks in cabin where you go fishing every day and you have to read a book because there is no TV. I always hear, "Well I have to be reachable." "I have to take my cell phone and laptop everywhere I go. I'm a very important person!"

Ya know, I hate to say it, but if you spontaneously combusted tomorrow the world would not stop spinning. The office you work in would somehow manage. I give you permission to use that as an excuse next time you want to be unreachable and a boss is giving you a hard time. That is not to say you aren't a major asset but people, I think, overstate their importance. I learned that when we were in Singapore for several months in 2005 and we did not hear the name "George Bush" the entire time we were there. Not once. Back here in the states we think everyone knows all about all our woes and oh what are people thinking... Um... a lot of people are actually too busy with their own issues to really pay much attention to things that don't affect them directly. Singapore does not need the US for anything. It might find us vaguely interesting as one might find a National Enquirer cover introducing "Bat Boy - Baby Half Boy and Half Bat!" But that's about it.

So do yourself a favor. Carve out some time for yourself and your family this summer. Get away from it all. As important as you are, the world really will wait a week or two for you to get back.

It really will.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Out of Commission

Sorry for the lapse. I've been dealing with kidney stones.

Hope you never get them. They're right up there with chicken pox and being run over by a dog sled.

Friday, May 08, 2009

Time Management and Goal Setting

Goal Setting is an integral part of time management and imperative to business success. However, if badly done, it can sometimes undermine, not increase, the likelihood of success.

The reason for this is the response when failing to achieve goals. More often than not people dust themselves down and - set the same goals. So what happens - a repeat performance and yet another episode of failing to meet goals. There is a certain inevitability about this.

Worse still it feeds a sense of recurring failure. Sadly people who expect to fail inevitably do so. Often their attitude would change if they had set and recorded realistic goals so that they could more easily reflect on their successes.

Poor planning frequently leads to deficient time management. Planning that is not properly executed leads to time and effort being squandered on the wrong things or at the wrong time. Poor time management means less likelihood of success and feeds into the spiraling sense of failure.

So is there a solution? The answer is Yes - and fortunately it is a simple one.

Let us be simplistic here and look at just two things - planning and action.

Time Management Skills and the Planning Stage

To break out from the cycle of repeated failure you must literally move the goalposts. Frequently the overall purpose might be well defined, but the intervening lower level targets, or the method of attainment, might be unrealistic.

Step 1 is to ensure clarity of purpose - the ultimate objective.

Step 2 is to break this down into the various stages needed to achieve that goal. Make sure that each stage is identified in terms of how it fits with others.

Step 3 is to identify the various tasks needed to complete each stage and the order in which they must be done.

Step 4 is to determine a timescale and resources needed to achieve each task. This is often the crucial element. Failure often comes from setting a target that is unachievable and as a result of not attaining that target, discouragement sets in. Be certain to set a realistic timetable. Include contingency time.

Step 5 is to examine your new "project" in the light of other continuing responsibilities and commitments. Doubtless this will have been considered in your thinking so far, but you should now explicitly evaluate the extent to which these will be affected and adjust those plans if that is possible or desirable. If not, re-visit the schedule for your new project and ensure that it is attainable.

One vital ingredient in all of this is that these stages should be written down. They will become the yardstick by which you will evaluate your success or otherwise in terms of time management.

Time Management and the Action Stage

Work according to your timetable. Make sure that you do not fall behind because of a lack of enthusiasm, but acknowledge when the unavoidable and unexpected throws you off track. If this happens, identify if there are areas when you can make up the lost ground. If there are none then immediately re-schedule the whole project. Do not be disheartened by things outside your control, instead immediately accept the revised schedule as your new target.

If able to progress more quickly than anticipated, be careful not to get too far ahead of your plan, unless it becomes clear that your original planning was in error. In that case you would reorganize your schedule, as would be the case following unavoidable delay.

The important point here is to ensure that you do not get ahead of your schedule simply by neglecting other responsibilities, leading to problems with those. You must also ensure you do not put too much effort into your new project that it drains you of reserves. With good time management you will remain on target.

To summarize

To achieve success in anything new we need a detailed plan with which to work and to use to evaluate progress. That framework must be realistic and achievable - if not it will become the source of an unwelcome outlook concentrating on failure. When confronted with things you cannot control, then adjust your plans and forge ahead with the same determination.

Remember, a feeling of failure can lead to actual failure if the discouragement then prevents the positive attitude needed to progress. However a well crafted flexible plan, of which goal setting is an integral part,can become the means to measure our success at time management, a source of encouragement and a spur to continuing success.

Here is a good resource for time management, if that is something you struggle with:

With a UK Masters Degree in Internal Audit and Management, Brian Hazell audited strategic & business planning within a large UK Government Department and has managed successful businesses within UK legal & financial sectors. His book Time and Tasks Management provides detailed practical steps for radically improved time management for businesses , team managers & individuals. For a FREE preview visit:

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Tuesday, April 28, 2009


It's very hard to gauge the outcome of certain things... for instance, one might think that a Baby and Tween show geared directly at consumers that fit your target audience perfectly, would be a veritable sales bonanza. But this show I just did, pretty much tanked. I would have been concerned if I was the only one with low sales but every grumpy exhibitor who shelled out $1,400-$5,000 for a booth was extremely disappointed. Their complaints ranged from lack of traffic in general to lack of quality of the shopper. I had one customer, pushing a little kid in a stroller, stop by my booth and complain that there was no free food...

No free food?! Well I guess I can't expect her to fork over $29 for baby clothes if she wasn't even planning to pay for a cheese burger.

So you sign up for these things, these shows, based on guesses you make about consumer spending and buying habits. What you can't rely on is the quality and quantity of the shopper. That is just hit and miss. Some shows are hits. Some aren't. Why? Don't ask me. I'm still trying to figure that one out.

