Hop to It! There’s Still Time to Bake Homemade Christmas Cookies: Why Not Start a Family Tradition?

December 23, 2008 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Food & Recipes

Homemade Chrismas Cookies: Now That's Tradition!

Gosh, suddenly it’s really looking like Christmas around here! How about at your place?

Here in Northwestern Illinois, we got at least seven inches of snow on Thursday, and then a few more on Saturday. Today, it is sunny and probably four degrees below zero – Fahrenheit – even before you take into account the blowing and drifting snow.

As far as I’m concerned, a day like today is just perfect. It’s the kind of day where you want to stay home, enjoy a fire in the fireplace if you’ve got one, crank up the Christmas carols on your stereo or iPod, and bake up some fabulous homemade Christmas cookies! You know, it’s a day to say: “Let it snow, I’m baking cookies!”

  • If you’ve got kids or grandkids handy, be sure to get them involved in this cookie-baking action.
  • Family cookie-baking is the stuff memories are made of. In fact, my late brother-in-law once declared that Christmas wasn’t worth coming home for unless there were homemade Christmas cookies! He personally preferred the cut out kind…
  • To this day, my adult kids still try to get to their grandma’s house a few days before Christmas, just so they can participate in making the traditional holiday cookies!

Holiday cookie making is a great opportunity for family bonding and  – sort of like giving kids a big box to play with – it won’t cost you much to make these wonderful memories, so it’s a perfect holiday-based family activity.

Here Are a Few Family-Friendly Holiday Cookie Favorites:

These quick and easy favorites are also guaranteed to make your holiday cookie tray a star!

  • The Pepperkaker cut-out cookies are a recipe from my Norwegian step-mother. They’re light and spicy – and just scream “Christmas!” to me
  • The Mint Meltaways are another one of my childhood favorites: a cookie my mother used to make, which I’ve never seen anywhere else. They’re a bit like Mexican Wedding Cakes, except that they’re drop cookies, not formed – and of course, they’re green and mint flavored! My sister and I have also taken this recipe and modified it over the years, trying different flavors. The recipe is pretty easy, so doubtless you can make modifications to the flavors, too!
  • The Chocolate Chewies are something my kids learned how to make with their grandfather, many years ago. These days, just making themhelps keep his memory alive


These spicy Norwegian Christmas cookies don’t need icing. Thin and crisp, they’re a great project for kids – even younger ones – if you make the dough in advance. Let them have fun cutting them out, placing them on the cookie sheet, and watching the timer ’til they’re done!


4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
1/4 cup corn syrup
1/3 cup water
7/8 cup butter
1 tablespoon orange zest — grated
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon ginger
1/2 tablespoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
2 teaspoons baking soda


Boil sugar, syrup, and water in a small saucepan. Put the butter and spices in a large mixing bowl. Pour in the hot sugar mixture. Stir until butter has melted. Cool.

Stir together baking soda and flour.

Mix all ingredients toether to make a smooth dough. Cover and let stand overnight.

Roll out one portion of the dough at a time, with a light touch. Cut out shapes from the dough with cookie cutters.

Place the cookies on cold, greased cookie sheets. Bake the cookies at 400F for 5-8 minutes in the center of the oven. Check often, as they burn easily.

Mint Meltaways

Yes, that’s almost a tablespoon of peppermint extract in these cookies. You can cut it down if that seems excessive. Use the cake flour and butter. I’ve tried “cheaping out” with margarine and regular flour, but the cookies just aren’t the same… Hey, it’s Christmas!


2-1/2 C. butter
1-1/4 C. sifted confectioners’ sugar
2-1/2 t. pure peppermint extract
4-6 drops green food coloring
1/4 t. salt
5-1/2 – 5-3/4 C. cake flour

Additional confectioners’ sugar to roll finished the cookies in.


Preheat the oven to 400-degrees Fahrenheit.

Bring the butter to room temperature and cream it in your mixer.  Beat in the powdered sugar, peppermint extract and green food coloring and salt.

Slowly and carefully beat in the cake flour, mix until completely blended.

Drop teaspoons of the cookie dough onto ungreased cookie sheets, keeping about 2-inches between cookies.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in your preheated oven, until the cookies are set and just slightly brown.

