Storing Your Vegetables and Fruits In Your Wooden Garage

Wooden garages are good for more than just storing a car. Increasing numbers of people are choosing to take their garage and turn it into a more functional space, using it for many different reasons, sometimes on top of storing a vehicle. With the accessibility of double wide or larger wooden garages, this is a trend that is sure to continue.

For information on oak framed garages click here.

One way you can utilize your wooden garage is as a store area, especially for your garden. While tools are one item to store in there, why not also store your excess produce from your garden? A fruitful harvest from a mature garden can yield hundreds of fruits and vegetables per season. The average family can’t eat that much, so having somewhere to put it all is crucial.

Here are some things you need to know about storing produce in a wooden garage.

Fruits and Vegetables That Can Be Stored As Is In Your Wooden Garage

Some produce is tougher than others and more resistant to rot. That means it can be kept as is for extended periods of time, though eventually you will need to either eat or prepare them for longer storage.

Root vegetables are one option. This includes potatoes, carrots, onions, beets, ginger root… anything that grows underground. Potatoes, squash and other gourds are also very easy to store. They can last months in dry, cool conditions. While a root cellar is often preferable, you can get the same effect by putting them in a breathable container like a wood crate and covering them with a heavy fabric to keep out light.

Fruits are harder, but apples in particular can last for several weeks in the same way.

Make sure when you are first storing your produce this way that you do a few things first:

  • Don’t wash your produce. Dirt actually helps to keep it good for longer.
  • Watch for any signs of rot or damage. This causes one to decay, which will spread to others in the batch.
  • Regularly monitor for signs of rot, bruising or pests and remove them quickly.
  • Separate your produce by type. Some produce can cause certain gases that will rot others more quickly. So keep each type of vegetable or fruit in its own container.
  • Consider buying a hygrometer. This will measure the humidity in your wooden garage. The higher the humidity, the faster the rot.

Fruits and Vegetables That Can Be Canned and Stored In Your Wooden Garage

For those that aren’t so suited for dry storage, there is the option of canning. This is when you pickle or store a fruit of vegetable in a liquid, or make it into other foods like jams or soups. The easiest way to can is using a pressure cooker, which seals the lids of mason jars tightly to keep bacteria from entering the cans as they store and spoiling the food inside.

If you don’t have a pressure cooker, it is still possible to seal jars properly. You just need a wire rack and a large pot. Put the rack into the pot, put in the jars with their lids tightly sealed and fill with water until two inches of the jars are submerged. Bring to a boil and let them continue boiling for ten to fifteen minutes. Carefully remove them and place them on a towel, leaving them alone for twenty-four hours. When the jar has an indent in the lid you know it has been sealed.

Once you have canned your produce you can put it on a shelf in your wooden garage. It should be good for up to eighteen months, but make sure you are checking the lids for the indentation before use. No indent means the seal has been broken and it is not safe to eat.

Fruits and Vegetables That Can Be Stored In a Freezer In Your Wooden Garage

Canning not your thing? Your wooden garage is a great place for a freezer, which can be used for a number of different foods. Vegetables and fruit are great to freeze because then they are ready to be grabbed and used for a meal at a moment’s notice, no matter how busy you are. Or they can be thawed out for a snack later, thrown into a smoothie… anything you need.

Fruits and veggies maintain their nutritional value just as well when frozen as they do fresh. But to get the most out of them you should freeze them at their peak. Sort out any rotted or bruised produce and wash it thoroughly. Blanching them with salt water will help them maintain their flavor and texture better when thawed. You may also want to store some in a sugar base, such as berries and apples.

Once frozen, produce can last up to eighteen months before it starts to lose its flavor or texture. But fruit in particular is soft enough that it is best eaten before it has fully thawed, which will keep it from losing some of its firmness.

Wooden garages maintain their temperature better than other styles because of the breathability of natural qualities of the lumber. So it is an awesome place to keep a freezer or even two, without it over freezing.

Consider buying Energy Star rated appliances for this purpose, which will save you money on your energy bill and is better for the environment.

Preparing Your Wooden Garage

Some other ways to prepare your wooden garage for storing produce from your garden:

  • Make sure it is free of all pests that could threaten your veggies and fruit. Get rid of spiders, mites, flies, rodents, etc.
  • Clean every corner. You don’t want webs, dirt or dust, so keep your wooden garage nice and scrubbed down.
  • Install plenty of shelf space. Shelves are awesome for canned goods. Make sure you have enough shelving to keep your food items separate from your non-food items.
  • Look for damage to your garage regularly. Warps in wood, cracks, holes and seal breaks can all lead to problems, including threats to your produce.

Beyond the Human Resource Function: What Lies Ahead?

An increasingly common theme in Human Resource (HR) literature in the 1990’s concerns how the HR Department can make a greater contribution to the success of the business it serves. To do so, we must first change our view of the Human Resource role as being only executable within a traditional “Department.” We must view HR more as a “function,” or “a set of activities,” than as a department. While HR services may not be delivered in the future via what we know as a Department, they must be delivered in some way. This article is about the realm of possibilities.

