How To Tell You Need To Hire A Content Marketing Writer

How To Tell If You Need To Hire A Content Marketing Writer
Conduct a self-audit to see if your current marketing is doing its job.

 

Is it time to update your website? How well does it relay your true vision to your visitors?  What is content marketing, and how do you use it? Every small business owner needs to ask themselves these questions at some point. If you haven’t considered the term yet or don’t know where to start, read on. I’ll explain the term and share some tips on how to review your current material to see if it is in need of an update.

In order for your business to thrive in today’s economy, you need a website and marketing material that connects with people and turns visitors into customers.

How To Tell If You Need To Hire A Content Marketing Writer
Conduct a self-audit to see if your current marketing is doing its job.

If your website isn’t performing to task, it may be time for an overhaul.  Using a writer to update your content marketing can be a quick way to give your site a fresh coat of paint without spending a fortune.

Why use Content Marketing?

If you are ready to update your website, consider how well you understand the term #contentmarketing. And, yes, there is a difference from traditional marketing. Content marketing is more subtle, and less obvious. Ideally, your marketing material should not simply preach the benefits of your product or service. Rather, it should allow you to connect with potential customers by offering value in a consistent and relevant way.

Use content marketing to connect with customers. Offer value in a consistent and relevant way. Click To Tweet

In his 2014 article, Josh Steimle explains “What is Content Marketing?” quite well, with some great examples. In fact, there is a great link in the article for anyone also seeking clarification on SEO, but we’ll touch on that in another article.

Content Marketing is about attracting a specific targeted audience and then retaining them via a variety of online material such as videos, blogs and posts on social media.  The key here is to offer something free that has value. By using these channels more effectively, you can drive more traffic to your business, and convert more visitors into customers.

These days most people use their phones to research new products and services, so make sure your business is mobile-friendly! Engage with potential customers via social media and blogs to build a connection and gain their trust. This makes them more likely to become customers.

Tip: Consider how well your business is represented on social media and develop a plan to develop trust and familiarity with potential customers.

When to Hire a Content Marketing Writer

Are you unsure what to do or where to start? Good news! Updating your website doesn’t have to be an intimidating process. You may not need to change everything either. Here’s why you may only need to invest in a content writer and not a web/graphic designer.

Keep in mind that most web designers are more interested in the HTML involved in creating a site and less in the words that will appear to your site’s visitors. This means that the stunning layout of your newly designed website could still be lacking the proper message! The good news is that if you already have a site that is visually appealing, you may not need to change the total design to give it a new look.

A content writer can update your site for a fraction of the cost of redesigning an entire website. Here are a few ways in which a content marketing writer can help improve your existing material.

Find the right story to tell

Are you new to blogging, or in the process of rebranding your website? Recently I was able to help two people in similar circumstances: one just starting out with her website and the other ready to revamp the site she had. Both felt unsure of the message that they wanted to convey, and intimidated by the idea of writing their own About page.

As a writer, it is my job to help you find not only the right words, but the right story to tell in the first place. Often times, what we think will appeal to potential clients and attract new business to our site may not actually be the correct information to share. In fact, many of my clients have chosen to neglect or glance over the details that are actually of most important to their potential clients!  Don’t miss out on connecting with them simply because you failed to catch their interest.

Tip: Try to look at your material from a first-time reader’s point of view. 

Did you know that the About section on your website is one of the most important – and often underutilized? This is an area where most small business websites fail at creating a connection with their site’s visitors.  You can have all the traffic to your site in the world, but if nobody clicks that call to action button, what good is it? You need a site that converts visitors into clients.

Don’t Lose Out to Poor Grammar

Spelling mistakes and poor grammar will also take away from any message you are trying to convey. SpellCheck does not catch everything that a trained writer will. Duplicate sentences or phrases, wrong tense, and wrong words can still occur. While you may not think this is such a big deal, keep in mind that visitors to your website will. Not only will they notice them, they will be less likely to stay on your site. Spelling mistakes and poor grammar will take away from the professional image you want to build. Don’t let poor grammar overshadow the message you are trying to convey!

Tip: Always get a second opinion before publishing new material.