Remove from pan to cool on wire racks. When cookies are cool, roll in confectioners’ sugar. Store at room temperature in an airtight container.

Chocolate Chewies

Are these cookies or candy? I’m not sure, but you’re guaranteed that they’re easy to make and irresistable! Don’t let the sugar and corn syrup continue to boil once they start, or the cookies will turn into rocks, instead of chewy treats…


6 C. corn flake cereal
1 C. granulated sugar
1/4 t. salt
1 C. Karo syrup
1-1/2 C. smooth peanut butter
6 oz. chocolate chips

butter to grease the pan and your hands

13 x 9 pan


Measure the corn flakes into a large bowl and set aside. Grease your pan with butter.

Put the sugar, salt and corn syrup into a saucepan and bring it just to a boil, stirring constantly. Make sure all sugar is dissolved. Remove the pan from the heat, and add in the peanut butter. Stir well to incorporate.

Pour the hot syrup over the corn flakes and stir quickly, to incorporate all the flakes before the syrup cools too much.  Pour the flake mixture into the pan and use your buttered hands to spread it around evenly to the edges.

Melt the chocolate chips in the microwave and pour over the top of the cereal mixture. Spread completely over the top, with a spatula.

Allow the chewies to cool and cut into small squares.

More Christmas Cookies

Well there you have it: a trio of fairly easy Christmas cookie recipes you can make with your children or grandchildren. If you’re looking for more fun, more challenge and more adventure, you might try setting aside a while day for Christmas cookie baking, as my Norwegian step-mother does.

Rosette CookiesAccording to her, it’s a Norwegian tradition for housewives to bake seven kinds of Christmas cookies. For years we’ve gotten a group of bakers together for a day in early December, where we continue this tradition. Among the Norwegian cookies we bake and share, are:

  • Goro
  • Sandbakkels
  • Fattigmann
  • Krumkake
  • Pepperkaker
  • Rosettes
  • The seventh cookie is called Drumar, though I suspect that’s not the right spelling. Anyway, they’re little bites of shortbread heaven. I haven’t been able to find a recipe for those, but they are very like these Danish shortbread cookies, called Pebber Nodder.

So there you have it! A list of fabulous Scandianvian Christmas cookies for your cookie making pleasure!

If you’d like to become more familiar with the traditional Christmas Cookies of other countries, one of your best bets is to start collecting Christmas cookie cookbooks, such as Rose Levy Beranbaum’s fantastic book, Rose’s Christmas Cookies.

Beranbaum provides a comprehensive selection of 60 cookie recipes for eating and decoration, for keeping and giving, that is probably the last word on the subject. The author of the award-winning The Cake Bible, Beranbaum has applied her passion for precise, foolproof recipes to the delectable business of cookie making.

Especially useful is the fact that she includes:

  • Full-page color photos of every cookie, and more than 50 line drawings of techniques and templates, making the book both easy to use and a delight to the eye.
  • Chapters devoted to tree and mantelpiece cookies; cookies to make for and/or with kids; cookies for sending, for open house, and holiday dinner parties, among others.

Among the Recipes Covered Are Classics Like:

  • Scottish Shortbread
  • Chocolate-Dipped Melting Moments
  • Mexican Wedding Cakes
  • Spritz Butter Cookies
  • Springerle
  • Pfeffernüsse

Also offered are Beranbaum’s own creations, such as Maple Walnut Sablé Sandwiches, and those of her friends, like Lora Brody’s Christmas Phantoms and Mrs. King’s Irresistibles.

Where applicable, recipes offer optional mixing methods for food processor or electric mixer (or by hand). Beranbaum’s “Smart Cookie” accompanies each recipe and provides hints on ingredients and techniques.

Better yet, the book is packed with information for decoration, storage, and cookie-sending.  And there’s a color-photo-illustrated glossary of ingredients and equipment, the book is encyclopedic on its subject and virtually guarantees Christmas (or any time) cookie-making success.

You’ll enjoy baking from Rose’s Christmas Cookies, no matter whether you’re a novice baker or an old hand at cookie baking.

Feeling a Bit Down? As Auntie Mame Famously Said: “We Need A Little Christmas, NOW.” Why Not Start By Trying One of These Festive Holiday Recipes Featuring Cranberries?

