The Lost Art of a Thank You

Thank You Big Cookie Cake

A sincere thank you is one of the most powerful ways to make someone feel valued, recognized, and appreciated. The irony is that sharing your thanks usually takes very little time, but has an enormous impact on others. And in my opinion, it’s something of a habit to be in. The more you offer thanks, the more you’ll be aware of feeling thankful. Most of us in our busy lives have a lot of good intentions to offer our thanks to others, but get sidetracked with all the little things that fill our days. Here are some tips to help you reclaim the lost art of a thank you:

  • Make it easier by having supplies on hand, like thank you cards and stamps. I always have a couple of packages of thank you cards, one in my desk and one in my purse. I can write one out as soon as I think of it. (HINT: I try to choose cards that are more gender-neutral so I can send them to anyone.)
  • One of my favorite places to pick up thank you cards is in the dollar section of craft stores. There is always a nice variety.
  • If you don’t have a card on hand, utilize technology and send a quick text while you’re thinking of it. Even if you plan to send a hand-written note later, type a quick text and say thank you now.
  • While I prefer an actual hand-written note, apps like ThankYouPro allow you to write and send a professional thank you note from your smartphone or tablet, either by email or regular mail (for a fee). Very convenient!
  • Having a hard time knowing what to write? Check out this smart advice to get you started.
  • Another great way to offer thanks is with a phone call. Thinking about the great party your friend threw last weekend? Pick up the phone and call to tell her. Mention some of the details you noticed. She’ll appreciate it, I promise.
  • If a service professional goes the extra mile for you, an email or phone call to his or her superior could make a big impact.
  • For birthday parties, showers, weddings, and other occasions that garner a lot of gifts, be sure to keep a good record. If you are the guest of honor, ask a trusted friend to take detailed notes so that nothing is forgotten. Don’t rely on your memory on such occasions; there’s too much going on!
  • Get your kids in the habit of thanking others. Coach them as they write their own notes to thank teachers, friends, or family. If they are writing several, help them come up with a template to keep from getting overwhelmed.
  • When a thank you gift is in order, when someone has really gone above and beyond, take time to think about what they might truly enjoy. Some of my favorite thank you gifts are movie tickets (easy to tuck into a card), fresh flowers, and, of course, a little box of cookies (my favorite).

One last thing—it’s never too late to send your thanks. There is no statute of limitations, so if you’re feeling embarrassed that you forgot to send a card thanking Grandma for the thoughtful Christmas gift five months ago, do something about it! Write a card now and you’ll both end up feeling great!

Do you have any other tips? Share them in the comments section. Oh, and thanks!

10 Tips for First Time Hostesses

Image via Barbie Collector

Hosting Thanksgiving for the first time can be so intimidating, but have no fear. I’ve got some great advice to help you navigate your way to Turkey Day success.

1. Think (and do) ahead. Decrease the stress of the day by doing as much in advance as possible. Mashed potatoes, soups, salad dressings, and dips are great to make up to three days in advance. Pies can be made in advance and frozen too, then thawed on the counter about 24 hours in advance.

2. Create a kitchen schedule. When it comes to the big day, do yourself a favor by writing down everything that needs to be prepared, cooked, baked, and re-heated. For the oven, try to arrange your schedule in order of increased oven temperatures. If you need to double-up and cook two things at once, keep in mind that it could affect cooking time. Allow extra time and keep close tabs on your dishes.

3. Do your turkey homework. A delicious, juicy turkey is actually very simple, as long as you prepare it right. If you use a frozen turkey, give yourself plenty of time to thaw it (approximately 24 hours for every 5 pounds) before brining and cooking. I highly recommend this great brine recipe and tips for a perfect turkey.

4. Ready, set the table. Don’t let the table be an afterthought. Have fun setting the stage for your special meal and set the table as early as possible. You can find endless inspiration for decorations and designs on Pinterest. Don’t feel like you have to spend a fortune to set it, though. For example, if you don’t have enough tableware for all of your guests, try integrating a second (or third) set to fill in the gaps. You can create a cohesive look by placing things in a pattern, then using fabrics, flowers, or accessories to tie it all together.

