New Year’s Eve 2013

I’ve spent the past two New Year’s Eves, quite contentedly I’d like to add, having some wine and cooking a nice dinner with a couple friends. Long gone are my days of being able to party till 4 a.m. on a weeknight and wake up at 6 a.m. to exercise before work. My liver and body have taken a firm stance that they are not rock stars and refuse to be treated as such.

Staying up until 9:30 p.m. is late for me nowadays. I’m not talking 9:30 get in bed and watch TV or read for an hour. I’m saying, I like to be in bed, lights out, sleeping BY 9:30. I’ve found I need about eight hours of sleep, but prefer nine or ten. This does not bode well for a holiday that doesn’t even really begin until midnight.

Sadly, my friends this year want to go out to a club. Besides the fact I can barely stay up that late, here is my problem with New Year’s Eve. It is my least favorite night of the year to go out. You pay at least a $20 cover, even at a place that doesn’t have a cover on a typical weekend. They charge double for drinks, that you have to wait in line forever for. Ugh.

Writing this blog is making me realize what a horrible idea I have agreed to. I like to dance. I like to party. I just would like to do that all and be home in bed early. Oh well, I will just nap all day, put on a sparkly dress and have a good time. If you see me out past midnight, give me a high five because it’s going to take a miracle and a lot of caffeine.

Ham I Am

Of all the wonderful things to enjoy during the holiday season, one of the ones I like look forward to the most is Christmas dinner. Of course, the giving and receiving are fun, but slicing open a professionally smoked turkey (if you consider me a professional — which you probably shouldn’t) and plating it up with multiple sides is a way of eating I reserve for holidays only.

In addition to the turkey, my family always enjoys getting a ham as well. And not just any ham, we go for the HoneyBaked Ham. The real deal. We reserve our ham of choice, go wait in line to pick it up on our scheduled day, throw down our coupon at the register and walk out to a honey-baked world.

Now, traditionally my wife, son and I do Thanksgiving out. That could mean at a restaurant or at someone’s home, but Thanksgiving is not a day where we normally do the actual cooking. Which is nice, but once we finish our meal, that’s it. No leftovers.

Boo! To state it as eloquently as possible: Leftovers. Are. Awesome. That’s why I get excited when we do Christmas dinner at our house. Once we’re done, we get to do it all over again the next day.

This is where the ham comes in. As I already stated, I love the deliciousness of a good ham over the holidays, but we tend to buy them on the big side. That means the leftovers keep going, and going, and going. So as much as I love it, by the time New Year’s Day rolls around, I’m hammed out. I’ve had more than my fair share and I’ll be content until the next holiday season.

Obviously you can file this under “first world problems,” but over hamification is still a very real problem for many Americans. I just wanted to share this with everyone in case you happen to suffer from the same debilitating disease. Remember: You. Are. Not. Alone.

Now, if you’ll please excuse me, I have a ham sandwich waiting on me. Happy Holidays!

Who Doesn’t Like a Good Christmas Movie?

I like Christmas. And I like movies. Therefore, it stands to reason that I like Christmas movies. If you’re anything like me, you have your list of Christmas movies to watch every holiday season. So I figured I’d do my part to share a little holiday cheer by giving you a rundown of my “must watch” Christmas movies.

  1. Christmas Vacation – Let’s be honest, does it get much better than Clark Griswold and the family? I’ve probably watched this movie over a hundred times and the one-liners never get old. And if you somehow don’t like this movie….well, you serious Clark?
  2. A Christmas Story – To me, Christmas is not officially here until TBS does their 24-hour A Christmas Story marathon. I think what’s especially great about this movie is that everyone can relate to Ralphie’s quandary of whether or not he was going to get the perfect Christmas gift. What was your “Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle” when you were growing up?
  3. It’s a Wonderful Life – I remember when I was growing up my Dad would tell me over and over again how I needed to watch this movie. It took me a while because between my Dad telling me to watch it and the fact it’s in black-and-white I just figured it was only for “old people.” I now realize I was either way wrong or I’m officially an “old person” because I love this movie. Plain and simple, it’s just a great story.
  4. Home Alone – Kevin McAllister brings out the 8-year old in me every time I watch this (I was eight when I first saw this and honestly, used to look a lot like Macaulay Culkin). Call me juvenile, but all the bodily harm done to Harry and Marv is just as funny to me now as it was over 20 years ago.

