Jennah Mitchell's Musings

A compendium of thoughts, ideas, projects, and more

Archive for the category “Reviews”

A picture worth a million words

Just a quick shout out to my new favorite photographer, Marianne Wiest! Check out her Facebook page here, and her awesome website here.

She recently did our family photos and as I looked over them yesterday with my grandma I realized  – again – what a treasure great photos are. They bring back the memories of cherished days and moments as if they were just yesterday; a wonderful thing, especially when it seems like the days are flying by more and more the older I get.

If you want a stellar photographer at a great rate, CHOOSE THIS GAL! 🙂

Cheers!

JM

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Bullman’s Pizza: Mediocre Service Paired With Phenomenal Food

Bullman’s Pizza, an excellent addition to the North side of Kalispell, is well loved for its expansive menu, fresh ingredients, and its stellar location. Toss in its delicious gluten-free offerings and you have a recipe for a great night out. My most recent trip – with review in mind – went much like my past visits; below are my findings.

The restaurant has posted a B- food service rating, which called a few things to mind. First, I assume that the open, wood-fired cooking process would lend a certain measure of cleanliness issues, such as ash and other airborne particles that would settle throughout the facility. However, as the kitchen is very small compared to larger restaurants, and as the dining area is – by typical standards – fairly small, it is not entirely unreasonable to expect that they attain a higher rating in the future.

There were three people on staff when we arrived at 3:10 pm; since the restaurant has a seat-yourself policy, we did so and proceeded to wait over ten minutes before we were greeted beyond a passing glance and a menu tossed our direction. As the restaurant was far from being full, this slow service left me and my dining partner more than a little puzzled. When someone arrived to take our order, we were disheartened to find that they were already out of gluten-free crust, even though the dinner rush was hours away.

We placed our order for three things we had never tried before – something tough to do, as we go there often. Eventually we settled on a Greek salad, their Tomato, Garlic, and Basil pizza, and their Garnet pizza, which is a mouthwatering blend of prosciutto, mushrooms, arugula, and more.

The salad arrived promptly, both large in size and delightfully filled with feta, Greek olives, pepperoncinis, and an abundance of dressing. The best part about the dressing is that it comes on the side, allowing you full control over how much or how little goes onto your salad. Not only does this prevent the salad from getting soggy as the meal progresses, but it also makes sharing a breeze.

When the pizzas arrived – both in the medium size the restaurant offers – they were the perfect temperature for immediate tasting, which we did, with melted cheese stringing from plate to mouth with every delicious bite. The restaurant is not one to skimp on the cheese, but knows to go light on the sauce, allowing every ingredient to make its voice heard with each delectable bite.

The simplicity of the tomato, garlic, and basil pizza was made into a fabulous dish by the sheer size and juiciness of the tomato slices. Likewise, the Garnet pizza was an earthy gem whose wood-fired crust paired perfectly with the smoky flavor of the prosciutto and mushrooms.

All in all it was a good trip; I have awarded it the following ratings based on a 1-10 scale, with a 1 being equivalent to warmed-over truck stop food and a 10 being equivalent to the finest resort dining available.

Overall Price: It is not a cheap date, to be sure – our lunchtime dining experience cost over $30, garnering a price review of 6.5/10

Overall Food Quality: The ingredients were, for the most part, fresh and not overdone, thus a rating of 9/10

Overall Atmosphere and Experience: Unnecessarily slow service and mediocre ambiance contributed to a rating of 5/10

Average Rating: 7/10

Shayla Smith is the Bomb.com!

The Muir House – Finding Peace Amid Chaos

Hello one and all! My name is Jennah, and – like most of you, I am sure – this is my first time participating in a blog-based book club. I am excited about the possibilities that it holds, and honored to have been given the opportunity to join in.

Let me kick this whole party off by saying WOW! What a heady and multi-faceted book! Twists, turns, family secrets, love, intrigue – The Muir House has it all in one speed-read package! I read the whole thing in 4 hours…I could not put it down if I wanted to, to be honest. I loved the foreshadowing and hidden gems sprinkled throughout the book, as if I were a detective on the hunt for the truth right along with Willa. I have long been a fan of books that allow me to climb inside them and explore as I read, and this was definitely one of those books.

