Can an Insurance Agency Office be “Pretty”?

Pat doesn’t spend a lot of time decorating or thinking about colors and texture.  He’s focused on meeting with customers and tending to the details of their insurance coverage and needs.

However, Pat, Shannon and Edna spend a lot of time at the agency – it’s like home away from home.  Customers and colleagues visit often and we want them to feel comfortable and welcomed when they are in our office.

So after scoring deals from our favorite consignment & bargain stores; accepting a family member’s cast off, and using a little elbow grease, here’s what you’ll see when you visit our office.

We hope you like it!

-S.O.
The Patrick O’Brien Agency – Fishers, IN

Below:  Purple chairs (Shannon’s favorite color), table and flowers from our favorite consignment store, Consigned by Design.  Canvas wall art from Home-goods; Pillows, lamp and vase from Target.

Office beauty

Below:  A hand me down buffet table paired with decor found at Home-goods (in one whirlwind trip) becomes a space to store industry periodicals and a peg board displaying upcoming events, customer thank you notes, and inspirational messages.

finished table

(Here’s what the table looked like during sanding and after paint).

sanded table

 

painted table

Advertisements

Road Trip Essentials for Kids

Road tripIf you are heading out of town soon and driving with kids, a large chunk of your packing list is dedicated to what you’ll need inside your vehicle to keep everyone fed and entertained so you don’t have to STOP.

I could “Google” and “Pin” much more but here’s my favorite list of what to pack and what to do to pass the time in the car.

Activities:

  • Books, magazines, comics, activity books.  Bring books they’ve never read before.  Goodwill has LOTS for just pennies.
  • Sketchbook, notebook, washable markers, twist up colored pencils (no sharpening needed)
  • Games, such as the license plate game or travel bingo
  • disposable cameras so they can take pictures – or a digital one if you trust them with it.
  • Free up space on your smart device and let the kids make recordings along the drive.  Or use a good ol’ tape recorder: Let the kids produce a vacation broadcast
  • Pre-stamped blank postcards (find them at the post office), which your kids can decorate, or postcards bought on the road; have your children write to friends, relatives, even pets
  • Doodling doodads: a small dry-erase board, Etch A Sketch, Magna Doodle, tic tac toe board.
  • Pipe cleaners, easy origami, and other scissor-less craft supplies
  • Portable DVD player and DVDs; don’t forget headphones!
  • Books on CD for the whole family, such as the Harry Potter series or “The Chronicles of Narnia”.  Rent them free from your library.
  • Scrapbook envelope—entrust your children with the responsibility of collecting postcards, ticket stubs, and brochures for a scrapbook
  • Create your trip map and track it with the kids. Print a map off Google maps & insert it into a plastic sleeve.  Use a dry erase marker which will wipe off nicely.

Food:

  • Individually packaged, crumb-free snacks such as bite-sized goldfish crackers, raisins, string cheese.
  • Hard-to-bruise fruits such as apples, grapes and berries; or try fruit roll-ups.
  • Trail mix, which will leave kids feeling full longer (and keep fingers greaseless)
  • Reusable bottles filled with water

Miscellaneous:

  • First-aid items, such as Neosporin, bandages, anti-bacterial wipes, Tylenol, sunscreen, and Dramamine
  • Grocery bags to collect trash
  • Easy wipes & hand sanitizer
  • Change of clothes, in case of accidental spills
  • A blanket for spur-of-the-moment picnics at rest areas—and naps
  • Jump ropes, football, frisbee, baseball gloves, and balls, etc. so energetic little travelers can tire themselves out at rest stops!

What has worked for you on road trips with your kids?  Did you consult Pinterest like I did?  Check out our Pinterest board for more ideas on road tripping with kids.

– S.O.
POB Agency

10 Ways We Reduce Dust (and Allergies) in our Home

Today is the first day of spring and we are looking forward to cleaning up the garage, the yard, and “spring cleaning” inside the home.  With two small children, it’s hard to have a perfectly clean home every day but the one thing that will stop me dead in my tracks year round (no matter what I’m doing) is dust.  Why does dust bother me so much?  Because dust mites live in dust.  YUCK!  And, Pat and Jack have allergies that can go berzerk.

