Top 5 Weekend Getaways

Summer may automatically kick vacation daydreams into high gear but sometimes a weekend away is all it takes for the Soda Pop PR team to reset and refresh. When a long holiday isn’t on the horizon, escape the concrete jungle with a quick trip to one of our favorite getaways.

1Zion National Park

Just a few hours from Vegas, adventurous hikes and unbelievable views await at Zion National Park. After all, you can only hike Runyon so many times.

Stay: The beautiful Cable Mountain Lodge is just steps from the park’s main entrance. Surrounded by mountains, the lodge provides grills for BBQ’ing as well as a pool and Jacuzzi to enjoy the views after a long day of hiking.

Play:  Majestic canyon walls and a shallow winding river will make hiking The Narrows a weekend highlight. Get there early to avoid the crowds and you’ll want to rent water shoes and a walking stick for this National Geographic rated stunner.

Sip: With the high temps and altitude, it is easy to get dehydrated in Zion so always have water on hand. When happy hour rolls around, the Zion Canyon Brew Pub offers inventive season brews and a convenient proximity to the Cable Mountain Lodge.

Eat: Enjoy organic, local food and gluten free options at Café Soleil. Added bonus: their delicious pizza and paninis are made with our favorite cheese: Tillamook cheddar!

Big Sur2

A drive up the coast from L.A. to Big Sur is the quintessential California road trip. We’ve all seen the gorgeous images on Instagram but the scenery of Big Sur cannot be done justice by photos or a secondhand account. Cell reception is spotty at best which makes it easy to disconnect, relax and begin that novel you’ve always talked about writing.

Stay:  The rustic yet modern boutique motor lodge Glen Oaks Big Sur is a great alternative to high-end properties, like Ventana Inn and Post Ranch Inn, or the various local camping sites. You’ll love all of the charming details such as fireplaces, heated bathroom floors, Pendleton blankets, and complimentary yoga cards and mats.

Play:  Big Sur is packed with hiking trails for all skill levels. A few favorites include: Andrew Molera State Park, McWay Falls (easy) and Ewoldsen Trail (moderate-difficult) at Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park.

Sip: You can’t leave Big Sur without watching the sunset at Nepenthe with a glass of wine or a Nepenthe Bloody Mary, made with their house-made mix, in hand.

Eat:  Big Sur Bakery deserves a post of its own. If possible, go with a group so you can order half of the menu and not feel guilty. Don’t leave without trying their famous Breakfast Pizza or grabbing some addicting granola for the trip home.

3San Diego

San Diego may be known for beaches and beer but the laid back locale has a growing food and cocktail scene that refuses to be written off.

Stay: The pool parties are legend at the retro LaFayette Hotel, Swim Club & Bungalows and its North Park location puts you walking distance from trendy stores, coffee shops, and microbreweries.

Play: Watch your favorite flicks poolside at The Pearl Hotel‘s free “Dive-in Theater.” Food and cocktails are available throughout the weekly showings with films ranging from Weekend at Bernies to Sex and the City.

Sip: For tropical drinks and Instagram-worthy design head to Fairweather, a vacation inspired bar that overlooks the ballpark.

Eat: Old books and clever signage line the walls of gastropub Craft & Commerce which offers bites like bone marrow or mini corn dogs along with off-the-menu mixologist masterpieces.

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We won’t blame you if you sneak in a couple Instagrams as you “unplug” and unwind with a wine weekend away from the city.

Stay: For storybook architecture that feels worlds away, stay in the Danish Village of Solvang. Wine Valley Inn and Hotel Corque are comfortable options with plenty of charm.

Play: If you occasionally dream about lavender fields, you’re not alone. The flower fields at Clairmont Farms usually hit full bloom in July and are open to the public from 10am to 4pm.

Sip: For a unique tasting experience, visit Saarloos & Sons’ tasting room in idyllic Los Olivos where you can pair your wine with a cupcake flights from Enjoy Cupcakes.

