Help me out for Grandma’s birthday

We all have that special lady in our lives. The one that spoiled you a litte more than your mom did, that slipped you an extra $20 when you went back to your college dorm after a weekend with her and just made you feel like the most special girl in the whole world. My special lady loves shoes, dancing, going to church, praying, cats, the City of Saint Paul, Judy Garland records, cleaning, cleaning up after her eldest granddaughter, singing, sewing and so much more.  Grandma Cathy is having a milestone birthday on Sunday, November 25th. She is turning 70.

Grandma Cathy is very dear to my heart. She worked her tail off for her entire life to get to where she is today. I moved in with her when I was 15 and she raised me. I believe she is responsible for turning me in to the bright young woman I am today.

Leah & Grandma // 2008

She is retired, but not bored. Between volunteering, rollerskating, dancing, karaoke, taking art classes, taking kickboxing classes, traveling and adopting a (hyper) dog… she leads an exciting and active life. She is not an ordinary woman, which is why she deserves an extraordinary surprise for her 70th birthday.

Catherine // December 1961

Can I use my network of friends/colleagues/strangers to have Grandma receive 70 birthday cards in the mail? 

Here is how you can help me.

  • Get a postcard, card or USPS-approved mailing document.
  • Write a little note on whatever you find. Wish Grandma Cathy a very happy birthday and don’t forget a stamp. 
  • Mail it on Wednesday November 21st to:

Grandma Cathy

1304 DeSoto Street

Saint Paul, MN 55130

  • Watch my Twitter feed for updates on Grandma’s social birthday experiment. I’ll also post a re-cap blog to share how it worked and some photos.

THANK YOU for helping me make Grandma Cathy’s milestone birthday a fun memory.

Also, don’t tell her I told you she’s 70, she doesn’t like being reminded that she is “old”.

If you have any questions, please email me at leahzins (at) or tweet me at @LeahSTP.


Question & Answer with MN Blogger Conference past attendees

The 2012 MN Blogger Conference is just around the corner. The event is officially sold out, so be sure to get added to the wait list for your ticket! 

I attended my first MN Blogger Conference in 2011, and was inspired by all of the amazing people in attendance. I met the following bloggers last year and wanted to share their stories with you. Enjoy this question and answer with three great bloggers, and be sure to add their blogs to your blog reader.


Tell me about your blog – when did it start, what is the intention/purpose, etc?

I started my blog last year after the Minnesota Blogger Conference. When I started I was full of motivation and excitement from all the wonderful bloggers I had met, plus I had prior blogging experience being the blog manager for Anytime Health (a health and wellness blog).

I knew I wanted to start my own blog because I have so much to say. Plus, this blog would be mine. Ms. Giggles is all about inspiration and education with a little random mixed in. I talk about life, design, travel, fashion, and more. It’s a true lifestyle blog covering anything that inspires me.

I love being able to share my experiences with my readers, especially my Grandma who is an email subscriber. She loves reading them and I know that I will continue writing, if just for her!

Where do you see your blog in five years?

I see it growing with the next generation of the web. In regards to blogs, we don’t know exactly where content will lie in 2016. It might still be with blogs, or it might be something really cool that we don’t know about yet. All I know is that I intend on making my content stand out on whatever platform it is best suited for.

Why did you decide to attend the MN Blogger Conference? Had your blog really started then, or did you find inspiration to really get it going?

I attended the bloggers conference to grow the multi-blogger platform I manage, Anytime Health. I always am looking to further my education and knowledge especially when it’s something I deal with every day! I love all of my bloggers on Anytime Health because they inspire people to change their lives…which is hard enough! The MN Blogger Conference really opened my eyes to creating a sense of community with the readers on AH!

What inspires you in relation to your blog?

The better question is probably what doesn’t inspire me…I love so many different things and that makes it easier to write. Whatever you’re passionate about is what you should be writing…it makes it ten times easier. I get inspired by other bloggers. I love to see what they are doing in their lives and that inspires me!