I know dust mites exist and I try hard not to think about them living in our pillows, bed covers, mattresses, furniture, carpeting, and clothing.  (Another YUCK!)  But, I feel better knowing I can reduce the amount of mites in our home by staying on top of the dust with some easy steps.

Here’s our top 10.

  1. Vacuum floors and upholstered furniture once a week
  2. Keep your closet clean and the floors clear so you can vacuum easily & regularly.
  3. Keep furnace filters clean.
  4. Limit knickknack decor.
  5. Instead of heavy drapery, hang lightweight curtains & shades.
  6. Avoid stacking piles of mail, newspaper, and magazines on tables and shelves.
  7. Keep clothes you wear regularly in your bedroom or closet and store the rest.  Use garment boxes and clear plastic containers to store items on shelves so they don’t collect dust.
  8. Store stuffed animals in a closed toy box or closet & regularly wash stuffed toys in hot water.  I’ve heard you can put a stuffed animal in a plastic bag and in the freezer overnight every few weeks to help kill dust mites – but I haven’t tried that yet.
  9. Wash your sheets (and the blankets you wrap up in when you snuggle on the couch) weekly
  10. Have your area rugs cleaned once or twice a year

Can you think of any other ways to reduce dust in the home?  Who’s ready to get started “spring cleaning”?!

– S.O.
POB Agency

Visit Patrick’s profile on Pinterest.

8 Tips For Throwing A Successful Holiday Party

Tis the season for Holiday Parties!  When you attend one, you may not give much thought as to how much pre-planning a host may do prior to the event.  But if you’ve ever been the host – Oh my!  It can get pretty stressful.

We recently had a party for 12 and in between work, kids, volunteer work, and day-to-day household chores, thank goodness we gave ourselves two weeks to prepare!  But, it all came together nicely and I’ll share some tips I think will ensure your party is a success without the stress:

1. A store-bought veggie tray is OKAY. Yes, our guests liked the hearty finger food but at the end of the night, that veggie tray was empty.  Guests like to nibble and snack as they drink their cocktail and they don’t want to leave feeling stuffed.

2. If you’re serving dinner, choose something that you can make ahead of time.  Have a casserole or lasagna pre-prepared so you can greet your guests as they arrive.  You’ll be free to mingle with everyone instead of stuck cooking in the kitchen while your guests hover over you feeling as if they should be doing something to help.

3. Decorate with inexpensive festive décor & play music. Simple wreaths and a few candles are an inexpensive way to create a warm and cozy atmosphere.  Our decor was minimal this year (to save time):  a tree and a simply decorated mantle.  We put on holiday music from one of our TV channels (who has time to create a playlist?!??!), lit candles and dimmed our lamps.  It was just enough.  We received many compliments on how cozy the house felt.

Click for EASY recipe!
Click for EASY recipe!

4. Serve ONE holiday drink for all.  Check out Pinterest for a TON of ideas.  Try a Candy Cane or “The Grinch” Martini; A Hot Apple Rum Punch; or the one I served:  Pomagranate-Cranberry Sparklers.  Even the guys drank it and LOVED it.  If you’re worried about drinking and driving, have a list of driving services and/or taxi numbers on hand OR offer them a guest room.

5. On that note, don’t stress your guest room accommodations.  We have 1 guest room but 2 couples stayed over.  I knew this could be a possibility after serving cocktails so I made sure all the beds had neat and clean bedding – even if one couple had to sleep on (clean) Avengers sheets.  But, it’s okay!  These are our friends and no need to stress the accommodations.  They were safe and slept great!

6. If it’s a relatively small party, enjoy a white elephant gift exchange. This party we hosted is an annual party and we always do a white elephant gift exchange.  It’s a blast!  It can be something from your home that you are no longer using; something funny; or something purchased.  It’s always fun watching people switch and swap as each gift is chosen. We’ve lucked out some years with a great gift and other years we’ve gone home with a gag gift – like a singing turkey.  If that’s too risky due to a more conservative group, consider something even simpler than that, like an ornament exchange.

