The Lesson of the Cherry Tree

Spring is breathtaking in its beauty, and heartbreaking with its wildly fluctuating temperatures, sudden storms and flash floods. For me, spring also means longer days that quickly get filled with spring sports, parties, festivals and a host of other commitments.It's as if the whole world has come out of hibernation and needs to get things done - now!

The cherry blossoms here are spectacular right now, and the annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington DC is one of the many things you could be doing this weekend. I'm sure you are aware that the cherry trees adorning our nation's capitol were a gift from the Japanese. 3000 of them, in fact, were given to the US as a token of friendship in 1912. Interesting that these trees that repeatedly set the tidal basin abloom every year have abided through times when our friendship with the Japanese was not quite so - friendly.

Now we are grieving with our Japanese friends in a most tragic time in their national history. The annual celebration of the cherry blossom has been an integral part of their culture for centuries, and the cherry blossom especially represents the transience of life. I can't help but think that this year these festivals will be particularly poignant.

Spring, in all its glory and drama, is a powerful image of change, and we all respond to change differently. Change is good. Change is difficult. Change is scary. Time for a change. I need a change. I hate change.  Staff changes in the office, ownership changes in business, policy and procedure changes, the we've-always-done-it-this-way, why change?  - how do you respond to change?

The cherry tree reminds us that change is inevitable, that life is seasonal and cyclical, but most of all it stands for hope. You see, planting a tree is an act of faith. You don't plant a tree for yourself, you plant a tree for the future, for those who come after you. Mayor Yukio Ozaki of Tokyo had no idea that Japan and the US would become bitter enemies less than 30 years after his gift of friendship, and yet his gift of hope transcended war and politics and remains today, providing generation after generation joy, wonder, delight and shade. That is surely something to celebrate.

Vmeals Welcomes New Partner H2BROs to Metro DC

Vmeals is pleased to announce a great new partner in the northern Virginia/metro DC area: H2BRO!

H2BRO is one of those "why didn't I think of that?" ideas. Conceived as a simple, easy way to get beverages to their fellow students affordably and in bulk, we knew we were a match made in heaven.

Vmeals lives for bringing simplicity, ease and convenience to our clients through online ordering and delivery to offices or meeting locations, so we knew the H2BROs would be a great solution for our corporate clients. Hey, why should students have all the fun?

Check out the H2BRO menu today and give them a try next time you need beverage service.

Vmeals Baltimore Welcomes Sunshine Grille and Bacoli Delight

Vmeals is pleased to announce two great new catering partners in the Baltimore metro area: Sunshine Grille and Bacoli Delight!

Sushine Grille is one of Boordy Vineyard's premier caterers, just one bite and you will understand why. They have a menu for every palate: from Vegan to Venison.

Looking for an alternative to the standard continental breakfast buffet? Try one of Sunshine Grille's omlette or waffle bars. That's sure to take your meeting productivity up a notch!

And whether it's lunch or dinner, you'll find something for any occasion, from boxed lunches to deluxe buffets. (I dare you not to linger over the dessert menu a little too long.)

Bacoli Delight is a family-owned restaurant focused on embracing the Italian dining experience and sharing it with every customer. Their slogan: Let our family cook for yours! means your meal is prepared with love - and nothing tastes better than that!

A long-time establishment in Baltimore, Bacoli Delight serves classic Italian dishes made of the finest ingredients at affordable prices. Now you can get all that goodness with the ease of online ordering conveniently through Vmeals.

Check out the Sunshine Grill menu and the Bacoli Delight menu and give them a try for one of your next events.

The 3 You Don't Want to Meet (or be) at Your Next Networking Event

Conference season is gearing up, and Vmeals had the pleasure of attending one this past weekend.

Mary Pat shows off  how easy Vmeals is.

The ALA (Association of Legal Administrators) had a statewide retreat at the beautiful Boar’s Head Inn in Charlottesville, Virginia. Vmeals was there as a business partner because law firms often have food brought in, and we are a busy administrators best friend.

I love being able to attend events like this because I rarely get out from behind my monitor to meet and greet and talk in real life to customers and potential customers. For all the time I spend writing copy and extolling the virtues of Vmeals virtually, once in a while it’s good to see someone’s face, tell them our story, see their immediate response, answer their questions, and hear their delight when they say, “What a great idea!”

Conferences and tradeshows are great ways for attendees to get out of their day-to-day routine, learn new things, and network with their peers. For us vendors, they serve much the same purpose. We get to market in an extra-ordinary way, learn about all the other products and services of interest to our target audience, and network with attendees and fellow vendors. Networking can be fun, because everyone is there with the express intention of meeting new people and learning about what they do. At a networking event, you may not know many or anybody there, but almost everyone is anxious to meet you.

