Saturday, December 26, 2009

How Social Media Stole My Sick Time

Ok, so it’s not just social media that I blame for stealing my sick time, but the whole state of connectivity in general. Even though I love the ease of use of technology, I also resist it.

In November of this year, I needed an orthopedic surgery. I scheduled it, made plans to be out of the office, and stocked up on soup and toilet paper. You know, the things you don’t want to run out of when you’re on crutches and can’t stand at the stove for an hour or drive to the store?


I was ready to rest, recuperate and heal. Maybe even watch a little daytime TV in a mindless vegetative state to speed the healing process. But that just wasn’t meant to be. Nope, instead I was more productive than I’ve ever been due to the widespread accessibility to technology.


In the course of two weeks, I finished reading three books on social media which I had ordered online (CrushIt, Inbound Marketing, and Socialnomics). Every day I dialed-in to my company’s computer network. Stretched out on my couch with my leg elevated, I clicked away on my laptop through my own wireless network to check and respond to client emails and made phone calls to clients when needed.


I logged-on to Instant Messaging so I could converse with colleagues about ongoing projects. I updated my LinkedIn contacts, uploaded a video to Vimeo from a discussion I led at PodCampNH called "I Drank the Social Media Kool-Aid, Why You Should Too" as well as the presentation notes to SlideShare. I wrote a company blog post, Tweeted about it for myself (@dvautier) and the company (@ActiveEdgeTeam). I shared it on my Facebook account with my friends and also updated my company’s Facebook account to promote it. Hell, I even watched the full series of tutorials on the Google Analytics support website and coordinated a new client meeting for the week I returned to the office.


My two weeks of resting, recuperating, and healing away from the office on sick time evaporated. It was simply gone. There was no sick time. If I thought about it, I suppose I could maybe blame some of that fact on me. That I wanted to get some things accomplished, wanted to learn and contribute and stay connected.


Nah, instead I’m just going to blame it on Social Media and technology. After all, I never had this problem before portable computing, instant messaging and cell phones.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Creating a Gourd Bowl

I always find it relaxing and empowering when I have an opportunity to create something. Whether it's fine works of art (OK, so I may not be capable of real fine art) or just a project that takes some Yankee ingenuity (much more my style), creativity is a powerful thing.

This weekend, I created a gourd bowl. I've made gourd bowls before, but each time I choose a gourd to work with, it ends up being a very unique and interesting endeavor. Although I know that I'll end up with a gourd bowl, but I seldom have any idea what it will look like until I start working with it.


On this gourd bowl project, I decided to take photos along the way so you could see what happens during the process. It's fascinating to start with just a dried gourd and end up with a beautiful and decorative piece of craftwork.


The photo slide show is available on Flickr or by clicking the photo.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Community and Reach of Twitter

Having recently had orthopedic surgery I was unable to drive the hour from Southern NH to get to @BostonTweetUp's first MegaTweetUp held at the Microsoft New England Research and Development Center (NERD) in Cambridge, MA.

My solution. Ask my
Twitter community for help.

When you talk about instant gratification, Twitter is it. Not only can you find nearly any resource you'd like, you can find it almost instantly. To adapt a phrase from Tina Turner's song Proud Mary, "The people on Twitter are happy to give."

That's what happened for me when I put the word out on Twitter that I needed a ride to the event. I tweeted to MegaTweetUp event organizer @JoselinMane that if I could find a ride, I'd be there. Joselin retweeted my request which was then retweeted and responded to by a few others (@CMajor, @bschwartz @AGirlMustShop @girlgamy and @WayneNH). In fact, my tweeps were out there asking their tweeps on my behalf using the power of their own networks.

Some of these people I knew and had met in person, others I had never met before either in real life or on Twitter, but yet all were willing to give me a hand. As it turned out, @AGirlMustShop, someone I had never met before and who worked in the same town where I live, was kind enough to pick me up for the ride to the event. My neighbor and fellow Tweep @WayneNH drove me home.

An interesting note about both my rides. As it turns out @AGirlMustShop is a very successful blogger, an area I have wanted to explore in more detail. She also freelances as a writer, which I'm just now sourcing for a client of mine. How fortunate. @WayneNH and I had previously met at a Forrester Research TweetUp in Boston, where we learned we were neighbors. Not only do we live in the same town, but we literally live across from each other with only a small duck pond and a few trees separating our back doors. He's also a huge resource on online statistics.

