Strawberry Lemonade

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Photo courtesy of http://www.mybakingaddiction.com/

The snow’s melting. The birds are chirping. The slush will soon melt away and summer time will (hopefully) be here to stay.

In celebration of today’s gorgeous weather, I wanted to share a summery sweet drink recipe!

Strawberry Lemonade
Serving size: 1.5L

Ingredients:
6 ripe lemons
6-8 medium strawberries
1-2 cups of Sprite or 7UP
Sugar
Ice cubes
Cold water

Slice lemons in half. Squeeze juice into pitcher, with your hands or one of these. (I prefer the hand method, only because they end up smelling lemon-y clean.) You can use a strainer to eliminate the pulp and seeds, but really – I’m not that picky.

Cut off the tops of your strawberries and slice them up, to whatever size looks pretty (for presentation’s sake). Alternatively, you can puree the strawberries and mix them in with your lemon juice.

Toss your one or two cups of Sprite/7UP into the mix, add the ice cubes, and fill the pitcher with cold water. Stir.

Add sugar to taste. I learned not to use honey (the hard way – it solidified and sank to the bottom of the pitcher).

And voila! There you have it, a refreshing batch of ice cold strawberry lemonade. Enjoy! *clink*

LOCAL SHOP: ForSpaceSake

As students and recent graduates, it’s very unlikely we’ll be moving into our dream homes anytime soon. Once we’ve paid our dues, our four-storey mansions may be on the horizon – but in the meantime, we’ll have to make due with smaller spaces.

Check out this local shop for some space-saving furniture!

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Multi-tasking decreases productivity?

I vividly remember working my first job as a server. It was my initial taste of multi-tasking in a high-pressure environment. Is it time to refill waters at table nine? Table six is giving me the stink eye, I should really check up on them. But maybe I should wipe down all those empty tables first. Hold on a second, where is that peach bellini I punched in five minutes ago?

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Multi-tasking applies to all realms of work – not just the restaurant industry. Learning how to successfully juggle all aspects of whatever field you’re in (or life in general) can be a huge challenge – in fact, it’s nearly impossible.

Did you know only 2% of people can actually multitask successfully?

You seem surprised. According to recent statistics (take these numbers with a grain of salt), this small percentage of our population can actually multitask while increasing the productivity. The other 98%? Well, trying to take on too many things at once can actually do more harm than good. Check out this infographic – it tells you all about the detrimental effects of multi-tasking, including lowering your IQ level.

10_56_18_287_fileSource: http://mashable.com/2012/08/13/multitasking-infographic/
Related article: http://profitablespa.com/startling-statistics-on-the-negative-effects-of-multitasking/

How do you manage your workload if multi-tasking is less help and more harm? There are only so many hours in the day, with way too many things docked on our to-do list.

Have no fear – a list of suggestions is here!

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Build a solid to-do list.
Staying organized is key in making sure everything gets done without feeling overwhelmed. Mapping out a to-do list allows you to allocate specific times in your schedule for certain activities, instead of worry about juggling multiple tasks at once. The best thing about a to-do list? Feeling accomplished once every item has a nice big fat check mark beside it.

There’s an app for that.
Have a hard time bringing a pen and paper around? Well, that’s no excuse. There’s an app for that! If you find yourself having a hard time bringing your to-do list around with you, there are plenty of choices in the computer application market to fulfill your organizational needs. Some apps also have the ability to sync with your smartphone or through an online cloud service, literally allowing you to access it anywhere, anytime.

Prioritize.
Your to-do list tally is adding up, and you feel like you’re getting no where. There is a constant looming presence, but you’re finding it impossible to invest yourself in an important project because you’re overwhelmed with everything else you have to do. The simple answer to this dilemma is prioritize. You’ll never feel at peace until you’ve wrapped up that super important assignment for school or work. Just get it over and done with, and the weight will surely be lifted off your shoulders. Once your big projects are finished, you can pummel through the less significant tasks (that are still equally important to complete!).

