Bring the Joy: Because Nothing Makes You Happier Than Nothing Bundt Cakes

Bring the Joy: Because Nothing Makes You Happier Than Nothing Bundt Cakes. Starting this new decade was trickier than I thought. 2020 opened up with lots of turmoil, and if you’ve got someone in your life who’s struggling, sometimes a small gesture of kindness can make all the difference.

I’m thinking a glorious Nothing Bundt Cake with cream cheese frosting is a great start. So … maybe your cubicle buddy is having a hard time, your best friend, a neighbor. Send us their story – please include contact information, email, or a phone number please! We’ll be personally delivering a gorgeous cake to a new winner each week.

Look what a nice person you are!

Also… just a reminder that it’s buy one and get one free at the Sandy location of Nothing Bundt Cakes when you mention us, Todd and Erin. One for you, one free for someone you like. (Erin here: I’ll be honest. When it comes to Nothing Bundt Cakes, the someone I like best is ME. I don’t share.) 10389 South State Street in Sandy. Tell April “Hi” for us, would you?

Boost Your Business – Sign Up With The Shop Locally Utah Guide!

Boost Your Business – Sign Up With The Shop Locally Utah Guide! So … how would you like your locally-based product or service introduced to over 500,000 of our close, personal friends over the next two months? For as low as $100 a month, become part of our Shop Locally Utah Guide! Contact us at toddanderinshow@gmail.com to get started.

 

This is the year more and more Utahns are resolving to shop locally – to buy from businesses here – instead of a faceless conglomerate. Be one of the wealth of lovely locals to provide the perfect gift or service. Send us a message at toddanderinshow@gmail.com for more info. Jewelry? Clothing? Woodwork? Pet products? House cleaning? Quilts? Snow shoveling? Local eatery? This is your time to shine. You can see how you’d be profiled here and here.

 

Adding your local offering to the Todd & Erin’s Shop Locally Utah Guide puts you in front of over 280,000 of our Pinterest friends within two months, along with 220,000 of our Facebook buddies, and countless more on TwitterInstagramLinkedIn, on the Todd and Erin Daily Stream show and on our email newsletter to 5,600 friends every other week.

 

Boost Your Business – Sign Up With The Todd & Erin “Shop Locally” Guide!

For an investment as low as $100, we’ll highlight your business and make sure that when Utahns are thinking shopping, they’re thinking you. You can find more information about our media reach here. It’s going to be a blast! Be one of the cool kids! Contact us at toddanderinshow@gmail.com to get started.

 

Share the Joy: Give One, Get One Free Bundlets from Nothing Bundt Cakes in Sandy

Share the Joy: Give One, Get One Free Bundlets from Nothing Bundt Cakes in Sandy.

There’s nothing better to send a surge of joy through me than a mouthful of velvety cream cheese frosting. If it’s attached to a Nothing Bundt Cake, so much the better.

My beautiful friend April, who owns Nothing Bundt Cakes in Sandy, Utah is all about spreading the joy. So in the month of January, when you purchase a Bundtlet, you get one free to share with someone who needs a little joy in their life. It’s April’s way of rewarding you for spreading happiness. Stop by 10389 South State Street in Sandy, mention us – Todd and Erin – and your buy one, get one free Bundtlets are just waiting to leap into your hands. Or your mouth. I don’t care where I eat mine, I have zero self-control.

(Cover image credit: Pixabay)

An Exhaustive List Of Every Christmas Light Show Along The Wasatch Front

An Exhaustive List Of Every Christmas Light Show Along The Wasatch Front. I must hate myself. Really.  I do this to myself EVERY YEAR, but to my Littles, the light cruises are an indispensable part of the Holidays.  We circle city blocks for hours, marveling at the lights and amazing creations that people with more time, money and (clearly) intelligence can put together. Since the only thing it has to cost you is a gallon or two of gas, it’s one of the most affordable options. Here’s a breakdown by county along the Wasatch Front, including the wildly enthusiastic amateurs. You’re welcome.

