Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Chocolate Chip Cookie Cheesecake Bars

Because one or the other isn't enough, right?
These are very rich, so perhaps the best part is, you don't eat too many at once and truly savor the flavor of the cookie dough along with the sharper flavor of the cheesecake.

  • 2 cup flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2/3 cup softened (not melted) butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tsp Vanilla
  • 2 cup chocolate chips
  • 8 oz softened cream cheese
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. Line a 9x9 inch square baking pan with parchment paper, and spray with nonstick spray
  3. Whisk together flour, baking soda and salt (for the crust)
  4. Mix (with electric mixer) together butter, brown sugar and sugar, until fluffy
  5. Add the egg and vanilla, and keep mixing until it's all mixed together
  6. Add in your flour mixture and mix until all incorporated
  7. Fold in the chocolate chips slowly
  8. Press 2/3 of this mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan, and smooth so the layer is even
  9. Combine your filling ingredients and beat until blended
  10. Spread the filling over the cookie dough layer and smooth so it's all level
  11. Crumble the remaining cookie dough over the filling layer
  12. Bake for 1 hour, or until the cheesecake is set and the cookie dough begins to brown
  13. Cool completely before slicing
  14. Enjoy!


Friday, February 12, 2016

Market To Everyone and You Reach No One

A successful marketer knows how to read people. I think about this every day, as I’m creating strategies, programs and content for my clients, and always can hear Kenny Loggins singing in my head. “I’ve made a living out of reading people’s faces…” We used to have to put together elaborate buyer personas, and market to people who fit into those molds. However, with the rise of social media, and the increasing number of people from all demographics using various social media platforms, we can now create content and programming based on real people.

Prior to social media, marketing tactics were more widespread. We could put together a great promotion and send it out to a wide variety of stores, or place an ad in a newspaper where hundreds of people would see it, or even put up a billboard. That was how we used to reach people. We would throw messages out en masse, in hopes that it would reach both our current customers and potential new customers.

That doesn’t work anymore. Today, we realize that we need to personalize content, to “each” person, and market to that “one” person. Consumers today are not just smarter to the ways of marketing, but they are suffering from marketing messaging and ad fatigue. Even if a great ad comes across them, they might tune it out without even meaning to – there are simply too many messages being thrown out there on too many mediums today.

So, how does someone break through that? If people are tuning out ads without even knowing they’re doing it, how can we ensure our messaging won’t get tuned out? It is a lot easier than many marketing folks realize, and while it takes more work to market with personalization, it will help ensure the messages are landing where they need to be.

1.     Know Who You Are Talking To

This goes a bit deeper than simply saying “know your target audience.” You need to get more specific in your head with who IN your target audience you are speaking to. My target audience for a brand I work with might be men and women, ages 18-40 who live in Southern California. Sounds pretty specific, right? Yet it’s not specific enough. I need to delve deeper and start listening to what segmented groups of that audience are saying about my brand, what their buying habits are, and how I can reach them before they even realize my brand can enhance their life.

2.     Relate Your Messaging to “Me”

We are all consumers at some point in our day, of a variety of different products. What makes you choose one brand over another? For me, I will choose a brand that makes the most sense for my life. As a marketer, I need to reach “me” and show you how my brand can seamlessly fit into your life, and how much easier or better your life will then be, due to using, eating or drinking my brand. What questions are being asked by the people you are trying to reach, and how can your product or service answer those questions? Those answers need to be provided in your content and messaging.

3.     Where Can I Find My Audience, and in What Format?

Not only does the content I send to you need to be relevant on topic, but it also needs to land in the right spot for “each” person. I am pretty vocal about my love for Twitter. Some people don’t use Twitter and prefer to use Facebook. If the person I’m trying to reach prefers to receive their messaging on one platform, my personal preferences don’t matter – YOURS do. How “you” want to receive content needs to be a marketer’s main focus.

