Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Year in the Life at the BCAE

Well, it’s been a year since my first class at the BCAE and I can honestly say, I think I’ve become addicted to learning...and I don’t think that’s a bad thing. What started off as taking a quick 3 hour introductory course, has become hours upon hours of learning; from new recipes to drawing body shapes to learning the ins and outs of everything Google has to offer, the BCAE has a class for everyone to learn and try something new. Within this past year, I’ve taken over 20 classes and I wanted to share the top 5 classes/teachers that I found to be my favorite/most valuable.

How It All Began:
New Year’s 2013 came by and one of my goals, (I don’t like the work resolution, goals sounds more positive), for the year was to begin to write a blog about different events and places I attend and visit throughout Boston. I had been reading blogs for a while and even had begun to write one myself, only to stop writing and forgetting about it 3 months later, so I wanted to attend a class on how to start and maintain your own blog. After doing some Google research, I found a site for the Boston Center for Adult Education and there I found classes called “Staring a Blog” & “Promoting your Blog”.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit, the idea of going to some ‘center for adult education’ didn’t sound very appealing, especially the way I thought. In my mind, I was picturing a school type atmosphere with chalkboards and those really unconformable chair desks you had to sit in, in high school. I decide to give it a shot anyways and signed up for the blogging classes- besides, the price was very right and the class time was about 2 hours, I didn’t have that much to lose.

As soon as I found the BCAE, my mind took back everything it had once thought; this place defiantly wasn’t your grandmother’s learning annex. The second I walked in, I was pleasantly surprised by the look and feel of the atmosphere, everything was very up kept and new and after being greeting by a friendly front desk worker who showed me to my class, I was even more surprised to see 2 state of the art kitchens, an area that looked like dance/exercise floor and even a music room. This was defiantly a great first impression of a place that I would soon be spending a lot of my time at and learning things I probably never would have it not been for my first class at the BCAE.

1. Staring Your Blog & Promoting Your Blog:
The first classes I’ve taken at the BCAE really helped me not only get a sense of what BCAE was all about, but also to really help get my idea of writing a blog off the ground. Taught by Sue and Chelsea of We Are Not Martha, a cooking blog, (another good tip, the teachers are just people off the street, they are actual professionals who really know what they’re talking about), the class went over from explaining what a blog actually is, where to write and host your blog and what to write on your first blog post. Their second class ‘Promoting Your Blog’ focused more on where your should be promoting your blog online, attending different bloggers networking events and even how to make potential business partners to blog about their product/services and maybe even make money on the side. I’m very happy to say, that although it’s not perfect, I’ve been keeping up with my blogging for almost a year!

2. Cooking with Diane Manteca
There are some things that are harder in life than others and for me one of those things is cooking/baking/anything that is done in the kitchen. It’s not that I hate cooking; I just have no idea what I’m doing or what half the ingredients/instructions even mean on a recipe. Enter Diane Manteca, cooking extraordinaire. Diane has been teaching at the BCAE for 20 years and I’m sure that every dish she’s made there has been nothing but unbelievably delicious. I’ve taken a few cooking different cooking classes with her but her specialty is Italian cooking. (Tip, everything tastes and cooks better with wine!). In 3 hours, you’ll go from hungry and not knowing the difference between a tomato and pepper, to being completely stuffed with delicious food and knowing every type of spice actually is and tastes like in your spice rack. P.S- when taking Diane’s class…always bring Tupperware, you’ll have leftovers for a few days.

3. How to Figure Out Your Digital Camera/Digital Photography Classes
Another key to having a good blog is having good pictures. I got a beautiful camera for Christmas a while back but besides taking it out of the box once or twice, I really didn’t know how to use it to its fullest potential, which when I saw “How to Figure Out Your Digital Camera”, I immediately signed right up. Chris Padgett was the instructor for not only this class but just about all the other digital photography classes at the BCAE and there is a very good reason why- he’s absolutely gifted at what he does. He was extremely helpful in leading the class on how to use everyone’s different digital cameras including mine (Nikon 1, not you ‘professional’ camera but still digital), as well as, how to use the focus lens and which ISO (light sensitivity) to use for which shots. He also showed us how to take better photos by choosing one focus point and using your camera in different angles. Recently, Chris created a photo shoot called “Bled for Boston”, photos of people who got tattoos done right after the Boston Marathon Tragedy, which is about to be displayed at the BCAE in the coming weeks.

