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"There are too many books I haven’t read, too many places I haven’t seen, too many memories I haven’t kept long enough." - Irwin Shaw

A Heavily Michigan Inspired Holiday Gift Guide

Lizzie Williams

Every year I send my co-worker a little holiday gift guide to (hopefully) spark some inspiration as he begins his holiday gift hunt for his kids and their spouses. (They are all around my age.) This year, I thought I'd share an extended version of that list with the rest of you.

Best of luck on your shopping adventures! I encourage you to challenge yourself to skip Amazon Prime this year and give some of our  local Michigan gems a try. ;)  

Celebrating 5 Years at OST

Lizzie Williams

When I was 13 my friend Rachel and I would rap battle while waiting for the bus to pick us up and take us to the ski hill. My love for the flow has only grown since then. So, to celebrate my 5 year anniversary at OST, I figured it was about time I record my first official rap. 

One thing I learned during this experience is: it's SOOO much more awkward to rap out loud in front of people than it is to sing them in my head. Thankfully my wonderfully patient friend Tikhi Bana graciously coached me through it. ;) (Thanks Tikh!) 

Another thing I learned through this process? Having a chorus definitely helps. 2.5 straight minutes of rap is tough. Next time!! 

Enjoy! 

Datability Ranking of the men featured on 'Gilmore Girls'

Lizzie Williams

This is perhaps the most juvenile post I’ve ever written - ohh well! Since I just spent the past 6-9 months binge watching every episode of the Gilmore Girls I often found myself wondering -- Who would I want to date/marry if I were one of the Gilmore Girls?! It might SEEM easy to decide while you’re early in the Dean/Jess phase to pick one or the other, but when you’re watching the full story unfold, episode after episode, year after year, it feels much harder to decide with certainty. Well, I took some time and I've figured it out. Below is my official datability assessment of the Gilmore Girls men, based on watching all 157 episodes. (Note: I figured out that watching 157 episodes equates to roughly 7,245 minutes, or, 120 hrs 45 mins, or 5.03 FULL days of straight Gilmore Girls - what an accomplishment!)

The official datability ranking of all the (primary) Gilmore Girls men:

  1. Dave Rygalski (I mean, right? Was so sweet/thoughtful/amazing to Lane back in the day. Also, so cute.)
  2. Logan Huntzberger (Again, right? I don’t need to tell you why he’s easily crushable.)
  3. Max Medina (Such a smart, sweet dude!)
  4. Luke Danes (Love me some Luke, but boy would prob drive me a little nutty when he gets in his stubborn moods.)
  5. Christopher Hayden (Chris is smart/hot/funny but that flakiness would prob be too much for me.)
  6. Tristan DuGrey (Yes, this is 100% based on looks.)
  7. Marty (MARTY! I was all about him until he was so odd in later seasons. Prob has some issues to work out.)
  8. Dean Forester (Sorry #TeamJess, I’ve always been #TeamDean - which I do find a little surprising about myself, but I can’t help that I’m (almost) always drawn to the good guys!)
  9. Jess Mariano (Only post-college Jess. I would never have been able to tolerate his youthful shenanigans.)
  10. Richard Gilmore (Don’t hate! Richard’s a solid dude! Martinis + hanging at The Club all day? Doesn’t sound that bad!)
  11. Jason Stiles (Funny-ish, smart - but too douchey to date long-term.)
  12. Jackson Belleville (Jackson is nice, but I am 0% attracted to him.)
  13. Zach Van Gerbig (Zach drove me NUTS. I think he’s okay looking but I just could not date him. He has virtually no substance.)
  14. Taylor Doose (TAY IS CRAY. Also, he might be gay?)
  15. T.J. (I shudder a bit at the thought of kissing TJ, Liz’s husband,  because he’s so childish, and odd, but he is still not in absolute last place.)
  16. Kirk Gleason (This has got to be universally agreed upon, right?)