In case you’re wondering, I have watched one of these four movies to this point (Home Alone) so I have my work cut out for me in the next few days. Sounds good to me.

So now you’ve seen my list, what’s on yours?

 

The Baker’s Dozen

I love the American folklore tale of how the baker’s dozen came to be. It’s a classic story with the ever-relevant lesson of “paying it forward.” This version of the story surrounds Saint Nicholas, saint of merchants, sailors, and children. But another version, dating back to 19th century Britain, explores the theory that bakers used to give 3 loaves to vendors, while only charging them for 12 which allowed the vendor to then sell all 13 at full price; thus, they’d earn a 7.7% profit per loaf.

Whichever story holds true, the lesson to be learned remains the same.

A Baker’s Dozen: A New York Christmas Story

Retold by S.E. Schlosser

Back in the old days, I had a successful bake-shop in Albany. I had a good business, a plump wife, and a big family.  I was a happy man.  But trouble came to my shop one year in the guise of an ugly old woman.  She entered my shop a few minutes before closing and said:  “I wish to have a dozen cookies.”  She pointed to my special Saint Nicholas cookies that were sitting out on a tray.  So I counted out twelve cookies for her.
The old woman’s eyes narrowed when she saw the cookies.  “Only twelve?” she asked.  I knew at once what she wanted.  There were some bakers in town who sometimes gave an extra cookie to their customers, but I was appalled by the custom.  What man of sense would give away an extra cookie for free?
“I asked for a dozen cookies, and you only give me twelve,” the woman said.
“A dozen is twelve, my good woman, and that is what I have given you,” I replied.
“I ordered a dozen cookies, not twelve,” said the old woman.
I was upset by this demand.  I always gave my customers exactly what they paid for.  But I was a thrifty man, and it was against my nature to give away something for nothing.
“I have a family to support,” I said stiffly.  “If I give away all my cookies, how can I feed my family?  A dozen is twelve, not thirteen!  Take it or leave it!”
“Very well,” said she, and left the shop without taking the cookies.
From that moment, my luck changed.  The next day, my cakes were stolen out of my shop, and the thieves were never found. Then my bread refused to rise.  For a week, every loaf of bread I made was so heavy that it fell right through the oven and into the fire.  The next week, the bread rose so high that it actually floated up the chimney.  I was frightened when I saw the loaves floating away across the rooftops.  That was the first moment I realized I had been bewitched.  It was then that I remembered the old woman who came to my shop, and I was afraid.
The next week, the old woman appeared again in my shop and demanded a baker’s dozen of the latest batch of my cookies.  I was angry.  How dare she show her face in my shop after all the bad luck she sent my way?  I cursed her soundly and showed her the door.
Things became worse for me then.  My bread soured, and my olykoeks (donuts) were a disgrace.  Every cake I made collapsed as soon as it came out of the oven, and my gingerbread children and my cookies lost their flavor.  Word was getting around that my bake-shop was no good, and one by one, my customers were falling away.   I was angry now, and stubborn.  No witch was going to defeat me.  When she came to my bake-shop a third time to demand a baker’s dozen of cookies, I told her to go to the devil and I locked the door behind her.
After that day, everything I baked was either burnt or soggy, too light or too heavy.  My customers began to avoid my cursed shop, even those who had come to me every day for years.  Finally, my family and I were the only ones eating my baking, and my money was running out.  I was desperate.  I took myself to church and began to pray to Saint Nicholas, the patron Saint of merchants, to lift the witch’s curse from myself and my family.
“Come and advise me, Saint Nicholas, for my family is in dire straights and I need good counsel against this evil witch who stands against us,” I prayed.  Then I trudged wearily back to my empty shop, wondering what to do.
I stirred up a batch of Saint Nicholas cookies and put them into the oven to bake, wondering how this lot would turn out.  Too much cinnamon?  Too little?  Burnt?  Under-done?  To my surprise, they came out perfectly.  I frosted them carefully, and put my first successful baking in weeks onto a tray where they could be seen through the window.  When I looked up, Sinterklaas (Saint Nicholas) was standing in front of me.
I knew him at once, this patron Saint of merchants, sailors, and children.  He was not carrying his gold staff or wearing the red bishop’s robes and mitered hat that appeared on the figure I had just frosted on my cookies.   But the white beard and the kindly eyes were the same.  I was trembling so much my legs would not hold me, so I sat down on a stool and looked up at the Saint standing so near I could have touched him.   His eyes regarded me with such sadness it made me want to weep.
Saint Nicholas said softly: “I spent my whole life giving money to those in need, helping the sick and suffering, and caring for little children, just as our Lord taught us.  God, in his mercy, has been generous to us, and we should be generous to those around us.”
I could not bear to look into his eyes, so I buried my face in my hands.
“Is an extra cookie such a terrible price to pay for the generosity God has shown to us?” he asked gently, touching my head with his hand.
Then he was gone.  A moment later, I heard the shop door open, and footsteps approached the counter.  I knew before I looked up that the ugly old woman had returned to asked me for a dozen Saint Nicholas cookies.  I got up slowly, counted out thirteen cookies, and gave them to the old woman, free of charge.
She nodded her head briskly.  “The spell is broken,” she said.  “From this time onward, a dozen is thirteen.”
And from that day onward, I gave generously of my baking and of my money, and thirteen was always, for me, a baker’s dozen.

