Marketing Problem Solver

Author: atrueb00 (Page 2 of 3)

Pollinators at the La Porte County Fair

Like many other Mid-westerners, I made my way to our local county fair last night for some good food and a look at the 4H projects. My mom accompanied me and as we wandered around, we saw a lot of things you’d expect to see at the fair: animals, quilts, funnel cakes…and then we stumbled upon something not so expected: a pollinator garden! In between two conservation buildings, where there once was just grass and dirt, our community planted perennial flowers known to draw in pollinators. What’s more is they labeled all of the plants and added in bee sculptures and signs to help inform people on the importance of pollinators.

Pollinator Garden

I love that the county took a part of the fairgrounds that was overlooked and made it into something special. I recognized a lot of the flowers they had planted, such as beebalm, coneflowers, black eyed susans and joe pye weed. There were a lot there that I didn’t recognize but thanks to the labeling I was able to see what it was: Himalayan Indigo, Appalachian Indigo-bush, Apricot Sprite Hyssop and more. I even found a bumble bee on some of the Himalayan Indigo! If you would like to learn what plants attract pollinators that would do well in your region, check out this free plant resource on

As we walked around we found some really cool signs to help educate people on what pollinators do, what pollinators are native to Indiana what goes into a pollinator habitat. One sign was from the conservationists, one was from NOAA and the other was from the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation.

Pollinator Habitat Sign

Native Bees Sign

Pollinator Power

We also overheard a mother walking with her 4 daughters in tow, saying how pollinators were important. The youngest one affirmed, “they provide the food we eat!” I was so happy to hear that they knew why pollinators are important. This public space helped start a conversation about pollinators and instead of children running away in fear of bees, they were exploring the garden hoping to find some.

Towards the back of the garden, there were benches to sit on, a water garden and compost bins. I haven’t been to our local county fair in years, so I am not sure how new the pollinator garden is. I am just happy to have it in our community for people to enjoy and hopefully learn a couple of tips to attract pollinators to their own yard. Find a pollinator garden near you by checking out this map from

Honeybees & Insects with Stingers: Can You Tell the Difference?

I came across an article with research showing most adults have a difficult time distinguishing honeybees from other insects with stingers. I often speak with people who think they have a honeybee swarm for me to come and take, but they are actually dealing with yellow jackets and wasps. I also hear from a lot of people who are afraid of honeybees based off of past experiences with stinging insects. I’d like to talk about the most common insects with stingers and dispel some of the myths about the humble honeybee.

Suspect #1 – The Yellow Jacket

Yellow Jacket Nest Yellow Jacket

I remember seeing these around more than any other type of bee when I was growing up. One time I even got stung by one and it hurt a lot. Some people also call these wasps, which is technically correct, as they are a type of wasp. The yellow jacket gets its name from its yellow and black bands that cover its body. Two things really separate them from honeybees in my opinion: yellow jackets’ legs are usually all yellow and they do not have any hairs on their bodies. Another difference is the hive the yellow jacket builds. Their nest is round and made of a papery-looking substance. Yellow Jacket Ground NestYellow jackets are also known to build a nest under ground. If you disturb a nest, my advice is to get away from it as soon as possible and come back later to burn the hive.

How they are different from honeybees: Yellow jackets are bright yellow, carnivores, they can sting and their venom is painful.

 Suspect #2 – The Wasp

Wasp Nest


Wasps have bodies similar to  hornets but have red and brown colors. I haven’t seen these too much in Northern Indiana, but I must say, just looking for pictures online of them made me a little scared. A wasp is technically anything that isn’t a bee or an ant, which leaves a lot of room for ambiguity. They can make hives similar to yellow jackets, but I have seen nests without a cover, as in the picture I have here.

How they are different from honeybees: Wasps are much darker and skinnier. They inject a paralyzing venom into victims and then eat them. Only adults consume nectar. They can live solitary or in a community.