Eat: Treat yourself to cocktails and fresh fare at S.Y. Kitchen or go casual with beer, BBQ and bikers at Cold Spring Tavern which began as a stagecoach shop in 1886.

5Lake Arrowhead

Detox on crisp mountain air and lakeside views at peaceful Lake Arrowhead, a getaway that goes heavy on the rustic-charm.

Stay: Lake Arrowhead Resort & Spa is located in the San Bernardino National Forest, thousands of feet above the city. You’ll come for the cozy rooms and stay for s’mores on the beach.

Play: Get up close and personal with California wildlife at Wild Haven Ranch, a grown-up zoo featuring snakes, hawks, raccoons and even bears.

Sip: If there’s one thing we can all agree on, it’s that ice cream is always a good decision. Stop by Cedar Glen Malt Shop for one of their infamous malts, a perfect pairing to the shop’s Nomad burger: a bacon cheeseburger with peanut butter!

Eat: Authentic deli sandwiches and friendly service make the Hungry Bear Sandwich Shack the ideal stop to pack your basket for a lakeside picnic.

The Secret Sauce: Interview Do’s & Don’ts

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You graduated college and have had successful internships but landing your first full-time job is proving to be harder than any college class. I’ve had the pleasure (and very rarely the pain) of interviewing many young PR professionals in my career. Here are a few of my real world interview Do’s and Don’ts that will hopefully help you land your first job!

Do read the job description before sending your resume. Aside from a cover letter, writing samples and references, some companies (like us!) will ask specific questions in their job post. You’d be surprised how many candidates fail to read the entire post.

Do clean up your Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, etc. I know it’s annoying to have to think professionally when posting about your day-to-day personal life, but most hiring managers check out ALL of these sites before bringing you in for an interview. Ask yourself “Would I want my boyfriend/girlfriend’s mom to see this picture?”

Do research the company. It’s your job as an interviewee to know what clients the company represents and current projects they are working on. Helpful hint: all of this information can be found on their website and social media sites. Don’t be afraid to do a little pre-interview stalking.

Do have follow up questions to ask.  Nothing is worse than spending 30 minutes interviewing a potential employee and hearing “No. I think you covered everything.”  to the question “Do you have any questions for me?” Oh, and don’t only ask about the salary. That’s no bueno.

Do remember charm goes a long way. Smile, show your real personality. Be yourself.

Do send a thank you email. Bonus points for a handwritten thank you card.

Don’t be late. Period.

Don’t bad mouth your former boss or co-workers. Keep it classy.

Don’t under prepare. I try to ask a few untraditional questions when interviewing but the standard “What are your strengths or weaknesses?” or “Where do you see yourself in five years?” usually rear their ugly head. It’s always a safe bet to prepare answers to the usual suspect questions.

Don’t be so hard on yourself. You’re interviewing for your first job out of college. It’s intimidating. Make sure you are prepared, breathe, and remember the hiring manager might be a little nervous too.

Don’t go to the dark place if you do not land the job. 9 times out of 10, it’s not personal.  Sometimes it comes down to experience and sometimes it comes down to chemistry.

I wish you the best of luck. Go get ‘em!

Dyan

Lollipop Pies

Memorial Day – and the start of summer – is nearly here, and with the glorious three-day weekend comes barbecues and potlucks galore. We think these Lollipop Pies are the perfect accompaniment to your next party – they’re bite size, sweet, and just plain adorable. You can make them any flavor you like, but we suggest cherry or blueberry jam inside a flakey pie crust topped with a generous sprinkling of sugar!