5. Let others contribute. If your guests offer to bring something, let them. It will lighten your load and it will help them feel involved in the meal.

6. Plan on appetizers. Prepare simple appetizers that can be set out as soon as your guests begin arriving. Munching on something will keep guests occupied and buy you any extra time you may need in the kitchen.

7. Dress the part. Don’t forget to schedule time to get yourself dressed and ready before guests arrive. Decide on a dress code in advance and inform your guests. Nobody likes feeling over- or under-dressed, so don’t assume they will know what to wear. Invest in a nice apron that you can keep on as you cook and greet guests.

8. Prepare something to say. More than just preparing food and providing a place to eat, guests look to the host or hostess to lead when it comes to things like saying grace or making a short speech on gratitude. Since your mind will likely be on all the little details like oven timers and refilling glasses, prepare your thoughts in advance and write them down.

9. Provide doggie bags. One of the best parts of Thanksgiving is leftovers, so purchase some small, disposable containers and bags for guests to load up before they leave. Keep a marker nearby to write names on them.

10. Enjoy the moment. Don’t worry if everything doesn’t go exactly right. It rarely does, even for the most seasoned hostess. Try to relax and enjoy the moment. If you need an extra set of hands, ask for them. If you burned the rolls, toss them out and forget about it. Your guests will feel and feed off your energy, so focus on being present and enjoying the company of your loved ones.

5 Dessert Ideas for Your Halloween Party

Party foods always seem so far down on the to-do list in October. Halloween is kind of the trifecta of busy holiday madness. If you have kids, you’re trying to get some costumes together, they have their own school Halloween parties and probably some parties with friends, and you’re trying to pull off your own spooky shindig with all the drinks, appetizers and goodies that entails. When you’re so busy, it’s best to have one or two dishes to wow your guests, and some simple but delicious cookies, cupcakes and other bite-sized sweets to add variety.

To help you out, I’m putting a few simple Halloween party food ideas out there to help fill out your party menu. And they’re mostly desserts because — let’s be honest — All Hallows Eve is more about the treats than the tricks these days.

Cookies, Cocktails and Other Spooky Side Dishes

Halloween cookies are bite-sized magic. Cookies are one of my absolute favorite fall treats, probably because nothing beats the cold like hot cocoa and a chocolate chip cookie, in my mind anyway. Moist pumpkin cookies are definitely a fall favorite through October and November. And may I suggest sugar cookies for the kids to decorate at your kid-friendly soirée; you’ll be knocking out a treat and an activity at once. Guests may not go back for a second helping of the grape “eyeball” salad, but they’ll constantly be snatching up cookies if they’re hanging around.

Everyone goes home with goody baskets. It’s always fun to come away from the party with a little memento of the fun you had. I always try to find some goody gift baskets or bag of treats to send people home with. I try to keep it neutral, something that everyone will like, such as candy or cookies. Throw in a few silly party favors or dollar-store toys for the kids. They’ll see their favors the next day and rave about your party to everyone.

Halloween concoctions lift everyone’s spirits. It’s not too early to whip up some pumpkin-spiced hot chocolate, and I think it’s about time I had some hot apple cider (with whip cream, a dash of caramel and some chocolate sprinkles on top). And a party is always the right time and place to try out some new cocktail recipes that are part of your holiday theme. A friend of mine made a cocktail for me last year with black vodka, coffee liquor and a scoop of vanilla ice cream. I have to say, it was pretty awesome, and perfectly dark for Halloween. If you’re using a black light for fun, consider just about anything with tonic water in it; the quinine in it will glow. And a cube of dry ice is all you need to make just about any drink feel like a witch’s brew, brimming with fog.