(Editor’s note: if you’re looking for more ways to instill meaning and fun into the Holidays with the people you love, take a look at our post on “Creating Holiday Traditions” here.  And what about taking care of yourself, enjoying the Holidays instead of just “getting through another one,” by checking out our tips here.)

 

An Exhaustive List Of Every Christmas Light Show Along The Wasatch Front

 

 

Utah County:

6-10-pm: Spanish Fork Festival of Lights-runs every night through New Year’s Day. Tickets $7-30.

6:30-10pm: The Christmas Light Cruise on the Provo River-tickets are $8.00, children under 2 free.

5:30-10:30pm: Pond Town in Salem-a sweet light display on the pond at the center of town, free admission. The display runs through 1.2.15

5-10pm: The Shops At Riverwoods-is ablaze with lights through January 1, 2018.  There’s carriage rides Friday, Saturday and Monday.  Free admission, small charge for the carriage rides.

5-10pm: Provo Town Center-watch the free holiday light and music show through December 31, free admission. 351 W Center St, Provo

5-10:30pm: Christmas in Color– now at the Utah Lake Stake Park – Marina, 4400 Center St, Provo. $25-30 per car- no limit on how many passengers.

 

The Plucky Non-Professionals UC: free admission

936 S 200 E, Orem: 100,000 lights set to music

Adam says to be sure to hit the Fibernet building in Orem. The building is just East of the University Mall-they’ve added even more lights this year!

 

Salt Lake County:

5-10pm: The Lights At Temple Square-of course, the Grand MamaJama of all holiday lights is the heart-stopping display at Temple Square.  Open seven days a week through December 31, admission is free.  Be sure to stop by the reflecting pool.

6-9pm: Candlelight Christmas at This Is The Place State Park-discover the warm glow of a pioneer Christmas with dancing, crafts and a visit with Father Christmas.  Dude.  Hardcore…  Tickets: adults $11, kids $8, children under 2 free.  Runs December 8-27 Monday through Saturday, closed 24-25th.

5:30-9pm: Zoo Lights at Utah’s Hogle Zoo-I’m seriously considering putting sunglasses on the kids this year, it’s that wildly colored and bright.  Open through December 31st, tickets are $4-6 for members, and $7-5 for non-members.

5-11pm: Light Up The Night At The Gateway Mall-hundreds of thousands of lights. including a wildly rotating color wheel on their gigantic Christmas Tree.  Free admission, open through January 2, 2018.

Noon-6pm: Gallivan Center Ice Skating Rink and Light Display-gorgeous neon splashes of color all over the Gallivan Center, plus ice skating and a fire barrel! Check here for sudden closures or schedule changes.  Admission to see the lights is free, ice rink is a small fee.

5-10pm: The Lights At Gardner Village-there’s free admission and Elf Hunts!  Runs through December 31.

Dusk to 11pm: The “Tree Of Life” is a beautiful addition to the Draper City Park–thousands of white lights that have created kind of a draw for spiritual seekers to the tree.  Draper City Park, 12500 South 1300 East.

5:30-11pm: Christmas in Color – a high-tech animated display from the group that creates the Midway Ice Castles. $20 per car on weekdays, $25 on weekends. (No limit to how many per car.) Salt Lake County Equestrian Park, 11161 s 2200 W, South Jordan.

 

frosty

The Plucky Non-Professionals SLC: free admission

Christmas Street: 5400 South 3200 West, Salt Lake City.  Best seen on foot.

Christmas Street Sugarhouse: the oldest neighborhood to claim the title here in Utah. Glen Arbor St, Salt Lake City

Christenson & Hymas Light Display: tune your radio to 99.5 for the music that goes with the show. 11693 S. 700 E., Draper

Frosty’s Winter Wonderland: something new goes up every night, slow for a moment and Frosty or one of his kids will trot over to hand you a candy cane. 805 E 18th Ave, Salt Lake City

1528 W 8740 S, West Jordan:

Lights on Wakefield: if you’d like to donate, they’re raising money for the Mascot Miracles Foundation (pediatric cancer) tune your radio to 87.9fm. 6388 S. Wakefield Way (5885 W.)

