A Gathering of Experts: Tips for Office Holiday Parties

When it comes to the holidays, one of the biggest social minefields can be the annual company holiday party. And a Gathering of Experts wants to help people avoid any common blunders that may make the season a little less merry and bright.

One of the most common mistakes employees can make is to complain about the venue, food or lack of an open bar. No one enjoys being around someone with a sour attitude, but it can be particularly bad if the employer overhears one of his or her employees running down the event–let alone the person who planned it. If an office party seems sub par it’s best to keep complaints to oneself and try to enjoy oneself anyway. Not everything is going to be perfect for everyone, but it’s always a good idea to be gracious – even if the feast is just a hot dog party on the roof.

Giving appropriate gifts at appropriate times is always a good idea. If someone is friendly with the employer, don’t give a personal gift in front of others at the office. It comes across as rude to other co-workers. And don’t give co-workers a “joke” present re-gifted from a crass brother-in-law. No one likes junk and very few people like off-color gifts as well. When in doubt just give co-workers a cheerful holiday card and try to stay away from any gifts that could offend.

When it comes to alcohol, less is more. A little self control usually means more dignity on Monday morning. The general rule of thumb is to avoid over indulging, because while it may seem hilarious at the time, drunkenly dancing isn’t going to do anyone’s career any favors.

Finally, remember that not everyone may be in the mood to celebrate at all. The holidays can be stressful, and forcing people to partake in an event can come across as overbearing. Simply wish co-workers a “Happy Holiday” and pay attention to social clues as to whether or not they want to take the conversation further.

The holidays can tricky, especially in an office. But by keeping these general rules in mind, the office party can be a much more harmonious occasion.

Tricks to Maintain Your Waist Line When Eating Out

It’s been a long day at work, and dinner out at a restaurant sounds much more tempting than cooking. However, eating out and healthy eating rarely go hand-in-hand. What to do? A Gathering of Experts will help you navigate some of the hidden pitfalls of eating out – even in high-end restaurants.

Whether you are on a diet or just don’t want to gain weight while on vacation, eating healthy and well at a restaurant is simply common sense. This can be addressed by managing portion control. One way to do that is to snack first on something like an apple with peanut butter or hummus and vegetables. In other words, don’t go into a restaurant with a growling stomach. And portion control doesn’t just mean self-moderation before appetizers – it also applies to “on the side.” Many chefs report that customers use more dressing than they would have received on the salad initially. Be smart and dip your lettuce into the dressing and don’t pour it on the salad.

Also, what you might think of traditionally as “healthy food” isn’t necessarily that at all. For instance, sushi will often be served in a jumbo portion and come deep-fried. Also, sushi sometimes contains mayonnaise  – which is something that’s decidedly not healthy.

Avoiding side dishes altogether is also a great way to keep the calories off. Many sides are cheese based or fried, so when ordering food plan the meal around a good protein and simple vegetables. Stay away from anything with too many add-on ingredients.

It’s also a good idea to utilize the professionals. Servers memorize the specials and can help restaurant goers find an entree, either on the menu or on the special list that will fit their individual needs. Many people don’t ask too many questions out of fear of being labeled a “problem customer.” But, when in doubt ask an expert – and servers are the most knowledgeable people to ask.

Finally, check out restaurant menus online. That will help determine if it’s nutritionally the right fit. If your restaurant of choice doesn’t have a full-fledged website with a menu, utilize sites like Yelp.com for additional information. It’s possible to eat well and not consume an entire day’s worth of calories in one sitting.

Travel Tips For People Who Don’t Like to Travel

Sure it would be amazing to see that Mediterranean island on your bucket list, or motor the wine country of California – but sometimes traveling can seem daunting. Is airline travel really as nerve wracking as it seems? How can a person drive across country and avoid rush-hour gridlock in cities? What about trains? Do they stop at the best destinations? A Gathering of Experts affirms that traveling can be a once-in-a-lifetime-event – in the best way possible.

Q: Everything in the news about airline travel seems to be a nightmare. Is it really as terrible as it sounds?

A Gathering of Experts: According to the Bureau of Transportation, over 1.73 million passengers fly per day in the United States. So, although anecdotally flying is cumbersome – it’s actually still incredibly safe and efficient.

Q: The old joke used to be that airline food was terrible, and now it seems like the trend is not to offer any food at all. Is that accurate?

A Gathering of Experts: For a while airlines really did cut back on meals. But now the opposite is happening – at least on longer domestic flights. Many airlines have been working with restaurateurs to create dishes that can withstand the challenges of flight to serve passengers excellent fare, either as a meal or for ala carte dishes.