Set realistic deadlines.
Be honest. You need to set realistic deadlines not only for yourself, but for whoever you’re completing work for. Yes, it’s sometimes tempting to try to impress an employer by promising to finish a report in two weeks – but maybe you actually need an extra week or two on top of that to trim the roughness around the edges. Give yourself ample time to complete things to your personal standards.

Learn how to say no.
Us ambitious types love to get our feet wet in new ventures. But sometimes, we find ourselves involved in too many things at once. Oops? Although I’m the number one promoter of positivity, you need to know your limits. It’s okay to say no! It’s not fair to yourself and the other party if you don’t have the time to do a good job on something. Know what your mental and physical capacities are, and give yourself some ample buffer room.

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Turn off the technology.
Take a break from reddit. Disconnecting yourself (temporarily) from your smartphone, television and the internet will provide a significant boost in productivity (as proven by the infographic research above). It’s way too easy to give yourself an occasional break to check your phone for a new message or missed call. But simply putting the phone back in your hands leads to a number of tantalizing temptations. Do yourself a favour and turn off your tech when you’re working on a project with a tight deadline. On the bright side? Tuning back into the digital world once you’re finished will be a real treat.

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Have healthy and filling snacks on hand.
You are what you eat. When you eat crap, you’ll feel like crap. You lose focus, can’t sit still and will have a hard time investing yourself into one thing, if any at all. Make sure you have healthy snacks on hand when you’re up late working on something that will eat up a lot of time (no pun intended).

Schedule some time to R&R.
Save some time for yourself. No matter how crazy your days get, it’s important to block off a portion of your day to clear your mind. It can be something as simple as reading a book, watching a movie, or getting a massage. Just make sure this time is uninterrupted, and all about you.

Come on, get happy.

It’s been a good week. Correction, a great week.

I’m a brand new homeowner, I’ve been presented with a very exciting professional opportunity, and I’m wearing a fairly sizeable rock on my left hand.

Like I said, this week has been quite a whirlwind of excitement. I feel like a million and one dollars! And here I am asking myself, “Does it ever get any better than this?”

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In an article published by Psychology Today, Robert Firestore (psychologist, theorist, and author) defined an “emotionally healthy individual.” Of course, these findings were withdrawn from personal opinion and experience, but I think he had a pretty darned decent idea about the subject at hand.

“First of all, it depends a lot on their own motivation and their particular goals for themselves. But in general, the kind of person I would like to see them be is one who had a strong sense of themselves: a person who could deal with feelings; a person who was non-defensive; a person who had a strong sense of values; a person whose values were inner directed, rather than outer directed; a person who was neither defiant nor submissive, but independent.”

Yes, I am currently floating on cloud nine (and will be for the next little while). But this article also clarified that happiness is a result of good character and habits, and a solid sense of self. My happiness is drawn from circumstance and also from the person I’ve shaped myself to be. And you wonder why I always have a goofy grin on my face!

After digesting Robert Firestore’s theory, I’ve come up with my own list of tips to add a little pep to your daily step.

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1. Start your day off right.
Munch down on big bowl of your favourite cereal. Send out an uplifting tweet. Whip your hair around to some upbeat music (to the tune of Willow Smith or otherwise). The simple step of starting off your morning with something you enjoy sets the tone for the rest of your day.

2. Tell someone you love them.
Turn to your left, or turn to your right. Are you facing a loved one (significant other, family member, friend, pet, beloved inanimate object)? If so, give them a tight squeeze and tell them how much you love them. It will make both of you feel trusted and valued.

3. Reconnect with an old friend.
“Hey, it’s been a while!” As insincere and awkward as it can sounds, it’s important to reconnect with people you haven’t talked to in a while. Maintaining meaningful relationships and staying in the loop with your circle of friends makes you a mentally healthier person and means you’ll never be lonely.

4. Be happy for those around you.
Don’t let life get you down. Instead of dwelling on missed opportunities, use your friends and family to leverage your pep-o-metre. New job? New home? New relationship? First thing: AWESOME. Second thing: I’m excited for you!

