Perseverance: Icing on Cake for Pastry Chef

Meet Bruce Dodds

Bruce early in his cake manufacturing career
Early Career

Bruce admits he was a poor student at North Dakota’s Fargo North High School. Book learning was not his thing. The social part was. Hands-on learning trumped books, always.

Yet, he found unconditional love and support from his parents who weren’t deterred by his poor attitude and poor grades.

They understood with time and finding his passion, Bruce would thrive. And, how right they were.

At age 50, Bruce retired as Vice President of Research and Development in a business he helped build. Then sold.

Here’s Bruce’s Story.

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Rich Texas Life

Bruce is completely content with his life’s path. “I’ve been blessed beyond my wildest dreams. I couldn’t possibly wish for anything else.”

He and his wife of 39 years, Teresa (Wickenheiser), a registered nurse, are both retired and living in  Texas. They’re the proud parents of two adult children and five grandchildren.

Most days Bruce awakens early and takes his two Labradors out to train for field trials. “It’s stress-free fun that gives me a reason to get out of the bed in the morning.  My dogs just love it.”

Hunting in North Dakota

Afternoons are spent in his pottery studio “throwing clay on the wheel or hand building pieces.” He doesn’t sell any of his many works. “One day my kids will have to figure out how to get rid of it all.”

He does get the parallel between cake baking and clay. Cake baking and pottery design both require immense amounts of creativity. Each begins with raw ingredients eventually shaped into a finished product-a cake and a beautiful functional art piece.

When not creating, he’s planning repeat trips to remote parts of the world, like Africa, to see wildlife and scenery not found in the USA. Or, he’s hunting in his home state of North Dakota and polishing up his photography skills.

Path to Texas Via New York

Education

Bruce’s NDSU West Dining Center boss is to thank for his career path. As a high school student, he worked there after school and during the summer. Early in his senior year, work peers asked about post-graduation plans. “I shrugged my shoulders and said I didn’t have a clue.” The thought of that question made him sick. “I knew I didn’t want to go to college.”

His boss suggested culinary school because he seemed to enjoy his job there so much.

Bruce sought direction from his high school guidance counselor who steered him to The Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park, New York. https://www.ciachef.edu/

“One look at the brochure and immediately I knew I wanted to go there, without even stepping foot in the school.” He applied and was accepted.

He started in January 1978 after quitting his NDSU job and working in a restaurant for a few months (a pre-requisite for admission).

Despite feeling lost and homesick, Bruce “loved school.” He even landed on the Dean’s List-a cause for family celebration on a school break.

He graduated in August 1979 with an Associate’s Degree taking classes ranging from Beginning Bake Shop (3 weeks) to Classical Pastry and Showpieces (3 weeks) to meat cutting to table service.

Lesson #1

It doesn’t take a four-year college degree to be successful. “If one finds what they love to do and are willing to work hard, anything is possible.”

Jobs to Lay-Off to Career

Bruce held many jobs before landing a career in the food industry.

  • Baker for 4 months at a Monticello, NY hotel
  • Pastry Chef at a hotel in St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands for a year
  • Pastry Chef at a country club in The Woodlands, Texas for a year
  • Pastry Chef at the University Club in Houston, Texas for six years

Like many, he contemplated a career switch, going so far as applying to become a Houston police officer. He decided to remain in the food industry after just one interview with the department.

He found himself with “walking papers” when the oil economy and real estate market tanked in Houston. “A pastry chef is a luxury for most clubs. There are outside sources for cakes and pastry without having to pay a salary.”

On his last day of work at the Club, he grabbed the classified ads on his way out and saw an ad for a pastry chef at a dessert and coffee bar.

Dessert Manufacturing

Product Line

Bruce went to work for the owners of the dessert and coffee bar and a year later owned a small percentage of the business. It had 4-hourly employees and a 600 square foot bakery.

As the business grew, the bakery moved into a 7000 square foot building and within another year it moved into a 30,000 square foot facility. One year later, they doubled their square footage to 60,000 square feet.

Eventually, they built their own 160,000 square foot place.

When the business was sold in 2006, it had 350 hourly employees.

Bruce was the Owner, Pastry Chef + Vice President of Research and Development for 21 years.

He learned large volume production on the job and initially leaned heavily on his food scientist ingredient suppliers. “It was very stressful for me as the entire business relied and counted on my being able to formulate recipes that:

  • Mixed and baked well in large volume production
  • Tasted good
  • Could be produced efficiently and cost effectively.”

250,000 Cakes

Overnight the company grew from 5-6 hourly employees to 75 employees to fulfill their first large volume club store company order: 250,000 9-inch, 3-layer black forest cakes.

“We were so naïve. We really didn’t know what we could or couldn’t do in production. We may not have had a darn clue but we needed the business and figured it out.” Most of the time, things worked out fine. “It was stressful at the time but quite humorous today.”

Lesson #2

A strong work ethic is huge in achieving success.

“Don’t be afraid to work hard. In fact, if you don’t, you likely won’t succeed.”

Lesson #3

“If you fail at something, pick yourself up, shake off the dust, learn from the mistake and keep pounding away. Sooner or later, it’ll all work out. You’ll be richer for it.”

Family Matters

The food industry is physically demanding and can be all consuming, thus taxing on the home life. “We eat and sleep the business. A supportive family sure does help.”

Teresa, his wife, “held down the fort at home” and was supportive of Bruce’s work. “She was, and is, my rock. Without her it would all have been for nothing.”

Lesson #4

Those who succeed in this industry, like most, “work hard and grind it out, daily.”

Work Life Balance

Bruce thinks a work life balance is important but easily admits “I found it to be pretty difficult.” Work consumed him both at the office and at home. Test kitchen and production deadlines were always looming and the phone rang constantly, even during the middle of the night.

“I’d say, if one is able to close the office door and go home to enjoy his or her family without thinking of the work sitting on the desk, you are better for it.”

Accolades + Awards

Bruce’s proudest achievement to date is his family.

Forced to cite professional awards, he lists being able to retire at age 50 as his greatest professional achievement. “The sale of our company was the ‘award’ my partners and I strove for and fought for all those years.”

Along the way, he

  • Survived in a household with two older academic and athletic brothers. One a dentist. The other an ear, nose and throat (ENT) doctor.
  • Won a Bailey’s Irish Crème food competition in Houston
  • Appeared on the cover American Airlines’ American Way magazine behind a 5-tiered wedding cake prepared for his final project at CIA.

3 Principles + Values

What always guided Bruce toward these achievements were the three principles and values learned at a young age.