Q: What about driving across the country? How can a traveler manage not to get stuck in massive gridlock in large cities?

A Gathering of Experts: The best way for a car trip to go smoothly is to really plan out the travel route. Either get off the interstate and stop for a meal and a quick sightseeing tour, or choose a secondary scenic route. If that’s not possible because of the specific metropolitan area, break the trip up into areas of interest, and leave in the morning at a leisurely pace so as not to fight with commuter traffic.

Q: What about trains? Are they efficient and do they go through the best destinations?

A Gathering of Experts: For many people, the preferred method of travel is by train. Trains will take passengers through city hubs, and can cost less than flying or driving. Also, many trains have sleeper cars, which is handy for long trips. And when traveling with a group, train travel is by far the most social way to get from place to place.

Markus Lattner Extols the Virtues of Buying Local Food

Markus Lattner

Markus Lattner

Markus Lattner has long supported local agriculture. As the improvement manager for a community supported agricultural (CSA) farm in Pennsylvania, Markus Lattner knows the impact of buying local on the local economy. Money isn’t the only thing restaurants and grocers save when they buy local, however, according to Markus Lattner. Here are just a few of the benefits:

  • Save money—As fuel costs have increased, Markus Lattner reports that the cost of shipping food from overseas has become unmanageable to some businesses. That increase is built into food costs and passed on to restaurant owners and grocers. Fuel prices are dropping, however, taking away this incentive. Markus Lattner proposes taxes on oil that will encourage businesses to buy domestically, which will serve to boost the local economy.
  • Freshness—Markus Lattner says there is no way to deny the freshness of a locally grown tomato compared with one that has been imported from far away. Markus Lattner points to several reasons from this. First, locally grown produce is often lacking the chemicals found in the shipped versions. Local farmers may also pay more attention to details like soil condition, exposure to sunlight, or ripeness of fruit at the time it is harvested.
  • No risk of interruption in service—Imports of goods can be influenced by wars, natural disasters, and more, according to Markus Lattner. By relying on other economies to provide food, we run the risk of someday being without. Markus Lattner feels that keeping things local adds to a sense of self-reliance.
  • Improve local economy—When a shopper support nearby farmers, he or she puts money back into the economy. Those farmers spend monies earned at local establishments, Markus Lattner points out. Increased demand means local farmers will need to add more employees, Markus Lattner says, which can only be good for your local unemployment rate. This puts more tax dollars into a local economy, which leads to improved roads, education, and more, concludes Markus Lattner.
  • Save lives—It may sound extreme, but there are several studies that have pinpointed cancer risks associated with the pollution emitted by ships carrying food from overseas. According to Markus Lattner, the U.S. study attributed 60,000 deaths per year in our country to the world’s 90,000 cargo ships. A British study found one ship emits the same cancer-causing chemicals as 50 million cars.

Markus Lattner knows the many benefits of buying local foods and he hopes that by spreading the word, he’ll encourage others to take part. Markus Lattner’s support of the slow food initiative is a commitment to educating others on its value.

Douglas Battista Reports that Barbados Offers Much More than Beaches

Douglas Battista

Douglas Battista

Douglas Battista points out that whatever Barbados lacks in size, this beautiful Caribbean island makes up in sheer beauty and a climate that is second to none.

History of Barbados

According to Douglas Battista, the first persons to live on the tiny island of Barbados were the Arawak Indians, who left around 1200 AD. Throughout the next 600 years, Barbados was inhabited by the Portuguese and later the English. In the 1600s, the inhabitants began utilizing the country’s rich soil in the agriculture production of sugarcane. According to Douglas Battista, Barbados was a British Crown Possession and, as such, extended England’s practice of slavery to the Caribbean island. In the early 1800s, the slaves revolted and by 1834 the practice was abolished forever. After World War II, Barbados became a prime tourist attraction and is currently a democratic society, notes Douglas Battista.

Discover Barbados

The Resort Areas – While Barbados is home to numerous resorts, the main tourist attractions are located on the South and West coasts. For vacationers seeking sophistication and luxury, Douglas Battista recommends the West Coast. This area is home to numerous fine dining establishments and pristine waters. As well, Douglas Battista notes that one is likely to spot a celebrity or two. According to Douglas Battista, the South is known for its nightlife and offers those seeking lively entertainment almost unlimited options.

