Bike To Work! And not just once a year

National Bike to Work Day

If you haven’t yet registered for Bike To Work Day 2014, don’t fret! There’s still time. The big day is June 25th this year, and as of this posting, more than 10,000 commuters have registered. Colorado is notorious for unpredictable weather (which is why our Bike To Work Day falls later than much of the country). That can make it difficult to reliably commute by bike, especially if business attire is required where you work. But it also means that we have some biking friendly weather even in winter.

One trick for getting around the sweaty/wrinkled clothing problem is to bring a garment bagwith shirts/slacks/skirts/what-have-you on a day when you’re not biking and leave them in the office to change into. And biking to work even a couple of days a week can be a big gas (read:wallet) saver. I was curious what kind of difference it made and found this great commute savings calculator.

My husband has started biking to work downtown a few days a week since early this spring, and while it doesn’t really end up saving much money since he otherwise rides the light rail to work (subsidized by his employer), he really enjoys it! An added perk is that he gets to sleep in a little since he doesn’t have to get up extra early to exercise!

If you need help getting started, check out a city bike map. Don’t have a bike? Check out Denver’s B-cycle bike sharing system!

So there you have it. It’s good for the environment, your heart, waistline and wallet. And you may even find yourself saving time on your commute! What’s not to love?

Do you already bike to work or will you be giving it a try?

Throwback Thursday – In A Can!

With the controversy regarding high fructose corn syrup in recent years, companies like Pepsi have answered with products like the Throwback beverages. Also available in Mountain Dew, the line is sweetened with beet sugar in place of HFCS. And while these products may be enjoying a successful run, straying from the standard hasn’t always been so successful. Here’s a look at a few notable beverage flops.

New Coke

Speaking of High Fructose Corn Syrup: The last time Coca-Cola tried to replace it with sugar, the result was the disastrous New Coke. The public backlash (albeit from a particularly vocal minority) led Coca-Cola to return to the original recipe, rebrand it as Coca-Cola Classic, and try to forget the three month period where New Coke was on shelves. In the end, sales of Classic Coke skyrocketed, so it doesn’t end badly. But lesson learned: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

 

Crystal Pepsi 

It’s pretty clear (pun intended) how much color effects taste. I was only 8 when Crystal Pepsi hit the market, so I don’t know that I ever even tasted it, but even imagining drinking something clear flavored like cola boggles my mind. Initially well received, the sparkling beverage was marketed toward those who believed the clearness made it healthier. But it wasn’t long before the novelty wore off and Crystal Pepsi was pulled from shelves. Maybe people were driven mad by the lack of caffeine?

 

Surge

Now this one I remember vividly! This was pretty popular among the middle school crowd, who thought they were pretty cool for consuming boatloads of sugar and caffeine in the form of Coke’s answer to Mountain Dew. It was marketed like an energy drink with ads depicting extreme sports. Surge enjoyed a seven year run, and I’m assuming that my friend who swiped a display tablecloth destined for the landfill still has it proudly displayed in her parents’ basement (true story).

 

Maxwell House Ready-To-Drink Coffee

I’m going to admit, this seems like something that I would actually use. I don’t drink enough coffee to brew a pot, so I’ve switched over to a French Press, but even then I end up reheating my single cup several times daily and refrigerating the leftovers. It’s believed that a major flaw was that the container wasn’t microwavable and having to pour the coffee into a mug before heating it negated the supposed convenience. I dunno, I feel like this one actually makes sense. Sadly, I’m probably one of a very select few who do. Nice try, Maxwell House!

What discontinued drink do you wish would make a comeback?

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Breakroom Hacks

I stumbled upon this clever solution to one worker’s tea ball being tossed out by the cleaning crew.

The author says  “I MacGyvered a new tea ball by putting the tea into a coffee filter. Then I gathered the edges around the tea and poked tiny holes into the filter with a paper clip. I secured the tea by pinching the filter at the middle and twisting half of the same paperclip around the pinch point. The curve of the other half of the paper clip hangs perfectly on the edge of my mug. I SHALL NEVER BE WITHOUT TEA!”

Another clever trick is this one for knowing how fresh the coffee is.

I’ve always been fortunate enough to be in an office with a well stocked breakroom, but I can certainly imagine the horror! At home I’ve discovered the joy of steeping loose leaf in a French Press and don’t know that I ever want to go back to the tea ball method.

People do crazy and insanely resourceful things to get their caffeine fix! What other breakroom hacks have you come up with?

The Art Connection

I recently had the great pleasure of meeting with Birgit Whitelaw, one of the ‘creative masterminds’ behind The Art Connection. Together with her partner Renata Dolz, Birgit is giving the corporate world a much needed creative boost. From event decor to team building workshops, The Art Connection helps businesses “harness the power of ‘art’ to inspire ideas, further causes and connect people!”

Birgit was kind enough to sit down with me for a chat and tell me a little bit about how it all got started.

How long has The Art Connection been in existence?

The Art Connection started back in 2000 as a Corporate art consultation firm. Today, we are bringing ‘art’ to corporations in a more meaningful, experiential way. Using creative methods and ‘art’, we help spark new ideas and connect teams.