4. Baking with the “Bad Boy” himself, Dustin Rennells
My first class with Dustin was rather interesting to say the least. My first class with Dustin called ‘Harvest Cupcakes’ was a delectably delicious take on baking cupcakes with all the ingredients of autumn. With dozens of cupcakes baked, I took about 10 cupcakes with me, only problem was, I wasn’t going home, I was going to the ALCS Game 1 of the Red Sox game. Squished on the T, I made to Fenway Park to meet my friend, cupcakes still in tow and we made to our cheap seats for the game. During the game, we spotted a few seats right behind 3rd base up for grabs; so we went down to snag them. On our way down however, people started noticing my cupcakes and asking to purchase them. At first I decided, but the more I decided, the more people wanted these cupcakes. Finally, I gave in and stared to give away my cupcakes- the sad news of the story was that I sold all my cupcakes before I could even try one, the good news, I made $10. Morale of the story, Dustin knows baking and he knows cupcakes. His cupcake classes are some of the most popular in the baking series, especially his ‘Cupcakes & Cocktails’ classes, 3 hours of cocktails and cupcakes…and more cocktails and cupcakes. If you can’t make his class, then check out his bakeshop Bad Bay Bake Shop in Charlestown.

5. Ingenious Solutions Series
Like I had mentioned earlier, the BCAE offers many different types of classes from cooking to dancing to music and everything else in between which is great because it gives you the excuse to try everything at least once and learn something new. That’s where Ingenious Solutions Series comes in, a 3 series course focusing on Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Content Marketing Systems (CMS) and the free services that Google offers (other than Gmail). I wanted to take this series to better understand SEO and CMS for my career, as well as, my blogging. Ben Vivante was a great instructor, going through each subject slowly and in a way that everyone could understand how to promote our product/service/company on Google, creating a first time website using Joomla or Word Press, and better knowledge of Google Analytics, Drives, Calendar, and Google +. This class really got me interested in learning more about SEO and creating a better site for my blog, and now I feel confident in that I can create a more successful and searchable website.

6. What’s Next on the List?
So, that was just a few of the classes I’ve taken and my experience at the BCAE, and that doesn’t include their special events from lunch with Big Papi to Local Love Pop-up Shops, my only question to myself is, “what’s next on the list”? With new classes being offered in every catalog, I’m always excited to see what’s available. If I had to choose a couple of classes to try out, I think I would like to try a basic sewing class, (which would be really funny to watch me actually try to sew), more photography classes but above all, the classes I’d really like to attend…wine tastings of course!

Have you thought about trying or learning something new at the BCAE? Let me know what you thought, I’d love to hear about it! Hey, you never know, maybe I’ll see you at your next class!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Saturday Lunch at Del Frisco’s

On a cool, breezy Saturday afternoon, I found myself rushing to get to the latest bloggers event I was attending at Del Frsico’s in the Seaport District of Boston. Although only minutes from my work, I forgot that the T ran the weekend schedule…on the weekend, so I found myself coming in late to the sit down lunch as a presentation of food was being entered into the private dining room. Luckily for me, I was able so sneak behind the presenter and found a seat right next to some very familiar- Danielle, also known as, an acquaintance from high school, (seriously, what are the chances of seeing someone you haven’t seen in almost 12 years since high school).

While catching up with Danielle from everything to ‘what ever happened to so & so’ to ‘really, you live in Quincy? I live in Quincy!,’ I was happily greeted with a taste of Del Frisco’s own brand of red wine along with sampling of Ahi Tuna Tartare, and Crab Cake.

From there, it was an all-out feast of almost every type of food imaginable from the Tower of Onion Rings, to mini slider burgers, New York Strip Sirloin, Filet Minion, Crab Cakes, chicken, and ending in delicious (yet very filling), Lemon Cake.