The HR Function Today

Today the HR Department is in a transitional phase. Some organizations have long ago realized that the HR Department can make a greater difference. Others need convincing. A positive trend seems to be developing, as evidenced in publications of the Human Resource professional’s accrediting organization, the Society for Human Resource Management, (e.g. see HR Magazine, 11/98). Chief Executive Officers are increasingly viewing the HR function as an actual or potential “strategic business partner.” This is encouraging, for as recently as the early 1990’s the notion of the HR function as a strategic partner would have been quite novel.

To understand where the HR function is going, it is helpful to briefly review its past.

WHERE HR CAME FROM

In the first half of the 20th century, the Human Resource function grew out of the Payroll function. The remnants of this can be seen in companies that retain the responsibility for payroll processing within the HR Department. Today, the payroll function can often be found in the Controller’s functional area.

This new entity then became known as the “Personnel Department.” It was responsible for those duties that, quite frankly, didn’t seem to fit anywhere else, such as overseeing the employment process. Unlike later iterations, the Personnel Department was not concerned with strategic recruiting and selection. Its goal was simply to hire people to fill “jobs,” a 20th century creation. This emphasis explains how, even today, many people think of the Personnel Department as simply “the Department that hires people.” So engrained is this idea that, even in surveys of HR practitioners that we conduct today, many of them still define the main purpose of the HR Department as being “the employment of people.” Of course, it is true that in many of their companies, hiring people still is their main focus and purpose.

Since its inception, the HR Department has gone through a number of transformations, as depicted in Figure 1. During the 1970’s and 1980’s as it sought a new identity. These changes attempted to reposition the function as the guardian of employee relations and a provider of services.

The Evolution of the Human Resource Department:

– Payroll
– Payroll/Personnel Department
– Personnel Department
– Employee Services Department
– Human Relations Department
– Employee and/or Labor Relations Department
– Personnel Relations Department
– Human Resource Department
– Human Assets Department
– Human Capital Department
– Human Systems Department

In terms of the evolution of Management, this change had its origins in the “Human Relations” and “Human Resource” Movements of prior decades. The core notion of these movements was that organizations should proactively establish closer links with its employees to create the perception of, if not an actual concern for, employees, because of the employees’ potential to disrupt organizations when “relations” became unstable.

This era was also the beginning of the “employee involvement” movement and strategy. Employees became more increasingly engaged in decisionmaking that affected them. Progressive companies increasingly realized that employees who did the work, knew the work best. To gain greater acceptance of change, it was best to involve employees whose lives would be affected by the change. Human Resource professionals became “Employee Relations Counselors” and had the responsibility of bridging, establishing and maintaining a stable relationship between the employer and its employees.

Eventually, the notions of the HR function as the Personnel Department and the Employee Relations Department gave way to a new notion: the idea of employees as organizational “resources” to be valued. Thus was born the “Human Resource Department.”

Structurally, the Department did not change very much. The various sub-functions of Employment, Compensation, Training, and others remained. But the connotation of employees as “resources” permitted the HR Department to be viewed as something more than just a hiring function or as a mere provider of counseling and other services to employees. It suggested that the HR function recognized that humans as resources could be valued, served, recognized and “invested in,” in ways which could increase their value to the company.

It was the start of what would later emerge as “Human Capital” theory. This theory holds that, through training and education, an investment in people will provide a “return” to the company in the form of greater innovation and/or productivity. We see this final transition represented in Figure 1 by several newly conceptualized titles, including “Human Systems” and “Human Assets” Departments. Human Systems, for example, refers to the potential involvement of the HR practitioner in any human system within the company, be it a pay system, a sociotechnical system, a team-based systems or others requiring the internal consultation of the HR professional. Their contribution is tied more closely to the strategic nature of the business and the impact can therefore be even greater than that which was possible within the traditional HR Department.

WHERE IS HR TODAY?

Where is the HR function today? In an increasing number of companies, HR services are being delivered in new ways. In others, the HR Department resembles the same function and structure used in the 1960’s.

Fortunately, we are seeing long overdue change. The change is prompted by how organizations of the 1990’s need to be or demand to be serviced. For some, this means being a full-fledged strategic partner in the business. For others, it simply means being utilized as something more than a mere hiring or administrative function.

Change is also affecting the name of the emerging HR function. As depicted in Figure 1, the HR function in some companies is becoming the “Human Capital,” “Human Systems” or “Human Asset” Department. These names suggest the need to invest in human capital or human assets, as well as to evaluate how people are integrated in various organizational systems. Being new, these names may be better thought of as part of HR’s future.

The Effect of Cross-Functionalization

Specifically, how are HR services being delivered today? Certainly, functional structures are still in use, with their traditionally separate specialty areas such as Employment, Compensation, Training, and others. However, as “team-based,” “lateral,” “cross-functional,” or “matrix” organizations (choose a name) proliferate, the HR function has adapted. It is increasingly common to see a cross-functional HR representative assigned to other functional areas to provide general, ongoing HR services to that area, team, or group.

