Five things for the week of November 5.

Thanks for the hobby suggestions this week. I’m mulling over my options, but I think I’m going to try looking into Joe’s M.I.L.L. and make a trip to the art store very soon. Anything else I should consider? Let me know below.

Otherwise, I’m so focused on meeting a deadline for Wednesday, and all I can think about is treating myself to a hair appointment on Thursday as a reward. It’s the simple pleasures that carry you through the rough patches, I say.

Before I make it to Wednesday or Thursday though, how about a quick break for the weekly 5 things?

1. SKYFALL. It’s out on Friday, and I so excited for this film. I doubt I’ll be in line, fighting to get to one of the first screenings, but I’ll get there soon. Oh, and don’t forget the amazing title track by Adele.

2. Starbucks Red Cups. As of November 1, they are back! And they make me happy inside.

3. You are what you eat, voter edition. Here’s a fun infographic in honour of the USA’s big [election] day tomorrow.

4. Sweet Potato Pancakes. I whipped up a recipe from my Practical Paleo book, and they are amazing! They are really simple to make; just shred a sweet potato, whisk three eggs, combine and season (endless possibilities), and pan fry in your healthy oil of choice. Mmmm. A new favourite side dish.

5. My iPhone case. I meant to post a link to the iPhone case I opted for a while back, but forgot. The one I chose from society6, which by the way, has tons of other arty items for sale, too, is below. It was tough to pick just one option, as there were so many good ones. Here are a few other ones I liked, too. Thanks to @teklanagel for the site suggestion.

Catch you next week.

Money Month: What’s your money secret?

Last week I told you my main money secret: I’ve automated my finances so I don’t have to think about deadlines, due dates, and budgeting. Doing this makes my life easier, and I can better monitor spending and saving to meet my personal financial targets.

There are lots of ways that money affects the choices we make, the things we buy and the way we live. And now that you know my biggest money secret, I’m curious to know what your money secrets are!

But first, here are some a few more self-imposed money rules I have.

1. Aim for 2 or 3 no-spend days per week.  I track what I spend on a daily basis, because the odd lunch out at work or spur of the moment cup of joe really add up. These small purchases are what end up busting my monthly budget. So, days where I don’t spend any money are big wins, and I try to have three to four “no spend” days a week. Yep, that’s difficult, and it means I have to choose what I do (or not do) wisely.

2. Use a re-loadable Starbucks card. This technique helps me make no-spend days more effective. It’s really just “allocation”, but using a re-loadable Starbucks card helps me control the amount I spend over a regular period of time (usually every two weeks). I load my card via my online account, and monitor how many trips I make over each period so that I can’t reload until it’s payday again. No $, no Starbucks.

3. Use gift cards as cash. I like receiving gift cards in lieu of other gifts because I can apply them to things that I’m already going to purchase (groceries, toiletries), versus buying new things. I hate getting a gift card for some store that I don’t often visit, because I normally end up spending more than what’s on the card to buy an item I would use, which means I get something new (yay!) but I’ve gone and spent money that I otherwise wouldn’t have spent (boo!). I like to subtly remind loved ones (read: email my relatives directly) of the places that I shop regularly, so when my birthday rolls around I get things I’ll use, letting me saving my money for other things. Right now, Costco, Superstore (Loblaws), LUSH and Chapters are the ones I like to receive. (Psst, mom: feel free to throw in Banana Republic, too).

4. Buy pantry and staple items on sale. Listen, I don’t really know if this saves me lots of money over the longterm, but this is a habit I’ve refined over time, as I’ve learned when to recognize a good deal. I buy pantry essentials (e.g., olive oil, peanut butter) or staples (e.g., toilet paper) only when they are on sale. You get to know what types of sales to expect on certain items, and when they are on discount I stock up.

So, what are your money secrets? 

Five things for the week of January 30.

Here’s five things for the week of January 30.

1. #benspotting

I love local inside jokes. If you don’t know Ben Boudreau, you should. His blog is LOL funny and I’ve almost caused a few traffic accidents with the recent #benspotting game with the Bell Aliant billboard (and TV and online) ads he’s featured in. Yep, I legitimately know someone who is on a billboard (and, it’s not one of those creepy ambulance chasing lawyers)!