Lesson #5

Timeliness is important in business and everyday life. Be on time for meetings and appointments. “Being late is rude and shows you think your time is more valuable than the people you are to meet.”

Lesson #6

Preparedness. Always show up well prepared and knowledgeable. “Nothing bothered me more than having folks show up ill prepared and clearly not ready for the meeting.” This is inconsiderate and shows laziness.

Lesson #7

Exceed Expectations. Learn all you can about your customer’s business, including their customer base. Knowing this makes it possible to meet or exceed expectations. Bruce made many trips to see grocery store bakery buyers from all over the country. “If I was asked to bring a certain product, I did. But I also brought variations of it as well.” Many times, customers don’t quite know what they want. Offering options shows you did your homework and went the extra mile. “This was always appreciated.”

Future

“I can’t think of a thing I’d like to accomplish yet in my life. I am content and happy.”

Finding what he was meant to do and fulling that calling were hallmarks of Bruce’s success and path in life.

Not surprising, his go-to song today is Lauren Daigle’s, “You Say.”

Listen

“When we think we are worthless and don’t recognize our strengths. God sees them.”

And many thank God for helping Bruce discover + understand his greater purpose.

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©Copyright. May 2019. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images or copy on this site. All are copyright protected and images are available for sale.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Contact her using the form above.

5 Movies to Watch This Year

I am not a film critic. I am one who appreciates a well-told story on film. The actors are almost always secondary to a good story for me. And, I rarely read the book before seeing the film. I don’t compare the printed word to the visual storytelling. I prefer to experience each separately.

It was a long, cold winter. We watched more movies than usual.

These five films have left the strongest impact on me, so far, in 2019.

Some were block busters. Others, not. Yet each is worth viewing.

I will not ruin it for you by revealing the plot or storyline. Instead, click on the links below for a preview of each film.

The Hate U Give

I’ve lived in Atlanta, Georgia, Washington, D.C. and Charleston, South Carolina before re-locating back to the Midwest.

The storyline, actions, and consequences here are believable and relatable to me.

Even if you’ve never lived in such a culture, the message in this movie is strong. It’s a movie I will remember. “What one puts out in the world, one gets back.”

Acronym: T.H.U.G.-The Hate U Give.

What They Had

We discovered this movie on Amazon Prime.

Anyone with aging parents will relate to the familial struggles and angst in this story. It centers on memory loss and deep love. One can get distracted by the drama in the children’s lives. Focus on the parents.

Bohemian Rhapsody

Queen was the first concert I ever attended. It was September 16, 1980 at the Hilton Coliseum in Ames, Iowa. https://www.setlist.fm/setlist/queen/1980/hilton-coliseum-ames-ia-4bdc9ffe.html

I was slightly overwhelmed and equally impressed by the crowd, the music, the theatrical performances and the stage lighting that night.

Flicking of a Bic lighter to show approval was new to me.

Of course, I’d heard the music before but never seen it performed live.

Even if you’ve never had the pleasure of attending a Queen concert, this movie is worth watching.

Though you may not agree with Freddy Mercury’s lifestyle, one cannot diminish his immense talent and impact on the music industry.

The movie received the 2019 Golden Globe Best Motion Picture award.

The Wife

Women of a certain age will completely understand this movie.

I’ve been paid quite well for many years to ghost write for political and corporate leaders. I get this movie. “Keep your mouth shut while others recite your words.”

Revealing more will ruin the plot for you.

Glenn Close, the lead actress, won multiple awards for her role in the film.

Beautiful Boy

If addiction has ever been in your life or in the life of someone you love, this movie will make a lasting impression on you. It highlights repeated recovery, relapse and survival. Income and status do not shield anyone from addiction.

Steve Carell, most widely known for comedic work, does an outstanding job in this dramatic role.

One can watch this movie on Amazon Prime.

What Film’s Been Most Impactful for You?

The 1988 Comedy-Drama, “Beaches,” starring Bette Midler and Barbara Hershey is one I’ll always remember. Theirs was a real and loyal friendship despite class differences, betrayal and illness. It set an example for me, at an early age, on how to initiate and build life-long friendships.

We even used a featured soundtrack from this movie, “Wind Beneath My Wings” as a spotlight dance at our 1992 wedding.

WINNER: BILL L. MT. PLEASANT, SC: Win Free Movie Pass

List the 1 movie that’s made the biggest impact on your life.

CLOSED: One random winner will be drawn.

©Copyright. May 2019. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images or copy on this site. All are copyright protected and images are available for sale.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Contact her using the form above.

Reuben Sandwiches & Art Shops in Omaha

Omaha has plenty to offer even when the weather turns foul in late April.

We trekked to the https://www.blackstonedistrict.com/ Blackstone District of Omaha to enjoy a legendary Reuben Sandwich at Crescent Moon before attending the Spring Open House at the Hot Shops Art Center.

Legend of the Reuben Sandwich

Legend has it the Reuben sandwich was created in the 1920s in Omaha, Nebraska. It was there that Bernard Schimmel ran the kitchen at the Blackstone Hotel (today known as Blackstone Center), which his father owned and where he would also enjoy a weekly poker game with friends.

As this legend goes, one of the players—local grocery store owner Reuben Kulafofsky—requested a sandwich with corned beef and sauerkraut. Schimmel, who was a European-trained chef, put his own spin on it by draining the sauerkraut, mixing it with Thousand Island dressing, then layering it with Swiss and homemade corned beef on dark rye bread. He then grilled it.

Crescent Moon Restaurant

3578 Farnam Street. Founded in 1996, Crescent Moon names its Reuben for the Blackstone Hotel which is just a few steps away and is credited with the creation of the Reuben sandwich. The Crescent Reuben was awarded Omaha’s Best Reuben by the Omaha World Herald-Omaha’s newspaper.

Man v. Food

On April 25, 2019 the TV show Man v Food (The Travel Channel) a reality TV series about America’s iconic dishes and food challenges filmed an episode there, featuring all items Reuben.

Staff expects the episode to air in late 2019.

Craft beers are generously featured on the menu. The restaurant also offers Sunday brunch.

Hot Shops Art Center

Information

  • 1301 Nicholas Street (near TD Ameritrade Baseball Park)
  • Hosts Spring + Fall Open Houses for the Public.
  • See 80+ artists in 54 studio spaces.
  • www.hotshopsartcenter.com
  • Check website for demonstration schedules, artist studio locations, parking instructions, etc.
  • Shops are open at other times (9AM-6PM and 11AM-5PM) but all artists may not be in their studios.
  • Restrooms are on each floor.
  • Refreshments can be purchased during the Open House.
  • Classes are available.
  • Not necessarily kid-friendly. Lots of breakables and stairs to climb.

