Archive for the ‘Fun’ Category

Buy Nothing. Really.

July 20, 2015

lightbulbsOver the past several weeks I’ve received – for free – a used cooler, new hair ties and gummy licorice candy. I’ve also given away to my neighbors all the extra stuff that’s been sitting around my kitchen for years, including a bread machine, light bulbs that I no longer need, a power drill, vases, and an opened bottle of root beer extract, in addition to a bunch of other stuff.

I did this without attending or holding any garage sales. In fact, I never even met the people I gave to or received from. Instead, I did it all through the Buy Nothing Project, a Facebook group that creates hyper-local communities for people to give away items and services. It was started in 2013 by two Bainbridge Island women – Liesl Clark and Rebecca Rockefeller.

My group is “Buy Nothing Bellevue (South)” and includes 448 members within roughly a four-mile radius. Anyone interested in joining must ask to be included in the closed group. Once in, members can offer items and services for free and post requests for items or services they’re hoping to find. Again, it’s all for free.

I’ve seen everything posted from a full office’s worth of furniture to a half-eaten pizza. Some of the more common items are children’s clothing and kitchen things. Some items receive a ton of interest, such as the Seattle Sounders women’s jersey. Others receive comments, but no takers – like my 1979 Harvest Gold range. I find Buy Nothing a fun and rewarding way to dispose of unwanted items. I know they’re going to someone who cares enough about them to respond to a Facebook post and to pick them up from outside my house.hair bands

Here is more information from the Buy Nothing website about the project.

Our Buy Nothing Project Mission:

We offer people a way to give and receive, share, lend, and express gratitude through a worldwide network of hyper-local gift economies in which the true wealth is the web of connections formed between people who are real-life neighbors.

             Principles:

  • We believe our hyper-local groups strengthen the social fabric of their communities, and ensure the health and vitality of each member.
  • We come from a place of abundance ~ not scarcity.
  • We believe in abundance, we give, we ask, we share, we lend and we express gratitude.
  • We are a gift economy, not a charity. We see no difference between want and need, waste and treasure.
  • We measure wealth by the personal connections made and trust between people.
  • We value people and their stories and narratives above the ‘stuff.’
  • We are inclusive and civil at our core.
  • We value transparency and honesty in all our interactions.
  • We view all gifts as equal; the human connection is the value.
  • We believe every community has the same wealth of generosity and abundance.

I really love Buy Nothing and highly recommend joining one in your neighborhood.

Marshawn Lynch’s exclusive cake recipe

January 28, 2015

lemon cake photoOnce the Seattle Seahawks won the NFC championship game against Green Bay I immediately sent an e-mail to my clients titled “All Seahawks All The Time.” I knew the media would go crazy with Seahawks stories between then and the Super Bowl. Non-Seahawks news would get buried while anything – anything – related to the Seahawks would rise to the top.

We immediately started brainstorming Seahawks-related stories, including this one, which ran on  KING-TV in Seattle.

In this blog post, I’ve decided to take my own advice and write my own “All Seahawks All The Time” story.

It’s about Marshawn Lynch’s favorite cake, lovingly made for him by his grandfather “Papa” Leron Lynch and featured in this report by USA Today reporter Josh Peter. Like everyone else, I’m fascinated by the people stories coming out in the days before the Super Bowl. And of course, Lynch – and his “difficulties” talking to the media – offers one of the most interesting people stories around. Hence, I was drawn to the USA Today headline declaring “‘Papa’ knows way to Marshawn Lynch’s stomach and head.”

What’s “Papa’s” secret? Lemon cake! As I watched the video of Papa making the cake, I immediately recognized it as the cake my mother used to make when we were kids. It was probably developed by the JELL-O kitchen, using a very popular ingredient of the day. Just like my mother, Papa mixed the lemon juice with the sugar, poked holes in the cake, and lovingly spooned on the glaze. Like Marshawn, I too love this cake. In fact, I loved it so much as a kid that I now often make it for my own family.