Read more at http://www.todayifoundout.com/index.php/2010/09/why-a-bakers-dozen-is-13-instead-of-12/#wkeCtRmOFZ6CK7mK.99

http://americanfolklore.net/folklore/2008/11/a_bakers_dozen.html

 

Christmas Traditions

As a fairly new family with a small child, my husband and I still debate our Christmas traditions. Will it be turkey and dressing or Alaskan king crab? Do you wrap your Santa presents or do you leave them out un-wrapped in front of the fireplace. Each family has traditions they hold near and dear to their heart but once you look around the world, you realize your individual family differences are quite so different.

Christmas in Africa

Christmas day begins with groups of carolers walking to and fro through the village, along the roadway, by the houses of the missionaries, singing the lovely carols known the world around. Often people may be awakened by a group of carolers beginning to converge on the house of worship. They return home to make final preparation as to the clothes one must wear and also as to his offering for the Christmas service.
The most important part of their Christmas worship service is the love offering, this is the gift in honor of Jesus. Then at about 8 or 9 o’clock everyone makes their way to the celebration of the birthday of Jesus.

Christmas in Belgium

In Belgium there are two Santa Claus figures. There is St. Niklaas and Pere Noel.
Pere Noel visits those who speak the Walloon language, in fact he visits them twice. The first time is on the December 4th he does this so he can find out which children have been good and which children have been bad. If a child is good he returns on December 6th with the presents the good children deserve if they were bad they are left twigs. The good children usually received candy and toys. With the bad children he leaves the twigs inside their shoes or in small baskets that are left just inside the doorway.
Pere Noel visits those who speak French. He visits with his companion Pere Fouettard and asks about whether the children have been good or bad. If they have been good they receive chocolates and candies if they have been bad they are more likely to receive a handful of sticks.

Christmas in Egypt

On the Eve of Christmas everyone goes to church wearing a completely new outfit. The Christmas service ends at midnight with the ringing of church bells, then people go home to eat a special Christmas meal known as fata, which consists of bread, rice, garlic and boiled meat.

On Christmas morning people in Egypt visit friends and neighbors. They take with them kaik, which is a type of shortbread, which they take with them to give to the people they visit and eaten with a drink known as shortbat.

For more interesting Christmas Traditions around the globe visit http://www.santas.net/aroundtheworld.htm. If you are still making your way and finding your own traditions – good luck!