But the booth next to me had a cool concept. They are a website that features one product a day at 50-80% off retail. So every day you can receive an e-mail alert to check the site in the morning. If you like or need the item, grab it because they sell out of almost everything before the end of the day. It's a brilliant idea. Check it out!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Baby Tween Celebration LA

Here's where I will be this weekend, as an exhibitor. It promises to be tons of fun so if you are in the Southern California area, please consider coming. And visit us at booth # 313! I can send you a free pass if you want one.


Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Ok, That is Just Pathetic!

Almost an entire month has passed with no new post.

I swear time stood still there for me. Spring break was in there somewhere.

Here's a tip: If you own your own business and run it by yourself, are the mother of two young kids and handle all the bills and taxes and stuff for your company, your husbands company, and your house, don't also volunteer to be the Historian for your local PTA, that wants their year end report on Monday! Not when you are designing next season, dealing with customs for incoming goods, filling orders, getting a million receipts tallied to send to your tax guy, visiting grandma and grandpa for spring break, who live 7 hours away, and prepping for a show in a couple weeks... CALGON TAKE ME AWAY!

Honestly. I don't think I usually get myself into this kind of ridiculous batch of commitments all at once and I vow not to do it again. It's no fun when you are only being half as good as you could be at anything, because you are spread way too thin.

Here's to learning from your mistakes and vowing not to repeat them.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

X and Y Chromosomes

I'm posting this because I just thought it was so cool. I know about the whole XX - XY boy - girl thing but I didn't realize that one of my Xs came from my grandmother on my Dads side... cool.

Each person normally has one pair of sex chromosomes in each cell. Females have two X chromosomes, while males have one X and one Y chromosome. Both males and females retain one of their mother's X chromosomes, and females retain their second X chromosome from their father. Since the father retains his X chromosome from his mother, a human female has one X chromosome from her paternal grandmother, and one X chromosome from her mother.

Monday, March 02, 2009


Ok, so first of all, I'm not going to do my lead testing myself. Waaaaaay too expensive.
The equipment rental would have cost me thousands for one day. So I will send it to Jennifer Taggart at The Smart Mama and she will do it for me for a much more reasonable cost.

In other news, we moved this weekend. I forgot what a colossal pain it is to move. Holy Frijolé we collect a lot of stuff! I think it's healthy to move every other year just so you can purge all the junk. Or, well, better yet, just pretend you are going to move and clean out every corner.

So we had an internet-free weekend. It was strange. We went outside and moved plants around, climbed stairs and shifted boxes, not once thinking about e-mail... It was like... like... like the old days way back in the 90s before I spent my day in front of a computer plugged into the world. It's raining now or I would go back outside and play.

Just as well I suppose, I have a lot of catching up to do.

Have a successful day.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Lead testing

I'm so excited! I'm going to be renting a lead analyzer gun and testing all my stuff.

Hmmm, the things that excite me these days would quite readily bore the life out of just about anyone...

I had been trying to figure out how to cost effectively test 22 styles of already-made goods, without going completely broke. I heard about a woman who is doing some testing. THEN I found out what equipment she is using so I contacted the company and plan to rent it and do my own testing.

So I'm really looking forward to getting that info.

Everybody is saying, "But there is a stay in the process. Now you don't have to test!" Um... people... don't you WANT to know what is what? I was told it should all be fine but I would like to know myself thank you very much.

So that's my project for March. Well that and moving into our new house. We should close escrow next week.

Monday, February 09, 2009

California Budget Crisis

I got an e-mail this morning from a fellow mom asking if I was going to the "BUDGET RALLY TUESDAY and CONTACTING OUR REPS - LET YOUR VOICES BE HEARD!"

No, I'm not going.

I am not one to give up and give in, but this budget crisis is so much bigger than our school system. The state of California is about to implode. The entire state. Having 40 kids in a classroom will suck, but it will be the least of our problems. We are looking at hospitals closing, no more state services, letting prisoners free to run the streets, cancer centers shutting their doors. Every state-tied agency is going to be affected greatly. Even now there is a work furlough with state offices like the DMV, closed during business hours. And as a result, all of us will be affected. Higher property, state and sales tax. No state funding for people in shelters, they will be on the street. No community health care. The list goes on.

No one wants anyone to get laid off. No one wants anything to change for the worse but because so much damage has been done, because so much mis-management had occurred, for so long, it will. The shit is about to hit the fan and any local PTA / school issue we have, would have to be implemented state wide and I don't think that will happen due to this state's unprecedented financial crisis.

That's my two cents. I'm not a defeatist, I'm really not. I just think the time has come and no one is getting out of this one unscathed.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Kid's potential

I was having a conversation with my mom earlier today that involved a discussion about putting mandatory retirement disbursements in a high interest bearing account to offset the taxes they will owe on that income. She concurred. It occurred to me that I must be a grown up to have such a conversation and actually be remotely interested in the topic.

I was trying to imagine my kids as young women, in their careers, having grown up conversations with me. My 7 year old is practically there. She is writing her 3rd book series. She got this bug one day about two months ago and said I want to write a book. She's written about 50 pages, with illustrations. Then I was thinking back to when she was a tiny baby. I would hand her a child's board book with bright pictures. She wasn't interested. She would go to the bookcase and pull out a novel and flip the pages, stop on one and draw her finger down the paper, looking at the pattern of the words on the page. Now, in second grade she is dead set on writing books.

I asked her if she wanted to write books for kids or grown-ups. She replied, "I want my books to inspire both children and adults." Sheesh.

Incidentally, she and her sister just both won first place for their stop motion animated films in the Reflections National art competition through the PTA. When you give kids tools and support it's amazing what they will create. Our culture underestimates the capacity of kids. What they understand and how things effect them.

So I wouldn't be surprised one bit if she turns out to be an author/illustrator. It's fun to watch them find their way.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Don't eat peanut butter for a little while

The only reason I found out about the mass recall on peanut products, was because I shop at Costco and I had purchased an item in the past, that had been recalled. So they contacted me.

How cool is that by the way?! So here is a list of all the recalled items to date:

Better safe than sorry!

