Years ago, i decided to patronize Choice hotels and i’m seldom disappointed based on price -in other words – you get what you pay for. I quickly decided against Rodeway Inns after too many bad experiences, though there were a couple good ones. Econolodge, the same, with the exception of the one in Walnut, IA. Wow, i was impressed. On the upper end of the chain, there have never been any issues.
Downloading their app makes it super easy to search and book whilst on the road. A points program pays for a free night once in a while.
Having been a former travel consultant and being on a few FAMs and site inspects, i automatically have a critical eye to detail, yet i feel i can still give some wiggle room based on the location of the hotel and the price.
The only kicker i have with Choice Hotel properties is the breakfast which is included. They have the same level of quality or lack thereof so it is clear that individual properties have no choices in whether or not to use fresh products from local producers. This would be, in my opinion, a huge selling point for the hotel as well as provide a huge upgrade in tastiness and healthfulness with possible little to no price increase. Can you imagine coming down to a breakfast of eggs from pastured hens?! Or freshly made pastry and biscuits? With real butter, natural yoghurt, and real milk. Okay, most states won’t allow real milk.
Honestly, getting paid to do site inspects and making helpful suggestions might be a really fun thing to do. Maybe i need to see if there is such a job.
A few things i look for:
Now, those are a few things, but others include:
1) an indication that someone sat on a made bed
2) of course a coffee maker, refrigerator, and microwave not cleaned and/or contain leftovers from a previous use. Yuck! Years ago, the boys and i stayed in another brand hotel in Kingsville, Texas and found a huge pastry (we think) in the microwave with half inch thick mold!!! Haven’t forgotten that experience.
None of these cost even a penny! Why not do it right?
I typically overlook wear and tear and focus more on cleanliness, comfort, and good repair unless the wear and tear can keep cleaning from being effective, Wear and tear is more present in smaller communities and less expensive properties where some upgrades simply can’t be afforded.
Dallas and i went to Washington state a few falls ago and collected a few treasures from our hikes. Finally going to get around and try to stratify and start these chestnuts. Hope they aren’t too dry or old to sprout~
Another excellent blog from Dallas Mount who now owns and operates Ranch Management Consultants aka Ranching for Profit. Although i’m most interested in the ranching bent to this business, many of the articles written by Dallas, Dave Pratt, former owner, and Stan Parsons, creator and former owner of Ranching for Profit are easily applied to any business or home life decision making.
You can spend money buying books or shelves or containers to declutter or you can save money by making better decisions. Starting with ‘do i really need this?’ then follow up by selling, giving away, recycling, upcycling, renovating, throwing away the stuff you haven’t used in ‘x’ amount of time. If you don’t do it now, it’s called hoarding and whatever value it might have will be lost to you and to whoever may be able to use the item to start a business or help their lives be better. Before you know it, 40, 50, 60 years have passed, and the item is obsolete and worthless. Now, that’s a waste and selfishness!
by Dallas Mount
Each fall and winter our Executive Link meetings start with a continuing education program. We usually reach for something outside the ranching world that our members would not otherwise be exposed to. Often this is a book from business management circles. This fall our book is Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. The book challenges us to think about all the things we do in our busyness. Then develop focus by cutting out the trivial and finding the essential.
In agriculture it is easy to constantly pile on more to our already busy lives. When you step back to really analyze what makes the difference in your life or your business, there are really only a few things at the core of what you do and who you are, that matter. This is the essential. McKeown challenges the reader to think of the things in your life, like you would clothes in the closet. Often, we cull the closet by asking the question “Is there a chance I’ll wear this someday in the future?” When using that broad criterion, we end up with a closet full of Garth Brooks 90’s era neon colored Brush Poppers. McKeown suggests changing the question to “Do I absolutely love this?” allowing us to eliminate the clutter to create space for something better.
I often hear from ranchers that are too “busy” with the daily tasks on the ranch to come to a school, or work on their numbers. What they are saying is that they are too busy to find time to complete the high value work that will make the difference in their businesses long term success or failure. This is a perfect application of McKeown’s assertion that an Essentialist separates and focuses on the vital few from the trivial many.