Lollipop Pies | SodaPop PR
Lollipop Pies | SodaPop PR

Ingredients:

Pie Crust:

2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, chilled
1/4 to 1/2 cup ice water

Filling:

½ cup jam or jelly (we suggest cherry or blueberry)

Topping:

1 egg, beaten
turbinado sugar for dusting

Lollipop Pies | SodaPop PR

Directions:

1. Make your pie crust: combine the flour and salt in a mixing bowl.
2. Cut half the butter into pea-sized pieces and work quickly into flour mixture.
3. Cut in the remaining butter, this time in larger pieces (a little smaller than dime-sized)
4. Sprinkle about three tablespoons of of the ice water over the flour/butter mixture and mix just until the dough begins to mass. You may need to add additional tablespoons of ice water for this to occur.
5. Remove the dough mass to a flat surface, divide into two equal portion and flatten into rounds. Cover in plastic wrap and let chill for at least 1/2 hour before rolling out and creating your crust.
6. When dough is chilled, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Then, roll out your dough into a rectangle, starting with half the dough. Using a 2-inch circle cookie cutter, make roughly 16 circles out of your dough.
7. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, lay out half your dough circles. Fill each one with a scant teaspoon of jam or jelly.
8. Place a lollipop stick directly in the center of each circle and top with the other piece of dough. Crimp each edge using a fork, making sure to seal all sides.
9. Repeat steps 6 through 8 with the other piece of dough, making roughly 16-20 lollipop pies.
10. Brush the top of each pie with the beaten egg and sprinkle with sugar.
11. Place the pies into the oven for about 15 minutes. Let cool completely before serving on a platter or in a jar.

Lollipop Pies | SodaPop PR
Lollipop Pies | SodaPop PR

Enjoy – we hope you have a wonderful three day weekend!

 

5 Questions with SPPR Featuring Allison Ritter

We recently welcomed Account Manager Allison Ritter to the Soda Pop family. With extensive beauty, food and lifestyle PR experience, Allison is witty and media savvy with a unique talent for making maternity wear look hip and stylish.

Check out our interview with Allison below to learn more about her early career as a child actor and how she balances being a working mom.

Allison

1. You’re a mother to an adorable little boy and also have another on the way. How do you balance being a mom, wife and publicist? 

Being a wife and a mom is a hard balance because of the vast difference in what your life was like before kids and respective priorities and what it is like once you have kids. When you add work into the mix, and a job with the high intensity of an industry like ours, things get shaky to say the least. The concept of ‘wearing many hats’ takes on a new meaning, but I have learned to be okay with that. Flexibility is a key word for me. I have learned to be flexible with what I can control and what I can’t. Some days there is a balance, and some days there isn’t, but it’s all a ride and that’s what makes life interesting.

2. What were you like as a child? Rumor has it, you were quite the performer.

I was a very outgoing, dramatic kid, participating in every sport or activity you could imagine. The film industry was and still is a big part of our family culture – trading movie quotes at the dinner table and having a resident spot at the local video store. I loved to act out my favorite scenes and play dress up which led to a short-lived career as a child actor. I was also a great tap dancer and spent a lot of my time at dance competitions and tapping down the isles of the local grocery store while my mom shopped.

3. We love planning events and parties of all sizes here at Soda Pop. Can you share your go-to planning tips and resources?

It is so important to start the process with organization and a clear vision. Once that is in place, maintaining open and honest communication is the next piece of the puzzle.  Logistics can be ironed out, but the creative is the heart of the event so establishing and staying consistent throughout the process is also vital to the event’s success. This is what will make your party stand out and be memorable.

4. What advice do you have for recent college graduates who are looking to break into the competitive (and sometimes grueling) world of public relations?

Explore what PR really means to you and what type of story you want to tell. It’s much harder to define Public Relations these days because of the vast pool of services and types of clients. With this variety, there may be some positions that you haven’t heard of, so do your homework. I am a firm believer that if you don’t like or believe in the work and clients, then you won’t be successful in this industry.

5. You have unlimited funds and two-weeks off, where would you go?

Italy. When I travel I like to visit places and do things that residents of that area do, so I don’t know if there would be much planning but more of a “see what we see” type of adventure. I would love to eat my way through Italy, incorporating some culinary instruction or tours and wine tastings, ending in pure relaxation along the Amalfi Coast. Heaven.