 

Toole County: 

6-9pm: Clark Historic Farm, live nativity and luminary walk.  Tickets $2 per person, or $1 with food donation.

 

The Plucky Non-Professionals TC: free admission

Lights on 1310: Sunday-Thursday 6-10pm, Friday-Saturday 6-11pm

Wait!  There’s more from the Toole Transcript here.

 

 

Davis County:

Dusk-11pm: Layton City Lights In The Park-free admission, open through January 1.

 

The Plucky Non-Professionals DC: free admission.

1600 S 1100 W, Syracuse: 25 years of light display madness

2413 N 2100 W, Clinton:

1385 S 2600 W, Syracuse:

354 E 200 S, Clearfield

223 N 1400 W, Clearfield: Christmas lights dance to the music, set your channel to 93.7fm

The Lights On Sherwood Drive: huge display in Kaysville – 5:30-10pm

 

Weber County:

5-9pm: Ogden’s Christmas Village-free admission, meet with Santa, take a tour of the homes.  Crafts, photos with Santa and food available for sale.  Runs through December 31.

 

 

The Plucky Non-Professionals WC: free admission

Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest, Exeter Dr, Morgan: admission is free, but they’re asking for donations for Primary Children’s Medical Center if you’re so inclined.

 

Box Elder County:

5-10pm: Fantasy At The Bay, Willard Bay State Park-my kids LOVE this wonderful display.   Take a horse-drawn wagon ride through the lights for free, but PLEASE tip the driver–this sweet man offers the service for free because he doesn’t want any child disappointed.  Admission is 50% off on Wednesdays, and get a $1.00 off coupon here.  It’s worth the drive.  Open through December 31, seven days a week.

 

The Plucky Non-Professionals BEC: free admission:

The Hooper Holiday House:  The Goodrich family is proud to invite you, turn the radio to 90.5 for musical accompaniment.

Tremonton-102 S Tremont St: lights synchronized to music, 5:30-11pm

 

Heading down south?

St. George has a huge collection of Holiday light displays, and the ambitious Braden with HedgeHog Electric compiled them all for you–it’s part of a fundraising drive for the Southwest Utah Habitat For Humanity.  You can find that excellent Holiday map here.

The St. George LDS Temple’s light display is back and exceptionally beautiful this year. Details here.

 

Okay, seriously, I can no longer feel my fingers.  I’ve been writing this post for the last 5 hours.  Yet, there are more! Be sure to check here for more enthusiastic amateurs.  There’s bound to be a house or two near you.  I’m sure that there’s great places I’ve missed.  Please add your two cents in a comment below.  C’mon!  It’s for the children…

Stuff I Do Not Get About The Holidays

Stuff I do NOT get about the Holidays. A few years ago on Christmas Eve morning, The Todd and I shared in something utterly amazing. Late the night before, I’d been on the phone with a frantic coordinator from one of the local community refugee services. Four families from the Sudan just arrived in Salt Lake City pretty much with only the clothes on their backs, family members lost along the way, but here. We had only a few frantic hours of social media begging and pleading before we (hoped) everyone would:

  • Spring into action on the busiest day of the year during our morning radio show which starts at 5AM.
  • Bring 4 families everything from boots and coats to microwaves and bedding.
  • Wrap and organize all the presents, remembering what sweater went to which kid in which family.
  • And.
  • Help us deliver everything.

stuff-i-do-not-get-2

(photo credit: Ridvan Yumlu)
(cover image credit: Dwight Burdette)

This is how made of Awesome our friends and listeners are: they did it. In less than 3 hours. With so much left to spare that we had to make another stop at the YWCA to drop off presents there, too. It was like the Attack of the Christmas Ninjas.

pile of presents

(photo credit: JustinRussel)

After meeting these little people, getting snuggles and dropping off the gifts, I don’t think I could be more in love with them. Their first Christmas. How do you even PROCESS something like Christmas when you come from war-torn Sudan? We tried to explain. But since there are things about the Holiday I sure as heck don’t understand, I’m not sure how well I did.