Suspect #3 – The Hornet

Hornet Nest

HornetHornets look like an evil cross between a yellow jacket and a wasp to me, with double the meanness. They can be larger than yellow jackets and wasps, and can be yellow striped and white striped. Their nests look just like yellow jackets’ nests. If you stumble upon a hornet nest, be very aware and get away fast. They have an attack hormone they can use to signal the entire hive against you. Hence why you don’t want to kick a hornet’s nest!

How they are different from honeybees: Hornets are larger and can sting you multiple times. Their venom contains a compound that makes the sting hurt very bad.

Suspect #4 – Carpenter Bees

Carpenter Bee Nest

Carpenter Bee

Let’s move on to some nicer bees after all these scary ones. Carpenter bees are large and fuzzy, and they don’t usually have stingers. However, they can do damage to wood. Carpenter bees build their homes in wood and raise their young in perfect circles they chew out of the wood.

How they are different from honeybees: Carpenter bees are larger, all black or violet and will build their nests in wood.

Suspect #5 – Bumble Bees

Bumblee Bee Nest

BumblebeeBumble bees are often called the teddy bears of the bee family. They are gentle giants that like to forage for nectar and pollen in gardens. They are large, very fuzzy and very loud as they buzz by. Bumble bees can produce honey, but often just enough for the queen to make it through the winter. In early spring, you might even be able to find the bumble bee queens buzzing around your yard, they are much larger than workers.

How they are different from honeybees: Bumble bees are much larger and instead of having yellow or orange on their abdomens, they primarily have the color on their thorax (the part just below their head) and black everywhere else.

This is a honeybee:

Natural Honeybee Hive


Honeybees are small and often have striped orange abdomens. They build their natural hives in trees, and their hive looks nothing like a wasp nest. These insects are hard workers and won’t hurt you unless you threaten them or their hive. If they sting you, they die quickly and can no longer help the hive.

How honeybees differ from all the usual suspects: Honeybees tend to be small and go from flower to flower in your yard. They are herbivores and don’t kill other insects unless they are attacking the hive. They are responsible for pollinating 1/3 of the fruits, vegetables and nuts we consume. They are gentle and produce a vast amount of honey for beekeepers. Honey won’t go bad for hundreds of years, it has multiple uses and healing effects.

If honeybees were like wasps and these other suspects, you definitely wouldn’t see beekeepers doing these kinds of things in these pictures. We aren’t necessarily brave, we don’t risk our lives taking care of honeybees, but we are passionate about saving a species we depend on for our own survival.

Bee Beard And Bun

Handful of Bees

Beekeeper Amy

Happy National Pollinator Week 2014!

Did you know that pollinators have a whole week once a year to themselves? National Pollinator Week started in 2007 in the US when the senate unanimously approved a measure to introduce it. I’ve collected a number of things you can do this week (or really throughout the year) to support your local pollinators, including honeybees.

Top 5 Ways to Support Pollinators During National Pollinator Week

1. Leave a patch of clover

While mowing, I moved our mower deck up to 4″ and was able to keep these pretty clover flowers. Not only do they look great, pollinators love to visit clover. This is a very small thing you can do to help feed the pollinators during Pollinator Week and the remainder of the summer.

Leave A Clover Patch

2. Stop using pesticides

There are many natural ways to get rid of and prevent bugs from getting into your home. You don’t have to live with the bugs during Pollinator Week, check out some tips from on how to prevent bugs in the yard and your home. We’ve personally used Boric Acid Powder and had success.

3. Stop using weed killer/lawn treatment products

I personally don’t understand why people want a pure green lawn. I also don’t understand why people use weed and feed products that cause grass to grow more quickly and then you have mow the lawn a few times a week instead of once a week. Vast green lawns look like deserts to me, just like the acres of almond trees in California; they are not beautiful, they are manufactured and unnatural. In the spring, I love to see the first color come from our grass where wild violets grow. Dandelions only come into a yard for one week in spring and one week in fall, and if you keep your yard mowed, it will look fine and the weeds shouldn’t take over. In summer, I look forward to the wild strawberries and clover that grows everywhere. Our chickens are very happy in our yard; they get to peck at all the little plants that fertilizer would destroy. Doesn’t this chicken look super happy in our unfertilized lawn?