5. Surprise someone.
Surprises are hiding around every corner. And isn’t it awesome when someone surprises you with a sweet (and not necessarily extravagant) gesture? Turn the table around and surprise someone you know with a small treat they adore or a gift related to a TV show, movie or band they love. Showing someone you care is the ultimate high. There’s just nothing quite like it.

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6. T’work it out.
The correlation between feeling great and exercising is no coincidence. Take note of this HowStuffWorks article, highlighting a few positive byproducts of exercise. Not only does it make you feel great about yourself, but helps normalize sleeping patterns, lowers anxiety, increases antibody production, and releases feel-good endorphins.

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7. Don’t be ashamed. Treat yourself!
This may sound a little contradictory to the previous step, but it’s key to treat yourself – in moderation. Dieters often find themselves plunging off the deep end because they deprive themselves of all delicious delicacies. Treat yourself with something tasty when you’re feeling accomplished. If you’re worried about the calorie count, healthy snacks count too! Greek yogurt, granola, fresh fruit and agave nectar is my favourite guilt-free dessert.

8. Don’t beat yourself up.
It’s way too easy to feel guilty for making mistakes. But hey, we’re only human. If you remind yourself you’re just like everyone else and that no one’s perfect (surprise!), you’ll learn to use your missed opportunities as learning experiences. As cheesy as it sounds, it works. There’s no way but up from here!

9. Stay humble.
Oh shucks. Staying humble and grounded will help keep your values in perspective. Remember where you came from while still keeping your eye on what you’re working towards. Gracefully accept praise, just try not to bask in it for too long.

10. Save some time for yourself.
Let’s face it, we all lead busy lives. Between classes, work, medical appointments, parties, homework, and spending time with your loved ones, we find little time left to ourselves. Save some time each week for you. Read a great book, watch one of your favourite TV shows, or schedule an appointment with your massage therapist. Allocating this much needed time will help you relax and let go of any not-so-feel-good vibes.

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It’s just that easy. Come on and get happy!

 

Help make the world a better place.

As communicators, we do so much more than simply write about the weather, create ads for the next safe sex campaign, or hold news conferences for the arrival of yet another big-box store.

We assume the voice of what we are passionate about. Whether we’re advocates for the environment, political left/right wingers or philanthropists hoping to make this world a better place, it’s important we invest ourselves into something we truly care about.

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When I first heard of Vine Multimedia, I was certainly intrigued. Next to dry, monotonous job descriptions, Vine had a certain je ne sais quoi, an essence of fun, inspiration and interactivity in their tone. And here I thought, “This sounds like a pretty awesome place to work at.”

After receiving an e-mail invitation to complete the next step of the hiring process, I soon discovered Vine was founded by no one other than Joseph Ranseth. This familiar Twitter face was someone I avidly followed for 140 character blocks of motivation. (Varinder Brar told me to follow Joseph months ago after catching wind of my recent charity project, Threads of Hope. He suggesting we had similar philanthropic values, and he sure did hit that nail hard on the head.)

 

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Boink!

After navigating their website, I came across a piece that really spoke out to me. Here’s a direct quote from their website:

Vine Multimedia is committed to making the world a better place by working with businesses that provide positive social value and then by investing all company profit back into programs that make an impact… The same way your marketing campaign will.

To be completely honest, social business is not something I knew very much about before exploring this job opportunity, but it’s certainly something I can see myself committing my future to. What can be better than helping market businesses to ultimately help provide to those in need? (Want to learn more about the benefits of social business? Read all about it on Vine’s website.)

I’ve always found fulfillment in seeing the positive impact of my hard work on the people or environment around me. Vine believes in the same mantra.

Why not help make the world a better place by joining a company dedicated to doing just that. Who doesn’t want to be a social business superhero?

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Vine Multimedia is a new media marketing company based out of Wininpeg, Manitoba.

Event Planning 101: Fundraising Edition

So, you’re thinking of organizing a fundraiser.

You have a theme. You have a guest list. You have a goal.