As a quick recap of my thoughts before I get into the meat of my post:

  • LOVED the characters – very diverse, believable, and well-developed. My favorite? I actually liked feisty old Mrs. Skye (Genie); from the start I had a feeling she was highly connected with Willa…although I never suspected she would be an aunt, of sorts.
  • LOVED the setting. I am from the Seattle area originally, so I really identified with that part of Willa’s life. As I have never been to the South, I also enjoyed reading about that area as well.
  • LIKED the storyline. It was a great plot – I am, however, one of those people that cannot stand suspense, especially when it pertains to family/child types of things. So I must confess that when I got halfway through, I skipped to the end and found out what happened and then returned to my happy reading blitz. I know, I know: that is a cardinal sin to many, but I did find that (personally) I enjoyed the second half of the book much more, since I knew where all of the characters were coming from.
  • DISLIKED the ending. I am a sucker for complete endings, whether it is a wedding neatly wrapped in bows and confetti, or a knock-down, drag-out fight that separates a few characters forever. I know that Hale and Willa end up together, but I could not help thinking about other loose ends that my OCD-self would love to have seen resolved a bit more.

This brings me to the thought I had last night that kept me awake until I could open my laptop lid and start getting those thoughts out onto this post: the idea of chaos as a comfort zone. It comes up throughout the book, but mainly on pages 126-127. Indulge me as I quote 🙂

Willa: “That makes no sense. Why would chaos be a safe place?”

Hale: “Because it’s what’s comfortable for you, what you know. What if God were calling you to something radically different? What if He wanted you to let go of the drama, to turn your back on it, and walk confidently in a new place.”

Willa: “So you’re saying that to live a normal life is a risk for me?”

Hale: “Guess what Willa…You have a choice. Chaos or wholeness. I know it sounds wacko, but your comfort zone is chaos. Take a risk for wholeness.”

Talk about powerful! These lines hit me like a baseball bat. As a mom to two little ones, the wrangler of two puppies, and the manager of three businesses, controlled chaos seems to come with the territory, and until now, it has been something that I have just accepted. To be totally transparent, I would have to agree with Hale in that at its core, my chaos is probably a comfort zone for me. It allows me to make excuses – viable excuses – when I am tired, overwhelmed, and perhaps not running at my best pace.

It pains me to realize this, but I think that, like Willa, I hide behind a mask of busyness and self-inflicted chaos, when all that I need to live in peace and serenity is effort. In all fairness, it will be a LOT of effort, but this raises another question: at what point does the risk and effort it will take to let peace reign supreme in my life become worth the accountability and vulnerability that I will be stepping into? Being on the ball and not allowing emergencies and chaos to lead me does, by definition, require that I am prepared. That I stop procrastinating. That I live with – dare I say it – a focused purpose instead of flying all over the board every day.

I really look forward to hearing what you all have to say about this valuable insight that Willa and Hale’s relationship brings to light for my life and for your lives – Let the conversation begin! 🙂

Jennah

I Was Part of a Twitter Party…and I LOVED It!

Recently I attended my first Twitter party, and – while I felt like the dunce in the corner as the smarter kids in the class totally passed me by, it was a great lesson for me in how Twitter parties can connect you with other like-minded people over a brief yet focused time span.

Sponsored by @MomCentral and filed under #FallTips, the party was all about discussing cleaning and healthy living tips and tricks in an effort to promote the Whirlpool and Affresh brands. Moms and dads alike weighed on on such questions as “How to you keep your family hydrated” and “How do you save energy;” the discussions were peppered with re-tweets and prize giveaways, and I am proud to say that I was a pre-party winner of a fabulous Affresh gift package! I am so excited for  it to arrive, but I am even more excited about how awesome it was to get to experience firsthand what a Twitter party is like.

Not only did I have the chance to follow people who may never have come up on the Twitter “to-follow” suggestion page, but I also was able to gain some valuable tidbits to use on my own home (Who knew that microwaving a glass bowl filled with lemon juice and water could do wonders for cleaning out the microwave!). I highly  encourage anyone who has yet to get involved in the Twitter community in this way to seize the opportunity the next time one presents itself – you will not be disappointed!