The sense of community and incredible reach on Twitter never ceases to amaze me. Not only did I find a ride to an event that I really wanted to attend, but I met a new interesting tweep and got to reconnect with a friend and close neighbor. The event, by the way, was awesome.

Friday, November 27, 2009

I Drank The Social Media Kool-Aid, Why You Should Too

In November of this year, NH hosted it's first ever PodCamp NH, held at the New Hampton school in New Hampton, NH. At this inaugural event I was fortunate enough to be a session leader to discuss some of the topics related to how communication has changed and how Social Media fills the new communication style. The topic discussed in my session was "I Drank the Social Media Kool-Aid, Why You Should too."

You can view the session either by video or reviewing the slides on SlideShare. Hope you enjoy the conversation.



Friday, September 18, 2009

Canning Tomatoes for Fall Harvest








Ahh, Fall. The air gets cooler,
the trees change color and its time to get down to the business of putting up some preserves for the long winter.

Every Autumn, I pull out the pressure canner that my Mother handed down to me. She used it to can vegetables from my Dad's garden when I was kid. I drive to McQuesten Farms, my favorite pick-your-own farm to collect about two bushels of tomatoes. Most are the Big Boy variety which I preserve, but I also pick about 1/2 bussel of the smaller, meatier Romas to make sun-dried tomatoes.

I try to put up enough tomatoes to last me through the chilly months of winter. I thoroughly enjoy the rich, ripe taste of home canned tomatoes. They taste so much better than the store bought version whose consistency and flavor is more reminiscent of cardboard than the authentic red fruit.

Since not many people preserve their own food anymore, I often get questions about how to do it. One year, a former herb student of mine even helped me with the whole process just so she could learn how to do it for her own family.

So, to answer the question asked so often by so many, I finally decided to take photos during my weekend of canning and have made them available as a slide show on Flickr if you're interested. If you want to see the description of each step, click on the 'show info' button in the upper right hand corner when you are on the Flickr site. I hope you enjoy the process.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Up, Up, and Away in a Beautiful Balloon

Floating with the wind currents through a clear blue sky, my oh my what a wonderful way to fly.

My neighbor and I share a birthday. Well, we're actually one day apart with more than a handful of years in between. But often, we celebrate with dinner, cake or even renewing our drivers licenses together. On her next birthday, she'll be 90. So it might come as a surprise to you that taking a sunset ride in a hot air balloon was her idea to celebrate our birthdays, not mine. Yup, Elsa definitely is the more adventurous of the two of us.

We couldn't have picked a more perfect day. It was the kind of summer evening that balloon captains dream about. Not a cloud in the sky, soft gentle wind, and warm temperatures. The perfect conditions for a sunset cruise in the heavens.

There were seven of us all together in our basket. Two couples, Ron & Shirley and Dena & Andrew, me, Elsa, and our captain, Andre Sr. from A&a Balloon Rides www.balloonridesnh.com. We all introduced ourselves as the balloon's team began setting up our ride from our departure point, a field in Salem, NH. They unloaded the basket, unfurled the long stream of balloon fabric and turned on the over-sized fans, powered by generators.

There were also two other balloons lifting off that afternoon with us, each with full passenger loads. The three flat, shapeless fabrics looked like giant-sized floppy sheets on the ground, their balloon shapes only coming into definition as the fans filled them with enough air to give them form.

As the bright yellow balloon next to us rose, it caught me off guard. The enormous smiley face on it reminded me of the Stay Puft marshmallow man from the movie GhostBusters, with it's cheerful eyes peeking up over the field and the other balloons. The placid mirth of a smiley face juxtaposed with enormously huge cartoon caricature features seemed odd. The vibrant colors of the three balloons gave the scene a carnival like atmosphere.

We climbed in and lifted off. Gentle, smooth motion away from the safety of earth. I waved down to my mother, planted safely on the ground. She came to see us off, but wanted no part in the actual trip itself. She was perfectly content to watch us rise into the sky like a child's lost helium balloon from a county fair.