The idea of organizing an event sounds like a ton of fun. You get to bring some of your favourite people together, pick out some tasty dishes to serve as hors d’oeuvres and raise money or awareness for a cause you care about. Sounds easy enough, right?

Now, you’re staring a a blank piece of loose leaf/document in Word. You have a plethora of great ideas bobbing about in your head, but where do you begin? In reality, planning an event is no easy task. I, among many of my peers, can speak to this fact. Beyond coming up with a fantastic idea, you need to buckle down and hash out some serious logistics to make your fundraising fantasies a reality.

On top of drafting a plan, critical path and run sheet (here are a few great templates), you also need to consider sponsorship opportunities, budgeting and advertising. Many pieces make up the event planning puzzle, and it’s easy to get pushed to the wayside if you’re not at the top of your game!

So, for anyone considering planning an event in the near future, here are a few takeaways from what I learned planning a large-scale fundraiser.

Plan ahead. Like, way ahead.

Plan. Plan. Plan. Oh, and did I mention plan? I can’t stress how important it is to write out a critical path for what you need to do and when it needs to get done. The most important thing to remember is – stick to it! It’s challenging to stay faithful to deadlines, but try as best as you can to follow what you initially set out to do. Your future self will thank you for it.

Build your sponsorship packages early and start sending them out well ahead of the event date. Some organizations won’t even look at your package if you haven’t sent it to them at least 4-6 months before game day. Contact your venue the second you decide where you want to host it. Depending where you decide to book your event, they may be fully reserved for years in advance. Connect with your performers/emcees/acts well ahead of time to know what their schedules are like. Get to them first before they can commit to anything else.

Use your connections.

No matter how small or large your network is, there’s bound to be someone you know who can contribute to your event. Whether they’re a restaurant owner who can help with catering, a graphic designer who can draft your invitations or a shop owner who can donate a prize, think about who you know and how they can help.

Phone a friend. Or multiple friends.

Hosting an event takes resources. Not only materials, but human aide. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your friends and ask them if they can help volunteer at your event. Most people (with good hearts) will gladly take part and help out a friend in need. Make sure you let them know well ahead of time, and communicate with them as often as you need to. Although your friends are faithful, they also have lives, so make sure they mark your event in their calendars a couple months before the due date.

Don’t be afraid to ask!

Working with a non-profit organization helped me realize you should never be afraid to ask for anything (considering it’s for a good cause). Yes, it may sometimes be intimidating or tiresome to ask stores for donations. But ask anyway! You’d be surprised by the number of organizations who are willing to give back to the community.

Target your sponsorships.

It’s easy enough to assemble a generic sponsorship letter and package you can flood your outbox with. But being strategic about your sponsorships will get you plenty further than sending dozens upon dozens and hearing back from none. Think about who your target audience is – which organizations are trying to talk to the same people? What can they get out of their investment (i.e. exposure, delivering an important message to their target demographic?). Be selective with who you send your sponsorship packages out to and you’ll be much happier with your ratio of responses.

Keep track of your finances.

This is a given, but make sure you are holding on to all receipts, e-mails and transactions for the event. Through the flurry of juggling a thousand things at once, it’s easy to lose track of where your money is going. It’s handy to have a small clutch or holster in your purse dedicated to these physical receipts. Once you get home, simply punch the numbers into a spreadsheet so you won’t forget to do it later that week.

Excel will quickly become your best friend. Make friends with the spreadsheets. Be one with the spreadsheets.

Be frugal.

When it comes to fundraisers, you have to be somewhat thrifty. Although you want your event to look fabulous, try as best as you can to pinch pennies when it comes to decorations, food and other services. Is renting a projector too pricey for your budget? Perhaps you can seek out a company to sponsor the technology you’re using at the event, or at least give you a discount for rental costs. See a really nice centrepiece you’re dying to have at your tables? Visit your local dollar store and see if you can scrounge up some supplies to make something similar. There are many ways to get around spending an arm and a leg on certain aspects of your fundraiser, and don’t be afraid to mention you’re organizing an event for a non-profit when you shop – many stores offer discounts to fundraising groups.