Monday, January 19, 2009

Musings of a Good Father on a Bad Day

There's nothing sadder than the childless couple.

It breaks your heart to see them
stretched out, relaxing around swimming pools in Florida and California, suntanned and miserable on the decks of boats, trotting off to enjoy Europe like lonesome fools--with money to spend, time to enjoy themselves and nothing to worry about. Childless couples become so selfish and wrapped up in their own concerns that you feel sorry for them. They don't fight over the kids' discipline. They miss all the fun of "doing without" for the child's sake. It's a pathetic sight.

Everyone should have children. No one should be allowed to escape the
wonderful experiences attached to each stage in the development of the young. The happy memories of those early years--saturated mattresses, waiting for sitters who don't show, midnight asthma attacks, rushing to the emergency room of the hospital to get the kid's head stitched up.

Then comes the payoff--when the child grows from a little acorn into a real nut.
What can equal the warm smile of a small lad with the sun glittering on $1,500 worth of braces--ruined by peanut brittle -- or the frolicking, carefree voices of 20 hysterical savages running amok at a birthday party?

How sad not to have children to brighten your cocktail parties--massaging potato
chips into the rug and wrestling with the guests for the olives in their martinis.

How empty is the home without challenging problems that make for a
well-rounded life--and an early breakdown; the end-of-day report from Mother, related like strategically placed blows to the temple; the tender, thoughtful discussions when the report card reveals that your senior son is a moron.

Children are worth every moment of anxiety, every sacrifice. You know it the
first time you take your son hunting. He didn't mean to shoot you in the leg. Remember how he cried? How sorry he was? So disappointed you weren't a deer. Those are the memories a man treasures.

Think back to that night of romantic adventure, when your budding, beautiful
daughter eloped with the village idiot. What childless couple ever shares in such a wonderful growing experience?

Could a woman without children equal the strength and heroism of your wife
when she tried to fling herself out of the bedroom window? Only a father could have the courage to stand by--ready to jump after her.

The childless couple lives in a vacuum. They try to fill their lonely lives with
dinner dates, theater, golf, tennis, swimming, civic affairs and trips all over the world.

The emptiness of life without children is indescribable.
See what the years have done. He looks boyish, unlined and rested. She is slim, well-groomed and youthful.

It isn't natural. If they had kids, they'd look like the rest of us--tired, gray,
wrinkled and haggard. In other words, normal.

I found an old newspaper clipping with the above, brilliant prose, written on it. From the prices of the items being advertised on the back (eggs 15¢ - Borden's instant coffee 29¢) I gather it was written a long time ago. Maybe the 40s. I don't have any history on it but the particular article I have credits "Ronald Lowell of Whittier, CA who in turn got it from a Los Angeles Disk Jockey."

Looking for a Job?

Would you have taken this position if you'd read this employment opportunity?

Mom, Mommy, Mama, Ma
Dad, Daddy, Dada, Pa, Pop


Long term, team players needed, for challenging, permanent work in an often chaotic environment. Candidates must possess excellent communication and organizational skills and be willing to work variable hours, which will include evenings and weekends and frequent 24 hour shifts on call. Some overnight travel required, including trips to primitive camping sites on rainy weekends and endless sports tournaments in far away cities! Extensive courier duties also required, all at your expense.


Must be willing to be hated, at least temporarily, until someone needs $5.
Must be willing to bite tongue repeatedly.
Must possess the physical stamina of a pack mule and be able to go from zero to 60 mph in three seconds flat in case, the screams from the backyard are not someone kidding around this time.
Must be willing to face stimulating technical challenges, such as small gadget repair, mysteriously sluggish plumming and stuck zippers.
Must screen phone calls, maintain calendars and coordinate production and timely completion of multiple home-based educational projects.
Must have ability to plan and organize social gatherings for clients of all ages and mental outlooks.
Must be a willing to be indispensable one minute, an embarrassment the next.
Must handle assembly and product safety testing of a half million cheap, plastic toys, and battery operated devices.
Must always strive for the best but be prepared for the worst.
Must assume final, complete accountability for the quality of the end product and all of their actions.
Responsibilities also include floor maintenance and janitorial work throughout the facility.


Your job is to remain in the same position for 18 years to life constantly retraining and updating your skills, so that those in your charge can ultimately surpass you.
You are expected to accept and look forward to this without complaining.


None required.
On-the-job training offered on a continually exhausting basis.


None. In fact, you pay the client, offering frequent raises and bonuses. A balloon payment is due when clients turn 18 because of the assumption that college will help them become financially independent. After working all your life, when you die, you give them whatever is left.
The interesting thing about this reverse-salary structure is that you will find you somehow enjoy it and wish you could only do more.


While you will receive no health or dental insurance, no pension, no tuition reimbursement, no paid holidays and no stock options are offered nor expenses reimbursed; this job supplies limitless opportunities for personal growth, unconditional love and free hugs and kisses for life if you play your cards right.

To fellow parents everywhere. Well done!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It happened...

Welp, my 9 year old knows the truth now.

She and her 7 year old sister both lost a tooth at the same time so the tooth fairy killed two birds with one visit, or something like that. My 9 year old always writes the tooth fairy a note asking her questions and being friendly. Well the tooth fairy always writes back, in teeny tiny handwriting.

This time she said, "Mom, be HONEST. Did you sneak into my room and put the money and this note under my pillow?" Kids had been teasing her at school and were telling her it was her parents.

What do you do when your kids prefaces something with, "BE HONEST". In the past she just said, "Is there really a tooth fairy?"

So this time I fessed up. "Yes, it was me."
Well, the level of devastation took me by surprise a little.
I said, "Well why did you say, BE HONEST?"
She sobbed through her tears, "I didn't think you would say YES!"

So then came the inevitable follow-up disappointment of no Easter Bunny etc.

"EVERYTHING I'VE EVER BELIEVED IN IS A LIE!!!" Oh for heaven sake...