So, in honor of “All Seahawks All The Time,” I’m going to take this opportunity to share Marshawn Lynch’s favorite cake from Papa! I’m going to make it for the Super Bowl party that I’ll be attending. I’ll now call it “Marshawn’s cake.” Feel free to do the same. Enjoy!

Marshawn Lynch’s Lemon Cake (AKA Mommy’s Lemon Cake Dessert, from Claire Barkey Flash, cir. mid-1960s)

1 small pkg lemon JELL-O     1 C boiling water     Mix and set aside to cool

1 pkg yellow cake mix. Put in large mixer bowl and add 3/4 C veg. oil. Mix. Then add 4 eggs – one at a time and beat after each. Add 1 1/2 tsp lemon extract and the cooled JELL-O mixture. Pour into greased and floured 13 1/2 x 8 1/2 x 2 pan. Bake at 325 for glass pan; 350 for other pan for 30 to 35 minutes. While cake is baking, mix 1/2 C granulated and 1/2 C powdered sugars together with juice of 1 1/2 lemons (I use fresh; Papa used bottled. I suggest you use fresh). As soon as cake is done, take from oven and prick top with fork all over cake. Then spoon sugar and lemon mixture over top. When cool, serve with whipped cream (or not).

 

 

 

 

About friendship and Facebook

January 7, 2015

IMG_0586I had fun on a recent evening FB messaging my friend Neta in Israel. I was asked by another friend to translate Hebrew lettering from his teenage daughter’s new tattoo (does it really say what she thinks it says?). I know several people who read Hebrew. As a native Israeli, Neta was one, so I asked her. We ended up messaging back and forth for quite a while, even after she revealed that the tattoo didn’t translate well.

I first met Neta when we were both in high school. She stayed with me for a weekend when her school concert band came to the Northwest. We both played clarinet. For some reason we hit it off. At the time we became “pen pals.” Does anyone even use that term any more? We continued to write letters to each other through high school, my time in college and her time in the Israeli Army. It continued through her time in college, the start of my career, the death of her father, the death of my mother, through my marriage, and eventually through her marriage, then careers for both of us, and children. It’s been a life-long friendship. She visited the states twice – one time she and I traveled to the San Juan Islands together; the other time I saw her briefly when she was here with her husband and kids. I visited her once in Israel – after my senior year in high school.

I still remember some of the conversations we had when we met in person. She’s one of those people who I will remain friends with forever, even if we only see each other fewer than a dozen times during our lives. We no longer write letters. We “like,” “comment” and occasionally send sentences to each other in the form of FB messages or e-mails.IMG_0498

My recent messaging with Neta has me thinking about friendships in the age of Facebook. Like others, I wonder:  Are FB friends really friends? Do I really have more than 500 friends? Have I even met them all?IMG_0605

The short answer to that last question is no. I haven’t. I’m “friends” with one guy who a real friend recommended I become friends with because he’s quite entertaining. She’s right. I enjoy having him as my “friend” because his posts are interesting. I’m “friends” with some people in high school that I wasn’t friends with then and I’m really not friends with now. But that’s okay, if they want to friend me I’m happy to friend them back. I’m “friends” with people I knew for three weeks at summer camp one summer. I’m “friends” with many former work colleagues (journalists like to stay in touch and keep up with all the gossip). I’m “friends” with family members – some who I talk to nearly every day and others who I’ve never met, including a gal from New Zealand! I’m friends with some of my kids’ friends and their parents – even though my oldest son de-friended me when he got sick of the lurking.

I’m also friends with some people who I am very good friends with – those I talk to at least once a week; those I see several times a year, those I tell my most secret secrets to. How can they all be part of the same ecosystem? That’s an interesting question that I wrestle with every time I post something. Who is my intended audience? Am I sending the right message? Is my goal to inform or to entertain or both?IMG_0821

Ah, good questions that I think about as a publicist as well. We’re always striving to send the right message to the right audience to have the biggest impact.