The management skills that I acquired in the hotel business coupled with my artistic bent have proven to be the key ingredients driving the success of The Art Connection.Prior to starting The Art Connection, I worked in hotel management. Starting in Germany,I worked my way up through the ranks at various hotels in Europe, including London and Switzerland. I finished my hotelier career in the U.S. as Director of Sales & Catering for The Burnsley, a former boutique hotel in downtown Denver. Additionally, I have studied under various Art Professors in different countries completing my studies under the instruction of Lee Milmon at the Colorado Institute of Art.

Renata joined me in 2007 and with her corporate marketing and art background we are the perfect team–combining art and business.

Until recently we had a studio in which we offered various art workshops for individualsbut realized very quickly that Corporate America is where we needed to concentrate and where the real ‘starving artists’ are. Whether it’s for branding, ideation, or team-building, we customize each experience. We also do creative branding and planning for meetings or events.

What would you say is the benefit of adding the creative process to events like that?

It is all about event branding in the end, the touch points/metaphors, environmental design, participant engagement and the creative experience. The more senses you engage at a meeting, the higher the engagement and retention.

Are the art team building experiences totally unique?

Yes, we offer them to fundraise, build teams, inspire ideas, bolster employee morale or create a vision. Every company and non-profit is different: different stages of development, goals, culture and priorities. Our job is to understand the purpose an organization needs art to serve and to customize a program specific to that need. Our programs typically span 2-3 hours and often combine upfront brainstorming and alignment, culminating in collaborative masterpieces.

Do you do any non corporate work these days?

We are increasingly working with non-profits and foundations to help facilitate board engagement and direction. We also do private events like anniversaries or weddings where guests get to create an art piece for the couple that reflects personal memories and experiences.

Do you find guiding them to be a challenge? 

No! We typically do fun warm-up exercises to get people relaxed and engaged. Once the ‘creative child’ in everyone starts to surface, there’s a great, electrical momentum that develops throughout the experience.

Is there anything else specific that you’d like people to know about The Art Connection. 

A wise woman once said, “It takes a village….:” Whether it is raising children, growing a business, or living in a community, we live in an interdependent ecosystem and should help out whenever and however we can. To us, that means many things – spreading the word about our talented partners, supporting non-profits, and sharing the gift of art not only with clients, but with individuals that can benefit most from the healing effects of the creative process. It’s important to us that we use our creative tool box to really help people.

 

As an artist myself, I’m so thrilled to know that there is a service like this available to the business community and am excited to watch Birgit and Renata take the world by storm!

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Electric Kettle, How Do I Love Thee?

Let me count the ways…
I love the variety of temperature options you offer at the touch of a button.
I love the fraction of time it takes for you to boil compared to that cursed glass stove top.
I love that you stay warm for 30 minutes, all I have to do is ask.

In all seriousness though – buying a Cuisinart Electric Kettle was the best idea ever. My electric stove top takes LITERALLY 20 minutes to boil a kettle, and microwaving water for tea is just the worst. After my husband decided to stop preparing a giant thermos of coffee before work every morning, I have been on my own scavenging caffeine. It was enough to make me shell out for a new piece of equipment.

The pre-set temperatures for different teas and even coffee are a huge plus. I also recently received a new French press as a gift and the combo of it and the kettle is amaaaazing for loose leaf tea.

Overall, I’d give the Cuisinart PerfecTemp five stars. My only complaint is that I keep forgetting to push the Start button. But that’s really a personal problem…

Morning Thunder Is Back!!!

A few months ago I wrote about the joys of yerba mate and its appeal to both coffee and tea drinkers. I’m currently straddling the line between the two so I’m extra excited that Celestial Seasonings Morning Thunder is back on our shelves. A blend of black tea and yerba mate, Morning Thunder packs a little more punch than your standard cup of tea, but doesn’t give quite the buzz of coffee. As Celestial Seasonings blendmaster Charlie Baden puts it:

This blend’s earthy flavor begins with roasted maté, an ancient herb whose oak-like flavor is wildly popular in South America. We combine roasted maté with rich, floral black tea to produce an exhilarating morning blend with no coffee jitters. Maté and black tea are both rich in antioxidants, making this a delicious, healthy way to start your day

This tea offers a truly unique taste  and is great black, or lightly sweetened. Have you tried it yet?

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Happy Valentine’s Day, Sweet-teas!

Valentine’s Day is fast approaching, and while you might be dreaming of the chocolates and flowers your significant other may send you, my mind is fixated heavily on a star-crossed relationship.

A few years ago I found a great love that I kept coming back to. Until, one tragic day, that love was pulled out from under me. And that was a cup of the most delightful tea I’ve ever tasted.

Celestial Seasonings Vanilla Strawberry Rose.  

A seasonal variety I stumbled across at the grocery, not realizing I’d only have a short time to buy up a stash. I bought a few boxes as gifts and let me tell you, I wish I hadn’t given them away! I was able to find it again the next February, but in the few years since, it seems to have vanished. Was anybody else a huge fan of this variety? And more importantly, does anyone know HOW TO BRING IT BACK!?!?