Now, being a week before Christmas I REALLY didn't want to kill off Santa so when she said,
"Mom, are you Santa?" I heard myself saying, "No. For the record, I still believe in Santa."
"So you are saying that you are NOT Santa. Right?"
"Um... right. I'm not Santa." (What the hell was I doing?)
"So then there IS a Santa then, right?"
"Well, yeah."

Ok, so all was well until my husband later tells me that he fessed up that we were Santa, since she asked him too. Ah MAN! I forgot to fill him in on my conversation with her.

Apparently, she took it surprisingly well. By that time I'm pretty sure she knew Mom was full of crap and she was willing to humor me.

You can see though that it's still this peripheral thing. Since there is no tangible evidence that we are Santa, it's just sort of this conversation that happened. When she actually sees us stuffing the stockings, I think that will be the closure she is reluctantly looking for.

So goes the tidings of youth. She still gets to keep it alive for her little sister. So that will be a little bit of fun for her.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Campaign Killers: 12 People You Need To Fire

This post is by Jerry Bader. I thought it was terrific so I'm
posting it for you. I read it to my husband and he was like,
"Hey, that's me... That's me too... That one also!" Good thing
he owns his company. No one can fire him. Get the gist though.
There are some important points here. A nice way to wrap up
a good year, if you're a glass-half-full kind of person...

Sometimes it seems like the hardest thing to do in business is
to get things done: so little time, so many obstacles. And when
it comes to marketing it gets even worse, after all there are
all those administrative details that need to be dealt with,
emails, inquiries, suppliers, and on and on. Finding the time to
devote to creating a sustained, focused marketing effort seems
like it's near impossible. But the biggest obstacles of all are
some of your trusted colleagues and advisors; you know the ones
I'm talking about, the ones that are a royal pain-in-the-ass.
So lets just call them on the proverbial carpet and fire their
butts; but first let's check the files and find out who they

File One: Mr. Inertia
Everybody knows this guy. He's the one who hasn't had a new
idea in five years. This is the fellow who thinks everything is
just fine the way it is, so let's not rock-the-boat, everything
is just hunky-dory, thank you very much.

You have to treat your business like it's a shark: no standing
still, if you don't keep moving forward, you won't survive.
It's a competitive world out there, and in the Web-centric
marketing environment, you're not only competing with the shop
down the street, you're competing with the whole world, so
standing still is not an option. Mr. Inertia, you're fired!

File Two: Mr. Know-It-All
I love this guy, he knows everything, he's done everything, and
if you ask him he'll tell you he invented it. It doesn't
matter what it is or even if it relates to your business, he's
done it all and seen it all, or so he says. This is Mr.
Know-It-All; he stopped learning, stopped improving, and stopped
listening years ago.

Despite all his self-proclaimed knowledge and insight, this guy
hasn't contributed anything meaningful to the marketing effort
since a Blackberry was something you ate. Mr. Know-It-All,
you're fired!

File Three: Mr. My-Business-Is-Unique
We all like to feel that we have created something unique,
something different, something that no one else does. The fact
is business is business; it's very dangerous to think that your
company is so unusual that it's irreplaceable, so different
that you don't need to market, so special that branding isn't
required, and so singular that positioning is a waste of time.

Don't be fooled, finding your 'mark of differentiation' is
just as much an exercise in marketing as it is an exercise in
product development. Mr. My-Business-Is-Unique, you're fired!

File Four: Mr. We-Always-Do-It-This-Way
At one point in my career I ran a company that manufactured
photo albums. We had a large competitor who always undercut our
price no matter what we sold our product for. In an effort to
find out how they were gaining this advantage, we cut open one
of their new albums and found that they were using cheap
corrugated cardboard as a stiffener instead of the more
expensive traditional 80-point board everybody in the industry

Our sales manager made an appointment with a major photo chain
known for only buying quality. He made a dramatic presentation
by cutting open our competition's product illustrating the
superior nature of our product and demonstrating how they were
being duped into buying the inferior junk our competitor was
selling them. The buyer, who was also one of the owners looked
at the products on his desk, uttered an expletive-deleted and
laughed, "Yea," he said, "but they are cheaper."

Just because things were done the same way forever, doesn't
mean that you can keep doing it that way. Keep innovating,
experimenting, challenging the status quo. Mr.
We-Always-Do-It-This Way, you're fired.

File Five: Mr. Everybody-Is-Stupid (But Me)
This clown's a real buzz-kill. In brainstorming sessions this
is the guy who shoots down every idea that comes up without
offering any alternatives. If some idea is actually adopted he
immediately begins to try and change it. You'll usually find
him with a coffee in one hand and a donut in the other, standing
over someone who is actually trying to work, telling them to
move it a pixel to the right or add a little blue or saying
stuff like, "I think it needs a pony, ya add a pony." This
jerk is like a dog going from hydrant to fencepost depositing
his mark without any purpose or validity other than leaving his
scent. Not only is this guy unproductive, he makes everybody
around him less productive. Mr. Everybody-Is-Stupid (But Me),
your fired!

File Six: Mr. I-Know-All-The-Customers-Worth-Knowing
Hard to believe but this guy does exist. I once called on a
potential client who told me he didn't need a website because
he knew all the customers worth knowing, all six of them. He was
a manufacturer and he did sell to the six largest retail buyers
of his merchandise but one thing I've learned over the years,
you never have enough customers, and as soon as you think
you've got them all sewed up, watch out, because every
competitor is out to take them away from you. And as good as you
are or as good as you think you are clients will eventually be
pursued by a competitor offering something better or cheaper.
Never stop prospecting, never stop looking for new business, and
never be satisfied. Mr. I-Know-All-The-Customers-Worth-Knowing,
you're fired.