In ag, the unspoken culture tends to value work, misery and sacrifice over financial success and healthy work-life balance. I often hear stories being swapped where we are competing over who has the ranch that creates more misery and work then the next. We tend to wear it as a badge of honor, who has to work the longest hours in the harshest weather. Maybe it is long days in the hay field, calving in the winter or feeding our way through the ongoing drought. If you want to get uninvited to the coffee shop pity party ask the question, “Why do you choose to structure your business in a way that creates these challenges?” We need to find the courage to push back on this culture of unsustainable work, coupled with unrewarding results.
If you want to dive in and examine the essential in your life, here are a few questions to get you started. Take 10 minutes, write down your answers and share them with your spouse or confidant.
What if your business could only do one thing, what would it be?
Where do your passions, purpose, and skill set align?
What specific things will you eliminate to create time to focus on the essential few?
Since i was not much more than a toddler, i’ve loved horses, loved riding them, showing them in local shows, mustering in cattle (that’s my favorite), training, and trail riding. In junior high and high school, i was so crazy about horses that my nickname was ‘horsey’!
This neat article is published in the most recent issue of Rural Missouri. I studied this guy because he is from my home town, Mexico, Missouri.
For the Love of Horses
The extraordinary life of rider and trainer Tom Bass
Today, in my miserable state of drugginess, coughing, swollen red itchy eyes, hair hurts, joints hurt, crankiness, can’t sleep, can’t stay awake, stuck inside, except to do a few short chores then come back inside to recover from ragweed allergies, i spent some time trying to find some peanut butter that is made in the USA from peanuts grown and roasted in the USA. I’ve never seen any in the grocery stores, but thought surely there is something out there. Come to find out – not much!
Read the ingredients on peanut butter – you will often be surprised by what is included! I want only peanut butter or peanut butter with a pinch of salt. No corn syrup, no palm oil, no sugar, nothing but peanuts. And now, i’m really cranking down to insist that the peanuts are sourced in the United States and the butter is produced at a small family business.
What kind of peanut butter do you buy? if any. How did you choose the brand you’ve selected?
As you know from reading my blog, I home educated my three children for 13 years. Jessica, the eldest, started her homeschool career as a 5th grader, Dallas started 3rd grade, and Nathan started kindergarten and all home schooled through high school graduation. Our three excelled in all manner and two had crazy excellent college academically, but more importantly, through struggle became stronger Christians and spiritual leaders. Dallas, with his challenges with Asperger’s is a huge help on the farm full time. (I am blessed more than i can ever deserve with 3 fabulous children.) On top of that, we made fast friends who were also home schooling families and we are still friends as families.
Just this week, an article was published about our dear friend and fellow home schooler, Avery Bright, concerning his time at Wheaton College and beyond. We remember him as the little boy in cowboy boots running around the churchyard playing tag and soccer, transplanting seedlings in the greenhouse, milking cows at home, or showing pigs in 4-H. But always with his violin practicing, practicing, practicing. From his performances as a middle and high schooler at a local church to raise money for the camps he needed to attend to improve his skills to purchasing his home made CD’s “Jersey Lightning” and “Avery Bright” and later a great Christmas album to boost his coffers to drive to the next amazing endeavor, to driving 12 hours to attend his wedding to his beautiful bride, we’ve always loved and supported Avery and his amazing journey. His brother and sister are no slackers either with their stunning accomplishments – all coming from our dear friends, Eric and Hope – good people who we can always count on for a heart to heart.
How 2010 alumnus Avery Bright’s Wheaton experience equipped him with the technical and creative skills he needed to thrive as a professional musician during COVID-19.
Since graduating from Wheaton a decade ago, Avery Bright ’10 has become a professional musician, composer, and producer, working with recording artists ranging from U2 to Michael W. Smith to Phil Wickham, Danny Gokey, Ben Rector, Keith and Kristyn Getty, Little Big Town, and OneRepublic. He’s also played on Star Wars movie scores, spent time in-studio with Dolly Parton, toured Europe, and has played in the pit for arena concerts for rock bands including The Who and Paramore.