Work Smarter, Not Harder

This is one of my favourite affirmations, and has helped me keep focused on my own business goals. It is also very applicable to this discussion. While using content marketing is a necessary part of marketing on social media, it can be a daunting process for most small businesses.  This is where the benefit of hiring a writer can be found.  For most small businesses and entrepreneurs, time is money. Who hasn’t gone online to write a quick post, only to waste 45 minutes reading their newsfeed? Social media channels are both necessary and distracting at times. Learning to juggle them is an art that most are lacking the time to develop.

Tip: Avoid time-wasting activities. Delegate when you can.

Very few businesses can afford the time required to constantly update social media properly, let alone educate themselves on all the tips and tricks needed to make their page or post rank better with search engines.  Have you ever felt completely overwhelmed by this? Do you feel like your message isn’t reaching the right people, or that suddenly your content isn’t ranking like it used to?  You’re not alone.

The Downside to Social Media

Many people find the constant changing of algorithms by Facebook and Twitter to be an endless headache. Unless you are prepared to spend whole days researching and sorting through all the “free” tips and tricks being offered, it may be easier to ask for help. Remember: work smarter, not harder. By using a service to help maintain and update blogs, this frees up valuable time for small businesses and individuals to focus on cultivating sales.

If any of this sounds familiar, it may be time to call for backup. Social media channels like Twitter, Facebook and Instagram can be tools to grow your business when used correctly. They can also be overwhelming and suck up far too much of your valuable time. The solution then is simple: if you don’t want to focus on them yourself, hire someone to assist you. Don’t let lack of time or fear of failure hold you back from using content marketing to grow your business.

Attention Small Business Owners/Entrepreneurs: Would you like a review of your current marketing material?  I’ll give you at least one FREE pointer to improve it! Contact me today for more details.

 

What Mom Really Wants for Valentines Day 

Last week (just before Valentines Day) I had a revelation.  I had one of those moments in which you suddenly see a bright light and hear angels singing.  No, I wasn’t having a stroke, but I admit that for a few minutes there I thought that I might be having a coronary.  This was something that I realized no amount of coffee, chocolate or alcohol was going to fix.  It is something that every parent experiences at some point and yet has no easy solution.  (Well nothing legal.)

For those of you who didn’t catch my video rant feel free to watch it here,  or read on and I’ll explain how this all got started.  It was a typical weekday morning in our house; everyone madly rushing around trying to get ready for school or work.  As anyone with children knows this seldom runs smoothly. At the best of times, it can resemble herding chickens.  Chickens that won’t put on their socks, can’t find their shoes and refuse to brush their teeth.

The Standoff
One of my favourite comics from dad and cartoonist Brian Gordon.
www.FowlLanguageComics.com

Most days I can handle it.  Sure, I gain a few more gray hairs and that subtle twitch in my left eye becomes less subtle each time, but I do my best to grin and bear it. This morning, however, I admit I lost it.   Discovering my daughter’s backpack was the last straw.

This was how my day started: unpacking and repacking my daughter’s lunch, throwing out perfectly preserved and untouched food which I was then replacing with freshly made versions of.

Again.

And best of all, it had been left for me to find right where she dropped it in the hallway the night before. Again.

Standing there tossing out yet another full lunch bag had me suddenly seeing red.  It was a Mommy Meltdown.  I felt my anger rising, put down my dishcloth, grabbed my coffee, and locked myself in the bathroom for a full-on Mommy timeout.

The Standoff

Why do kids do it? How can they refuse to eat and still grow? How do they survive all day at school on a pack of goldfish crackers and STILL not eat dinner?  Is she hiding her lunches and eating someone else’s?

I worry that the school thinks I don’t pack her lunches at all, let alone anything healthy. I put a lot of effort into making what I think are nutritious AND delicious lunches, but getting my kid to actually eat is more difficult than nailing jello to a tree. In fact, most parents would agree that getting a kid to do ANYTHING is a feat worthy of celebration.  Personally, I count it as a good day if I can get mine to do something with minimal repetition and eye-rolling from either of us.

While I love her to bits and do enjoy her company most days, I sometimes imagine what it would be like if we were on the same wavelength.  Following my first ever #Video Venting, most of the parents who shared their own stories with me this week have said similar things. This led me to think about all the things that drive me crazy about having a kid and what I’d like most from my child this Valentine’s Day.  It doesn’t have to be a huge commitment – we can try for one day (hell, I’d be happy if I got one hour without any of these!)

