8 Tips on How to Have an Effective Meeting at Starbucks

The favorite spot for meetings these days is Starbucks, Peet’s or really any coffee house that has good coffee and enough seating to not intrude on the other people who most likely don’t want to be a part of your meeting. Getting out of the office for a meeting is a great way to shake things up and boost morale.

Here are a few tips on how to have an effective meeting at any coffee house:

1. Order a coffee, OK well you don’t have to order coffee, but no sense having a meeting at a coffee house if your not going to get coffee. And to really boost the morale pay for your employees’ coffee drinks. A little caffeine will do them good.

2. Give the employees 5-10 minutes of open time, just to encourage them to relate to one another.

3. Come prepared with pen and pad to take notes. Its important to take notes, unless you have a secretary to take notes for you, in that case make sure she comes prepared.

4. You must listen! This is the most important thing, always listen when others are speaking. This will encourage others to listen too. Keep in mind this is something you should practice in all aspects of life, not just for meetings.

5. Go around and have each person share what they are working on and ask them to share any areas they may need help or have questions. Questions are always good, so let them feel free to ask away.

6. Come with fresh, new ideas to share and make sure your employees feel the ideas they share are valuable.

7. Remember you have a coffee in front of you, enjoy it. And if the going gets tough, take a sip and enjoy it some more.

8. When the meeting comes to a close make sure and tell everyone “Thank you for coming”.

Follow these tips and at the end of the meeting you will have people saying “Gee we need to have more meetings” and “That was a great use of my time”. Be the cool, hip boss and take your meeting to Starbucks and start feeling the love from your employees.

For more helpful tips on Effective Meetings, check out the article on about.com.

How to Save on Summer Travels

The prices for planes, trains and automobiles keep rising. Last year you would have been able to fly from the east coast to the west coast for around $400 and now you can’t even make it to the mid-west from the either coast without paying twice that. Here are some helpful ways to save money on the summer travels.

1. Check out Hotwire for great deals on hotels. You put in your info, where you want to stay, what nights and then it brings up 2 – 4 star ratings and a price. You don’t know what hotel you will get but if you stick with the 4 star and the area you want, you will get a nice hotel. I did this and got Sheraton Hotel for $64 a night and the cheapest on the Sheraton website is $223.

2. Most hotels are running specials right now to get people to travel for the summer. Stay at Marriott for the weekend and get a Free $25 Visa gift card. Stay at Best Western and earn a $50 Best Western Camp Rock Travel Card. Even Expedia is giving away $25-$50 gas cards with 2-3 night stays.

3. When flying, you may only think about how much the flight is but make sure and check the extra fees that may be attached, like baggage, seat selection, curbside check-in. Southwest Airlines has all these for free. Flights are not cheap so check all airports in the area you are traveling, sometimes one that is a little out of the way can be much cheaper.

4. Check out public transportation in the town you are visiting. Most of the time you can find free shuttles from the airport to your hotel and sometimes free public transportation’s to specific destinations in the city. Even if they aren’t free, public transportation will save you a bundle, and what better way to see the real city life. You can look up the taxi rates by the city you are flying to and find out how much it will cost.

5. When driving, if you want to save a ton, try to avoid going out to eat too often. Take a cooler packed with lots of healthy snacks. Your wallet with thank you and your body will thank you.

6. Buy an Entertainment Book. You can save money on hotels, car rentals, airfare, movies, restaurants, shopping and much more. You can find them for any area your interested in traveling to. Right now they are offering a Free 2008 book when you reserve a 2009 book.

7. When trying to find activities to do in the city of choice, check out the Chamber of Commerce for that city. They have information on Festivals, Parades, Fairs, Parks and just about anything you can think of. Many times the festivals and parks are free along with some great museums and walking tours. County and State Fairs usually have discounts on any given day that make it very affordable, even some days where all you need to bring is a can of food to get in.

These are just some of the ways to save while traveling. I would love to hear from you, how have you saved on your travels?

Happy 4th of July!

All over America today people will celebrate our nations Independence Day. Independence Day honors the birthday of the United States of America and the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776. It is one of those holidays looked forward to all year long, with warm summer weather, fireworks, great food and lots of togetherness with those you love.

Here are 4 tips to help you thoroughly enjoy your 4th of July –

  1. Fireworks Safety Guidelines – These guidelines are recommended to help you enjoy your fireworks while minimizing the risk of an accident to yourself and others.
  2. How to Make Smores – You can’t have a bonfire without smores. Its not even worth it
  3. How to Photograph Fireworks – 10 Fireworks Photography tips
  4. How to Hang the American Flag from Flag Pole – The American flag can be displayed on any day of the year, but it has added significance on Independence Day.

Get out the red, white and blue and show your support for our great country!

The Declaration of Independence http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration.html

Asparagus – Why Does it Make Your Pee Stink?

Why is it that about 15 minutes after eating asparagus your pee has a wretched, foul smell?

This is the big question!

As I asked people if their pee stinks after they eat asparagus, I either got the ” I cant believe you are asking me this” look or the understanding, quick “yes”. I thought of doing an experiment but from some of my responses I decided not to. Most people agreed though and I was happy I wasn’t the only one with this stink. I decided I would find out the answer to this mystery and if there is anything that can be done to stop the stink. Here is what I found out.