Did you catch any inspiration at last year’s event?

I will bet that I was the MOST inspired person there! What an amazing group of bloggers we have in this state. Everyone is always willing to help out with advice, guest blogging, and more! I love that the “Minnesota Nice” translates to bloggers.

Are you hoping to attend this year? Anything in particular you’re looking forward to/would like to learn about?

I will be attending this year, if I can get a ticket. I am always looking for how people cultivate their communities and how they keep them in their circle.


Tell me about your blog – when did it start, what is the intention/purpose, etc?

My blog is It started about three years ago with a pretty loose goal of learning and talking about online marketing, but I’ve narrowed the scope considerably since and now provide tips for folks using the Squarespace content management system. I’ve also recently started to blog about inbound marketing.

Where do you see your blog in five years?

It would be nice to expand into tips in the design and development arenas, as I’m primarily a marketer. I see growing Big Picture Web into a blog with multiple authors, who would each bring their unique community and style.

Why did you decide to attend the MN Blogger Conference? Had your blog really started then, or did you find inspiration to really get it going?

I think it was a mix of both. The first MN Blogger Conference occurred right about the time I was starting to get the hang of things, and it was energizing to meet so many like-minded people. The conference really helped validate certain things that were working with my own blog, and alert me to a few things I was doing wrong that prevented my blog from growing.

What inspires you in relation to your blog?

I can try anything I want on my blog and I learn a ton in the process. We have constraints in so many areas of our lives. My blog has been my chance to learn so many amazing things by trying them out and seeing what happens. I believe this type of kinetic learning is a valuable skill in this era where the future seems closer every day.

Did you catch any inspiration at last year’s event?

Always. I got to know a little bit about each blogger and why they were successful. I’m inspired that what makes each blog worth reading varies greatly. Some blogs are amazing because they’re visual. Some because they’re articulate and verbose. Yet some still are all of those things. Every blog is unique, so it’s inspiring to think about what one might create.

Are you hoping to attend this year? Anything in particular you’re looking forward to/would like to learn about?

Absolutely! I’m most looking forward to connecting with the Minnesota blogging community throughout the day. I’ve developed friendships with a lot of the attendees over the last two years, and it will be lively and fun to connect with everyone through the stellar presentations at the MN Blogger Conference.



Tell me about your blog – when did it start, what is the intention/purpose, etc? went live on September 5, 2011.  We had both been blogging on other blogs that took up a lot of our time with little reward.  We were talking one day about ideas to help us spend more quality time with our children.  We decided to start a blog together to help us do just that.  (We know, it’s technically counter-productive, however, it really hasn’t been for us!)  Toys In The Dryer was started with purpose of being a “business” blog while helping us spend more time with our children.  We are rewarded not only with money, products, and opportunities, we are also rewarded with memories of time spent with our children!

Where do you see your blog in five years?

We would love to be big enough to have more people writing for us.  We would like to be making a minimum of $500 dollars a month.  We hope to have a large community of interactive readers.

Why did you decide to attend the MN Blogger Conference?  Had your blog really started then, or did you find inspiration to really get it going?

We wanted to network with other MN bloggers.  Toys In The Dryer had been live for five days when last year’s conference took place however, people knew our name because we had marketed ourselves and interacted with our future readers for several weeks via Facebook, Twitter, and our other blogs prior to going live.  I’m not sure if we found inspiration, per se, at the conference however we did educate ourselves and found great enthusiasm through networking.

What inspires you in relation to your blog?

Our children. Toys In The Dryer is about spending quality time with your children and making memories. Our children’s interests inspire us to become creative with ideas for them. Our blog helps us build our relationships with them as well.

Did you catch any inspiration at last year’s event?

Meeting bigger bloggers at the conference help us see our goals for our blog and what we want to become in the future.

Are you hoping to attend this year? Anything in particular you’re looking forward to/would like to learn about?

