CAREER: Do working moms make great managers? YES!

Pin It I read in USA TODAY a very interesting article about if working moms make better managers. Some of it was interesting, and some of it got me pretty peeved. It began with the results of a study in which "A survey last Mother's Day by the professional women's networking organization WorldWit found that 69% would rather work for a mother than a non-mother, and only 2% prefer a non-mother. They say mothers have patience and listening skills, and understand when others encounter family demands." The article goes on to interview a few CEOs, many that were women, who go on to say that hiring working moms has many issues. This was the stuff that got me peeved. It was as if the study said one thing, but business managers want to stick to their own preconceived perceptions what working moms bring to the table when it comes to management. A lot of their past experiences with a few moms were bad, so they made blanket statements about all working moms. Its the "one bad apple spoils it for the rest of us" kind of scenario.

So lets get into what working moms DO bring to the table based on what they bring to their own dinner tables and see how they align from a management perspective. After all, aren't managers just parenting a bunch of grown ups with varying temperaments and personalities?

Patience: Any mom trying to coax their child to get dressed or do their homework understands patience. Now fast forward to the workplace and imagine trying to get your team motivated for a new business pitch or to take on an extra assignment. You learn really fast what my Grandmother always told me, you attract more bees with honey than with vinegar. Mothers find out quickly that losing your temper just escalates a situation or causes complete shut down, whether it is a 5 year old or 30 year old. You learn quickly what I call "the art of the velvet hammer" to motivate others. For some, it takes years to learn. For moms, about 6 months.

Mentoring and Growing: This is pretty much the definition of being a mom in my book. And if you as a manager don't have this as a focus for one of your goals, you are doing yourself and your people a disservice. Subordinates are in their career to grow and learn new things, move up the corporate ladder, become better and get recognition doing so. Managers need to make sure their people are on the right path. Sometimes that has to do with gentle discipline and sometimes rewarding the behavior you do want. It also has to do with constantly communicating to your staff about changes or directions in your department or company. You do this so there are no surprises. So they feel safe, focused and able to grow under your supervision. A great management article I read regarding managing creatives (which is what I do) was titled "Keep 'Em Safe and Warm" showing a picture of a dozen eggs. The article talked about the feeling of safety and being cared for being particularly important for creative people, who need that environment to feel good about sharing their ideas openly –and to come up with more. It is the same for children, and it is our job as mother's to create that environment for them. So creating it in the workplace is second nature to us.

Time Management: If you ever came to my house in the morning before school, you would understand the meaning of time management (or birth control!). If you are a working mother with a full household, you are juggling many schedules and many house chores all at once. If we as mothers don't do this, the household would fall into ruin. There would be no food, no clean clothes, no clean dishes, and the children would be in disarray. No one would get anywhere when they were supposed to and with what they were supposed to bring. It would be a complete mess. Time management IS our life. We could not survive without it. In the article, a CEO talks about one working mom that stayed up all night working on her child's halloween costume, and missed her business flight. That was not because she was a mom. That was just poor planning. But that CEO was using that incident as a way to make blanket judgments against all working moms. Most working moms live by timelines and set routines. Managing not just their timelines, but their household's timelines is part of their DNA.

Budget Management: This goes hand in hand with the above, but a household with children gets very expensive. I am amazed daily how much money I am shelling out for school alone; $5 for a hot dog lunch, $15 for book order, $7 for the field trip, $50 donation to the art program. Most of these are unexpected costs that come up. Then when you add groceries, gas, child care, nights out, bills, you better hope you have enough for that iced mocha you were craving to get you through the day at Starbucks! Budget management is part of a mother's daily life. It is a talent that is developed out of necessity and could be put to work in any career.