December 20, 2008 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Food & Recipes

Need a Little Christmas? Try Cranberries!

Enough of the Economic Doom and Gloom! “We Need a Little Christmas, Now!”

No matter what you think of Lucille Ball in this clip from “Mame,” the sentiment is correct: “We need a little Christmas!” It’s time to start celebrating the wonder of our end-of-year holidays. We need to lighten up, smile and enjoy life! Cranberries can help! And I don’t mean those cranberry garlands kids string for the tree…

After all, whether your family prefers to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or Winter Solstice, chances are you’re looking for some tasty and healthy new recipes to compliment the traditional ones you always make and serve.

Here are a trio of great recipes, all featuring nutritious, delicious fresh or frozen cranberries. Cranberries are in season this time of year. Why not try these recipes using fresh cranberries?

They’re not only chock full of good stuff like antioxidants which means they’re really good for you – but they freeze well, too.  Which means you can buy several bags and freeze the extra for use later this year!

My first recipe gift to you is a great cranberry dessert recipe, which I just received from my mother. She’s already made it, served it to her friends and reports that it’s fantastic! The fruit layer of this trifle comes out a beautiful ruby red color and it’s as impressive looking as it is easy to make.

Make it in a large glass bowl if you have one, so the colorful layering is visible. Your guests begin eating with their eyes, after all!

Considering how healthy cranberries are, I can’t wait to spend a bit of time in the kitchen and create my own version of this luscious dessert!

Cranberry Trifle


2 (12oz) bags cranberries (fresh or frozen)

2-1/4 cups sugar

2 tbsp. finely grated peeled fresh ginger

2 cups water

2-12oz pound cakes, cut into 3/4-inch cubes

1 8oz cream cheese at room temperature

1/4 cup packed light brown sugar

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla

2 cups heavy cream


In medium saucepan combine cranberries, 2 cups sugar, ginger and 2 cups water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook till cranberries begin to pop (8-10min) and sauce thickens. Let cool completely.

Make cream filling: using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese, brown sugar, remaining ¼ cup sugar and vanilla on high till well combined. With mixer on medium, gradually add heavy cream; continue beating till soft peaks form.

Arrange 1/3 of cake in a 3-qt. serving dish. (Traditional trifles are served in glass bowl which allow the layers to show from the outside.) Spoon 1/3 of compote over cake, spread to sides of dish. Dollop 1/3 of cream filling over compote; spread to sides of dish. Repeat twice, ending with cream filling. Cover, refrigerate at least 2hrs ( or up to 1day).

Next up is a recipe from Sharon at the Baby Boomer Advisor Club. Sharon’s not only a great Southern cook, but a huge believer in the nutritional value of cranberries. This one makes a fantastic homemade holiday gift, too!

Holiday Cranberry Apricot Chutney


1/4 cup diced dried apricots

2 large apple diced with the skin on (McIntosh are recommended)

1 (12 ounce) package fresh cranberries

1/2 cup raisins, dark or white

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1 pinch ground cloves

1 cup water

3/4 cup white sugar or sugar substitute

1/4 cup cider vinegar

1/4 cup of lemon juice

Grated peel of one orange

Optional: 2 tablespoons orange juice

Optional: 1/2 cup chopped pecans


In a medium bowl mix together the fruits and spices. In a medium saucepan, boil water and sugar, stirring constantly, until sugar is dissolved. Add the dried fruit mixture, lemon juice and vinegar. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

You may optionally add the juice of the orange as well…not too much, as you don’t want to cut the apricot flavor. And if you like a bit of crunch, add the pecans or walnuts.

Serve immediately, or date and refrigerate in a covered container.

Makes about 5 cups.

Note: Chutney can be made 3 days ahead and stored, covered, in the refrigerator or up to three weeks ahead and frozen. Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 to 36 hours (this depends on the shape of your container and the temperature of your fridge).

This chutney is very versatile. You can use it as a meat glaze on chicken, turkey, or pork. Alternately, it is fantastic served on your apple, or mince meat pies along with your with ice cream.

And here’s a great recipe I found on the Cape Cod Cranberry Growers Association site. This one will make your friends sit up and say, “Wow!”

Cranberry Risotto


2 cups cranberry juice cocktail (I recommend the “lite” version, which has all the great taste, but far fewer calories.)

