imgresI could not let yesterday go unacknowledged.  It was a huge day for me.  I am trying to take it all in.  I knew the day would come.  It was in many ways a typical day yet all day long we both knew how the day would end.

The woman who has been an intricate part of my life, our family life, retired.  She had been with us over 15 years.  She has been one of my biggest cheerleaders.  She allowed me the ability to do so many things.  She came to us when Josh was 4 and I was moving into being an at-home Mom for awhile.  She watched me juggle being a Mom while figuring out how to return to work in my own terms.  She was my right hand person.  She kept us organized. She knew where every thing was.  She knew how to do everything from sewing to fixing jewelry.  She loved being with me in the kitchen baking, cooking, canning and tasting. She loved our dogs probably more than anything else.  She took serious pride in being our back bone and enjoyed every minute of it.  She was always there for us.  Everyone should be so lucky to have someone like her in their lives.

I am quite aware that not everyone has the means to have someone in their lives to keep their home life humming so we can focus on other parts of our lives.  It is a luxury.

As she said to me yesterday just as she did 15 years ago, it was never about the money.  I wanted to find a family that I could become part of and make their lives better.  She found that in ours yet it was truly a mutual love affair. Our entire family feels insanely lucky to not only have had her around but to have had a relationship with her.  She taught us all more than she realizes.

It was time for our next stage.  She helped raise our family and now they are all young adults.  She let me know that she is always there whenever I need her and I told her the same thing.  We both cried.

It was really a big day.

Summer jobs…

imgresI was talking to someone the other night about the importance of seeing the world from many angles.  After high school he started out sweeping the floors of construction sites.  Fast forward he owns his own company that does everything from construction management of residential and commercial properties to actually manning his own team to build.

This conversation led to summer jobs.  When you are young and not really sure what you want to do, it is those summer jobs that open your eyes to what you like, what you don’t like, how companies work, the feeling of getting a pay check and most important seeing different walks of people.

The summer of my junior year I ended up in a job that has had a lasting impact on me.  I started out that summer with a few jobs.  One of them was working a few nights a week at Bloomingdales in Chestnut Hill.  During the day I  was working for Bolt Beraneck and Newman, a technology company that provides research and development services.  I had been working for them part-time during the year and went full time for the summer.  I had got the job through my father who told me that I should apply for a Government security secret clearance and then I could work certain jobs distributing information to the analysts at technology firms.  They would pay me good money.  My father had his own engineering firm at one point so he knew the deal.

School ended and summer began.  I started full time the following Monday.  I worked for a sharp hard working young New Englander woman who was getting her law degree at night.  The first day she put me in a room with a bunch of documents and told me that she needed me to completely reorganize it.  I was done by Tuesday mid-day. I came to her for the next assignment around lunch time.  She came to see what I had accomplished.  Then she turned to me and said I thought that job was going to last you at least a few weeks.  The first thing that went through my head was “oh shit”.

She gave me my next assignment with the caveat on how long she thought it would take.  I did everything I could to extend the job.  I would take a few hours off for lunch.  I’d wander the halls.  I was beyond bored.  I just couldn’t do it.  I knew that the next project was supposed to take a couple of weeks but  also knew that I could finish it in two days.  So…I called my Dad.  Was there another opportunity he knew of where my security clearance would be of help?

My father connected me to the CEO of a major engineering company outside of Boston that worked on nuclear war heads.  I can’t remember the name of the company but it was huge. The CEO connects me to his assistant to help.  She tells me that there are jobs delivering the mail throughout the company and they could use an extra hand.  That sounded insanely boring.  So I asked if perhaps there was a grounds crew.  She looks into it, calls me back and tells me to report next Monday morning to a rather large building on the grounds to begin on Monday morning.

I show up in Timberland boots, gym shorts and a t-shirt ready to go to work.  I meet the head of the crew.  They oversee running the building that includes electrical, HVAC, plumbing and the maintenance of the grounds.  I am the only woman in the room.  I am also one of the youngest there.  They all knew that the only way I got that job was through someone.   The staff consists of local men, with deep New England accents.  A few of their sons are there for the summer too doing what I am doing; mowing lawns and maintaining the property.  All of their kids are the first in their family to go to college.  Some are there on athletic scholarships.  Every Friday night after the paychecks are handed out, they all go out for a few beers before heading home.  They are like one big extended family.

