If you’ve been reading my blog, you already know that I am passionate about the daily practice of Kaizen in my life. Kaizen is a Japanese philosophy. Here is my interpretation of this word, “Life-long learning in small incremental steps”. Read more
Here’s a story for you.
After I opened my first hair salon in 1980, I worked hard to build my business. I scrimped and saved and put in long hours of work. But I never felt like I was going anywhere with it. Every year was a struggle in financial hardship. Yet, when I looked around, my peers were doing so well. They bought fancy cars and traveled all over the world to attend exciting Beauty Symposiums. Read more
Valentines Day gives me a reason to create small and colorful cards and craft items to sell in my salon and to give to people I love. I looked high and low in my craft room to find scraps of colorful papers and ribbons which were left from my previous projects. It was so much fun to get lost in cutting and pasting these papers. I was so happy with the end result that I decided to share them with you. Read more
If someone asked you if you are a hoarder, you’d probably say, “No. I keep my living space clean most of the time.”
Let me share a story about how I was not able to concentrate on writing the chapters to my new book, even though I cleaned and organized my office space and created an environment that was a pleasant space to think and write. Read more
My childhood memories of the year-end traditions, while growing up in Kiyushu, Japan always floods my mind this time of the year.
I went through a culture shock when I arrived in America at the age of eleven and saw how differently people in America celebrated the coming of the new year. Lively new year’s eve parties, waking up on January first and watching football games on TV was so foreign to me. The older I got, the more I cherished my childhood memories of Oshogatsu (Japanese New Years).
Starting the first of December, Mother would say, “Keiko, we are going through each room in our house and give them a deep cleaning. Without an argument, I helped Mother clean all the shoji-screens, de-cluttered the drawers and swept and cleaned the floors.
Mother also gave me a To-do list.
Mother’s To Do list read like this:
Do you owe money to anyone? Pay it back.
Did you say unkind words to anyone? Apologize before the year ends.
Did you mean to do a kind act for someone? Do it now.
Did you think about what you will do in the coming year to become a better person? Write it down.
After I finished my to do list, then it was time to relax and enjoy the coming of the new year which began near midnight on December 31. We sat in our clean house and enjoyed eating traditional bowl of buckwheat noodles topped with grated mountain potatoes, listening to the far away sounds of the temple bells as it rang out the exact number of the year we were about to enter.
Mother would say, “Keiko, soba noodles are the last to enter your body this year. The noodles are cleansing. You will start out the new year with a clean body and a clear mind.”
I always got up early on New Year’s Day. Mother dressed me in a colorful kimono and we visited the temple and prayed for a good year so we will have the fortune to maintain good relationships, health and wealth. After that, we went home, ready to have fun playing children’s games (played only at Oshogatsu time) with the neighborhood children and eating traditional New Year’s food Mother prepared. Oshogatsu lasted three days from Jan. 1 – 3.
Even though it’s been many years since I left Japan, I still remember my Mother’s words at the end of each year. I try my best to follow through with the list Mother made for me.
Happy New Year and I wish for you a year filled with joy, gratitude and love.
How do you feel when you see people walking aimlessly through the mall once Thanksgiving is over, trying to pick out presents for people when they have no clue what they like or need? Those gifts often end up as useless dust collectors after the magical season is over.
This year, I decided to think of holiday giving in a new way and give to others (and myself) in a more thoughtful way. For me, this means staying away from the crowded shopping malls, instead, give my business to local merchants or make things at home. Yes, I love making things with my hands. It brings me great joy to share things I’ve made. I also make sure not to forget people and animals who need a helping hand. They deserve to feel good too.
Here are a few of my favorite things I love to do and to give during the holiday season:
Cranberry Crackle Tart
I made this delicious tart because I wanted to take cranberries (so good for you) further than just making the traditional cranberries we eat at Thanksgiving. I was so pleased with the flavor, sweetness combined with a touch of tartness, and the festive look of the white meringue. I brought these beautiful tarts to several gatherings. You’ll love keeping this recipe as a go-to favorite because it requires minimal ingredients. Everyone will think it came from a French pastry shop! Get your recipe here.
