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You can also follow us on Facebook–thisisyourbestyear, Twitter–@mariciajohns and of course our website–www.thisisyourbestyear.com.

          Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

Enjoy A Great Meal and Make A Difference

I would usually put this post in the What “I” Like section because the food is amazing, but this is more than what I like. It’s about an idea that is not only changing the food scene in Dallas, but it is teaching future chefs and others life skills. It is not a culinary school, it’s not your typical classroom, and these are not your typical educators or your typical students.

Cafe Momentum is a non-profit restaurant and professional training facility that is located in downtown Dallas. Cafe Momentum is in the restaurant business, but more importantly it is in the business of transforming the lives of young people who have been inside juvenile facilities. The restaurant, culinary school, life skills university is the brain child of Chef Chad Houser. Working in collaboration with the Dallas County Juvenile Justice Department, Cafe Momentum strives to teach young men and women that it is possible to break the cycle–the cycle of crime, violence and poverty.

The students rotate through a 12 month paid internship program where they do work in every position from dishwasher to server to working along side world class chefs. In addition to culinary skills, they are taught anger management, money management and other life skills. Upon successfully completing the intense program the interns are placed with partners of Cafe Momentum for employment.

The food was scrumptious to the eye and to the palette. Making the night even more enjoyable was the knowledgeably, friendly, professional and courteous staff. We tried and shared several items, but one of my favorites was King Oyster Mushroom Scallops. I love scallops, but I hardly order them because if they are not done correctly they are not very appealing to eat. The mushrooms reminded me of the best scallops that I have ever tasted. They had the same buttery texture–they were wonderful. If I had not been told they were mushrooms, I would have thought I was eating scallops. It is usually hard to fool me when it comes to taste. You know how they say “it taste like” and it doesn’t–this did.

We started with a pickle plate that contained bourbon pickled green tomatoes, sweet cucumbers, hot, very hot jalapenos, Italian cauliflower and more. it was a great taste mixture of sweet, tangy and hot. Everyone at the table seemed to have their favorite. The next item that we shared was the magnificent Charcuteri Plate–it was magnificent. It featured torchon, duck ham, homemade sausage, two types of goat cheese which they lovingly called Lucy and Ethel, and so much more. To see more about this amazing plate (video) go to our Facebook Page–thisisyourbestyear.

Another amazing dish that everyone wanted to have a bite of was Ninny’s (fried) Okra Salad. I am one person who likes okra almost anyway it can be prepared, and this dish was one of the best ways that I have eaten it.

At this point I was a bit full so I order the Ninny Okra Salad for my entree, and nibbled off of everyone’s plate. Someone ordered the Smoked Fried Chicken with mashed potatoes, collard greens, biscuits and gravy. I tasted it–OMG. The Pork Chop with brown butter, green tomato salad and a 4 bean salad was ordered by a couple of people. I didn’t taste this one, but there wasn’t much left on their plates so I think that makes the point.

The fish of the day was an Opah, yes Opah, not Oprah. Having never heard of it, I was interested in it, but too scared to order. This Opah fish was tasty, not a fishing fish, but a flaky light fish.

At the conclusion we ordered the Olive Oil Cake and the Chai Ice Cream with a chocolate brownie. Everyone at the table got a bite of the Olive Oil Cake while one person hoarded the Chai Ice Cream and chocolate brownie.

Dining at Cafe Momentum is not only an amazing culinary experience, but it is chance to give back to the community of Dallas and beyond. Take some time to learn more about Cafe Momentum and see how you can assist this great endeavor.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”. Eat, drink, be merry and assist a worthy cause.

Interview The Interviewer

I haven’t gone on a professional job interview in eight years, but I do keep my resume recent since it will determine if I get to the next step, the interview. During an interview we all know the answers to most of the standard questions that are asked, but do we know what questions we should ask?

If you have been out of the job search market for a while you will need to brush up on your interviewing skills.  It’s not the interviewing you learned BC (before computers). You can have a face-to-face interview, a phone interview, a video interview and/or a combination interview.

 

The days of the interviewer asking if we have any questions, and we smile and say “no” are gone.  Don’t fret that is a good thing, because we all have unanswered questions after an interview.

First of all you should ask a couple of questions that you have prepared beforehand.   This will show the interviewer that you are interested in the position, and you will get answers to questions that are not on the company website or in their handbook.  It’s a win, win situation.

 

There have been a lot of articles written about this subject. Here are some questions that I think a person should ask when interviewing for a job.

  • What is a typical day for a person in this position? This question is important because you will be able to gain some insight into the structure of the work day for this position.  You will also learn what specific skills that are needed for this job.
  • What is the culture of the company?  This helps you know the company’s values, their beliefs and their working environment. You would be surprised that this question does not get asked.  You must be able to fit into the company to have a great working relationship.  We have all gone places, and thought that this is not for us. We have all felt like a fish out of water.
  • What are the expectations for this position in the next 30 days, 6 months–a year and beyond? This will tell you what the company is expecting from you if you get this position.
  • What’s did the previous holders of this position consider to be the hardest part of it, or what do you consider to be the most challenging part of the position? Even great positions have something that is somewhat challenging.
  • What is the average employment stay with the company?  This will show you if they promote from within.
  • Can you see where the position is housed?  This will enable you to see where you will perform the job duties.  You will also be able to talk with people who will be your coworkers.