File Seven: Mr. I-Know-All-The-Benefits

We all could be guilty of this marketing sin if we're not
careful. Thinking you know everything that people do with your
product or service is a risky mindset and speaks to a lack of
vision. This guy goes to the appropriate conventions, listens to
all his industry's experts and reads only stuff about his own
established market. If it's about something else, he's just
not interested, and he doesn't see or understand the

The fact is all your customers are people who have lives outside
of business; they all have problems, insecurities, hobbies, and
interests that have nothing to do with business. And they may
have a totally different point-of-view as to what you offer and
how they can use it. You must pay attention to what's going on
in the world and how people think and react to events and
situations. The market is an emotional and psychological
minefield and you must pay attention to outside forces because
if you don't you're limiting your potential. Mr.
I-Know-All-The-Benefits, I'm sorry but you're fired!

File Eight: Mr. Everything-Is-Bulls@%t
This employee is not just useless, he's downright destructive;
no matter what marketing plan you're considering implementing
this guy thinks it's bull. He doesn't believe in branding,
positioning, or any form of sophisticated marketing. He doesn't
believe that psychology or emotion plays any part in the sales
process and is probably the master of wining and dining clients
resulting in the biggest expense account in the company but not
much else. His clients were customers before he arrived and will
probably be there after he leaves unless he pisses them off.
This guy still doesn't see the benefit of a website and keeps
repeating, 'it's just an electronic brochure.' His answer to
a dip in sales is always the same, to cut prices. Mr.
Everything-Is-Bulls@%t, you're fired!

File Nine: Mr. I'll-Get-Around-To-It
Nobody really knows what this guy does. He is pleasant, tells
good jokes, and he most likely is the guy who brings coffee and
cookies to the office for everybody once a week. His desk is
always piled high with papers, files, and binders, and when you
ask him for something he invariably starts to rummage through
this heap of junk ultimately telling you that he'll bring it
along as soon as he finds it, he's just been 'sooo' busy. It
takes him three days to answer an email, a week to return a
phone call, and at least two weeks to respond to a request for
a quotation. This guy just has to go. Mr. I'll-Get-Around-To-It,
you're fired!

File Ten: Mr. Automatic Pilot

This chap believes that the great benefit of having a Web-based
business is that he doesn't have to work. This guy spent a
considerable sum of money having a bunch of programmers,
probably from one of those offshore sweatshops, develop a
website system that automatically answers emails, fills orders,
and processes inquiries. The only problem is that it doesn't
matter if a customer has a question or complaint they all get
the same email-response that says they can order even more stuff
they can't figure out how to use. Mr. Automatic Pilot, you're

File Eleven: Mr. I-Don't-Need-No-Stinking-Creativity
This guy doesn't believe in any kind of creativity, he thinks
everything is based on rational dollar-and-cents
decision-making. His website lists as many features and benefits
in 48 point red Times Roman as he can think of; he highlights
each point in yellow and underlines them in green with a big
purple checkmark beside each one. He adds several royalty-free
photographs of fake customers with quotations he made-up while
sitting on the john. And just to enhance his special offer page,
he tacks-on a bunch of extra bonus gifts like a useless free
e-book. This guy's idea of marketing got stuck in the fifties;
so Mr. I-Don't-Need-No-Stinking-Creativity, you're fired.

File Twelve: Mr. Get-Me-the-Coast
You run across these types every now and again. I once went to a
meeting with this guy who was the Vice President of Whatever
Mega Corporation. At first glance, he was very impressive,
handsome and tall with a big office and lots of hair, and a
voice made for AM radio. He talked faster than anyone I ever
met. As we made our presentation, he slammed his hand down on
the intercom and bellowed to his secretary to "Get me Johnny on
the coast!" Before I knew what hit me, he's talking to his guy
in California who's on his way to his dry cleaner to pick up
his laundry. He asked him a couple of questions as fast as I
ever heard without much reference to anything we were discussing
and slammed down the phone with a thud. I had no idea what we
were talking about or if this guy heard a single word we said.
This guy was the master of taking meetings and impressing
people, but with what I am still not sure. Mr. Get-Me-the-Coast,
your fired!

A Final Thought

The single most important thing about managing good staff or
contractors is that they will only be as good as you let them.
So now that you've laid-waste to a staff of dead weight, what's
next? You need to hire or outsource the right people; people who
are creative, innovative, and talented; people who are
interested in getting things done, whether it's filing or
creating your next marketing campaign.
Jerry Bader is Senior Partner at MRPwebmedia, a website design
firm that specializes in Web-audio and Web-video. Visit,, and Contact at
or telephone (905) 764-1246.
Article re-printed from SiteProNews:
HTML version available at:

Monday, December 01, 2008

Coach Yourself From Circular To Straight Line Thinking

Many people complain that the career or broader life issues they're grappling with just circle endlessly in their head. I've experienced this myself.

There is also A LOT you can do to help yourself with this issue. It sounds a bit strange, but try making a coaching appointment with yourself, to think in a structured way about what's bothering you. Give yourself at least 20-30 minutes and get a notebook to jot down your questions and responses. Then apply this coaching model:


Identify a single issue.

To do this, ask yourself questions like:

"What specific outcome do I want from this conversation?"
"What would I like to be different?"
"What's troubling me most about this situation?"

For example, say you think you want to set up your own business but you haven't a clue about how to start, or even if it's really 100% what you want, and how do you find out if it's what you definitely want without starting (which you don't know how to do)? (spot the circle??!).

"What's troubling me MOST about this situation?"
"I don't know if I have the skills to run my own business. I don't even know what those skills are."
"OK, so what would I like to be different at the end of this 20 minute talk with myself?"
"I'd like some ideas for finding out the skills needed."



This is brainstorming territory. Some good questions are:

"What options or approaches can I think of?"
"What are the positives and negatives of each option?"
"What have I seen work for others?"
"What else?"
"What has worked for me in the past?"

Continuing our example...

"What approaches can I think of?"
"Well, I guess I could ask other people who've started a business what they think are important skills. And I could google a bit, there must be some websites which could help me."

"That's great! What else could I do?"
"I don't know. This is too difficult. Can I go and make a cup of tea now....?"
"Later. Think: what's worked for me in the past when I've needed to learn about a new topic?"