1 cup short grain white rice (such as Arborio)

¼ cup leeks, chopped

Salt and pepper

¼ cup Feta cheese, crumbled

½ cup sweetened dried cranberries (you may know these as “craisins”)

2 tablespoons olive oil


Pour Cranberry Juice Cocktail into small sauce pan and place on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil.

Add 2 tablespoons olive oil to a 1 quart sauce pan and place over high heat. Add leeks and salt and pepper. Sauté until leeks are translucent and then add the rice. Stir until the rice is coated with oil.

Add the boiling cranberry juice cocktail to the rice and leeks. Stir. Cover. Turn heat down to a simmer. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove from heat, add cheese and sweetened dried cranberries, stir well.

Turn into serving dish. Serve hot.

Makes 8 servings.

More Cranberry Recipes:

If you’d like to see more recipes featuring cranberries, here are some great links:

How About 40 More Fabulous Cranberry Recipes?

Here’s exactly the answer you’re seeking: A beautiful cookbook featuring fabulous photography and 40 fantastic cranberry recipes created by master chefs and served at wonderful restaurants – now available for you to make in your own kitchen. It’s Cranberries: 40 Recipes for Fine Dining at Homeby Elaine Elliot.

This book features cranberry infused breakfast dishes, appetisers, soups, sides, main dishes and desserts from famous restaurants around the country. Aren’t you hungry for dishes like:

  • Christmas Morning Cranberry Muffins
  • Cranberry Almond Pancakes
  • Chilled Cranberry and Raspberry Soup
  • Brie Baked en Croute with Cranberry Sauce
  • Country Pate with Cranberry Compote
  • Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Red Onion and Cranberry Confit
  • Pear and Cheese Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Dried Cranberry Brandy Cream
  • Cranberry Maple Bread Pudding

Grab this book now! After all, it’s true: “We need a little Christmas, now!”

Doubtless “Survive Economic Meltdown” Wasn’t On Your Bucket List. Hopefully “Startup ‘Second Act’ Business” Was. One Fuels the Other, Of Course. Ready to Get It Going?

December 16, 2008 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Entrepreneurs, Work, Money & Retirement

Bucket List Business - Recipe For Success

Anyone who’s seen the news over the past few weeks knows that the United States is deeply embroiled in a tough economy. In fact, economists recently owned up to the “R” word, admitting recession is upon the land – and has been for the last twelve months. 

To which you undoubtedly want to snarl, “You think?”

Let’s See, You’ve Got:

  • Employers cutting jobs and benefits – left and right
  • The automakers begging Congress to bail them out – just a month after we experienced the mortgage industry bailouts
  • The banks, who’ve essentially quit lending money while the credit card companies are arbitrarily lowering your credit limits – even if you’ve been paying your bills on time
  • Constant stock market blips and dips
  • Not to mention a couple of wars and overall global unrest

Besides which, if your personal finances haven’t already been plunged into the toilet as a result of trashed 401(k) and retirement accounts, it’s likely all the dire news has left you feeling pretty nervous, wondering when the other shoe will fall… 

Maybe a Better Metaphor For What You’re Feeling Right Now Would Be This Unsettling Image:

  • You’re feverishly trying to build a house of cards on the head of a matchstick
  • While simultaneously trying to keep yourself standing upright as you balance atop a rolling log in the midst of a raging river of whitewater
  • Only to look ahead and see a precipitous drop-off as steep as Niagara Falls looming just around the bend… 

You’d Probably Have to Call that a “Triple Threat” or a “Perfect Storm” of Calamities, Right?”

Well, whatever you call it, there’s no doubt that you –  a successful Baby Boomer with an active Bucket List – never placed “live through an economic meltdown” on your list. It wasn’t even anywhere on your radar. Yet, you now find yourself hip-deep in that “opportunity” with few visible options ahead of you. 

So What Can You Do Beyond Wringing Your Hands and Gnashing Your Teeth?

How About Taking Action?

Instead of figuratively hiding under your bed or cowering in the corner, biting your nails as you read or listen to the dismal economic headlines, why not pull out your bucket list and pick out something on it that you can use to create a plan that will allow you to succeed despite the tough times? You know, something that:

  • Sounds fun
  • You enjoy doing, and
  • You could also use to generate some additional income…

Not Sure What That Could Be? Keep Looking at Your List, It’s Really Not That Hard.