“A Thousand Christmas Trees I Didn’t Know I Had”

 “A Thousand Christmas Trees I Didn’t Know I Had.” That’s my favorite line of Robert Frost’s poem titled “Christmas Trees” which he sent in lieu of a Christmas card to friends, family and people in the publishing industry.

About Frost’s chapbooks: If you want to know more about Frost’s annual chapbooks, this site tells the story of how they came about.

The poem itself: To enjoy “Christmas Trees,” Robert Frost’s poem from his first Christmas chapbook, or Christmas Circular Letter, as he called it, keep reading:

The city had withdrawn into itself
And left at last the country to the country;
When between whirls of snow not come to lie
And whirls of foliage not yet laid, there drove
A stranger to our yard, who looked the city,
Yet did in country fashion in that there
He sat and waited till he drew us out
A-buttoning coats to ask him who he was.
He proved to be the city come again
To look for something it had left behind
And could not do without and keep its Christmas.
He asked if I would sell my Christmas trees;
My woods—the young fir balsams like a place
Where houses all are churches and have spires.
I hadn’t thought of them as Christmas Trees.
I doubt if I was tempted for a moment
To sell them off their feet to go in cars
And leave the slope behind the house all bare,
Where the sun shines now no warmer than the moon.
I’d hate to have them know it if I was.
Yet more I’d hate to hold my trees except
As others hold theirs or refuse for them,
Beyond the time of profitable growth,
The trial by market everything must come to
I dallied so much with the thought of selling.
Then whether from mistaken courtesy
And fear of seeming short of speech, or whether
From hope of hearing good of what was mine,
I said, “There aren’t enough to be worth while.”
“I could soon tell how many they would cut,
You let me look them over.”

“You could look.
But don’t expect I’m going to let you have them.”
Pasture they spring in, some in clumps too close
That lop each other of boughs, but not a few
Quite solitary and having equal boughs
All round and round. The latter he nodded “Yes” to,
Or paused to say beneath some lovelier one,
With a buyer’s moderation, “That would do.”
I thought so too, but wasn’t there to say so.
We climbed the pasture on the south, crossed over,
And came down on the north.
He said, “A thousand.”

“A thousand Christmas trees!—at what apiece?”

He felt some need of softening that to me:
“A thousand trees would come to thirty dollars.”

Then I was certain I had never meant
To let him have them. Never show surprise!
But thirty dollars seemed so small beside
The extent of pasture I should strip, three cents
(For that was all they figured out apiece),
Three cents so small beside the dollar friends
I should be writing to within the hour
Would pay in cities for good trees like those,
Regular vestry-trees whole Sunday Schools
Could hang enough on to pick off enough.
A thousand Christmas trees I didn’t know I had!
Worth three cents more to give away than sell,
As may be shown by a simple calculation.
Too bad I couldn’t lay one in a letter.
I can’t help wishing I could send you one,
In wishing you herewith a Merry Christmas.
–Robert Frost

Winding Down for the Holidays – Christmas Cookies

For the week between Christmas and New Year’s, the Good Company Blog will take a break from talking about work. Instead, the people at Tribe will share their favorite songs, stories and poems of the season.

Happy Holidays from Tribe!

Christmas Cookies

In my house, Christmas cookies are more of a tradition than a treat. My mom’s family’s recipe is a traditional St. Nicholas Spiced Cookie dough. We make them every year and, while we always enjoy eating the dough, the cookies never turn out how we’d imagined they would.

These are our cookies for Santa.  Our cutouts never look very good (too angel heavy – not enough Christmas trees) and the dough softens so quickly that they’re mush by the time we can get them to the oven.

The “classic” Christmas cookie is a decorated sugar cookie. This is all well and good (and I certainly enjoy a good sugar cookie from time to time), but if my family made sugar cookies instead of St. Nicholas Spiced Cookies, it just wouldn’t be Christmas.

See, it doesn’t matter what the cookie tastes like or looks like. What matters is that it’s what my family does. What matters is that we try new ways every year to firm up the dough (always a failure). What matters is that my sisters and I get more and more creative with the decorating every year. What matters is that we do it together and that it’s special to my family.