When coronavirus began to spread in the U.S. in March 2020, the live music industry turned upside down. Tours, weddings, and live concerts dried up almost completely. Artists and performers had to adapt to remote work quickly–something Bright had been unknowingly preparing to do for years.
Bright has his own recording studio inside of his home outside Nashville, which has provided him with the flexibility to maintain remote work for hire during the global outbreak of COVID-19. Even before the outbreak of COVID-19, Bright worked with clients all over the world–from Colombia to Russia to the UK and Tasmania, Australia–and was able to grow that side of his business as the pandemic threatened the production of live music worldwide.
“I feel very fortunate about the way I’m set up to record remotely from my studio,” Bright said. “I had no idea that it would play well into a global pandemic. I love the connections it’s created for me with artists and producers around the world.”
As a professional musician, session musician, arranger, and composer, Bright divides his time between playing in major studio sessions around Nashville, composing original works on commission for licensing in videos, movies, and video games from his home recording studio called “The String Cell,” and writing and performing original songs and covers as individual artist “RØRE” and as part of duos “Allen & Bright” and “kïngpinguïn.”
Bright credits his Conservatory training, private lessons with Dr. Lee Joiner, and his participation as fiddle player in a student-led bluegrass band called “Tim Dennison and the Creepers” with fellow Wheaties Tim Dennison ’11, Dan Fager ’10, Scott Cunningham ’10, Caleb Lindgren ’10, and Lee McComb ’10 as major contributing factors to his adaptability, flexibility, and success in Music City today.
“I was always sort of the black sheep of the Conservatory because I was at Wheaton for the classical training, but I played in a bluegrass band as a fiddle player and liked to improvise,” Bright said. “My teacher, Dr. Joiner, was always supportive of this. He explored playing jazz and was open to ‘getting off the page,’ as it were. So I always felt comfortable at Wheaton exploring those spaces, and I learned the violin world was much bigger than the obvious path of playing professionally in a symphony or string quartet. Nobody ever told me to stop thinking creatively.”
Bright’s music theory courses at the Conservatory were also integral in preparing him for his career.
“My Conservatory training helped prepare me for some of the technical requirements to execute on studio work like playing in tune and sight reading. I also learned the importance of being flexible,” Bright said. “Those are must-haves for a recording musician. I also learned how to work with different types of people, how to write my own music, and how to think beyond what’s on the page. Wheaton was amazing preparation for that.”
Bright noted that his participation as a fiddle player with Tim Dennison and the Creepers was a highlight of his Wheaton experience.
“There’s no way any of us will ever play in a band that had that much fun,” Bright said. “We all knew it, too: ‘This is as good as it gets.’”
Bright pointed out that, while the transition to working in the COVID-19 pandemic has been very difficult for people and musicians who are completely live-music based–touring musicians with bands, or road crews for big tours, for example–he noted that a lot of artists have pivoted to remote recording and production of livestream concerts, where artists are able to connect with their fan bases and play live online.
“At this time, the silver lining to not being able to play live is you have a golden opportunity to be creative,” Bright said. “People are making EPs from home, writing new songs, doing co-writes on Zoom or Skype, and are finding ways to make it work.”
Bright also pointed out that some larger recording studios are opening back up for business, but at an expense.
“Since March, I’ve played a couple of large recording sessions with 12 players on the floor in the recording room—we were all six feet apart, everyone was in a mask for the whole session. It was all done according to safety regulations, but it’s more expensive and difficult that way now because of the regulations and takes longer,” Bright said. “You also can’t have as many people as you normally would in the studio. All of that takes work, time, and money.”
Looking to the future, Bright is building out a new studio space above his garage that is larger than his current studio space and will enable him to record ensembles rather than solely overdubs by himself.
“It’s a custom-designed, sound-isolated ‘floating’ room, big enough for four-to-six string players at a time, which will speed up my workflow and productivity a lot,” Bright said. “I’ll also be able to hire more of my friends and colleagues and attract bigger budget projects while providing an incredibly high quality of sound.”
Looking forward to his expanded home studio space is one way Bright is encouraging himself and others around him to “look for the silver lining” in the midst of a global pandemic.