Monday, December 22, 2008

A very Harry Holiday

Best concert EVER!!! Harry Connick, Jr. was ON! He was alluring and gorgeous and magnetic and fun and amazing. It was hard to believe it was the last show of his holiday tour, because he was on such a roll. His jokes were funny, his audience interaction was great (he couldn't get over some cookies that an audience member made for Harry and the band and Lucien).

He joked all weekend at this 3 Boston shows that he couldn't believe we came out to watch him. "If it were me, I wouldn't have come." A great stage performer makes jokes he's used for 3 days sound off-the-cuff. Harry is a great stage performer.

Happy Holidays!

Friday, December 19, 2008

OMG! OMG! OMG! We're going to see Al Gore!

I just bought tickets to see Al Gore speak at Boston's Wang Theater on March 30, 2009, which is, incidentally, the night before his birthday! But he's giving the bday present to US! I've been waiting just YEARS!!!! to see Al speak. I'm so excited I can barely type!

Only slightly less exciting (and only because we've seen him before in concert) is our upcoming Harry Connick, Jr. holiday concert this Sunday night, which I got last-minute tix to. I'm a bundle of anticipation!!!

Harry AND Al! I just can't wait!!! (Only have 2 days to go for Harry!)

Friday, October 31, 2008

We Are the Merry Fiskateers

In the first chapter of Secrets of Social Media Marketing, I wrote about Fiskars, the Finnish maker of fine cutting tools that uses a community of scrapbooking enthusiasts called Fiskateers to evangelize its products to specialty craft retailers. It's a perfect example of how to use social media to create street-level awareness.

Dana, wasted no time in applying to become a Fiskateer, and last weekend she attended a gathering of her fellow crafters in central Massachusetts sponsored by Fiskars. What a bounty of gifts they received! Dana counted no less than 15 raffles for the 28 attendees. She won four of them and carted home about $500 worth of swag. Above is a photo of the goodies.

Fiskars sent lead Fiskateer Kelly Jo as well as one of its "Fiskaneers," which is what the company calls its engineers There was also a representative of Brains on Fire, the media agency that conceived of the community. Fiskaneer Doug chatted with the group about ideas for new products, yielding great insight from dedicated crafters. The attendees were treated to plenty of food and a trip to the nearby Yankee Candle superstore. The spent the rest of the afternoon crafting together.

Did Fiskars overdo it with the sheer quantity of stuff it gave away? I doubt it. These 28 women have already declared their allegiance to the brand, and giving them more incentive to promote Fiskars through their online and offline social networks can only help boost word-of-mouth marketing. The group has been designated "crafting ambassadors," only it's clear that the brand they favor is Fiskars. By harnessing their enthusiasm, Fiskars can extend the value of a few gifts to a much broader audience. The cost of goods for this exercise is cheap compared to the value of good cheer the participants will spread.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Bandit's an inside kitty now

On September 8, I brought Bandit to our vet to get her checked out and then brought her inside. No longer is she sleeping in open garages or under our back deck. Now she's got comfy rugs and cushions and toys and windowsills. And, remarkably, my allergies haven't flared up ONCE since she's been in our home. True, I keep her brushed and I wipe her every now and then with these moist kitty wipes to keep her dander at a minimum, but I also smoosh her and cuddle her and hold her and pet her like crazy and I don't react. Could this be a touch of fate, that I got a cat I'm not very allergic to?

To answer your questions preemptively, no, the bunnies have not met her yet. She's such a sweetie, though, that I'm confident she'll be appropriately pushed around by the bunnies. Especially the toughie, SweetPea! You want the predator animals to be below the prey animals on the pecking order in any house. Otherwise, you have a very dangerous situation.

Her name is Bandit not only because she needed a tough girl name outside, but also because she stole my heart. Damn cat. ;-) Thought you'd like some pictures, so here you go:

I maul Bandit (and she loves it!):

She looks like a very big cat here. She's like 9 pounds and actually a very small kitty:

Bandit's closeup:

My beautiful kitty:

Purrrrfectly happy (she hardly ever stops purring):

"I'm a model? Of course I'm a model. I couldn't care less."

Naptime (it's always naptime):

"Hey, whatcha doing? Is it playtime yet?"

"It's my house now!"

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

They say that many successful Internet voyages begin with family and friends. You tell your circle, they tell theirs, they tell theirs and before you know it, you've got a great audience. I'm hoping my blog friends will tell their extended family and friends about, which I've just spent 3 days updating. It now has a shopping cart, a wedding section, and a streamlined frames section.