One day I was out on the grounds with my lawn mower and noticed that there was a hill that needed to be mowed. It was not an easy job but I got it done.  Nobody told me to do it or not do it.  I saw it needed mowing so I did it.  The entrepreneurial spirit kicking in as always.  At the end of every day there is always a wrap up before we are all dismissed.  Ends up the hill I mowed was designated for the “football player” and it gets mowed on a particular day every week.  Obviously I had zero idea.  The meeting starts and the foreman asks who mowed the hill?  I piped up and said that I did.  He explains to me that it wasn’t part of my job.  I come back with that I walked by it on the way back to the building and noticed it needed to be mowed so I just did it.  Needless to say that caused quite a stir particularly when he said that was the football players job.  After that I got complete respect.  None of these men and sons could believe that I just mowed the lawn for the helluva of it and the biggest job on the whole grounds.  I didn’t follow rules and I took on a project that they felt was a man’s job.

It was an incredible summer for many reasons but that job opened my eyes to a world that I probably would have never crossed paths with at such an intimate level.  Listening to their stories, their love of sports, their love of family and the majority of these men had been there for decades.  Some had been born in other countries and others had come to America very young.  They had sent their kids to college and hoped for not necessarily a better life but a different one.

That experience was one that certainly made an impact on me.  In my first job out of college I ended up managing people very similar to the ones I had worked with that summer.  I’d love to know what happened to the sons of that summer…particularly the charming amiable football player who got a free pass on mowing the hill that one week I took it on.

Gender Gap in Tech

Great video that I saw on Re/Code.  Nothing surprising but always good to hear from the people in the trenches.

Social Media is a voice

imgresJournalism has always had a voice.  Articles have shed light on atrocities, reporters have uncovered stories that have been under wraps for decades.  Now we have social media.

There is something incredible about the ability to show or tell  a story publicly through a medium without having to talk to an audience but at the same time connect to an audience.  We have all heard stories of police brutality, rough neighborhoods where innocent people were hurt or killed, improper convictions, etc.  Most of these people never had the ability to let their voices be heard but through social media the rest of us are getting a lens into some of their daily lives.  The reaction is a movement pushing bystanders to stand up and say wait a second…this should not be happening.  Social media is giving people whose voices have rarely been heard be heard.

The “Cosby” women who have come out (and found each other) around the supposed rapes that have taken place over decades might not have shared their stories if it wasn’t for social media.

I just keep thinking about the voice of social media.  There is a slow rumbling of a movement afoot.  Having a platform for unspoken voices to finally speak up is not only empowering for those people but seriously enlightening for all of us.

FEMA is an insurance company

imgresThis is something that has been on my mind forever but because we were one of the many buildings, people, businesses etc whose fate was in the hands of FEMA to pay claims I never wrote about it.  Then this week there was an article in the NYTimes of the painful attempts of many who did not receive their full claims and have until 9/15 before the case is closed.

So here is our story.  We had insurance for our building and for many reasons we ended up going with an insurance company based in Florida for our building instead of Chubb.  Chubb is not for everyone.  They are expensive but not using them was our first mistake.  An insurance broker that our building management agency relied on gave us the option of going with a company called American Bankers.  I knew nothing of this company until after Sandy when I finally found it on the web.  There was nobody to talk to and it appeared to be a FEMA backed insurance company.

I am calling the insurance brokers daily if not twice a day post-Sandy.  They were overwhelmed to say the least.  Weeks and week of headaches, heartache and stress is an understatement.  People from the insurance agency came out to assess the property damage weeks after.  They stayed maybe 45 minutes and left.  We have zero idea when we will be reimbursed for the damage.  Don’t we have insurance for this?

Our building was not in a flood zone until after Sandy.  I have the maps that say that we are right next to the flood zone but not in it.  That changed after Sandy. We finally have a meeting with everyone in the building including the insurance broker and our managing agency.  Here is what we find out.  We have a FEMA backed policy. I went crazy.  If I had known that I would not have called the insurance broker daily for a month and btw I tortured them.  If they had been honest from the onset of what we had purchased I would have known immediately we were fucked.   Here is what that means.  Each month we have been paying American Bankers for insurance but who we are really paying is FEMA.  FEMA is an insurance agency.

Essentially we pay FEMA for these insurance policies that they guarantee through insurance companies (questionable) and when there needs to be payment back to the policy holder based on something like Sandy or Katrina they pay back (if you are lucky) less than 50% of what you need.  Now you can fight them which takes serious time, effort and money because they do not want to pay you anymore than that.  What they wanted, what they asked for, how they delayed it was atrocious.  We jumped through all the hoops several times to get what we were owed.  We never got fully paid back.  We are lucky because our building can afford to fix everything and just be pissed at the insurance agency. It won’t kill us.  For others who rely on that policy who can’t afford the extra it takes to actually put their homes back together is devastating.