What Mom Really Wants for Valentine’s Day
  • Hear me the first time. Stop making me repeat myself – especially if we had eye contact for the entire conversation which literally ended 2.6 seconds ago.
  • Please don’t tell me”I hate that!” before I finish explaining what it is in the first place. Be open to things – even if it’s just to let me finish my sentence.
  • Think before you act. (Some parents have it harder than others with this one.) I know that the average child brain has not progressed fully to the “What if” stage in processing possible outcomes but just once I’d like for mine to question her own logic before deciding to play soccer in the house.
  • Hearing me start the shower is NOT the time to raid the pantry; neither is hiding your ill-gained loot in the couch cushions and then forgetting it half-eaten. You will get burned on both accounts.
  • I am not your maid.  I am your mother.  Show me a little respect and consideration by not leaving a trail of dirt and grime and god-knows-what else for me to find.

I realize that many of these are things that have to be learned and the parent it is my job to teach them. I just wish the learning curve was a little better some days.

In short, I dream of a time in which I won’t have to repeat myself and threaten the use of a cattle prod to get results.  I dream of walking across my floor and not stepping on Lego or grapes. I long to be able to sit down and watch ANYTHING on TV that I want before 10:30pm. And I long to have a proper conversation on a deep and meaningful level about almost anything.

But most importantly, I want to STOP SOUNDING LIKE MY OWN MOTHER!

Every time I reprimand or correct my own kid, I hear the echo of my mother scolding me; and probably for the same things.  No matter how hard we try to avoid it, we can never truly escape the cycle.  This is very tough for most parents to cope with, as we desperately want to hold on to the belief that we are nothing like our own parents.  It is also the perfect opportunity for the grandparents to revel in some karmic backlash for all the abuse they put up with as parents themselves.  I believe the saying goes “grandchildren are the reward for not killing your own kids.”

So in the end, what I’d really like for Valentine’s Day is the same thing most parents want from their kids: respect and compassion.   Respect for the values I am trying to teach and the home I am trying to maintain for my family.   Compassion for the time and effort I put into doing this on a daily basis.

No amount of chocolate hearts can equal the knowledge that someone cares for you and respects you.  This Valentine’s Day, open up your own ears and heart and try to find a thoughtful way to show your love and compassion for those around you.  Remember – a little love can go a long way.

Now excuse me. I need to go hug my own parents and thank them for putting up with me as a kid.

The Super Bowl Bond

Super Bowl 51 is happening this weekend, and it’s time to get prepping! We North Americans will be consuming massive quantities of nachos, chicken wings, pizza and beer, not to mention chips and desserts.  Hey, we’ve been good (mostly) all month and sticking to our New Year’s resolutions, so Superbowl has an added feeling of festivity.  Its kind of like Thanksgiving meets a Frat Party.

For me, it’s all about the entertaining.  I admit that I look forward to Super Bowl mainly as another excuse to cook and try out fun recipes I find on Pinterest.  However, even if you’re not a big fan of sports it’s easy to get sucked into the hype.

Football wasn’t something I was into as a teenager. (I was more a fan of F1 racing than I was of football.) But I still enjoyed the pageantry and of course, the half-time show.  I just didn’t really understand the game until much later.  I admit I do like watching team sports now and then.  My personal preferences are hockey and football thanks to my dad.  Growing up, there was usually a game on the TV at some point over the weekend.  While I seldom sat still long enough to watch much, it still became part of the background noise to my childhood.  I find it oddly comforting, and I know that I will forever think of my dad when I hear or see a game on TV.

Growing Up Without Sports

As an only child and a girl at that, we didn’t connect much through sports. My dad was (is?) sort of a small-town athlete hero, and  I was constantly reminded of this growing up.  He held a mild form of celebrity status and in my early years I was often fascinated by – and proud of – how everyone seemed to know him.  Even when I was old enough to venture out on my own, I would invariably be recognized by someone as “His Daughter.”