Please tell people about the site. It's what I love doing. And I don't know what better thing you can say about an income stream than that.

If you're wondering why I redid the site this week, between 2 big vacations and while researching our book, it's because I've taken an ad on a local deli's paper placemats. There's 800 placemats, I think, which should last Kugel's Deli about 8 or 9 months. My ad is top and center, so should be very visible. I'm hoping to get real business from that investment. I've known all along that my site gets WONDERFUL SEO (search engine optimization) -- that is, Google loves me. But the lack of constant ordering is because I don't have what you expect at a commerce website: a shopping cart. Well, now I do. So with the site now at over 17,000 page views, I decided to add it and give myself a real chance at this.

I hope you'll help me by simply telling people about the site.

I still have much to add to the site -- a greeting card section, for one -- but I wanted to get what I've been working on the past year (the wedding section) online and also add the shopping cart. So stay tuned for more goodies in the months to come. And make sure to navigate all the pages/sections. There's a handy-dandy nav bar on every page so you don't get lost. Tell me what you think about the new and improved site!

Thanks for any publicity you can toss my way! Or feel free to order something... :-)

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Gettysburg Tours are a Travel Bargain

About six years ago I stopped by Gettysburg, PA with my son for a half day while on a trip to nearby Baltimore. I've wanted to go back ever since. Gettysburg is like no other historical attraction I've ever visited. The National Park Service has maintained the site and battlefields in a condition that mirrors almost perfectly their state on July 1, 1863, when the pivotal battle of the Civil War began.

This week I got a chance to go back with the luxury of some time for exploration. A full day at Gettysburg still doesn't do the place justice, but I discovered the history bargain of a lifetime: the private guides provided by the Park Service.

For just $55, you can hire an expert to accompany you in your car for a two-hour tour of the battlefield. After that, you can return at your own pace, armed with the wisdom your guide has imparted. With group bus tours running $26/person, this service pays for itself quickly. Our guide was Mike (left, explaining cannon ballistics for my kids), one of about 150 contractors who work in this capacity, and his knowledge was voluminous. There was barely a question we could throw at him that he didn't answer.

The great thing about tour guides is that they're unique. You can take the same tour with two different guides and learn entirely different things. The last time I toured Gettysburg, we had a group tour guide who was an expert at describing the scene on the battlefield. Mike was great at defining military strategy, and we couldn't have had a better setting for his expertise.

Standing in a wooded area, looking across an open field, we could almost see the Confederate troops advancing on Cemetery Ridge for the fateful Pickett's Charge, the tactic that nearly turned the war in the south's favor but ultimately forced Lee into retreat. The great thing about Gettysburg is that the entire six-mile battlefield is spread before you. You can survey the scene almost exactly as the generals did before the battle.

Mike told us how authorized tour guides have to leap tall buildings to gain NPS approval. He said he had to finish in the top 10 of roughly 200 people who took a written exam, then submit to an oral test and finally a tour of the battlefield with experts who fired all sorts of trivia and trick questions at him. All this so he could earn $25/hour giving tours (I tipped him a well-deserved $20). That is dedication. And the Park Service has no shortage of applicants for these jobs.

I also recommend the Eisenhower house tour. My knowledge of our 34th President was minuscule, and the self-guided 90-minute tour of his final home in Gettysburg gave me new respect and admiration for him. The Park Service guides punctuated the visit with bits of wisdom and skillfully answered all questions without being intrusive.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Podcamp Boston 3

Some good quotes already from Podcamp Boston 3. Paul and I are here, trying to learn something new about social media.

Chris Brogan (in an impromptu talk in the cafe about old media vs. new social media): Now there's Twitter and that's what you do in the bathroom.

David Meerman Scott session now (just a Q&A, but he's great at that) gives us this video (1.9 million views of a toilet company video):

Now if I could just get the damn time to continue the BunnyBlab podcast series! =:-3 (The archives are still valuable, though, so get thee to the podcast series!)

PCB3 is crashing both the Harvard server and Twitter today. Go us!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

4 bunnies and now one (outdoor) cat

This weekend was kind of exciting around the Gillin house. It appears we now have a cat. We think it's a girl kitten and we've named her Bandit. And she's as sweet as can be -- affectionate and playful. She likes me a lot more than Paul right now because Paul tried to pick her up the first time he petted her. I think she felt a little threatened. She's beautiful, too...