If you initially think there’s nothing on your list that you can monetize, look again. Likely there’s something you’ve always wanted to do, something you haven’t made time for – which fits the bill. And it’s probably something you can get going, just by taking baby steps, one at a time.

For example, is there an idea that’s nagged at you over the years, perhaps an idea you’ve had for a better way to do something that’s related to one of your hobbies or passions? You know, maybe it’s an idea for a:

  • Better fishing lure
  • Healthier way to grow garden vegetables in small spaces
  • More effective way to train your pet
  • Field guide to successfully living overseas
  • Golf putter that’s guaranteed to shave 10% off anyone’s score
  • Cook book featuring heirloom family recipes, which you’ve updated to make them healthier

If so, did you ever stop to think that THAT idea might be something you could turn into a business?

Assuming your answer is going to be “yes,” there is some idea that’s nagged at you over the years, here’s your key take away: Once you dust off that idea that’s been haunting you forever, don’t you think now would be a great time to make a plan for how you can finally“get it going?” 

Think of it as your legacy, if you want, the way you will be remembered in the world. But do think about it – NOW.

Especially think about how to use this idea to start up a new income stream – while you continue to work full or part time.

That’s What Jan Bosman Did. Here’s How She Tells Her Story:

Jan Bosman“When I graduated from the University of Wisconsin, I felt had everything I needed:

  • A diploma
  • A diamond ring, and
  • A signed teaching contract

“I’d been trained by the best… I thought I would teach and retire, while managing a family along the way.

“But about 45 years into my scripted life, I had a new vision – a scrapbook for saving old handwritten recipes and the stories behind them. It all began with my love of collecting recipes from friends and family, using them over and over.

“At some point (I can’t give you the exact moment), I began to see the old recipes in my recipe box in a new way. They became more to me than formulae for good meals; they contained memories of the people who had shared them with me over many years.

“With the passage of time, the recipes took on new meaning and, I realized, they really defined my history. As I got started with my idea:

  • I wanted a place to save my special old recipes and tell about them.
  • I wanted to create a place where the recipes could be saved and the stories behind them and their creators told and saved.
  • I didn’t much care if anyone else wanted a book like I wanted; but the design firm I worked with convinced me that if I wanted a book like this, others would want one, too.
  • One of my friends says that the idea was in my heart for 45 years, but I really don’t know
  • I do know that fear kept me from breathing life into this idea for many years
  • I was afraid that someone would think it was a ‘dumb’ one, so I kept silent

Recipe Scrapbook“The evolution of the idea for my recipe scrapbook, Memories of Family, Friends and Food  is part mystery, part motivation.

  • When I started, I just wanted to realize a dream that had been lingering in my head for a very long time
  • Eventually I realized I had to move on the idea or forget it
  • I’d inherited a small amount of money at my mother’s death and I chose to invest it in my dream
  • Alternately, I could have put the money in the bank and let the dream die
  • Instead, I took action. I hired a marketing firm to help me develop and market my idea. I worked with a mentor to “get it going”
  •  I did not begin with a traditional business plan, nor did I work with any business development organizations to get started.

 “What I’ve now learned from my experience is that you never know when you will see life’s patterns in a fresh way.

 “The life I envisioned when I graduated is so different from the life I live. I’m seeing better now than I did then… despite the glasses and developing cataracts. So keep your eyes open. You just never know…”

If, like Jan Bosman, you’re ready to start making your dream a reality, there’s no need to be overwhelmed. You can start with baby steps. But you’ve got to start…

You’ve Just Got to Put One Foot in Front of the Other and Start Moving Forward.