Stuff I Do NOT Get About The Holidays

elf on the shelf

(photo credit: Michael Kappel)

1. Elf On The Shelf:

Really? Where is he from? Why is he here? Why are parents required to spend hours rearranging him into thousands of different scenarios that would likely have gotten me spanked as a child if I’d tried them? Does anyone remember the last loveable children’s doll that started moving around by itself? Does “Chucky” ring a bell? Look at that face. The Elf on the Shelf is not your friend. Those beady eyes and that insincere smile are identical to those of the guys who roll tourists and steal their organs for the black market. Trust the Elf on the Shelf and I’ll bet you wake up in a bathtub of ice with your kidneys and pancreas missing.

santa radio

(photo credit: Don the up north memo)

2. The Mad Dash For Christmas Music:

This is the curse of my career. Listening to my Program Director fret. This conversation is precisely why I am so happy I don’t work in radio anymore.

Him: “Should we go All Christmas? Should we do it now?”

Me: “Don, it’s August 16th.”

Him: “Yeah, but the guys at KZOW will go All-Christmas before October.  You know they will!”

The true horror of this conversation? K-whatever likely will go All-Christmas before you’re even figuring out what the kids are wearing on Halloween. And then we’ll have to go All-Christmas. And guess what?  There are like, 3 Christmas songs you actually know, along with Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah” which we throw in for “diversity.” So, we have a playlist of maybe 30 songs and I am forced to listen to the Backstreet Boys sing “Jingle Bells” 3,912 times before the personal hell that the Holidays have become is over.

Which leads me to…

chriatmas shoes

3. The Christmas Shoes:

I recognize that anyone I haven’t managed to offend by thinking the Elf on a Shelf is creepy is going to hate me for believing with every fiber of my being that this Holiday staple is an abomination. Look, taste in music is subjective and personal. Like Patrick Henry and freedom … or … like … whatever he was defending, I will defend to the death your right to love this song as long as you know it is created from carcinogens, murder and the tears of children. You do not know what it is like having to hear the overwrought wailing of the singer from New Song caterwauling “Hiiiiit was nearly Chriiiiiistmus tiiiime” over and over and over again during the Holidays. I want you to be happy, I do. I want you to be sitting in your car gripping the steering wheel with a single tear coursing down your cheek as you realize the True Meaning Of The Holidays. I want you to be listening to our show when this happens. I just don’t you to be listening to “The Christmas Shoes.” Because that means I am being forced to listen to it, too. (Editor’s note: if you really, really hate “The Christmas Shoes” too, you need to watch Patton Oswald’s diatribe. You will laugh so hard you will sever an internal organ. (Be warned that it has naughty language. Like swearing and sacrilegious stuff. Very, VERY very naughty language. Very. Wait. Never mind. Don’t watch it.)

red kettle

(photo credit: 19melissa68)

4. Smarmy Bell-Ringers:

Dude, I am here for you. My kids save a portion of their allowance every year for the Bell-Ringers because they love to put the money in the bucket or boot or whatever you’re using. We have had the discussion of where their money goes. They know little kids like them need a nice Holiday, too. But while we’re doing it, could you avoid doing the following?

  • Hitting on me. Did you notice I’m wearing a wedding ring, Casanova?
  • Hitting on my underage children.
  • Commenting on the cake in my shopping bag, “Man, that’s got a lot of calories. You sure you need that?”
  • Yelling at my children when they drop the change and have to try it again. It’s windy. Your bucket is a moving target, brother. Chill out.