I was more interested in the arts and music.  By the time I got to high school, this was pretty apparent.  I chose to attend the same school as both my parents, but I didn’t realize just how strong my dad’s reputation was still until I got there.  I still recall the crestfallen look on my high school guidance counselor’s face whose dreams of a legacy I had to crush.  When he asked me, “Do you run?” at the end of the personal tour he gave me, I tried to let him down gently.

So I kept to the art and drama rooms and left the gym to my athletically inclined peers.  Dad never questioned my choice and was always supportive in his own way.  While I got hooked on grunge music and wearing Doc Martins, he never gave me a hard time about it.  Even still, we developed a kind of truce: we tolerated each other’s preferences as long as we both kept the volume down.

Coming To Terms

It was in my adulthood that Dad and I finally started to bond over sports,and I think that football was a big part of it. I’m not exactly sure how or when it happened, but I suspect that I was, well, bored. Whatever the case, I finally sat down next to him and started asking questions.  I’m not sure who was more surprised: my dad that I asked, or me that he answered.

Now thanks to him I have a basic understanding of football and hockey.  I also actually enjoy watching a game now and then. I wouldn’t say I’m addicted to either, but I have a better appreciation for the game.

The Saga Continues

The Super Bowl is THE one game I get to watch in my house.  This may shock some people, being that my own husband was an athlete. Yes, he was a rower – and (not to brag) a damn good one – but he just isn’t into watching sports. Of any kind. Especially football.

Lucky for me he understands and lets me have the family over on Super Bowl Sunday.  He knows how much this connection means to me, and how I want to include our daughter in it.  Watching sports can offer opportunities to learn about sportsmanship and the excitement of the game.  I wish I’d learned that when I was younger.  Now, I want my own daughter to understand this and I know my dad is a perfect person to teach her.  It took me far too long in my own life to find this bond with my dad, and I don’t want her to miss out on a chance to do so with her grandfather.

Finding Good Space (Sukha) in January

January is a month that feels anticlimactic.  Coming on the heels of December’s festivities, it can leave us feeling cold and bleak – much like the weather.  This is in stark contrast to the energy and extroverted nature of December, complete with frenzied social mingling,  and numerous opportunities for overindulgence.  Often during the holidays, we allow ourselves to go to excesses we would not consider at other times of the year.

Like the morning after hangover, January is the somber antithesis to December's pomp and gaiety. Click To Tweet
January = Time to Take Stock

For me, January is a great time to hibernate, as the cold weather and dark days usually force me to stay indoors anyway.  Perhaps this is why I naturally feel drawn to look inwards, and why many of us feel the need to make changes in our lives at the start of the new year.  Personally, I like to take stock of things like my health and my career goals as well as my messy closets and my (ahem) cluttered desk.

Finding ways to cultivate space – in our hearts, our bodies, and our homes can be important on many levels.   Clearing the space around us gives us a chance for a new perspective.  We are able to see things from a new angle or consider a different solution.  This can be useful when we want to change our approach to our diet, a (bad) habit, or a relationship.  Resolutions give us a chance to formally commit to making that change in our life.  By stating our new goals, we can more easily release old habits and emotions and embrace new patterns.  Sadly, the term “resolution” has become tainted for most these days and it often implies something we fail to finish.  That is why I  prefer to use a different concept entirely.

Finding Sukha

I first heard the term described in a yoga class.  Sukha is a Sanskrit term that can be explained as pleasure, ease, or virtue.  Another way to define sukha is by breaking it down into its root words of “Su” (good) and “kha” (space).  Therefore sukha can be defined as “good space.” When we meditate or turn our attention inwards, we are striving to quiet out minds and cultivate sukha from within.  Now for those who do not meditate regularly, this need not be a foreign concept.  For many, January is the only time of year in which they engage in something similar to this, via new year’s resolutions.

So how does sukha apply to a month like January?

As I’ve already stated, we naturally tend to focus our attention inwards at this time.  After a month dedicated to thinking of others, it’s time to give some attention to ourselves.  For some, this may be a focus on physical health goals, while for others it is on areas of spiritual or emotional health.  Whatever your personal goals may be, cultivating sukha can be an important factor in achieving them.