  • Create an action plan
  • Get help to develop your strategies
  • Work your plan

Here’s a fun way to look at it:

 Jan’s Advice for You If You’re Considering a “Second – or Third – Act” in Life:

  • Plan to work hard
  • Be clear on your goal
  • Be ready for surprises – both happy days and disappointments
  • Be ready for unsolicited advice: “Not everyone is going to be as excited about this project as you are.”
  • Self promotion takes a lot of time. But you are the best person to promote your project. You believe in it, you breathe it. And without promotion, “Don’t expect your books to fly off of the shelves.”
  • Fear is real in all its forms. “Sometimes I’m afraid that someone will tell me my idea is ‘dumb.’ Sometimes I’m afraid to succeed. Fear hasn’t conquered me, but I haven’t completely conquered it, either.”
  • Don’t undervalue yourself
  • Be flexible, sometimes that’s the only way to get things accomplished
  • People WILL help you
  • Finally,follow the dreams that haunt you. You will never know yourself well enough if you don’t”

She adds that she has met hundreds of people she never would have met without this project and it has kept her vital after many years in education and a few in the domestic violence field.

“I am a good speaker and have had a chance to bring a message to people about the value of hand writing, dating and signing the recipes they share with others. Then your recipes, too, can live forever.”

Jan’s resulting book is in binder form so that pages can be moved about. She explains that It is intended to be a place where each person can create an heirloom, one recipe and story at at time. On the cover she’s included a picture of some of her mother’s personal items–glasses, tablecloth, recipe box, pearls, recipe cards, antique Jewel Tea Autum Leaves crock. 

Jan’s whole idea with her book is for each person to create their own book in his/her own special way. Sort of a cross between a journal and a recipe card binder – her book consists of: 

  • 15 acid-free 4 x 6″ pocket pages (total room for 60 recipes or pictures or other memorabilia) 
  • 15 acid-free lined, two-sided journal pages
  •  15 lined recipe cards for sharing favorite recipes with others
  • Sample journal page as a model for your writing
  • As one purchaser commented about Memories of Family, Friend and Food, “There are few of the author’s words but plenty of room for yours.”

OK, Back to You: So Hopefully You’ve Pulled Out Your Bucket List and You’re Reviewing It…That’s Great!

If you’ve decided to start thinking about generating some additional income via starting your own business, undoubtedly you’re now wondering about all sorts of challenging stuff, including:

  • Time Management Challenges related to starting up a new business while you already have a job
  • How to keep your Start-up Costs affordable
  • Whether you have what it takes to run a business
  • How difficult it might be to gain Spousal Buy-In
  • Health care costs for the self-employed
  • What steps you’ll need to take for Asset protection
  • Whether you can really turn a hobby into a business
  • Maybe even how much money your idea could actually generate for you, whether you’d need staff to pull off the idea, etc.

Don’t get too stressed over these questions.

They’re all valid concerns, whose answers we’ll discuss in upcoming posts. For now, your main job is to figure out what your goal is with this concept of starting up a business. And – determine which item on your list sounds the most promising… from a business development standpoint.  

Feeling better about the economy now? Thought so!

That’s what happens when you take action!

Whether You Call It Your Craft, Your Calling, Your Profession, Vocation, or Career: Are You Blessed To Be Doing Work You Love? That Is, Have You Found Your Dream Job?

December 5, 2008 by  
Filed under Anne Holmes, Blog, Employment, Work, Money & Retirement

Zen and the Art of Your second Career

Are You Lucky Enough to be Making the Money You Desire While Simultaneously Working at Something You Love?

Or – after all these years in the workforce – do you still find yourself wishing you were able to support yourself and your family while pursing a career path you love; something that feeds your soul and excites you to the point that you can’t wait to jump out of bed in the morning?

Not to mention that it affords you ample opportunity to richly enjoy the lifestyle you deserve?

If You’re a Baby Boomer Still Looking for Your “Dream Job,” the Good News is That it’s Not Too Late to Find Your True Calling.

You can still find fulfillment by following your dreams into your second – or maybe even third – career.

Here’s one Boomer woman’s story as proof:

In 2002, Mary Sheahen, a registered nurse with oncology as her clinical specialty, was a busy Chicago-area healthcare executive who frequently found herself wishing there was some way she could do something related to the wellness side of the healthcare industry.

Which is why when she lost her CEO role in a corporate reorganization, she didn’t see it as a personal failure, she saw it as a chance to do something new and different, something for which she has real passion. As she puts it:

“I’d wanted to be on the wellness side of health care. And – having visited a few spas – I believed that a spa – done well – would serve that need. After all, as a nurse, I had seen the results of stress on illness!”

Mary followed her muse, and in July 2003 she opened Wild Clover Day Spa in the historic community of Galena, Illinois. The spa is conveniently located within the cozy and inviting Irish Cottage Boutique Hotel.