7 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Work Routine

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Flowers are in full bloom, the sun is setting later, and the spring season makes us want to get organized. We think these tips will help you rebalance your work routine to make heading into the office almost as relaxing as heading off to happy hour…

Day 1, Sunday: Lunch Planning: We always have the best intentions on weekends to plan out our meals so we can brown bag it all week! In reality, we end up cobbling together random leftovers Monday morning and by Wednesday we’re buying lunch. Break this cycle by heading to the grocery store or local farmer’s market and stocking up on foods dedicated to lunch. Find space in your fridge to carve out a “lunch” section and prep as much as you can the night before so mornings are a cinch. Here’s over a month’s worth of ideas from one of our go-to food blogs, the Kitchn.

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Day 2, Monday: Mailbox & Inbox Clean Out: There are always a handful of emails sitting at the bottom of your inbox flagged “for next week” but today is the day to take action. Whether you file them away, reply to them, or forward on to someone else, take the time today to get your inbox (digital or physical) cleaned out for a fresh start. Today’s also a great day to look at your daily emails and unsubscribe to those you usually delete anyways. This will shave a few minutes off your email reading and deleting every morning!

Day 3, Tuesday: Make your List: Now that your inbox is clean, time to organize your to-do list. However you make your list, make sure it’s easily seen from your computer and is written in an order that makes sense – whether by priority, client, or due date. Try to strike a balance between too broad and too definitive. Once you’ve got your list, you’ll be able to schedule free time more easily and you might even be able to find chunks of time to unplug and focus on tasks that take your full attention. Need inspiration? Get yourself a to-do list you’ll want to write on – may we suggest this fun notepad from Rifle Paper Company?

Day 4, Wednesday: Up your Outdoor Game: Get up and head outside for a quick walk around the block or just to sit in the sun for a few minutes. Clearing out your head for even 10 minutes will help keep you focused back at your desk. For a bonus, since you’ve been brown-bagging it, grab yourself an iced green tea while you’re out. In L.A.? Check out Griffith Park for miles of hikes right in the city – we love the Western Canyon hike.

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Day 5, Thursday: Healthy Happy Hour: We all love happy hour, but this week find an hour in your schedule for health. Take a spin class during your lunch break, find a hike you can stop by easily on your way home, or watch a video for some at-home meditation or yoga. It might not seem as fun as a mojito, but scheduling time to stay healthy will keep you happier at work (and play!) To get you started, check out DoYogaWithMe.com for a free online video (we love Fiji’s classes!), or learn about at-home meditation.

Day 6, Friday: Team Bonding: Happy team = happy workplace. You’ve worked hard all week and Friday’s are the perfect time to bond with your coworkers. We’re big fans of donuts and creative photoshoots breaks here at Soda Pop but here are a few other bonding ideas courtesy of Fast Company.

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Day 7, Saturday: Turn it Off: You made it to the weekend, and now it’s time to find a way to detox. Unplug from your email and phone for as long as you can and just be present, whether it’s with a friend, your family, or in nature. Spend today relaxing and recharging before prepping for your week ahead tomorrow.

Feel free to repeat any and all of these weekly to help keep you happy and healthy at work and home.

Here’s to a sunny spring ahead,

Team SPPR

3 Ingredient Tillamook Strawberry Yogurt Ice Pops

We’re beyond excited for the launch of Tillamook’s new online community for real food fans! “The Tillamook Co-Op” empowers fans to take a more active role in the company as well as gives members access to exclusive content and events (Oh, and you can name a cow too!). Over the last few days The Tillamook Co-Op has gained more than 30,000 members, crushing the original goal, proving how much consumers crave transparency…and wholesome Tillamook products.

Tillamook Strawberry Yogurt Ice Pops | SodaPop PR

To celebrate, we wanted to step into spring with a recipe using just three ingredients that’ll put a smile on your face. These Strawberry Yogurt Pops are healthy, yet taste indulgent. They come together in just under ten minutes, then are popped into the freezer to set. Once they’re frozen, this sweet treat is perfect for a mid-afternoon moment or a delicious and light dessert. One thing’s for sure: everyone in the family is going to make these all season long.