Brownies are your secret weapon. Is there anyone who doesn’t like brownies? This one is kind of a cheat because they’re my go-to side dessert for just about any holiday part that I have. They have universal appeal, and they’re not specific to any theme or party until you add garnishes of, say, orange and green to make them Halloween-esque? It must be working, because I’ve never had any left over at the end of the night!

I think there are some winning Halloween goodie ideas, here. What are your go-to snacks and finger-foods for parties this time of year? And tell us your costume ideas, too!

Ask Mrs. Fields: Halloween Etiquette

Image via Pinterest

Dear Mrs. Fields,

What’s the best way to handle trick-or-treaters coming to your house on Halloween if you’re not going to be home?

Thanks for your input,
Janet L. 

Janet, this is a great question. Having lived in a few neighborhoods, I’ve seen this very issue handled a few smart ways. Maybe one will sound right to you.

The Unattended Bowl of Candy – One clever neighbor of mine used to set out a bench on the doorstep with a scarecrow holding a big bowl of candy. An accompanying sign said, “Happy Halloween! Help yourself to a treat, but only one!” This method relies on the honor system, but it seemed to work well.

Hire a House-Sitter – Another neighbor invited a house-sitter to answer the door and hand out candy to trick-or-treaters. She provided a pizza and a semi-scary movie to keep the sitter company.

Send Your Candy Next Door – Last year, a neighbor was going to be gone and sent her candy to my house to hand out. Trick-or-treaters were surprised with a double dose of candy!

Hand Out Candy Wherever You Are – If greeting trick-or-treaters is important to you, take your candy with you. If you’re headed to a Halloween party, take your stash with you and donate it to the host’s candy bowl. Then offer to take a turn answering the door.

Leave the House Dark – The simplest answer to your question is to lock up the house and turn out the lights. Most trick-or-treaters understand that a dark house means nobody’s home.

Readers, do you have anything to add? Leave your thoughts in the comments section!

5 Easy Ways to Remember Birthdays

Few things are more embarrassing than forgetting the birthday of an important person in your life. Here are five simple strategies to keep on top of birthdays. You don’t have to have a great memory, you just have to have some great tools!

1. If you use a wall calendar, write in all the birthdays at the beginning of the year. (I transfer them from my old calendar.) Then, write in another reminder one or two weeks ahead of each birthday (“Jenny’s birthday in 2 weeks!”) to give yourself enough time to purchase and send a card or gift. Birthdays that fall on the first few days of a month will no longer sneak up on you.

2. A perpetual birthday calendar never needs to be replaced and can be updated easily. Download a free copy of the calendar shown above from Lemon Squeezy. Keep it posted in a spot you’ll see often, like inside a cupboard door or on the wall next to your hanging calendar.

3. Since our lives are more and more managed on our cell phones, download an app like Birthday Express and enter all the birthdays you want to remember, as well as how many days in advance you’d like a reminder. Like an alarm clock, you’ll have a notification pop up right on your phone!

4. Facebook has a good birthday reminder, but if you’re not in the habit of checking Facebook everyday (or every five minutes), sign up for MyCaldendar Birthdays. You’ll get early notifications, and you can write a birthday message in advance that will be delivered on the right day!

5. If email is your preferred mode of information, sign up for reminders from Punchbowl. Not only can you get email reminders for birthdays, anniversaries, and important dates, you can easily share information with your friends and family, which makes it easier to coordinate that group gift for Aunt Lucy.

Bundle and Save on Holiday Acknowledgements

‘Tis the season to recognize the people who serve you all year round. Especially if you live in a city, you have several people to acknowledge in December, including doormen, babysitters, dog walkers, personal trainers, mail carriers, and those who provide helpful services to you each week or month. Of course, cash is the traditional way to acknowledge someone’s service, but call me crazy if I say that cash can be quite, well, expensive. An alternative way to graciously thank all the people on your list is to opt for our delicious cookie gifts, available by the case, giving you ultimate savings with major wow factor. And who wouldn’t want a fresh, delicious gift from Mrs. Fields? Nobody, that’s who.