Yes, we are planning on attending this year’s conference.  We would love to see a session on the legalities of Pinterest.  Last year’s session on Facebook and other social networking sites was eye opening, however Pinterest was not as popular back then.  It has since become a huge part of gaining traffic to people’s blogs (including our own).

Things I’ve learned since joining Toastmasters

I joined Toastmasters at this time last year. In that year, I think I’ve grown quite a bit, both professionally and personally. I was putting together some guest packets today, and I remembered something my 16 year cousin said. She said that it was a pet peeve of hers when someone apologized for doing something they didn’t need to apologize for. That reminded me of one of the first evaluations I received in Toastmasters, which quickly brought up other things that have really stuck with me over the year.

First, a quick background on the program. Once you’re a member you begin working on one, or both, of these designations: competent communicator (CC) and competent leader (CL). You can do them simultaneously. The CC is a collection of 10 speeches, which is all done at your own pace. Each one encompasses skills that build upon each other. For example, your first few speeches are really the bones of public speaking. As you move along in your manual, you’re bringing in more skills, such as using visual aids and vocal variety. When you’ve completed the manual, you have a great tool kit of skills you’ve learned throughout the past 10 speeches. The CL designation is earned by doing different roles within the meeting, such as timer, toastmaster, grammarian or any of the evaluator roles. I won’t spend much more time on that is this post, as it can get confusing.

The beauty of Toastmasters is that it is flexible and you can talk about whatever you want. I truly thought I would have to give speeches about finance, corporate marketing, and other corporate things, but boy was I wrong. To date, I’ve give four speeches with topics ranging from cats to hipsters.  I think it takes some skill to give a speech about cats to a group of corporate folks!

Here are some tips that I think will be beneficial to anyone looking to become a better public speaker.

1. Do not apologize: As a presenter, it is easy to apologize for many things – for being late, for not knowing what to say next, for mixing words up – but don’t apologize! You didn’t do anything wrong, you have nothing to apologize for. In one of the first evaluations I received, my evaluator reminded me that I did not need to apologize for using my notes. This stuck with me, even a year later! Be confident, your audience will notice your confidence.

2. You know what you’re talking about: Unless you’re giving a presentation with very specific facts and details, you know what you’re talking about. Don’t rely on your notes. Especially if you’re telling a story – you’ve written it out ahead of time, you know what you want to say and it is your story.

3. Watch the filler words: This is the main reason I joined Toastmasters. I found myself filling my statements with unneeded filler words such as um, ah, like, and ya’know. Try this: pause instead of filling with those words. And hey, your audience will think that you’re thinking, and it makes you look smarter. After a lot of practice and being more self-aware, I can say I have greatly reduced filler words from my vocabulary. In addition to reducing them from your own daily life, you will notice how much people use these words. Oddly enough, it is a nice reminder that you’re doing a good thing in NOT using them.

These are just a few of the many things I have learned from being a member of Toastmasters. I have found it beneficial in any professional setting, and it runs off into my personal life! I pay a lot more attention to what I am saying, how I am saying it, and the true purpose of what I’m saying.

If you’re interested in attending a meeting, my club meets on Tuesdays at 12pm in downtown St. Paul. You can also check out the Toastmasters International website to find a meeting near you. 

Social Media Breakfast #46 – Career Planning

I attended the Social Media Breakfast – Minneapolis/St. Paul last Friday for the first time. I am surprised that this was my first event, but I am so glad I went. The speaker was Paul DeBettignies, and the event was held at Stanley’s Bar Room in Minneapolis. Paul is a well-known headhunter in the Twin Cities, and I was so glad he was the speaker. He is very knowledgable and is good about throwing jokes into his presentation to avoid that boring “someone talking at you” thing. I learned a lot of good things, and I’m glad to share a few of them with you.

Paul DeBettignies, photo by Teresa Boardman,

Paul started off comparing job searching to dating – am I wearing the right outfit? Should I call two days after? Or should I email? Did they like me? To be honest, job searching is like dating! You should LOVE your career. Just like dating, you shouldn’t settle for something, but search for something that helps you be the best you can be. Enough of the corniness, let’s move on to the good information.