Happy Chicken In Unfertilized Yard

4. Add pollinator friendly plants to your yard

I saw this graphic on Twitter a couple of weeks ago and really loved it! Thank you Farmer Bea @HelpingBees for sharing this image. There are many common herbs, perennials and annuals that you may already have in your yard that pollinators like honeybees will love. If you are updating your landscaping this summer or love to garden, why not celebrate Pollinator Week by planting a few of these?

Plant These To Save Bees

5. Make a pollinator rest stop

I originally saw this idea on Twitter as well. Thank you to Kitchen Garden @JaponicaCottage for posting this photo! I love the idea of creating a pollinator pit stop for Pollinator Week.

Pollinator Week Pit Stop

Especially in the heat of the summer, pollinators like honeybees can get easily exhausted. People make rest stops like this one by drilling holes into dowel rods, arranging them in a frame and hanging them in their yard.

Mason Bee House Small

It’s also a good idea to provide water for pollinators too by putting a small bird bath with a float in it so they can hydrate and rest in your yard before flying home. We have a half a brick in the center of our bird bath so our honeybees don’t drown in the water. This bird bath was bought at Menards for under $20 and is about 8″ circumference.

Honeybee In Bird Bath

That is all for our National Pollinator Week Tips, hope some of these help you to attract and keep pollinators safe in your yard.

Smoking the Honeybee Hive

Honeybee Hive Inspections June 14, 2014

This past weekend we inspected all seven of our honeybee hives. We were lucky enough to be joined by beekeeper Martin who is an expert at smoking the honeybees and keeping them calm.  All of the hives were healthy and doing well. Two of them had large honey stores already which made us very happy to see. All of the honeybee queens are laying eggs and helping to build up the hive for the summer.

This frame was covered in bees, can you spot the queen? She acts like a bulldozer, plowing her way through the crowd to get to the cells where she wants to lay her eggs. Good queens are said to lay eggs very close together, this makes the brood not spotty. Can you spot the honeybee queen?   Here she is highlighted in the picture below. (click on picture for a larger view-c’mon, it’ll be like Where’s Waldo?!)Honeybee Queen with Crown I also got a picture of the top of our hive. This is an inner cover with an opening on the top of it for honeybees to fly out. Not all beekeepers use this in their honeybee hives. During very hot days, we take the top cover off our hives and leave this inner cover on, to reduce the heat in the hive and allow the honeybees another entrance/exit. Only healthy hives that can defend themselves well should have multiple entrances though. View Into the Honeybee Hive We left a frame out of a couple of the hives that we put new queens into. We left the queens in the queen cages and just stuck the cage in between two frames to hold it into place. The queens were released from the cages this past week and accepted into the hives. When inspecting the honeybee hives this weekend, we saw that the bees had made their own natural comb where there should have been a frame. When beekeeper Tim took the lid off of this hive, he pulled out the honey comb and I was able to snap a picture. natural comb  

That sums up this week’s inspection. Stay tuned for our next honeybee hive inspection. I’m also working on getting us set up on all social media websites so you can stay on top of honeybee news, pictures and what’s going on in our backyard.

Creepy Kids in Creepy Vintage Ads –

I recently read an article on about how creepy kids looked in vintage ads(pre-1960s). Then while flipping through my Midwestern Living magazine over the weekend, I see a nice illustrated ad of a family washing the car and having fun. I start to turn the page when my eye is caught by the little boy.