Recommend Something

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©Copyright. April 2019. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images or copy on this site. All are copyright protected and images are available for sale.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.
Want an advertorial written on your business?
Would you like to have your community promoted?

Arbor Day’s Origins in Nebraska + Ways to Celebrate

Located in Nebraska City, Nebraska

What is Arbor Day?

Arbor Day is a holiday dedicated to the planting and conservation or preservation of trees.

It is celebrated the last Friday of each April.

Origin

The first American Arbor Day was celebrated on April 10, 1872 in Nebraska City, Nebraska. On this day, over a million trees were planted in the area.

It was initiated by Secretary of Agriculture and newspaper publisher, Julius Sterling Morton.

Arbor Day became an official holiday in 1885.

Arbor Day eventually spread to all 50 states and other countries, including Australia, Brazil and Canada.

Importance of Trees

Trees are an important part of every community. They

  • Create peaceful, aesthetic environments
  • Clean our air + provide oxygen
  • Provide shade and cool our streets + cities
  • Control erosion and provide windbreaks
  • Serve as historic landmarks, especially older trees like the Angel Oak Tree on Johns Island in South Carolina www.angeloaktree.com
  • Supply wildlife habitat
  • Produce nourishment
  • Serve as building supplies

Wildlife Habitat as seen at Magnolia Plantation & Gardens, Charleston, SC

More Information

www.arborday.org

Log on at www.arbordayfarm.org. Plan a visit.

Ways to Celebrate Arbor Day

  • Plant a tree
  • Read books about trees
  • Attend a workshop or class on how to maintain yard trees
  • Create a neighborhood scavenger hunt to find, for instance, the tree with the largest circumference, the oldest tree, etc.
  • Learn tree species. In Omaha, one can get educated at the OPPD Arboretum at 108th and Blondo. Visit www.oppd.com website for more information
  • Clean up a park
  • Start a recycling program at work
  • Commit to using earth-friendly products
  • Learn about trees in other parts of the country or world
Palmetto Trees on the Charleston, SC Waterfront
Tree Variety at Mt. Rainier, Washington
Door County, Wisconsin

©Copyright. April 2019. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images or copy on this site. All are copyright protected and images are available for sale.


Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.


She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.


Want an advertorial written on your business?
Would you like to have your community promoted?

Need her to ghost write website copy, a report or speech for you?
Contact her by completing this form.

What to Do in Omaha on a Saturday Morning

Joslyn Art Museum

Joslyn Art Museum

Helpful Facts

  • Address: 2200 Dodge Street
  • 402.342.3300
  • www.joslyn.org–Check Calendar of Events for docent guided tours & special exhibits, classes and performances ($)
  • Opens 10 AM
  • Closed Monday
  • FREE General Admission
  • Café Durham located in the Museum’s Atrium
  • Hitchcock Museum Shop on main floor
  • Sculpture Garden & Discovery Garden: exterior of Museum
  • Free parking in lot northeast of the Museum
  • Well-marked drop-off location for those with limited mobility

NOTES

  • The docent-guided building tour (check calendar of events for dates and times) is well worth a visitor’s time. It lasts about an hour. One learns the history of the building’s art deco design while special features, often missed by visitors, are pointed out.
  • Arts Works-A Place for Curiosity-on the lower level isn’t just for children. It’s a hands-on art studio for all ages. It will delight you and perhaps introduce you to more current ways of creating art.
  • Read photography rules at www.joslyn.org.
  • Do not sit on or climb on outdoor sculptures or displays.
  • Block out at least 3 hours (more if take a guided building tour) to view the exhibits and wander the outdoor gardens.
Create your own masterpiece & then Email it

A Gift to Omaha Citizens


Joslyn Art Museum was a generous gift to the people of Omaha from Sarah H. Joslyn (1851–1940) in memory of her husband, George A. Joslyn (1848–1916).

George & Sarah Joslyn

Lunch

Amsterdam Falafel + Kabob

  • 620 North 50th Street
  • Located in Omaha’s Dundee neighborhood
  • 402.504.3223
  • Find them on Facebook
  • Limited indoor seating
  • Outdoor seating available
  • Falafel is a Middle Eastern dish of spiced mashed chick peas, ground into a paste, formed into balls or fritters and then deep fried.
  • Kabob is roasted or grilled meat on a skewer.
  • Beverages for purchase.


Kabob Meat on Lettuce with Herb Dressing

Recommend Something

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©Copyright. April 2019. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images or copy on this site. All are copyright protected and images are available for sale.

Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.
Want an advertorial written on your business?
Would you like to have your community promoted?

Nominate it above.

How to Record & Understand a Year of Gratitude

I kept talking about practicing gratitude-being grateful. Seeing the silver lining. Slowing down. Counting my blessings. Cherishing the moment. Being content with what I have. Embracing what shows up in my life.

Then, I did.

In 2018 I committed to recording one thing I was grateful for each of the 365 days. Some days I struggled with limiting my recording to only one. Other days, I stretched to recall one. Regardless, each day received a gratitude note.

A month of gratitude slips.

It became routine: a habit. Then, a life-changer.

I dug out a book given to me a decade ago. I read and re-read it. It’s highlighted and dogeared. It’s a recipe for practicing gratitude.

Definition

Gratitude here is described as “the realization that we have everything we need, at least in this moment. It is stunningly simple. It helps us to return to our natural state of joyfulness where we notice what’s right instead of what’s wrong.”

If you’re reaching for ways to develop & keep an attitude of gratitude, read

Recommended Reading

Read on to find out how you can get a copy.

DATA COLLECTION

365 GOLDEN SLIPS

I cut 365 slips of golden paper and placed them into zip-lock bags by month. These sat in a basket next to my desk as a constant reminder not only to complete each slip daily but also to more fully recognize and appreciate events, behaviors, people, interactions, etc.

I became committed to appreciating this quote from the book: “Gratitude is like a flashlight. If you go out in your yard at night and turn on a flashlight, you suddenly can see what’s there. It was always there, but you couldn’t see it in the dark.”

What to Record

I didn’t limit myself to what could be recorded. The only rules were that just one item could be noted daily and that it could not be a recording of activity or an event and read like a journal. It had to be something unique about the day (or my approach or reaction to the day) that stood out and that I really appreciated and was grateful for.