The ride itself was smooth and quite peaceful. We cruised as high up as 3,700 ft. and then swept in so low across Big Island pond that we could wave and talk to the boaters who were zooming and zipping around us in the water below. As we came back up from the open water to the waters edge, we rose up over the trees, brushing against the tall pine tree tops with the underside of the basket.

The quiet peacefulness was interrupted only by the occasional wooshing sound that the captain made with the propane flame above our heads, as he released its heat into the cavity of the balloon to keep us elevated. It was absolutely lovely.

During our trip Ron and Shirley shared a very special surprise. They became engaged! High up in the heavens, during a serene summer sunset, a proposal was made and accepted. Now that's romantic. Well done Ron.

We floated in over a cul-de-sac neighborhood in East Derry where the generous residents allowed us to land. Our captain tossed over the line and the families pulled us in the direction of the cul-de-sac center to land gently on the grassy circle. We ended with the traditional glass of champagne to celebrate our successful journey and our safe return to solid ground.

It was an incredible experience. I am grateful that my neighbor and dear friend Elsa invited me to join her. As we we were in the basket, high up in the sky, she said "Let's do it again when I'm 100".

I think that's just a wonderful idea.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Papaya Trees in New England

Yes, I know. Papaya's are tropical. They're not supposed to be grown in the frigid Northeast where blizzards and NorEaster's are more common than sun bathing gecko's on a lanai. Where the vegetable growing season is just a short 3 - 4 months long before frost sneaks up and casts a cold spell of death on any living crop just before you get a chance to pick it. It just doesn't make sense.

But sometimes it's fun to buck the odds and see if life can flourish in places that you'd never expect.

As a native New Englander I enjoy the change of seasons, the brisk Autumn, the hopeful Spring and yes, on occasion, even the stern brace of Winter. But the season I love best is Summer. Ahh, summer. Sunny summer days make my heart sing. That's probably why I lived in beautiful South West Florida for a short while. To escape the chill and live in the sultry, humid swelter of a more tropical climate.


On my most recent trip back to visit Naples, FL, I reconnected with a cousin and his family who live there. Immediately I noticed he had papaya trees growing in his back yard. When I explained that I love the sweet taste and smooth consistency of ripe papaya, he plucked one and handed it to me to take back to the hotel for a late evening snack. Sweetness.

I decided then that I'd try to grow them myself at home in New Hampshire. I tucked away the seeds and planted them in seed trays when I got home. Things didn't develop very fast at first. After all, the dead of a New England winter is not the best time to start papaya tree seeds, but I remained optimistic. I kept them warm and moist and gave them as much sunlight as New Hampshire could naturally offer and then added some extra light with lamps. Sure enough seedlings started to emerge.


Countless repottings and a few good growing years have yielded a bountiful wealth of papaya trees. In fact, I have a whole grove of them. In summer, they enjoy spending time outside on my deck which has wonderful southern exposure and provides the 70 - 90 degree temperatures they adore. In the winter, they're not quite as happy. They hunker down inside with cooler temps and less light, but have seemed to adapt. Actually, I've adapted more than they have. I keep the house temperature much warmer than the 60 - 65 degrees that better suited my heating budget in order to accommodate their tropical preferences.

The papaya trees now range in height from 18" to 6 feet. Some have even flowered and produced small sweet fruit, which I've eaten with emmense pride and a side of accomplishment. I've even donated a few trees to Fuller Gardens, a botanical garden in Hampton, NH to be added to their collection of standards there.

Papaya trees in New England. I guess it just goes to show you that with a little care and attention, fruitful life can not only survive, but flourish. Even in the most unlikely of places.

Additional Papaya Resources
Papaya Facts: http://bit.ly/Dd1SN
Papaya Recipes: http://bit.ly/kVkS3

How to Cut & Prepare Papaya: http://bit.ly/16DjdZ

Papaya Seed Dressing: http://bit.ly/JdVVB

Papaya Nutrition: http://bit.ly/YYFOp

Friday, July 3, 2009

Green Living Tip for Gardening: Making Plant Markers from Mini Blinds

Reducing, reusing and recycling are great ways to go green, especially in the garden. Here’s another living green tip on how to reuse broken mini blinds as plant markers. I can't really take full credit for this great idea. It was shared at an Herbal meeting I went to last month by Daryl Hoitt of RedFoxFarm.org, an organic grower who was kind enough to pass along her sage gardening advice.


