Spruce Up Your House by Gardening!

It’s a good time to start thinking and planning ahead for your garden. A neat and tidy front yard can enhance a property, but a beautifully planned one can really make an ordinary house look special.

Some accessories that will make your yard look really good can be very inexpensive. Most of us are on a budget, especially these days when we never know how much it will cost to fill up our gas tank. Sometimes at this time of the year, you can find last year’s garden accessories discounted. Benches or garden lights may be listed for sale before the new stock comes in.

There are some basic rules which apply to every garden. Before you start you should try and afford a soil test. This is quite inexpensive and either your local nursery or the Internet will tell you how to go about it. You can also buy do-it-yourself kits. The second thing is to dig compost into your garden, and now (winter) is a good time.

If you are having a soil test carried out, you will know from the results if you should add any other nutrition to your soil. A soil test will mean you will not be buying the ‘wrong’ shrubs, plants etc for your soil type.

There is one last thing that you should monitor: how long and where the sun shines on different parts of your garden. Plants can thrive without direct sunlight, but only if you plant a type that likes the shade. This can still include many bright, colorful plants (i.e. impatiens), so you can still brighten up dull areas.

Once you decide to buy, you do not want to waste your money by having the plants or shrubs die on you. The soil test will curb some of these mistakes. The other thing to do is to look up, on the Internet or from a book, your particular growing zone. If you live in an area where, for instance, you come into the ‘Hardiness Zone’, it will enable you to pick the type of plant that has the best chance of surviving in your type of climate.

Always put short and stocky plants in front of taller ones. Remember to check the expected height to know this information – do not decide by the height at purchase time. Remember that short and stocky plants are generally tougher and more resilient, so choose more of these.

Try to resist buying plants in bloom at the time of purchase. The ones that still have to bloom will probably be stronger for the transplant process. If you have more shady areas than you wish, think about drastically trimming a tree to get more sunlight onto certain patches. Remember that some plants like a lot of water, so group these together to make the watering less laborious for you.

There are many small accessories that will really make your yard stand out. Obviously a strategically placed bench -or chairs and small table- under a tree will look welcoming and relaxing. A small bridge can really enhance a yard, and you can use it as a focal point for a few reeds or grasses to give the impression of water. Or if you feel daring you can try digging your own long shaped pond. Instructions on this are easy to find in books or on the ‘net.

For cheap plants (in fact free ones!) buy a can of ‘rooting powder’ and offer to swap cuttings with your neighbors. It is not recommended to sneak out at midnight with your scissors in hand!!

A Brand New Recipe For Branding

In a recent article, I told the story of when I was a young whippersnapper, attaining classes at what was then and still is called "one of the more famous hotel schools in North America", the marketing professor gave us an interesting, but quite challenging assignment.

We were to find a hospitality business that marketed itself by using the participation of the owner as part of the "distinctiveness" of the business. At the time, this seemed like a most difficult assignment, because in those days, it seemed that not too many people really stood out in this field. At least that what it seemed like to me in my youth. Or maybe it was just that they did not want to either make a fool of themselves. There seemed little need to drive the world to their door. I chose a very different restaurant enclosed within an old 19th century Mansion in this very cosmopolitan city. It was called Julie's Mansion and was owned and operated by a very eccentric, but wonderful showman who knew that he had to differentiate his restaurant from all the rest. He knew that the best way to do that – after the assumption of great food, entertainment and service – was to turn himself into the "brand."

My job, as a young hospitality student, was to watch him carefully and learn as much as I could. One Saturday night I showed up and Julie was trying to 'insert' himself into the home team's pro hockey uniform. It was immediately obvious that Julie had never played hockey. To see a middle-aged man struggling to get into and then have to have me extricate him from the jersey, equipment, elbow pads et al, was hilarious for a young guy like me, who had been on skates and playing the game since age four. He certainly was not afraid to make a fool of himself. When I showed up that night, he had less than no idea what piece of equipment went where, and was struggling with the shin guards. He had got himself all tangled up with what he thought were hip guards, when in fact they were shoulder pads, worn over the shoulders. It was indeed the first time I had ever seen a 'player' wearing shoulder pads, stretched around his butt.

I helped him get 'dressed'. Next came the taping of the hockey stick. This was really hilarious, watching this fellow trying to figure out the right way to tape a hockey stick without making a mess of it and looking foolish to his customers. He had a special plan for that stick.

I taped his stick and now he was ready. He had on his uniform, equipment and helmet, borrowed from one of the local NHL players who were a frequent guest at the mansion. Now, he actually looked like a real NHL hockey player … in black and white running shoes, sans skates!