A more radical approach for the delivery of HR services is one in which it is understood that the HR representative is more strongly aligned with the assigned functional area than to the traditional HR Department. The difference is one of emphasis. While this is happening now, this structure could be considered more of a model for the future.

Unfortunately, this structure sometimes creates a split allegiance for the HR professional. Internal conflict increases under this model both within and across the HR functional representatives because the HR representative can become more emotionally tied to the assigned function than to the central HR function.

The Trend Toward Generalists

The trend toward the use of more HR generalists and fewer specialists also continues. This is an outgrowth of downsized organizations and the “do more with less” philosophy of the 1990’s. Thus, the makeup of HR Departments reflects this demand, increasing the use of generalists who can “do it all.” Some companies complement this approach with specialists, such as Compensation Specialists, for example, who are called upon as needed to serve the entire company in an internal consulting capacity. Company size also impacts the ratio of generalists to specialists. The larger the company, the more likely it is that it will create specialist positions.

Shared Services Model

Another current model gaining increased attention is the delivery of HR services via a “shared services” model. This is a centralized model in which HR specialists and generalists deliver services to the entire company on an as-needed basis, charged to the functional area served.

The central HR function also can perform normal or expected services such as administrative services (somebody has to do it!) on behalf of the company. These may be free to specific functions or the costs may be distributed over all functions.

The shared services model creates a more positive image for the HR Department as an internal consulting function rather than an administrative function, or in the other, less attractive ways the function has been traditionally viewed. A disadvantage of this approach can be the reluctance of other functions to utilize services for which they will be charged. An HR function operating in this environment would be wise to internally market its services to, or “partner” with, other functions.

WHERE IS HR GOING?

The future will be an interesting time for the Human Resource function. As one HR consultant observed (ACA Journal, Spring 1997), a review of the debates in the national business media might lead one to conclude that the future HR Department will be “a fraction of its size, with the remaining activities pushed up (to the CEO), down (to line management), out (to vendors and consultants) and in (to technology).”

Will it continue to exist, but as a smaller entity? Will it become functionally stronger, gaining greater acceptance, meaning and value in organizations where it serves? Or will its duties remain but be delivered in other forms?

Here are some of the more radical possibilities.

The Devolution of the HR Department

One scenario has the HR function being “devoluted” (i.e. de-evolved), with its tasks being redistributed or incorporated into other functional areas. Thus, managers in what once were the “customer” areas served by HR take on HR functions such as employment, compensation, counseling, and many more.

This envisioned future is disconcerting to HR professionals. A common reaction is that the supervisors and managers of other functional areas do not possess the HR professional’s knowledge, gained over a long period of time about matters such as discrimination law, dispute resolution, pay strategy, administrative requirements, designing and presenting training programs, and many other responsibilities resident within HR Departments. A major concern is that this lack of knowledge on the part of the receiving function about compliance law will result in financial damage to the company, in the form of fines and penalties.

In fact, the belief that the HR function can be devoluted can be a serious misconception. From the general HR literature, it appears that non-HR professionals, including Executives, sometimes minimize the value of the HR function. Consequently, they conclude that absorbing its responsibilities will be relatively easy. This is a very dangerous assumption. One reason why an absorption of duties does not work is the time demands placed upon the absorbing functions and individuals. Whether the HR role is one capable of absorption or not, time constraints prohibit its successful and timely execution.

Thus, the thinking about the HR function’s role and importance comes full circle. It is a unique function with unique preparatory requirements. In another irony of perspective concerning the absorption of the HR function, it is interesting to observe how commonly companies assign the HR function to the Financial function, but never the converse! In fact, both functions should be viewed as different, unique and, above all, separate.

Human Systems Management

Another scenario for the HR function’s future is a movement toward “Human Systems Management.” As briefly defined earlier, this is the management of human systems, or any organizational system in which the role, impact and reaction of the human element is of primary importance.

Human Systems Management encompasses much of what Human Resource Management has become, and more. In it, the HR function is re-creating, redefining, and essentially retuning for the Post-Modern and Information Ages. The system may be exclusively human (e.g. the process of team building) or sociotechnical (i.e. the interaction of people and technology). It may involve the redesign of work or the design of new pay systems to improve employee satisfaction and organizational performance. The key element is the human element. The desired outcome is twofold: improved individual and organizational performance.

In this HR future, we move away from the view of HR as a functional area and redefine it in terms of its internal consulting capabilities. Yet it still permits the HR function to fulfill a role we have come to expect, namely, to provide services which do not fit neatly into the roles of other functions. It is that “crossover” activity, in which the business’ operations must be understood and combined with the special expertise that HR professionals possess, including knowledge of organizational behavior, organizational theory, organizational development, and human resource management. Human Systems Management thinking recognizes that the HR professional has a unique view of the organization, and serves to capitalize upon it.

Shared Services Model

The Shared Services Model has become an increasingly popular model of HR Department design, and, as previously described, could be considered as a current design. What makes it more of a future model at this time, however, is its relative lack of implementation. Practitioners are still working out the organizational issues it creates, and discovering its usefulness.