There is a belief that the idea of sukha or “good space” refers to the hole in the center of a chariot wheel.  If it is not perfectly centered, the ride would be rough and bumpy as a result.  Therefore, having a perfectly centered space was ideal.  I try to remember this as I focus on my goals for the new year.  The more open and centered I am to my new goals, the smoother the transition will be as I let go of the old ones.

Have you already lost momentum on your resolutions?  Don’t feel bad – just know that you are hitting a few bumps, but that they can easily be smoothed out.  Take a moment to reconnect with yourself and focus on why you wanted to make those changes in the first place.  Find your center, and know that you can never truly be sure that you are making a change unless you somehow test your resolve.  When you hit a bump, it’s just a test to see if you are still committed to the new path.  The faster you acknowledge this, the fewer bumps you will hit along the way.

Why wait for Spring to start Cleaning?

January is a perfect time for decluttering in general. It offers an opportunity to analyze the use of space in our homes.  As a workaholic myself, I know how easy it can be to lose sight of the space around me.  Clutter starts to build up in the corners around the house, and before you know it you don’t know where to sit or step anymore.  Spring cleaning is poorly named because for me, springtime is too late!  As the warm weather returns my focus inevitably turns outwards; to the external.  I know I will want to be outside again, not cooped up inside any longer.  The time for internal retrospection will be over.

So let January be a welcome time to focus on ourselves and our immediate surroundings.  I choose not to make resolutions but rather to use this month as a time to reconnect with my goals, my home and my family, and most importantly, myself.

Want to learn more about Sukha, or how to cultivate Sukha in your own life?  Follow the links below:
If you enjoyed reading this, you might also enjoy:

Finding Perspective on 2016

Reasons Why I Love/Hate My Yoga Mat

How To Enjoy Wine Festival Like A Boss

With the latest wine festival kicking off this weekend, there will again be an influx of visitors to our local wine region. Many will be returning to visit favourite spots while others will be attending for the first time. As a former winery retail manager, I have been fortunate to partake in many wine festivals over the years. Here’s a few quick tips to help you have the best experience while exploring wine country.

1. Travel in Style: Hire a driver or designate someone to do the driving for your group.  A further incentive for DD’S is that they can purchase a discounted passport, and most locations are offering a non-alcoholic option for the food match. There are many companies in the area that offer wine tour packages as well.  (Be sure to thank your driver too!)

2a. Plan your Route: Pick a few destinations you want to go to each day. Look at the guide/menus in advance and narrow down your top picks based on overall wine portfolio and ambiance.  Dress comfortably and appropriately for the weather.

2b. Slow down! Wine touring is not a pub crawl. It does not involve a race to the finish nor a prize for hitting the most wineries in a single day. If you are only interested in getting drunk then stay home. Seriously. You are missing the point and will ruin the experience for everyone else. Wine touring is a chance to slow down and savour life. Plan to spend at least 45 minutes at each location. Allow time for washroom breaks, possible lines at cash, taking multiple selfies, and of course tasting wine.

3. Ask the Right Questions. Winery staff are there to help you learn about your own palate. As a former winery retail manager, I can tell you the most frequently asked questions by guests is “what’s your best wine?”

Don’t simply ask “what’s your best wine?”  The answer to this depends more on your own tastes than anything else.  Ask staff to help you find the wines that will suit your palate. Then you will have “the best.”

If you don’t know enough “winespeak” to describe your own tastes, never fear.  This is the fun of touring wine country.  Let the staff help you put into words what your tongue already understands.  You’ll be surprised how much you already know.

4. Bring Water. And snacks. Plan to stop for lunch. And bring extra water. Trust me on this. If you skip out on refreshing your palate between stops you won’t be able to taste anything properly by noon. Then you’re just wasting your money.

5. RSVP if you Please!  Make a reservation for groups of 12 or more. Just because you are on a passport program doesn’t mean you shouldn’t show some courtesy. Large groups risk being turned away by smaller wineries. If you plan to bring a bus of 50 people out for the day, keep in mind that most wineries will require time to prepare that many wine and food pairings all at once. If you fail to give them a heads up before your arrival, you risk delaying your own groups experience. Avoid creating a backlog for yourself and other guests by traveling in smaller groups or calling ahead.

6. Take Notes: Grab a copy of the winelist and make notes for later reference. Mark down what you liked about the wines you taste, and any aging suggestions if not indicated. These lists can be most helpful if you later regret not purchasing that other bottle.

