About Katie Holmes

Katie is dubbed the jack-of-all-trades at Matrix Group. She's our resident tester (browsers, responsive, SSO) and manages most of the content entry and migration for client sites. She earned a degree from the University of Southern Mississippi in Sociology, and before she worked at Matrix Group, she was a professional dog trainer. In her spare time you’ll find her spending time with her husband, little girl, and two dogs. She is an avid runner and loves doing all sorts of crafting from hand lettering to chalkboards.

Mother’s Day Gift Guide for the Techie Mom

Moms love tech. Not sure what to get mom for mother’s day? Flowers are always nice, so are candles and perfume. However, moms want those cool tech gadgets that streamline their hectic, schedule driven lives. Here are my recommendations:

(And if you’re curious as to why I’m an expert, my almost three year old is proof that I’ve earned my mom card….)

  1. The Tile Mate – WE CAN NEVER FIND OUR KEYS. This little Tile Mate is an affordable gift for any mom. If you can’t find the item, the bluetooth connection will alert you to it item’s location. It’s like deep-sea fishing radar. Just think of the entertainment (read: extra work) you can convince your children to do by playing, “who can find where the noise is coming from???” If only I could strap this to my Sunglasses, or my patience.
  2. PopSockets – Show me a mother, and I’ll show you a family photographer. The PopSocket allows you to hold your phone easily and securely while you take 58 photos of your child’s silly lunchtime faces, or their last homecoming game. They come in a number of styles, and won’t break the piggy bank either.
  3. Echo Dot – While I have some issues with this device, mostly Orwellian dystopian fiction induced issues, people swear by these little hockey pucks. Order paper towels, set timers, some up with answers for “why the sky is blue” and play Sufjan Stevens all with a gentle, “Hey Alexa…” Anything that makes life easier, eh?
  4. https://www.borrowlenses.com – So you bought a DSLR when your wife was pregnant with your first child, and haven’t upgraded from the stock lense? This service within the Shutterfly, tinyprints, and wedding paper divas umbrella allows your to rent different lenses to try out before you make a hefty purchase. While this isn’t exactly a techy gadget gift, it’s a pretty great resource to have around. Going on a romantic vacation to Montreal? (You know, the poor man’s Paris?) This site gives you the tools to allow Mom to get her full Ansel Adams on.
  5. Spotify.com – Just go ahead and bite the bullet. Give her a year of music. You’ve been listening to Frozen for four years now. Let her drive around blasting 90’s Hip Hop, remembering the times she thought she knew exactly what she was doing with her life. Nothing cooler than arriving to school pick up while listening to A Tribe Called Quest.
  6. Hydroponic Herbs – No not that kind. We don’t have the time to keep anything else alive, but we need mint for our much deserved mojitos. Two words my friend: self watering
  7. Philips Somneo – Who are we kidding, if we didn’t set the alarm, no one in the home would wake up to make the school bus in the morning. With built-in white noise, we can all sleep a little deeper and awake a little more refreshed to the simulated sunrise happening on our night stand.
  8. FRENDS Headphone –While I cannot attest to the speaker quality, or to the longevity of these, THEY ARE BEAUTIFUL. When in doubt, choose rose gold for an on trend look. She’ll walk the dog in style with these luxury headphones. There are several styles, and colors as well. There are additional plates for purchase if she wants to coordinate looks. Feel free to email me if you need help deciding. (If my husband is reading this, I want the ones make in partnership with Dolce & Gabbana. I want to wear the headphone equivalent of a crown! Our daughter doesn’t need to go to college… )
  9. Wireless Photo and Video Printer – Have you noticed how your image never comes out the way you thought it was when you use the pharmacy photo printing app? This printer takes all that guesswork out of the equation. Using some kind of Apple magic, you can print your photos from anywhere, like directly from your vacation in Bora Bora, or your bathroom when you remember that that birthday card needs to go in the mail today and you should include a picture of the kids in it.
  10. ANYTHING SHE ASKED FOR IN THE LAST 6 MONTHS – The best gift is the gift she’s asked for. Does she need a night out with her girlfriends? Does she need a spa day? Does she just want you to replace your bald tires before you have a blowout on the interstate? Listen to her, she’s either been dropping hints, or has explicitly told you what she wants.

If the mother you’re honoring is no longer with us, we acknowledge that this might be a tough day for you. Perhaps donating to an organization that supports mothers in conflict areas would be a great way to participate in the holiday. Organizations like Nurture Project International who provide maternal care in places like Syria, Iraq, and Bangladesh,  Save the Children who help families in the US and abroad or the International Rescue Committee who helps to serve and resettle refugees fleeing war and famine.

I hope this little guide helps steer you in a direction. It might not be the right one depending on your circumstances but I thought I would get the ball rolling for you, because forgetting to acknowledge the work, sacrifice, and love mothers give every day is worse than getting the wrong gift.

Any other fun ideas you have for the mother(s) in your life? I’d love to hear!

How to Throw an Office Party That Everyone Will Love

An office is a quirky family sometimes. We’ve got our weird but lovable uncle developers, our zany aunts on the MatrixMaxx team, and Mom and Dad, the CEO and COO, encouraging us as well as wagging a finger here or there when the situation calls for it. From my position, the project managers are older siblings protecting and guiding those they manage. Needless to say, when one works in an intimate yet diverse environment such as Matrix Group, it can be difficult to host an office party where everyone feels at ease. Here are my tips and tricks to hosting the best small office party without having to get HR involved:

1. DO YOUR RESEARCH

Before planning anything, sit down and think about diets and allergies. If Patty in accounting is allergic to peanut butter, you should know that before she breaks out into hives and her throat swells shut. Be cognizant of allergies, because food allergies can create life and death situations. You also probably know who in your office is on a diet. Consider options that are tasty but also fit in within their specialized dietary requirements. Did you know French macaron’s are gluten free? I’m also pretty sure COOL-WHIP is vegan. If you don’t explicitly tell the more food conservative staff that something is vegan, gluten-free, or inherently different from a mainstream version, they’ll be more likely to eat it – just make sure you fill those with the restrictions in on what’s safe for them (See my post on Paleo cake for more information.)