(Editor’s note: let me say that I was a bell-ringer once for the Salvation Army and proud to be so.  They are good people and an amazing organization. I cannot tell you what these people go through. During the course of one live radio morning show from my chilly corner, one kid stuck his chewed gum under my bucket like it was the underside of his desk. Several people flipped me off. One guy agreed to give a one-dollar donation but “Only if I could break a $100.00.” So I get it. I do. But maybe find a date on your time off, okay?)

bad christmas

(photo credit: Steven Yeh)

5. Spending The Big Day With People You Hate:

I learned this important fact a long time ago. Family is sometimes what you create, not what you were born with. I’ve heard unspeakable stories of abuse, (emotional, physical and more) during the holidays. I have friends who go into a deep depression this time of year because they can’t take another day of dreadful memories, but they feel obligated to revisit the House of Horrors. “It’s the Holidays!” family members hiss, “We’ll all be there but YOU!  What’s wrong with you!” If this is you, I want you to click on this link right now and listen to Dr. Julie Hanks talk about spending the holidays alone, rather than with a toxic family. It will change the way you look at the holidays.

I feel very lucky to have been blessed with a riotous, weird, wonderful family that I’m thrilled to see.

(Editor’s note: Not that it’s perfect. Last Christmas, my sisters and I actually invented a drinking game where we took a swig of eggnog for every time our Dad told us we were:

  • Fat
  • Had big feet
  • Had weird teeth–“Are those fake?”
  • Took away our dessert and ate it, saying “I’m trying to save you from those calories.”
  • Said… “Your child is badly behaved.”
  • “Is that the adopted one?”
  • “Where’s the smart one at?”
  •  “That one is too short to be related to me.”

All of us were three sheets to the wind by 10pm. Although my father has always done this, he now has dementia and we can’t do anything about it. Except smile vaguely and walk away. Sorry, that was a long Editor’s note.)

So, what do you do?

You didn’t get the good, weird, fun family? Gather with friends you like, change up the holiday and go bowling and eat Thai food. Do what makes you happy and honors a day where we celebrate something that is sacred to each of us. And if all else fails, come over to my house. There’s usually, like 256 of us and with all the add-ons, only half or so speak English. I’ll find you someone who speaks the words you understand. Unless you’re the annoying one.  In which case I’m sitting you next to my father.

What Makes a Woman Beautiful? Ask a Pin-up “Goddess” Photographer

What Makes a Woman Beautiful? Ask a Pin-up “Goddess” Photographer.

What makes a woman beautiful? It takes a lot of courage to pose as a luscious, pouting pin-up girl when you’re not a size 2. Who better to ask than photographer Alyssa Chambers, owner of “Bonnie’s Joy Pin-up & Boudoir.” While we’ve been sharing the gorgeousness of Alyssa’s work, the question I hear over and over (and from myself, trust me) is “Oh, I’ve always wanted to do that! Maybe when I’ve lost 20 pounds…”

Instead of trying to explain it, I thought going straight to the source – to a photographer who has lovingly photographed women of all sizes, shapes, and ages and asked her what makes a woman beautiful. If you get a little verklempt watching this, maybe you’re ready to become luscious and pouting and book a session for yourself.

Want to know more about Alyssa and the process? Have a look here. This IS the perfect holiday gift, and there’s a special offer for supporting your local businesses. You can also find Alyssa on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and her website here.

Five New Holiday Traditions To Try

(Image credit: Pixabay)

Five New Holiday Traditions To Try. I’d forgotten the excitement the twins used to show when we’d open the boxes filled with Christmas decorations. Now they’re 19 and too cool (I think they still dig it) to show it. But 8-year-old Zoe is all about asking “where did we get those stars?” And “is it time to see the ZooLights yet?” If you’re looking for some new ideas to try, these are good thought starters…

 

Five New Holiday Traditions To Try:

1. The Christmas Tree Ring Memory String:

The Todd thought of this our first Christmas together, when he grabbed the slice we’d just taken off the tree stump and labeled it “T+E 1997.”  It’s so fun to add a new tree ring every year … and now the Memory String stretches clear across our living room.