In this model the HR Department acts as a kind of “central consulting organization” and, sometimes, even becomes a “profit center,.”” charging its services to other departments as its services are retained by them. While the traditional HR Department can provide consulting services out of its historically common structure, the consulting relationship is more formal in the shared services model. It is not the “old” HR Department redefining itself as internal consultants. Rather, it is a formal re-introduction of HR into the company as a functional area with a newly defined mission. This mission is to provide HR consulting services as requested for a fee.

While it may not actually be profitable as a profit center, it is an intriguing way to assess the organization’s need for HR services. If one believes that the HR function can act like a strategic partner, how often are we afforded the opportunity to prove it? Do others see HR as being a mutually useful and beneficial partner in order to achieve their business objectives? Being organized in a Shared Services Model will give you the answer quickly.

Outsourcing

An increasingly popular model today is outsourcing, which permits the HR function to rid itself of activities that can often be performed by others more effectively or economically. In other cases, outsourcing simply permits the HR function to turn its attention to other, more important matters.

It would be easy to view the use of outsourcing as a current phenomenon, not as something that will occur in the future. However, a growing change in the outsourcing strategies of companies is to move beyond the simple outsourcing of administrative tasks and into the realm of professional services like compensation program management and maintenance activities. For example, third parties may be used to maintain a company’s job descriptions. This is important and useful because this activity is normally a time-consuming responsibility that is often avoided internally. Third parties/consultants also can design and implement training and development programs, as well as conduct audits (e.g. pay program audits, retention audits, skill audits, etc.).

We have always outsourced a number of HR activities. These include contingent/retained recruiters, benefits administration, and training and development programs to some extent. What has changed? Specifically, it is the expansion of the activities that we are willing to outsource, spurred by the new rationale for outsourcing more HR activities: namely, that we are recognizing that the HR role can be performed much more effectively in other ways. We are moving away from the “administrative, service and control” HR model and toward the “strategic partner” HR model, and extensions of it. When we can lighten the load of HR functions in order to address more meaningful challenges, we are increasing our worth and value to our organizations. Outsourcing helps us to achieve this.

Environmental Scanning

This is, perhaps, the most unusual possible course of action for HR Department design in the future. Scanning refers to the monitoring of activities in the company’s external environment. Scanning activities have been part of the HR Department’s role for quite some time. For example, Compensation Departments are responsible for conducting pay surveys to gather external marketplace data. The HR Department also scans governmental activity to monitor changes in laws which affect the management of people. Employment Managers monitor demographic changes in the workforce to establish recruitment strategies.

The suggestion, therefore, is that the HR Department become the entity which is responsible for those and other scanning activities, some of which may now be performed by other functional areas, such as Marketing which is responsible for market research, or for HR outsourcing tasks (once again, to the “outside” of the company).

The possibilities are endless but require very different thinking about the tasks of different departments and a willingness to centralize them under the new entity. Like any other cross-functional redesign effort, a “natural work group” of tasks (i.e. a combined task group that makes sense) would need to be assembled to make this vision a reality. Not all external scanning possibilities would make sense for grouping in a department that, in the end, may have a name other than the Human Resource Department. It could be called the “Environmental Monitoring” Department, as one of many possibilities. Whatever its name, the core concept is that what happens on the outside of our companies is important and worth researching, or simply, good “strategic management.”

CONCLUSION

Ask someone to quickly define the purpose of an HR Department and you’ll receive some interesting answers, from both practitioners and non-practitioners alike. The diversity of their answers reflects the uniqueness of the HR function.

We seemingly can’t live with the HR function, nor without it. It is becoming something more than it has been historically, and yet it faces the prospect of further evolutionary change. Different methods of service delivery will be seen in different companies. The demand for services will differ depending upon the company and its view of the role and purpose of the HR function.

I believe it is safe to say that the HR function can be “something more” than it has been in many companies. In some, HR has already demonstrated how valuable its contribution can be. In others, it continues to provide only administrative support. Perhaps the solution rests in what the contract will be between the HR function and the organization it serves. What does the organization want HR to be?

For information on HR outsourcing click here.

We see the potential emergence of the HR function as a “hybrid” structure, consisting of the valuable parts of its past, but combined with new services and approaches aimed at supporting the new business entities and thinking that have emerged in the last fifteen years. For example, the training and development of human assets has now become just as important to the managers of Manufacturing, Engineering, and other functional areas, as it has always been to the HR professional. This convergence of thought provides new opportunities to the HR professional to serve in ways which are increasingly valuable and meaningful to supported functions.

With these changes come new opportunities for HR professionals to influence and impact not only the design and delivery of HR services, but to shape the image of the HR profession in the new millennium. As HR professionals, we should be excited about the possibilities that lie ahead.

Know the Common Misconceptions and Truths About Botox

Botox is the not-so-unseen beauty secret murmured about in the A-list circles. The wealthy and well-known people have exercised it for years to condense the emergence of wrinkles, but the treatment has massively grown in fame over the past 10 years. Both men and women are starting to cuddle Botox, not as a last option to smooth their face, but they embrace Botox as a precautionary measure for maintaining a youthful look. Here are some of the common misconceptions about Botox, and the truth behind using it.