Too bad I'm so allergic; I'd have her at the vet and in the house in no time if I wasn't. As it is, she hides out in our next door neighbor's garage (which is open) during the day and comes over for attention and pets and food. Day One was Saturday and she got 2 cans of tuna fish. Then on Sunday, Paul bought her some kitty food, so we put some of that in a dish every night. And there's a dish of water out there waiting for her whenever she wants it. She's been known to lay on our driveway and on our porch.

If anyone in Framingham wants to give this kitty a good home, email me!

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Quebec City, une petite Francais

Paul and I had the wonderful opportunity to go to Quebec City for the 400th birthday celebration of Quebec last week. Once we got there, we realized we were sort of reliving the beauty of our honeymoon in France, as the city is very french.

They're celebrating in Quebec City this whole summer, really, but the festivities were kicked into high gear last week, as July 3 was actually the birthday. We saw Van Halen, an amazing and extended fireworks display, and all sorts of fun receptions thrown by the Canada Tourism Commission, to which Paul spoke on Thursday afternoon. I spent the time he was speaking exploring the city and geocaching. It was rainy on Thursday in Quebec City, but I braved the wet and was rewarded in a few hours with lovely sun.

We stayed in the castle-like hotel, Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, and even had a room with a river view.

See our pix of Quebec City.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Two zoos in three weeks

A few weeks ago, Paul and I were in Toronto mixing business with a bit o' pleasure (like we do). I took his working day to explore the Toronto Zoo. The public transportation system isn't easy to understand if you're a newbie, but once you get to the zoo, it's worth it! (If you want my exact route from downtown to the zoo, email me.)

At any rate, I walked around the zoo for 5 hours (including one 20-minute break to massage my aching feet) and met a very nice zoo member at the reindeer enclosure. We walked around together after that for about half an hour and joked and laughed about the animals. Then I had to leave and he returned to the tigers. I did not get his name, but he helped turn the day from one in which I was enjoying the zoo by myself to an experience where I met a new, albeit temporary, friend.

Then last Friday, Paul and I flew to LA and hung out in Disneyland for 5 days. Ahhh. We stayed at the Grand Californian, which is a very nice hotel, and we stayed in a very nice room. Thank you, Disney!

I could get used to Southern California weather! The sun was hot and strong, the air was refreshing, the pool was delightful, the whole Disney atmosphere was wonderfully fun.

On Monday, Paul and I ventured down to the San Diego Zoo (we'll explore the Wild Animal Park during our next visit to southern California) and spent a glorious day seeing all the animals. We spent something like 5 hours there and only saw 2/3 of the park. It's definitely a multi-day excursion if your goal is to see every animal!

The famous giant pandas were sleeping -- one behind a tree and one with his bountiful bum pointed right at those who came to gawk at him. The okapis (my new favorite wild animal) were busy using their 18-inch tongues to get the very best leaves off the trees.

It was a great day. And Paul bought me a snowshoe hare (not a real one, don't worry!) to commemorate the trip. I didn't have any room for it in my luggage, so I took it on the plane home with me. It was funny watching the woman next to me figure out why on Earth a grown woman with a wedding band on her finger was carrying around a white stuffed bunny. "Is it a gift for someone back home?" (It's amazing how nosy people can be.) "It's a gift for me," I said. She didn't have a good answer to that one.

Again, we were mixing a few days of vacation with a business trip -- Paul spoke to a bunch of Disney execs on Tuesday after a morning visit to the LA Times with his new friend, Ed Padgett. The meeting was just too early for me, so I skipped it. I did want to meet Ed, but it would have meant getting up at 5:30. He sent a great dessert cook book back to me, though. Thanks, Ed!

It was a wonderful trip to LA. Anaheim was lovely. I'm about zoo'ed out, though. For at least a few weeks.

Monday, May 19, 2008

No hitter for Sox's Lester

Just a year after chemo, Jon Lester tonight pitched a left-handed no-hitter. It was also the 24-year-old's first complete game in the big leagues. It was an amazing and electric game, especially during and after the 7th inning, when the buzz about a no-hitter really starts to get going. This kid's story is better than any Olympic Moment the networks can play during the Games. He's an inspiration. There were a lot of people very near tears tonight in Fenway. Paul and I were two of them.

Terry Francona, the Sox manager, apparently has taken a father figure role to Lester, especially during his cancer treatment and recovery and comeback. He said in the press room after the game, "I feel like my son graduated and my son threw a no-hitter." (Terry's son graduated from UPenn this morning, then he came up to Fenway for today's game.)

Jacoby Ellsbury, whom I'm madly in love with both because he's gorgeous and because he's a phenomenal baseball athlete, made what some are calling the play that enabled the no-hitter.