"Usually I read books. Hmm, so I could have a look on Amazon as well. That's perked me up a bit, I love buying books. This is fun!"


Start to pin yourself down.

"What do I need to do now?"

"Well X just started her own business and she's very approachable, I could talk to her. I can't think of anyone else right now but maybe she would know of other people."

"Good... When will I do this?"
"I'll call her tomorrow morning."

Put this in your diary, and keep going until you have committed to several actions.


Make sure you don't leave yourself with any excuses...

"What might stop me doing this?"

"Feeling insecure. X might think I'm crazy to even consider having my own business. Maybe she won't even want to talk to me."

"What can I do to overcome this obstacle?"

"What's the worst that can happen? If she says she's too busy, I'll be a bit upset but I could still ask her for some names. Someone will speak to me: I know I'd help if the roles were reversed."


Go over your notes and ask yourself:

"What did I learn today?", or "Looking back over the conversation, what else comes to mind?"

"That there's always something I can do to get the ball rolling. I feel much better. The circle is broken!"

Good luck with straightening your own circles...!

If you are still stuck, consider getting professional guidance. There is nothing wrong with asking for help when you need it. Here's a start:

Sarah Cooper is a career coach who specializes in working with people who want to follow their passions, express their creativity or help people or society in some way. Kick start your new life by signing up to Sarah's FREE mini e-course 5 Keys to Finding Freedom By Doing What You Love at

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

Stylease wishes you a day of relaxation and fun.

Good food too!

Jen's rules for a peaceful holiday:

• Do not pick fights with your in-laws. (if they pick one with you, just smile and know that you or they will be going home soon)

• Take the politics disputes outside, people.

• And no discussing religion allowed, unless you all are in agreement, or can politely agree to disagree. As impossible as it may seem, mature people have been known to pull this off.

• Just try to have a nice day. No, I mean really try.

• Shop your butts off on Friday.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You HAVE to have a website

My husband's staff covered his office with sticky notes while he was away for the summer. Well, because he works at Disney TV animation (he's a director on Phineas and Ferb) it wasn't just a prank, but a documented production. And a funny one at that.

So funny in fact that when the Disney Execs got wind of it, they wanted to add it as a DVD Extra on the next release of Phineas and Ferb episodes that come out on DVD.

Now, being the cross marketing hound that I am, the first thing I thought, is that since there will be millions of kids seeing this funny little video, there is a good chance a portion of them will then go to the internet and do a search for more info on it.

I would.

So I set up a website called Rob Sticky Note Hughes. Now, Rob is an artist, not an IT guy and he thought I was wasting my time setting up a site for this. He still does not get it. What is the point?

What is the point?! Publicity baby! The man owns his own animation company where he is developing fabulous animated TV shows for worldwide distribution. If a kid finds (which will have links to his company which has info on the other cartoons that he makes) then that kid can go to their mom or dad and go "Wow! Where can we see this show?!" And if mom and dad are cool and living in the 21st century, they can go to their DVR and type in the cartoon title and record the shows. The kid loves the shows and wants to go to the store and buy the toy...

See how this works?

By the way, I noticed that the bananas on my kitchen counter have a website... The purple sticker says "Let's Play at"

People, if you have a business and you don't have a functioning website, you are officially less organized than a banana.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Overcoming Challenges - Embrace it!

I'm off to Michigan for the weekend.

Just enough time to have the 3 hour time difference mess with me. I can't imagine what the presidential candidates go through while traveling around like madmen (and women there for a while). They must just function in a state of suspended animation.

It's looking like we will get snowed on while we are there. Whoot! Just not while we are taking off or landing please.

Here is a thought for the day: It's a big thought. A whole group of them actually but a necessary reminder to not let yourself get bogged down. Don't sweat the little stuff, or even the big stuff. Just deal with it all, one step at a time.

5 Top Tips To Overcoming Challenges

Here are some simple strategies to overcome any challenge that may be stopping you form moving forward in your life.

Challenges are a very normal part of life. Many people look at challenges and cringe, but the reality is that challenges help move us forward in life. We would be stopped in our tracks and stand still without challenges, we would never find the way to improve ourselves, and we would remain the same people we are right now - how boring!

Now that you know this, it might make some challenges that much easier to deal with and may even enable you to overcome obstacles that are standing in your way. So ask yourself:

Am I where I want to be in life?

If you're not happy, then it's time to take charge, make a stand and make a change! Overcoming some challenges can be as simple as remembering that nothing lasts forever. Even though this is a rather simplistic thought, it is actually true. When you are in the middle of a tough situation, you should stop, take a moment and remember that the situation will pass. We often get caught up in the drama and the stress of a challenge or obstacle. This blinds us to the reality that this moment is simply a stepping stone to where we are going.

Another way to overcome challenges is to ask for a little bit of help here and there. We often become islands unto ourselves, but that need not be the case. Ask friends and family for help, or get professional help if the challenge seems so unattainable that you think you would benefit from an expert opinion. Teaming up with those who are in our lives often makes a challenge seem smaller and less threatening.

Positive thought is a great way to overcome challenges.

Many people keep a list of affirmations with them - either physically or in their minds - to help them overcome difficulties as challenges arise. Affirmations are simple statements to help you quieten down negative thoughts that are in your mind. Many people find that positive thoughts are the key to overcoming both big and small challenges.

Breaking challenges down into more manageable pieces also may make them easier to overcome. Many of us look only at the big picture, which often can be overwhelming. Look at the challenges you are facing and see if you can't break up the problems into smaller pieces to make the process less intimidating.

You can take positive thoughts one step further and incorporate affirmations into your everyday life. These affirmations may include, "If I can say it, I can do it, and I can be it." Getting up each day and saying these thoughts out loud reaffirms the positive thought and allows you to live it. Many people repeat the thought each day at the same time, while others use them only in those moments when challenges present themselves and become overwhelming. Either way will work, you just need to work out what's best for you as an individual.