What do you think about your new “friends?” I welcome your responses. And to my “friends” – thanks for being part of my universe – whether you are a childhood friend like Neta, a work colleague,  or someone I’ve never met. I look forward to our continued friendship!

From mom to bag lady – One suburban mother’s entrepreneurial journey

November 28, 2014

Jayna Umeda photoWhen I first met Jayna Umeda she was doing the mommy thing – taking her two kids to school, watching them play sports, and helping them figure out what they needed to do to go to college.

But now that her kids are nearly launched (her son is in college; her daughter is a senior in high school), Jayna is in full fledged entrepreneur mode. Using her design talents, her interior design degree and many years of design experience, she has created “Jayna Bags,” a middle market bag with clean lines and an Asian aesthetic aimed at busy moms, professionals, mom athletes and crafters.

This is a story about how a suburban mom has used her creativity to develop an income stream by making something that never before existed. Clearly Jayna isn’t the only person to ever do this. But she’s a good example of how women can take time off to raise their kids, then use their professional background to create a job for themselves and re-enter the workforce. [For those wondering, Jayna is not a client I’m promoting through this blog; she’s a friend and neighbor.]

After graduating from the University of Washington with a fine arts degree in interior design in 1981, Jayna (maiden name Matsudaira), worked as an interior designer for 19 years, space planning corporate offices, lobbies and interiors.

When her son was born in 1994 she chose to stay home with him. Although she took on a few freelance projects, she never went back to work fulltime. She also realized she didn’t want to keep working as an interior designer.

Then she noticed a friend’s cute diaper bag. “She told me what the website was and I thought, `I’m not going to pay that much for a bag!'” Jayna recalls. “I went to the fabric store and got material to make my own. I still have it.”

She tried to make another one. Jayna is particularly good at color and materials. She kept buying fabric and making different bags. “One led to another to another. Pretty soon I had all these bags.”

She sold some at a neighborhood bazaar. Friends and neighbors suggested she make and sell more. Around the same time she started playing tennis and determined that selling bags could fund her tennis habit. She brought bags to book group, did a trunk show, held open houses, and applied for her business license. She also started selling bags on Etsy. Word spread. People called. “One person said she was looking for a tennis bag online, but hadn’t found anything she liked. Could I make something? I said I think so.”

This was the beginning of the current version of the Jayna Bag – a large tote with pockets for tennis racquets, balls and a water bottle. It could sit up. Jayna quickly learned that it wasn’t only attractive to tennis players. Others bought it for knitting, yoga and travel. The more she sold, the more input she got for improvements in design and material. Jayna bag 1

Jayna has made more than 1,400 bags! But like most business stories, Jayna’s hasn’t followed a straight, positive trajectory. “I had so many events last fall, I had no inventory. I was making bags until midnight, and took on a job for the holidays working 20-30 hours a week. I was worn out,” she says.

Then her father got sick and fell. He died in February. “After my dad passed away I said I think I’m done,” Jayna says.

But she couldn’t quit. A friend who had been encouraging her through the process suggested this spring that she start outsourcing production of the bags. She started calling sewing contractors and after many misses she landed with a local one she’s now using.

“They do products and they do good work,” says Jayna, who picked up the first 50 outsourced bags at the end of September. They’re selling quickly through direct sales and Jayna’s new website. She ordered another 175 and is signed up to sell through Amazon (a steep learning curve she’s still working to scale). Because she’s now outsourcing the sewing work instead of making the bags herself, she’s had to start over with her promotions and websites.

Now she’s focusing on marketing, settling on which channels to sell through, and promoting her bags through social media. And like many people who go into business because they’re good at something, Jayna is realizing that that alone is not enough. She has to become a good businesswoman. It’s a lesson I learned with my business as well – and one that I pass on to others who are excited to strike out on their own.