At first glance, mini blinds may not seem to be an ideal candidate to reuse as plant markers. When I first heard it, I thought the very same thing. Mini blinds are big, bulky and not all that attractive, how can they possibly be re-purposed for gardening, I thought. It didn't take much convincing though before I understood that they are a perfect way of going green in the garden.


Here's how to make handy plant markers for your deck plants, vegetable garden or even seedlings.


1. Find a set of broken mini blinds. Sometimes that's as easy as walking through your house and finishing up your "to do" list. Item #4 to do - fix broken mini blind. If you don't have your own, ask friends and neighbors, or even pluck them curbside to save them from an inevitable life in a landfill. You'll probably want to use light colored ones like cream or white.


2. Make sure the blinds are relatively clean. If not, dust them off or take a hose to them to remove the major dirt that may have accumulated during their first career as window coverings.


3. Snip the horizontal plastic strips with a pair of scissors. Make sure at least one end is cut at an angle so it can be easily pushed into the soil. Depending on the width of the blind you can cut several plant markers per blade. I found that cutting the angled end next to the holes that allow for the vertical cords works best. That way, you don't have to use the piece with the holes, but still end up with lots of markers.


4. Use a china marker (I know them as grease pencils) to write the name of the plant on the marker. You can use whatever color you'd like, I just happened to have a red one handy. Then push the marker into the soil next to the plant.


5. When you're finished cutting you'll have reused the majority of the blind and only the broken "skeleton" will remain, which you can then discard knowing that you saved most of it to live again in your garden.


Enjoy.


Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Green Living Tip for Garden Seed Starting. A Micro Greenhouse.

In the spirit of reduce, reuse, and recycle, here’s a great tip for gardeners looking for an easy way to start seeds indoors. It’s a micro greenhouse.


Most grocery stores sell prepared cakes and pastries which quite often are packaged in a food-safe plastic container with a see-through raised lid. Although I don’t usually buy a lot of prepared foods, I do occasionally enjoy a single layer carrot cake from my local Hannaford Supermarket. Even though the cakes are tasty, I always felt bad because it seemed like such a waste to toss such a sturdy container in the recycle bin after its first and only use as a cake pan.


This spring, I had an idea to try to reuse it as micro greenhouse to start some basil seeds for an herb class I was teaching. The solid black plastic base worked great to hold the soil and the clear lid made the perfect greenhouse enclosure to keep the soil moist and the seeds warm. It was a great success.


Here are the super easy directions to create your own.


  1. Buy a cake and enjoy it with your family and friends
  2. Wash the empty cake pan and remove the sticker on the clear plastic lid so the sun can shine through
  3. Fill the bottom with soil
  4. Plant your seeds and water them in. You can poke or drill a few holes in the bottom for drainage if you'd like
  5. Secure the clear plastic lid back on top creating a ‘greenhouse’ environment for your seeds
  6. Place your new portable micro greenhouse on a sunny windowsill or under a lamp to grow
  7. Monitor and water when needed
  8. Transplant seedlings when they no longer fit under the ‘greenhouse’ lid
  9. Enjoy


The photos here show the cake when I bought it, the washed pan with soil ready for planting, and some green onion seedlings I started. As you see, I had to buy three of them to take the photos. I called it research, but enjoyed the cakes all the same. Its a great way to reuse everyday items in new ways to reduce garbage and go green.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

D-Day, The Day of Heroes

Today, June 6th is the 65th anniversary of World War II’s D-Day. In the early pre-dawn hours on this day in 1944, American soldiers boarded ships anchored in England’s southern harbors, knowing that in minutes they would be crossing the English Channel bound for the uncertain shores of Normandy France.


Many of those soldiers were young, just barely men, yet embarking on a man’s journey that would shape the world’s landscape forever. My father, David Vautier was one of those men. He was headed for Omaha Beach. Still a bright-eyed teenager, and invincible as teenagers often believe they are, I doubt he had any idea what lie ahead for him in what would become know as one of the bloodiest battles of the war, Bloody Omaha.