2. People watching

If I could make a living out of people watching, I’d so do it. IT’S SO MUCH FUN. It is possible that I’m the weird loner girl in the corner of the cafe hiding behind my laptop, and people think it’s weird that I’m staring off into space, but really, I’m watching YOU. Yep, you there. Mostly, I like to observe (that sounds way more legit than “people watching”) couples. It’s so nice to see people in love – young or old – just enjoying each others company. We should appreciate people around us more often. Also, the more you watch, the more you can pick out key events like blind first dates, pre-divorcees, and the like.

3. Starbucks blonde

I read in the Globe and Mail that Starbucks Canada is having a hard time with profit margins due to product costs north of the 49th. Starbucks, I could have told you it’s more expensive here ages ago  – just look at a basic grocery bill! However, what’s interesting is that in the race to increase profits (and for the Canadian President to keep his job) we’ll likely see some breadth in the products that Starbucks Canada offers. I’m always excited to see new things in one of my favourite places, and there’s no surprise that I like the new Starbucks Blonde blend. I still love Pike Place, but I think the Blonde will capture that crowd that says Starbucks coffee tastes “too strong” (aka, my mother). This new product is unrelated to the profit struggles in Canada, but I figured they were both interesting things. PS: The packaging is pretty.

4. A boy’s take on Match.com

I love me some good online reading about 20-something relationships! This article was featured on imboycrazy.com this past week, and as someone who is constantly interested in learning more about the way our generation hooks up, meets up, shacks up and breaks up, this was such a funny account of a blind/online first date from the male point of view. I’m sure it’s not representative of the masses, but at the very least it’s funny.

5. Cool business concept (please come to Canada soon?)

Loved this post on Cup of Jo this week about a NYC business called Drybar. It’s a blowout salon that quickly gives you a great look without cutting and major styling. Good for when you need a pick me up, you know? I think I can see this catching on in wider markets. Either way, I’ll make a stop in when I next hit NYC.

Dear Starbucks… a letter to a brand.

Dear Starbucks,
Thank you for your most recent correspondence with  me on January 5, 2011. I feel that our conversation should not only be one-way, thus, I am responding to your most kind and heartfelt message.
I understand that change is an inevitable part of life, and although I do not immediately love your new “look”, I’m sure that in time,  I will reflect on the “old” logo as something that is a mere memory.
Someday in the future, I’ll be in Starbucks with a friend or acquaintance and we’ll reminisce about our favorite memories in Starbucks – the late nights studying, the awkward first (and last) blind dates, and the quiet afternoons of relaxing alone with a book. We’ll reflect on the changes in our own lives, and the changes in Starbucks, one of our favourite brand’s, life. “Oh, I remember when there was actual text in the logo. That was soooo long ago!”
But, until then, I will have some slight discomfort at fully embracing the new look. But I’ll get there… someday.
I appreciate the manner in which you’ve unveiled the new look. Being that I manage brands on a daily basis, I have a lot of respect for the effort that you are making in helping all of your customers – new, old, loyal, familar – understand the growth and change within the organization. And besides, you’re saying that it’s the “future” of the brand – surely I still have some time with the old one, right?
Now that you’ve told me why you’ve changed and shown me a bit about what’s to come, I inevitably want more, I need more. Tell me, what are you doing to roll out the brand in the stores? Will the store design change? What about the signage? What are you going to do to phase out the old and bring in the new?
But enough with the questions. You’ve told me there is a plan and you’ve shared your vision and strategic thinking with your loyal public. You’ve started the conversation, and clearly, it’s just beginning. Keep us (customers) in the loop the whole way through, and I’m sure I’ll love your new look as much as you do, soon enough.
Respectfully Yours,
Kimberley Mosher
A Loyal Starbucks Consumer

It’s red again! (The holidays are here!)