Best Bites Boxes by the Case

Best Bites Boxes by the Case

For example, I love our Best Bites Box by the case. These beauties arrive ready to give out with a variety of 24 bite-sized cookies in each package. And each case comes with 24 boxes each, driving the cost of each individual gift down by 50%!

Bulk Snowflake Ribbon Boxes

Bulk Snowflake Ribbon Boxes

Our Bulk Snowflake Ribbon Boxes are another popular gift during the holidays. They’re perfectly sized for individual gift giving. The presentation is perfect, as are the goodies inside! Available in cases of 12.

Bounty of Bites Boxes by the Case

Bounty of Bites Boxes by the Case

The Bounty of Bites Boxes come in cases of 12 and feature a bounteous 48 bite-sized cookies per box. Yowza! Now that says “thank you!”

Santas Goodie Bags by the Case

Santa's Goodie Bags by the Case

You’ll have a great time playing Santa with this gift. Full of whimsy and flavor, our Santa’s Goodie Bags come in a case of 12 and each bag contains 24 bite-sized cookies.

Check out our entire line of bulk gifts on our website. They’re also great for business gifts, ready to hand out to employees or clients alike!

Holiday Solutions: Send Cookies In Your Place

Autumn Delights Customizable Basket

Autumn Delights Customizable Basket

Dear Mrs. Fields,

For the first time since I moved away from home eight years ago, I won’t be able to go back and join my family for Thanksgiving. I’ll be going with my fiancé Danny to meet his entire family for the first time. Unfortunately, they live on the opposite coast from my family. I know my family understands and they are happy for me, but I also feel that they’re sad and disappointed I won’t be there. How do I handle this?

Sincerely,
Pam

Dear Pam,

Your dilemma brings up a great question: How can we put ourselves in two places at once? I have a great solution for you! I recommend that you and Danny send a cookie gift to your family and have it delivered the day before Thanksgiving. Include a sincere note that you wish there was a way for you both to be there with them, but ask that they accept this gift in your place. Make sure it’s signed from both of you—you’re a couple now. As the cookies are shared with the family, you’ll be remembered to them in a truly sweet way. (“Who sent these cookies?” “They’re from Pam and Danny!”) A cookie can definitely soften the sting of your absence.

And next year, when you and Danny spend Thanksgiving with your family, you can send a similar gift to his family. It works like a charm. Trust me.

Good luck and congratulations on your engagement!

Mrs. Fields

Do you have a holiday dilemma? Send me an email (mrsfields[at]mrsfieldssecrets[dot]com). Maybe I can help!

5 Sweet Ideas for Veterans Day

Next week is Veterans Day in the US, a day set aside to honor those who have served and are currently serving in the armed forces. Most of us have overwhelming feelings of gratitude for those who serve, but rarely know how to “celebrate” the day and give honor.

A friend of mine whose husband has been serving overseas over the past several years during several back-to-back tours of duty shared her thoughts about ways you and I can show our support to veterans, active duty soldiers, and their families too:

1. Visit a veteran. Bake a plate of cookies and visit a veteran and his or her family. Everybody appreciates a sweet treat and especially the genuine concern for how everyone in the family is doing. A soldier can often feel a lot of support while in active duty, but not as much after coming home, which can be a difficult time of adjustment. Keep in mind that they don’t leave the war just because they’ve come home.

2. Say thanks. When you see a member of the military or their family, take time to thank them for their service and sacrifice. It takes almost no time and effort, but it is so appreciated to know that people care and understand the sacrifice involved for the entire family.

3. Send treats and letters. When possible, send treats to an active duty soldier. When it comes to food, most soldiers are subject to cafeteria-type food or MREs. Something good to eat from back home is a wonderful and appreciated gift. Most soldiers have access to email, so take time to write a note to share your gratitude. Include photos, funny stories, or updates on people he or she knows. If you are friends with the soldier’s family, express your support for them as well.