Would love to hear how your datability lists compare! ;)

The Top 9. ;) 

The Top 9. ;) 

(Note: This is who I would date, not who I necessarily think Lorelai/Rory should date.)

 

National Pizza Day Competition

Lizzie Williams

Happy National Pizza Day!

For years I have wanted to host a competition to determine “GR’s Best Pizzeria”. I dreamed of sampling all my faves in one sitting to determine what sauce/crust/cheese combo would impress my taste buds enough to be able to say, with certainty, “X” is my favorite pizzeria. (Ok, so in my dreams I probably also had a brew in hand – but this time sparkling seltzer water was my only option!) A few months ago I threw the idea out there to my teammates at OST and, no pun intended, they totally bit. So, today, for National Pizza Day we hosted an official competition to determine which pizzeria would earn the highly coveted title of: OST’s favorite.

We had 15 OST-ers bring in pies from their favorite pizzeria’s and 50-60 people showed up for the tasting. We asked all pizza purchasers to follow a few simple rules:

  • Keep the toppings minimal – cheese or pepperoni only
  • Ask to have the pizza’s cut into squares so more people could sample (vs. slices)
  • No frozen or homemade pizzas
  • Pizza’s had to be ready to be sampled at exactly 12:00PM

To determine the winner, each taster could vote for their top two favorite pizzas. After doing a final tally, the results are in and OST’s FAVORITE Pizza is….

[Drumroll, please]

 

ANDREA’S!

 

The official breakdown:

1st Place – Andrea’s [2014 Boston St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506]

2nd Place – Harmony Brewing [1551 Lake Dr SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506]

3rd Place – JB’s Pizza Parlor [2433 Eastern Ave SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49507]

4th Place – Mitten Brewing [527 Leonard St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504]

4th Place – Fratelli’s [435 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504]

5th Place – Big O’s Cafe [80 Ottawa Ave NW #1, Grand Rapids, MI 49503]

5th Place – Vitale’s of Ada [400 Ada Dr SE, Ada, MI 49301]

6th Place – Salvatore’s [654 Stocking Ave NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504]

6th Place – Giordano’s [3333 W Shore Dr, Holland, MI 49424]

7th Place – Brick Road [1017 Wealthy St SE, Grand Rapids, MI 49506]

8th Place – The Knickerbocker – New Holland [417 Bridge St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504]

8th Place – Rocket Pies [435 Ionia Ave SW, Grand Rapids, MI 49503]

8th Place – Georgio’s Pizza [15 Ionia Ave SW #150, Grand Rapids, MI 49503]

Last Place – “Mom’s Secret Recipe” AKA: Little Caesars [245 Leonard St NW, Grand Rapids, MI 49504]

_________

I’d encourage your business/friend group/family to try something similar and let us know what pizzeria floated to the top of your list!

Happy National Pizza Day, friends!

 

Creating a dedicated "Quiet Space" at Work

Lizzie Williams

If you’ve ever been to my office at OST you’ve probably looked around at one of our gorgeous kitchens, the beautifully restored brick, or the custom shuffleboard table and thought, “Man! How do I get a job here!?”. It’s a seriously beautiful work space. However, one downfall of having an open-concept office, where even our conference room doors are glass, is there isn’t a ton of privacy. That can cause discomfort for those times when you receive a tough call, when you’re fighting a migraine, or you just need a minute to yourself. We recently recognized an additional need for a dedicated private space that, as a young company, we hadn't needed before - a spot for moms returning to work to pump their breast milk. In order to provide a private space that would be suited for all needs, our OST Well-being team decided to jump in and create a designated “Quiet Room” for team members seeking a mid-day respite.

When we decided to move forward with the creation of the Quiet Room we knew we only had one month until the first of our new moms would be returning to work. Since I haven’t had any children myself, I quickly started researching best-practices online for workplace pump rooms and talking to colleagues and friends who returned to work shortly after having babies. We put together a list of room must-haves, nice-to-haves and maybe-laters. We worked with our facilities team to secure a room and then we went to work drafting out a floor plan. Within just a few quick weeks we had a fully operational, comfortable, private space.