It's a great night in Boston. We're very proud of our Sox tonight.

I didn't marry him for his money. I married him for his Red Sox tickets. ;-)

Monday, April 7, 2008

Happy Birthday, Tech PR War Stories!

Break out the cake and the candles -- well, we only really need one candle. Tech PR War Stories turned one year old (give or take) when Paul and David Strom recorded their 52nd episode of the weekly podcast last Tuesday night. Thanks to Lois Paul, Bill Frezza, Bob Scheier, Steve Hall and Ted Weismann for participating in the roundtable.

The recording/party was great fun. I'm officially the producer (and sound engineer, I suppose) for the podcast series, which focuses on "old and new media technology, ways that tech PR can learn from the mistakes of others and recognize leading-edge ways to communicate using both kinds of media." It's a great podcast series -- the report between David and Paul is great. They bounce perfectly off each other. I think every episode has a good hearty laugh in it by one or both moderators.

Thanks, Dave and Paul, for a great year! Here's to another!

Take a listen to the anniversary podcast!

Friday, March 21, 2008

The 4 Cs can help you save money

Thank you to Abazias for sending us this article! We thought we'd like to help those of you looking at diamonds for engagements, anniversaries, or "just because" and provide you with some good advice for selecting diamonds.

If you’ve never shopped for diamonds before and you are looking for an engagement ring or fine jewelry, you will want to start educating yourself on the 4 Cs of diamonds. The 4 Cs stand for cut, clarity, color, and carat. It’s these four characteristics of diamonds that determine how much your stones are worth. Finding out about the various gradings that the diamond industry uses to help define the quality of diamonds is as easy as getting online. Some online merchants have software applications that allow you to pick your own diamond for an engagement ring by modifying the 4 Cs. You can instantly get an idea of how one choice affects the price of your engagement ring versus a different choice.

For instance, maybe you want a very large carat diamond. You typically pay more for a large carat diamond than a smaller one. However, not all large diamonds are alike. Some large diamonds have a poorer clarity or a different color that can affect the final price you pay. By understanding what choices help you to pick exactly the type of diamond you want, you save money. It may be you don’t care how big the diamond is, and would prefer a smaller stone that has a pear-shaped cut. Again, you can lose the carat weight in favor of cut and clarity. And, don’t think that just because you are picking a colored diamond that it costs more. There are fancy-colored diamonds like pink and blue that are much more expensive than white diamonds, but there are also fluorescent, yellow, and brown, diamonds that cost less. Figure what characteristic appeals to you more and then use the 4 Cs of diamonds to help you shave money off the bottom line.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

The Stepford Mogul

Old folks like me remember an early 1970s book and cult film classic called The Stepford Wives (remade in 2004) . The plot revolves around a Connecticut town where everyone lives in wedded bliss and all the women are perfectly submissive and attending to their husbands. It turns out that the husbands have actually been replacing their wives with robots who do nothing but cook, clean and attend to their every need.

After spending the last few months learning about Martha Stewart, I'm convinced that America's Homemaker is the embodiment of the Stepford story. Dana is very crafty and she cooks a good meal, but she's never been all that domestically inclined. A few months ago, however, she began watching a lot of Martha Stewart on TV and a change came over her. All of a sudden, she's baking cookies, sewing and offering to cook gourmet meals with startling frequency. I was at first a little stunned by these developments, but now I'm learning to love them.

So here's my theory: The Stepford Wives story is indeed coming true, only the instigators aren't men in a small Connecticut town but rather a female ex-con media titan. Whether intentionally or not, Matha has accomplished in flesh and blood what those sinister Connecticut husbands required high technology to do. She’s made women want to be domestic.

Martha, you rock!


I think I forgot to post a picture of our wedding rings... (Yes, this is my wedding ring, not my engagement ring!)

Monday, March 17, 2008

George Carlin -- back in the funk

For a Christmas present this past holiday, Paul gave me the complete George Carlin DVD collection, a wonderful present for when I need a laugh. Which, let's face it, is pretty much all the time -- laughing's good for the soul.

So we've watched a few of the shows from his early days and we've watched the show that I fell in love with (and memorized pretty damn quickly) when I was about 15 called Jammin' in New York. Every time we fly (except for a few times about a year ago when Paul got annoyed with the repetition, although he's back now to being a fan), Paul asks me to do the Carlin bit about the airline safety lecture. I can do it pretty much word for word, including intonation, if he gets me started. All other Carlin performances are based upon the extremely high comedy level of that show, IMHO.

