How to Prep When You're Ready to Press "Record"

The iPhone was in position, we were in our seats, our intro was prepared, and yet, hitting “record” on our first video still felt daunting. It sounds easy to record a 1-2 minute video. While the recording process might be, the rest is not. The prep work should not to be taken lightly.

Here are a few things we learned launching our video channel:

Background work. We took time to learn the how and why of using video. This came in the form of listening to several podcasts, even before watching videos. One interview that was particularly insightful came from Jenna Kutcher’s Goaldigger podcast 246, Hit Record. I’m a big fan of her business acumen. We took to heart her comment that sometimes you just have to press “record.”

This is not the place for snap decisions. We made the decision three months before we hit “record” to launch a video channel. We’ve been asked many of the same questions by clients and artisans, and from our research, this seemed like a good way to answer those questions. Recording itself takes a minute or two, but those minutes take weeks to research, plan and execute.

Say what? Prior to this, we had very little experience with a video platform and the steps to establish a channel (thus the iPhone reference in the intro). This includes determining which video platform to even use. (We chose You Tube.) Our website, and other social platforms, have been our initial priority. I had to add in the learning curve time – and frustration – of technically how to do it. (And we’re not done yet.)

New meaning of App-titude. It’s not just You Tube you have to download, but the YT Studio for editing. Since we don’t have a professional thumbnail, yet, we use what the Studio gives us for three photo choices. (Yes, just wait until you see the first three photos you can pick from as the “face” of your video. Hot tip: make sure you’re smiling when you hit “record.”) Test recordings, editing options (not yet), uploading, adding links, it takes time to learn this stuff.

What’s the story. Next we had to decide what we wanted to discuss on the videos. And not just the first one, but what’s the schedule for the next few months? What are the topics people ask us about, and what specifically will be valuable or interesting to share in a few minutes?

Integrate it into your content. How does this video content integrate into all the other content you produce? For example, how does this upload into a newsletter? And the web site? How will you promote this, and on what timeline? We decided to post one every two weeks, which we realize is like 10 years in internet time, but a reasonable commitment beats and unrealistic one.

Cut! Take 2,3,4… Ugh, can we just tell you it takes a lot of attempts to get one you can manage to use (assuming video isn’t your natural calling). Even though it’s not live and you can delete anything, it’s funny how being on camera suddenly elevates all your personal appearance issues to a new level. And, it’s not just what you say, it’s are you staring at the camera like a zombie? What do you wear? How’s your energy level? What do you say first? How do you close it out? The list is long. We originally wrote a list of points to keep by the video as it was recording so we wouldn’t forget. Then we stared at the list and not the camera, so we had to ditch that idea! (Hot Tip: You have to be willing to laugh at yourself!)

Press the red button. We are novices in this area, however, I’m proud that we’ve made the leap and entered a brand new era for us. We’ll evolve and laugh about this one day, but the plan is that folks out there in internet-land get to know us and learn a few things that are helpful too. We’re willing to try to bring new ideas to you, our subscribers, site visitors, followers and customers. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, but we’ll be smarter business people for it, and have some laughs along the way.

Lights, Camera! Action! See for yourself here… (be sure to subscribe for bonus editions and we’d love a “thumbs up!”)

The Refined Few Beats the Varied Many: Year 3

Reflecting on recent accomplishments and the “my how things have changed here” points is what we do as we transition into our next year. A lot has changed, as one would expect, moving into year three. (Will we be saying that twenty years from now?) If the first two years are like drinking water from a firehose, year three will be all about fine-tuning and learning to jettison (quickly) things that weigh us down. Here we pause for a moment of reflection.

Year one was the heavy business lift (more on that here), standing up the foundation and web platform (more here) along with selecting and defining artist relationships. A basic level of marketing was in order, (more here) while selling and fulfilling orders as we went.

Year two was about exploring gift box possibilities with our community of artists and the acceleration of outreach to corporate and hospitality. Increased outreach meant more energy went into processes and guidelines as larger clients expect such things.

I’ve noted before about one Hazard of the Job, which includes having access to so many ceramic shows and artists. We have a variety of styles, textures and colors at our fingertips, and it’s tempting to want more beautiful options on hand. We’re in this business because we appreciate the talents of these artists. I can justify buying for future gift boxes and for select clients who trust us to provide specialty individual gift boxes with hard-to-find pieces. Maybe. You can see where this leads, right? To inventory that isn’t as focused as it could be.

This coming year will be about refinement and focus, with added attention to the data. Numbers don’t lie, they can be interpreted differently perhaps, but the data is there for the taking. We researched and educated ourselves on SEO, and beefed up the analytics, paying more attention to the different reports available (for free). It’s a combination of understanding the data and analytics, while keeping a pulse on artisan design trends that will capture our clients’ hearts - and wallets. With two years of experience in our artisan community, and data in hand, we expect refinement and focus will be the name of the game in year three.

We’re excited about what we’ve accomplished in just two short years: a talented community of top-tier artists, respected globally; Fortune 500 and renowned hospitality clients; a growing platform of vibrant content (Blog, web, IG, Pinterest and this year, video!), and a rapidly increasing number of engaged, supportive newsletter subscribers, and cheering fans. It’s quite an amazing journey. Saddle up, and join us for the ride!

Rockin' Red Even in Silver

 

When you’re the face of your business, changing your appearance matters. For experienced, executive women, when that change means moving to silver locks, get ready.

