Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween! Ladybug and Princess Leia Costumes

Happy Halloween!!!  
Our little ladybug enjoyed her first Halloween.  The Carter's costume was perfect and such a great value.  It was cushioned and cozy.  Right now, she is sprawled out on a blanket on the floor and looks super comfy.  We also successfully pulled together a last minute Princess Leia costume yesterday.  I dressed up as Darth Vader for work and thought it would be so fun to have her stop by for a quick cameo in our costume contest with me.  It was a hit, and we made the whole costume out of things we had around the house.  We used a sweat headband, a pair of brown dress socks, and some safety pins to make the infamous buns.  Throw in a pillow case and the bottom of a brown shirt, and we had her outfit.  Check out the final result below :)

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What to Make For Dinner - Sweet Corn Risotto and Zucchini Crust Pizza

Looking for some delicious dinner options?  We recently made two great dishes that I would highly recommend.  They were also both much more substantial than I expected and could individually serve as main courses if you wanted.

The Sweet Corn Risotto, pictured to your left, was really yummy.  We chose to add turkey sausage to it and as a topping on the Zucchini Crust Pizza.  Both of them kept really well, and we ate them as leftovers the next day.  

What really made the risotto dish pop was the fresh green onions sprinkled on top.  I loved each bite.  If I were to do it again, I might add peas as well.  Overall, I would definitely make this one again and will slot it into the regular rotation of delicious dinner options.

The Zucchini Crust Pizza was a delightful surprise.  The crust was delicious and worked great as a substitute for a bread crust.  It almost tasted even more delicious the next day.  If you wanted to cut even more calories and fat, you could probably skip the mozzarella.  I know, crazy right?  I'm a huge cheese fan, but I am telling you, no joke, the zucchini crust was really flavorful.

So if you are looking for something a little different, I would highly recommend trying the zucchini crust pizza.  I would call it a new favorite.  How do you plan dinner?  My latest go-to for dinner inspiration has been Pinterest.  If we're not already connected, let's do so.  I look forward to seeing your pins!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

How to Baby Proof Your Home - Who to Call in San Diego

How to baby proof one's home.  It is rather daunting to think about all the things that are not baby proof in one's home.  My baby girl is a little over 8 months old, and she is getting more mobile by the day.  My husband and I had been procrastinating about baby proofing our home, and to be honest, knowing that it needed to be done and wasn't, it was really starting to stress me out.  And yet, all we both wanted to do after a long day's work was sit on the couch and recharge.

So that's why I contacted Robert at Baby Safe Homes.  I knew if I waited, we probably would not get around to baby proofing until Kaelani was actually getting into things, and I was not comfortable with that approach.  I emailed Baby Safe Homes via their "Contact Us" form on the website.  Robert called me back within the hour, and we set up a time for him to come out and assess our home.

We communicated mostly via text messaging.  I did ask whether he could install some gates I already had.  I was pretty disappointed to find out that he could not because the ones we had were not up to safety standards.  I was more irritated that Babies R Us would sell such poor quality products and that they would be rated so highly by reviews.  Robert explained that most parents rate those products shortly after purchase, and that most of them break down after 30-90 days.  I was a little skeptical, but the gates he installed are completely made of metal and seem to be pretty sturdy.  He has 5 kids of his own and said he has learned from experience which products are best and which ones his own kids were able to break or figure out.  Thankfully, I was able to return our gates (from our registry) and get store credit, so it all worked out.

On the day of, Robert arrived a little late to our appointment but he did text me 20 minutes before to let me know he was stuck in traffic.  He spent a total of about 2 hours in our home.  He would make recommendations and point out possible safety hazards in our home, and then we would decide which items we wanted installed.  The cost did add up a little fast, but he was fairly transparent about the total as we went along.

Overall, I am happy with the results.  He installed a couple gates, door monkeys, power strip covers, and cabinet latches.  He was extremely fast and efficient.  I know if my husband and I had tried to go out and buy these items and install them ourselves, it would have taken a full day.  I did Google the items afterward to see how much mark-up Robert was charging us, and in all honesty, it was not that much.  He's a small business owner trying to support his family, so I can understand how the pricing worked out.  For our purposes, his services fit the bill.  We got a baby proofed home, and we did not have to spend a whole day doing it ourselves.