I am not especially social. I had pretty good southern home-training in hospitality and etiquette, so I know how to get along, but it is still fairly nerve-racking for me to have to go to a social event and make conversation. I’ve found that’s true for most people at these events. They are at once energizing and anxiety producing, so good training becomes even more critical to prevent some serious networking faux pas. I observed a few offenders who proved quite instructive on what NOT to do at one of these events:

The Busy Bee
There was one woman at the conference who worked for a company with the word stealth in its name. Perhaps this is why she felt the need to blindside me repeatedly. As I made my rounds, every so often she would appear suddenly in the middle of my conversation and interrupt. She would slice in with a precision arm-extended-waiting-for-a-handshake, say a few well rehearsed words, and buzz away. Had this happened only once, I may have not made note of it, but it happened so often that my good southern home-training very nearly failed me.

The Leech
This guy has been to a lot of trade shows. His only interest is complaining and waiting for the bar to open. He’s tired, he’s seen it all, and he only wants to talk to you. It is really easy to get sucked in by one of these guys. In your desire for conversation and someone who is interested in talking to you, it is too easy to spend way too much time with just one person and miss the economy of scale a large event like this brings.

Keep the conversation light, positive, and tune in to the cues that you need to move on. And when you find someone with whom you really connect and want to spend more time with, circle back briefly at different points during the event and continue the conversation after the event is over. Don’t become the leech.

The Party Animal 
I kept finding myself in in the midst of two individuals who were constantly speaking in innuendo and double entendres. Now to be fair, they were only doing this with each other (I was NOT subject to unwanted advances), but I was sure a hook-up was in the future and I kept feeling like a third wheel.

Never, never, never forget that this is a professional event – not a fraternity party. Even if a DJ, dancing, and open bar are on the agenda, restraint and discretion will always be better with breakfast than a  big bowl of regret.

The best example of a networking DO?
How about the (social) butterfly? This one is a joy to see coming, lands gently, and stays just long enough to leave the beholder wanting more. Thankfully, I met more beautiful butterflies than anything else.

Have you ever met one of these characters? Got any good tradeshow stories to share?

Peace Catering Joins Vmeals in Philadelphia

Vmeals is pleased to announce a great new catering partner in the Philadephia metro area: Peace Catering!

If you are looking for the grooviest pizza ever, Peace Catering is right on! Now their menus are available to you for easy online ordering and delivery to your office or meeting through Vmeals. It doesn't get much easier than that!

If you think pizza is a tired choice, think again. Peace Catering doesn't just offer up the usual combos. How about honey-lime chicken pizza or carmelized onion and arugula pizza or mac-n-cheese pizza? Yeah, you read that right.

If you still think pizza is too cheesy, there are fabulous sandwich and salad options available as well, so you should have no trouble finding something for everyone on your guest list.

Check out the Peace Catering menu today and give them a try for your next event.

New Vmeals Partner in Richmond

Vmeals is pleased to announce a great new restaurant partner in the Richmond area: Current.

Current is a gem hidden downtown in the old "hat factory" and is now available to you for easy online ordering and delivery to your office or meeting location. Be sure to check out their great selection of boxed lunch sandwiches and salads for your next working lunch in the conference room.

Got a bigger crowd? You'll find a wonderful assortment of platters, trays and buffet choices. I'm thinking the Southern Comfort buffet with buttermilk fried chicken, whipped potatoes and greens sounds pretty good right now.

To celebrate our new partnership, Current is offering FREE brownies with every order this month! That is nothing but good news, right there

If you're downtown in the Shockoe Valley this weekend, be sure to stop by and check out their signature bourbon bar (hello - it is Virginia!) and burgers.

Check out the Current menu today and give them a try for your next event.

iPad Winner Revealed

I just love this video - and not only for those green shoes (which I do love), but because all I did was post it.

Our creative team included our customer service manager, our business manager and our accountant. Ann, Dawn and Kathy conceived and executed the idea, and they showed what it means to be part of the Vmeals team.

One thing we really value in this office is the ability and willingness to take a step beyond what's expected and do just a little bit more. It's how we learn, how we grow, how we have fun. They were so excited for our winner, they wanted to create a really special announcement to celebrate. They showed (again) our genuine affection for our customers, friendors, and supporters.

If that warm fuzzy feeling isn't inspiring enough for you, how about if we give away another iPad? That's right, we'll be giving away one more on April 1st - no foolin'! We just like going a little beyond what's expected.

Does Daylight Savings Time Actually Save Anything?

Does anyone else find that daylight savings time gets harder for a few days before it gets better?

Sunday morning my family was up and ready for church earlier than usual, even after losing an hour in the night. I powered through a very full day of church and kid activities, yard work, visiting with friends, and getting ready for the work week.

But on Monday we struggled. Everyone I ran into yesterday was sleepy, disoriented, or cranky. Today is not much better, and I found it even harder this morning to get up at my “usual” time.

I overheard a very lively debate on the value of daylight savings time at the gym last week. One woman asked why we still fool around with changing clocks. Another tried to explain that it went back to our history as an agricultural society and was for the benefit of school children that had to work on the farm. (Not exactly true, BTW.)

The first woman wasn’t buying it. She said, “You still have the same amount of daylight, so why not change the hours of school? Why change the clocks?”

