Thursday, November 20, 2008

My traditional Thanksgiving includes lights and siren

Like the rest of the civil service world, us paramedics tend not to get to celebrate holidays as traditionally as we would like.

And if you work nights like I do, Thanksgiving dinner is more often than not a hotdog from 7-Eleven at about 2 a.m. I'm not complaining; it's the nature of the business. I haven't had a Thanksgiving Day off in ten years or better. I've delivered a baby, taken care of umpteen choking victims, gone to fatal wrecks and shootings, and everything in between (except sit down and eat turkey). My mother in law makes me a plate every year, and every year it gets eaten the day after.

But to me, the unusual has become the usual during the holidays.
I'd like to share this bit with you: One year, I was at a bad accident scene in St. Pete that happened in a residential neighborhood at dinnertime. The car was twisted around a tree so badly that it took the fire fighters more than 30 minutes to get the patient extricated out. I was waiting with my equipment, and was aware that families had come out of houses to watch. An older lady asked me how we could do this job on Thanksgiving. My answer is the same it always has been: "How could we not?"

Later at the hospital, my patient safely delivered, I got in the cab of the truck to write my report and almost sat on a plate of food! Turkey and gravy and potatoes and collard greens and stuffing and corn bread! No 7-Eleven hotdogs that night, as my partner and I got to have a feast thanks to that lady, who snuck that food into the ambulance while we busy taking care of the patient. Just one of the little miracles along the way...

So I invite all of you to tell your unusual Thanksgiving stories, as I'm sure there are some out there that need to be told. Log on and share your tale! We all need some little miracles and laughter.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Pick 'em fresh!

With the weather being pleasant and cool during the day, it’s a prime opportunity to take advantage of nature’s fresh bounty. Many fruits and vegetables are in season right now at the local farmer’s markets, bursting with fall’s explosion of colors and flavors. A feast for the eye.

Because I’m a New Englandah, autumn to me means picking it myself; I miss the days when we went out as kids to select pumpkins and gourds, and picked apples from the trees. When times were simpler and slower; and the only rush was the sun going down.

Locally, there are still places you can pick the produce on your own, and load up a basket or two of the freshest stuff around. Dover, Ruskin and Plant City all have u-pick ‘em farms, and there are a few more off of I-4 going towards Orlando.

Closer to home is Hunsader Farms in Bradenton, 5500 C.R. 675, which is about half-way between State Road 64 and State Road 70, about ten miles east of I-75. They’re known for their cantaloupes but have a bevy of other fresh fruits and vegetables. If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, they have a U-Pick Hotline at (941) 331-1212 listing the produce and their harvest dates. How convenient is that!

Ready right now are cantaloupes, various citrus fruits, cucumbers, gourds, hard squash, beans, okra, black-eyed peas, zipper peas, peppers, pumpkins, sweet corn, tomatoes and watermelons. After December 1, broccoli, cauliflower and Florida sweet onions join the list.

It’s worth throwing a cooler or two in the back of the car and taking the family on a little daytime getaway. Beats a trip to the grocery store any day.

Promoting yourself

Tom Shay, nationally acclaimed writer, speaker and business coach, has tons of ideas to help you promote your business. His Web site is

Here are a couple marketing tips:

Public speaking: Many community organizations need speakers for their meetings. If you sell clothes, you can talk about fabric care and the colors and fashions for the coming season. If you sell auto parts, you can talk about how they can take care of their vehicle to maximize mileage. When you complete your presentation, you can give away samples, have a 'door prize' and leave your business card with attendees.

Advertise your employees: What is one of your biggest competitive advantages? It is likely that you would say it is your employees. So, why not make a point to remind your customers? In your print advertising you could include a picture of an individual with each ad. The copy in the advertisement could have an employee telling why they like a particular product. Your television advertisements could utilize employees as models or the voice of the commercial. Your employees could be the voice of your radio commercials. In the store you can put photos of the employees so that your customers can get to know them on a first name basis.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

It's official!

In the Times' business page Monday!!!

Ester Venouziou announces the launch of Local Shopper LLC, P.O. Box 530144, St. Petersburg, at Local Shopper promotes locally owned, independent shops, and previews about 500 stores and restaurants in Manatee, Sarasota, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco and Polk counties.

Gift ideas that'll rub you the right way

I'm sure, like me, you guys get some strange gifts each holiday season. Like frou-frou bath stuff in some weird scent that gets thrown in a drawer, or a crazy sweater no one has an use for. I admit, it gets tougher and tougher to shop for people as the years go by. Sometimes, I give up and get people gift cards.

If we're going to go that route this year, let's at least make it something you know that they will use and love: massage and spa gifts. An affordable way to support local business, and much more appreciated than a plastic card from Target.

The best gift I ever got under the tree was an hour-long massage at a small local spa in Ellenton, North River Body Therapies, given to me by my hubby. Yes, jewelry is pretty and perfume smells great, but an hour under the expert hands of Nicole Dietrich took the cake.

It's one of those little places that you miss if you're not looking for it; it is hiding in the Plantation Bay Ellenton Plaza, tucked away far from the madding crowd. The signs on the parking spaces read "Relax - you're here now!"

Soothing doesn't even begin to cover the atmosphere inside.

I looked around. These little local spas in our Tampa Bay area are advertising great specials right now for the holidays. Hot stone relaxation massages, facials, sugar scrubs, body wraps and more. What better way to say you love and appreciate someone than to give them an hour of bliss for Christmas?

My spa near me, North River Body Therapies, has an interactive website at www. and offers evening and Saturday appointments. I think most of them are extending their hours for gift-giving and getting.