Towards the end of the luncheon, I was more than stuffed, (typical me, couldn't finish what was on my plate…but I had to keep sampling everything!), I’m not sure how the buttons on my pants didn't pop off.

Lemon Cake!

Executive Chef, Derek Barragan
General Manager, Anthony Valetta
Anywhere you sit at Del Frisco’s, you’re going to have an amazing view of Boston Harbor and an unbelievably delicious meal. The wait staff and bartenders are very classy and prompt on orders and service.  Prices are a bit high, so this is definitely a recommended place for a date night or special occasion…or if you’re like me, drag the BF out on a Saturday night because you have a huge craving for decadent Lemon Cake again! Whatever the reason, I guarantee you’ll enjoy a delightful meal at Del Frisco’s! 

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mobile Monday Boston Recap- Steady Growth of Mobile Payments

This past Mobile Monday Boston, the discussion of the night was ‘The Steady Growth of Mobile Payments’, where there was a great turnout of over 250 in attendance at the Bingham Law Firm located in the Financial District, (a place with some very nice views).

Sponsors- WinterWyman, Bingham Law & Mobiquity
Thanks to our sponsors WinterWyman and Mobiquity, there were lots of networking and snacking on some good eats and drinks before the main event began. Attendees were led into a presentation area where 10 local companies had 5 minutes each to present their products of alternative payment methods. Although each speaker had only 5 minutes to present, each one did a great job explaining their brand of product. 

The audience is ready to learn more about mobile payments!
Blue Snap- An international payment gateway dedicated to converting more shoppers to buyers worldwide. Blue Snap offers all that a basic payment gateway does but with much more including: intelligent payment routing, seamless storefront integration using simple self service iFrames or an extensive API library and mobile optimized checkout pages to alleviate shopping cart abandonment.

Speaker- Ralph Dangelmaier, CEO

Leaf - Young, rapidly growing tech company changing the standards of how brick and mortar merchants do business by not only growing using their own performance data, but also improving the way they connect with their customers. By using Leaf, merchants are able to use a custom-built Tablet called LeafPresenter for cash sales, credit card terminal and full-featured Point of Sale. LeafBusiness is a comprehensive business management tool, living in the cloud, where small businesses can build custom reports of their companies data for analyzing sales and business.

Speaker - Aron Schwartzkopf, Founder & CEO of Leaf

Level Up - With over 1 million users and over 5,000 businesses nationwide, Level Up is one of the most popular ways to pay by you phone. By downloading the free app on your phone, users simply attach their credit/debit cards within the app’s secure protector. When a business accepts Level Up, the customer simply uses the QR code on their phone and reads it against the specially designed scanner, within seconds, the customer has paid and the business actually saves money by being charged a smaller fee than they would be using a regular POS transaction device. Best of all, the more times you use Level Up at the same location, the better rewards the customer receives as a great incentive to keep coming back.

Speaker - Nick Herbold, Developer

Liberty Teller - Move over green paper with dead presidents, outta the way plastic card because here comes Bitcoins! (Editor’s Note- I still really am not sure what a Bitcoin actually is or what they do, all I know is, is that they are some sort of virtual currency). Although still in it’s very early stages, Bitcoins are slowly becoming more popular as a way of mobile payments and with Liberty Teller, the first public Bitcoin machine in the U.S., the trend will only continue to grow. Liberty Teller allows you to put in cash for Bitcoins to use make purchases online and in stores.

Speaker - Chris Yim, co-founder of Liberty Teller

Loop Pay -(Editor’s Note- I am guilty of the following: having way too many credit/debit cards, having an extra wallet just for my gift cards and I have about an extra 20 loyalty cards that I keep in my bag at all times because, you just never know). However with Loop, you can scan or swipe all your cards, including debit/credit, gift cards, loyalty cards and even ID cards right into your phone and use them just about everywhere without merchants needing to change anything in their systems. What’s more, Loop can enable valuable commercial interactions with participating card issuers and merchants by providing in-app specials, along with real time account and credit balance information, and more.

Speaker -Damien Balsan, EVP Business Development

Mobiquity - With locations around the world, Mobiquity is an innovative firm that simplifies mobile for hundreds of companies. They push the envelope of innovation to deliver the right solution to address business challenges or surface business opportunities by designing, building, deploying and managing mobile solutions that work for your business.