Belgard Hardscapes Ad Full

He’s not just a little boy though, he’s a creepy little kid, just like the ones from the advertisements on the article! He is way too excited about shining the tires and his mom getting squirted with water. Way too excited…

Creepy Kid Face

If the marketing firm intended to catch my attention, this advertisement did. It made me stare at the kid for a while (without being able to look away) and then ask what the heck the ad was for. I hope this doesn’t mean we have a creepy kids in print advertisements revival. The other Belgard Hardscapes ads do not contain creepy looking children. Has anyone else spotted creepy kids in recent/modern advertisements?

Chickens, Ducks and Guineas-oh my!

This spring has been a busy one for us: between working full time and projects around the house, we also decided to hatch out guineas and mille fleurs, purchase ducks and cornish rock chickens in addition to maintaining our flock of silkies. What on earth possessed us to go crazy with poultry you may ask? Two words: chicken math.

Two of our silkie hens did not want to get off the nest and were broody for about 3 weeks before we finally gave in and let them hatch out 5 mille fleurs and 4 guineas. I’ve never had a pet have babies before and it was such a unique experience. I loved checking on the chicks and seeing little heads pop out underneath the mother hen. It was also very interesting to watch the hen teach her young how to eat and drink, how to dust bathe and have fun.

SilkieChickwithHen SilkiewithGuineaKeet

The ducks and cornish rock chickens were not really pets, Tim got them to raise and then butcher. The cornish rocks were ready to butcher within 8 weeks and the meat we got from them is filling up our freezer and our families’ too. I really loved having the ducks, but when we went on vacation for Memorial Day weekend, we didn’t have anyone available to take care of them and ended up having to sell them at an auction.


The cornish rock hens went from being little chicks to full grown birds so quickly. This picture is from April 5 and the video afterwards is from May 21.


Now that we’ve sold the chicks and the ducklings and butchered the cornish rocks, we are back to just having our silkies. It is curiously quiet and my 1-2 hour per day list of chores is down to nearly nothing. Guess that means it is time to enjoy the flock and start planning for what creatures to add next spring.

How to Make Faded Black Pants Dark Black Again

When I was a teenager, I pretty much wore black all the time. Instead of trading in my light colored clothes for new dark ones, I found if I used Rit dye, I could get more black clothes on a shoestring budget. It’s been years since I used Rit dye and I have expanded my wardrobe from all black to let a lot of neutrals and some color in. I have a pair of black pants from Old Navy that I purchased about a year ago and as they started to fade, I remembered I could use Rit dye to darken them again.

Keeping black clothes pure black is nearly impossible, but you can always use Rit dye to make a favorite piece of clothing black again after normal wear. I’ve always used a large stock pot to dye my clothing, simmering the clothing in water and dye for about half an hour, then rinsing in cold water and washing as normal. I have a pair of stainless steel tongs that help move the fabric through the water to get an even dye. A little work saved me from having to find another paid of black pants that fit as well as these did. If you are looking for a way to make black pants dark again, I highly recommend purchasing some Rit dye. It comes in a variety of colors so you can really dye clothing any color you would like. With black, it is important to use two boxes of the dry powder or twice the amount of liquid. With any dye, it is important to make sure you clean up any spills right away and take precautions to prevent them. Counter tops can be ruined if you spill some of the dye on them accidentally.

Make Black Pants Black Again

Free 2014 and 2015 Date Drop Down Menu

While programming a form a few weeks ago, I tried searching for code that I could use to have someone select a date from one field instead of having to make the date three fields (month, day, year). To my surprise, all of my usual sources didn’t have this code available to just copy and paste. I tried a Google search, I tried a Bing search, but in the end, I had to create my own drop down field with 2014 and 2015 dates. I hope this helps out any other programmers who would like to have a date included in a drop down menu. If you need to update for 2016, just do a simple find and replace in notepad (ctrl +h on windows) and change all 2014 to 2015 and 2015 to 2016.