Multi-Tasking: Any high pressure job includes needing to multi-task. Juggling timelines, staff needs, meetings, new business prospects, day to day work, administrative duties all need to be done every day. To do your job well, your mind needs to be able to think about many things at once. A working mom's brain has had to go through this transformation already. For instance, one trip to the upstairs means picking up some toys, delivering laundry, bringing up more toilet paper and garbage bags to change the cat litter while up there. Running a household means being very efficient with every step you take. It's asking yourself, "If I am making a trip to another room in the house, can I cross off more things on my mental list of things to do?" It's setting things out at night for the morning rush, folding laundry while watching your child on the back deck, making calls on the commute in, running to the pharmacy or getting groceries on your lunch hour. Working moms have very few hours in the day to GET IT DONE, but we GET IT DONE.

Seeing the Big Picture: There is something to be said for the perspective being a mom gives you when looking at the bigger scheme of things. Before I was a mom, I would just have a heart attack if a client did not like a layout or I made a mistake on something. I was very stressed out all the time about my job. Don't get me wrong, I still am stressed! But work is not the be all and end all of my life anymore. Creating and nurturing another human being kind of puts that in perspective. I guess I do have a more important job, at the end of the day. It does not make me any less dedicated to my paying job, but I can see things from another place-–a place with more understanding, compassion and steadiness. I think this is why many people in the survey said they would prefer to work for a mom. They mentioned that moms had better listening skills and understanding. Why wouldn't these CEOs want those qualities in their leaders?

Commitment: The common theme in the article that jumped out at me was the feeling that moms that work have a lack of a commitment. I would argue that they have MORE of one. First of all, if they leave their beloved children every day, they better make it be for something worthwhile and make a difference, right? I don't think that doing their job at 50% is part of that equation. Yes, do working moms have schedule issues at times? Yes. But all that warrants is creativity with time and dedication. The workplace has changed and technology has allowed it to– America needs to get on board. Work does not all have to be done between 9 and 5, and no one knows that more than a working mom. A working mom would not think twice about working on Sunday if she can get to her child's baseball game by 6 p.m. on a Tuesday. As I said before, WE GET IT DONE. So if it means answering e-mails at 11:00 p.m. while waiting for the dryer to finish so you could get out early for a parent teacher conference, than what's the big deal? Its getting done, and on a mother's personal time. That's commitment, time-management and flexibility all rolled into one. Wouldn't you want someone like that working for you?


GARDENING: Burpee Seed Starter Kit ROCKS!

Pin It SO in an effort to save money this year, I decided to start a lot of seedlings for my flower beds and pots. I started about 70+ plants indoors under a grow light beginning of March. I started them the very old fashioned way of just potting soil and spritzing water on them. As they grew, I gently poured water in the dirt. A week after I started the seeds at home, I decided to try and grow more at my office. I have a big window that faces east which would be great to get some more plants going. So I went to the home depot and found this Burpee Seed Starter Kit. I liked this kit because it was all inclusive (soil material was in pods that expand with water so no mess in an office environment) and it was self watering. A mat is included that soaks up the puddled water in the outer tray and waters the seedlings from the bottom. Considering I am not in the office typically on the weekends, my seedlings would still get the water they need. This approach also prevents disruption to the delicate seedlings. The seedlings at home, which I watered conventionally, became very damaged from watering. It was very frustrating.
As you can compare, my seedlings which have been hardening off outside are SUPER tiny compared to my Burpee Kit ones in my office. This kit is amazing and I highly recommend it for seed growers. 

COOKING: Boboli wheat crusts are a fast and healthy alternative

Pin It
Since I have been on South Beach, pizza is pretty much off limits for me, but once in a while, we make a Boboli all wheat crust with a variety of toppings. If you use low fat cheeses and lots of vegetables with some olive oil, it is quite an easy, healthy treat. Boboli does all the work. They get popped in the oven for ten minutes until things are melted and bubbly. It is a great weeknight meal and healthier than delivery or frozen. Here are two recipes we like.



Pesto Chicken Pizza

1 whole wheat Boboli crust
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
6 slices low fat provolone cheese
1/4 cup store bought basil pesto
2 grilled chicken breasts, diced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup sliced portabello mushroom
1 medium sliced red onion
1/2 red pepper, sliced

Preheat oven to 450˚. Put crust on a pizza sheet or stone. In a pan, heat olive oil and cook garlic until softened. Add red onion and peppers until softened. Then add the portabellos and cook until starting to release juices. Take veggies off heat. Spread pesto evenly over the crust. Sprinkle chicken evenly over the pesto. Then add the veggies evenly over the chicken. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan. Then add the provolone slices. Pop in the oven for 8-10 minutes. Let rest 2-3 minutes and then cut into slices.