7. Ask about shipping. Remember; many of the wines you discover may not be available in the LCBO. Be sure to ask before you leave. If so, also inquire about shipping. Most wineries will ship to home or office within Ontario. Shipping rates will vary so be sure to ask what methods are available.

Planning a visit to Wine Country?  Here’s a few links that you might find helpful:

Wine Council of Ontario

Twenty Valley Tourism

Niagara Ice Wine Festival

 

Finding Perspective on 2016

 

Last night’s #New Year’s Eve was the perfect summation of #2016; from the live countdown’s broadcast snafus in #New York to the overall subdued festivities and high rate of jammies (mine included) being reported on my social media feed, it was a pathetic fizzle at best. Add to that the last minute announcements of several beloved star’s passing (#William Christopher, #George Michael, #Carrie Fisher and #Debbie Reynolds) and it is safe to say that #2016 will be remembered as a year of much disappointment and loss. I think the general consensus I’ve run across has been pleasure that it is finally ending.

It is safe to say that this was a strange year overall. So much happened that left us feeling lost and uncertain, like a society adrift in harsh hashtags and depressing social media. Perhaps I am getting old. Or  perhaps I have simply reached an age where my sense of cynicism has outpaced my naivete.

I no longer want to party like it's 1999. Click To Tweet

I want my cup of herbal tea and my jammies and a good book. I want to tuck my daughter into bed and read her stories. I want to prolong her innocence just a bit longer if possible, partly because it means I can hold onto the shreds of my own in the process.

You see, I already know what’s waiting out here in her future. I pay bills. I have a mortgage. I care about the environment and retiring in my senior years. And as a Canadian I know way more about the recent #US election than I’d like to. As such, I would still rather be stuck most days watching the Disney Channel with her than CNN.

I don’t think I am alone in this.

Fear of our planet’s future is everywhere these days. Plastics in the ocean, oil spills, rising costs of living, and wars in foreign countries that are starting to feel closer to our own shores are all very real concerns we felt in 2016. This doesn’t simply end with the start of a new year. As much as I wish ringing in a new year could wipe the slate clean, we are still stuck with the same problems we faced at the end of 2016. No magic ball drop and no amount of champagne can change this.

So as many of you out there are nursing hangovers and coming to terms with your lists of new years resolutions, take a moment to consider these problems. What are you most afraid of in 2017?  I know this may not be easy with a hangover, but humor me.

While I can offer no easy solution to your problems, I will share my own resolution idea. We may not be able to save the world by ourselves, but what we can do is change our outlook and our perspective to our problems. This is my goal for 2017: to change my outlook and perspective to a more positive one.  I want to help create a better world for my daughter and I want to show her how to do it along the way.

So if you feel the same, let’s use the start of 2017 to take a moment to reflect on our fears. Let’s look them right in the eye, take a deep breath, and vow to make them less powerful.  Start in our homes, our communities and then take it globally.

As Mahatma Gandhi said, we must find ways to be the change we want to see in our world. Only then, will change occur. We need to have faith in humanity, and help rekindle that faith for those around us. We can do this in small ways each and every day: holding open a door, helping a stranger, donating old items or volunteering our time.

Surely, in the light of history, it is more intelligent to hope rather than to fear, to try rather than not to try. For one thing we know beyond all doubt: Nothing has ever been achieved by the person who says, ‘It can’t be done.’” – Eleanor Roosevelt 

So even though 2016 has left many of us feeling like putting on our jammies and hiding under the covers, we know that 2017 brings us hope for change. The greatest gift we can give each  other in 2017 is the gift of hope. Hope in each other and in our collective future. And like the late George Michael reminded us so well, we just “gotta have faith.”

Be The Change Series: Santa For Seniors

Often during this season, we tend to focus our donation efforts on children and families in need. It’s hard to think of children going without at Christmas, yet sadly, there is just as strong a need for assistance for our seniors.

Many seniors are living at or below the poverty line – with few options for improvement due to their limited pensions and fixed incomes. This problem will only become greater in the coming years as the population ages and the economy fluctuates.  With many seniors struggling to maintain their hydro this winter or pay their bills, they will be in need of basic items many of us take for granted. If they do not have family to support them, who else can they turn to?