Sample drop down field with dates in 2014 and 2015

Valentine’s Day 2014

Valentine's Day Cinnamon Rolls Idea


What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than to eat a Cinnabon knock-off with pink frosting? I’ve been making this clone of a Cinnabon recipe for about a year now. Yes it takes time (1.5 hours in the bread machine alone), but they are so worth it. They actually taste like Cinnabon’s own. I love to pair it with a cream cheese frosting as the recipe suggests, but Tim prefers a buttercream frosting so of course I oblige.

Clone of a Cinnabon Roll Recipe

Cinnamon Rolls:
1 cup warm milk (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
2 eggs, room temperature
1/3 cup margarine, melted
4 1/2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup white sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons bread machine yeast
1 cup brown sugar, packed
2 1/2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
1/3 cup butter, softened

Cream Cheese Frosting:
1 (3 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

Place ingredients in the pan of the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Select dough cycle; press Start.
After the dough has doubled in size turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, cover and let rest for 10 minutes. In a small bowl, combine brown sugar and cinnamon.
Roll dough into a 16×21-inch rectangle. Spread dough with 1/3 cup butter and sprinkle evenly with sugar/cinnamon mixture. Roll up dough and cut into 12 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9×13 inch baking pan. Cover and let rise until nearly doubled, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).
Bake rolls in preheated oven until golden brown, about 15 minutes. While rolls are baking, beat together cream cheese, 1/4 cup butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla extract and salt. Spread frosting on warm rolls before serving.

I saw on Pinterest that people made cinnamon rolls heart shaped for Valentine’s Day and decided to try it out. As you can see from the picture, they weren’t quite perfect hearts, and resembled moustaches. I made two batches, the first batch I made I forgot I was making them a different shape and rolled them up, then unrolled half way and made them into the heart shapes. Even though I had made a mistake, the rolls held more tightly together than the second batch I made by rolling up the two sides separately. I only added two drops of red food coloring to my frosting but it came out a lovely pink color.

I wanted to take a picture of the roll with the frosting but they all got eaten too quickly!

The buttercream frosting recipe was a new one I decided to try out. The frosting came out thick and delicious. I normally have used milk in frosting to thin them out but I had some heavy whipping cream leftover and was able to use this instead. I will probably never use milk again!

Buttercream Frosting Recipe

3 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 to 2 tablespoons whipping cream

In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk, mix together sugar and butter. Mix on low speed until well blended and then increase speed to medium and beat for another 3 minutes.
Add vanilla and cream and continue to beat on medium speed for 1 minute more, adding more cream if needed for spreading consistency.

Search the Term ‘Lady’ on Shutterstock

I am working on a marketing project in which I was looking for a little cartoon lady. I wanted someone who was dressed a little fancy but still professional to illustrate a point I was making about celebrity themed award programs. I opened up Chrome, searched the term lady…and was stunned at what came up. In all the years I have used Shutterstock, I must say they tend to have close to what I want and I can usually edit it to get a vector or image exactly the way I envisioned. These search results were anything but what I wanted though. It made me feel like if you are a woman in the United States and someone calls you a lady, you are either symbol of justice, a house keeper, an elderly person, an insect or an uptight Victorian-era impersonator. I don’t like any of these choices and I don’t fit into any of these categories myself.

Lady Pictures on Shutterstock

Where are all the professional looking women with their nails done, hair done and coordinating outfit and accessories? The women who can afford their own way and are both book and street smart? Where are the stock photos of women all done up for a night on the town? Where’s the two dogs eating the same strand of spaghetti? If any one of these images would have popped up, I could possibly accept all the other results I saw.

In the end, drew my own vector and put ladies’ clothing on her. (I really love all the paper dolls they have on Shutterstock, wish I could have had those when I was a kid!) Sure everything worked out, but I still feel like grumbling about what these image search results say about our society. I realize Shutterstock only posts what artists draw and what is in demand, so I cannot put all the blame on them, but rather on people like me. So come on marketing professionals, why can’t we start using more ladies in our materials-women who reflect the polished image we project every week day?

Ladies and Gents

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