Monday, April 25, 2011

Interview Tips!

One of the many things I do  (I left it off of my blog header) is manage a seasonal restaurant. We open in barely two weeks so we've been busy interviewing and hiring staff for the season...which is the ammunition for this post!

I've applied for plenty of jobs...okay not that many, but thats only because I've been hired for pretty much any job I've applied for. I'm a people person, what can I say (plus I have experience putting the following tips to work!)

Anyways, after no less than 20 interviews a season....I've seen a lot of different interviewee types. As it's a restaurant, you can just imagine the range in personalities we see. So here, for all that may be in this terrible market looking for a job, are my own tips for being a "Must Hire" at your interview!

1. Do some research! ~ It blows me away that people would apply for a job without finding out everything about the company they are applying to work at! It is as easy taking 10 minutes to check out their website. In our case, peruse the menus and wine list. Read the newsletter. Check out the events page. You may find out that the company isn't someplace you are interested in working. If it'll impress your interviewers by your found knowledge! In all our interviews, we only had ONE person who said they checked out our website. Yup, we hired them on the spot. Even if it just for schmoozing purposes, it shows that you took the extra step to learn more! One last point to this rant - if you ever sit down for an interview and have to ask what the company will NOT get the job. This I promise you.

2. Dress & Look professional! ~ What I mean by this, in relation to interviewing for a position in a restaurant, is to dress respectfully. Put some effort into it. Wear your "nice" clothes and for goodness sake, spend some time on your hair and keep your makeup tasteful. It's time to leave your personal taste at the door and be more "vanilla" if you will. When you are applying for a "professional" position. Wear a suit. Even if the position is the Secretary, dress for the job you aspire to (which is of course, President of the Company...right?...It should be!)

3. Eye contact, Eye contact, eye contact! ~ pretty self-explanatory. If you're scared of your interviewer (or nervous), whatever it is.....don't you think we'll think you're scared of everybody! We are in the business of serving the public. It's rather imperative that you're able to talk to strangers. I shouldn't have to throw this in, but I will...SMILE!

and last but not least....

4. Ask questions! ~ Okay this one won't make or break your chances at getting the job...with us anyways. But you should prepare yourself with questions for any interview. Whether its as simple as what our expectations are of full time or part time staff. Or for other employers....if you've done the research (see #1), you should have come up with some questions easily. It all comes down to showing that you want to learn about the company and their expectations, challenges or goals!

It's a tough market out there...or so I hear.  The only way to stand out among the masses of people looking for jobs, especially with the varying levels of experience, is to WOW them with your personality. You won't be the right fit for every position you apply for, but if you've done your research, you might know that already!

Best of luck to all of you currently on the job hunt! I hope my interview tips have helped...a little!


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Fit Finances?

Not quite yet...but we are working on it! I've been working hard on getting everything organized in our financial house! (I love to organize..the key is using the tools I create right?) Here's what I've come up with....a Budget Binder...

It was just a simple 1 inch 3-ring binder that I added some pretty scrapbook paper and dividers to.  In it I keep our Budget Worksheet, Other worksheets, Bills to pay, Paid Bills, our cash envelopes, checkbook, stamps, calculator and of course, a pen. We are doing a Ramsey-ish plan. Budgeting every penny every week or month, with any excess going towards our debt reduction plan.

It's not going to be easy, but I'm pretty sure I'll get a high off paying off credit cards and watching our savings account grow. Perhaps that high will outweigh the one I usually get from buying pretty new things for me, the kids or our house!

Ahh, the precious envelope system. This is the first month I'm trying to grocery shop with cash. The hardest part is knowing how much your tally is before you get up to the register so you don't go over (1 of 2 things might happen if you do go over....1. You have to use your debit card and move some of your budget around or 2. Send things embarassing for me, I will always choose option #1 and adjust later) You'll see there are only 4...Groceries, Household, Fuel and Entertainment. All the rest of my bills are paid with a check or mostly Online Bill Pay. These are my most common expenses I pull out the Debit Card for. Now Debit Card usage is for emergencies only! I'm actually considering opening another Checking or Savings account to attach the Debit Card to, so it's not coming out of the Household Bill Account. 

