MMC Blog - The Inside Scoop

Archive for November, 2009

Giving Back for the Holidays

In the Spirit of Giving

Regardless of what religion you practice, everyone recognizes the holiday season as a time to give back. While most of us are blessed to be surrounded by loved ones, good food and gifts, I can’t help but think of those that aren’t so fortunate and feel there’s no better time to give back than during the season of giving.

Here at MMC, as part of our MMC for a Cause program (the agency’s charity effort which you can read more about here, we’ll be participating in a Toys for Tots toy drive for the third year in a row. It’s easy to participate – simply contact your local chapter to get boxes/posters and they make pick-ups close to the holidays.

What I truly love most about charity though, is that it doesn’t matter how or what you can give or the types of activities you’re interested in – there is always a way to help out those in need. While you’re shopping, why not purchase items that give back? Here are some ideas if you’re struggling with this year’s gifts:

- For the food lover: Handmade brownies from a Yonkers bakery, proceeds go to Greyston Foundation to support jobs, childcare, health care and housing for the underprivileged

- For the globally conscious: Give a flock of geese, a llama or a water buffalo to help families around the world become self-reliant.

- For the writer: This “cruelty-free” leather journal is a fair trade item handcrafted by artisans in India.

- For the jewelry obsessed: When you purchase this sunshine charm, 25 percent of proceeds go to Project Sunshine, an organization that provides programs to children and families living with medical challenges.

Happy Holidays and let the shopping begin

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I learned two things from my vacation last week. First, my coworkers at MMC told me how much they missed my work keeping our offices running smoothly. I felt much appreciated when I arrived yesterday to the warm welcome. It’s nice to be missed!

I just returned from a week in my hometown of Santiago in the Dominican Republic. The second thing I learned is how much the second capitol of the DR has changed. It had been three years since my last visit and the city is growing in a gorgeous way. There are beautiful tall buildings, new restaurants and shops. I had forgotten how wonderful it is to enjoy the views of the city and the mountains from my home on the hillside above Santiago. I am glad that I had the chance to visit with old friends and go out every night.

It was nice to be missed here at the office during my vacation and it was great to remember what I love about Santiago.

New Thanksgiving Traditions

For the first time in a decade I will be in New York City for the Thanksgiving Holiday. I’m already so excited and thankful.

My extended family relocated to Texas many years ago and we’ve been flying down for the holiday ever since. Thanksgiving in Dallas is amazing. My two Uncles and cousins host a TEXAS size weekend full of over-the-top meals, competitive family games, movie night and Black Friday shopping. The exhibits during this time of year are great, the warm weather is perfect, and the bargain shopping in Texas is fantastic for our New York contingent. The deals we find on heavy winter wear are unbelievable!

My Mom, sister and I have decided to try something new and stay local this year. We are creating a new family tradition. We have planned Thanksgiving dinner at my sister’s apartment, in an attempt to relieve my Mom from working too hard. But, we realized most of the dishes on our menu would taste so much better if Mom made them. So, I guess she will be working hard in the kitchen after all. My sister and I will also cook and I’m sure it will be a great meal.

Here’s our menu:
• Stuffed Cornish Hens
• Arroz con Pollo
• Pasteles
• Butter nut squash soup
• Orzo stuffed Peppers
• Spinach and ground Turkey Lasagna
• Cranberry Sauce
• Potato Salad
• Baked Macaroni and Cheese
• A plethora of Vegetables
• Desserts

Although I will miss my Texas family, staying in Brooklyn has given me a new reason to be thankful this year. I hope you enjoy the holiday planning, cooking and eating with friends and family!

A Pot Luck Celebration

Yesterday we hosted MMC’s 2nd annual Thanksgiving Pot Luck lunch, our newest tradition. At MMC, we have such a strong sense of community, collaboration and team spirit that a potluck lunch is the perfect way to celebrate our successes together.

This year, staffers contributed over 45 dishes that told us a little something about who they are. We had exotic dishes from all over the globe including India, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Australia, Italy, Ireland, Poland, Korea, Israel, Iraq and Turkey. We also had many delicious recipes that harkened back our childhoods in Georgia, Florida, the Midwest, Buffalo and the Tri-State. We even had a few local favorites brought in from the best bakeries and restaurants in our area (Crumbs, Buttercup, Junior’s, and Hoboken’s Cake Boss).

We piled our plates high, found a fork and a chair and went to town. For over an hour we grazed through appetizers, main courses, side dishes and desserts. We also managed to chat it up with our colleagues, tell family stories and make some new friends. When we finally decided we couldn’t take another bite, we rolled back to our desks, let out a big sigh and got back to work.

Kate and I had so much fun organizing this event because, as Megan Svensen said, “It has all the elements that make MMC special: friends, food and fun.”

Note: Requests for a company sanctioned post-potluck “nap hour” are being taken into consideration for next year.

My personal favorite dish? That is tough! I’d have to say Marissa’s Sweet Potato casserole with melted marshmallows on top and Jackie’s peach cobbler. What about you? Let us know which dish stood out to you.

The Beauty of Aging

Each year on my birthday, my grandmother asks me “How does it feel to be a year older?” and I always say “I feel exactly the same as I did yesterday!” With November 21st (my 23rd birthday) rounding the corner, I still don’t feel a change, but I definitely see one. Looking in the mirror one morning last week, I noticed an ever-so-tiny line on my face; a “laugh line” is the endearing term for it, but in my eyes it was—straight up—a wrinkle! “How could this be possible? I’m BARELY 23,” I wondered. I figured it had to be something else, a shadow, my facial expression, a pillow mark destined to fade after a few splashes of cold water, but it wasn’t. It was—no matter how you look at it—a wrinkle.