Botox is designed only for wrinkles

Truth: This misconception could not be more erroneous. Actually, Botox does not help wrinkles, such as laugh lines, and it is not perfect for wrinkles under the eyes. Conversely, Botox performs well in reducing the emergence of certain wrinkles. It is a successful migraine treatment and it is habitually used to lessen muscle stress and strain around the nervous system. It also offers a welcome relief for those who prone to undue sweating and may assist some people with despair.

Botox is not safe to use

Truth: By far, this is the most common misconception about Botox. The truth is that it is an FDA-approved product, and besides wrinkles, it can be effectively used for frown lines, crow’s feet, in addition to several different symptoms of aging, and it has also been extensively used to treat medical disorders. The use of Botox has been closely watched by the FDA, and has offered it a stamp of authorization for several years. So Botox is safe to use.

Botox is not necessary until wrinkles appear

Truth: Botox can be applied as a preventive, beauty treatment. Actually, the finest occasion to start getting Botox treatments is earlier than the lines become imprinted on the skin. Botox can be employed to put off wrinkles from facial movements, such as raising the eyebrows or squinting if used earlier they ever start. If not, Botox can stop those lines from getting worse, but the skin texture of the user does not change. However, if one stops using Botox for any reason, the wrinkles will start to emerge.

Botox takes more time to recover

Truth: Actually, Botox does not take much time to recuperate at all. The injections are painless and quick and any marks from the actual injections are likely to vanish after 15 to 20 minutes.

Botox will make the face freeze

Truth: Botox does not freeze the muscles in the face of a user. Instead, it relaxes them when it is appropriately injected, and it can actually improve facial expressions. Occasionally, wrinkles form in a manner that makes an individual appear sad or angry. In those situations, Botox will help to reduce that look.

Botox is prepared from food poisoning

Truth: This is also one of the common misconceptions about Botox. Actually Botox is prepared from a sanitized protein, which is extracted from the toxin called Botulism. This derived protein is entirely purified and made safe for the body use. There are several medications that are based on certain resources in toxins that are entirely safe to use. Actually, Botox has one among the maximum satisfaction rate of 87 % of people using it.

Conclusion

If you are considering Botox or would like to talk with somebody regarding which anti-aging methods would be exact for you, visit a reliable and professional skin clinic. The trained anti-aging professionals in these clinics will carry out a complete physical test, perform any essential diagnostic testing, and discuss with you regarding the subsequent steps for aging avoidance and treatment.

The Benefits of Radiator Cabinets

If you’re looking for something that will significantly add multiple benefits to your home, a radiator cabinet may be a great solution for you. Radiator cabinets enclose a cast iron radiator, making the space surrounding it both safer and usable. These devices could potentially turn practically useless areas of the home into places that glow with style and grace. The primary benefits to owning a radiator cabinet are increased safety, an enhanced aesthetic, and improved utility.

Safety Benefits
Radiator cabinets significantly improve the safety of your home by providing a convenient buffer between the hot coils of a cast iron radiator and flammable materials. Since the cabinet completely encloses the radiator, it significantly reduces the chance that someone dear to you could burn themselves accidentally. This is an essential benefit, especially if your home includes young kids or pets.

Aesthetic Benefits
As the years roll on, many radiators start to look downright awful, especially if they were not properly taken care of. Restoring an old radiator can be time intensive and relatively expensive. By enclosing the heating unit in a radiator cabinet, you can significantly enhance the look of any room. Many radiator cabinets are fashioned with fantastic looking materials like fine oaks and light metals. A variety of styles exist, so you can definitely find one appealing to your tastes if you browse around.

Utility Benefits
A radiator cabinet improves the utility of any room by taking useless space and transforming it into something usable again. The area directly around a cast iron radiator can’t be occupied by any flammable materials because of fire hazards. With a radiator cabinet, items can be placed around and even on top of the radiator. Many models also include shelving, which increases their added utility even further.

A radiator cabinet is an excellent investment for any home because it significantly enhances the room it occupies. For both aesthetic and practical reasons, radiator cabinets are wonderful devices for any home.

For radiator covers in Cheshire click here.

We Never Let Go of Family Memories

If you are thinking about getting a family portrait done or perhaps you know someone else who wants their family photographed and not sure of the time frame or budget involved for this type of shoot, they should probably just start off by calling a professional Family Photography Studio and discussing the many plans and options that they have available.

In the end, whether you choose a Family Package, Newborn Photography Package or Children’s Photography Package, you will usually end up with more than they bargained for with excellent family treasures for years to come.

What are some of the key components in family photography?

1. Communication

Communication for sure is the key component in family photography.

From the first time a potential client contacts you via Facebook, email or phone, we make sure that we stay focused and respond to any and all inquiries and messages that come across our desk.

Always keep your clients informed of any scheduling changes, price changes, or location changes especially when shooting outdoors.