 

My First Major Guest Blog Post!

I am officially in love with My Wonderful Walls, a company based out of Chattanooga, Tennessee. Owned and operated by the Goins family, My Wonderful Walls creates gorgeous wall decal and mural kits that can turn any room into a masterpiece!

You can see my guest post here.

Not only are their designs beautiful and affordable, but everything they do has been manufactured right here in the United States – go USA!

Check them out if you get a chance – you will be glad you did!

 

 

Top 5 Ways a Smartphone Can Benefit Your Company

For many people, a smartphone seems like a toy; many use it to play games and download music, apps, and more, all at the touch of a button. But have you ever wondered how using a smartphone can actually benefit your company and your business? Smartphones are not only reliable devices for phone calls and text messaging; they can also help you stay in touch via email, organize your time, share documents with your associates, and much more. Read below to find out the top 5 ways a smartphone can benefit your company:

  1. Boost your productivity. Who doesn’t want that? As a small business owner, the manager of large company, or the CEO of an international corporation, you probably dream of being more productive and able to fit more into your work hours. A smartphone can help you do that by allowing you access to your office files from your phone, enabling you to send emails on the go, or even by functioning as a payment portal (Square Up, anyone?).
  2. Share information with your employees and clients easily. With old cell phones and even today’s regular flip phones, it is not always easy to share pictures, documents, or large files  – even when using email on your phone. With a smartphone such as a Blackberry, iPhone or Android, you can now share larger files, connect with others, and trade information quickly and easily.
  3. The World Wide Web is at your fingertips. With a smartphone, you can access Internet quickly and without the hassles that come with using an old cell phones without smartphone capabilities. This again allows you to stay connected no matter where you may be. From the airport, from home, from the hotel, or even from the beach – your ability to work away from the office is dramatically expanded thanks to the mobile Internet platforms available on any smartphone.
  4. Stay organized. Write yourself notes or record voice messages, import your email and phone contacts from your computer to your phone, make lists, set alerts and reminders, and so much more. Your smartphone is full of tools to help you stay on top of things and stay organized without carrying a large and clumsy planner or laptop computer wherever you go.
  5. Use Apps to your advantage. Think of the Apple store; when you come in, a representative enters your name on her or his iPhone and then all of a sudden any customer service agent in the store has your name on the waitlist and can help you right away once they are done with their previous customer. AT&T is using a similar system at their retail locations. You can use smartphones to optimize your customer service solutions or simply discover thousands of apps designed specifically with business men and women in mind.

To find out what smartphone is right for you, check out this article on About.com – it is a basic questionnaire to help you narrow down your smartphone options and help you decide what one may be a good fit for your personal and business needs. While it is not a smartphone specific process, it is a good jumping-off point for anyone looking to branch out into the new realm of phone technology.

What We Can Learn From the Recent Netflix Fiasco

My husband and I are avid Netflix users – we love the streaming service they offer, and we also receive DVDs in the mail from them as well. As many people know, Netflix recently announced that they would be splitting their company into two separate divisions. Netflix would remain the locale for their streaming service, and their DVD rental service would be housed under the name Qwikster. Needless to say, this (in conjunction with recent price hikes) caused an uproar among many loyal Netfilx users – so much so that Netflix began a series of hasty backtracking steps in an attempt to win back the favor of their customers. One such step was an email sent out by Reed Hastings, the Co-Founder and CEO of Netflix; the email opened with the words,

“I messed up. I owe you an explanation.”

At least he cut straight to the chase here, although the email’s blunt and open approach should have come much earlier, before customers felt used and betrayed. The email went on to say,

“We realized that streaming and DVD by mail are really becoming two different businesses, with very different cost structures, that need to be marketed differently, and we need to let each grow and operate independently.”

The company’s blog post regarding this situation, (http://blog.netflix.com/2011/09/explanation-and-some-reflections.html?lnktrk=EMP&g=62C94008A575B649F771017D7C3381B30AC0315E&lkid=netflixBlog) is fraught with angry and pointed comments, many of which bring to light valid questions and insights. Undoubtedly, this open hostility led to the email Netflix subscribers received today: NETFLIX IS ABANDONING THE CHANGES!