Each day I made a recording, noted the date, folded the slip and put it in the container next to my desk.

Around March I began to realize how easy it is to forget things that happen on a daily basis that bring vast amounts of joy and enrichment to my life. Larger life events can often overshadow. For instance, 2018 brought some pretty seismic changes to our family life:

  • My husband, Ken, voluntarily switched careers.
  • Our son, Alex, married.
  • I doubled my client workload.
  • Illness and death of extended family and close friends.

Rather than focus on these major happenings, I recorded notes like, “admiration of Ken’s brain and intellect” and “cooling oceanside breeze on Alex’s wedding day.”

MONTH END REVIEW & RECALL

At the beginning of each month Ken and I would sit down and read aloud each slip from the prior month. We took turns randomly selecting slips until all were read and recalled. Some slips required explanation. Many brought delight as we remembered what was noted on the golden slip.[BONUS: Having someone to read and share a month’s worth of slips together is a real treat. But don’t let this stop you from recording on your own gratitude slips daily.]

DATA ANALYSIS

I used a research method-content analysis- to code all 365 golden gratitude slips. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/content%20analysis.

It is both qualitative (subjective, based on observation) and quantitative (objective, numbers).

Without getting too technical, I

  • Read each slip
  • Placed similar slips into the same group
  • Named each group like Marriage, Friendship, Immediate Family, Wellness, Etc.
  • Counted the number of slips in each group
  • Created sub-categories for large groups
  • Placed each category into 1 of 3 larger categories
  • Charted the slips by category

FINDINGS

Marriage

The largest number of gratitude slips (49) related to our 26 year marriage or my husband’s presence in my life. A sample includes, “pride in Ken’s hard work ethic and subsequent results,” “strength, faith and integrity through adversity and change,” and “honoring traditions like Ken’s standing the first Saturday of each May as “My Old Kentucky Home” is sung at the Derby.” [He’s a Kentucky native.]

Friends

We’ve lived in eight states. Making, appreciating and retaining friends across the globe are highly valued (30). “Social skills to make friends and develop life-long friendships.” “Friendships from work settings despite employer changes.” “Invitations to outings with new friends.”

Wedding Day Breakfast, Charleston, SC, July 3, 2018

Mother/Son

Alex, 24, is our only child. Time spent with him was mentioned 24 times. It is the greatest gift he gives me. On Mother’s Day I noted, “grateful for the title of mother.” “Honest/frank conversations,” and “Drive and dedication at his job” were also noted.

Immediate Family

Our immediate family grew to four in 2018 with Alex’s marriage. Again, time spent together was mentioned most. I’m was grateful for their wedding day and marriage. We’re all grateful for their home offer being accepted and the ease of their move-in.

Extended Family

Siblings, nieces, cousins, parents and in-laws were mentioned 18 times. Highlights: “Inclusiveness and traditions of Loon Lake, MN cousins, like their pre-meal prayer, ‘We love our bread. We love our butter. But most of all we love each other.’ “Adult women who become friends” and “uninterrupted travel time with brother from NE to MN.”

Other

Forty-four (44) golden slips simply could not be forced into another category and got placed in “OTHER.” Samples include, “safety of winter roadways, “service experts like window washers, snow removers, HVAC technicians, etc.”, “Nebraska volleyball players’ grit coming back to win from two sets down,” and “beauty and majesty of fireworks displays.”

Wellness

Access to medical care with kind, caring professionals was frequently mentioned (35). I have a progressive scoliosis. Access to warm water and massage therapy were often cited. “Motivation and commitment to pool exercise for maintenance of health and mobility,” “ability to rest and recover,” and “understanding need for self-care.”

Travel

I am curious and have gypsy-like traits. Thus, I thrive on travel (13) and immersing myself in new surroundings and cultures. I am most grateful for the means to travel.

Nature

Many of my/our travels include exploration of nature and the outdoors (11). Sample notations included: “Sunrises.” “Sitting on dock listening to sounds of loons on lake” and “full moon lighting our travel on I-80.”

Loon Lake, Minnesota

Personal Traits

Personal skills or traits appeared on 29 golden slips. These skills included traits like tolerance, compassion, sense of humor, emotional strength, ability to let go, forgiveness, life long learner, celebratory, etc.

Business Skill

Business aptitude or skills were noted 19 times. Problem-solving, analytical, group facilitation and connection, persistence, creative and artistic, communication (courageous, multi-generational, etc.) and organizational and planning are samples of the greater list.

Alone Time

Alone time only appeared four times during the year. History explains that. I hail from a family of 11. I enjoy being surrounded by people and activity.

CONCLUSIONS

  • There is always something to be grateful for. Recognizing this and pausing to understand gratitude were teachable moments.
  • I was grateful prior to this 365 day exercise. Committing gratitude to paper daily did, however, amplify the many blessings in my life.
  • My gratitude notes mirror my personal priorities. Almost half of the notes (46%) landed in “Marriage + Family.” Over a third (36%) fell in “External” and Eighteen percent (18%) were personal.
  • I was surprised by the number of personal and business traits (combined 48) mentioned on the gratitude slips. Clearly, I understand that my approach to both situations and people stems from the skills I possess and use. Experience (age) does lead to wisdom and insight.
  • Traveling fills my soul whether domestic or off-shore. Yet, it only had 13 mentions during the year. Perhaps, I’ve taken this blessing a bit for granted.
  • I have solidified my belief that most people are good and have good intentions. Forgiveness seems to come easier.
  • An attitude of gratitude is a daily work in progress. Admittedly, while raising a family, working and maintaining a life, it’s not easy to focus on self-improvement.
  • If I had a do-over, I’d have done this exercise earlier in my life. It’s never too late to start.

FUTURE

  • Keep understanding that to experience gratitude, I have to first be aware I’ve been given something (not necessarily a material thing).
  • Start each day being abundantly joyful.
  • Consciously count my blessings on a daily basis.
  • Realize there are trying times and discover the gift in those moments.
  • Be present and aware, especially during mundane, ordinary tasks.
  • Focus on needs not wants.
  • Notice and appreciate each person’s talents.
  • Live simply and minimally.
  • Keep expectations in check.
  • Give thanks every day, including at meal time.
  • Re-read “Attitudes of Gratitude” as needed to get re-focused.

Sandra from Sioux Falls, SD won the book! Congrats!

If you’d like a free copy of “Attitudes of Gratitude,” complete the form below and list the #1 thing you are most grateful for at the moment. List 1 item only.