At any rate, I've loved watching Carlin and laughing with him pretty much all through the '90s until he hit that rough "not so funny" spot when he came back from his post-Brenda-dying (his wife -- it hit him really hard; they were pretty much madly in love and inseparable their entire marriage, so I gather) when he was too angry and serious and lost that certain element that made him funny in the first place. For the last few years, however, he's been a lot funnier.

Until this last bit. Don't get me wrong -- there was one point in his show, which we saw live at Boston's Wang Center on Saturday night with Alice and Ryan -- where I couldn't so much breathe because I was laughing so hard. But this show was definitely more political and religion-bashing (read: atheist?) than I've heard him in a while. It wasn't, as Alice said, his best. He's funnier when he's playing with words and common experiences and the human condition than when he's declaring there is no heaven or hell or that bullshit is the glue that holds the country together. He's recently celebrated his 70th birthday and comes off now as an angry old man. Which stinks. I think he has a lot of comedy left in him, especially retrospective stuff now that he's older, but I think it's not coming out so much in his current tour.

Sometimes the second time you see someone, their act is funnier. I'll have to Tivo his HBO special, It's Bad For Ya, and watch it again. I was more entertained by the performance Saturday night than my three companions were, but was disappointed there were none of his famous lists.

George: Bring back the lists! No one does that better than you! And thanks for four decades of funny material!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Cute proposal video

Paul's proposal to me was just perfect for us (he's a genius that way). But there are tons of wonderful proposal stories out there, like this one:

Comment if you want to share your story (or have found another proposal video).

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Boston Flower Show

Paul and I went to the Flower Show, as we have for the past few years, this past weekend. Go over to our slideshow and see the pix that Paul took.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Martha Stewart's 50 Wedding Reception Tips

Since the wedding, I've been a devoted Martha fan. If I had gotten into her before the wedding, I never would have gotten off the Internet to do the actual planning and craft making! I would have been deciding on which this or that to pick. Sometimes more choices are not better. :-) Martha's Wedding section is just an amazing collection of ideas and crafts and tips. If you're planning a wedding, you may want to start with her 50 wedding reception tips. Feel free to explore from there. I promise it'll be hours of fun!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

We heart Jane Monheit

For our wedding reception, we played all standards -- good old love songs. The two female artists we played were Ella Fitzgerald and Jane Monheit. Well, this past Saturday, we got to see (a very wonderfully pregnant) Jane at Scullers Jazz Club in Boston. She was just amazing. She had two shows on Friday and two on Saturday, so she only played about a hour and a quarter (what with being pregnant and all).

Her voice can melt a glacier. She's so smooth and has a master's control. It was just great to hear her in person and to hear her quip with the audience. Thanks, Jane, for a great show! And good luck with the baby!

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Merry Christmas!

So, we finally got around to taking our tree down this past Sunday, but we wanted to take a picture of it before we disassembled so we could wish everyone Merry Christmas! (Even today, 9 days after Christmas has officially ended.)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Stealing ideas, or Wedding program fans

Since the Modern Bride article is called "Wedding Identity Theft" and is all about stealing ideas from other weddings, I thought I'd come clean about where I got the idea about our wedding program design. I stole it.

My brother Brett got married about two months before I did -- to a wonderful woman named Sara. They were joking with me the whole day about stealing all of their ideas, but really I only took one -- the program design. There's nothing wedding guests need more during an outside summer ceremony than a fan to move the air around. I added ribbon, tried to be a bit more whimsical with what we called "The Cast of Characters," and changed the colors and theme to match our wedding.

The key is asking before you take. Let the person know you are really trying to flatter them by borrowing their very creative idea. And limit that borrowing to one idea per friend. If you borrow six ideas from the same person, not only will you look like you can't come up with an original idea on your own, but you'll also probably annoy the pants off the person you're trying to compliment.

On that note, on with the pictures!

Here is Sara and Brett's program:



And here are pix of Paul's and mine:



Thursday, January 3, 2008

Modern Bride Feb/March issue hits newsstands!

As I've posted previously, I was interviewed for an article in Modern Bride magazine. It's just a small mention, but it's not every day I get quoted in a national magazine. Check out the Feb/March issue's story called "Wedding Identity Theft" on page 526 for a familiar name. Thanks, Brooke!

Centerpieces, the final picture

Months ago while I was making them, I posted about the centerpieces and the pictures of the each part. Here's the final picture, complete with floating flowers (a sunflower in the middle, surrounded by daisies). Underneath each was the little potted flower arrangement I had made.