Emails have employed this idea since inception– how many times have you signed up for an email subscription and been asked if you prefer messages in HTML or plain text? That is an example of personalization. Today, people consume content in more ways than simply plain text – does your target audience prefer infographics? Blogs? Do they attend Twitter chats for the information they seek?

4.     Don’t Be Creepy

Personalization, when done right, is smooth. You don’t want to personalize too far down, to the point that people feel like their space or privacy is being invaded. You can personalize content and strategies without it seeming like you have been listening in on people’s private conversations. Social listening does not mean stalking!

Undoubtedly, personalized content marketing takes much longer than any marketing of the past. However, what happens to the very best content ever produced in the history of man when it’s not seen? Did it really exist? If you are taking the time and psending the money to put out marketing messaging, it only follows that you want those efforts to pay off.

There is more data to be found and more ways to have real conversations with your target consumer than ever. Understand who those people are, so you can develop relevant content for them that is then delivered at the right time, in the right format and where they are best able to benefit from it.

Monday, February 8, 2016

All Social Platforms Were Not Created Equal

Sure, you can easily lump all the different social media platforms into a large bucket and call them “Social Media,” but to truly reach your target audience today, it means tailoring your messaging for each platform. While a “spray and pray” method used to work in the past, it doesn’t anymore. Consumers talk about content fatigue, and are getting much smarter in their abilities to tune out “bad” marketing.

Now, to really speak to THAT consumer you are writing each piece of content for, it has to be relevant. And relevance isn’t limited simply to the topic; the platform and method of content delivery is equally important. I have a few friends that will write something they are proud of, or think is great for who they are trying to get in front of, and they will post the same piece, word for word on both Twitter and Facebook. Here’s why I’m already tuned out – if I were to see it on only Twitter or only Facebook, I might feel it’s a bit more tailored to me and my needs. But the second I see it just thrown out there, my mind has become trained to begin ignoring what the piece is about, even if it is exactly what I’m looking for. Social media has trained my brain to look at marketing messaging cast out in a huge net and phishing. Also, and here’s the catch – if you are posting the same thing on both Twitter and Facebook, what is my (and countless hundreds of others) incentive for following you on both sites? While personalizing your marketing is important, if you are posting identical content on both of those platforms, you are losing out on potentially millions more people seeing your content.

Unfortunately, these friends of mine that are doing this aren’t necessarily “new” to marketing, or “new” to using social media marketing. Nor are they alone – I am surprised almost daily at people I used to think of my go-to’s for “best practices” doing this exact same thing. I like to think that it’s not a misunderstanding of how to use social media platforms correctly, but then what am I left with? Are they simply lazy? Or do they truly not recognize that each social media site is different? WHO you are writing for needs to be just as much of a focus as WHERE you are writing for.

For brevity, let’s focus on just Twitter and Facebook here. Both are necessary for businesses and brands to garner attention, new customers, and deepen relationships with existing customers. Those current and potential customers, as well as you and me (and millions of others) go to each of those sites for different reasons. It is our job as marketers to learn what those reasons are, and what drives people to one site for certain information and sharing, where they are most receptive to information we are aiming to provide for them, and where ultimately, we can convert them.

Twitter vs Facebook: What’s the Big Difference?

There are generalizations we can make about who visits each site, and break those down by demographics. When we understand who is going where, we can begin to come up with strategies to get in front of those people, to achieve each of our goals.

The statistics seem to change daily, but it appears that Twitter users skew younger than Facebook’s average users. That makes a difference when you think of what content to share on Facebook. Many articles have recently been written that the biggest growth in users that Facebook is seeing recently is within the 65+ crowd. So while emojis and gifs may be all the rage on Twitter, they will most likely not be as relevant on Facebook.

We can then generalize and say that content written for Facebook needs to go a bit deeper in information and topic, and be written for a more mature audience.

Working off personal knowledge, (as marketers need to be able to do) Facebook friends are more often people you know in person, as opposed to Twitter, where you are more likely to have “Twitter friends” you have never met. Think of the people you engage with the most on Twitter – if you are like me, they span the globe more than the people you are friends with on Facebook.