In developing her Wild Clover facility, Mary’s goal was to create a full service day spa – including a hair salon – that is a place her clients will happily seek out in order to get away from the stresses of life.  

Her aim was to create a place where clients of all ages would be able to:

  •  Rejuvenate their minds
  • Care for their bodies
  • Improve their spirits

And anyone who’s ever visited Wild Clover immediately knows how well she’s succeeded:

  • We offer all traditional spa services: massage, skin care, nail services, wraps and scrubs, hair care and group services” (Typical groups they serve include couples looking for romantic getaways, girlfriends seeking weekend escapes, families searching for fun ways to relax and rejuvenate and bridal parties, as well as occasional special programs for breast cancer survivors and victims of domestic abuse.)
  • “We are open seven days per week and focus on both health and beauty.
  • “We consider spa services as a way to care for yourself.”

Here How Mary Summarizes Her Efforts to Get Her Spa Business of the Ground:

  • At the time I was planning Wild Clover, I was on the front end of the spa “boom”. There was just one other spa in Galena and it was struggling to establish itself. As Galena is a resort community, where people are already coming to relax and rejuvenate themselves, I felt the opportunity was there!
  • I found a consultant to assist me and believe this investment was worth every penny.
  • At the time I was doing my research (2002 and 2003), I was on the front end of an emerging business trend so finding a consultant took some work. There are many more spa consultants available today.
  • In true business start-up mode, I created a business plan with the traditional projections for growth. It was helpful and as it’s a living document, we have continued to modify it as we have gone along.
  • Be sure your significant other is on board with you, especially if you are spending communal money – or your retirement funds. My husband is a big part of the spa and we could not do it if he were not.
  • I have learned so much: you have to have guts, persistence and discipline to stay the course when you can and to recognize when you need to course correct.
  • Five years later, I now know so much more than I did then. These days, given my experience, I could actually be a spa consultant!!!

As For How She Overcome Any Fears Related to Taking Her Retirement Money and Using It to Get the Business Started:

“I had a conversation with a good friend who told me that so many people get to the point of launching and then back off and regret it later. He came along at just the right time. I had decided that I would continue planning until something told me to stop…and here I am!”

If You Daydream About the “What If’s” in Your Life and Long to Finally Launch the Career of Your Dreams, Mary Offers This Advice:

  • “Go for it!! The second and third iterations of your career can be the most fun.
  • You have no doubt learned a lot and using those skills will help you in following your dream.
  • Know where your money is coming from.
  • Starting your own business takes guts but is well worth it.
  • I could sell the spa anytime and feel really good about it. We have been open over 5 years and have an excellent reputation…that means the world to me.”

But What About You? Are You, Like Mary, Thriving in a Career That’s A Perfect Fit? Or Are You Still Searching?

  • Even though you’re Baby Boomer chronologically, do you feel sort of like Peter Pan? Still trying to figure out what you want to be when you grow up?
  • Do you have a great job and a fine paycheck, but still find it hard to drag yourself out of bed on workdays?
  • Perhaps you’ve been laid off, or believe you’re facing the potential of a layoff?
  • Or maybe your retirement plans just went down in flames due to the recent economic meltdown?

If Any of Those Scenarios Describe You, Don’t Fret.

If you believe that “work” should not be a four-letter word; that your job should not just put bread on the table but also put a smile on your face, now’s the time to identify your dream job and the career path that will help you make the change.

Especially since, like so many Baby Boomers, you are now realizing that you’re not interested in a traditional retirement lifestyle, too boring.  No, since you’ve likely still got thirty more good years ahead of you, you’ve recognized that you’d really rather continue to be productive and contribute to society. Given ths crucial revelation, it’s not too late to make time for yourself, to FINALLY go after what you really want in life.

Are You Ready to Launch Your “Second Act” Career But Not Sure Where to Start?

One of the first steps is to do your “due diligence.”

Just as Mary Sheahen did, you should find a coach or consultant to assist you. Remember, she mentioned that her investment in a consultant was worth every penny.

I’d have to agree with her. As a coach, I’ve many times been called in to help “pick up the pieces” after people struck off on their own, launching businesses without doing the requisite soul-searching, strategizing and planning. Inevitably these folks have ended up totally miserable, when they absolutely wouldn’t have had to, had they done their research. 