The Beaches – White sand, blue waters, and 3,000 hours of sunshine per year make some of the most beautiful beaches in the history of the Caribbean, says Douglas Battista. Some of the most popular beaches are found in the resort areas, including Sandy and Rockley on the South side and Payne’s Bay to the West. According to Douglas Battista there’s no shortage of activities available; swimming, jet skiing, kayaking and sailing are abundant in the serene waters of the South and West. As well, Douglas Battista says that Barbados’ beaches are perfect for just soaking in the golden rays of the unobstructed sunshine.

Bridgetown – The Nation’s capital offer shopping galore, and duty-free at that, says Douglas Battista. A quick stroll through the Trafalgar Square or a walking tour of the city enjoying the complexity its unique architecture are just some of the relaxing activities available in the commercial center of the country, adds Douglas Battista.

East Coast – For stress relief, Douglas Battista recommends staying in the West. But, for those with a little more adventure in their spirit, the untamed waters off East Atlantic Coast are a surfer’s Utopia. Douglas Battista says that this is the premier spot to grab a board and a waterproof camera because memories here deserve to be printed and shared.

According to Douglas Battista, Barbados is an open and friendly country. Battista highly recommends at least a weeklong visit for those looking to enjoy this country’s hospitality and landscape.

The Balancing Act on Lifetime with Lew Lautin

The Balancing Act

The Balancing Act

The following segment aired on “The Balancing Act” on Lifetime Television. Joining the show was Lew Lautin to discuss his photography project geared toward raising awareness for the homeless.

The Balancing Act Host 1: Hi there, good morning, everybody.  I’m Danielle Knox, it’s Friday, January 13, 2012, coming up on the show this morning, a story of giving in the simplest way.  We’ll show you how a photographer’s amazing pictures of the homeless is changing lives and communities.  Also ahead this morning, dry eye: a look at the symptoms and remedies with a doctor and a patient who suffers from this often overlooked disease.  Also, they’re back—our friends from SeaWorld are here!  Get ready to see some exotic animals and, of course, those two adorable penguins who can’t travel without each other, Pete and Penny are here in the house this morning.  We talked about the photographer who is giving his time to the homeless and that inspired The Balancing Act’s daily question today: “Have you ever volunteered with a charity organization?”  We would love to hear from you on this one so you can vote by calling us at 855-3balanc, that’s 855-322-5262.  Press one for yes and two for no,  stay right where you are, “The Balancing Act” starts right now.

The Balancing Act: Host 2: Well, he has a passion for people and a skill for photography.  Combine the two and you get a wonderful undertaking by my next guest to take on a new project that not only helps the community but is impacting lives of just so many people in such a positive way.  I am so happy to welcome to the show this morning, photographer, Lew Lautin.  Good morning to you, Lew, good to see you.

Lautin: Good morning, thanks for having me here.

The Balancing Act: I love what you’re doing because I think what happens is many people will drive or walk past the homeless and see them but not really see them and so, talk about what you’re doing in your community and where the idea for this came from.

Lautin: I got a call around two and a half years ago from Marti Foreman who’s the executive director of lifenet4families and she asked if I would shoot a video for their twenty-fifth anniversary and I said “Sure,” and I went down to the lifenet4families center and I immediately fell in love with the people there in a very unusual situation.  They’re homeless, they’re near homeless, they live on the streets and they go there for a meal or a shower or some help or some tutoring or some financial help.  After I spoke to Marti about doing the video, I said, “Can I bring my cameras back and can I bring my studio lights in?”  I started going every week bringing my camera and these big studio lights and sitting down with the clients there and I started taking pictures of them and then the following week I’d bring them back copies.

The Balancing Act: Aww, how do you make a project like this a success and really make a difference in their lives because, you know, they feel like, “Oh, here I am, I’m homeless, nobody cares.”  How do you insure that somebody cares?

Lautin: I think there are two aspects of that.  The first is when I go back the next week and I bring them copies, I’ve handed pictures to people and they say I’m going to send this to my mother.

The Balancing Act: They say that to you, they’re going to send, ohhh?

Lautin: Yes, “she hasn’t seen a picture of me for two or three years.”  And the other aspect of it is to sit down with somebody who’s homeless or near homeless, big studio lights, make them feel like a CEO, make them feel somebody, like they’re important ,and spend fifteen or twenty minutes with them, engaging them in dialogue, if they wish.  Some don’t wish to engage in dialogue.  Make them feel important; make them feel like somebody cares, ten or fifteen minutes.