2. BUDGET

We all live and die by the accounting department, so find out what your budget is and go from there. Honor your budget, and your time.

3. DON’T BE AFRAID OF A LITTLE BOOZE

Even the most teetotaling officemate can relax while others are enjoying a tiny cocktail. Adding St. Germane (an elderflower liquor) can turn regular lemonade into something really special for your event. The trick to having a just slightly alcoholic beverage, while also offering a non-alcoholic option that is just as special. Consider offering a fruit or herb infused water, or a sparkling water in an unusual vessel.  It’s my general rule that no one NEEDS a gin martini at 3:30 in the afternoon, so offer well balanced cocktails and mocktails for the office. The goal isn’t to get drunk, the goal is to celebrate.

4. BE MINDFUL OF YOUR GUESTS

If Sarah from IT doesn’t like to be the center of attention, don’t make her blow out the candles on her birthday cake in the front of the conference room while everyone stares at her. Just simply give her a simple, “On behalf of the company, we want to wish you a happy birthday!” Followed by an emphatic “Here! Here!” This will allow everyone to remain comfortable, yet still celebrate the motivation for the event.

5. HAVE FUN!

It is called a party after all. This goes back to being mindful of your guests. If your office needs help getting people to talk to each other, simple games can foster the conversation. If you’ve got really big personalities, utilize that! Or perphaps this celebration is a real brain break for the staff, so you’ll just want to let them mingle. They will thank you for it.

Lastly, make sure your admin staff gets to eat at these things. Sometimes the admins are too busy hosting the event to even taste the hors d’oeurves they spent hours considering.

What tips and tricks have you picked up in hosting office events?

Chocolate Paleo Cake for a REAL Snack O’Clock

I started this job a few months ago, and everyone kept talking about this blog, ”Snack O’Clock.” I thought to myself, “I LOVE SNACKS, this is perfect!” I was a little disappointed so see so few posts on actual snacks. I mean, it is called Snack O’Clock. Then JP approached me to write a blog post about one of my cakes. And I thought, “this is awesome”!

I’ve been thinking a lot about blogging, technology, baking and how they all fit together in my new role as First Impressions Officer here at Matrix Group. As a proud Millennial, I’ve blogged for most of my opinionated adolescence, (Shout out to all the Live Journal users out there!) so I’ll keep the angst to a minimum here. I have also become an avid baker/pastry chef in the past few years. I love trying new things in the kitchen, and, above all else, I am a huge fan of eating. Not in a gluttonous, frenzied way, but in a savoring experience of flavors, textures, and ideas. Food is nourishment for the body, and for the mind.

Last week, we put together an office party to celebrate those who had birthdays in January. I was tasked with the party planning. I asked those with birthdays what kind of cakes they wanted as part of the celebration. There was a request for a banal red velvet cake, then a more adventurous chocolate and mint flavored grasshopper cake. And then something amazing happened. Elaine asked for a dessert either gluten-free or under the Paleo diet umbrella.

“WHAT? No gluten? No flour? No sugar? No dairy??? How does that even work?! I must find out!”

I accepted the challenge, dusted off my trusty Google search engine, and went to task. I learned that the followers of the Paleo lifestyle diet focus more on fruits, vegetables, nuts, and lean proteins. More of what our Paleolithic ancestors would have eaten. The focus is on nutrient rich eating, real food, and natural foods.

Now the real question, “How does one make a cake without dairy, wheat, or cane sugar?”

I found the answer in the most feminine and beautiful niche blogs. The Urban Poser is a delightful baking blog with amazing recipes which all fall under this Paleo umbrella. Her “Cherry Chocolate Naked Cake” was so striking that I absolutely needed to make it. Immediately.

After gathering the ingredients from three different stores, I was ready to commit to this nontraditional lifestyle cake. (Have you tried Ghee (clarified butter)? No? Well you should. Put it in everything. You can thank me later.)

The basics of this cake were some kind of fat (palm shortening or ghee), the coconut flour, a binding natural starch flour like arrowroot or potato, cocoa powder, coconut milk, eggs, and honey. I was SO SURPRISED to find that when the cakes were finished baking they looked, smelled, and tasted like cake! Not some weird crumbly mess I’ve made of vegan variety, but honest to goodness cake. This was like having a decadent piece of chocolate cake without that saccharine punch in the teeth. I did, however, have issue with the recommended whipped coconut cream frosting. Once I added the recommended amount of cocoa powder, the cream seized up making it look a little less than appealing. The next instructions detailed how to cover the cake in halved ripe cherries saving the cake from some kind of aesthetic failure.

This cake was what we call in my house slammin’ jammin’. This cake was a hit in the office, and a hit with the resident Paleo follower. It’s easy to reject new things because they take you out of your comfort zone. It’s even easier to buy cakes ready made from the supermarket. However, it is most important to live fully. Or with a full belly.

To see the full recipe and fall in love, visit the Urban Poser’s blog. You really need to try this cake for yourself!

What new challenges have you taken on in 2017?