Luckily there’s still Santa.

Be a Santa to a Senior is a program being run through Home Instead Senior Care in Niagara Falls that helps send gifts to lonely and financially challenged seniors that receive assistance through the Niagara Region Community Services Dept.  They have been provided with names and wish lists from seniors in our communities.

By visiting one of the 4 donation sites in Niagara, one can select the name of a senior in need from a specially designated tree. The tags are gender specific, and will provide a short list of items requested. These can range from $25-$40 and include basic items like toiletries, cleaning supplies, pet supplies, and non-perishable food items. Completed donations can be returned unwrapped to the donation site, where they will be wrapped and delivered by volunteers.

Pleasantview Funeral Home  in Fonthill is one the locations participating and the only one in the Pelham area. “It is really heart-breaking to read through (the wish lists.)” says Funeral Director Andrea Stubbings.  She is pleased to announce that to date, their location alone has provided donations to 100 seniors this season.  (In total, the program will be providing gifts to over 350 seniors in Niagara.) The last of the ornaments are on their tree in the Main Office lobby off of Merrittville Rd, and the response from the community so far has been wonderful.

This is the third year for this program and it has already grown exponentially due to the high demand.   While they are pleased with the support from the community to date, there is still more that can be done.  Even though the program is winding up for this year, they would still welcome donations of warm items like blankets, sweaters, slippers, hats, scarves and mittens. In addition to gifts, donations of wrapping paper and gift bags would also be greatly appreciated.

All donations must be received by December 12th, as that is the final gift collection day.  Wrapping will commence Dec 16th and 17th.

Other Ways to Show Kindness

In addition to those being helped by this program, there are still many seniors in retirement homes that would appreciate an act of kindness this Christmas.  Many do not receive visitors and this can be a sad and lonely time for them.  I encourage you to keep this in mind this season if you are visiting a relative in a home, or simply want to do something kind for a stranger.  Consider contacting your local senior’s home to see how you can be of service.  Get the family together to make some Christmas cards that could be distributed to lonely residents, or plan a day to visit.  Either way, the gift of your time and effort will be appreciated, and giving someone a reason to smile this holiday season is the greatest gift of all.

Like what you read? Please share, or drop me a line.  I’d love to hear from you!

Be The Change This Season

 

If you’re like me, you’ve had enough of all the negative news and doomsday preaching happening these days. With so much focus on the pending #Trumpocalypse in the USA, I for one am glad that the holiday season is around the corner; but not for the reasons you might think.

Sure, it would be easy to crank up the 24-hour Christmas music stations and bury my head in a pile of ugly Christmas sweaters for as long as possible, but what good will that do anyone? It certainly won’t change anything. The fear and anger that is building in our world won’t just dissipate on Christmas morning, no matter how many letters we write to Santa.

No, the real reason I am looking forward to this holiday season is the message of peace and love that it brings and the faith that it rekindles – in ourselves and in the world we want to help create. There is no denying – a certain magic does exist surrounding this season and it is there for all to find if we seek it. It’s in the little things we say and do; the simple ways we show care and kindness to each other.  Holding open a door for a stranger, helping an elderly neighbour, or donating to a local charity.

Yes, there is a darker side too. I know the holidays can be a stressful and depressing time for many.  This is true of most situations in life – we cannot have darkness without light. But we seem more open to possibilities at Christmas, as if the added warmth we feel in our hearts towards each other can give us extra strength to push back a little harder against the cold, dark shadows that threaten us.

I want to help bring back hope to our world. I want to renew my own faith in humanity. I want to be a channel for change. That is why I will be focusing on promoting a few local charities in my next series of blogs. My goal is to help spread the word on local efforts that are in need of volunteers or donations.  I will be providing details on the fundraiser/charity and whenever possible, contact information and links.  ( I wish to further state that I am not affiliated with any of the charities, nor am I being compensated for doing this. )

This world needs healing and I want to start by helping my own community. We need to feel empowered – for ourselves and our communities. We also need to instill these virtues in our children so that they will keep spreading the good long after we are gone. If you feel the same as I do, let’s spread a little light together.