7 If you’ve got the funds, consider hiring help. A catering service will allow you to fully enjoy the party. A bartender is also a nice addition, especially if you’re going for more complicated & diverse cocktails to serve. You might feel like you’re taking the easy way out, but in the end, you’ll be glad you got to engage in the holiday merriment along with your guests.

Have you hosted a Holiday Party (or any party) recently?  What did you do to cut back on time and stress?  Share your tips and success stories with us!

S.O.
POB Agency

What Your Food Cravings Really Mean

It never fails that I’ll eat reasonably all day and then for whatever reason, come 10pm, I want to dig into my kids Halloween candy for chocolate and caramel.  OR, it’s crunchy potato chips with french onion dip I’ll randomly crave.  When I was carrying our son, I’d stop at a convenient mart and buy beef jerky.  (Don’t judge).  Obviously my body was telling me it wanted something – but what? 

Our food cravings are real and they are telling us our bodies are lacking certain things.  If you know what your body is really craving, you can try to substitute a healthier option for that craving.  After doing a little digging on Pinterest (we have a pinterest page, btw) and finding an article written on Refinery 29 by Lauren Conrad, I found the below info.  Maybe I wanted beef jerky for the sodium and what I could have eaten instead is a tuna fish sandwich.  Hmmm.  See what you think. 

If you’re craving salty foods…
“It means your body needs chloride, which is essential in order for your body to maintain healthy digestion and keep your electrolyte levels in check, according to Nutritional Wellness. Avoid super salty junk food like potato chips and eat goat’s milk yogurt or fish instead. Make a tuna fish sandwich or salmon salad for lunch with goat’s yogurt as a snack the next time you have a salt craving”.  I’ve also reached for a handful of salted almonds (about 10) which gives me a bit of sodium and a lot of protein and fiber. 

foodIf you’re craving sweets…
“It means your body really needs chromium, carbon phosphorous, sulfur, and tryptophan. Get these by filling up on, fresh fruit, cheese and sweet potatoes when you have a sweet tooth. This craving may also mean you’re tired, according to Shape.com. Evaluate how much you’re sleeping lately if you find yourself wanting sweets. Instead of heading for the chocolate cake, take a nap if you can. Or, go for a walk to boost your energy levels”.  I’ve found eating a juicy Apple Crisp apple or some mandarin oranges has helped curb my sweet tooth!

If you’re craving caffeine…
“It means your body needs salt and iron. To get these nutrients the healthy way, eat lean meats like chicken or turkey, eggs, or black cherries, surprisingly. If you can, a great option here would be to make an omelet with turkey and veggies, with a handful of black cherries on the side. Craving caffeine can also mean you’re actually just really thirsty or dehydrated, according to Huffington Post. Drink an entire glass of water before you reach for that second (or third) cup of coffee — you might realize you don’t even need it”.  This works!  I have a bad habit of drinking coffee all morning, especially in the colder months.  When I stop and drink 16oz of water, I no longer crave the coffee. 

If you’re craving french fries, soda, and pizza…
OH , this is my FAVORITE “food group” of all time.  I can turn down any sweet but the above is sooo hard.  When you crave these items (and other junk food), “it means your body needs calcium. Instead, fix a kale salad with steamed broccoli, chicken, breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese. It might not sound quite as good as those French fries at first, but it will leave you feeling way better, not to mention guilt-free”.

If you’re craving carbs…
“It means your body needs nitrogen, which is found in high-protein foods like fish, meat, nuts, and beans. Eat a turkey burger, a handful of almonds, or a black bean burrito bowl (black beans, corn, pico de gallo, guacamole and brown rice). You might also be craving carbs because you’re trying to cut them out of your diet completely. If this is the reason, make sure you’re eating every food group in moderation to prevent a big, unplanned carb-fest that will leave you feeling way worse”.

Did you learn anything new?  What foods do you crave the most? How do you fight the cravings?  Let us know! 

– S.O.
POB Agency