Always communicate through many methods but it is usually the client’s communication method of choice that you should go with, mostly because if you know what works for them, and then there is less of a chance of something going wrong like missing the scheduled shoot time or location. It can get costly having to reschedule a missed photo shoot especially if our client only has that one weekend available for a family outing.

Simple things like adding reminders in your calendar will notify you and your clients a few days in advance of an upcoming family photography shoot. Then that day you should send a text or phone call to our clients, if that’s how we’ve touched base in the past. If they don’t respond then keep trying at regular intervals until they respond. This is very important in running a family photography business. Effective communication means the difference of having repeat clients and scratching your head down the road wondering why business is slow.

2. Location

Before choosing a final location for the family photographic shoot, always get your client’s input about where their favorite spots may be. Then you should discuss the pros and cons regarding this location and how the light may not be quite right, the backdrop may be better somewhere else say in a park where there are trees and water fountains, or they may have a beautiful location on a family property somewhere that is more suited to what they expect.

Keep in mind that if shooting in a public park or similar location that you may need a permit, so it’s always good to do some scouting beforehand, just to make sure everything goes smoothly.

3. Wardrobe

Always try to suggest to your clients that they try to be casual and comfortable in whatever they choose to wear. It is always good for families to try matching up clothing that makes them look confident, relaxed, happy, and possibly something with lots of color. Colors like green, aqua or peach tend to show up good in photographs so this may be something you would want to consider before planning any family photography session. Family group shots are great but more organization is needed in coordinating everyone’s schedules right down to what they wear.

For more formal photographs like proms, family weddings, or family milestone birthday events, people start off by being a little tense. However, we find that after a half hour or so of shooting, this is when we get the best shots. Family members eventually get used to us being there and become more relaxed and this makes for some of the best shots overall.

The Overall Goal of Family Photography

The goal in family photography is to be creative, communicate well, and to end up with something memorable that will build client trust and that you may get several referrals from in the near future. Choose a theme like possibly something they enjoy doing such as a hanging out like the family cottage fishing or reading, or even down at the park feeding the ducks.

Also, don’t forget the family pet. There is something right there that may loosen everyone up and get those pearly whites and eyes smiling nice and wide. Whichever location or theme you choose, we try to keep it fun and positive and give the family something unique and memorable that will last a lifetime.

Family Portrait Photography – Tips in Capturing the Essence of Your Family

Family portraits are a lot more than a picture or something to look at on the wall. It tells a story and share a sense of family history with future generations.

If you really want to capture the essence of your family for many years, hiring a professional portrait photographer is an investment that not only you will enjoy but your grandkids and future generation will enjoy. Because a family portrait is just not the same as any other kind of photograph, a professional photographer can put that special added touch on these kinds of family heirlooms an enable you and your family to reap the rewards for many years to come.

It is easy for many to think of professional portraits as a luxury or unnecessary expense, but consider how long a portrait lasts and the fact that it is the best way to preserve memories for many generations. The right portrait can be a source of happiness for many generations.

When choosing to hire a professional family photographer, there are three things that you should keep in mind. First, the amount of money that you are willing to spend on portraits is one of the most important factors guiding the choice of portrait studios and who you can hire. Second, you should also decide on what type of portrait you will want. Do you want an outdoor photo session, or one inside a studio? What kind of image or emotion so you want the portrait to display? Is there any kind of background that you would want to use? The last thing to consider about your portraits is what you want to do with them once you have them.

Of course, you will want to share some of your portraits with other friends and family, but also consider what you would like to do with them in your home. Do you want a large portrait on canvas to hang over the mantel, or would you like to place various portrait poses in a large album for the coffee table? These will all be things to consider ahead of time, prior to having your family portraits made. These will also be the kinds of things that you will want to communicate with your professional family portrait photographer.

The amount of money that you are willing to spend will determine the level of quality that you will get in a professional photography studio and also the quality of portraits that you will receive. Professional family portrait photographers will be able to provide you not only with the best family portrait sitting experience and the best advice for family portraits, but also with high-quality prints and after-portrait services like mattes, frames, and albums as well.

Announce Your Baby to the World With the Perfect Photo Birth Announcement!

Birth Photo Announcements

A new baby is a special event that everyone wants to celebrate. What better way to share your joy than to show off the child with a custom photo birth announcement?

Don’t feel like waiting in a line at the mall?

Fancy photography studios and waiting in line? Think again! You can now take the photos yourself in the comfort of your home. No stress of taking the young one out. Since digital photography technology has improved and gone down in price, photo birth announcements are now very affordable and an easy solution! The photos can be taken at your leisure as you wait to capture that perfect moment. Take one photo or twenty then decide which one is best for your photo birth announcement.

Make it reflect you and yours

If you were to buy a package of ‘welcome baby’ announcements at the store, you would be stuck with whatever wording or phrases imprinted on the front. But with custom photo birth announcements you can decide what is right for your family. Do you want a few lines of poetry? Or would you rather use that space to list out the baby’s birth length and height? How your photo birth announcement reads is now up to you and not someone working in a factory you never met.