If you are interested in Robert's service, be sure to mention my name and that you found out about his services via my blog.  He will give you a discounted installation rate.  You basically pay for his labor and the cost of the materials.  Do you know of any other baby proofing services in San Diego?  If so, please share.  I'd love to hear your recommendations.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

How to Get a Job - 4 Ways to Kick-start Your Job Search

Whether you are a recent grad or a tenured professional, starting your job search can be daunting.  Many people go to the job boards first.  That is definitely a great resource to find job openings, but there are many other things you can do to supplement those efforts.  Here are some more ideas to get you started:

  1. Leverage LinkedIn.  Most people have no idea how powerful a tool LinkedIn can be.  It is by far my favorite.  Here are some ways you can optimize it for your benefit.
      • Check Out Your Fellow Alumni.  Open an advanced search.  Under School, write whatever college you attended in quotation marks.  Enter your postal code.  Designate within 25 miles or whatever commute distance you are comfortable with.  Click Search.  You should get a list of professionals who attended your school.  Check out the companies they are working for.  If you are a recent grad, then focus on the ones who graduated in the last couple years.  They may be more likely to hire grads if they have had successful hires in the past.  Feel free to message the ones in the same field as you.  Mention you are a fellow alumni.  It's a great excuse and instant connector.  Offer to take them to coffee in exchange for hearing their success story.  Do not outright ask them for a job.  Instead make a genuine connection.  Let them know you are looking for your next opportunity and would appreciate them keeping you in mind if they hear of anything in their network.  If you did not attend college, then brainstorm another instant connector you can leverage.  For example, if you are a stay-at-home mom, fitness buff, or lifestyle blogger, find other stay-at-home moms, buffs, or bloggers who work at the companies you want to work at.  Hang out where they hang out and leverage the coffee idea I mentioned above.  Again, it's all about making a real connection. 
      • Build Your Connections.  The more connections you have on LinkedIn, the more people LinkedIn will let you see.  It is okay to connect with strangers.  When people say "It's all about who you know", it is true.  Most of the time, the people who get jobs are the ones who networked their way in.  They still have to have the qualifications, but they only found out about the job or got the interview because they knew someone.  I would recommend connecting with Recruiters, HR professionals, and individuals in your field.  Make sure to customize the note in the connection request.  It can be as simple as this, "Hi John, I'm always looking to connect with other local HR professionals.  I'd love to add you to my network.  Thanks so much, Raina".
      • Join Groups.  Join as many groups as you can.  Start with your alumni groups and then professional associations.  If you need ideas, look at the groups your idols are in and join those.  Jump into the discussions.  Make thoughtful comments.  Read the discussions.  Make connections and network to find out about local opportunities.
      • Optimize Your Profile.  Make sure your profile is SEO friendly.  Basically, you want me, as a recruiter, to be able to find you.  How you do this is by finding a job description online of a role you want and incorporating as many of those keywords into your profile.  This results in people like me being able to find you when I do keyword searches for roles I am recruiting for.  The more keywords in your profile and the more connections you have, the more likely you are to turn up in my search results.
  2. Contact an Agency.  You can always sign up with an agency.  It does not cost anything.  Basically the agency gets paid a fee by the company for introducing you to them.  Sometimes an agency will know about an opportunity that is not posted.  Or they might have a relationship with a company and be able to get you an interview where you might not otherwise be able to get one.  You can ask for a direct placement (meaning you get hired full-time immediately by the company) or temp-to-hire opportunity (meaning you work a period of time before the company hires you).  Many times it will depend on the company.  If you want to hedge your bets, then let the agency know you are open to both.  You can always turn down an opportunity if it is not a good fit for you.  Make sure you have your phone with you at all times.  Sometimes, it can come down to which candidate calls back the agency first, so make sure it is on you.
  3. Join a Professional Association.  Another great place to meet your future manager or coworker is at a professional association.  Sometimes there are even opportunities at the beginning of meetings to introduce yourself to the crowd and let them know what you are looking for.  They may even share job openings they know about as well.  If you are ambitious, volunteer on one of the board committees.  It is a great way to meet and network with local professionals in your field.  The membership committee, for example, usually checks in with current members to see how they are enjoying their membership and also reaches out to new potential members.  This would be a great opportunity to reach out to the exact people you would want to work with.
  4. Have Realistic Salary and Role Expectations.  This might be the most important one on the list.  I truly think career articles do recent grads a disservice when they list the average salary you should expect after graduating.  Unless you are in a profession that requires specific technical or medical skills, like a physician or an IT programmer, then $50,000 is actually pretty unrealistic without 5-10 years of experience in the role.  If you are really serious about working, then you need to objectively look at your skill set and the job market.  Check out my post on How to Ask For a Raise.  The Do Your Research section will give you steps on how to figure out what you should be realistically making.  If you are a recent grad, be open to entry level jobs.  Many of us started as an administrative assistant or receptionist and worked our way up.  You can choose to wait for the perfect opportunity that pays you what you want and is at your dream company, but I warn you that you may wait for a while.  And as the months tick by, you become less and less employable and miss out on the experience and compensation you could be earning if you had accepted that "less than perfect job" 3 months ago.
There are endless possibilities when it comes to conducting a job search.  It is a topic near and dear to my heart since I am on the other side of it, recruiting as a career.  I know it can also be hard and frustrating.  Do not give up.  And if you need help, do not be afraid to ask for it.  Be humble and positive, and you will go far.