 

 

2. The 12 Days of Christmas Melee:

I’ve tried doing the “12 Days of Christmas” tradition, and it’s exhausting.  But if you do it with your family or a group of friends, it becomes fun, intriguing, and usually stupidly entertaining.  Assign one or two of the 12 days to each family member or friend.  They need to do something for another member of the group, in secret, giving nothing away.  It can be as small as cleaning the snow off the car and having it heated up and ready when that person goes to work, or as fancy as a Singing Elf Delivery Gram (don’t ask, my friend Steve delivered it to The Todd, and let’s say Steve enjoyed wearing those Elf tights, dancing and singing a little too much.)  On Christmas Eve, everyone has to figure out who did what or gave what to whom.   There’s laughter, shrieking and some really brilliant ideas that come to light.

 

3. Project Adopt A Grandma/Graduate Student/Refugee Family:

Bear with me.  Sometimes this means coming out of your comfort zone a little.  But there are thousands of people in your city or town that think a day spent with you would be amazing, and it doesn’t need to be on Christmas, or Kwanzaa or Hanukkah, or whatever you might celebrate.

  • For older folks in a care facility, they may not be able to get out to shop for loved ones, mail packages, get their hair done, buy a nice red coat for going to church.  A day with your patience, friendly kids and transportation would make their holiday.  Check in with your local Elder Care facilities and Meals On Wheels for a referral.

 

  • Graduate students at your local college are likely broke, new to town and maybe new to this country.  Some of our very best Christmas Eves were spent going around the room and having everyone talk about what “Higher Power” meant to them.  To Jennika from Ukraine, Higher Power was the feeling she got from her music as a concert pianist.  For Yen from Communist China, the joy he felt from complex math equations “filled his spirit” as he said.  Check with Student Services and the school church groups.

 

  • Refugee families are my favorite: the courageous little families make their way to our country from every corner of the globe.  I have never worked with one that wasn’t thrilled and grateful to be here and wanting so much to be part of the community.  But it’s scary: language barriers, confusion over customs, transportation problems–they are frightening and discouraging for anyone.  Teaching the families about the holidays and some of the different ones everyone shares is a wonderful experience.  We help the kids make small crafts and gifts for their parents, take the family to see the lights or a concert.   Check with your local Catholic Refugee Services for placement suggestions.

 

4. Try the Epic Tour of Lights:

This needs to only cost you a gallon of gas.  Everyone in the family maps out their favorite lit-up houses for the holidays.  Plug ‘em into your iPhone or make a little map.  Pass out the cocoa and get the car started.  Try LightMuse or ChristmasLightFinder to get you started. Locals here along the Wasatch Front, there’s an incredible list that’s either free as a drive-by (F) or nominal cost ($):

 

5.  Japanese Sky Lanterns & New Year’s Eve Wishes:

My favorite of our new traditions.  Japanese sky lanterns are inexpensive and heart-stoppingly beautiful.  Just before midnight, we take our lantern and write a wish for the upcoming year on one side, and a worry from the year we’re leaving on the other side.  As the clock turns 12, we send our lanterns into the sky, carrying our wishes to the heavens as our worries burn away with the paper.  I’ve found inexpensive sky lanterns in bulk here.  (Editor’s note: this is very important: many municipalities will have their own laws about the use of these lanterns. Please check first, and make sure you use a clear space with an open skyline to set your lanterns into the sky.)

Todd & Erin’s “Shop Locally” Holiday Guide – Utah DIY Wedding

Todd & Erin’s “Shop Locally” Holiday List – Utah DIY Wedding.

Meet Kathy Cushman, entrepreneurial Queen, and owner of Utah DIY Wedding. I’ve been to Kathy’s weddings before, and the woman is amazing. She’s created Utah’s largest wedding decor rental inventory. I’m not kidding:

  • 3000 sq ft showroom
  • 20+ backdrops
  • 1200 inventory items

You can find Kathy’s genius with Utah DIY Wedding on Facebook, InstagramPinterest, and on YouTube. To set up a free tour and consultation, click here.