On Monday I attended a Consumer Protection Conference in Augusta. One of the segments was on budgeting. The presenter recommends you have at least 2 Checking Accounts and 2 Savings Accounts. The Checking Accounts are for Fixed Expenses (i.e Set payments) and Variable Expenses (Groceries, Auto Fuel...etc) and the Savings Accounts are for Emergency Savings and Accrual Expenses like Property Taxes, Heating Oil, Christmas, etc. And the most important thing I took from it is to do your Monthly Budget based on 4 weeks every month. Ignore the 5th week that happens twice a year. 

Here is our Debt Snowball worksheet. This is all Dave Ramsey. Basically, list your debts SMALLEST to LARGEST Balances (NOT interest rates). Pay the minimum payment on all but the top one. After you have put $1000 in Savings, start applying all extra cash to the top debt. Once that debt is paid off, take the full amount you were paying to that and apply it ALL to the next debt ON TOP of the minimum monthly payment! This is how the crazy "I paid of $20,000 in 12 Months!" stories happen! By the time you get to last debt, even though it's the largest, the payment is substantial! Hopefully this time next year, I have one of those stories to share with you!

Our Savings Worksheet. It's just a snapshot to see how we're doing on savings without getting a monthly statement. Really, I just like to write things down.

I also use software on my computer. Because I have a Mac, financial software that I like, took a bit of research to find. I was using Microsoft Money on my PC and I liked that fairly well. I'm very familiar with using Quickbooks and like how that works too, but read tons of bad reviews on how Quickbooks works with a Mac. I found MoneyWell. It was okay, but not super user friendly. It was free....that was a good thing but I eventually stopped using it because I just couldn't figure it out. Now, though, I've found one I really like and had great reviews. IBank. It did cost about $60 but it's a one time charge and I really, really like it! So is that redundant? Yes, a little bit. But writing things down is a very powerful tool in helping to keep you accountable. It works for dieting and it works for finances!

And here is what I've been working on: Monthly Budget Worksheet. I've made it available as a PDF if anyone would like to use it! It doesn't look too fancy there, it's what the Excel version that I've been formulating does that's magic! If you would like the Excel version, please comment or email me with the email to send it to, and I'd be happy to do it! You can also download my Debt Snowball form.

I hope our effort to clean up our finances inspired you! The hardest part will be saying No. No to dinner out, no to going out for drinks or to the movies or anything else that isn't in the budget. Of course we aren't quitting cold turkey, we've built in a little money monthly for that stuff....but trust me, it won't get very far and once it's gone, it's gone! Thats the key and the hardest part!

Good luck! (To all of us!)

~ Cerina

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

About a Boy!

I've posted a lot in recent days about my little I want to dedicate a post to my little boy! He just turned 3! I just want to reminisce with some pictures from his adorable first year of life.... 

We make the cutest babies don't we. He was the sweetest baby boy and is still pretty sweet, though I have to confess that this age certainly has it's challenges. He is very emotional (I think he gets that from Daddy...he would have to agree). His mood changes on the drop of a dime...literally, if he drops a dime, he can have a total breakdown. We saw it this morning. Potty training is definitely on his schedule, not ours, and its clearly he isn't ready, especially when given a choice, he prefers diapers. His eating habits (or lack there of) make me nervous. He is chatty and I love hearing him have his own conversations and am always impressed with some of the stuff that comes out of his mouth. I love it when he uses "Actually" and always in the right context!

He is ALL boy! He loves four wheelers, fire trucks, school buses and.....


His big birthday present! And it makes him so happy and is so worth every penny. But I work hard to keep him well rounded. My husband thinks I'm pushing music and art on him. Um, no, just because I insist on buying him at least one new musical instrument and some new art supplies for Christmas, doesn't mean I'm pushing it on him! He really enjoys music AND art...see...