You might also enjoy:

Salary Negotiation
How to Ask for a Raise
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How to Prepare for an Interview

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Where to Eat in Del Mar - Market Restaurant + Bar

Market Restaurant + Bar is by far my favorite restaurant for special occasions.  My husband and I usually go for birthdays and anniversaries.  The warm corn muffins are my favorite.  Just a dollop of soft butter on them, and I'm in heaven.  Each time they surprise you with a different amuse bouche before your main course.  It is always a "close your eyes" delight of flavors in your mouth experience.  My husband and I love it.

We are also creatures of habit and usually order the same thing every time we go.  I always get the lobster special, and he always gets the short ribs/filet combo.  Both are done exquisitely.  I have strayed before and tried other menu items, but I always come back to my favorite.

At the end of the course, they give you a delicious salted caramel.  As I unwrap my caramel and pop the sweet treat in my mouth, I try to chew slowly and savor the moment and whole meal in general.  The service there is always superb.  There are several wait staff on hand, filling your water, clearing your dishes, folding your napkin when you go to the restroom, and overall making sure your meal is going smoothly.  There is also complimentary valet outside.  There are only two areas of opportunity that I think Market could improve on.  The lighting is a little dim, and the desserts are just not at the same caliber as the main courses, in my opinion.  They are not enough though to stop me from considering Market my favorite special occasion restaurant.

If you are looking for a fine dining experience in Del Mar, Market Restaurant + Bar is truly a wonderful choice.

Click to add a blog post for Market Restaurant + Bar on Zomato

Sunday, October 13, 2013

How to Figure Out a Company's Culture

A company's culture is hard to define, even for employees who work there.  There are a lot of things that go into and make up the corporate culture.  And you will probably get a different answer from each employee that you ask because company culture means different things to different people.  But when you are looking for a new job, the most important thing to remember is that it should be a two-way interview.  You do not want to end up at a company you will inevitably want to leave again in 6 months.  So do your homework beforehand and find out what you can about your prospective employer.

Here are some tips and tricks I use to figure out a company's culture:

  1. Read the Glassdoor reviews.  Probably the easiest resource to use, Glassdoor lets current and former employees write reviews about the culture and values, work/life balance, senior management, comp and benefits, and career opportunities.  There are even sections that share candidates' interview experiences and where employees have shared their job title and salary.  This is always a good start.
  2. LinkedIn is my personal favorite to use to figure out an employee culture.  
    • Check out the backgrounds of the current players.  I usually leverage the advanced search first, and type in [HR OR "human resources" OR "human resource"] in the title area and then the company name and change the default to "current".  I do this because I am in HR, but you might want to do this too since I think the type of HR person a company has says a lot about how they value employees.  See how long they have been in their field.  For me personally, I ask myself if they are mentor material.  If you are in Marketing, use the title area to type in all the marketing job titles you can think of, and then ask yourself these 2 questions:  Would I want to work for this person?  Do I think I could learn from them? 
    • Check out tenure.  Does it appear that these current employees have been in their roles long?  Sometimes you can also tell from their profiles whether they have been promoted or given award recognition.  If everyone you look up has only been there 6 months to a year that might be a sign of high turnover and thus an undesirable work environment.
    • Research career path.  You can repeat the first LinkedIn exercise above, but this time after you type in the company name select "past".  I like to do this to see where people go after they leave this company.  If it appears that everyone who leaves gets a better job title at a greater company, then it probably means they had a worthwhile experience that prepared them for the next step in their career.  They left for bigger challenges and opportunities.  If however, it seems like most individuals just made lateral moves to other companies, then it could be a sign that they just wanted out of the company and did not move for an obvious better opportunity.  This could be an indication of a bad corporate culture.
  3. Indeed.  This is a great aggregator for job postings and also has a section for reviews.  Remember to always take them with a grain of salt, as former employees can often times be writing from a place of disgruntlement.  Regardless, these can still be a great resource and often times give you clues to what the company is really like.
Hopefully you will find these tips useful.  They will definitely give you more insight into the company than you would be able to read directly from their website.  Have anymore tips you like to use?  Please share.  I would love to hear them.

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Where to Eat Brunch in Del Mar - Snooze

I was so excited to hear we were getting a Snooze in Del Mar.  I had gone to the one in Hillcrest for the first time this year, and it was delicious!  I mean, melt in your mouth, close your eyes because it tastes so good, delicious!