Lemon Water Kit
I’ve gotten into the habit of drinking warm lemon water every morning instead of coffee. Lemon turns your water into an alkaline state and drinking it is good for cleansing your digestive system. I feel so much better when I start the day out with a large cup of hot water with ½ lemon and a few drops of natural honey. I decided to put a kit together to give as a gift. A clear, glass handled cup, lemon squeezer and half a dozen lemons go into this gift set.
How to Rock a Selfie Photo Shoot by Vivien McMaster
Do you notice when it comes to picture-taking time, most people get self-conscious and say, “Oh no, please leave me out. I don’t like to have my picture taken?” And we find ourselves in this situation more with the accessibility of iPhones which are snapping photos all around us, everywhere we go. Most of us are self-conscious because we keep telling ourselves we’re not attractive enough to be in photos. When I found this on-line Selfie class given by Vivien McMaster, I decided to take it. Yes, this class is about self-portrait photography but it’s so much more. Vivien will teach you by helping to identify special gifts you have to offer to the world. I am planning to give this class as a gift to my special friend who is filled with beauty inside-out but feels self-conscious about her photo image. I can hardly wait to see her blossom! Click here to learn more.
Holiday Gift Tags, So Simple to Make!
It just takes a little imagination and a desire to make these sophisticated tags. I enjoy making my own tags because they it add a personal touch to the gifts I give to others. Not only are they fun to make, it makes me feel good that I’m not spending money buying commercially made tags.
All it takes is a few simple punches, baker’s twine and a roll of washi tape. I cut my tags 2 1/2” x 8” and fold them in half. While I’m at it, I make some a tad bit larger and use them as note cards. They make nice thank you cards. All you want to say is just a short note of appreciation right? Once I get going on these tags, I can’t stop. I make many groupings of tags designed for different seasons.
How to Behave so Your Dog Behaves by: Dr. Sophia Yin
“I learned that every pet needs a human who can lead. Not like a boss, but like a partner in a dance—someone who gives clear signals, rewards desirable behavior as it occurs, removes rewards for inappropriate behavior immediately, and sticks to the plan consistently until the new, good behavior is a habit.” -Sophia Yin”
I can guarantee that this is the best animal training book I have ever found. If you don’t believe me, ask my dog Max. Dr. Yin’s training method is so simple and sensible, just follow it and you will see a remarkable difference in your relationship with your dog in only two weeks! Just close your eyes and imagine you and Fido dancing like a pair of pro dancers. It is a great feeling when this kind of bond can be established between you and Fido. Thank you Dr. Sophia Yin! Look for this fantastic book at your local bookstore or Dr. Sophia Yin’s website. (Sadly, Dr. Sophia Yin passed away two months ago. A huge loss to the veterinary community and to us who love our pets. I am deeply saddened but thankful that she gave us so much while she was alive and will continue to do so for the years to come.)
Home-Made Organic Cinnamon-Maple Granola
I’m addicted to eating things I make in my own kitchen. Why? One simple reason… because I know exactly what’s in them. I fell in love with granolas when I found this recipe on Garden for the House. Kevin Lee Jacobs does a superb job with giving clear directions on his hand selected recipes. I love many of his recipes and love trying them out. Once you make this to-die-for recipe, put the granola into glass canning jars and tie the neck with a colorful ribbon … and don’t forget to add your hand-made tag to make your gift look like a million dollars.
Give a Helping Hand
Who said you have to be wealthy to donate? Did you know that 80% of the active philanthropists in this world are middle and low income folks?
Every person who steps up to organize a give back to our society event is part of a powerful movement in social giving.
It doesn’t have to be in a grand way, just do what you can. Let me give you a little idea. Why not hold a small gathering of friends and family during this joyous season? Let them know ahead of time you want them to help you raise money for a cause which you are passionate about. Make it a fun and special evening and share the reason why you want to help animals, children or an underserved population. You will be surprised at how people will open up their wallets to help your cause. Remember, no gift is too small and it’s an incredible feeling to know you are making a difference in creating a better world. You can check out the Holiday with a Heart event we gave at my hair salon, Studio 904 to raise money for Pasado’s Safe Haven, Precious Life Animal Sanctuary and Ginger’s Pet Rescue.
Please let me know if you try any of these things. I’d love to hear your ideas too!
Do you want to create a beautiful and whimsical environment for the holidays?