The other woman said it was because the days got longer.


She insisted that when you changed the clocks, the days got longer.

The first woman became increasingly exasperated, and for good reason. As riveting as this inane conversation was, it made me think of two things:

1. We do a lot of things without any idea why we do them.

2. When called upon to explain our actions, we often make up stupid answers.

If you want to really know about the history of daylight savings, here is a good article on the subject from National Geographic. And while there is some historical relation between daylight savings and energy savings, this article cites an increasing body of evidence that suggests there may not be any energy savings and it may actually be an energy suck.

I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling like I really lost more than an hour. I’ve lost productivity because I am not quite on my game. I’ll spend the rest of the week trying to shake that nagging sensation of jet lag.

So what do you think? Has fiddling with the clocks outlived it usefulness in a world that is online and connected 24/7? Does it matter what the clock says when we wake and work or only what we accomplish in those hours?

How do you adjust to the time change?

Vmeals Welcomes The Pita Pit Charlottesville

Vmeals is pleased to announce a great new restaurant partner in Charlottesville: The Pita Pit!

The Pita Pit has been a popular choice for Vmeals customers in Philadelphia, Boston and Detroit and we are glad to offer this affordable, healthy choice to our Charlottesville customers now as well.

The Pita Pit creates delicious sandwiches on their own light and tasy Lebanese style pita bread, a fresh alternative to subs and pizzas - now with easy online ordering and delivery to your office or meeting location.

You are sure to find something to please anyone in the office: classic meat and cheese combos, great vegetarian options, and hearty breakfast pitas. And if you love that Middle Eastern flavor, be sure to try the hummus or babaganoush.

Check out the Pita Pit menu today and give them a try for your next event.

Almost Helpful or Almost Harmful?

Seriously, don't just sit there.
So how is your march moving along? I don’t mean your month, but rather (as I wrote about here last week) your march on your objectives. If there’s something you want to accomplish, at some point you have to make a move, take a step and march in the direction of your target.

For me, my marching orders were to blog everyday – not just for the Vmeals Daily Dish, but for any of the blogs to which I contribute. Well, it is March 8th, and I am on blog post number three. You can do the math to reach the same conclusion I have: my march has gotten bogged down.

So what to do now? Do I just put down my pack and sit down in the road? Of course not. I keep going. That’s the great thing about marching – you just keeping pressing forward. You may not be moving fast, but if you keep moving you can’t help but make progress.

I went in search of a little help for my mental logjam by way of a website called OneWord. It’s simple; you are given one word and sixty seconds to write as you feel led by that word. I find a writing prompt to be helpful because it gives me bridge between writer’s block(or inertia) and production. It’s not all going to be solid gold, but it won’t be anything if I don’t get started.

Today’s word was “almost”. I was thinking about while I was on the treadmill this morning; "almost" can be a powerful motivational tool. If I have a big task ahead of me, I can get overwhelmed by it. If I break it down, I can keep myself going by telling myself I’m almost there. It’s much easier to think about running another quarter mile than about another three miles or to commit to write one more paragraph rather than focus on the 10,000 words I need to turn out.

I know someone who says, “I can do anything for 15 minutes”, and I think that’s pretty much true. I’ve gotten myself through hours of hard work just by telling myself I only have 15 more minutes. The “almost” there strategy makes it easier to keep going.

But let’s face it: "almost" is double edged sword and it can certainly cut the other way. If you only ever get almost there, it can get pretty demoralizing. Almost completing a marathon, but pulling up lame in the last two miles is crushing. Almost making the team doesn’t soothe the sting of getting cut, and almost having enough money doesn’t keep the lights on.

So what does "almost" mean to you? Do you find it more encouraging or discouraging? What will it mean to you "almost" make your goal? Will it be disappointing or good enough?

Forward March!

The Vmeals Marching Band*
If January is the month for resolve and February the month of the heart, what then shall we do with March?

Well, we could succumb to March Madness or spring forward or hope we get lucky, but I’m going to suggest we observe March in a more a verbatim way and set about marching on our objectives.

Many of us made resolutions or set some small goals for ourselves back in January, and I’ve written here about examining our heart’s desires and being intentional and faithful, but eventually we arrive at a point where action is what is required.

What action can you take next to achieve your desired result? How about if we commit to a single action item every day in March that will bring us one step closer to our goal – the forward march towards our objective.

And I think marching is a great way to think about making progress. Marching is not sprinting. Marching is not strolling. Marching is not wandering, skipping, or laying in a grassy field. Marching is taking one deliberate step after another towards a defined target.

Marching is also generally done in groups. A marching band is entertaining because it’s impressive to see a large group working with coordinated effort to create something beautifully precise and complex. Armies impress by moving with force in mass, and they usually overcome because they keep marching.

So add some power to your march by finding others of like mind and shared goals. That could be your coworkers, a support group, or your social network – but to be sure, there is power in community.

*This is really the UVa marching band. For those who think I'm showing partiality - I am - but here's one for you, too.

So what are you marching towards this month?