I told our Senators about this.  They had no idea, truly.  Essentially FEMA is paid through insurance companies for policies held by them.  Then once they need to pay out they only pay out 25-40 cents on the dollar.  To put it bluntly our government takes money monthly from their people to insure them and then screws them by not completely covering them.  It makes zero sense.

Granted there are people who live in areas that are continually flooded so perhaps policies should change.  It should be like car insurance.  You can not drive out of the lot without insurance.  If you want to buy a piece of property that is in a flood zone then let the private insurance companies set policies (let capitalism work) and people will decide whether they can afford those policies or not and in turn make a decision if that piece of property (home) is worth acquiring.

There are plenty of families whose lives are still disrupted by Katrina (10 years later) and Sandy.  FEMA will never pay them full dollar for what their homes were insured for and they do not have the extra cash to rebuild.   I’ve never seen a reporter dig into this.  Someone should.  The next disaster will create upheaval in the community and peoples lives again and again but there should be some solace if you know that your insurance company has your back.  FEMA does not.



What exactly is an entrepreneur?

WEFEST6Brad Feld wrote a post in July that we need a new word for entrepreneur.  That post really stuck with me.   So..what exactly is an entrepreneur?  Entrepreneur is defined as a person who organizes and operates a business or businesses, taking on greater than normal financial risks in order to do so.   A founder is defined as one that founds or establishes.  These are very different definitions and should be noted.

I started using the word founder when I talk about the person who has started a company vs entrepreneur.  Although founders are very entrepreneurial so are many people and that doesn’t mean that they started a company.

Next April will be the 6th Women’s Entrepreneur Festival.  I am more excited about this event for several reasons.  The event is going to be held at 1 World Trade Center, the event will be taking itself on the road out of the NYU setting, we will be able to have more attendees and we will be able to create a new dialogue with multiple speakers and panels.

WEFestival has always been about celebrating women entrepreneurs.  The attendees are across many verticals. Someone who runs a large division inside a company is an entrepreneur because they have to be innovative in order to succeed.  A doctor who creates innovative products for their patients  makes them an entrepreneur.  Someone who runs the family business is generally entrepreneurial.  The word entrepreneur is about being a leader, being innovative and being able to take risks.  WEFestival has always wanted to champion those women and will continue to do so.

One of the conversations is that women should not pigeon hole themselves.  We have to be more strategic in our our skills using them not only to apply to our families but our businesses as well.  There is a balance between using your heart and using your brain.  There are so many ways to be entrepreneurial and that is what WEFestival embraces.

Bottom line is just because you aren’t a founder doesn’t mean you are not an entrepreneur.

Union Square Cafe

I love Union Square Cafe.  We have been going there since the doors opened.  I honestly can not count the many times that we have dined there for lunch and dinner.  It is a classic.  The doors will be closing soon but reopening in a brand new location on Park and 21st.  Not that far from where they are now….and most important close enough to Union Square Park Greenmarket where the chef shops.

It was Fred’s bday this past week and we were in the city.  We chose USC to celebrate with the whole family…we also wanted to get one last meal in the old location.  It was top on our priority list.

oystersDinner was so good.  We began with a glass of champagne and oysters.

crabsEveryone had an appetizer too.  Crispy soft shell crab in a corn-coconut broth with nectarines and Thai bird chiles.

carpacciousBeef sirloin carpaccio with crispy artichokes and shaved parm over the top.  This was amazing.

tomatoTomato salad.  I can’t help ordering it anywhere and everywhere in August.   Perfect with a little basil and herbed goat cheese.

scallopsThere was also a scallop crudo with avocado puree, spiced melon and cilantro

frascatelli with cornWe split a few pastas for the table.  Frascatelli with pancetta, sweet corn and black pepper cream.  You could eat it with a spoon.  Super creamy.

pastatomatogarlicCavatelli with eggplant, spicy tomato sauce and ricotta salata was too heavy on the garlic for me.

pearavioliSweet pea and ricotta ravioli was amazing.  I do love how the chef is creative with each dish using the products of the season.  Corn was a favorite tonight.

