workshop wednesday

Five Secret Steps To Empty Nest Nesting; The Starter Set by Mary Jennings

My husband and I are newly empty nested.  This is the first time we have lived together in our house without sharing our space and time with our children and additional family in our care.  We do still have the dog and she gets blamed for things every now and again, but for the most part we are in a living environment we haven't experienced in over 20 plus years.  

It's time to nest in our newly empty nest.  I have come up with a list of ways to nest that are simple, but very forgotten.  I have appreciated of the below steps over the recent weeks.  

1. Start with some great soap and/or shampoo. I’ve been buying soap and shampoo/conditioner in bulk for years and decided it was time to get more carefully crafted soaps found in health food stores.  I took my time shopping for the best scents and brought home a cornucopia of bars to enjoy and sample.  It’s been so fun to try new special things in such an everyday place.   

2. Find some healthy whole grain bread from the bakery.  I have been making peanut butter and jelly for so many years. I’ve basically used the same brand of whole wheat bread the entire time. I happen to love bread and I also try my best to avoid eating it. It was time that I started buying bread that was the best for me and had the best flavor.  I’ve been on the hunt for whole grain bread. I've been to bakeries and farmer’s markets and have been so disappointed by the lack of healthy bread options.  My next creative project is to make some whole grain bread myself.  I’ve found a recipe that seems simple enough to match my lack of baking skill; can’t wait to try it out. 

3. Get some fancy water bottles.  Every parent has had a tower of water bottles in their house to keep their young well hydrated or world wide apocalyptic event.  I am so over all of that!  I’ve never really liked contributing to the destruction of the world through crunchy plastic waste, so I have been on a reusable water bottle quest. For some time, I’ve enjoyed the collapsable, BPA free, plastic water bottles.  They’re great for travel and the gym.  My latest fancy water bottle is glass and has a basket in the middle for infusing. It’s so classy. Some of my favorite combinations have been strawberry/lime, cucumber/melon, watermelon/basil, and plain grapefruit.  

4. Go to nice places to eat. This is not just eating or grabbing a quick bite between events now.  Going out to eat IS the event. Select some nice places and even dress for the event.  Stay for more than a half an hour and get what you want. If you can’t finish it all, take it home for your next meal. Fear not! Your leftovers are safe now that the kids are gone. 

5. Go shopping at stores just to look.  Or take a drive just to enjoy the ride with the one you love. It’s all time well spent.  I've always wondered about those people who go to a store for one thing.  I am now seeing that pattern developing in my life. It's nice not to need so much. Go to a fun store and make it a creative play date.  

This kind of nesting is the best place to start this new chapter together and your kids will notice the fresh face, healthy, happy, hydrated look on your face when they come back home to roost….it's inevitable. 

Please share with me some of your ideas on how to nest again.  I would love to hear them.

Get Up Off Of Your Hash(tag) by Mary Jennings

Note: This post is to complement my informal discussion with my local business networking group, Wednesday, June 26, 2013.  It's a group of wonderful friends and business owners.  I am delighted to share what I know about the subject of hashtags. #

Let me start off saying that I am not a Digital Ninja or any sort of #Professional #Poundsign #Prophetess.  I am simply a artist/business woman who is interested in serving my customers and bringing them the best product I am able to deliver.  I do my best to keep up with the latest in hip hyperspace.  However, I will confess that just a few months ago I was anxiously visiting my mailbox everyday checking to see if the ebooks that I ordered had come in yet.  I found myself getting annoyed at their delay in arrival and the poor customer service of the provider. ..... You did hear me say that they were eBOOKs, right.  In a out-dated data daze I was checking the wrong mailbox.  They were sitting pretty in my electronic mailbox, waiting for me to download and dive into.

The reason I am presenting this description in hashtags in plain english is to help us all get out of our digital daze.  Certain things, hashtags being one, are part and parcel of the digital age.  You need to know how to use them.

We know all about tools in a toolbox, well hashtags (#) are a tool; like the kind you would find in a toolbox.  We can all agree that tools are very helpful.  Some know how to use every tool in the box.  Some only know how to use the key essential tools and some simply hire someone to use the tools for them.  It would be careless to avoid know what tools are out there and what they are capable of achieving even when you are not the one using them in the end.  It helps to be well-rounded.

I am here to brief you on the multi-purpose tool, the hashtag in this blog.  As a matter of fact, I will be making a presentation to my local business networking group on this topic.  As a business owner, it’s particularly challenging to keep track of all the latest and greatest ways to reach your customers.  I will do my best to make this short and simple.

Dear Business Owner: 

Do you want customers?

Do you want to grow in your field?

Do you want to check on you competition?

Do you want people to know how great you are?

Do you want to correct your message to people?

Do you want quick results?

Do you want to connect with your customers and colleagues?

Do you want to expand your territory?

Do you want support?

Do you want your event promoted?

Do you want to be hip at all to what is part and parcel of digital culture?