This is important to keep in mind for writing content – content for Twitter may need to have a more global feel than Facebook posts. If you are a brand, odds are that the people that have liked you on Facebook are more concentrated in where they live – that would make sense, since people are more likely to like a brand they can purchase. If you only sell in the US, it follows that you will not have many likes coming from the UK or Australia, while on Twitter, people from another country may follow you more for your content, than for availability, coupons or deals.

How do topics differ between Twitter and Facebook?

Right away, you can see that with the character restraints currently on Twitter, content must be written to grab your audience much faster. Facebook allows you to write more in a post, whereas on Twitter you would have to send someone off the platform via links to get your full message out.

As we mentioned with friends vs people you haven’t met, Facebook topics tend to be more personal in nature. Twitter topics are less personal, focusing more on trending topics, news and opinions.

Twitter moves much faster than Facebook. The average life span of a tweet is under an hour, where on Facebook, posts are seen for much longer (depending on how many friends you have). Because of this, you will want to repeat certain tweets during different times of the day, where on Facebook, you will only post the same post once.

On the flip side, Twitter is like a raucous soiree in which everyone is talking over everyone else. Therefore, the relationships are pretty superficial and all about the fun they are having at that moment in time. You may find that Facebook is better for your brand for converting casual consumers to more loyal buyers. I believe this is because with the more personal nature of sharing on Facebook, influence amongst friends recommending products to one other is stronger, because people are more connected and personal.

However, because of hashtags and Twitters search functions, people that influence others will tend to influence many more people than they do on Facebook.

What do we do now, with this information?

We begin by learning to write for Twitter and for Facebook, but not with the same content at the same time.

Let’s start with Twitter

Twitter allows you to post 140 characters per Tweet. However, it is recommended to use much less, so that people can RT your posts and still have space to include commentary, as well as allowing yourself room for hashtags that will help each  Tweet reach the people you are writing it for. Hashtags will also allow you to encourage conversations between people around those terms. I would suggest aiming for no more than 100 characters/tweet.

You will want to have something compelling and relevant to say in the beginning of your tweet to grab followers’ attention and stand out in an increasingly busy stream. Images are perfect for attracting people to your tweets and can say much more than your allowed 140 characters.

And now for Facebook

If we researched and learned that Facebook is more personal, posts on this platform will need more emotion tied to them. You have more room here to tell more stories from a personal point of view, so take advantage of that time and space.

Images are just as important on Facebook as they are on Twitter. They still help grab attention on the News Feed and give people more opportunity to connect with your visual and your words. Now, you even have the option of adding a personal video or even live stream without having to take users off the platform they are already looking to connect with you on.

Know Your Audience

No matter the platform, you will need to know who is going to see your posts and when, and what their preferred method of receiving your content is.

The better and more personally you can get to know your target audience, the better you can craft posts for them, no matter the site. It takes time to listen, chat and engage with all the people you want to, but without doing so, you won’t have the edge on knowing what types of content they are seeking, and where they are most likely to see it. The time you spend getting to know your audience will definitely pay off.


Monday, February 1, 2016

Skinny Chocolate Muffins

I am all for rationalizing my indulgences and turning guilty pleasures into just pleasures. Especially when it comes to chocolate. I recently made these muffins and loved them. I want to work on making them stay a bit moister for longer - let me know if you have any tips!

  • 1/2 c brown sugar + 1 tbsp. brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 3 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 c water
  • 1/4 c unsweetened applesauce
  • 1/2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 margarine, melted
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  1. Preheat oven to 350
  2. In one bowl, stir together flour, brown sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt
  3. In a second bowl, stir together the remaining ingredients
  4. Pour the mixture from the second bowl into the first bowl
  5. Stir until you have a smooth batter
  6. Pour into a nonstick muffin tin coated with cooking spray
  7. Fill until half full
  8. Bake 20 minutes, or until the toothpick test comes out clean
  9. Enjoy!