Once the new moms started returning to work we asked if there was anything else we missed, or things that we bought that they didn’t need. We've done our best to compile all the research, suggestions, and comments that we've heard and created a guide so other people who are looking to create this type of space in their own offices can have a solid starting point. I will say, one thing I learned through working on this project is that it’s really not that hard and it doesn’t have to be a huge investment, but it makes a BIG difference for the people using it.

CREATING A WORK-PLACE QUIET ROOM -- A "HOW-TO" GUIDE

THE SPACE:

  • Re-purpose an unused, or underutilized, conference room  - heck, even a closet! It does not have to be big! The room we used was a little 9’x11’ conference room that no one liked because it was small and had no windows. Some actually referred to it as “the interrogation room”.
  • If the door has glass panels make sure you get a full-coverage shade or replace the door with a solid one. (We swapped doors with an office that didn’t need it.)
  • Make sure the door has a lock!
  • To let people know that the room is in use we simply hung a “Do not disturb” on the handle. That works great for our office but other companies I know of have added the room to their reservable conference system so you can “check it out” when needed.

THE SUPPLIES:

  • Comfortable seating - with pillows and a blanket. (We found a couch from Target.com for $350 and had it delivered directly to the office - easy peasy!)
  • An additional seat or two, since the room might be used by more than one person
  • A foot stool (I snagged a $40 ottoman at Meijer & it works great)
  • A refrigerator is very helpful so moms can immediately put their milk away and don’t have to walk around the office carrying it. (Mini fridges are <$100)
  • A storage location so people can leave their pump at the office. (We used an old filing cabinet - not glamorous, but does the job!)
  • A small table
  • A trash can
  • Hand sanitizer
  • A mirror (I didn’t think of this right away but makes total sense)
  • Reading material (Ideas: Amy Poehler’s new book, a few magazines, etc.)
  • Kleenex
  • Paper towel + baby friendly cleaner for any spills
  • A power strip
  • A clock that can be seen from the couch

THE "ABOVE & BEYOND" SUPPLIES:

  • A sink
  • Phone chargers
  • TV (with a remote) 
  • If you have a lot of new moms it might be worth investing in a pump that anyone is welcome to use. They would just be responsible for bringing their own attachments.
  • A fan/white noise machine or a Bluetooth music player. Turns out pumps are not exactly quiet and some new moms can feel uncomfortable having their co-workers hear them pumping..
  • A plant (Just make sure if you don’t have windows in the room that it’s a shade-loving plant!)
  • Artwork - I mean, if you’re gonna do it, might as well do it right. :)

FINAL STEPS

The final step is so simple, but critically important -- you have to actually let everyone know that it has been re-purposed and your process around using it. :) 

_______

I’m sure that anyone who finds themselves in need of a little privacy will be incredibly grateful. I posted a picture of our Quiet Room on my Instagram feed a few weeks ago and I couldn’t believe how many people expressed that they wish they had something similar instead of pumping on the toilet, or how they had to run to their car when they learned of a death in the family. We all need quiet spaces at one point or another.

If you have any additional suggestions, let me know!

BEFORE PHOTO -- when the room was being used as a conference room. 

AFTER PHOTO - The official "Quiet Room" 

AFTER PHOTO - The official "Quiet Room" 

_____

Note: my cousin Laura mentioned that it might be helpful to include information about the legal rights that a new mom gets based on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Great idea, Laura! Here is what I found:

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148, known as the “Affordable Care Act”) amended section 7 of the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) to require employers to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” Employers are also required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public, which may be used by an employee to express breast milk.” See 29 U.S.C. 207(r). The break time requirement became effective when the Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010. The Fact Sheet and the Frequently Asked Questions provide basic information about the law. (Via the US Department of Labor)