So you can keep your sugar cookies. I’m making St. Nicholas Spiced Cookie dough, angels and all!

 

Insight Seven: Honesty is Critical

This is the last of seven weekly posts sharing insights from a national study on communicating with frontline and field employees. Tribe recently fielded quantitative and qualitative research with non-desk employees in companies with 1,000 or more employees. The complete white paper is available for download on the Tribe site.

Keep your employees in the loop by communicating with them honestly and frequently. While its true the entire company doesn’t need to know every last detail of what’s happening in the company’s day-to-day operations, it’s important to remember to keep them in the loop as much as possible.

Few employees feel they are in the know. When respondents were asked if they felt that corporate communications were upfront and honest, very few agreed wholeheartedly. While some felt communications were trustworthy, most respondents were skeptical, stating they felt only good news was communicated to employees, if any, and others said they took most communication with a grain of salt.

Honesty is the best policy. Survey respondents collectively agreed they wanted to hear the truth, to be treated like humans, and for employers to “Just keep it real.”

Here are some useful tips to keep in mind:

Put yourself in their seat – no matter where they sit. If you want all employees (especially frontline and non-desk) to embrace and live your brand as genuine brand advocates, it’s critical to show them the same courtesy and respectfulness in return. How can they successfully advocate without open and honest communication? If things aren’t so great, they would mostly likely give a little more of themselves, and if things are good, knowing that can keep the positive momentum going.

Don’t forget to include all employees. This means corporate and non-desk workers combined. Customize your messaging so it will reach across all departments and levels.

Consider a campaign that takes a multi-faceted approach. There’s more than one way to spread a message effectively even if it’s not the best of news. Emails and printouts are fine, but they sometimes get overlooked. The more thoughtful and intriguing you can be in delivering your message, the better. Make it more memorable by printing a special piece, adding a little color, or trying out a new medium. Consider stickers, posters, mirror clings, door or window decals to spice things up around the workplace.

In case you missed them, check out insights one through six in our archives. For additional and future insights, subscribe to the Good Company Blog by clicking on the RSS icon in the About section of our blog.

To discuss ideas or questions about how best to reach non-desk employees in your company, call us, we’d be happy to help!

 

Change Management: How Communicating Keeps the Boat Afloat

Times of change can be scary. Employees hear rumors, start playing the telephone game and before you know it, Chicken Little is running around screaming, “The sky is falling!”

Thoughtful communication to employees can make all the difference. Including everyone in the process from the beginning naturally encourages employees to embrace the change and jump on board. Companies sometimes do nothing or as little as possible because they don’t want to rock the boat. The irony is it’s the surest way to sink the Titanic.

It can be tricky to determine how your company culture should play into your communication tactics. It would be out of character for a company that communicates to employees in a casual and friendly tone to all of the sudden button up and hide in a time of change.

Remember your culture and values when communicating change. Now’s the time to use a bit of the goodwill you’ve stored up over years of building trust through communication.

For more information on how to keep your employees in the loop, check out this previous blog on communicating change. 

The Business Advantage of Thank You

Your mother was right. It’s important to say thank you. Oddly, people often skip that basic courtesy in a business environment.

Maybe it’s a result of the attitude that we should be all business at the office. As if being buttoned up leaves no room for effusive emotion — you know, like a two-second email or murmuring a quick “Thanks” in the hallway.

Or possibly we’re in too much of a hurry. In almost all cases, that’s a lame excuse and a warning sign that we are too busy.

The fact is that expressing your gratitude is a business basic. Your assistant stays late to get something finished up for you? Your boss gives you a compliment on your work? Both demand at least a nominal “thank you.”

Common courtesy is important in business because it oils the machine. It makes people feel appreciated. It lets people know you noticed their contribution. It builds equity in good feelings to cushion any future conflicts. And it makes them more willing to help you out the next time.

Do You Really Need to Say Thank You? is the title of a a recent post by Peter Bregman in the Harvard Business Review. He tells a great story that underlines the importance of expressing thanks. And offers a cautionary tale about the potential consequences of not making the effort.