With the rolling of the calendar from October 31 to November 1 inevitably comes the onslaught of holiday ads, promotions, decorations and messages, all bombarding customers in the hopes they buy buy buy this holiday season.
I’m one of the many who like to complain that manufacturers jump the gun every single year. Who wants to buy christmas decor six months in advance anyway? But, as much as I’m one to compain about the change in the merchandise on the shelves, I’ve been in the thick of holiday planning for over two months, as many of my clients need to get started early to have their holiday campaigns ready for November and December.
My personal measure of the start of the holiday season doesn’t depend on when the holiday ads start, or when the stores start selling me wrapping paper in bulk. Nor do I feel all holiday’d out when my clients start planing their holiday messaging at the same time that your prepping your thanksgiving turkey.
My measure of the official start of the holiday season revolves around one subtle but cheer-inducing change at Starbucks: the red cups.
I don’t get super excited about many brands, but Starbucks is one of the ones I absolutely LOVE.
Every year I welcome the sign of the season that tells me that whenever I need a warm drink to cheer me up, Starbucks is waiting for me. I don’t visit any more frequently*, but I enjoy the sight of the special cups throughout the season that will likely extend from November to Janaury.
‘Tis the season!
*I lie. I visited twice yesterday, simply to enjoy the red cup twice.

Starbucks is my “happy place”.

I’m presently sitting at Starbucks enjoying the afternoon sun while getting some work accomplished.

Starbucks is such a comforting atmosphere for me. It’s always welcoming and friendly and I can quietly sit in a comfy chair, turn on my laptop and start pounding the keys while I catch bits and pieces of other conversations, a few bars of Norah Jones in the background and the lovely smell of coffee in the air. I loooooove the smell of coffee.

I also love the entire Starbucks experience.  I always get the same, consistent expereince. The quality is always high, and the service is enthusiastic. Every time I walk in, I’m greeted by a happy barista who is genuinely excited to make me my drink. I’ve been to Starbucks in three different continents, and all three are consistently the same. It’s fantastic. Of course, all of this high quality consistency has allowed Starbucks to becomethe classic b-school case example, a revered brand that has been written about time and time again, and just the same, my love for this iconic brand endures.

Starbucks is the place I go not just for the experience the baristas and the starbucks corporation provide, but for the interactions with the people that are in Starbucks. I could sit all day long, like a not-so-hidden fly on the wall, just to be nosey about other peoples lives. You never know what you are going to get, but you’re guaranteed entertainment. Today, I witnessed a plastic surgeon researching information while his wife perused the paper, a newly acquainted team of photographers discussing preparations for a shoot, and either the most awkward meeting between a TA and professor or a really weird Sunday morning date – I’m still not sure which one it was.

Either way, Starbucks is always there for me, waiting to serve me my next drink, entertain me, and encourage me to drink in the atmosphere and get something prodcutive done. I can be alone or with others, but both ways I know that Starbucks will be a comfortable and familiar place I can go and relax. I never know what I’ll hear or see, but I know I’ll be welcome anytime.

What’s your happy place?

The holidays are here, but my cheer is not.

About three years ago, Starbucks ran an online campaign for their annual “it’s red again” campaign that I absolutely swooned over. It’s still one of my most favourite marketing pieces – not for any specific message or goal, but simply because it connected with me – their consumer – on a level I hadn’t experienced before with a brand.

The entire Starbucks campaign that year was based on arriving at their website to be greeted by the Holiday Cheermeister. It was this amazingly well done (read: expensive) cool-for-the-time-period advanced site that had a talking-directly-to-you-live-on-the-screen Cheermeister that not only remembered (and said) your name, but he guided you around the site, walked in and out of your screen as if he was waiting in the next room, and he told funny jokes –  furthermore,  in no way did I feel that i was watching some continuous loop film or cheesy video clip. It was completely integrative, engaging, and totally appealing. The goal was to spread Cheer throughout the world, and boy, did I share it – I shared it with everyone I knew because I was in LOVE with this cool Starbucks experience.

Thus began my love of technology+marketing that results in really cool consumer-related outputs.

I was so in love with this campaign that I was googling “it’s red again” by October of the following year. I wanted my Cheermeister back – I figured for sure that they would up the anty the next year with something that would extend the campaign and the brand. I’m not sure what happened, but the Cheermeister was gone and Starbucks, one of my favourite brands, was much less interactive that next year, and seemingly so in the years since then.

The holidays are here again, and Starbucks is focusing onsocial media” for this holiday season, according to Ad Age. Well, all I have to say, Starbucks, is that I hope your new love project is as engaging and appealing as spreading Cheer around the world…