By the grace of God my father made it to the beach that day and survived the longest day of his life. The steep cliffs of Hitler's Atlantic Wall must have seemed insurmountable after enduring the trek across the flat sands riddled with fallen companions. I once asked him how he managed to survive. “Thin dog tags” he said. “What do you mean thin dog tags?” I asked. He took a deep breath, looked over at me with a certain resignation clearly visible in his aging blue eyes and replied “Very thin dog tags. I kept so low and close to the sand on that beach that the only thing between me and it were my dog tags”. Surely an answer that only another soldier could possibly understand the full weight of.


D-Day was a day of Heroes and my father was one of them. As I comfortably sit here today, in my safe surroundings with many of the luxuries we American’s take for granted, I reflect on his heroism, and the heroism of those who stood shoulder to shoulder with him in the landing boats yet who never even made it to shore. I am grateful. I am grateful for the soldiers of the Great Generation who paid for my freedom with their service and their lives. It is a debt I can never repay.


My father passed away in 2006. It is especially difficult as I watch the History Channel’s D-Day programming and out of habit, or out of love, I reach for the phone to call my Dad and ask him if he was in that town, on that road or in that photo on the show. I now see the spirit of him in all the faces of the soldiers who fought that day, for they are all heroes, each one.



Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Right Gourd Tool for the Job

The right tool for the job really makes a difference. That phrase holds true for pretty much anything, but especially for crafting with gourds. As I become more skilled with each gourd project, the more precise I find I want to be with my cuts, carving, and shaping. I need the right tools. Ahhh tools.


Some tools that I use I purchase through woodworking supply houses, online gourd specialty stores and even the local hardware stores. If a tool works well for wood, it usually works well for the wood-like hard shells of gourds.


Sometimes though it’s hard to find exactly what I’m looking for, or I’m just too cheap to spend a ton of money on something that looks totally easy to make. In that case, I just build it.


The first tool I made (above) was a gourd clamp that holds the gourd while I’m working on it. It functions like a third hand to secure the gourd so I can use both my hands for other tasks. I have to admit that I saw the idea online but was too cheap to purchase the instruction booklet on how to make it so I just used a little Yankee ingenuity and made my own version based on pictures I found. If you’re more comfortable with specific instructions, The Caning Shop (Gourd Clamp) sells the instruction booklet by Jim Widess for $5.95 plus S&H.


The second tool I built (left) a horizontal scribe. I make a lot of gourd bowls and marking an even line across the top can sometimes be a challenge. The scribe lets me place the gourd on a flat surface to find it’s natural balance point, adjust the pencil to the height that I want and spin the gourd to mark the cut line. The beauty of this is that I don’t just get a straight line, but I get a line from the natural balance point on the bottom of the gourd so I don’t have to sand the bottom for a flat surface. This also is available online to purchase through the Caning Shop (Gourd Scribe) for $14.95 plus S&H but I made mine for a total of about $2, which was considerably less.


Whether I purchase or build my own, now I truly understand a man’s fascination with the tool isle at Home Depot. The right tool for the job really does make a difference.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Twitter for Beginners - A Six Step Guide

Everyone's talking about it. The world is atwitter with Twitter. Here's a quick beginners guide to getting started. You may as well jump in and see what all the hubbub is about, right? Come on in, the water is fine.


1. Get Started, Join Twitter

Go to Twitter.com to get started. Lots of folks use their own names for their profile as a sort of personal brand, but if you prefer to use a moniker, that’s also accepted. Twitter will ask for your email though, so if you’re truly interested in remaining private you may want to create an email account with that same alias.


2. Customize your Profile

Once you have an account, you’ll want to customize it and make it interesting and easy for others to follow. In the upper right hand corner you’ll notice your profile information. On top of the profile information you’ll find the navigation bar. Click on the Settings tab. There you can upload a photo, add a brief bio and include a link to your blog or website. That way, fellow Twitterers can get an immediate idea of who you are and what you’re likely to be Twittering about.


3. Start Tweeting

This is the fun part. Place your curser in the open box at the top and answer the question “What are you doing?” Don’t worry that you don’t have anything pithy to say right off the bat, inspiration will come in time. It can be as simple as “hey, I’m new here” to “All glory comes from daring to begin ~Anonymous.”