Use the props from your life

Another fun and idea is to use props in your photo birth announcement. Are you going for a ballerina theme? Try dressing the baby in a fun tutu outfit? Is your little man going to be a great football star? Try posing the baby with a small football.This will help make the birth announcement something you and your family will always remember. It turns a simple birth announcement into a keepsake item and the price is comparable to regular invitations!

Magnetic Backs

Photo birth Announcement and invitations often get lost. It may get crammed into a book; or knocked off a shelf; or worse, just left with the bills. No one wants that for their message, and discerning people usually put it on the fridge. With that in mind, why not get a photo birth announcement with a magnet on the back? Then the photo birth announcement will be displayed where the family can see it and that fruit shaped magnet won’t obscure the look of your carefully planned birth announcement.

What Is Digital Marketing? A Guide to Marketing in Today’s Digital World

In the world of business development and branding, going digital is all the buzz. So just what is digital marketing and how can we use it to grow our businesses?

Digital Marketing Defined

Digital marketing is the advertising and promotion of businesses and their brands through digital media channels. Digital media, at the moment, includes websites, social media, radio, television, mobile and even forms of traditionally non-digital media such as billboards and transit signs. Essentially any marketing media that is delivered electronically is considered digital marketing.

This leaves only various forms of person-to-person (P2P) marketing, print advertising and direct marketing outside of the digital marketing umbrella. Even then, print ads, direct mail, print directories, billboards and posters are all starting to connect to their digital counterparts. With items like URL landing pages, QR codes, web banner advertising, online directories and text codes, traditional marketing and advertising almost always has a digital marketing connection.

Why the Focus on Digital Media?

The shift to digital media is being driven by marketing agencies, business owners and consumers alike. The ever-increasing demand to show quantifiable results makes going digital a dream for the digital marketing agency. Most digital media, including websites, social media and mobile advertising is much easier to track than traditional marketing media such as print advertising.

For business owners, many forms of digital advertising are very low cost. Having a web presence, engaging customers in conversations through social media and e-mail marketing are low cost alternatives to print advertising and direct mail. These digital channels are available to businesses of any size, and help to even the playing field for start-ups, small businesses and independent consultants seeking new business.

For consumers, the fast pace of life makes digital advertising a must. When consumers are in need of goods and services, gone are the days of thumbing through a phonebook to find them. Now, we whip out our mobile devices or head to our computers for answers – and we find them fast.

Using Digital Media to Build Your Business and Brand

No matter what size your business is – large or small to medium sized business / enterprise (SMB or SME) – you can effectively market your business through low-cost digital channels. The foundation of your marketing efforts will be your website. Invest wisely in your website, and be sure that it does the following:

  • Adequately represents your business and brand (look and feel, messaging)
  • Adequately speaks to your target audience
  • Can be found by searchers on top search engines
  • Is up-to-date and easily navigable
  • Provides multiple channels for customer communication
  • Connects to other marketing efforts

It is recommended that you work with a professional web design firm that is skilled in web development and search engine optimization. Because your website is the foundation to and from which all other digital channels will lead, it should be considered one of your top business investments.

Once you have your website complete, the next steps would be to launch regular monthly or bi-monthly e-mail campaigns, and connect with customers via social media. If you are truly on a shoestring budget, these are efforts that can be done in-house (by someone with the proper knowledge) or for a low cost by an outside digital marketing agency. Be sure that all of your efforts lead customers back to your website where they can fully engage with your business, products and services, and choose the channels through which they contact you.

If you’re interested in getting aggressive with search marketing, you can set aside some digital marketing dollars for search engine optimization and pay-per-click advertising. Many businesses today rely heavily on being found online to gain new customers. A common misconception among business owners is that simply having a website means that customers will find it. Not so. Your site must be built with specific key words and phrases, meta data, page content and linking strategies that will help it reach top search rankings.

Because many key words and phrases have stiff competition for top search rankings, you will need to supplement your organic search engine optimization efforts with pay-per-click advertising. Getting established with pay-per-click advertising campaigns can be a little daunting, but with a little time, effort and instruction, that too can be accomplished in-house, or for a reasonable cost through an outside digital marketing agency.

Beyond e-mail, social media marketing and search engine marketing, you can venture into a host of other digital marketing efforts. Mobile advertising, radio, television, electronic billboards and much more are available as marketing outlets. Whatever digital efforts you choose, they should all connect and tie into your foundation – your company website.

If you have the means, a wise investment would be to engage the services of a digital marketing agency to assist in your marketing efforts. Today, many digital agencies offer multiple levels of service to accommodate businesses large and small.

For information on SocialHackr click here.