Veggie Pizza

1 whole wheat Boboli crust
1/2 onion, sliced
8 oz. sliced mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 red pepper, sliced
1/2 green pepper, sliced
salt & pepper to taste
1 Tbsp. dried basil
1 Tbsp. dried parsley dash dried red chili pepper
About 2 -3 cups favorite pizza sauce (we like Contadina or Muir Glen)
2 cups shredded low fat mozzarella
1/4 cup grated Parmesan


Preheat oven to 450˚. Put crust on a pizza sheet or stone. In a pan, heat olive oil and cook garlic until softened. Add onion and cook until softened. Add the peppers, and cook until starting to soften. Then add the mushrooms and seasonings. Cook until mushrooms start to release their juices. Take pan off the heat. Ladle the sauce on the crust. Then spoon veggies evenly over the sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella and Parmesan. Pop in the oven for 8-10 minutes-or until cheese is bubbly and golden. Let rest 2-3 minutes and then cut into slices.

GARDENING: Make your own tea with herbs

Pin It My previous posts talked at length about drying herbs for cooking. But what I forgot to mention is that you can grow herbs and flowers for steeping. If you are a tea drinker, this is a wonderful way to add color to your garden as well as have flavorful, organic tea throughout the year. I was first exposed to this when I was in Italy staying with my grandmother. In her bathroom, she had mason jars filled with dried, yellow flowers. I asked her what they were and she said they were chamomile flowers for tea. I grew up having chamomile in square tea bags, not thinking much of it. Chamomile is an Italian cure all for many things and is a staple in any Italian household. My grandmother showed me these little yellow flowers and she said that she would walk in the mountains and harvest them wild when she would do her pilgrimages to the churches up there. She opened a jar and had me smell, and let me tell you. The aroma was so strong, it blew our little white, sterile tea bags out of the water!
I tend to grow chamomile for tea throughout the year. I grow them in window boxes and they are a sweet little flower to look at. They smell earthy and sweet at the same time. I clip them biweekly, and dry them as I do my herbs. I keep the flowers in a labeled jar and when I wish to brew tea, I put a teaspoon in a tea sieve and brew a cup. I imagine you can do the same with mint, lemon balm, spearmint, etc. Here are a few links...
http://www.io.com/~wilsone/teatime.htm
http://www.bestdryingrack.com/Drying_herbs_for_tea.html

GARDENING/COOKING: What to do with your herb garden's bounty

Pin It Many people grow herbs during the summer. But often times you have so many plants you don't know what to do with them all. The other sad thing is when it comes to be fall, most people just give up and let herbs alone to freeze and die. Don't let all that hard work and quality flavor go to waste! Here are some things my husband and I do with our herbs. They are not time consuming at all, and well worth it.
DRYING:
Clip back your herbs, and rinse gently your harvest. Lay them flat on some paper towels to drip dry for a couple of hours. Then collect your herbs in a bunch and tie with twine. Hang them upside down using your twine in a cool, dry place undisturbed. Some people put a paper bag over their bunches with some holes punched though for air to circulate. They do this to keep the herbs dust and dirt free. I am not that neurotic, nor do I keep them drying out for very long. Once they are dried and brittle, I flake off and crumble them on a clean piece of paper. Then I bend the paper so that the herbs easily slide into a clean, dry jar. I label the jar and store the herbs all year. Herbs dried this way are more flavorful than the mass produced stuff you get at the grocery store. Who knows how old that bottle of parsley is sitting on the store shelf, being exposed to lovely ultraviolet light making it as tasteless as a potato? You get the picture.