4. Be a friend to the family back home. A soldier worries just as much about his family back home as they worry about him in a war zone. Consider “adopting” a soldier’s family and offer to help with yard work, home repairs, and other tasks that are often shared by two adults. Watching over a soldier’s family is a wonderful way to show your appreciation for someone watching out for your family elsewhere.

5. Volunteer. A great way to give back is through your local VA hospital. Contact them and ask for opportunities to serve. Most will have needs and ideas of how you can help by donating time or goods. (We at Mrs. Fields Gifts are honored to be donating hundreds of cookies to the VA hospital in Salt Lake City to be shared with patients on Veterans Day.) A little from you can mean a lot, so don’t hesitate to offer what you can.

MF VA Pics

My thanks to my friend, to her husband, and to all our active duty and veteran soldiers. Here’s hoping they all have a sweet Veterans Day!

Christmas Forget-Me-Nots

Holiday Handout Tins

Holiday Handout Tins

Can you believe it’s almost here? We’re within five short days of Christmas! Hopefully you’re wrapping up all your shopping in every sense of the word. But before you sit back with a cup of hot cocoa and an It’s a Wonderful Life movie marathon, take note. Are you sure you’ve remembered everybody? I’m a firm believer in keeping some small gifts on hand to give to those unexpected or (dare I say) forgotten gift-ees.

Today I’m sharing my list of oft forgotten people I’d smack my forehead if I forgot for the holidays. See if there’s someone on the list that you’ve (eek!) forgotten.

  • Your kids’ schoolbus driver
  • Your kids’ school teachers
  • Your kids’ principal
  • Your kids’ coaches
  • Your kids’ music teacher
  • Your postal worker
  • Your garbage collector
  • Your dog walker
  • Your babysitter
  • Your hair stylist
  • Your book club host
  • Your dog groomer
  • Your neighborhood lawn mower
  • Your elderly neighbor(s)

The size of the gift doesn’t matter—even a card can do—it’s most important to acknowledge all the people who provide service to you and your family throughout the year.

Of course, that’s only my list. Who’s the oft forgotten on your list? Share your ideas in the comments section. You might save someone else a forehead smack for Christmas!

Season's Greetings for a Small Budget

A down economy is a reality we’re all dealing with but that doesn’t have to squelch your holiday cheer, especially if you’re a business owner. If you don’t have the budget to share a traditional holiday gift with your valued clients and colleagues, here are a few amazing outside-the-box ideas to try instead.

Discounts, coupons, or special offers. Maybe you can’t shell out the money for a gift, but what about using what you already have as a gift? Can you offer a special discount or coupon for your products or services? Send it in an email with a personal holiday greeting from you. Remember, it’s a down economy for everyone, which means everyone will appreciate getting a good deal.

Barter and trade. Think about your customer list. Is there someone you know that owns a restaurant, a bakery, or a even a farm? Approach them about trading products or services for the holidays. Chances are, they’re in the same boat as you. See what you can come up with together. You might be the answer to each other’s prayers!

Host a free concert. Ask a local school or church choir to come and perform at your place of business and invite your clients and colleagues to attend. Or, ask a talented friend to accompany your party for a holiday sing-in of favorite carols. You’ll have a great time spreading holiday cheer, and you won’t have to spend much, if anything at all.

Sponsor a contest. Instead of trying to purchase individual gifts for your entire list, why not purchase one grand prize and create a contest? You could have people submit photos of their ugliest holiday sweater (and we all know how stiff the competition can get in that category) or have them submit their favorite holiday memory. They’ll have a great time competing for the prize and you’ll have a great time reviewing the entries, which you can even display in your place of business. To be fair, choose your winner randomly.

Reach out and reconnect. Never underestimate the power of a personal connection. Yes, a gift is nice, but it’s the message of the gift that matters most—what you’re really saying is I value our relationship. If you can’t convey that message with material means, send a card to say it or even pick up the phone. Let your clients and colleagues know exactly what they mean to you. You’ll be amazed at how much it will mean to both of you.

If you have other big ideas for a small budget, share them in the comments section.

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