Overcoming challenges can be difficult, but this is a vital part of learning more about yourself, who you are striving to be, and what your place is in this world. In lots of situations, just one of these methods will help you overcome the challenges in your life, and in other situations you may need to use a combination. Each person finds different methods of dealing with challenges to work for them, but the power of positive thought cannot be overlooked. This power will enable you to see the good in each challenge or obstacle that you encounter throughout your life.

Make the glass half full.

In maintaining positive thoughts, you will be able to look at how to overcome your challenges with much less stress involved.


Find Inspiration and Motivation at You can sign-up to receive 365 Days of FREE Personal Development and Motivational Top Tips delivered straight to your inbox!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Did You Vote?!

Go on. Get out there.

I'll wait...

Still waiting. Let me know when you cast those votes.

Ok, good. Good for you.

I was so excited to vote in this election. Even though my state will go to Obama without me, I voted anyway because I want him to get the popular vote too. By the way, that is a very poor point of view. YOU HAVE TO VOTE. If you are able to and you don't, well, you should leave this blog now, otherwise I shall kick you in the shin.

I also voted to uphold a gay person's right to get married. I have never understood why people care so much if two gay people want to get married. Please, explain it to me. What is the threat? What is it that people are so afraid of? What on earth difference does it make to another person if somebody wants to legally wed the person they love? How does that somehow "weaken" or theaten the bond between a man and a woman? I, honest to God, do not understand that. I find a healthy, loving relationship in any capacity, far more beneficial than hatred and discourse.

So let me get this straight... two heterosexual people who hate each other and argue openly in front of their children is a better thing than two people of the same gender who respect each other and offer a stable emotional environment of RESPECT of another human being as an example of how to treat people?

The answer is No. It's not better. I think that once again religion and fear come into play here. I am not a person who subscribes to organized religion so I don't have that whole, fear of God and judgment upon my person thing to battle with every moment, thank you.

Maybe that is it. It's as simple as some other human in a fancy robe behind an alter, telling you it's bad. And that's good enough for some. I honestly hope that is all the more complicated it is. Because if that is it, then there is hope for those who are blinded by the opinions and judgments of others. That they may one day talk to people outside their group and broaden their mind to see that we are all just doing our thing, trying to make it all work and find true happiness.

As long as what you do in this life doesn't hurt anyone else, it's all good. Everything else is just a distraction.


Obama just won and I feel like someone opened a window. Heavy sigh of relief.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Happy Holloween

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Lawyers and cybersquatting

Can I just say how much I love my attorney right now?


Not just because she is a she (which is a plus because I love to see fellow chicks succeed)
but because she is really good at her job!

Over the last couple weeks I have been caringly, mildly harassed by a someone claiming to be a domain registration company in Hong Kong. They sent this very concerned e-mail saying that they had been contracted by this Holdings Company to buy versions of my domain names and Internet Brand. (,, etc.) They let me know that they were contacting me to "give" me the first opportunity to buy these various domains before they register them for the other company.

Well it smelled of fraud the second I read it. But something said, well, maybe there is something to it.

So it sent me on a little research journey that has come to the events that happened today. A cease and desist letter from my attorney to this guy, who it turns out IS part of a huge fraudulent mass of unsolicited e-mail campaigns to extort big bucks out of people who fall for the bit and buy up the various versions of their domains to protect themselves. Part of me fell for it, but because I am a research hound I looked as deeply into it as I could. Never mind that I have 20 other things I needed to do today... But this became important because I wasn't sure if the brand I have been working so hard to launch, was in jeopardy of being deluted due to its growing equity. Well, in a way, yes it is. So I may hire a Internet Brand Protection Company in the future to watchdog this stuff but in the meantime, I found out that there is no need to pay this clown to secure the domains this SECOND... but

I learned a new word today CYBERSQUATTING. It is the practice of this exact thing and it is highly illegal. There are great resources out there to protect you or at least offer legal leverage. Clinton passed a federal law in 1999 called the Anticybersquatting Consumer Protection Act. It even has a clause in there to protect you against foreign squatters even if you don't know who they are! Sweet.

So hopefully this legal letter will shut this guy up and I can get back to work. I imagine he will go find some poor, reactionary sucker to bilk $$ from since I clearly am too much of a pain in his butt at this point, threatening legal action.

And here is the other thing, being the glass-half-full kind of person I am... This little episode flagged the need to obtain an international registration for my brand, not just the US version.

Hopefully this post served someone well. I'll bill you for my time. :-) Nah- knowledge is free here at Stylease.


Saturday, September 13, 2008

What are the odds?

I have a friend and neighbor, Lori Hall Steele who is a fantastic journalist with over 3,000 articles to her credit. Eleven months ago she contracted what has now been diagnosed as Lou Gehrig’s disease (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS). A mutual friend had seen her in a wheelchair and asked me about it.
She is in Michigan and I am now in Los Angeles. So I e-mailed Lori right away asking what was going on. We had these terrific long e-mail-a-thons back and forth where she was energetically proactive in finding out what was wrong, why she had lost the feeling in her feet. That was last October.

Then the emails got shorter
Then they stopped altogether

We went to Michigan for the summer and saw our dear friend, by this time a quadriplegic. She sat in our yard, still upright in her chair and sipped a beer through a straw waiting for her lungs to re-inflate to contribute to the conversation in small, quiet bits.

By summer's end she was confined to a hospital bed in her dining room, on a breathing machine.

This is my friend. A 44 year old divorced mom of a 7 year old boy. This could be any one of us.

Now because she can no longer write / work and her insurance carrier dropped her, ya know, because she actually needed their services, she is losing the house she has lived in for many many years.

Lori wrote this 2 page essay 3 years ago, when she was in perfect health. It was published in The Washington Post this past April, while the steady and rapid decline in her condition continued. It's chilling to read it now. Now that she is in Hospice care. Coincidence or did her son somehow know there was something brewing.

