Monthly Archives: December 2011

The Help

It is rare that I enjoy a movie as much as a book. Understandably it is difficult to capture all the details of the written word on the big screen. But this is not the case with The Help written by Kathryn Stockett and adapted as a movie by Tate Taylor. The Help takes place in Jackson, Mississippi in the early 1960s.  The movie centers on Skeeter, played by Emma Stone as she tries to pursue a writing career. The topic she strikes on to write about is the relationship between the maids and their white employers.  The principal maid is Aibileen played by Viola Davis, who, after losing her son and raising 17 white children, decides to take the risk associated with this controversial of a subject.  She brings a number of other maids into the project.  The movie provides an excellent look into the lives of those living in the early 60s. It is touching, heartwarming and funny and definitely one of the best movies I have seen in some time.

– Kelly

“You is kind. You is smart. You is important.” Kathryn Stockett,  The Help.


Christmas Baking

With the Christmas season upon us, I thought it would be appropriate to share my favorite cookie recipe with you.  It’s shortbread, and it’s super easy to make.

You will need:

1 lb of softened butter

3/8 cup of brown sugar

3/8 cup of icing sugar

4 cups of all-purpose flour

Mix these four ingredients together well.  Use your hands to work the dough until it’s nice and soft.

Scoop out teaspoon sized dough balls and place them onto an ungreased cookie sheet.  Leave some room for expansion, maybe ½ inch or so between the cookies.

Press them down a bit with a fork and sprinkle Christmas colored sugar or other decorations over the top.  OR don’t press them down with a fork, but rather push ½ of a red or green candied cherry into the top.

Bake at 325F for 15 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges.  Do not over bake.  This recipe makes around 6 dozen cookies, depending on size.

I remember my Grandma having shortbread at her house at Christmas time and I just wanted to eat handfuls of these….I probably did too!


I added this batch of baking to the freezer, and looking inside I feel a sense of accomplishment.  In this freezer you will find home-made cookies and candies, preserved vegetables and fruit that I have bought from local fruit growers in preparation for winter.  Let’s call this the ‘Martha Stewart freezer’.  It’s the one that I will inadvertently leave open when company arrives.  It’s the one that I will send a visitor to fetch something from, and then act all nonchalant when they comment on the homemade baking and preserves.

The freezer's almost full - must be close to Christmas time!

….but don’t be fooled….I’m not Martha.  For one thing, she would have defrosted her freezer before posting pictures of it for all the world to see.  

The pre-packaged 'home made' baking - sanity savers.

We also have another freezer.  It’s in the basement.  It’s the one that I have as ‘backup’.  When the homemade baking starts to get a bit thin, I prop it up a little with some stuff that comes in a box wrapped in plastic.  Here is where you will find my dirty but yummy little secrets.  There are bought and frozen pre made perogies, cabbage rolls and baking…..and….oh, what’s this??

I found some 'extra' goodies hidden in the freezer this year...

It turns out that someone else is storing their dirty but yummy little secrets in this freezer as well!  I guess it’s a sign of aging.  Either because I have started putting liquor in the basement freezer and forgetting that I did, OR because our boys are getting older and have started a stash of their own! 

This isn’t the first time I have found things that the boys have hidden in my freezer.  Years ago I remember finding a beaver’s tail in the freezer, and another time a duck’s foot.  I remember a young boy’s excitement while showing me how he could make the duck’s foot move by pulling on a tendon.  Don’t get me wrong, it was fascinating, but after the beaver tail incident we had a little conversation about what things belong in the freezer near our food, and what things don’t.  

I guess the days of ducks’ feet and beaver tails are gone, and now we are on to something new.  Not exactly hidden, but in a place where they can be sure to find them later untouched by anyone else….probably.

Back to the baking – You can feel great about buying your baking for Christmas for many reasons, not the least of which is that you will have more time to spend with your family and friends.  The baking that we buy is relatively local, bought from a Saskatchewan based; family owned small business called ‘In Good Taste’.  Our 4-H club has an ‘In Good Taste’ fundraiser every year, and this is an opportunity for us to support our local 4-H club while also endorsing a local small business and finishing our Christmas baking at the same time.  Their food is delicious and they are great to work with.  If you would like to order something for your baking supply, here is their website:

I hope that you are enjoying this wonderful Christmas season.  There are so many opportunities now to get together and enjoy the company of friends and the beautiful sights and sounds of concerts and other events.  Seize these opportunities for fun, and buy some baking to take the edge off of your preparations….and if you have young adult children, check the basement freezer for a little extra Christmas cheer.   

Our gingerbread house

“Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.  In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall!”    –  Larry Wilde


David Irvine

Sometimes in life we are lucky enough to connect with people who truly inspire us. David Irvine,, is one of those such people for me. I was fortunate to have taken a workshop with David 25 years ago. Yes, back then he was a participant like the rest of us.  Over the years, I  have followed his work, read his books and listened to his talks. David is gifted. One of his greatest gifts is that of a storyteller. He is able to tell stories that we can all relate to. This is how he delivers his message. Always, the stories are from the heart. David is also admittedly a good observer.

 This time, David was in town to speak to the EARN (Employee Attraction and Retention Network)Breakfast. He was speaking on the importance of culture in our organizations, teams and families.  “While goals give you direction, culture gives you the energy to get there,” he shared.  Culture answers four questions: What do we value? Where are we headed? What makes us special? What is it we do that makes a difference in people’s lives? To illustrate one of his points, David shared the puzzle analogy. He said in so many ways our organizations are trying to build a puzzle with no clear idea of the completed image. We are very busy trying to put pieces together, without knowing what it should look like in the end.  He also said, ” Culture trumps talent.” And went on to talk of the Olympic super star teams that are not always successful because they can only play as individuals, not as a team.  With a strongly defined and aligned culture, organizations have better hiring, better promotions, better internal fit, better engagement and better retention.  There are three critical components to designing an aligned culture: Our vision, where do we aspire to go? Our claim, who we say we are. Our reality, who we really are.

 David suggests there are six steps to designing and building an aligned culture.

1. Make building trust your #1 leadership priority.

2. Create meaningful conversations around your core values.

3. Make values actionable.

4. Turn actions into mutually agreed upon promises.

5. Continuous reinforcement.

6. Engage people through values alignment.

Ultimately a positive culture is one where individuals values overlap with those of the organization. It is a place which is life giving for those in it. It is a place for people to unleash their greatness. David defines greatness as the commitment and capacity to fulfill your natural, authentic potential.  After all, isn’t that what life is all about?


“You are not here merely to make a living. Your are here in order to enable the world to live more amply, with greater vision, with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world and you impoverish yourself if you forget the errand.” Woodrow Wilson