Despite the fact that I’m two days shy of turning 23 and I basically breathe beauty, skin care and anti-aging “for a living, I had to accept that I am getting older and my beauty needs are changing. After staring in the mirror until it almost cracked, I went off to work pretending as if the stupid thing wasn’t there (and inadvertently covering that side of my face with my hand throughout the entire day). When I got home, I called my grandmother—who had just celebrated her 80th birthday—and told her I needed anti-aging advice quick! She was the perfect person to ask for a remedy, because she’s had more experience with skincare and aging than anyone I know. “Every day I make sure I eat right and every night I put a little bit of face cream on before bed, but the one thing that has kept me looking good these past 80 years is treating others as well as I’ve treated myself;” that was her “golden rule” of living for more than ¾ of a century.

After reflecting on her words, I’ve realized that laugh lines are okay, because they are a reflection of your experiences. I also realized that worrying about my face was only going to create more wrinkles. My grandmother is a woman who’s lived her whole life by the “golden rule,” and as a result, she looks pretty golden as well. So on November 21st, I’m going to celebrate the beauty of aging, and when she asks me how it feels, I’ll finally have a good answer!

Country Roads, Take Me Home

As someone with a passion for people and a heavy case of wanderlust, I am lucky twofold: I work on an account that enables me to travel all over the country, and I work for an agency that affords me the time off for my own adventures. To give you an idea, since September, I have spent every weekend save one in a different city, stretching from Rome to Omaha, Las Vegas to Detroit.

This summer, a friend and I took a road trip through the South – starting in Trumbull, Connecticut and wheeling our way through West Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee before cutting across the Bible Belt to Georgia and heading home along the Coast. Our goal for the trip was to find the unique places and incredible people that make America amazing. I want to share a few of those with you – in the hopes you will take the time to see them in person – and am going to start with the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina.

Blue Ridge Parkway, North Carolina
There is a reason why John Denver devoted an entire song to the Blue Ridge mountains, and while the ones he spoke about are in West Virginia (another truly beautiful state), the piece of the Blue Ridge Parkway that stretches into North Carolina holds the same sweeping landscapes and rolling mountains. You will want to stop at every scenic overlook because each is more gorgeous than the last. A few side trips you ought to make are:

Switzerland Inn – An hour outside Asheville, NC in a town called Little Switzerland, this inn is located just off the Blue Ridge and offers an incredible view of the surrounding mountains. The main lodge, with its giant wooden buttresses and floor-to-ceiling glass windows, is a size that can only be found by leaving the cramped Northeast. In addition to rooms that adjoin the lodge and individual villas, for $65/night, you can stay in the motorcycle lodge with other Blue Ridge travelers stopping by on their own road trip. And if you’re lucky, you just might meet some interesting locals at the hotel bar.

Orchard at Altapass – Ten minutes down the road from the Switzerland Inn is an orchard that has just about anything you ever wanted in a jar, right down to the jalapeno jam. Grab some fudge for the road, and if it’s a weekend, stop by for the live music and dancing with the locals.

Mount Mitchell – Considering it is the highest point east of the Mississippi, Mount Mitchell keeps a fairly low profile. Another short drive from the Switzerland Inn, you can take your car nearly to the top and hike about five minutes to the main overlook. From here, you can see points as far away as South Carolina and Tennessee. And of course it blows every other Blue Ridge scenic overlook out of the water.

Stay tuned for highlights from Tennessee and the rest of the South!

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Ok, I admit it. I am head-over-heels crazy about the holiday season. For me, it’s all about the build-up: smells of sweet spices from steaming beverages, songs you know by heart even though they only come around once every 12 months, the crunch of leaves beneath your feet, and how your cheeks flush as you rush from shop to shop in the increasingly colder air to find the perfect gifts for everyone on your “Nice List.”

Here are just a few ways I celebrate every year. Try one, or all of them, but most of all, have a very happy season!

1. I make a playlist of my favorite holiday tunes for my iPod and whenever I’m dreading that trip to the crowd-packed streets of the city (always in the rain!), it picks up my spirits. Here’s what I’m loving right now:
• “Frosty the Snowman” by Fiona Apple
• Hotel Café Artist Medley of “Auld Lang Syne” (various artists)
• “Silent Night” by Priscilla An

2. I send a little “care” package out with my holiday cards. Whether it’s a copy of the holiday mix CD I made for myself or a small bag of homemade peppermint bark (so easy to make), it makes me smile thinking about my friends and family opening up that little something:

Peppermint Bark
Ingredients
• Crushed candy canes, to yield 1 cup
• 2 pounds white or dark chocolate
• Peppermint flavorings, optional
Directions
Place candy canes in a plastic bag and hammer into 1/4-inch chunks or smaller. Melt the chocolate in a double boiler. Combine candy cane chunks with chocolate (add peppermint flavoring at this point if desired.) Pour mixture onto a cookie sheet layered with parchment or waxed paper and place in the refrigerator for 45 minutes or until firm. Remove from cookie sheet and break into pieces (like peanut brittle.)

3. I squeeze in some extra work-outs so I won’t feel as guilty helping myself to that second piece of pumpkin pie. Because let’s be honest, it really is worth it.

4. I don’t wait until crunch time to pick up gifts. If I’m out and about and I see something I think someone might like, I get it! And boom – cross that one off the list. I wrap as I go, too. There’s nothing better than seeing a stack of festively wrapped presents every night when you come home!

5. I make a list of the things I loved about the past year – stand-out memories, risks I took, friends I made, things in my life I’m grateful for – and a list of things I wish may have gone a little differently. I’m not into New Year’s resolutions (mine always seemed to fade away by February), but reflecting on the year, writing it down, and then getting to spend time with everyone I love is a great reminder of the things that truly matter. And after all, isn’t that what this season is really about?

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