Tillamook Strawberry Yogurt Ice Pops | SodaPop PR Tillamook Strawberry Yogurt Ice Pops | SodaPop PR

MAKES:

10 3-oz ice pops

ACTIVE TIME:

10 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

4 5.3 oz containers Tillamook 2% Farmstyle Greek Yogurt (We used vanilla and strawberry)
½ cup milk
½ pint strawberries, diced

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Whisk yogurt and milk together. We used half vanilla and half strawberry flavored yogurt, but use any Tillamook flavor desired.
  2. In ice pop molds, layer diced strawberries and yogurt mixture at desired intervals, shaking at every layer to remove air bubbles. Stop when each mold is full, and add ice pop sticks.
  3. Freeze overnight or at least six hours, allowing ice pops to set completely before removing from mold.

We hope you make these ice pops, and check out the Tillamook Co-Op. It is free to join…go ahead, click here…you know you want to name a cow!

Cheers to a sunny and simple spring!

Tillamook Strawberry Yogurt Ice Pops | SodaPop PR

5 Questions with SPPR Featuring Colleen Dunn

Last week we welcomed Assistant Account Executive Colleen Dunn to the Soda Pop PR team and also to Los Angeles. Colleen joins us from a boutique PR agency in San Diego as a talented wordsmith with a shared passion for the food and beverage world. Take a peek at our interview with Colleen below to learn all about her San Diego favorites and wanderlust inspirations.

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1. As a newbie to LA, how do you look forward to spending your free time out of the office?

I’ve kept a running LA “to-do” list since I started visiting a couple years ago! I’m excited to hunt down street art, try out some restaurant recs, visit the LACMA again and of course spend plenty of time posted up in one of LA’s many awesome coffee shops with a book.

2. We know you’re passionate about travel. Tell us about one of your most memorable trips.

I just came back from Ecuador which was an especially memorable trip for me because I decided to conquer my fear of heights… by jumping off a 330 foot bridge. Part of why I love traveling is because it helps me to get out of my comfort zone and be much braver than I am in my day-to-day life. This trip was also special because I had the chance to celebrate New Year’s Eve and my best friend’s birthday with her. She lives in South America now so I don’t often get to be with her on big days like that!

3. What excites you most about working in the PR industry?

PR is exciting because every day is so different and we are always doing a million things at once. This isn’t a job where you find yourself watching the clock tick! I love being behind the scenes or being the person a reporter calls when they need a photo of a client. It’s so exciting to see great media coverage of a client that you made happen! Sometimes I feel like Olivia Pope and I have to refrain from saying “it’s handled.”

4. After spending 7 years in San Diego, what are the top 3 things you’d tell everyone to see or do while visiting?

San Diegans love to be outdoors (see #potatochiprock for the perfect instagram-worthy hike). My favorite way to get a daily dose of sunshine is a little beach-front yoga with instructor Namasteve. Steve offers a donation-based class in Pacific Beach every Saturday and Sunday at 10 a.m.

With nearly 100 breweries in San Diego, beer has to be number two on the list of things to do. My favorite is Modern Times, a kickstarter founded spot that just opened a second tasting room. Check out the Lomaland Fermentorium for art including a Michael Jackson mural made of sticky notes and my current favorite brew The Universal Friend.

Finally, it’s time for some food. Local haunt OB noodle house is my favorite spot for pho and gives you a chance to check out Ocean Beach, San Diego’s own Venice. Pho should always be followed by ice cream so bring cash for a fresh waffle ice cream sandwich at Lighthouse.

5. We love listening to music during the work day (Dyan is infamously known for jamming out to 90’s rap). What are a couple tracks you’ll be adding to our playlist?

I’ve been listening to a lot of The Avett Brothers and the Head and the Heart lately but my favorite question to ask at a cocktail party is “What three albums would you want to be stranded on a desert album with?” So I’d definitely have to add in a selection from my three choices: Fleetwood Mac Rumors for that Friday feeling, The Shins Wincing the Night Away with extra plays of Sea legs and Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA because that was the soundtrack to my childhood.

(For more from Colleen, you can find her on Twitter at @colleenadunn.)