If your interview consist of interviewing with multiple persons at different times, you can ask them some of the same questions, and you can also ask others that you jotted down while doing your research of the company.  Asking questions shows the interviewers that you are serious about the position.

Remember to send a thank you note–handwritten. You can also email a thank you letter, but not in place of the handwritten thank you note. Be sure to thank the receptionist/secretary when you leave–they have the ear of the boss, and their opinion counts.

If you really want the position, you will have questions about it?  Remember thisisyourbestyear“.  Interview the interviewer.

 

Do You Have Enough To Retire?

The article below is an interesting article on how much the average household nearing retirement has in savings for the retirement years. How much do you have in your retirement account?

Take a look at the article written by Austin Smith for Motley Fool.  Can you really retire comfortably?

The Average American Household Approaching Retirement Has This Amount Saved Up

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.  Save and invest for a comfortable retirement.

The Texas Conference For Women Is Sold Out–But!

The amazing Texas Conference for Women in Austin, Texas on November 15, 2016 is officially sold out.

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As luck would have it, there may be a way to get tickets to attend this sold out event. You can put your name on a list to grab tickets if they become available. If you want to hear great speakers, be inspired, attend wonderful workshops, network with women who are on the move and so much more, you need to try as hard as possible to attend this event. To try for tickets click please let me get a ticket. Hope you are lucky!  Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

 

 

The Ladder Alliance–The Ladder To Independence

When most people think of domestic violence they generally think of black eyes, concussions, broken arms and more.  They think of a man and a woman physically fighting with the children crying. This falsehood tends to make all of us think that we don’t know anyone who is being abused, but we do.  There is emotional abuse.  Remember when our mother would tell us that “words hurt”.  They do, and so many victims (usually women) are victims of a verbal and emotional domestic abuse, not physical abuse. Most victims think there is no one out there to help them, but there are a number of places that are available

Even as the victims seek assistance, they seek a way for a fulfilled life after leaving the abuser.  They are looking for a ladder to help them climb out of a life that has left them with little or no job skills to support themselves and sometimes their children.  They are looking for the The Laddder Alliance.

The Ladder Alliance provides women domestic violence victims or low-income women with employment skills that will enable them to be self-reliant, independent and to lead successful lives. They are enrolled in classes that are taught by professional educators and business people. Their classes cover computer, professional and life skills that include Excel, professional writing and customer service.

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Sharon Cox, Executive Director and Founder leading a lunch and learn event.

This program offers a full size clothing boutique with new and gently used professional clothing that are “purchased” by the students not with money, but earned professional rewards (being on time, assignments, etc.). There is also childcare assistance and even homework assistance for the children if needed.

The Ladder Alliance offers several programs.  They offer basic computer skills training and professional office skills training. The cost for this is $20 or less covering all course material.

To find out more about any of the programs, the sites where classes are available and any other questions, call 817.834.2100 or go to Ladder Alliance.  There are several volunteer opportunities available.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”–climb your ladder to success, then extend a hand to help someone else.

What You Get In A Room Of Outstanding Women–Knowledge

It is amazing what you can get when you have a room full of outstanding women networking and learning from each other.  The Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce did exactly that at the beautiful Fort Worth Club in downtown Fort Worth.  It seemed liked everyone was there–including Fort Worth mayor Betsy Price.

This amazing program was put on by what the Fort Worth Chamber calls one of their small groups–Women Influencing Business which by the turnout is no longer a small group.  Women Influencing Business made the most of time and space by presenting two excellent programs in the span of a few knowledge filled hours.

The first part of the program was a panel (Staying on Top of Your Game!) with a question and answer section moderated by the groups’ chairperson, Anne Holland and featured three great speakers:

  • Mayor Betsy Price, Mayor of Fort Worth
  • Susan Nix, Founder of Susan Nix Consulting Group
  • Leah King, Vice President & Marketing Director of Northstar Bank

During the luncheon, just as women do–we multitasked by networking and listening to a very informative speaker–Dr. Rachel Croson of the University of Texas at Arlington.  Dr. Croson spoke on Women and Negotiation (You’ve Got the Power!).

The networking was contagious and continued even into the valet line.  Women Influencing Business had indeed gotten their message across.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”!  Stay on top of your game, and you do have the power!

 

No Appointment–Knock On The Door Anyway

I met a beautiful woman of a certain age (Karen Fleming) by chance while working an employment fair.  While talking with her I learned that she was a retired Master Sergeant, and had recently finished interior design school. She is one of those artsy people who see the big picture where I just see a chair.

 

Karen Flemming and I
Karen and I at our first meeting at employment fair

Her story is one that shows that we as women can make our dreams come true no matter the obstacles or the little bumps in the world.  Karen worked full time while going to school.  She was determined that interior design would be in  her future. We talked about our dreams, and how we had prepared for them.