FROZEN:
This is the next best thing to fresh herbs–a great way to taste your summer bounty in the middle of February. It's best to get a lot of ice cube trays for this excercise. I chop up my harvest as if we were going to use it that day, measure the herbs in Tablespoons, and put each tablespoon in each ice cube square. I add water to each square and freeze the tray. After a couple of days, I pop them out and put each herb grouping in it's own freezer bag labeled. Now you have easy Tablespoon increments of chopped herbs for your recipes. I typically just throw the whole cube in frozen when cooking. But if you need less, I would recommend defrosting the cube and taking what you need.

Oils & Vinegars:
Secretly, this is my favorite part of growing herbs. There is something really beautiful and rustic for me to look at herbs I grew in a beautiful olive oil bottle seeping it's yumminess into the oil. Doing infused olive oils is a little more labor intensive and can be unsafe. What I mean is that if you use fresh vegetables or fruit in the oil, it can only sit out for two weeks. After that, things get "fuzzy" in there. So you have to run the oil thru a seive and discard the organic material. Then the oil is fine. Vinegar is a better preservative and can keep fresh vegetables a little longer. Infusing oils and vinegars is not only a great habit for your own herb garden, but for store bought herbs. How many times have I thrown away a box of thyme because I only needed a Tablespoon and the whole box gives me a quarter cups worth? Some of those herbs get pretty pricey.
So, step one is you sterilize your bottle by putting it in boiling water for 5 minutes, then I dry it out. If it is a long bottle, I use a bamboo skewer and a paper towel to get in there and make sure there is not water in the bottle. I rinse my herbs and peel any vegetables. I let my herbs drip dry on a paper towel for a couple of hours. (I find the less moisture on the herbs, the safer you are). I pop all my goodies in the bottle, pour in the olive oil, and let it sit for two weeks. Then, I drain the oil through a fine seive (cheesecloth works well too) into a clean, dry bowl. I discard the organic material. Then sterilize the bottle again in hot water, and dry it really well. Pour your infused olive oil back in the bottle, label it, and voila! You have a little extra something special you can throw into anything while cooking!

Here are some combos I like, but I am sure you can come up with your own!
Italian Flavor- A couple cloves of garlic, 4-5 peppercorns, and any mix of ; sprigs of rosemary, thyme, oregano and basil (sage and basil is another nice combo)
French Flavor- A healthy mix of fennel, tarragon, thyme, rosemary, coriander, peppercorns and bay leaves (sometimes a little lavendar can add a little depth)
Hot Spice-
chopped up dried red chilis (5-6), 10 peppercorns, 2 Tblsp cayenne (feel free to mix and match other dried chilis)
Lemon Citrus- sprigs of lemon balm, a few lemon rinds with the pith removed, a clove of garlic or two and some peppercorns.

GARDENING: Coffee Grounds make Great Fertilizer

Pin It I discovered last year that coffee grounds are a great, natural compost for plants. What is nice about this is that you aren't filling landfills with it. I was told by a gardening friend that coffee grounds tend to make the ground slightly more acidic, so I laid the grounds around my hydrangea, azaleas and rhododendron. Then another gardening friend told me that most of the acidity gets washed away during coffee making, and it is generally good to use on all plants in your garden. So I gave it a try and it worked really well. I laid a cup or two depending on plant size around their drip lines. Then I lightly mixed it in with the soil with my trowel. I found if I did not mix it in with the soil, the coffee grounds started to get a little moldy.
What we do at our home is that we keep a big bowl hidden where we dump our used grounds. I also asked my office to do the same. Another place to get used coffee grounds is through your local coffee shops-even Starbucks®. Starbucks has a program (http://freebies.about.com/cs/free/l/blstarbucks.htm) where you can get a bag of grounds from them free. They pack them in special bags. If your local Starbucks doesn't package them, all you have to do is ask and they will give them to you if they have some. I am sure any local coffee shop would be more than willing to help. Its good for the earth, and it saves them money on waste costs (coffee grounds are extremely heavy in bulk and take up a lot of space). If you live in an urban environment, like me, and you can't make room for a compost bin, coffee grounds are the next best thing!
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