But Jayna is happy with this new direction. “It’s like what I did as an interior designer, the project management, the design. I feel like more of a designer v. a sewing contractor. It’s more fulfilling and it’s less work because I’m using my mind and creativity versus my labor.”

She’s meeting with as many people as she can to learn about promotions. She encouraging people to write reviews and she’s trying to spread her brand. In the future she plans to make a travel bag, letting a flight attendant friend try a prototype on the road.

And now that she’s committed, Jayna knows one thing. She’s no longer satisfied selling the bags to earn “fun money.” She’s ready to earn real money – enough to pay the mortgage!Jayna bag 2

 

 

 

[Do you have an entrepreneurial journey story to tell? If so, please tell your story in the comments section of this post.]

Mother Nature decorates CenturyLink Field

November 10, 2014

IMG_0653I took this photo at a Seattle Sounders game this summer. iPhone 5. No filters. Enjoy.

My `Google problem’ and how I got my name back

November 5, 2014

Google photoAfter meeting with a large public relations firm for a project two years ago, one of the principals – a former Associated Press reporter – politely pulled me aside to ask me about my “Google problem.”

“Huh?” I thought as I pretended to know what he was talking about. It quickly became evident that he had Googled me before the meeting and instead of focusing on my  Flash Media Services business website that highlighted my business capabilities, he was drawn to the other website that boldly carried my name, cynthiaflash.com.

My name has served me well as a professional journalist and publicist. It even set off bells around the world when I started working for United Press International.

But a few years ago, I discovered that a female escort in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., had grabbed it for her business. Yikes! She was beautiful and buxomy and nearly naked. Not bad to look at – if you are a guy! But this was not the image I hoped to portray for my very above-board public relations company.

When I found that someone was using my name to sell sex I immediately called my high school friend, who is a local police chief. She suggested I call the Fort Lauderdale police to see if there was anything they could do. I called. They couldn’t help.

So the nefarious cynthiaflash.com continued to prominently populate the Internet. It usually popped up as no. 1 through 3 when I searched my name. My business website, http://www.flashmediaservices.com, was there as well. But for some reason I feared it wasn’t getting as much attention.

Occasionally I would share this little tidbit about my name with friends. The women groaned in sympathy. The men – including my husband – snickered. They offered no attempt to conceal their interest. I’m sure many of them went straight to the site after meeting me.

And some, including the former AP guy, probably were a bit disappointed when they met me in person after stumbling across this other website.

Over the years several writer friends suggested that I write about it. But I couldn’t. While some believe “any publicity is good publicity,” I couldn’t go there in this case. I just couldn’t see how a Fort Lauderdale escort would help my PR business.

I even convinced my brother, who shares the same last name, to buy domain names with his name and his children’s names so this couldn’t happen to them.

But I wished there was something I could do about it. I stepped it up a notch after the conversation with the former AP guy. He offered his company’s services to try to bury the site to the second page of a Google search. I asked my own web designer if there was anything he could do. While he doubted he could bury it, he checked to see when the domain name registration on the site would expire. It was expiring shortly, it turned out. So he tried to buy it. Unfortunately, that didn’t work. The current owner paid up.

That was two years ago. I continued to try to ignore it.

Then, out of the blue, I received an e-mail from my web guy back in June. “Good news!” he said. He had placed a backorder on the domain and when it expired and was not renewed, it went up for auction. The service we paid to keep an eye on it automatically bid for it and I won my name back for $50! What a deal. And it all took place automatically.

Thank you, Reiner Perry and Web Studio Seattle for getting my name back for me. And to all of you who searched www.cynthiaflash.com while reading this, you’ll know by now that it has been redirected to my Flash Media Services website.

As for the Fort Lauderdale escort? I have no idea where she is. I wish her the best of luck in her business dealings. Just don’t use my name!


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