Karen’s story is one where you prepare and then you go for it.  You make your own opportunities.  Karen’s good friend, Tracy took her to lunch to celebrate her birthday and to have girl talk–they are both interior designers and former military.  They had talked of starting a business together–decorating business.  Her friend mention Decorating Den and Lisa Landry who is the franchise owner in Arlington, Texas. Tracy had been following Lisa’s work, and was very impressed and wanted to meet her, but she could never get in touch with her.

Karen, being the go getter she is decided they should just go to Decorating Den and knock on the door (Opportunity), which they did–under a sign that stated “By Appointments Only”.  As Opportunity would have it, everyone was at lunch except you guessed it Lisa Landry, who let them in, and talked with them about Decorating Den and the opportunities there were in franchising.

Soon after meeting with Ms. Landry, they begin the process of interviewing to become franchise owners, even presenting a project to Lisa. After hearing the ins and outs, the commitment, the financing and everything else that it takes to obtain a franchise they decided this was not for them, but design and decorating were still their goals.

A few days later, as Opportunity would have it, Ms. Landry called and offered them both positions as decorators with her franchise–they had made the best of being prepared and able to answer when Opportunity  opens the door Karen’s passion is being creative.  They were both hired, and the rest is going to be history.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.  Always be prepared, you never know when Opportunity will open the door. Notice how much brighter Karen’s smile is in the photos from Decorating Den.  When you do what you love, you love what you do.

 

A House Where “Sunny” Shines Bright

When I drove up to the Thornton Inn Bed and Breakfast in Arlington, Texas I was in Sunny 3love with the beautiful wrap around porch with the rocking chairs– this was my dream house.  I was there to meet the owner, businesswoman Sunny Graham.

Having heard so many wonderful things about Sunny, it was a joy to finally meet her.  We had been trying to have this conversation for well over six months.  She is exactly what her name says–Sunny.

We were given a tour of the beautiful bed and breakfast by Terrance Graham who is Sunny’s (sunny) husband.  His tour and his telling the history of the house seemed to make the house come alive. The house was constructed in 1905, and has been used for many things including a family residence and a fraternity house.

Sunny1Each of the five  bedrooms is furnished beautifully with Sunny 11equally beautiful baths.  There is a living area downstairs as well as one upstairs.  The house also features a cozy library, and a beautiful dining room where breakfast is served to the guests each morning.

Sunny 9My favorite thing about the house is the wrap around porch with the Sunny 10rocking chairs and ceiling fans. I love the idea of rocking on the porch (that’s the East Texas in me).

While Terrance was finishing up the tour, Sunny arrived.  She is a bundle of energy, and a ray of sunshine.  Sitting in the library Sunny and I talked about a lot of things and much more.

Sunny’s story of success is one of the American dream.  She is originally from the Philippines, and had always known that she would live in the states. One of my favorite stories that she tells is of her first taste of chocolate given to her by a G.I. who told her there was a lot of chocolate in the United States–in her young mind she could only imagine.

Getting to the states would take a lot of planning. Sunny learned about being an exchange student, and was selected for the program. After her brothers convinced her father to let her go, she was on her way to the land of chocolate.

Fast forward to Sunny being asked to sell houses with no experience while leaving a job that she was very comfortable in. She took the job and the rest is home selling history. She was a success. In fact she was a huge success. While selling homes she started educating her clients about the home buying process. Others started to ask questions, and she gladly shared her knowledge. She is still mentoring today.

The Thornton Inn Bed and Breakfast was supposed to be the real estate office for Sunny, but somewhere along the way things changed, and she and her husband decided that a bed and breakfast might be something to look into, and the rest is history. There is so much more to Mrs. Sunny Graham.  This woman of a certain age is an entrepreneur extraordinaire.   She knows that “thisis(her)yourbestyear”, and she is still in the process of sharing her knowledge with others.

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To find out more about the Thornton Inn Bed and Breakfast go to:  http://www.thethorntoninn.com.  Sunny and I will meet you on the porch.  Be prepared for Sunny’s next big project–it’s in the making.

Remember “thisisyourbestyear”.

“The” Texas Conference for Women

The state of Texas always does it BIG, and it held a BIG, Texas Conference for Women in Austin.  Not only was it BIG, it was educational, fun, exciting and much more.  There was something for every woman no matter what age, educational level, etc.  There were local speakers, speakers who talked on social media, national speakers such as Robin Roberts and Tory Johnson.  The conference had great motivational speakers including one of the few men at the conference–Bert Jacobs, the CEO of “Life is Good”.  Tory Johnson of Good Morning America held a “Pitch Your Product” section. Patricia Arquette gave an impassioned talk on women, and Robin Roberts kept us laughing.  The First Lady of Texas, Cecilia Abbott greeted the crowd.  There was so much to see and do–it was great!

Tap each picture to see who was there.  Enjoy!

Remember thisisyourbestyear”, and as Jake says “Life is Good”