The key is to consistently add tweets, whether that is every day, every week or every month. The level of participation is up to you. Just as in everything else in life though, Twitter works best when you regularly contribute. The more you contribute, the more likely you are to find value in it.


Start with topics that interest you, but keep it brief. Twitter only allows 140 characters to get your point across. You can also add informational links that make your tweets even more interesting.


4. Find People with Similar Interests

Use the search bar your Twitter homepage or Twitter search to search on topics you find engaging and start following others with similar interests as you. Or check out Tweetbin to follow a number of topics at once. Follow people you think are intriguing.


5. Initiate Two-Way Conversations

Open a dialogue with other Twitterers. Reply to their Tweets using @username to identify who you’re Tweeting with. ReTweet something of interest using RT @username (RT = short for re-Tweet).


Remember to listen for the other side of the conversation. Search on your own Twitter name in the homepage search bar with either @username or username to see whose mentioning you. Conversations aren’t really conversations if you’re not exchanging messages. Be generous with your conversations. ReTweet frequently if you think the Tweet is valuable and always include the origin of the Tweet if it comes from another Twitterer.


6. Don’t Spam

Good manners apply on Twitter. Twitter is a social network, not a direct sales channel so sending repeated solicitation Tweets or Direct Mails tend annoy rather than attract people. Just like a cocktail party, a mention of an offer is usually ok, but sales pressure is sure to be rebuked.


Now that you have a voice in the Twitterverse, you’ll find a whole new world of information, resources, and social interaction sure to siphon the time from your day in an instantly gratifying, addictive, guilty pleasure.


Friday, May 1, 2009

Social Media – What’s The Big Deal?

The use of social media is skyrocketing. Online social networking sites are breaking records and crashing operating systems with the huge influx of users. “So what’s the big deal?” you might be thinking. "Why are online social media outlets so popular?"


My answer may surprise you. It’s the people. Granted, the technology is fun, but it still boils down to individuals. You, me and our need to connect.


Since the beginning of time people have gathered, mingled and interacted with others in the social culture of life. Then, just as now we learn, love and build relationships. We exchange ideas, share experiences, earn livings, and we seek and give guidance. We network, expand our circles, and cooperate for a greater good. In essence we live and express ourselves as individuals.


Social media helps us to do all those things but just on a larger and faster scale with more immediate results. When all is said and done though, it’s still all about people.


Let’s look at what are arguably the top social media outlets and how they relate to the people who use them.

Facebook – Mostly people you knew. It’s much like a reunion, with lots of old high-school and college classmates gathering and reconnecting.

LinkedIn – Mostly people you know. It’s like a Chamber of Commerce event with lots of current work colleagues, vendors, and clients.

Twitter – Mostly people you want to know. Similar to a cocktail party where you briefly exchange quips and small bits of information.

Blogs – A forum to express yourself and learn. You write about what interests you, what you think others will find interesting, and what will highlight your best features.


Social media satisfies our need to connect with people from the past, people from our current relationships, and people we’d like to know. It’s also a place to be heard, carve out a niche, and connect.


So, what’s the big deal? It’s no big deal really. It’s just people connecting in a different way.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Eco-Friendly ‘Green’ Tires

I just got a new set of summer tires for my car. They’re green. No, not the color but the way they’re made. They’re eco-friendly tires by Nokian.


When I started looking for tires this Spring I had no idea that eco-friendly tires even existed. The concept wasn’t even on my radar. So when I was researching tires to replace my Pirellis, and learned that they had a line of green sports tires, the Pirelli Cinturato, I was excited.


Then my tire shop told me about Nokian, who is entirely green. According to their website, “Nokian Tyres is the world's first tire manufacturer to introduce a production method using earth-friendly oils. Our birch leaf insignia guarantees the complete absence of toxic chemicals.” That was pretty intriguing and definitely fit into my lifestyle of living green.


But to be sure I was making a good decision I spoke with a few tire-savvy friends who shared that they had been riding Nokian’s for a long while, one for over 15 years. They both spoke favorably of Nokian’s performance and handling and highly recommended them.


By running on new Nokian eco-friendly tires, I feel like I’m being a responsible and accountable global citizen. The bonus, is that the high-performance Nokian’s and 17” rims look great on my Saab Convertible. They’re a sweet ride. Go green.