Such concentration!

Most days are good days, his tantrums and grumpiness are usually short lived....and when he is grumpy, he definitely doesn't like his picture being taken. And I love taking it it!

He is a wonderful big brother and loving little boy, I'm sure these mood swings, tantrum and fits are sure to subside soon right? Is it really the Terrible Threes instead of the Terrible Two's? Because honestly, the two's weren't so bad.

I love my handsome little man!
~ Cerina

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday Confessionals

I'm not really a church person. Although baptized as a Catholic....I consider myself more spiritual than religious. Regardless of seeking forgiveness or not...I thought some confessions would be a fun Sunday blogging topic! Mostly humorous with a few shameless snuck in!

1.  I freaking LOVE the Kardashians! I mean, they are one crazy family and I seriously love Kourtney! She is my favorite. She can be so dry and non-emotional that its funny! And poor Bruce. I mean that guy has to put up with soo much CRAP! He seriously has the patience/tolerance of a saint sometimes most of the time! And their new show, Khloe and Lamar...airs TONIGHT (speaking of Sundays)

2. I HATE putting Laundry away. I really don't mind washing and folding it, but I hate putting it away. And you know the funniest thing is that it is always way less work than I think it's going to be.  Usually there is at least one full basket of (once folded) laundry in my bedroom that drives me nuts! And "putting away clothes" is on no less that 2 To Do lists a week! Which leads to my next confession...

3. I'm obsessed with calendars and to do lists! Well, really anything where I can write important stuff down and think I'm organized! I have 3 calendars going right now (not including the one on my computer, which I sometimes put stuff in). I is my Annual Calendar, of which I write all important stuff like doctors appointments, addresses, class schedules and make up other stuff like, plans for next week etc. I have one for work (which I only use April through October). I keep track of events, employees requests for days off and the such. And then my new, cool weekly planner from Lobotome. I fill it out on Sundays for the week and keep it on my counter and fill things in as they come up. I also keep To Do lists on it. I kind of love it...a LOT! I bought the MomME pack and got a meal planner, honey do, shopping list (which I used to its full potential the other day and LOVED) and a babysitting pad! (Here's the ironic end to my obsession, rarely do I actually complete the stuff on my TO DO list on the day I write them down...I just transfer them from day to day, I should work on that, right?)

4.  I like the think I do everything I can to be good to our environment. I used recycled or partially recycled products as much as possible. I used green cleaning products (am even a distributor for Shaklee). I own a bazillion reusable shopping bags and recycle cans, bottles, cardboard and paper. I even used cloth diapers (use them still with Lola) Here's the confession part... I never remember my reusable bags to go to the grocery store with; When the bottle trash is full, sometimes I just throw the bottle away (most of the time they live on my counter until my husband cleans it out and puts it in his hiding place...he keeps all the money he makes off my wine bottles....) Sometimes, without realizing it, I let the water run when I brush my teeth. And lastly (hiding face), even though I take the time to sort things I can donate to Goodwill...I never, never actually remember to put them in my car and drop them off so sometimes..ashamingly, I just throw them away! GAH!

I think I've cleansed my soul enough today.....please, share with me your confessions so we can all be sinners together!!

~ Cerina

Saturday, April 9, 2011

First Feeding - not so much

Here are some pics from Little Lady's first feeding. To say she wasn't quite ready is an understatement... Her mouth was clamped shut everytime I tried to give her some yummy organic brown rice cereal! But she did love the spoon!

This is the 3rd and final try for today! Again, the spoon is a definite hit!!