The Balancing Act: Oh, that just touches my heart and when you take these pictures, what happens to them afterwards.  I know that you give them to them and they send them to their friends and family and then, is there something else that you do with the pictures, as well?

Lautin: Yes, I also volunteer at Boca Helping Hand to take pictures there of their clients and when you walk into Boca Helping Hands, there are big portraits around fifteen/twenty people I’ve taken pictures of and for lifenet4families.  Whenever they have a big event, I provide blown up pictures for them and it shows the community that these are real people, these are people who are suffering, and these are people who need help.  A lot of these people were donating to places like lifenet and Boca Helping Hands a year or two or three ago and, unfortunately, they’re not in a position today to help and they need some help.

The Balancing Act: Absolutely and I think with the economy and the recession and everything that’s going on, that is such a true statement.  When you talk about the response that your photography receives, not just for maybe other people who see it but also from the homeless that you’re taking pictures of, what do you think this does to them, kind of emotionally?

Lautin: I think it’s a whole gamut of emotions.  Some of them feel sad seeing pictures of themselves in the situation they’re at, some of them feel elated, and some of them feel very good about how they look.  So it’s a whole gamut of emotions that’s out there, just like the homeless population or the near homeless population, but they are a people; they’re our neighbors, our brothers, our sisters.

The Balancing Act: I think that is the resonating point.  They are people, and you, as a person, have accomplished so much as a photographer.  I know you’ve worked a lot with the fine art photography.  Your work has sold for really high prices.  I mean, you’ve accomplished a lot in your career.  How does this project differ?

Lautin: This project differs on the emotional gut level.  You’re sitting down with people who need help; you’re sitting down with people who don’t get respect, people just walk by them and ignore them.  If I can touch one person and make them feel important, make them feel loved, wow!

The Balancing Act: Yeah, you know, I was telling you that I encountered a homeless man the other day and had given him money and didn’t know his back history or his story but everybody has a story, right, everybody has a history?

Lautin: I just did a composite of six homeless heads with the constitution of the United States behind them and that was just shown at ArtServe and the last person on the right died six months ago and I’ll get a call from lifenet: do I have a picture of somebody.

The Balancing Act: Oh, my goodness.

Lautin: For a memorial.

The Balancing Act: Let me ask you this with just about thirty seconds here left: what do you want your photography to do, what is the take away, what would you like viewers who are watching to take away?

Lautin: I would like viewers to go to their phone right now, figure out how they can help, how they can help people who need help desperately, how they can volunteer—whether it’s at a soup kitchen, whether it’s volunteering at a hospital, whether it’s mentoring, whether it’s Women in Distress or Meals on Wheels, Trash to Treasure—help.  You have the ability to do something, you have the ability to make a difference in somebody’s life, it’s never too late.

The Balancing Act: It’s never too late and also, I think what people tend to think is somebody else is going to do it.

Lautin: You do it; you do it today.  Pick up the phone and do it.

The Balancing Act: Absolutely, Lew Lautin, great interview, thank you so much for coming by this morning.

Lautin: Thank you so much for having me.

The Balancing Act: And if you’d like more information in terms of how to make a difference in your own community, simply pick up the camera and make someone’s day special, and for more information on Lew or to see his work, be sure to check out his website.  It’s lewlautinphotographer.com.

The Balancing Act is the only morning show in America produced by women specifically for women. Every morning, The Balancing Act on Lifetime hosts Danielle Knox and Kristy Villa tackle the issues that face today’s woman. Popular show segments include live weather updates with Mark Mancuso, surprise celebrity visitors, and news about the latest trends affecting your life, home, career and family. The Balancing Act on Lifetime Television airs daily on Lifetime at 7 a.m. ET/PT. For more information, visit The Balancing Act on Lifetime Television’s website at www.thebalancingact.com.

DR Marketing Group on Lifetime with Clinically Fit

DR Marketing Group

DR Marketing Group

The following segment aired on DR Marketing’s Incredible Discoveries. Joining DR Marketing Group was Clinically Fit to discuss joint stiffness.

DR Marketing Group: Maybe you or a loved one is recovering from trauma or injury requiring physical therapy, even hand, wrist or tennis elbow pain. Well now there is a solution. Winner of the 2007 medical design excellence award, the Xtensor exercises the muscles you use to open your hand.

Clinically Fit: If you’re looking for the key to freedom from the constraints of osteoarthritis, if you’re longing to regain lost mobility due to hand stiffness or aging, or if you just need to increase dexterity for that extra edge at work or at play, the answer is right at your fingertips.