For as low as $395, you’ll get COMPLETE Wedding Decor Rental.

This includes:

Utah DIY Wedding has a “Small Business” special: a FREE upgrade – that’s 15 choices of premium items – if you book by November 30th. 

Want to see it all in person? Here’s a perfect opportunity!

The Grand Opening of her new showroom:

1302 W Utah Ave., Payson UT 84651
(801) 753-8093
Small Business Saturday
Nov 30th, 2019
9am to 4pm
There’s food, drinks, and be sure to enter the drawing for a free backdrop rental that she’ll be giving away during the Grand Opening – that’s $125 value!

 

She has a huge variety of styles- Vintage…

 

Rustic and Boho…

 

Elegance…

How does this work?

It’s delightfully simple…

You pick up your selected package at Kathy’s warehouse- and she has rental rates that run for as long as 5 days- there’s a lot to do during the wedding, she gets it. You set all your goodies up, then return it all after the wedding. For $395!

Kathy’s joined us at Erin’s Night Out before- and I’m always amazed at her creativity, her charm and her enormous heart. She takes such pleasure in making women feel like the goddess they are. And it’s not just weddings! Old-style tea parties, corporate events, special parties …  she’s your girl. You can reach Kathy at utahdiywedding@gmail.com or call for a free consultation at 801.753.8093

 

 

Todd & Erin’s Shop Locally Guide: Bonnie’s Joy Pinup & Boudoir

 

Shop Locally: Bonnie’s Joy Pinup & Boudoir.

I’ve been fascinated with Bonnie’s Joy from the first minute I found one of the pictures from a photo session that my friend had booked. The allure of a woman – just like you or me –  but luscious and pouting in that way only a truly glamorous creature can be. The confidence of her! The charm!

 

Bonnie’s Joy Pinup & Boudoir is the brainchild of photographer Alyssa Chambers,  whose mission expanded to not only creating beautiful images but helping the women in front of the camera really see their beauty. It’s too easy to see the cellulite, the non-taut thighs, the stretch marks. But Alyssa’s job is to create an image of you that is elegant, sexy, and dare I say it, beautiful. “I love empowering women through pinup and boudoir photography,” says Alyssa, “confidence is the sexiest thing a woman can have.”

I know what you’re saying right now. “Yeah, I’ll book something like that after I’ve lost another 20 pounds…” You’re beautiful now. We’ve all been trying to lose that last 20 pounds. Forever. Alyssa’s here to remind you, “It’s not about how you look, it’s about how you feel about how you look. Let me pamper you and show you you’re perfectly imperfectly right now.” Hard to argue with that logic.

 

As our “Shop Locally” darling, Bonnie’s Joy is offering a rather spectacular deal. Bonnie’s Joy session fee of $300 includes professional hair and makeup, 3 outfits, coaching/ posing, 60 min photoshoot and $100 credit to any Royal Collection. Mention Todd and Erin when you book to get $200 off. That’s right, your session is only $100 non-refundable!!  This is an amazing holiday gift for someone you love.

 

Have a look here to see more about the process, and when you’re ready to get your session or one as a gift, head here. This is going to be a series of images you’re going to gloat over the rest of your life. When you need to remember just how glorious you really are, these are the pictures you’ll pull out again and again.

You can also find Bonnie’s Joy on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.

The Phenomenon of Airbnb and “Forced Civility” – How Home-sharing Has Made Us Better People

 

The phenomenon of Airbnb and “forced civility.” How home-sharing has made us better people.

I don’t think I waited for my college acceptance email with this much anxiety.

The Todd and I wanted to take the kids to the Maine coast and we’d found the most perfect little cottage, a dreamy Airbnb with the dates we needed wide open. So we sent off our friendly little note about families, sand and lobster. As I hovered over the keyboard I wondered, does another traveler have a better five-star rating than ours? With warmer recommendations?