But like Wesley told Buttercup, “death cannot stop true love.All it can do is delay it for a little while.” 

I like to think he wouldn’t lie about a thing like that. And if he did, I guess a nice MLT will have to do.

Thankful For Thanksgiving!

English: DC USA, Target, Black Friday

DC USA, Target, Black Friday (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I didn’t know Black Friday was a “thing” until probably six or seven years ago. As I’m sure you’ve noticed, the media is keeping us updated on how out of control things have gotten in recent years. From sales starting at midnight, to fist fights in department stores, it makes me more than a little disappointed with society. With the advent of social networking and keeping updated on what everyone is doing every moment of every day, I’ve been surprised to learn how many of my friends and family partake in Black Friday shopping every year. I started working at Breaktime shortly after college, and at least as long as I have been here, we have generously been granted the day following Thanksgiving off. So maybe I’m just spoiled in my thinking of it as an extension of the holiday. I’ve come to know it as a day for putting up decorations and taking a photo for the in-laws annual holiday card.

But recently a friend put it this way:

It isn’t the vicious mob the media makes it out to be. Sure, some of the bigger chains get a little insane, but usually I show up in the early hours and wait outside with maybe a couple dozen people for an employee to come out with a voucher. Everyone just hangs out chatting over coffee until the doors open, then we go in, get the goodies and check out the sales. It’s an easy way to get free stuff!

Now to me, that sounds almost delightful! Aside from waking up before the crack of dawn, that is. But as sale hours have crept earlier and earlier, some businesses are now open Thanksgiving Day as well. Now, I haven’t exactly supported Black Friday shopping, but tearing hardworking people away from their families on one of the few national holidays we have is not something I can get behind.

So, this year, I will try to be less judgemental about my friends and loved ones (and other people too!) who choose to brave the hoards after recovering from their turkey-coma. But if it’s all the same, I’ll save my shopping for Cyber Monday and carry on crafting homemade gifts, thank-you-very-much. I’ll be thankful to be spending time with my family, and thankful to work for a company that encourages me to do so!

Is your office closed the day after Thanksgiving? Will you patronize businesses on Thanksgiving Day or Black Friday?

Yerba Mate – The Best of Coffee AND Tea

Yerba Mate Gourd, Large 1

Yerba Mate Gourd, Large 1 (Photo credit: chris.peplin)

It wasn’t until the past couple of years that I started drinking coffee. Don’t get me wrong, I truly enjoy the flavor (though I think it’s kind of false advertising that coffee smell doesn’t equate with coffee taste, but rather the flavor of coffee ice cream). As a caffeine sensitive type, I do better with tea, even though the amount of caffeine in a cup of tea is similar to a cup of coffee. But these days I have learned to really look forward to a cup of coffee over breakfast (even if I can only handle about 4 oz…)

Our company president, Ana, introduced me to the wonders of yerba mate. To be honest, at first, the intensity of the flavor about knocked me on my butt. And not in a good way! But I’ve learned to appreciate the appeal. I think bitterness is an acquired taste, and bitterness is something mate has in spades. And it turns out, that’s a huge part of the appeal!

I’ve come to realize mate offers a lot of perks. Get it, guys? Because of caffeine? I crack myself up…

If you drink your coffee black, you probably have an appreciation for more bitter flavors. While mate doesn’t taste anything like coffee, it is similar in that it has a very strong with a bite to it. Tea drinkers tend to prefer a more mild and mellow flavor.

That’s not to say mate has nothing to offer even a die-hard camellia sinensis loyalist. Flavor-wise, it actually is somewhat reminiscent of a very strongly steeped green tea. Like tea, mate is steeped from dried leaves and is known for it’s vegetal taste.

One of the great things about coffee and tea are the rituals involved. Whether it’s joining friends at a local cafe for an espresso, or a Japanese tea ritual, relaxing over a hot beverage is something everyone can appreciate. Mate drinkers are no different:

As Europeans often meet at a coffee shop, drinking mate is the impetus for gathering with friends in Argentina, southern Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay. Sharing mate is ritualistic and has its own set of rules. Usually, one person, the host or whoever brought the mate, prepares the drink and refills the gourd with water. In these three countries, the hot water can be contained in a vacuum flasktermo (appropriate for drinking mate in the outside) or garrafa térmica (Brazil), or in a pava (kettle), which only can be done at home.[citation needed]

The gourd is passed around, often in a circle, and each person finishes the gourd before giving it back to the brewer. The gourd (also called a mate) is passed in a clockwise order. Since mate can be rebrewed many times, the gourd is passed until the water runs out. When persons no longer want to take mate, they say gracias (thank you) to the brewer when returning the gourd to signify they do not want any more.

Something tea and coffee drinkers have in common is an appreciation for the soothing nature of a hot beverage. If you’re a fan of either, I suggest you give mate a try. Even if only because it’s served in these adorable little gourds.

English: Different types of mate, gourd recipi...

If hot beverages aren’t your thing, or hot weather is a consideration, give Guayaki Iced Mate a shot. Though you’ll be missing out on the sweet gourd…