barstewMain courses.  Octopus, cod and mussel brodetto was really interesting.  There were also spicy pork meatballs and shisito peppers in this.  Nice kick.  I am not a huge fan of cod.  I find it too light and not that interesting but the other parts of this entree really sparked my interest.

swordfishSwordfish with a fava bean hummus, quinoa salad and olivado.  Tasted like a perfect summer evening.

smokedpaprikaThere were a few other entrees on the table but these are the ones I captured.   This side dish was amazing.  Corn, butter and smoked paprika.  Simple and addictive.

banantartsDessert was a must.  The USC banana tart has been around forever.  It still reigns supreme.  Gooey bananas over a macadamia brittle and honey-vanilla ice-cream.

chocoalteSalted chocolate cake with dark chocolate frosting and ice milk.

threberryparfairGrilled peach sundae with cherries, black pepper cream and cream cheese ice cream.

blueberrypieBlueberry with an oatmeal crumble and sweet corn ice cream on top.  Wow.

Incredible meal, great celebration and a nice send off from us to USC.  Looking forward to seeing the next generation of USC.

Ellen Bennett, Hedley & Bennett, Woman Entrepreneur

Ellen_Bennett_838cf456-4dfa-4de5-bf4f-ea7ebf9408adMy sister-in-law met Ellen at a Ted event.  She said that I had to talk to her.  Then Jen Bekman sent me an email the day I was going to talk to Ellen saying that I should really talk to her.  It took me about 10 seconds on the phone to know why my sister-in-law was taken in with Ellen.  She has had a carrot dangling in front of her nose from the second she shot out of the womb.  Not sure she knew why she had to follow that carrot but Hedley & Bennett is now a company of over 40 people in 14,000 square feet she might have figured it out.

Ellen grew up in Glendale, Los Angeles.  She’d spend a few months a year in Mexico with her Grandma who she is very close to.  Her mother is from Mexico and her father is from England.  Two totally different worlds.  Her Mom is a registered nurse.  Her father is a pilot for American Airlines.  Ellen grew up in a Mexican oriented hard working family that would eat also Walkers shortbread and sip tea.

Ellen just loved Mexico.  After graduating high school she decided she wanted to move to Mexico City.  Her parents were not thrilled with the move to Mexico City.  They wanted Ellen to go to college and so she did.  She applied for a Mexican citizenship at 19 so she could to go college there.  Her parents were not interested in supporting her school there so Ellen figured out how to do it herself.  She became the announcer for the daily Mexican lottery winners, she became a talk show host on TV for an America football show, she was a translator for for the Mexican train unions, she taught English to kids…and in between did commercials and a bit of modeling.  This is while going to school.  Just like everything else she did, she hustled to make it work.

She went to Cessa University‘s culinary school and studied restaurant administration.   She made a deal with her Dad that she would learn how to cook in an actual kitchen.  He liked that idea and was willing to support it.  So Ellen began to get cooking apprentices outside of school.  This all took place between 2007-2010.  During this time and all the many jobs she had she learned how insanely bureaucratic Mexico is and figuring it out ended up being a great asset for building her business.

Once Ellen graduated she began taking finance courses along side her culinary work.  She started a rental business.  She would sublet rooms to students from America.  The woman is super entrepreneurial.  All of this took place before she was 23.  Two years more and it was time to go home.

At 23 she decided that before she lost her flight privileges through her father she would take a solo trip around the world.  She has zero itinerary, she just got on a plane and began.  Ellen started in NYC, then to Europe, Canada, Asia and South America…and in that order.  She would just keep moving.  She’d get to Rome and decide I’ve done it, go to the airport and just get on the plane that was available for the next stop.  Zero rhyme or reason.

When she had enough she returned to LA.  What came out of the trip was the realization of how accessible the world was.  It opened her eyes to what she could do on a small budget.  It honed her scrappy skills that included being able to figure it out and make it happen.

Ellen decided that she had this education and interest in the culinary world so she should get a job in a restaurant.  She got a list of the top 10 restaurant in LA and cold called them all by stopping by.  Two of them said they’d give her a shot.  One of them was Baco Mercat  He put her on the Friday night line.  The other restaurant that said they’d give her a try was Providence.  This was a Michelin rated restaurant.  Totally different experience.  They didn’t really have a job per se but let her come around and learn while they got to know her.  She got a job a week and a half after doing that.  She kept both jobs for two years.  One in fast casual and the other in fine dining.