Fortunately, we got the cottage and I’m packing flip-flops and sunblock as we speak. But the whole afternoon of anxiety makes me ponder the new phenomenon of “forced civility.”

Think about it. I like to believe I’m a nice person. I go out of my way to thank people for a job well done because I know we all like to complain more than compliment. But the days of incivility and casual rudeness are coming to an end and it’s due – at least in part – to the new trend of rating your experience on a site for everyone to see.

It’s not just Airbnb, there’s also Uber and Lyft – where if it comes down to picking up you or someone else at 2am outside a bar, the driver’s going with the passenger who “Tips well! Was really nice!” Wouldn’t you? 

The importance of five stars next to your name is becoming an actual commodity, the numbers that put you first in line. Dr. Robert Cialdini explains some of the key elements involved in the phenomenon in his excellent book, Influence, which is the bible of the marketing industry right now. The book teaches the delicate art of getting people to always say “Yes.” What it essentially seems to boil down to are three key elements: accountability, sincerity, and reciprocity.

 

Reciprocity is key: the Airbnb host increases the effort to offer a comfortable, beautiful space with thoughtful touches and courteous assistance. In return, the guest goes out of their way to be tidy, pleasant and considerate. Each is pleased with the other’s efforts and feels respected. The host gives an enthusiastic review for the guest, telling others they’ll be pleased to have them in their home. The guest is certain to point out the admirable qualities of the space and how responsive their host was to their needs. Both give a five-star rating to the other. And their excellent, respectful behavior is rewarded.

Would this exchange have been as lovely and accommodating if there had not been a public review under their names? I’d like to think so, but I do know that I might be inclined to be more nit-picky with a hotel stay than in someone’s home, maybe less inclined to point out the positive elements of my time there.

What else drives us to become the pleasant and lovely human beings we are?

 

Sincerity gives me hope that this isn’t just a temporary fix to our grumpy selves. Airbnb urges us to share a bit about ourselves, why we’re coming to town, who’s with us. This just ended the impersonal exchange that might make me slack off on those good manners Mom tried to instill in me as a child. (Mom tried. Oh, how she tried.) Instead, I’m aware the host “knows” me. I can’t be rude! I’m a guest! 

My best girlfriend Carlie runs a bustling Airbnb flow of guests in and out of her mother-in-law suite, and she says she feels the pressure to be sincere, too. “Here I’ve got this nice mom and dad bringing their daughter to town to drop her off at school. They’re in my home. I want to make them comfortable- it’s kind of an emotional time. So I left a list of favorite college spots for eating, clubbing, hanging out – they thanked me three times.” After sharing these small, personal moments with someone who was a stranger just last week how could you turn into Tourist Monster? You’ve shared a thing. You owe them your best behavior.

 

Accountability is another important element in the sharing economy. According to You Get What You Give, the Airbnb “bilateral reputation system” rewards popular hosts with more traffic and higher rates. It also puts highly-rated guests in a better position during periods of high demand. But now you have to keep that sweet and pleasant act going. It may be forced initially, but civility becomes a way of life.

My buddy Kevin is a veteran traveler, he’s on the road at least six months of the year. He’s also an Airbnb darling- I told him he should send these reviews to his parents, they’re that good. Kevin groaned. “Yeah, but now I have to be Nice Kevin all the time! I never get to be Snotty Kevin or High-maintenance Kevin like in the good old days of anonymous hotels!” 

So I pushed it. “Yeah, but do you really miss Snotty, High-maintenance Kevin?”

He rolled his eyes. “I dunno, it’s been so long since I got to be those guys that I don’t even remember.”

Success! The crankiest friend I had in college has turned into Nice Kevin for good!

 

So maybe that’s the end result here. We’re driven to be kind and considerate for that coveted five stars. And somewhere along the way… that’s who we become.

Hmmm… perhaps this is how dating sites should be run.