1. Quality, not quantity: You don’t need more contacts, you need deeper relationships with your current contacts. You’re connected to 200 people on LinkedIn and you barely know them? Send someone a message, ask them to join you for coffee and talk about your goals, ask them for advice.

2. Take control of your job search: Don’t wait for a recruiter to contact you, seek people out. Attend networking events. Make it clear that you’re job searching to your friends, find out who they know and how you can get in touch with them. Be proactive and sell yourself. Would you hire yourself? Would you call yourself back?

3. Create a portfolio: You need to show what you can do. What’s a better way to do that than to have a portfolio Whether it’s a website or blog, make sure it’s strong and a good representation of your work and your personality.

photo by Teresa Boardman,

4. LinkedIn: LinkedIn is a great tool, and there was a lot of discussion around this. First of all, do not link your Twitter account to your LinkedIn profile, unless your tweets are strictly business. If you’re connected with your boss on LinkedIn and you don’t want it known that you’re job searching, make your profile updates private while you update your profile. Then, when you’re done updating, you can make your updates public again. That way, those you’re connected to won’t see that you’re updating.

5. Resume: If you’re going to be making a move in the next 9 – 12 months, start looking at job posts now so you can get your resume in shape.

Whether you’re completely content in your career or ready for your next big move, all of these tips are helpful. Keep your LinkedIn profile up-to-date and never share or post anything that you wouldn’t want a hiring manager to see.

In addition to the great presentation, the 2012 Minnesota Blogger Conference was announced. It will be held on Saturday, September 22nd 2012 at Allina Commons in Minneapolis. I’m excited to be on the planning committee this year. Last year’s event was a huge success, I learned so much and left completely inspired. This year will be just as great! The website is actively updated and they’re active on Facebook and Twitter.

The beauty of the city


I pride myself on being a St. Paul girl, but sometimes I do find myself on the other side of the river in Minneapolis.

Last night I went for a lovely and long walk in Minneapolis. We went from the Stone Arch Bridge, along the river, over the Hennepin Avenue bridge before stopping in Northeast Minneapolis for a late dinner. It was a beautiful evening and I know I had to cancel my plans of laundry to enjoy it, and I’m so glad I did.

Social Media Crisis Simulation

Another reason I love the Twin Cities, besides their general beauty, is the plethora of professional associations we have. I’m a member and quite active with Ad Fed MN, but tomorrow I’m attending my first MIMA (Minnesota Interactive Marketing Association) event. It is called, “Secrets Revealed: Simulating a Social Media Crisis”. The FireBell Team from Weber Shandwick Minneapolis will be sharing their award-winning social media crisis simulation platform. Wait, social media crisis simulation platform?!?!  I am a self-proclaimed social media addict, and being able to use it in a professional capacity is my ultimate dream job. So it makes total sense that learning how to use it in a CRISIS situation will be beneficial. I’m looking forward to attending the event and learning. Look forward to a post on that shortly!

Crush It

I’m almost halfway through the book “Crush It” by Gary Vaynerchuk. So far, I’m loving the book. After I picked up the book I came across this TED Talk from Gary and immediately dove into the book. I’ve been inspired a few times and am ready to hit the ground running to CRUSH IT, the Leah Zins way.


I’ve taken on a leadership role in my Toastmasters club, Securian Toastmasters #560! I’m very excited to be the VP of Membership and Public Relations. The two roles go hand-in-hand so when there wasn’t any interest from other club members I jumped at the chance to combine the roles. A couple of the things I’ll be doing:

  • Putting together the quarterly newsletter
  • Promoting the club within the organization I work for
  • Meeting with interested people and sharing the benefits of the club
  • Setting new members up with mentors

I’ve experienced a ton of personal and professional growth since joining Toastmasters in July 2011, and the opportunity to share that with potential members will be so much fun!