Medicare Supplement Plans – How They Work

Medicare Supplement plans are plans that are designed to fill in the “gaps” in “original” Medicare. “Original” Medicare includes Medicare Part A (hospital inpatient) and Part B (outpatient/doctor). These plans are consistent across companies – all companies are required to provide the same standardized benefits. This makes it very easy to understand the plans and how they work. Here are the top three things that you must know when looking at Medicare Supplement plans:

  1. Medicare Supplement plans (also called Medigap) are Federally-standardized. The plans all provide equal coverage for “like” plans. What this means is that a Plan F with one company is the exact same as a Plan F with another company. Because of this, it is important to compare the plans on the basis of monthly premium and company rating or reputation. Price being equal, it is preferable to be with a company that has a long track record of involvement in the senior insurance marketplace and/or a high financial strength rating.
  2. Medigap plans can be used at any doctor or hospital, nationwide, regardless of which company sells you the plan. Many types of insurance are network-based; however, this does not apply to Medicare Supplement plans. Even some types of Medicare plans – Medicare Advantage plans – are network-based in most cases. On the contrary, Medigap plans give you the flexibility of using the plan anywhere in the country that takes Medicare. This flexibility, particularly for someone that travels, is one of the many reasons that these plans have become increasingly popular as a way to supplement Medicare coverage.
  3. Medigap plans all pay claims through the Medicare “crossover” system. There is no variation in how quickly or how efficiently one company pays claims versus another. While some companies may use the selling point of their timeliness in paying claims, this is not altogether accurate when it comes to this type of insurance. Because the plans are Federally-standardized and pay claims this “crossover” system, you can be assured that, regardless of the company, the claims are going to be paid in a timely manner and with minimal (usually no) involvement from the insured. Once you have a plan, you just need to present your plan identification card with your red, white and blue Medicare card when receiving services from a doctor or hospital.

Altogether, Medicare Supplement plans continue to be a viable option for those on Medicare, who wish to limit their exposure to out of pocket expenses. With only Medicare, you are subjected to paying approximately 20% of all medical costs. With a Medigap plan, however, you can greatly reduce or, with some plans, completely eliminate your out of pocket costs.

7 Things to Keep in Mind When Renting a Bounce House

Let’s face it… bounce houses are fun! It doesn’t matter if you’re four or fifty-four: there’s just something exhilarating about flinging yourself around inside a soft, squishy, air-filled house! It’s like jumping on the bed, except you can’t get in trouble for it! Click here for information on Cincinnati bounce house rentals.

Still, even the most lighthearted and fun activities have certain things about them that must be kept in mind so they can stay lighthearted and fun. They are no exception to the rule. What follows is a list of some simple but important things to keep in mind to help you get past the planning/thinking stages and on to the fun.

1. Insurance

There is a very good reason that this is number one on the list. It is extremely important to make sure that the company from which you’re renting is insured. Not only this, but it is important to make sure that you’re renting is covered. Some companies advertise their insurance policies, but those policies only cover certain bounce houses. If someone gets hurt while bouncing around at your party and the rental company is not insured, you could be sued for a lot of money. Tread carefully here.

2. The Age of the Bounce House

It can only hold up to so many years of sugar-rushed, excited kiddos (and sugar-rushed, fun-loving parents, aunts, and uncles) jumping up and down inside of it before it starts to show its age – brittleness, thin spots subject to tears/leaking, etc. This is not only an aesthetic problem but a safety issue. Put this question high on your list when shopping.

3. Disinfecting

Make sure that the company you rent from has good bounce house hygiene. Remember these things are made to be filled with tiny people who love to stick their little fingers into all the things Mommy says don’t touch. The concepts of “eating” and “bouncing” also sometimes produce… unexpected results when done in the wrong order. So make sure the company keeps them clean… and maybe buy a bottle of Lysol or two… just to be on the safe side!

4. Solutions for the Heat

A lot of parties that warrant bounce houses are summertime bashes. Because of this, you’ll need to come up with some way to augment the heat inside the it. Plan your party in the cool of the day, perhaps, or make sure that the item is set up in the shade. There are several different routes to solving this problem. Just determine the one that works best for your party.

5. Supervision

Remember: kids have a surprising amount of muscular power in those little frames… meaning they bounce hard… especially when they’re having fun. Having one six-year-old child in a bounce house pounding the plastic to her little heart’s content is all right, but throw five or six other kids in the mix (including that eight-year-old from down the street who could be a lightweight champion already) and the chances of injury and sudden pandemonium increase greatly. So… your job is to be a good chaperone. Keep a close eye on the bounce house. The other parents, the rental place, and its insurance company will be very glad you did!

6. Rules for the Bounce House

This falls directly in line with number five and is distinct from, but a big part of, being a good chaperone. The antics of excited children operating en masse can degenerate into anarchy very rapidly without a clear set of rules and a good enforcer. Your list could include guidelines like:

1. No teenagers or adults with the little ones.

2. No shoes in the bounce house. (i.e. hard soles = damage to the bounce house and to other kids)

3. Bouncing first, eating after.

Etc., etc., etc. You’ll know the rules that will work best for your party-goers.

7. Things You Need to Provide / Do

Check with the rental company to see if there is anything that you need to provide, do, or prepare before the bounce house can be set up. Will you need to provide a generator? Will you pick up the deflated item and inflate it, or do they deliver? Just make sure that everything is ready to go beforehand so there will be no glitches on party day.

Well… these are seven major “serious” things that you should keep in mind when renting a bounce house. Think about them for a while… process them… get everything all set and ready… and then… you have my permission… go have fun!