Renee’s “Getcha Outta Bed!” Baked Oatmeal

Shortly after I began working for RSVP three years ago, I met one of my former college professors for dinner during a trip back to my alma mater in Indiana. I spent the evening catching up with him and his wife, and naturally our chat turned to my new job. “I really like it there,” I told them, “but I don’t think I will ever be a morning person.” You see, RSVP was my first ever “real,” Monday-through-Friday, 9-to-5 (well, 8-to-4:30) job, and that meant I had to get up at the then-unheard of hour of 6:00 a.m. if I wanted to be showered, fed, and in the office on time. My friends laughed, and assured me that a regular early-to-rise schedule would eventually make a morning person of me.

They were wrong.

Getting me out of bed before 9 or 10 a.m. requires either some sort of dire emergency, or an especially obnoxious alarm (or an especially obnoxious and hungry cat – but I repeat myself). Since emergency awakenings are (thankfully) few and far between, I am usually roused by a persistently howling alarm (or a persistently howling cat…or both), and the rousing is not pleasant; in fact, it’s often grumbly and disoriented.

At least until I remember that I have this waiting on me for breakfast.


That is my reason for getting out of bed before my body and mind are ready. It’s a delicious concoction I call my “Getcha Outta Bed!” baked oatmeal, and it is not only yummy, but also packed full of healthy, good-for-you ingredients, like bananas, blueberries, and whole-grain oats. It has the ooey-gooey texture of a decadent cake, and is satisfyingly sweet without being too cloying. The recipe is simple, yet versatile, and it’s easy to make ahead for a quick breakfast on the go – but also just as delightful when part of a hearty, unhurried weekend brunch. The bottom line is: if you have trouble getting out of bed in the morning, then this is the breakfast for you. You can find step-by-step directions & pictures below, as well as a downloadable & printable recipe at the end of this blog. Good mornings are guaranteed! (more…)

How to Turn a “Dirty Job” Into a Clean Sweep

You’ve probably seen or heard of the television show Dirty Jobs.  In case you’re unfamiliar with it, the premise of the show was that the host, Mike Rowe, would work a so-called “dirty” or unusual job – such as that of, say, a shark-repellent tester – for a day.

The show was wildly popular, and a staple on the Discovery Channel for 7 years; you can still catch it in reruns today. Dirty Jobs provided an interesting insight into some of the jobs that Americans do on a daily basis – and it could help you strengthen your business by developing deeper ties with your clients (you won’t even have to swim in shark-infested waters to do it!).

All you need to do is offer to work a day with your client, doing what he or she does on a daily basis. The benefits of spending time working with your client in his or her business are numerous.  First of all, your customer gets an extra employee for free, and who wouldn’t love that?  It also makes you and your business indispensable to your client by strengthening your bond. You will have a distinct advantage over your competitors now that you’ve positioned yourself on the inside of your client’s business – and left the competition on the outside looking in.

You will learn more about your client’s business than any lunch meeting you might have with them because you have the opportunity to talk with them about anything – from business challenges and triumphs to personal anecdotes and advice. Try to learn as much as you can about your client on a personal level. In fact, you’ll probably find that you’ll talk more personal than business, which is fine! It will lead to much shorter and smoother negotiations, as well as a more satisfying outcome for both you and your client, and give you a lot to talk about during future meetings. Additionally, this information and experience will help you understand how to best meet your client’s needs.  Your client, and even his or her employees, will no longer see you as an outsider, but as a person with similar interests as their own.

This isn’t just a theory of mine, either – I’ve done it myself, and I can assure you that it accomplishes many things for you and your business that the usual client relationship can’t touch! So what “dirty job” did I do recently when working with a client? I helped him and five of his employees plant several 30-foot trees for one of his customers. Even though his employees laughed because I was wearing a suit while installing the trees, my client appreciated my help, and the experience gave me invaluable insight into my client’s work.

Contributed by Jeff Vice.


Families & Communication Breakdowns

Am I the only one who asks my child, “What happened at school today?” only to get a disinterested “Nothing” in response?  Or have a spouse who responds to “How was your day?” with “Fine,” or “It was OK”?

Doesn’t it seem like everyone around us is always rushing off to their myriad of electronic devices: TVs, Play Stations, and smartphones?

We all lead busy lives, and the snippets of conversation we do manage to have – before and after school, or wedged in between activities and homework, or during mealtimes –  can suffer from the halfhearted participation and inattentiveness of all parties. What can we do to rebuild our broken communication systems? How can we make good old-fashioned conversation more appealing than the constant distractions that surround us?

I’ve asked a few friends and colleagues.  They admit that they are facing the same communication hurdles in their own families. Who can we turn to when we can’t find the answers we need?

© 2012 Google Inc. All rights reserved. Google and the Google Logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc.

Ah, yes. Of course! © 2012 Google Inc. All rights reserved. Google and the Google Logo are registered trademarks of Google Inc.

When all else fails: Google it.

If the volume of expert advice out there is any indication, my family must not be the only one struggling with a communication problem! I found some great suggestions, and here is what our family has implemented:

art of manliness

  • But what do you say once you’re gathered around the dinner table? Aha! Parenting suggests asking nonjudgmental questions that require real answers. Questions such as “What was the best thing about school today?,” “Do the kids at school ever talk about boyfriends and girlfriends?,” “Who did you sit with at lunch today?” or “How did the soccer game go at recess?” will get you a lot further than “What happened at school today?”
  • Parents Magazine suggests some other conversation starters, as well as helpful do’s and don’ts, such as: “Do allow your child to say he just doesn’t feel like talking, but don’t let him get away with ignoring you…Don’t barrage your child with questions if you notice she’s getting anxious or seems distressed.” Following these tips will help prevent communication shut-downs.
  • Who doesn’t love a compliment?  Feeling trusted and appreciated helps everyone feel more open to talk.  Every night, our family plays a little game we made up called “What We Love About Each Other.” Each family member takes a turn complimenting another. While these comments are admittedly superficial at times, there are also heartfelt thanks peppered throughout. Sometimes it will be simple – “I love your shirt!” – and other times it will be deeply emotional, like when someone recognizes a sweet gesture or little act of service that happened to them that day. This little activity makes us want to do more nice things for one another!
  • Our son is just 5 years old, and I live in terror of the day I wake up to a teenager. I can only imagine the struggle conversation becomes with teenagers. Yet, talking is never more necessary and the topics never more urgent than during the teen years: friends and peer pressure, driving and responsibility, dating and boundaries, college and independence, drugs and drinking. As a parent, you never want to see your kids in trouble or suffering – but one or the other (and sometimes both!) will happen to our teens. The best way to prevent or minimize this pain – for both you and your teen – is simply by engaging in open and honest communication with them. Check out this list of 10 Ways to Keep Your Kids From Doing Dumb Things, and offer your teen the support he or she needs to make good decisions.

I hope that our family is setting a good foundation for open, healthy conversations – and I hope that perhaps a few of these tips will start similar conversations in your house, too.

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Ronald Reagan picture & quote from

Contributed by Heather Craaybeek.