Friday, January 29, 2016

All-Natural Homemade Pumpable Lotion

I am on a big DIY kick lately. One of the main things I wanted to learn how to do was make my own lotion. I use lotion often (especially during these harsh Chicago winters) and wanted to save money and be able to have exactly the scents I wanted.

The first few lotions I made were great, but very thick and a bit hard. I wanted to find a lotion recipe that I was able to put into a pump and also into small containers to keep with me. After much trial and error, I found a recipe I was able to adapt - and now I want to share it with you!

  • 1 cup water
  • 1/4 cup Old Fashioned Oats
  • 1/2 cup almond oil (I also have used jojoba oil and it works exactly the same)
  • 1/2 cup organic extra virgin coconut oil
  • 3 tbsp. beeswax pellets (I use the pellets as they're the fastest to melt)
  • 1 tbsp. Vitamin E oil
  • Essential Oils for scent (optional)


1. Put the water and oats into a Mason jar and soak for 12 hours at room temperature.

2. Drain the oats, keeping the water from the oatmeal. You want to end up with 1/2 cup of oatmeal water. You'll be left with oats for breakfast! Set aside the oatmeal water for a later step.

3. In a bowl that can be heated (I use a glass measuring cup), add in the almond oil, coconut oil and beeswax. Heat this in a double boiler until fully melted.

4. Put the oil mixture into the fridge for 45 minutes.
5. Place the oatmeal water, Vitamin E oil and any essential oils into a mixing bowl. Scrape the container from the fridge into this bowl and mix both mixtures together with a handheld mixer. Continue to whip until it looks like soft, creamy lotion.
6. Pour the lotion into an empty Ziploc bag and snip off a corner (like a homemade pastry bag). Squeeze the lotion from the bag into your pump bottle.

7. Use and enjoy! You can store this lotion at room temperature.

Monday, January 25, 2016

8 Ways To Be More Productive Working From Home

In the sixteen years I have been working professionally, I have been fortunate to spend 9 of them working from home. My very first job out of college, at 21, was a work-from-home job. I had never had a “real” full-time grown up job before, and it was very exciting. However, I had no clue how to manage my time. (Why isn’t time management a college business course?) Still living at home, I set up a home office in my bedroom, with a little desk that sat me in front of a window that opened onto the street, and I would either spend 15 hours each day working at that desk, or I would end up spending more hours inches away in my bed.

Many of us work more productively working from home, as opposed to working in an office environment. On Twitter, I see many people complaining about working from home, or writing blog posts about “How To Keep Your Sanity” when you work from home, but personally, I don’t agree with those. I find that my gratitude for never having to battle traffic, having no stress that perhaps I’m not home and my dog needs to go out or there are dishes waiting for me in the sink outweigh any negatives. That does not mean it is without its challenges. As I mentioned before, time management is the number one. It takes a lot of self-discipline to successfully work from home, and it is an ongoing process to continually find the best ways to be the most successful. What works for me may not work for you.

Here are 8 tips I hope will help make you more productive when working from home.

1.      Give Yourself a “Commute” to the Office

I have a spare bedroom in the current house that I use as my office. On the weekends, I do not enter this room at all. I only go into my office when I am working. Are there some weekends I DO have to work? Absolutely, and I will go into the office to work, and then go into any other room to give myself a weekend. Your office set up is also very important – it should have the “right” light and desk set up for you to be most productive. The main idea is to keep your work space and home space separate. I would highly advise against taking your laptop into bed with you. It’s important to leave work behind and clear your head, and it can become a bit depressing to feel like work is always there.


2.      Keep Regular Office Hours

This has taken me years to abide by, but I find it helps immensely. I start work every day at the same time, I try to end work close to the same time every day. The biggest issue with time management was I began to feel burned out when I worked too many hours, since I live and work in the same house.