Kudos to them for listening to their customers, but as recent blog comments show, it may have come too late for many people who are fed up with the company’s lack of poise, customer service, and research. Fortunately, we can learn a lot from the whole debacle, and – hopefully – avoid making their unnecessary mistakes ourselves.

1. Market research is vital. Had Netflix taken the time to see how even a small pool of customers responded to their idea of splitting off the company into two sectors, they would have saved themselves many scathing comments and a lot of negative public feedback – something I am sure any business would be glad to do: to take the “pain now” for the “gain later.” Had Netflix done this, they would have saved time, resources, and a large portion of their customer base – instead, they put out a ton of effort, time, and money, only to end up scrapping the whole thing and ending up not back where they started, but several huge steps behind.

2. Good leadership is the next step. If the captain of the ship is not assertive, knowledgeable, and open to continued course correction, chances are that the ship will get into trouble in open waters. Additionally, those following that leader will be more tempted to jump ship when the going gets rough than they would if they believe in the course and in the underlying mission and purpose of the company. Where there is no clear vision, “the people will perish,” and the original vision along with them.

3. Consistent, meaningful communication is the final piece of the puzzle. When my husband and I were taking a pre-marriage class, our pastor said something we never have forgotten:” Would you tell your wife or husband I love you on the day you get married and then never say it again, expecting them to know that nothing has changed?” The answer is, obviously, NO! A loving and committed couple would absolutely tell one another consistently that they love and appreciate them. The same is true of a company that wants to keep moving forward with integrity and excellence: communication must be present! From the top to the bottom, CEOs, employees, and secretaries alike have to be willing to talk through day-to-day business happenings as well as big business moves and adjustments in order to stay on top of their game.

4. If it’s not broke…well, you know what that means. If you have a product  or service people love, at a price point that is mutually beneficial, DO NOT STOP OFFERING IT! Improve it and make it more efficient and user-friendly, yes – but do not change the heading of the ship if you are on a direct course for continued success.

Thank you Netflix, for this valuable lesson in business management and customer relations – hopefully it is one that we all take to heart and never forget.

Moon Dough – This Mommy’s Candid Review

A typical package of Moon Dough

Moon Dough: A product I am not so "over the moon" about

Touted as being a “hot favorite for Christmas 2010,” Moon Dough made its entrance onto the moldable dough and putty scene as a bright, seemingly magical substance that claims to never dry out and to have hypo-allergenic properties. While that may well be true, my experience with the product has been anything but magical.

For those of you that are unfamiliar with the product, Moon Dough (www.moondough.com) is a “magical molding dough” that promises to blow the minds of kids both big and small. Considered safe for children ages three and older, Moon Dough is simultaneously squishy and soft, sticky and crumbly, easy to play with and hard to mold with. My three year old loves mashing and squishing anything she can get her hands on, so to her it was a great product. For me, though, I could have been much more impressed.

First, it is a mess waiting to happen. Unlike Silly Putty or Play-Doh, Moon Dough crumbles and continually tends towards small particles versus wanting to stay put in clumps…needless to say, in mere seconds the table and floor were both covered in bright blue crumbs that – thanks to the “magical” texture of the dough – proved very difficult to pick up bare-handed. Fortunately, the puppies were on hand and made short work of all dropped pieces. Unfortunately, I am sure there will be negative digestive ramifications tomorrow. At least my husband is in charge of poo scooping and not I.

Second, the product really does not hold up to its tagline of “…molding dough.” My daughter and I attempted to use the mold that came with the dough but, try as I might, every time I pressed the dough onto the mold, the edges crumbled; every time I went to remove the dough and reveal the imprinted design, it crushed inward onto itself, thus creating a highly imperfect finished product at best.

While I am sure there are many that love Moon Dough, we will be sticking to Play-Doh and Silly Putty. Should we get a hankering for a funky yet fun substance that makes a glorious mess, we will stick with the tried and true (and cheap) cornstarch and water trick. This is one kids’ product that, in my book, misses the mark completely.

– Jennah Mitchell

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