Whether it happens in St. Paul or Minneapolis, I’m grateful to live in a metro area with so many different clubs and organizations that thrive on their members involvement and provide so many opportunities to learn and grow.

Experience Ad Fed MN Magazine Day 2012

Picture, for a moment, a large room. In the room there are rows of tables. Neatly stacked upon these tables are magazines. Not just a few, thousands. Every title imaginable is free for the taking, from GQ to Wired, Glamour to Newsweek. The doors open for the attendees to freely grab as many titles as they can fit into their bags.  Welcome to Magazine Day.

When I joined Ad Fed in 2010, I decided to get involved and join a committee. I picked the special events committee and when I heard about this event, I had something exciting to look forward to. Magazine Day 2011 was to be held in May. Cutting through all the boring-for-you-but-exciting-for-me planning details, I’ll jump right into the day-of experience.

There were about 200 attendees of Magazine Day 2011, ranging from ad sales representatives to high-level publishers. The atmosphere was calm as attendees grabbed their magazines for the “magazine grab” portion of the day. Following the conversations by swooning young women over Andy Samberg on the cover of Wired magazine was a sit down lunch. Attendees enjoyed a delicious meal and listened to Kelly Leach share insights with the group about magazine publishing.

Now, that was a rather bland review of Magazine Day 2011. It’s been almost a year since the event so I’m not recollecting it as well as I’d like. However, Magazine Day 2012 is going to be great. The word great doesn’t even describe it.

This year, the event has been given a face-lift. We are incorporating some pretty sweet (for lack of a better term) things. This self-proclaimed internet/Twitter/social media addict has been appointed chair of all things social, you can bet your bottom dollar that the social media integration will be stellar.

We have a panel of speakers and a master of ceremonies. But it’s not just any panel. These people know what they are talking about. They’re leaders and experts in the publishing industry.  They’ll answer the audiences questions in addition to planned questions to keep the conversation going.

While this all going on, we’ll be able to enjoy some amazing food. Since the event is being held at the Graves | 601 Hotel, we can be rest assured that our palates will be pleasantly satisfied.

And then you’ll go home with more magazines than you’ll know what to do with. Maybe you’ll discover something wonderful in Wired magazine and you’ll decide to subscribe! Pretty sure that after last year’s event I subscribed to about six different titles. It’s the event that continues all year long.

Where has the time gone?

I haven’t updated this blog in nearly three months. Yikes. I have a couple posts in progress and hope to get them out soon. Here’s a brief overview.

Planning is fully underway for two great Ad Fed events. Bowl-O-Rama is new this year, and is sure to be a hit. Shortly after that we have an industry favorite, Magazine Day.

Quite often I am asked “What is Magazine Day?”. I have a hard time describing it other than saying, it’s the best day, EVER. So I’ve got a post in the works about Magazine Day! Back to Bowl-O-Rama. Back in October I was asked to lead the committee for a brand new event. I immediately jumped at the chance, what a great opportunity! It’s been a wild ride, but I’ve enjoyed it. Being involved so closely with Ad Fed has not only  brought me closer to my friends and fellow committee members, but I feel as though I’ve grown professionally. More on that, later.

I took the winter term off from classes but will be right back in the swing of things come April. I’ll be taking two classes. After that I have eight or 10 left, and I’ll be done. I’m going for the world record of the longest time to complete a four-year degree. More to come on this.

Work in the corporate world has been wonderful. I’m so grateful to be employed with such a fabulous organization. I’m lucky that I can say, 95% of the time, I am excited to go work. I feel challenged, excited and trusted. The leadership I’m under is great. I love being able to directly collaborate with my boss, she’s such an amazing leader and great mentor. (as stated in my bio, these are my opinions)

I am LOVING Toastmasters! I can’t wait to write a post about Toastmasters and how much I’ve enjoyed it. I can tell, in so many instances, how far I’ve come from when I joined in July.

That summarizes some of the things keeping me busy lately. I look forward to sharing more!