Who’d ever think that transforming plain brown paper bags into ornaments can be an affordable way to differentiate your business from others?
If you are a client of my hair salon, Studio 904, you’ve seen the unique ways in how I keep the facility fresh and pleasing to the eye by changing things up every season.
I put hours of time into making hand-made decorations for my salon because I believe seeing something fresh and new on a regular basis is stimulating and puts customers in a good mood. If it’s pleasing to our customers, just think how happy it makes our staff to come to a beautiful work environment daily.
Many businesses make the mistake of becoming stagnated with lack of change in their environment and service offerings, a sure way for a slow death of your business.
So I say, “Change it Up!” Look around your business and come up with ways to refresh and invigorate your environment.
I made these Owl Angels (more like Urban Angels) this year for the holidays. I love how these cute critters came out. They are not rustic looking like the owls I’ve seen. The white body and the glittered net wings give them a fresh and sophisticated look. So I wanted to share with you how I made them.
Oh, they are so cute. Nothing is more satisfying to me than looking at their cuteness every day.
Without a fail, these owls put a big smile on my face and helps me to have a happy day.
How to make “Owl Angels” from paper bags.
Cut bags into 6” x 8” pieces
Paint one side of each cut pieces with white gesso (it takes two pieces to make one owl)
Draw a simple shape of an owl on one of the pieces (this becomes the front of the owl)
Draw eyes, decorate the body using a black Sharpie marker
Sew the outline with a machine (leave an opening at the bottom)
Stuff with small amount of cotton (this will puff the owls up)
Sew and close the bottom opening (optional: insert feet made of black felt before sewing up the opening)
Cut out small wings (I used paper and ribbon netting)
Good luck with your decorations! I’d love to hear your ideas on affordable decorating ideas for the holidays which is right around the corner.
Sitting at the dog training center with my dog, Max, I obediently followed our instructor as she taught us how to make our dogs sit, stay, and lay down. After a few sessions, I realized that the instructor was not really teaching my dog rather she was training me to develop my leadership skills. She belted out commands to us humans, saying, “Stand tall like you have confidence, don’t be wishy washy with your leash handling and make direct eye contact!”
When we did a good job with our dogs, she would say, “What are you waiting for? Give your dog a treat!”
I often got frustrated because Max was not obeying my commands. I said to Max with an angry expression on my face, “What’s wrong with you? I told you to come to me.” The instructor came over and said, “How do you expect him to understand what you mean? Look at your body language, you’re bent over, not standing straight. Your facial expression doesn’t show that you genuinely want him to succeed. If I was your dog, I wouldn’t want to obey you either.”
I felt put-down by the boot camp-style feedback but swallowed my pride and continued with training. Before long, I became engrossed in the skills I was learning and continued on to the Intermediate and Advanced classes. In-fact, I got so hooked on what I was learning, I kept going back for more.
I started to practice what I learned in dog training classes at work. I began to feel more confident as a leader and noticed improvements in the people on my team. As my communication to others became more clear, there was less confusion with the directions I delivered. Things got done right and people were happy!
Here are some tips I learned in my classes. I know you’ll agree that these handling skills can be transferred to humans to help us become better leaders.
Dog Training 101
1. Be clear and specific – Your voice should be clear so your dog can understand. Don’t mumble.
2. Be consistent – It will confuse the dog when you don’t use the same words. If “okay” is your release word for your dog, don’t say “come it’s okay” the next time.
3. Keep it simple – Use only one command at a time. Say “sit down” instead of “come here and sit down.”
4. Gain loyalty by being fair – Dogs notice if you are not fair. Be compassionate and truthful. No physical violence, instead show them respect.
5. Be confident – When giving dogs a command, show confidence in your body language, voice tone and facial expression.
6. Give feedback – if you don’t get the appropriate response, correct them immediately. Be patient and keep teaching until you get the response you’re looking for
7. Praise all the time – When you get the correct response, praise them immediately…. yes, every time!
8. Positive ending – Finish your training session with the correct behavior. Never end on a negative note. Say, “Yhea, good job!” and give them ample treats and pet their head.
Fact: When dogs go through obedience training, their self-esteem is higher.
Now, go see how these dog training methods can fit into your human interactions. I guarantee, that your relationships with your co-workers, friends and family members will improve just like mine did!