CLOSED: A random winner will be chosen by May 1, 2019.

©Copyright. April 2019. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images or copy on this site. All are copyright protected and images are available for sale.


Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.
Want an advertorial written on your business?
Would you like to have your community promoted?

Need her to ghost write website copy, a report or speech for you?
Contact her by completing this form.

Life of Maine’s Executive Chef Matthew Ginn

Popular Portland, Maine Chef

Recognize this chef?  You should.

He’s Executive Chef Matthew Ginn of Portland, Maine.

He leads the kitchens at both EVO Kitchen + Bar and the Chebeague Island Inn (Open May-October).

Matthew competed on several 2018 Food Network “Chopped” episodes, leaving with a $10,000 prize and a 3rd place finale finish.

In 2015 he was Maine’s Lobster Chef of the Year.

Balance is Key

Matthew’s a married father of two young children. He works 50-70 hours a week. Time management is his greatest obstacle. Unmarried and childless, work was his life. Today, like many, he struggles with work and life balance. “Sometimes I feel like I can’t give either my job or my kids enough; therefore, I am not being as good of a chef or as good of a dad as I could be.” However, Chef Matthew keeps the challenge in perspective:  “A great dish is all about balance, and life is too.”

Tough Love Leads to Kitchen

Matthew abruptly quit college in 2005, coming home to parents who insisted rent start the next day. His prior work experiences all included food: strawberry picking, prep cooking and dishwashing at small restaurants and working in produce and meat rooms in neighborhood groceries. Naturally, he found a restaurant gig.

His calling was gradual. Initially, he was drawn to the energy and speed of a kitchen. It mirrored his past sports competitions, filled with adrenaline and excitement. He began enjoying going to work, “which I think is very rare.”

Four years later Matthew knew he was never leaving a kitchen. The precision, technique and refined plating of fine dining had him all in. “I couldn’t get enough”. Combining an artistic and creative outlet with the speed and physicality of sports hooked him.

New Chefs Listen Up

Matthew knows a ton about what it takes to become a successful chef. “Young chefs are always surprised by how hard it actually is.” Many think in a year or two they’ll be a sous chef.  “That is totally the wrong attitude. You have to put in the work and be ready to make sacrifices.”

  • Say goodbye to weekends, as you know them.
  • Your weekend will be Monday and Tuesday, if you get two days off in a row.
  •  Say goodbye to holidays. Matthew’s worked 6 Thanksgivings in a row and hasn’t had New Year’s Eve off in over a decade.
  • Find a new Valentine’s Day for you and your loved one.

New chefs are often surprised by the wage differences between the front to back of house staffs. “You have to know what you’re signing up for. You don’t line cook for the money. If you are in the restaurant business for the money, you should be a server.”

To be a good cook you need to be

  1. Patient
  2. Hardworking
  3. Humble, and understand
  4. A great dining experience includes good food, warm hospitality and great company. And above all else,

“Know that it’s not what is on the plate that matters, it’s what’s in the chairs.”

5. Find inspiration. Cooking inspiration comes and goes. Matthew looks at old cookbooks, his old recipe journals and even to fellow cooks. He thrives in collaborative kitchens where everyone is encouraged to participate in menu development. “Cooking inspiration is like the tide. Sometimes it’s in and sometimes it’s out. And, there’s not much rhyme or reason for it.”

Adventurous Eaters Wanted

Matthew doesn’t have a favorite food or dish. Instead, he likes what’s in season and when a product is at its best. Like asparagus in the summer. And, he loves the challenge of cooking food people think they don’t like.

Chickpea Fries

The most popular menu items at EVO are tuna and chickpea fries. They’re dishes influenced by the eastern Mediterranean and made with local Maine products in a modern, progressive way. They’re approachable.

“Fries make people more comfortable, even though they are not French Fries at all. They’re actually a technique called chickpea panisse. However, when panisse was on the menu, no one ordered it.” With a name change, it’s now one of the most popular items ordered at EVO.

Making Good Food is Objective. Taste is Subjective.

You don’t have to be a “foodie” to enjoy Matthew’s cooking. In fact, it’s a term and attitude he dislikes. With the growth and popularity of the restaurant and food scene in the past two decades, people’s interest in food and cooking has grown, and will continue to grow.

Matthew acknowledges that somewhere along the way non-hospitality professionals needed to express their knowledge and understanding of the cooking and restaurant world by dubbing themselves, “foodies.” Here is what he sees with everyone now being a “foodie.”

“Making good food is objective. Use the best ingredients and cook the product with proper technique. Taste is subjective.” Some might like bitter things more while others prefer sweets.

“But because you don’t like bitter doesn’t mean the properly cooked broccoli rabe is bad or the grapefruit sorbet isn’t good, because you don’t like bitter. Someone might not be familiar with every ingredient or technique used.

You have to be adventurous. And, I’ve met plenty of “foodies” who are not adventurous.”

Favorites

Matthew wants to cook whatever is your favorite thing to eat. His competitive spirit makes him attempt to make it the best you’ve ever had. In addition, he wants to please you and cook what you want.

I’m in the hospitality business. Making sure guests are happy and leaving ever happier is the name of the game.

As famed chef, Thomas Keller says, “When you acknowledge, as you must, that there is no such thing as perfect food, only the idea of it, then the real purpose of striving toward perfection becomes clear: to make people happy, that is what cooking is all about.”

Last Meal
His wife is the person he’d choose to cook for if given only one more meal to prepare. “She and I have shared many wonderful meals together over the years and I think it has always been something very special to our relationship. There is no one I like cooking for more.”

Legacy
“If I’m remembered for anything, I want to be remembered for being a good dad. A great chef would be a close second.” Matthew’s wishes are likely to come true.

Recently, his 3-year-old son told him, “thanks Dad, you’re a great chef.” Matthew’s heart rightfully melted as he watched his son enjoy his cooking.

Now that’s what cooking and being a chef is all about.

SHARE this post with anyone traveling to the coast of Maine, anyone working or aspiring to work in the hospitality industry, and all who need work/life balance perspective.

Written while roasting Brussels sprouts and simmering a pot of cauliflower soup in my kitchen. Recipes found under “Recipe” tab (side dishes + soups) on this website.

©Copyright. December 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images on this site. All are copyright protected and available for sale.
Linda Leier Thomason writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.
Want an advertorial written on your business?
Would you like to have your community promoted?
Contact her by completing this form.

What Do You Know about Designing Hats?