Time for bath and bed for the little one! Good Night!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Little Lady Loves

You guessed it! This post is all about my little lady! (excuse the not so great pic...I really wanted to show off the beanie I made her, all my better pics are on the ipod) She just turned 5 months old on the 5th! And with 5 months comes all kinds of fun new things! She had her check-up yesterday and she is a happy, healthy, well-growing little baby!  We got the go ahead to start solids with her! I've been anxiously awaiting starting solids for a number of reasons, good and bad: 
BAD: It makes me sad to realize how fast our little babies grow up! 
GOOD: However, I love making baby food and feeding my little ones and knowing that they are getting the healthiest foods I can give them!
BAD: It adds another dimension of meal time routines...feeding the toddler AND feeding the baby. Not really bad, but definitely more work.
GOOD: I love the cute little baby spoons and storage options 
BAD: I have to buy a new food processor (which I was planning to do for other reason, but mainly making baby food)
GOOD: Although I love nursing, I look forward to doing it less (especially since she is aggressive and tries to rip my skin off each feeding)
GOOD: She's a hungry girl and she is going to LOVE eating real food! I can tell!

This little girl loves getting her picture taken and I swear her favorite place in the whole world is the changing table! Either she likes to be naked and she loves the attention and cooing from mommy, or both I guess 

And those chubby little legs...I just love them! (and so does she!) It's funny how different babies can be, even your own! My son was not nearly as active a baby as she is. He was more the sit back and observe type...she wants to be a part and grab everything! I adored my sons babyhood, but I absolutely LOVE little ladies babyness!

My friend's mom made her this adorable hat! She is an amazing knitter and for each of my babes, she made one of these cute hats and an amazing sweater! I've also been busy knitting and crocheting for the lady! See first picture. Its a great free pattern found here at The Dainty Daisy! She has amazing stuff for sale in her etsy shop and although my mom finally taught me to crochet (I'm a knitter originally and found that crocheting was super hard until she broke it down) but credit Dainty Daisy for making me fall into a passionate love affair with crocheting!

And of course I need to make a shout out to one of my best girlfriends. She designs these super, badass shirts for babies and toddlers. Check out her stuff at My Badd Baby. She has a super edgy and fun style and she wanted her son to not look so puppies and teddy bears, if you know what I mean. Not finding anything, she created her own! The shirts are so cute and the fabric is SOO soft and awesome! Of course I had to put a big bad bow on her just completed the outfit!

There is so much I look forward to in the next few months: sitting up all by herself, crawling, uncontrollable giggles, girlie toys, playing on the beach.....but have no desire to rush it all by! I don't know if there will be another baby so this is may be my last opportunity to relish in all these firsts! I've decided that I can no longer leave my camera must come with me everywhere and be used at least once a day!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Too much TV??

We've all read the articles. TV before the age of 2 is a no-no (or at least suggested to be kept at a minimum). Supposedly it makes their brain work differently...or something like that. Here are some articles about the negative impacts of TV:

ScienceDaily - Toddlers & TV

MSNBC - TV may hurt Toddlers' attention spans

And of course BabyCenter in all their wiseness - TV Watching guidelines

Okay enough with all the negativity right! I mean after all, I watched plenty of TV growing up and I'm a normal behaving person! On the other hand, I talk too fast and my brain processes way too much information at certain times (usually after a glass or two of wine). Are those negative behaviors or signs of a shortened attention span? Probably. Is it because of TV...I doubt it.

Back to the reason for this post. I used to be secretly proud that my son (now 3) was never really interested in watching TV. He would much rather play with his trucks and toys than watch anymore Mickey Mouse or Handy Manny (I have a secret latin crush on Manny by the way).

I was able to turn the TV off shortly after 8 am and could watch whatever I wanted without it being dedicated to Disney or Nickelodeon. Now, let me clarify, I do not judge a mom for using TV as a babysitter! Whatever works! I had plenty of times when I wish I could just entertain him with a movie or cartoon so I could get something done.