DR Marketing Group: With clinically tested Xtensor you can naturally decrease joint stiffness and pain resulting from repetitive stress injuries without surgery, regain lost mobility without drugs or costly treatments, and increase flexibility and dexterity in your hands.

Clinically Fit: With the Xtensor you can finally get a grip.

DR Marketing Group: Millions of Americans suffer from the effects of hand stiffness and joint pain due to osteoarthritis, carpal tunnel, tennis elbow and tendonitis. If you wear an elbow band or a wrist brace or rely almost solely on potentially dangerous non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as aspirin and ibuprofen for relief, you need to take a look at the Xtensor.

Clinically Fit: The Xtensor works by really exercising and providing resistance to the Xtensor muscle.  It’s important to understand that people think that they may have carpel tunnel syndrome simply because they have pain or often tendonitis and those are the kind of cases that really respond very well to tendon gliding exercises that can be provided with the Xtensor.

DR Marketing Group: Can you tell us about carpel tunnel syndrome?

Clinically Fit: The truth is, carpel tunnel syndrome is a compression of a nerve and it comes about because the tendons that run inside the carpel canal and the membranes around the tendons are thickened and then there is a secondary compression on the nerve.  Anybody can benefit from using the Xtensor, particularly people who do a lot of manual activity, whether it be sports, hobbies or work.

DR Marketing Group: The lead designer behind the Xtensor, CEO of Clinically Fit, Scott Kupferman, will explain how this remarkable product works and how it came to be. First and foremost, explain to us the critical science behind this miraculous healing system that is helping people free pain all over the world.

Clinically Fit: Okay, so it slips on either hand and it fits like a glove. Bands go into the fingertips with the grey bands and then secure the strap to your wrist. Make sure when you’re doing each repetition now, hold each hand open for just a few seconds, just to make sure you get that stretch in your palm.

DR Marketing Group: What happens while using the Xtensor?

Clinically Fit: There are two things that are taking place, one is we’re strengthening muscles that are deep within the elbow all across the back of the arm, and the second thing we’re doing is we’re increasing flexibility in the muscles that are always squeezing and gripping.

DR Marketing Group: It’s so easy to put on and it starts working immediately. I’ve got pretty bad hands from golf, as if my golf game isn’t bad enough, I have pain from it, and then when I shake hands with people it hurts, so tell me, what is taking place inside my hand and arm and wrist that is relieving the pain and strengthening my muscles?

Clinically Fit: Well, we always use our hands in a one-sided way to grip and squeeze, so this is designed to increase blood flow and bring nutrients into the arm in the area where it’s never really had an ability to have that – yeah, people seem to do that.

DR Marketing Group: It feels like you’re working out muscles you never knew you had. This is basically an exercise machine, like any other exercise machine that’s geared toward strengthening muscles. It is perhaps one of the most important muscular parts of your body.

Clinically Fit: Do you know one third of all the bones in your body are in your hands and wrist? And you never work them out; you just damage them day after day after day.

DR Marketing Group: How are we damaging out hands?

Clinically Fit: Well, for the most part, you’re always walking around with your hands in a pretty closed manner because everything you do is geared toward gripping and squeezing, so your hand are always strengthening toward the inside, and that sets off an imbalance that over time for millions of people.

DR Marketing Group: The product is really geared towards helping people that have pain in their wrists, pain in their elbows from tennis elbow, because these muscles are very very difficult to get to and the Xtensor is the only device that’s able to do that.  It also helps to improve overall joint stiffness and hand stiffness.

Clinically Fit: This is helpful for that type of a feeling, to help loosen up the hands and strengthen the hands in all the right places, and it will really help very, very quickly because these muscles have really never had an opportunity to exercise, they have been virtually off limits because it’s never anything you really touch on.

DR Marketing Group: Do you literally develop the Xtensor system to work the muscles that other strengthening products ignore?

Clinically Fit: Yes, the devise was really made to fit virtually everybody and it’s good for people that are hairdressers and gamers and golfers, tennis players, surgeons, dentists. As funny as it may sound, the Xtensor is even a great tool for the ever growing issue of Blackberry thumb.

A subsidiary of O2 Media Inc., DR Marketing Group is a Pompano Beach, Florida-based marketing firm providing direct response services to their clients. In addition to television and Internet-based consumer-capture strategies, DR Marketing Group’s team of experienced industry professionals also offers product fulfillment and customer service. DR Marketing Group has over 20 years of experience launching and managing successful campaigns, in turn helping their clients achieve a consistent ROI.