After two years things started to shift.  The owner of Baco Mercat mentions that he is going to have this girl make aprons for the restaurant.  Ellen tells him let me make them.  He said yes and gave her a 40 unit order.  Ellen did not have a plan, a pattern or any idea what she was about to do but as always figured it out.

Ellen grew up loving design.  As a kid she they would drive by a house and she’d comment how she would paint the house a different color or how to improve a design.  She decided to call her company Hedley after her English Grandpa who she would drink tea with, the dignified classy side of the family and then Bennett was her crazy Mexican side.  The brand is dignified yet crazy.

Her aprons took off.  She began to pound the pavement and get order after order.  She’d go to green markets and talk to the purveyors, she’d work for free for a chef…it was pure gorilla marketing.  She learned from all those conversations what people wanted in their apron.  She would make them what they wanted and then go the extra mile by hand delivering the order wrapped in paper with a bow on top.

In six months Ellen went from making the original 40 aprons to 100 a week.  They started in July 2012 and by December Cool Hunting wrote about her and it was crazy.  I remember reading about Ellen the first time in that post.  She stayed up all night before that post and built her own website.

Three years later Ellen continues to grow the business to business end, they also have a wholesale and retail business.  There are 40 people in-house who just make the aprons.  There is also a team of PR, finances, sales, marketing, operations, customer service and shipping people.  The best thing is she owns this business 100%.  Totally bootstrapped it on her own.

They recently moved into a 14,000 square foot facility in Vernon where everything is under one roof.  She wants to have tours for schools too so she can talk about how you build something from the ground up.  They are expanding into napkins, chef and kids coats.  They just recently made a 4XL coat for a 500 lb chef.   She wants everyone to wear her products.

Ellen is a rocket.  Even keeping up with her story through conversation was riveting.  I give her such a nod for doing it all herself.  She took chances and faked it until she made it at every turn.  That is what I call an entrepreneur.



One of the best things about being in the city during August is getting into any restaurant is a lot easier than other times of the year.  PokPokNy is one I never got to when it first opened.  The lines were insanely long.  Now they take reservations for half the restaurant and walk-ins for the other half.  I really like that approach.  I also forgot how much I love Thai food.

The restaurant has a great neighborhood vibe with checkered table clothes, a nice long bar, plastic plates and a friendly staff.  The food is delicious.  I am definitely going back…sorry it took me so long to get there.  There were four of us and I do recommend going with a group so you can taste more.  A sharing kind of place.

drinkI went for the Singha beer but one of us had a cocktail.  There are a bunch of them.  Kind of love the glass it came in.

ribsThe food comes out when it is done.  First thing out was the pork ribs.  Pork ribs marinated in soy, honey, ginger and Thai spices.  The meet comes off the bone.  Delicious and sticky on the fingers.

stickyriceSticky rice comes to the table in these little baskets.  Perfect for sopping up some of the heat of the other dishes we were about to get.

curryThis is a Northern Thai curry so it is relatively mild although there are plenty of things on the table to heat it up.  This was delicious.  A perfect balance of coconut, curry paste, pickled vegetables, greens, noodles and chicken.  I would have been happy to have this whole thing to myself.

porkbellyAnother Northern Thai curry.  Sweet pork belly with ginger, tamarind and palm sugar.  Delish.

chickenThey are known for their wings.  Crispy deep fried fish sauce and sugar wings.

steadFlank steak salad with fish sauce, lime and chili powder, shallots, lemongrass and cilantro.  Spicy.

mangoDessert should be called for in advance.  We got the last plate of this.  Sticky sweet coconut rice with slice mangos.  Wow.

Returning for sure!

Taverna Kyclades

We came back into the city this past Sunday from the end of Long Island.  You never know how bad the traffic will be.  We decided that we should stop in Queens and have dinner so break up the trip.  We used Waze and it took us through the start of Long Island into Queens.  I always love driving through different areas of NY.  We first drove through Italy and then made our way into India.  You know you are back in NYC when the restaurant is filled with people from every single country around the globe.  It is what makes this city so amazing.

Taverna Kyclades was packed.  People waited outside in line for awhile before a seat was available.  Classic Greek restaurant.  I admit we order the same thing every time we go to a Greek restaurant so having a menu is almost pointless.  The place is worth the trip.

greeksaladGreek Salad

octoGrilled Octopus

fishGrilled Dorado

chardSwiss Chard ( I usually order spinach but this is what they had)

greekdessertGalaktoboureko – custard wrapped in phyllo dough.

Traffic was much better after dinner!