3.      Have a Routine

Similar to keeping regular office hours, I find that it helps to have a routine. If you worked in an office you would have certain things you did before leaving for work – perhaps that is hitting the gym or packing a lunch. You can do the same routine when you work from home. When you first begin working from home it is easy to take an extra-long lunch break or still try to catch the same shows you watched prior to working, but sticking to a routine will help safeguard against using this as an excuse to slack off.


4.      Take Breaks

If you were in an office, there would be times you would take a break to visit a colleague, or walk around the office, go for coffee – you need those same breaks when you work from home. There are easy stretching exercises you can find to do sitting down or away from your desk, if you have any home fitness equipment you might want to take a 15 minute exercise break at the same time each day or you might even get to the gym at a certain time daily. I take breaks to walk the dog every four hours, or visit my “water cooler” (more info on that next).


5.      Find Your Water Cooler

Not working in an office can at times, be a bit isolating. I believe it is important to guard against this. You might find your own water cooler by phoning or texting a colleague and sharing a bit of info with them. For me, my water cooler has been found in Twitter Chats. I have a calendar of chats I try to make on a regular basis where I have gotten to know a few key people in each one and have allowed them to get to know me. It’s a nice break in the day and it gives me an outlet for communication outside of work.


6.      Have the Right Tools For Your Job

If you work remotely for a company you will be given an employee laptop and other such essentials, but if you freelance or own your company it will be imperative that you have a laptop and printer that works best for you. I’d also suggest finding a conferencing solution such as Zoom or Go To Meeting for all team meetings and screen sharing. I also believe everyone should have a VPN. Your scheduling and document management will also be critical to maintaining a productive workspace. Personally, I am old-school when it comes to my calendar. I use a paper planner where I can view the whole “Month-At-A-Glance” and use a color coding system to differentiate between work appointments and notes, and personal dates.


7.      Work When You Are at Your Most Productive

I am a morning person. So I begin my days earlier than some other people. This can at times be a challenge when needing email responses or calls scheduled for West Coast workers, but I believe it’s most important to schedule the bulk of your workday around the time you are going to have the most energy and do the best work.


8.       Eat Well

I don’t mean prepare six course lunches and spend hours slaving over the stove simply because you have the time to. I have found that it is all too easy to have a bag of chips next to me at my desk and munch throughout the day while I’m sitting in front of my laptop. Take time before work and after work to do simple meal prep, so you always have healthy fast options available to you when hunger strikes. Set times to eat just as you would if you were at an office. Your mind and body will thank you.


 It might take you some time to adjust to working from home, but it really does pay off in the long run. What are some of the tips YOU have to share, on what helps your work from home experience work for you?


Monday, January 11, 2016

Meatless Monday Motivation: Minestrone!

It's 11 degrees in Chicago. I can't think of a better time for a hearty hot soup! Minestrone has always been a fave of mine - it's easy to make, (even easier with this recipe in a slow cooker) and it's chock full of veggies.

Working from home, I love using my slow cooker. I can decide on meals ahead of time, buy the ingredients, throw everything in and not have to think about dinner the rest of the day (or week, depending on how well I plan!)

Here's my latest recipe for slow cooker Minestrone, just in time for Meatless Monday


  • 1 box (1 qt) of reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 can (15 oz) red kidney beans, drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans, drained
  • 1-2 cans (at least 15 oz) diced tomatoes - I used two cans, because I like the soup base a bit thicker
  • 5 baby carrots, thinly sliced
  • 1 bunch green onions or scallions, sliced
  • 4 celery stalks, sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 package frozen spinach, thawed


  1. Add broth, beans, tomatoes (with juice), carrots, scallions, celery and onion into the slow cooker. Stir to combine ingredients.
  2. Cover and cook on low for 5 hours.
  3. Add spinach and 1 tablespoon of Italian seasoning to cooker.
  4. Cover and cook for 30 more minutes.
Serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled on top of the soup and enjoy!