Then Julie 'flew through' the different alcoves and floors of the restaurant with a big ball of foodservice aluminum foil as his 'puck'. He stick-handled in and out and between tables, took shots with the aluminum ball off the walls, cross-checked his own waiters trying to serve tables, all the while yelling cheers and the phrase made famous' round the world, by Foster Hewitt : "he shoots …. he scores!" All this, at the top of his lungs. Then he had planned for a horn to sound loudly indicating that the 'period of play' in his imaginary 'game' was over. It was now time to go to the dressing room. In a flash, just like an on-stage magician, he quickly disappeared into thin air, hidden in his office.

My face was covered in tears. I could not stop laughing! The restaurant was in an uproar. Guests were laughing so hard … one guy literally fell off his chair. The waiters were laughing, the guests were laughing, I was laughing and all the while Julie was having a ball too. Here was a restaurateur who made his work fun.

I had not met one of these types before. I really liked and respected this fellow. But I figured then, and still today, that anyone who had that much fun … and made that much money … must know something the others did not. And he did. He became his own brand. 'Distinctive. 'Differentiated. 'There is attractive to people who are sick of seeing the same old, same old every day. People are attracted to differences not similarities. Take a look at what you can do with yours. It's right under your own nose.

© Copyright, Roy W. MacNaughton, 2006

4 Ways to Lose Weight Before and during the Holidays

Here are 4 tips if you are trying to lose weight before or during the holidays.

When the holidays are approaching, you might be worried about how much weight you might gain. Perhaps you started a diet during the summer and are doing well, but now the trips and big holiday dinners are causing concern. Or you lost weight in the spring and now all those July 4th and summer barbecues are looming. Do not worry! You can still lose or maintain your weight through any holiday season.

Drink Only Water

One of the best ways you can lose weight and continue losing even through the holidays is by drinking more water. The majority of what you drink on a daily basis should be water. We have all heard the 8 cup of water a day rule, right? Another recommendation is to drink half your weight in ounces of water each day. Also try to drink a glass of water before and after any other type of drink. So if you are at a holiday party and want a glass of champagne, drink a full glass of water beforehand. You are not allowed another glass of champagne or wine until you have another glass of water. This helps to limit how much alcohol you end up drinking.

Indulge, But Not Too Much

The problem with wanting to indulge during the holidays is that you feel left out if you can not have trees. If you keep denying yourself too much, you might find yourself on Christmas Eve, (or New Year's Eve, or Labor Day weekend), eating everything in sight because you went without for so long. A good way to remedy this is by letting yourself taste everything, but not over-indulging. If you are at Thanksgiving dinner, have a small small portion of each food item, but not a full portion.

Remove 1/3 of Your Meals Immediately

When you are eating out for the holidays, this is another time when you might indulge a little too much. This can make it really hard to lose weight. If you decide to order something that is not as light and fit as it could be, separate your meal immediately. Ask for a to-go container when your food is served. Then take 1/3 of the meal and place it in the container. This decreases how much you end up eating. It also lets the meal last longer.

Top Food With Salsa

Instead of putting cheese, sour cream, or guacamole on top of your food, consider adding some salsa. This adds a lot of seasonings and is extremely low in fat and calories. The majority of salsa is just tomatoes, jalapenos and onions, so there is not much to it.

Shipping Companies’ International Services – What Mode of Transport to Use?

There are a few freight forwarders which ship goods only within the same country. Usually, the shipping companies' international services are quite extensive. Most are able to arrange any mode of product transportation for their clients. You will certainly get the advice and assistance that you require to make a decision, but the final choice is yours. That is why it is important to know as much as possible about the available options and to be able to define your needs clearly.

The choices of transport which you can select from include road, rail, sea and air. Of course, the range of options may be limited depending on the initial location of the goods and their final destinations. For instance, if you want to use shipping companies' international services for transporting goods from New Zealand to Australia or from the US to Europe, you will have just two variants – sea and air. Taking, these limits into account, you can quickly define the criteria which you will base your choice on.

What is the nature of your product? What are the weight, size and volume of the goods? Perishable products such as fruits and vegetables require faster shipping from one country to another so that they can be effectively preserved. In this case, speed should be the leading criterion when making a choice. Most companies export large volumes of goods with reasonable weight and this is the reason why sea transport is often preferred for international shipping. This mode of transport is suitable for goods with odd shapes and sizes. On the other hand, for a small volume of goods even air transport can be cheaper.

How important are speed and safety for you? Undoubtedly, the fastest choice of transport available is air. However, it is typically the most expensive of all shipping companies' international services as well. In this case, you have to know exactly how much faster delivery will cost you and whether you can afford to pay the price.

When it comes to safety, you have to consider the risks associated with the different kinds of transport. For instance, air transport accident is much less likely than a road transport accident. However, in case of a plane crash, the risk of your goods being completely destroyed is times higher.

How much can you afford to pay for the transportation of your goods? It is best to compare the costs of each mode of transport for your particular product depending on its nature, size and volume. This will help you make the right choice between the shipping companies' international services.