Springfield Artworks–Home to Hatmaker Margie Trembley

Photo Credit: Christian Baer

Step inside 183 Main Street in Springfield, Nebraska-a town of about 1600 residents, located six miles from I-80 (Exit 440) or about  10 miles south of Omaha’s Oakview Mall on 144th Street.

The energy in this historical 2500 square foot space, one of the oldest Peter Kiewit  built remaining buildings, may transport you back in time. A time when wearing hats was as commonplace as threading a needle.

Here these remain an everyday thing. The colors, vibrant. The products, exquisite. And, the owners, effervescent. One could spend hours viewing gallery items, taking a class or watching the owners create in their studio space. Every element is open and inviting.

Margie and Glenn Trembley, married 55 years, opened Springfield Artworks in 2009. Margie is a wearable art artist and couture milliner and Glenn is a glass artist. Together they co-owns the art gallery and support one another’s business operations, including loading and unloading of Margie’s hats for presentations or exhibits. Real teamwork. Real love.

Margie’s Hats Seen Worldwide

Photo Credit: Kathy Rae Photography

Margie’s designs can be seen in their Springfield, Nebraska gallery but also in other notable locations. Her work is recognized and appreciated worldwide. Go see her work at:

Nebraska

The Museum of Nebraska Art (MONA) at the Juried Adornment Exhibition in Kearney, Nebraska. Four of her hats are on display at the MONA. [Snap a photo of you by her exhibit. Share it . It may be posted here.]

Omaha Fashion Week 

Margie’s designs have been a runway favorite of this annual event with the encouragement and support of “The Style Guys”-Richard Carey and David Scott, her mentors.

New York City, New York

Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City (Mid December 2018-January 31, 2019)

The Milliners Guild Organization from New York is invited to exhibit there for the first time and included one of Margie’s hats in the display. The hats are found in the Mezzanine Gallery store located inside the Museum on 5th Avenue. Go upstairs from the Met Store on the right side of the entry. [Share a photo of you by Margie’s hat display.  It may be posted here.]

One of her hats was also recently displayed with other hats from the NYC Milliners Guild Organization at a popular fabric store in the Garment District of New York City.

Australia

Her greatest achievement to date is having one of her designs win the 2017 “Viewer’s Choice Award” in the Social Media Competition. This was part of the annual Melbourne, Australia International Milliners Competition.

Horseracing + Margie’s Hats

Photo Credit: Heather and Jameson

Margie’s most frequent customer is a woman attending one of the major horse racing events.

Her hats have been worn at the Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks, the Preakness Stakes, the Belmont Stakes and the Breeder’s Cup.

Breeders’ Cup Winner

In fact, Omaha’s Chaeli Souvannasoth was chosen by Carson Kressley and Bo Derek at the 2017 Breeders Cup in California as one of the top five fashion winners at the track.
And, at the 2018 Belmont, one of her hats adorned a California friend of jockey, Mike Smith, who rode Justify, the Triple Crown horse.

Press Recognition

In year’s past, the Churchill Down’s website used a photo of one of Margie’s hats atop a model’s head on their social media banner. And a Vogue photographer posted a photo of one of her hats worn at the Kentucky Derby on their website. A Louisville, Kentucky TV station featured her hats on a nightly newscast. Her hats have also appeared on NBC Sports as part of their horse racing coverage.

Work of Art + Labor of Love

Margie creates about 20 hats a year. She takes great pride in her Nebraska-designed headpieces. She’s delighted so many Nebraska women wear her hats to weddings, fundraisers and other special occasions.

How Do I Look in A Hat?

Many women think they don’t look good in hats. Margie says they have never had a professional try various styles on them. When she does, customers are surprised at how great they look. She collaborates with each customer on the design and prefers a 1-2-month lead time, depending on the design complexity, her workload and lag time of ordered materials. Others can be designed relatively quickly.

When custom designing a hat, Margie considers 4 factors:

  1. The Customer’s Height
  2. Hair Color
  3. Head and Body Shape, and
  4. The event where the hat will be worn

“What makes a hat look best is its tilt as well as the coordinating attire and hair style the client wears. It’s all about the overall look when wearing a hat.”

Latest Trends

Most of her pieces are one-of-a-kind. However, she’s currently working on one specific design in various colors due to popular demand. “It is a wide-brimmed felt hat that is perfect with jeans or any dress-up event.” It’s loved for its versatility. Many celebrities are seen wearing a similar style for evening wear or casual dress.

The most popular hat designs are black for the winter and white for the summer. Hats of these colors can be worn at multiple types of events. In addition, “by changing the embellishments, it increases the versatility and life of the hat.”

Hat Materials

Margie uses sinamay, crin, wool, felt, parasisal and covered buckram in her hat designs. “It is important that I use high quality materials.”

These are often found in countries with more milliners than in the USA and “some natural fibers are not grown here.”

Own a Hat Designed by Margie

What could be more impressive than owning a hat from a world-renowned hat designer?

Margie keeps a fairly large supply of ready-to-wear hats in the Springfield, Nebraska showroom. She also enjoys participating in trunk shows and ladies group presentations where hats can be purchased on site.

Contact her through her website to arrange a presentation.

Samples of her work are found there or on her Facebook and Instagram pages at @margietrembleychapeaux. She collaborates with many customers through email and Messenger.
[Share a photo of you wearing one of her designs. It may be posted here.]

Congratulations, Tammy!

CLOSED. Won by Tammy Hill of Georgia. 

Win a Margie Trembley Chapeaux  Design

Margie is giving away a headpiece (Lilly), designed using a metal base wrapped with ribbon and re-sculpted crin. It is similar to one featured in Omaha Fashion Week. Enter here to win. Contest runs through December 21, 2018. Must be 18 or older and open to USA citizens only. Contest not affiliated with Facebook, Instagram or Twitter. Winner must submit image of her wearing the design and agree to photo being posted and shared. Immediate family members of Margie and Linda are not qualified entrants.

Margie’s Journey to Hat Designing

Flowers & Floral Design

Who knew a flower garden could impact a child’s career choice?
Margie’s mother grew flowers in her Arkansas garden, exposing her to the beauty of flowers and floral design. She was introduced to Ikebana-Japanese floral design, by a friend.

Together they attended numerous floral design events in Omaha and Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. She took classes at the Philadelphia flower show taught by Denmark designers. She also took lessons from an award-winning Japanese designer.

Garden Club

While living in a Chicago suburb for the 13 years she and Glenn were not Omaha residents, Margie’s Naperville, Illinois Garden Club greatly impacted her creative journey and eventual career as a hat maker. She joined an Ikebana group and experienced the creations of many local, talented Japanese designers.