Generally, “calamity happens” when people select a business that doesn’t match their skill-sets or interests. This is a tragedy that doesn’t have to happen, but too often does.

Here are a few examples:

  • A former faculty member at a medical college decided to buy and run an Indian restaurant.
    • He was Indian, so that part made some sense. 
    • But unfortunately, his personality is a bit abrupt, and he’s not at all comfortable with activities like greeting guests and making sure they are comfortable, happy and satisfied.
    • Nor did he enjoy crucial tasks like planning menus, ordering food or chef-ing. 
    • (Apparently, he went for the idea because he likes eating in good restaurants and there wasn’t a good Indian restaurant in his town!)
    • Obviously this is NOT a good enough reason to become a restaurateur!
  • Another case with an equally unhappy outcome involved an antiques dealer who bought a bed and breakfast, because she fell in love with the beautiful historic home and wanted to live there and decorate it.
    • The only way she could afford the mortgage was to continue running it as a B&B…
    • Fast forward a year and she’s learned that she has absolutely no interest in or aptitude for the business end of of inn-keeping.
    • Especially the parts that have to do with being a host and short-order cook for a half dozen strangers on a daily basis.
    • Not to mention the requisite changing of bed linens and swabbing of toilets!
    • Or the marketing effort required to even have guests to serve…
    • (Cash flow – which she had never investigated – was not such that she could afford a staff to handle these tasks. Not too many B&B owners can… )
  • And in a third case, an author client decided to start up a magazine because she loved to write and had great ideas for content.
    • She used an inheritance to rent on office, buy equipment and hire writers and photographers.
    • Sadly, her capitalization plans were totally inadequate.
    • (They relied on ad sales which didn’t happen.) 
    • That scenario ended in bankruptcy.

These Examples Are Not Here to Dissuade You From Pursuing Your Career Dreams. On the Contrary, They’re Here to Persuade You That You Really Must Do Your Research:

  • At a minimum, start by talking to people who own the sort of business you want to start. Find out if they would do it over again, as well as what they see as the potential pitfalls, and how you might be able to learn from their experience.
  • Better yet, try “job shadowing” someone in the area where you want to start your own business. Quite often, you’ll find business owners who are willing to let you work in their business for a month or two, while you “learn the ropes.”
  • Alternately, checkout a company called Vocation Vacations, which allows you to “test drive” new careers while on vacation.

Actually Vocation Vacations is a fascinating resource for you, since its sole reason for existence is to help people like you figure out what’s next, careerwise:

  • Founder Brian Kurth offers dozens of business owner coaches you can work with to “test drive” the new career of your dreams, while on vacation, and…
  • If you’re not sure what your dream job is – or want help to understand where your strengths and interests lie  – and how to use them to find the job and lifestyle of your dreams, check out their coaching package that includes the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) Complete Assessment PLUS working with a professional career coach who can help you evaluate the results and determine your course of action.
  • If you’re not ready to invest in one of Vocation Vacation’s mentored vacations, there are a number of free resources on their web site, as well.
  • Or, you can read Brian’s newly released book, Test Drive Your Dream Job: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding and Creating the Work You Love. This book is both a fascinating chronicle of Kurth’s personal journey to creating his own dream job AND a hugely useful sourcebook. You’ll find it especially helpful if you’re not in a place where you can afford a mentor or if you would prefer to set up your own new career “test-drive.”
  • Best of all, the book gives you:
    • Lists of questions to ask potential mentors
    • Charts to help in establishing an action plan
    • Reality-checks about money, health insurance and the impact a life-change might have on your relationships.

(All Really Important Stuff!)

Kurth also includes anecdotes about successful dreamers and profiles of people who needed a dream-adjustment. Again, this is hugely useful information. 

In fact, this book is so important to your finding the perfect second career that – if you do nothing else after reading this post – I urge you to grab a copy of this book and read it cover to cover! “Test Drive Your Dream Job: A Step-by-Step Guide to Finding and Creating the Work You Love.”

What have you got to lose? Especially when you remember this life affirming mantra: “It’s OK for me to want to be doing work I enjoy that also makes me money!”