As stated on the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board website. There is debate on whether the compound that causes the odor in urine after consumption of asparagus is, Methylmercaptan, a sulfur containing derivative of the amino acid, methionine OR asparagine-amino-succinic-acid monoamide. In either case, the product is formed as a derivative during the digestion and subsequent breakdown of beneficial amino acids that occur naturally in asparagus. Thus making your pee stink. The funny thing about it is that there have been studies done and only about 40% of people have the autosomal genes required to smell it. Now that doesn’t mean it doesn’t stink, because they did do another study that showed 103 out of 103 people did have odorous pee. Can anything be done to stop the stink – Well No, but below are some good reasons why you should keep eating and enjoying asparagus.

Facts

-Asparagus is high in Folic Acid and is a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamin B6, vitamins A and C and thiamin.

-Asparagus is one of the most nutritionally well-balanced vegetables in existence.

-Asparagus is used ethnomedically to treat urinary tract infections, as well as kidney and bladder stones.

Charles Lamb, English poet, says it best – “Asparagus inspires gentle thoughts”.

Check out cafepress.com for some great asparagus tees.

7 Ways to Cool Down without an AC

Most people have air conditioning these days. But unfortunately there are still some of us that don’t. As the summer heat beats down on us less fortunate souls without AC, we look for ways to keep cool. Not always is this easy.

Here is a list of things you can do when facing the melt down of the summer heat.

1. In the morning open up all the doors and windows and let the cool from the night cool down the house. Then close them before going to work and keep the blinds closed. This has seemed to keep the house about 5 degrees cooler then when this isn’t done.

2. After the sun goes down, which can be pretty late this time of year, open up the windows and doors and put a fan in front of either the door or window and let it bring the cool air in. It cools down significantly in a very short time.

3. Install an attic fan, they can cool the house to outside temperatures in just a few minutes. This is a more energy efficient and cost efficient way to cool the home.

4. Buy a Swamp Cooler or Air Evaporator Cooler. There are plenty of options out there for under $100.

5. Put a block of ice in a container behind the fan to cool down the house. A wet wrung out towel hung behind the fan works wonders too. Make sure you have a dish under the towel to let it drip into. If you stick the fan in front of a door or window it makes it even cooler.

6. Try to make meals that don’t call for using the oven. The oven can heat up the kitchen and essentially the whole house by more then 10 degrees. Check out AllRecipes.com for some great summer recipes.

7. Use someone else’s AC. Take a seat at your local coffee house, most have free wi-fi, so you can do some work, check email, even watch an episode of your favorite TV show.

Other cooling ideas? Leave a comment.

Scooters – Are they really Scooterific?

I never really saw a scooter, except on movies usually taking place in Europe but now they are everywhere. With gas prices rising almost daily, people are looking at scooters as a big way to save money on gas. I started checking out scooters, trying to figure out what all the hype is. Being a family of four I have a hard time with a scooter, only two people can fit on one, so why would I buy one? Can it really save that much money over time?

Here are some of the pro’s and con’s to owning a scooter.

Pro’s ~ 80-100 miles per gallon, they can fit anywhere, you wont be left searching for a parking space, they are fairly inexpensive compared to buying a new car and they are fun.

Con’s ~ You cant take your family on a scooter, if you have cold, wet winters you will need to drive your car or get some really nice waterproof gear, only the large 250cc can be driven on the freeway, they are dangerous and sorry to say they make you look a tad dorky.

Check out this article at ,MSN Is a Scooter the answer?. It has a calculator on the side that can tell you how much money you could save over a year. Another calculator that will tell you how many miles you would need to ride a scooter in order for it to pay for itself is: Scooter Money Saver Calculator. I would have to ride a scooter 11,613 miles for it to pay for itself. That’s a lot of miles!

Here is another article that piqued my interest, Scooters – 11 Reasons not to Buy One. This is from the point of view of a man who owns a scooter.

If you want an alternative to the normal scooter and a greener ride, check out the Vectrix. Its a bit pricey at over $11,000 but doesn’t need gas. It has a 20-kilowatt (26.8 horsepower) direct-current motor. Its top speed is 62 miles an hour but the drawback is that it cant be taken on very long trips without needing a charge.

What do you think about Scooters?

How to Safely Dispose of your Electronics

Electronics contain an alarming amount of harmful chemicals. Here is a list of chemicals that are in your electronics: Lead, Mercury, cadmium, polybrominated diphenyl ethers, Polyvinyl chloride, lead acid, lithium, arsenic and the list goes on.

The best way to safely dispose of old electronics is to ship or drop them off at companies here in the US that will correctly recycle or dispose of them.

Here is a list of companies that will do that for you.

Sony’s National Take Back Recycling Program. You can recycle old electronics or rechargeable batteries free of charge.

Dell Recycling. You can recycle your unwanted Dell-branded products for free.

Apple Recycling Program. Apples recycling program is a bit different. Purchase any qualifying Apple computer or monitor and receive free recycling of your old computer and monitor — regardless of manufacturer.