Speaker - Andy Nanopoulos - Director Core Technology
Our speakers of the night!
Paydient - Provides a white label mobile wallet platform that includes mobile payments, loyalty, offers, ATM cash access and related commerce services. The patented cloud-based platform enables merchants and banks to deploy their own secure mobile wallet solutions under their own brands, in their own apps.

Speaker - Mark Budreski, Vice President, National Accounts

PayPal Media Network - Formerly the Boston based-startup WHERE, PayPal Media Network assists retailers and brands to engage consumers, drive commerce and compete in the omni-channel marketplace by providing target advertising and offer products that are distributed across both mobile and online channels at scale.

Speaker -Sarah Hodkinson, Director of Marketing &Sales Strategy

Looped In/PXT Payments - Smart, safe and easy mobile payment app for use in restaurants and other local merchant that also lets you send money to your friends along with a personal message and even a photo. All for Free!Receive special deals from merchants in your 'loop' — all from the convenience of your smart phone.

Speaker - John Regan, President & CEO

ROAM - Provides a full suite of mobile POS products, solutions, tools and services to many of the leading retailers and merchant-facing organizations worldwide. ROAM is proud to be called an Ingenico company and be a part of the world’s number one payment solutions provider. Together, ROAM and Ingenico have worked with card brands, merchants, retailers, processors, financial institutions and banks in many countries around the world to successfully implement industry leading mobile commerce solutions.

Speaker - Eric Spear -SVP Engineering and Professional Services

To view the entire presentation, check out our You Tube Video!

Loft Spring Style Event

Recently, I attended a Spring Style Event at Loft in the Prudential Center, an event I much need to attend for 2 reasons- 1. this winter has been not only a killer not only on my spirit but on my clothes- I’ve pretty much been wearing the same shoes, pants and sweaters since November…(and it’s really staring to show), 2. I really don’t have much of an eye for fashion, so any little help goes a long way for me. 

It’s only been about a year since I really discovered Loft. Working in a business casual setting and hitting the big 3-0, for me, it was difficult to find clothing that I really liked that would work with a business casual sense and make me look ‘age appropriate’. I admit, I still tend to shop in the Junior’s section at stores, I just like the way the clothes fit on me, plus seeing some of the models and clothes in the Women’s section either look older or just looked too sophisticated… does that even make sense? Once I discovered Ann Taylor and Loft, I was pleased to find clothes that were in style,‘age appropriate’ for me and prices that fit right into my budget. 

Spring styles at Loft!

As soon as I walked into the Loft, I was warmly greeted by Georgina & Elisa, the hostesses and coordinators of the event. I was offered a glass of champagne and cookies, which I happily accepted, (note to all retail stores- the key to more shopping and spending is offering champagne and cookies!).
Fashionistas Georgina & Elisa

I started walking around chatting with other bloggers and shoppers, while keeping my eyes open for new spring styles. It wasn’t too difficult to find some great styles and pieces, the problem was me- ‘is this a good style for me?’, ‘can I see myself wearing this?’, ‘how exactly do I wear this shirt?’ kept going through my mind. Luckily for me, Elisa & Georgina were extremely helpful in helping me pick out a few key items to start my new spring wardrobe. 
Lavender 3/4 sleeve sweater

Casual long sleeve grey shirt

Heart T-shirt- another great causal shrit

Not the biggest fan of stripes, but I really like the way this navy/white sweater fell on me 

Really like this to throw over a tank after a workout class or pair it with shorts during a cool summer night
My favorite and most "not me" find of the night- Heather Grey sweater to be worn both causally over a dress or glammed up with skinny jeans & heals!

After a couple of hours chatting, trying on clothes and getting great style advice, I walked out with a few great tops to start my new Spring wardrobe, and of course…swag bag!! (Not to mention, I won a $50 gift card to FlyWheel!)

Swag bag filled with lots of goodies! 
I can honestly say that I’ve become a big fan of Loft and will defiantly be re-stylizing my closet with all their great fashion styles!