Then pay attention..

Hashtag Origin:

We really don’t need to know, but you can equate a hashtag (#) to a these terms:

group, topic or channel.  They look like this: #art #hashtag #DC #businessnetworking #bringbacklawandorder #nothashtagbutpoundsign.  You might also hear them paralleled with “trending topic” or “mini-meme”.

In the end, all of this is designed to bring people together and make information easier to find.  Hashtags now are compatible with Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest to name a few.  It’s close to what a tag is in the blogging world.  Hashtags are a great tool, but all tools need to come with a tool safety manual.

Safety First (you don’t want to lose a finger with this tool): 

Using hashtags is fairly simple and risk-free for the user, but they do require some creative thought and risk analysis before putting out there is cyberspace.  There are some hashtag bullies out there.  They are capable of putting together a “bashtag”.  Comedians love the creative use of hashtags that allow them to give emphasis or punchline to their otherwise average message.

Example: The (former) Food Network star, Paula Dean's career has been destroyed by the trending topic #PaulaDeanBestDishes where food and racism were combined to make for a terrible, unmarketable image.  The people’s voices were heard.

Similarly, hashtags like #OccupyWallStreet and #LibyaFeb17 have been used for political purposes to organize groups for promotion and discussion.

Branded hashtags can gain enough interest if they are clever and are free from the potential of backfiring on the beneficiary.  You also need to keep in mind some of the mistakes people make when developing a presence online and avoid those.  One of the biggest mistakes is to leave your profile picture blank or as an egg (twitter).  People will never trust a blank photo.

Benefits of Using Hashtags:

You will experience better ways to search for conversations that matter to you.  Using hashtags on Twitter and now, Facebook will allow you to locate and participate in a real-time networking environment with a focus of others that are in your field.

You can organize your own chat by simply typing your topic with a hashtag like #art, #HVAC and/or #finance.  Doing research is now made easier with hashtags.  You are able to even locate your competition and see what their customers might be saying about them.  You also have an opportunity to contribute to that conversation when you find the right time and content.

One of the best feelings is the feeling of locating your “tribe” online.  It doesn’t have to be a tribe of people in the same region, social, ethic, or religious background.  It can be simply about the direction and the interest common to you that has been identified with a hashtag.

The fact that the potential for hashtags is great and the cost is nothing should be all of the benefit you need to know.

Life without hashtags (from the customer's point of view): 

Your customers might be saying or asking:

“I will lose a piece of paper, but I will never lose my internet service.”  Your marketing is available at anytime and at any hour.

“Let me Google this person and see what I find.”  The more you work on your online presence the easier you will be able to find when you are looked up by your customer.

“Does this person really know what they’re doing?”  The more you write and the more you contribute to conversations, the easier it will be for a customer to see your credibility.

“Are all these testimonials real?”  The testimonials on websites are very nice, but the good word that is not from a controlled source is amazing.

Typical criticisms by the business owner/hashtag creator:

I don’t have time for this.

It’s free, how good can it be?

I get consumed by it and get nothing else done.

All of my customers don’t even use internet, why would I bother.

Who cares?

To hashtag or not to hashtag, that is the question.  It’s completely up to you, but at least, now you know what the heck they’re all about. #enjoy


Do I Even Need That Banana Slicer Thingy? by Mary Jennings



This isn't just another wORKSHOP wEDNESDAY post, this is a bit of my WAR against clutter.



This isn't just another wORKSHOP wEDNESDAY post, this is a bit of my WAR against clutter.  Clutter is one of the small reasons I am in the beginning stages of launching a career in Stand-up comedy.  The clean up is so much easier with the creation of comedy.  You have a composition book of jokes and a rolled up brick wall for shows.



Listen, as much as I love the perfectly useful tool, I think there might just be a limit to needing every tool designed for every job.  What kind of creative person would be if I couldn't figure out how to SLICE A BANANA without the aid of the ever popular Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer?  Although, I must say, I was truly temped to join this cult-like band of consumers after reading the creative customer reviews on Amazon.  (  Check them out, they are really fun and creative.


The real problem is that, of course, I don't want my banana sliced like everybody's.  I want my bananas cut lengthwise to use on my son's Banana/Nutella sandwich and and the long slices taste better.  Banana buttons are fine for a bowl, but not for a sandwich.  I even by my pickles sliced lengthwise.  It's just better.


Instead of getting caught up in the Hutzler 571 frenzy, I have decided to slice the banana using my egg slicer.  Today was my first attempt at ever doing this and it was hugely successful.  I already have the egg slicer and am quite good with it.  I even use this tool for strawberries, olives, and even mushrooms.  It's handy.

Here is the EGG SLICER solution.  You should try it.  Note:  Best results are using a firm banana.

IMG_3252         IMG_3253        YUM!!!

If you have any ideas on ways to help my WAR on kitchen tool clutter, share them with me on the comment section.  Make it fun.  Make it YUM!