Have a unique hook.

Sure, you’re doing something great for the community. But having a unique hook, just like any typical journalistic piece, will help you earn points with the media. A standard fundraiser is fantastic, but what are you doing differently? Inviting an exclusive traditional dance group with worldwide accolades? Sharing a personal story about something traumatic you’ve experienced in your life? Raising awareness and attention to a niche group in the community? Your hook can be a number of different things, but the more interesting it is, the easier it’ll be to get attention from the media and a wider audience.

Set realistic expectations.

You want to raise $10,000 for a local non-profit? That’s wonderful! But also make sure you set realistic expectations for yourself. What do you have to work with? What do your expenses look like? How many sponsorships have you confirmed? What is your venue’s capacity? How much do you think people will be willing to spend on purchasing tickets? There are many factors to take into consideration when setting a dollar value or goal for your event. If you have high expectations (and there’s nothing wrong with that!), make sure you are prepped for success and have all the tools necessary to make it happen.

Have multiple back-up plans.

Whether it’s for your venue, performers, emcee, caterer or audio/video files, always have at least one or two back-ups with you at all times. Things come up last minute, and you’ll be surprised by the wide spectrum of reasons preventing your event’s successful execution. When event planning, it’s okay to be be paranoid. Hope for the best, but expect the worst. That’ll guarantee you’ll have all your bases covered.

Last – but not least – have fun!

You’ve invested months (many even years) into pulling off this wonderful event for your family, friends and people in the community. After many sleepless nights, hours spent sending countless e-mails, and days wasted stressing over anything that can possibly go wrong – the time is here. After communicating with all volunteers and making sure everyone knows exactly what they’re doing and where they need to be, it’s finally time to rest, relax and enjoy all your hard work. Take a few minutes to sit down, soak in the positive vibes and pat yourself on the back for your awesome accomplishment! You deserve it!

 

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Image courtesy of http://www.culinariafoodandwine.com/

The best six minutes you’ll spend on the internet.

I’ve always been a fan of beautiful cinematography. Rack focusing and shallow depth of field frames make my cinematic world go round.

But it’s one thing to know how to work a camera. Really, that’s only half the battle – because without a compelling story, your video may as well be used as filler to test colour depth on a new box store TV.

A good friend of mine introduced me to this heartwarming/heartbreaking video on Vimeo a few months back. Whenever I try to assemble an honest film, I use this example as something to measure up to.

Last minutes with ODEN is thrilling, chilling and will leave you feeling .. something.

(Disclaimer: Kleenex for eye-dabbing may be required.)

What kind of difference can one percent make?

New Year, new resolutions. It’s time to set practical goals for ourselves, like living a healthier lifestyle, flipping bad habits around or finally learning how to properly manage our finances.

When contemplating your resolutions, do you also plan out your charitable giving for the year? Many of us have relationships we’ve built with non-profit organizations in the past, but there are some of us who aspire to do good but simply can’t find the time to balance our books.

That’s where your one percent comes in. The One Year One Percent campaign is a new movement founded by a small team of do-gooders in Vancouver. Sarah Shandi is leading this campaign in full force, and their entire team is putting together an amazing effort at not only getting their city, but the entire country on board.

What is the One Year One Percent campaign about? Simple. They are encouraging Canadians to give 1% of their income to charity. A small difference out of our pockets will make a big difference to helping those in need. The great part about this program is the 1% is automatically withdrawn from your income into your personal ‘savings account’.

The Charitable Impact Foundation (Chimp) acts as a charitable bank, allowing donors to open up an account for their donation dollars. That way, even if saving isn’t at the top of your mind, you’ll always have your 1% stashed away to use when you finally choose a meaningful cause. One Year One Percent also has a great calculator on their homepage offering an estimate on how much 1% of your income is, and what your daily contribution will look like.

This brand new campaign just launched and is definitely a cause I’m excited to be a part of. For more information on One Year One Percent, check them out on Twitter, Facebook or on their website.

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