There is still the obvious wait, as there will be with any decent breakfast place, however I like Snooze in Del Mar, because they take your number when you put your name in.  And because one of my favorite fashion boutiques is nearby, I usually just go shopping.  The nice part is they actually called me to give me a heads up that my table would be ready soon, which was nice because I was able to make my purchase, and then head on over.  I found it to be very efficient, and it made the time pass pretty quickly.

My husband's favorite dish by far is the breakfast burrito.  It is pretty large but it is so good that he usually finishes it.  My personal favorite is probably Snooze Spuds Deluxe or any of their delicious pancakes.  I have had great success usually by getting the Pancake of the Day.  Last time I went, they had a blueberry and white chocolate chip dream of a pancake.  It was divine.  I think on the day pictured above, it was an espresso chocolate chip creation.  You cannot go wrong.  Next time you are in Del Mar, be sure to check out Snooze.  It is a great place to eat breakfast, brunch, or lunch!

Click to add a blog post for Snooze on Zomato

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Fun Halloween Activities - Boo Your Neighbor

So, I had never heard of this tradition until this past week.  I was visiting a friend, and when I walked up to her doorstep, I noticed a cute basket of Halloween goodies.  There was also a "Boo" sign on her screen door.

I asked her what it was, and she explained that she had been "Booed."  I was intrigued.  Basically once you've been booed, you have 2 days to boo 2 of your neighbors.  The tradition starts at the beginning of October, and hopefully by Halloween, everyone in the neighborhood has been booed.  She said her kids love it.  They come home and scream "We've been booed!"  And then they help their mom make baskets for the other families in the neighborhood.

I immediately fell in love with the idea, and it even comes with its own poem and easy instructions.  If you'd like to spread the Halloween Cheer, feel free to download a copy of the poem here.  There are definitely a few variations out there, but after browsing the internet, this version was my favorite.  I found it on Bunny Cakes Blog.  It actually looks like she has a new version with a chevron design as well, but I did not see it until after I had already made my baskets.

I included some goldfish crackers and kids' board books, since I know one of our neighbors has small
children.  I actually made 3 baskets just in case someone did not want to do it.  I have never lived in a neighborhood that did this, so I am hoping it will take off, and we will have a new fun Halloween tradition started.  I have to say I had a lot of fun putting the baskets together.  The funnest part was definitely delivering the baskets.  I first took a walk around my neighborhood to scout which houses I wanted to "Boo."  I chose our closest neighbor who has 2 young children, another neighbor who looks like he is building a haunted house, and another random one.  I hope I chose well.  I really tried to channel my stealthy ninja skills when I dropped them off.  I have since then realized that I do not have stealthy ninja skills.  When I was delivering the baskets, my heart was racing so fast that I started sweating, and my adrenaline was also pumping pretty hard.  It was a fun rush though.  At one point, my neighbor had his garage open just a little bit, and I could hear him moving around.  I thought, of course, the best route would be to cut across the grass to his front door, but I immediately regretted it when the sound of crunching leaves under my feet accompanied me across the entire lawn!  Lol.  I did safely deliver it to the door though and ran off as quickly as I could without him coming out.

I guess I'll just wait now and see if my efforts pay off.  Hopefully, I'll start to see little Boo signs pop up in people's windows.  Do you have any fun Halloween traditions?  Or do you Boo in your neighborhood already?  I'd love to hear from you.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

What to Make for Dinner - Healthy Cabbage Lasagna

What to make for dinner?  This age-old question seems so deceptively simple and yet every week I find myself just a little stressed trying to figure this out.  I find myself scouring Pinterest looking for a delicious-looking picture of something that does not look too complicated to make, but different and new enough that it is still exciting.

Enter, this Healthy Cabbage Lasagna, if you are looking for a healthy alternative to pasta or the traditional casserole, try out this.  I was a little skeptical at first, but with my husband's high cholesterol, we have been trying a lot of new recipes lately.  Some great, some not so great.

I have to say this one has been my favorite by far!  It was absolutely delicious.  We added a dollop of Fage greek yogurt on top and served it with some rice and roasted veggies.  Yum!

I got the recipe from iFOODreal, which has several clean and simple recipes.  I think I'm going to have to try some more of Olena's creations.

Here are the nutrition facts:
Servings Per Recipe:  8 pieces

Amount Per Serving:
Calories:  281.4
Total Fat:  4.5 g
Cholesterol:  33.7 mg
Sodium:  489.3 mg
Total Carbs 38.9 g
Dietary Fiber:  9.6 g
Protein:  26.9 g
WW Points+: 7

Did I mention it is also gluten free?  Yay for no tummy aches.

Kaelani is not quite old enough to eat it yet, but she gave this one a thumbs up/tongue out of approval.  

Do you have a favorite healthy recipe?
Please do share.  

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