Please visit Lori's Blog and website which were set up to offer information about her plight and save her house from foreclosure. Donate if you can. If not, that's ok too. Just send her healing thoughts and help spread the word about her situation.

Hug your kids.
Call your parents to tell them that you love them.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Creative Photography - Add Impact to Your Subject

I love to take pictures. I have always shot my own models and assembled all my ads. When digital cameras came out... well suffice it to say I had to get an arsenal of storage to hold all my pics. I have taken well over 15,000 since the digital camera age was born about 8 years ago. Makes scrap booking a bit of a task. Good thing I don't do it. Ha! Then I recently bought a Nikon D40. Love love LOVE that camera! I was having a terrible time with my old digi camera because it took so much time to focus etc. that by the time the camera got done farting around, the baby model I was shooting had moved on and I would miss the shot.

Well, no more. The Nikon is such a fantastic camera. The D-40 in particular. Well, this isn't a camera ad, I just thought I'd let you know there is a great one out there and the price is coming down!

If you love photographing people, flowers, or wildlife, you never have to look too far for a subject. The true challenge is to create an image with real impact.

How do you make your subject really stand out in a photograph? As a beginner, it is tempting to blame the camera when you don't quite get the results you want. I have news for you - buying a more expensive camera will not necessarily solve the problem. In truth, the techniques in below will work for almost any camera. All you need are manual aperture and shutter speed settings, and a decent zoom lens.

Here are a few simple tips for adding impact to your subject.

Tip #1. Highlight A Brightly Lit Subject Against A Dark Background. If you photograph a flower is in the sun, but the background is in the shade, the attention of the photo will naturally fall on the flower. This is a simple principle to understand, but it is a little easier said than done.

When your photograph has two very different levels of light, the lightmeter in your camera can be confused. It may expose for the dark background, causing your subject to be overexposed. The trick is to expose for the subject.

You can't do this on automatic. What you need to do is switch your camera to manual, and adjust the aperture and/or shutter speed settings until the photo is underexposed by one or two stops (according to the lightmeter). When you get the balance right, you should have a dark background and a perfectly exposed subject.

Tip #2. Use A Small Depth Of Field To Blur The Background. You have seen plenty of photos where the subject is sharp and clear, but the rest of the picture completely out of focus. This is an excellent way of creating a three-dimensional effect and adding real impact to the subject.

To achieve this, you use a combination of a large lens and a wide aperture. First, zoom in on the subject with your largest magnfication. This will naturally reduce the depth of field. Then adjust the aperture to its widest setting. A wide aperture will reduce the depth of field even further.

The closer you are to the subject the more pronounced the effect becomes.

Tip #3. Use A Wide Angle Lens To Exaggerate Perspective. This technique is almost the opposite of Tip #2. A wide angle lens makes everything in your photo appear much smaller, so objects in the distance seem much further away than they really are. Meanwhile, you can stand very close to a subject in the foreground (a person, animal etc) and still fit it in the frame.

As a result, your close-up subject will appear to tower over a background in which everything else seems very small and distant. Although the surroundings will be mostly in focus (the wide angle lens has a much larger depth of field), they will seem relatively small and insignificant, making your subject seem larger and more dominant by comparison.

So there you have three fairly simple ways to add impact to the subject in your photos.

The great thing is, you don't need a professional camera to try these ideas out. As I said earlier, if you have a zoom lens, and manual control of your aperture and shutter speed, you can add impact to your photos with just a little practice.

Even better, in the age of digital photography, practice costs get out there and start snapping!

All photos are ©2008 Jennifer Hughes -

If you found these tips helpful, check out Andrew Goodall. He released two top-selling ebooks that have already helped thousands of new photographers learn the art and skills of nature photography. See Andrew's images and ebooks at

While you are there, enjoy even more great photography tips by subscribing to their online's free!

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

How Far do You Take the Lie?

Ok, it's not a lie per-say... Or it's a lie as much as Santa and the Easter Bunny are a lie...

My youngest lost a tooth and the usual tooth fairy monetary reward discussion came up. Oh yes, put it under your pillow and the tooth fairy will bring you money...

No trouble there.

But she decided to write the tooth fairy a note asking "where do you keep the teeth and are you tiny or big, like me?"

So I answered the note on the back using a mechanical pencil to make a very fine line, wrote in a tiny back-hand script so the kids wouldn't recognize my writing... I had, incidentally, done this for our older daughter too, when she lost a tooth in Indonesia. She left the fairy a note saying that she already had tooth fairy money in US funds so to use local currency was fine. Precocious little fart.
Well, I copied some Indonesian language off the wall in the bathroom at the hotel, to respond to her note. I imagine I instructed her to leave her towels on the floor if she wanted the maid to change them, or to save water, hang the towels up if she wished to use them another day... I really have no idea. But I wrote it in my best cursive.

It was a HUGE hit. That made the tooth fairy real!

So in this latest tooth/note episode, the answered note, again, had amazing impact. So much so that they woke me up to see the note, and my oldest, convinced that tooth fairies are very real, related a story of how kids at school made fun of her for still believing in the tooth fairy. They told her it's just her parents pretending.

She told me this looking for a reaction. To which I shook my head and shrugged as if to say, "Wasn't me."

She then said, "No! I know they're real. I don't care what they say. People believe what they want to believe."

Man! Pretty insightful for a 9 year old.

But I digress.

I'm not sure how to find a graceful way out of this perpetual series of "lies" we tell our kids. Santa is real because there are big ash boot prints on the hearth and cookie crumbs and carrot bits left on the plate! (Yes, the carrots are for the reindeer). We go pretty far to suspend belief.

I don't remember being heartbroken when I found out none of that was real. I don't even remember finding out at all, but alas I am aware they live in the hearts and heads of children,

and the delusional.

My dad wasn't allowed to believe in those things because, reportedly, his mother didn't want to deal with the disappointment that would come when he found out the inevitable.

Shame on that thinking. The joy these little tooth fairy note instances bring are precious.

So that settles it. I'll keep up the lie for as long as I can get away with it.