Margie learned about the elements of design, color combinations and other qualities that create a desired design. Today she often purchases handmade and silk flowers as hat embellishments.

Influencers Guiding Her Path

Margie has always been interested in art and design and felted with wool before designing hats from natural fibers. She found the best instructors and became an engaged student.

A felting class she took from Margo Duke sparked an interest in hat making. “I learned to make a hat out of wool roving, using an embellishing machine.” Margo encouraged her to take professional millinery classes.

She did. Laura Hubka taught her about hat blocks and the materials and processes necessary for any successful hat maker. “The impact of learning an age-old skill was immense. And, Laura was a skilled and patient teacher.”

A creativity workshop led by Katie Passquini Masopust http://www.katiepm.com/
-a quilt artist, instructor and author-awakened Margie’s creativity, an essential quality for any designer.

Margie has an eye for detail taught to her by famed fashion doll designer, Robert Tonner, whom she’s met on several occasions. She’s seen his exquisite designs at many of his doll conventions, both in the USA and in Paris, France. “His attention to detail sticks firmly in my memory both in his current work and in my collection.”

Duchess Meghan & Interns

The one thing in life Margie wants to be remembered for is being a creator of extraordinary hats. Of course, she’d be flattered to have one worn by the Duchess of Sussex, Meghan, and photographed with the Duke of Sussex, Harry, by her side.

In the meantime, she’s looking forward to partnering with regional university fashion/apparel, merchandising and design departments and to locating a student or two who’d like to intern with her business (design and business or marketing).

If interested, please contact Margie through her website or email her at margietrembley@gmail.com.

©Copyright. November 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images on this site. All are copyright protected and available for sale.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.

Want an advertorial written on your business? 

Would you like to have your community promoted? 
Contact her by completing the form above.

Aronia Berries: What Do They Do for You?

Are You Eating the Powerful Superfruit?

September 15, 2019: Make Plans to Attend the Aronia Berry Festival. Read below for more details.

What is an Aronia Berry?

The simple answer is an aronia berry is a tart, dark purple superfruit loaded with antioxidants. It’s often called a black chokeberry in garden centers and confused with pitted chokecherries. It looks like a blend between a blueberry and a cherry.

Native to North America, these berries thrive in the Midwest.

Sawmill Hollow Family Farm near Missouri Valley, Iowa was the first aronia berry farm in North America.

The berries taste tart and rarely are eaten on their own. You can find the berries fresh, dried, frozen,  pureed or in supplements.

Look for aronia juice and concentrate in your local supermarket, usually in the health food section.

The berries are often added to blended drinks or water and used as ingredients in many foods including, salsa, stir-fry, vinaigrettes, baked goods, jams and more. Try topping off your salad, cereal and/or yogurt with some berries. [See recipe below.]

In some regions, you can also buy aronia berry wine and beer.

However you use them, know you are adding a health benefit to your diet. (Be sure to follow the recommended dose per day instructions.)

Health Benefits

Ongoing medical research studies in Eastern Europe (Bulgaria’s Medical University of Varna) and more recently in the USA claim the aronia berry is the most powerful superfood on earth.

 Berries Are Believed To

    • Improve blood circulation
    • Balance blood pressure
    • Protect liver and gastric functions
    • Assist in decreasing inflammation in the body
    • Fight against urinary tract infections
  • Be rich in fiber

Berries Have

  • 3Xs the antioxidants of acai berries
  • 3xs the anthocyanins of tart berries
  • 4xs the resveratrol of red wine, and
  • 24xs the proanthocyanins of elderberries

Meet Berry Farmer-Chase Nelson

Chase Nelson is part of Nelson Farms located in the Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota. Chase’s family added aronia bushes to their farm in 2015 when his dad recognized the health benefits of drinking aronia berry juice after a mini stroke and a COPD diagnosis.

Today Nelson Farms has 18,000 aronia berry bushes (20 dedicated acres) in addition to their 6000 acres of corn, soybeans and wheat. They also care for and harvest an additional 28 acres of aronia berries for two neighboring farms.

Chase admits the most challenging aspect of growing aronia berries is the unknown. “Everything we’ve done has been trial and error. There isn’t much information available for best methods for bush spacing, weed control, etc. Right now, we weed everything by hand and we planted grass down each row to aid in weed control.”

Marketing is also challenging as Americans are just now becoming familiar with the aronia berries and their many health benefits.

Nelson Farms is a grower for the National Aronia Growers, LLC also known as NAG. All of their harvested berries go there to get destemmed and sterilized. Once NAG finds an outlet to sell the berries, Nelson Farms gets paid by NAG.
Click here to see a video of the 2017 harvest at Nelson’s Farm.

New Market Opportunities

Chase, a 2015 Concordia College (MN) graduate,  is working on potential wholesale markets like breweries and cideries. “Those that have already purchased the berries have created some delicious beverages.”

“Aronia is great for everyone, but I think because it’s so high in antioxidants it makes it great for a post workout supplement,” reflected Chase.

Those who’d get maximum benefit include

  • Runners
  • Physically active people
  • Elderly
  • Those with inflammation issues
  • Those with allergies

Nelson Farms also partners with Ax Water which uses their berries for their aronia infused water.

AX Water 

Nelson Farms sells berries to Ax Water Company-an aronia infused water company founded in Fargo, ND in 2017.

Ax Water is an all-natural, American made, health and wellness beverage. Made from all-natural ingredients, and containing only 30 calories, ax water packs all the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of the aronia berry into 16 ounces.

Educating Consumers 

Educating consumers about aronia berries is an ongoing effort. Chase sees it as helping the community take charge of their health.

Sawmill Hollow Family Farm near Missouri Valley, Iowa hosts an annual North American Aronia Berry Festival and Nelson Aronia Farm near Fargo, North Dakota will be hosting a similar event in the summer of 2019.

“We enjoy having interested people on the farm to learn more about the berry. What a better way to educate them and show them the berries, first-hand.”

Feel free to contact Nelson Aronia Farm for more details about the Inaugural Aronia Berry Festival events and/or more information on aronia berry bushes. September 15, 2019 is the date! Make plans to attend. 

Courtney’s Aronia Berry Muffin Recipe 

Chase & wife, Courtney, an elementary education teacher.