And then....about 2 months ago...little man got sick. For about two weeks he battled a nasty cold and earache. It was heartbreaking to see him so tired and hear him tell me he was tired and cold. He watched a lot of movies. Well a lot of one movie really, Nemo. I love Nemo. It's an adorable and visually pretty movie! And we watched it...over and over and over. And continued to watch it, over and over and over for another couple of weeks past the illness. And then, fortunately, he changed gears. A different movie. The "Birdie Movie" as calls it, UP to us mere mortals. Another absolutely adorable movie that I really enjoy. Yet, after about 14 days, 3x a day, anything can get redundant. Then it became the "elephant movie" (Horton hears a Who). And most recently, it's the "dinosaur movie" (Land before Time episodes) This is the one the makes my brain bleed! The songs and the voices of those little dinosaurs....aaaggghhh! So yesterday I worked really hard to move him on to....BAMBI!! And I succeeded!

As soon as the movie is over....he lets me know he wants to watch it again. Sometimes he just lays on the couch and watches it, sometimes he plays with it on in the background (we can't turn it off). My questions is....what is this doing to his brain! Should I be concerned? Will he ever want to just play without the TV again! (We've tried cutting it off...I mean it's too the point where I have to go to my room to watch my shows if we are trying to get him calmed down before bed) He throws a fit! I know, I know. I shouldn't give in...but with a 5 month old...I prefer to keep the fits to a minimum.

So what do you think! Any advice on cutting the TV down? Or teaching him that he has to share the TV with mommy and daddy! How much TV does your kid watch in a day?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

My first 3D Cake for my favorite little man!

I've been busy thats for sure! I have a number of things to catch up on my blog but don't want to overwhelm myself or any potential readers by putting them all in one post! So this post is going to focus on my amazing little boy and his big numer 3 birthday!

A few months ago, I asked little man what he wanted for his birthday and he said "Cake". Of course he did, he is my son after all. So as a follow up, I asked what kind of cake and his answer was equally obvious.."Fire truck Cake", being that he is also my husbands' son! So of course, if I'm going to make a fire truck cake, I'm going to make it a 3D cake, cause it's cooler that way!

I started searching through some of favorite baking blogs and websites and found some great examples of 3D cakes! I so admire the skills some people have in cake & cupcake decorating! I hope to be half as good someday! Practice, practice, practice!

I also bought a book I found on clearance at Barnes & Noble called Planet Cake. It teaches you all about doing carved and 3D cakes. I loved it and it made it look so simple! Their biggest trick, which really isn't a trick I'm gathering from the other baking sites, is to cover the cake in ganache as opposed to buttercream. All I can say is WOW!! I have so much more confidence working with the ganache because its so easy to work with! It hardens up but is easily molded and repaired! I haven't quite got the knack of getting a smooth buttercream finish yet (but have some ideas from some youtube videos) so this was a godsend! Once you don't have to worry about your base so much, you can spend more time focusing on the fondant!

It certainly wasn't the most amazing piece of work but for the birthday party and my little was a hit! And, I was very proud to show it off (being the perfectionist I am about this kind of stuff, that says a lot!)

Now I've got the baking bug again! I was looking at a dismal week of no baking until I volunteered to bake 5 dozen cupcakes for a fundraising bake sale to benefit our local animal shelter. I'm looking forward to that....I've already started my attempt at making some cute little puppy faces to top them with. I originally was going to make plain ole' (and amazingly delicious) chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting...but I think I'm going to expand it to include chocolate with peanut butter frosting, confetti cupcakes (plain white cupcakes with confetti baked not REAL confetti...edible of course silly) with vanilla frosting and chocolate dipped strawberry cupcakes (the tops are dipped in ganache, I bet they'll be awesome!). And then of course, a good friend of mine has a birthday this week so I'm going to make her a cake. The design of which I'll share once she gets to see it!

Anyways....I've obviously filled my once bake-less week up and can't wait to get started!

Thursday I want to share my organization of our Finances as we get prepped up to start a Dave Ramsey-ish plan (thanks for the inspiration I found over on A Bowl Full of Lemons! Also results of the cutest crochet hat pattern ever! I'm so addicted I'm making one for every little baby girl I know...which is a lot. Thanks to The Dainty Daisy for sharing her pattern! See you then!