Sharp Toner Recycling. Free recycling for your Sharp toners.

Panasonic has a Refurbishment, Recycle/Exchange Program. It doesn’t say if there is a charge for recycling your batteries, computers or toners.

HP recycling services provides an easy way to recycle computer equipment, printing supplies, rechargeable batteries and other items.

If you want to donate your computer and get tax credit check out eCycling for details and lists of local programs.

If you want to know what state E-Waste laws and bills are under consideration for 2008 check out e-takeback. They also have information on how to find recyclers in your state.

Please consider these options when getting rid of old electronics. Just a little work on your part does a lot for our environment.


Most Brilliant Gadgets of 2008

It was brought to my attention the other day that the year is already half over and we are on the downward slope towards Christmas. So I was thinking about Christmas and gifts and knowing that the time for picking out gifts for those hard-to-buy-for people is coming. I searched high and low for the best gadgets of 2008. I found some great sites with some fabulous gadgets.

For the hard-to-buy-for lady in your life, check out, The Hottest Gadgets in 2008 on geeksugar.com or shiny shiny A girls guide to gadgets. The gadgets on these sites have a lot to do with a womans fashion sense. Chic laptop bags, jazzy cell phone or camera cases, glamorous bright phones, and any other gadget you can think of, made with the stylish woman in mind.

As for the hard-to-buy-for man in your life, check out, Top 20 Gadgets Men Want at AskMen.com or 10 Awesome Gadgets You Should Grab for 2008 on popularmechanics.com. Both sites have some amazing gadgets, from the low-priced small gadgets to the extravagant large gadgets. Some of the gadgets that are on my list are the Polaroid PoGo, Merrell Gatherer Jacket and Nakamichi Sound Space.

By the end of the year I know there will be many new gadgets for the new year but maybe that means we will be able to get these brilliant 2008 gadgets at a lower price. What are some of your favorite Gadgets of 2008?

Starbucks VS Peet’s

These are the two coffee companies I hear most about these days. What are the differences between the two, why do some people like one over the other? Here are some differences I found.

Starbucks has a rewards program. I mentioned this in an earlier post but I will repeat it for those that haven’t read it. Register any starbucks card for amazing benefits. Free refill, free flavors or special milk, free beverage with whole bean purchase and 2 free hrs wi-fi. I love this, it saves you a lot of money when you use a card.

Peet’s has no reward or special incentive program. But they do offer free wi-fi for 2 hrs now.

Score – Starbucks 1 Peet’s 0

Starbucks offers sugar-free, skinny options. I am not a fan of the sugar-free syrups starbucks uses. The after taste is not so good.

Peet’s offers sugar-free and lower fat milk options also. Peet’s sugar-free syrup is the best I have tasted, it has no after taste and it actually tastes good, not like most sugar-free syrups.

Score – Starbucks 1 Peet’s 1

Starbucks is on the list of 100 best Companies to work for. I have heard from many employees that they truly are a great company to work for. They offer a great package, even for those employees that only work part time.

Peet’s isn’t on the list.

Score – Starbucks 2 Peet’s 1

I heard that Starbucks has changed some of its ways of doing things, like not re-steaming milk, using only recently roasted beans and freshly brewed coffee every hour or something like that. But I cant find anything about it on their website.

Now Peet’s has a section on their website under Peet’s Stores called 10 Things You May Not Know. It lists things like, our whole bean coffees have been roasted within 10 days, never re-steam milk, hand scoop beans to the customers order, grind our coffee beans just before brewing and 6 other things. I find this to be very helpful and informative.

Score – Starbucks 2 Peet’s 2

I have had drinks at both coffee companies and I enjoy my regular, fat induced drinks at Starbucks and I enjoy the sugar-free low fat drinks at Peet’s. Both are great companies and make great coffees and I give them both a thumbs up! Why do you like one over the other? Whats your favorite coffee house?

10 Simple Ways to Save Big

Everyone is looking for ways to save money; I have listed 10 of the least painful ways to economize.

1. Pay with cash. Everyone knows it’s harder to see your cash disappear then using a credit card.

2. Brown-bag your lunch. Make it and take it, instead of eating out every day. Here is 25 Tips for Better Brown Bags.

3. Clip Coupons and use Store Reward Cards.

4. Have a garage sale or sell it on Ebay/Craigslist. Most of us have a lot of unused items lying around, why not make some money and clean out the house at the same time.

5. Visit the Library instead of your nearest book store.

6. Disconnect your home phone line, and use your cell phone.

7. Stop your daily trips to your favorite coffee house and make your coffee at home.

8. Quit smoking. Not only is it good for your health, it saves a lot of money. Need Help? Check out this article on How to Quit Smoking.

9. Ride a bike or take a walk. Not only does it save on gas, its also great exercise.

10. Cut your own hair or have someone in your family cut it for you. For helpful tips on how to save on haircuts check out sheknows.com.

Saving money is a way of life. You have to make changes and stick with them. Its OK to go out to eat every once in a while or stop by your favorite coffee shop for a scrumptious latte but its the daily routines we get stuck in that suck the most money out of us. The amount of money you will save by changing what you do daily will amaze you.