INGREDIENTS

  •  2 cups flour
  •  2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt (omit if butter is salted)
  • ,1/2 cup butter
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  •  1/2 cup milk
  • 1 handful of Aronia berries
  • 2-3 tsp granulated sugar for sprinkling on top of the muffins

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375. Line a muffin tin with cupcake liners and set aside. In a bowl, place flour and baking powder. Mix together and set aside. In a mixing bowl, beat the butter & sugar until light and fluffy – about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add in the vanilla. With a spoon, stir in half of the flour, then half of the milk. Repeat, stirring with each addition until just bended. Do not over mix! Gently fold in the  berries.  Using a cookie scoop, place 2 scoops of batter into each muffin liner and sprinkle the tops with sugar. Bake for 25 minutes. Check for doneness using a toothpick. Store in an air tight container or wrap in plastic wrap and keep in the freezer.

More Information

  1. National Aronia Growers. Telephone # is 712-540-0127
  2. Midwest Aronia Association https://midwestaronia.org/ in Council Bluffs, Iowa
  3. USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in your state and county https://plants.usda.gov/plantguide/pdf/pg_arme6.pdf

SHARE this post with health-minded friends and family. ENTER to win the case of Ax Water. MAKE Courtney’s delicious Aronia Berry Muffin recipe. LET me know how you liked them.

©Copyright. October 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images on this site. All are copyright protected and available for sale.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact. Read more about her background and qualifications by clicking on the “Meet Linda” tab above.
Contact her by completing the form above.

Win Sandhill Cranes Migration VIP Trip

A Sandhill Crane is silhouetted against the night sky as it fly’s beneath a brilliant moon. Taken by get away prize winner March 2019, www.willfields.com.

Let’s Congratulate the Winner–Will Fields

Contest Now Closed

Contest Dates: Oct. 1-Oct. 31, 2018

Trip Date: February 28, 2019

The annual Sandhill Crane migration is one of the world’s greatest natural spectacles.

Mid-February through mid-April, more than half a million Sandhill Cranes congregate along Nebraska’s Platte River during their annual migration. They rest and prepare for nesting after leaving their winter homes in Mexico and the Southwest. Their final destinations are way north in Canada, Alaska and Siberia.

World-Wide Visitors

Thousands of visitors come from all over the world to greet and observe this natural wonder.
They visit the Crane Trust Nature & Visitor Center at Exit 305 off Interstate 80
near Woodriver, Nebraska.

Win Overnight (2/28/19) VIP Experience

You can be 1 of the lucky ones viewing this natural wonder.

One winner and a guest will receive

• Two guided crane viewing experiences (dawn and sunset) inside the private, heated Pietrok Family VIP Blind on the largest Sandhill Crane roost on the Platte River. Experts provide valuable insights into the science and the mystery of the crane migration and Platte River ecosystem.
• Overnight accommodations at Crane Trust Legacy Cottages (private bedroom and bathroom). There is a kitchenette with a dining table and television in the common area and a covered patio overlooking the vast historic prairie where genetically-pure American bison roam.
• Food and drink at the evening’s Welcome Reception, Dinner after the sunset viewing and Breakfast after the dawn viewing.

Enter to Win

Contest Fine Print

  •  The Experience is  Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. No exception. Do not enter if you cannot travel to Wood River (outside of Grand Island, NE) and spend the evening of 2.28.19.
  • Transportation to and from Wood River, Nebraska is not included.
  • You must be able to navigate up to ¼ mile of uneven terrain to reach the bird blind.
  • All other expenses not mentioned above are winner’s responsibility.
  • Prize value is $500.00.
  • Winner agrees to share at least 3 photographic images with www.lindaleierthomason.com by March 5, 2019 to use at her discretion.
  • Winner Notification: Winner will be chosen at random. Winner will be notified via email. Response must be received in 24 hours. If none, another winner will be randomly chosen.
  • Prize is non-transferable. No cash redemption or substitution will be allowed.
  • Participants must be 18 years of age or older, a legal U.S. resident, All federal, state and local laws and regulations apply.
  • No purchase necessary.
  • This is in no way sponsored, endorsed, administered by or associated with, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +, YouTube, Instagram or Pinterest.
  • Crane Trust employees and trustees and their immediate family members are not eligible for this giveaway. Neither are immediate family members of www.lindaleierthomason.com.
  • Winner assumes all responsibility and releases www.lindaleierthomason.com and The Crane Trust, its employees and trustees from all liability.
  • By accepting prize, winner understands and agrees to all contest rules.

Tips to Enhance Your Sandhill Cranes Viewing Experience

  • I’ve witnessed the Sandhill Crane migration twice. Once, mid-day in the fields surrounding the Nature Center. And, in 2018 I had the pleasure of staying overnight for a VIP Experience.
  • My best advice is
    • Dress in layers. It can be both wet and cool. Fingerless gloves are helpful if you plan to take a lot of photographs.
    • Pack boots.
    • Bring your camera charger and take a back-up battery.
    • Have binoculars? Pack ’em. There are some in the Blind but not enough for all.
    • If you’re interested in getting great photographic images, keep in mind the type of lighting you will be shooting in (dusk and dawn) and that birds do not sit and pose for you. You must remain in the bird blind with your group the entire time. Most cranes are across the river from where you will be standing.
    • Plan to arrive well before the check-in time. Stop at the Nature Center. Watch the videos. View the artwork. Shop at the Gift Shop. Walk the trail behind the Center. See the buffalo up close and personal. Eat at the café inside the Center. Speak to the well-trained volunteers about where to see the Sandhill Cranes in the fields after the VIP Experience concludes.
    • Do a bit of online research before arriving.
    • Ask the professionals all of your questions. They are informative and eager to share their knowledge and experiences.
    • If you have dietary restrictions for the VIP Experience meals, please inform the staff well before arrival.
    • Get to know the other guests. All share a common interest.

LOCATION

The Crane Trust Nature and Visitor Center
Address: 9325 South Alda Road
Wood River, NE 68883
Exit 305 towards Alda
Phone: (308) 382-1820
Hours: Monday – Saturday
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
(Hours change during migration season and holidays)

SHARE this post with others who’d appreciate this natural wonder.

This experience was provided with generosity from The Crane Trust.

©Copyright. October 2018. Linda Leier Thomason
All Rights Reserved. This means seek permission prior to using any images on this site. All are copyright protected and available for sale.

Linda Leier Thomason is a former CEO who writes freelance business and travel stories, along with feature articles. Her work experiences include a Fortune 500 corporation, federal government, entrepreneurship and small business.
She specializes in undercover studies of communities wishing to attract visitors for economic impact.

Contact her by completing this form.

.