Bonnie

Healthy Holiday Recipes 

Today I finally had a chance to get back in my kitchen after a month of constant running and juggling. I know I’ve been a bit slack with my posts lately, so to make up for it, I tried and tested 2 recipes this morning which I am pleased to share the results of here now.

I’ve been on a pumpkin/gingerbread kick lately but trying to avoid anything too rich or fattening. I recently committed to participating in a 30 day exercise challenge due to the muffin top I’ve been harbouring, and so anything resembling a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is officially off the menu until further notice. Time to find healthy alternatives that still have all the flavour I crave.

Both of these recipes are relatively clean and can be found on Pinterest. They include very easy to follow instructions.  My first recipe pick comes from The Big Man’s World and is a simple, quick and clean snack called (take a big breath for this one)…

Healthy 4 Ingredient Flourless Pumpkin Gingerbread Blondies

While the name may be a workout, the recipe itself is not. It took less than 10 minutes to prepare and about 20 minutes to bake. Since my kid is a picky eater I chose to add a tablespoon of chia seeds and 1 egg to the batter to up the fibre and protein but the recipe does not call for them.  According to the recipe, they will be soft and doughy when done but cooling allows them to firm up. While allowing them to cool for a few hours is recommended, mine were ok with a few extra minutes in the oven thanks to the egg. Since my husband ate half the pan within the first hour, I assume they are still good slightly warm.  

Banana Gingerbread Muffins 

The second recipe – and my new favourite- is a healthy alternative to gingerbread. It can be found at Amy’s Healthy Baking and is entitled Banana Gingerbread Muffins. 

Simple ingredients, lots of holiday spices, and molasses instead of sugar results in a moist and fluffy muffin with all the flavour of the season you could ask for. I highly recommend these and as you can see from the picture provided, my kid does too. (All that was left was the muffin wrapper!)

So there you go – 2 family approved recipes to add to your holiday baking repertoire. I hope you will enjoy them as much as our family does.  Here’s wishing you a healthy, happy, holiday season!

Bonnie

Recipe: Apple Ring Pancakes 

Sunday mornings are usually my time to relax around here.  I get to move a little slower, savour my morning coffee and spend some time puttering around the house. I also try to spend some quality time with my daughter as my husband works weekends. One of our favourite things to do is to look up and test new recipes. 
I like to take recipes and find ways to clean them up without sacrificing flavour. This morning as I scrolled through Facebook I came across one that was perfect for us. I showed it to my daughter and she agreed. As luck would have it, we had all the ingredients too! We got started right away.

I had a small amount of pancake mix left on hand and it was perfect for 3 apples. Aim for about 2/3 cup dry pancake mix and follow the instructions on your package. I have included mine below as a guideline. We also used ambrosia apples but royal gala or any apple that works for making pie will work here.  Try not to cut the apples slices too thick or they won’t cook through before the batter burns. 

The original recipe called for dredging the finished pancakes in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar before serving, but I felt this was overkill. We chose to omit this step and our pancakes had a lovely apple pie characteristic instead.  We used a drizzle of maple syrup and a dollop of Nordica’s salted caramel cottage cheese for toppings, but the options are endless.

So quick and easy to make -and delicious!

 I’m looking forward to making this again and trying some hemp hearts and nut butter or lemon curd as well. Be sure to let me know if you try this out and what toppings you try – don’t be afraid to get creative!

Apple Ring Pancakes 

  • 3 medium sized apples, cored (peeling is optional)
  • 2/3 cup dry pancake mix
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 tblspn agave nectar (or maple syrup)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 egg

Directions:

  1. Slice apples into rings approximately 1/4inch thick or less. 
  2. Mix dry pancake mix and cinnamon and keep in reserve.
  3. In a medium bowl, add vanilla extract to remaining ingredients as outlined on pancake mix package (or as shown above)
  4. Add dry mix to bowl. Stir until combined  (OK if lumpy)
  5. Heat skillet on medium-high heat. Coat with tablespoon of butter or coconut oil.
  6. Dip apple slices in batter, coating both sides well. Place in skillet 
  7. Cook on first side until batter begins to bubble and crisp at edges; then flip.  Continue to cook until both sides are done.
  8. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before serving. Top with maple syrup or your favourite toppings.