For starters, people who’ve known me for years ask all the time if I’m still the “Red” in “Red & Rugged” now that I have a silver hair. Yes, is the short answer. The “red” still applies to my “spicey” personality (my husband’s nickname for me), not the hair color. That said, of the many decisions I’ve made in my career, it’s amazing how compelling this decision became, to let my hair turn to natural silver.

To quote Beyonce, one day I woke up like this. I was just ready to embrace it - my experience, future opportunities, and my age - which all seemed like what turning silver meant. For me, it seemed like the color of my hair was hiding things, or keeping things a secret, and I didn’t care what other people said. Or so I thought.

In addition to the attitude shift, the salon situation included spending two hours, every two and a half weeks, and upwards of $200 each salon visit. You do the math. The time commitment became too much, it just didn’t make sense to me anymore, and pouring chemicals on my head that often wasn’t thrilling either. I had spent years getting my hair to a consistent level of red, and one night I told my husband I was done. It was time to own my age and my hair color, and move on. There were more important things in life to spend my time and money on. He was surprised, but he didn’t argue. Smart man.

At first, I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I was so over the time commitment that I didn’t care. Then it became clear how publicly obvious it was going to be to get my hair from years of chemicals to silver. The first attempt consisted of 4+ hours in the salon chair, before my trusted stylist and I both gave up. The red didn’t want to leave and thus an “interesting” blondish/yellow was as good as it was going to get. We were both stressed. The second try was about the same. The easy transition was out the window, so I told my stylist to cut it shorter, the torture would be quicker. On St Patty’s Day, I put a styling product in my hair that accidentally, and slowly, turned pieces of my hair green. I heard one young lady at a business event that night say, “See, if she can do her hair that color, I should be able to do purple!” Not exactly what I was going for. My hair had been so colorful to the business community that they all thought it was intentional.

In the end, the full transition took about a year. I share this with those of you considering this move, as a point of consideration, not to say to avoid it. I will add, it feels like more of a significant decision, at times. For example, unusual business interactions began to happen that made it apparent I’d made this change. I was on an appointment with a co-worker (a white male) and our contact came down to greet us. He said his admin had told him his appointment was here with his wife. Wait, what?! I guess since my co-worker had gray hair, and now I did, I was married to him? Suddenly, it didn’t occur to people I was a senior executive? Wow. Seriously. That was not the only time this type of thing happened either, and it had never happened before. (I’m also willing to bet that comment never happens in reverse.)

This transition also triggers a new internal dialogue. As confident and not caring as I typically am, there are days when I feel the change more than others. People do look at you differently now that you’re of a certain age. Before, they wondered or guessed, but now my age range is pretty obvious. Or that’s the story I tell myself sometimes, before I auto-correct and get a grip. I have no idea what they’re thinking. Or what they used to think. They might have always looked at me that way! I also catch myself thinking at networking events, “Good grief, this room is full of gray hair, we need some younger folks,” and then I chuckle when I remember I’m one of the gray ones.

In the end, it was a great decision for me. I’m still the red and “spicey” one, the one with the passionate attitude. And in spite of the challenges, having moved to a natural color feels like a blast of freedom. I never worry when the wind blows! (Some of you know exactly what I mean!) I’ve got nothing to hide. I’m out there and ready to keep rocking it, and excited to leverage my wisdom and experience in this business.

My advice, as you consider this for yourself one day… if you don’t have thick skin for the inevitable comments, and the idea of months of color transition feels like death-by-a-thousand-cuts, then you may want to hold off. But, if you’re ready to cut loose of the time commitment and be comfortable with all you bring to the table, then let the change begin!

Tips We've Learned Creating an Efficient Workshop

Running a workshop that deals in custom gift box orders requires being super-efficient since each order can involve different sizes, accents and wood stains. For example, we’ve worked to be strategic in the number and size of gift boxes offered, however, because the hardware accent can change, it means we go from offering a few combinations to many. Ditto on the cutting board possibilities. Options require process and a plan, and don’t allow for wasted time looking for tools, making room for wood pieces and finding the right hardware inventory.

Here are two points we consider important as we deliver on customer timelines:

1. Stay sharp. We’ve created a sharpening schedule for all the blades and bits. We use all hardwoods for our gift boxes which means the length of time between sharpening the blades is shorter than for those who use soft woods (red oak vs pine). The sharper the blades, the less sanding required, the faster the process. The blades are on a rotating schedule, making sure the ones in use perform at their best, while others get sharpened at the same time. Router bits, used for the gift box edging, require the same type of attention and sharpening schedule.

2. Get organized for production. We’re often working on multiple projects simultaneously; creating cutting boards, staining boxes, and finishing tablescapes. This means three different processes are in the works. When you require drying time, cutting time and finishing time – all at once - the work stations can get crowded quick, and meeting customer delivery dates means production schedules need to be seamless. You can’t have the clamps that hold each unique wood piece for cutting boards out in the same area where the gift box pieces need to be stained. If you’re unorganized and spend hours cleaning up benches and moving tables around for the next step in each project, you’ve wasted a lot of valuable time. And there’s no rushing things like drying time. It’s like waiting for water to boil. Endless if you’re in a hurry.

Efficiency in the workshop isn’t complicated, however, it does require attention to detail and thoughtful planning. (It’s an evolving process too, read more of our early lessons.) Delivering quality craftsmanship is as much about the tools as it is about the skill required to use them.

Cast a Line and Connect the Dots

My husband isn’t one to enjoy casual networking, he still can’t believe lunches and latte conversations lead to meaningful new business. The issue for him is the time and patience it takes. By the time new orders, or something significant happens, he’s lost track of how that connection appeared in the first place. But I haven’t forgotten, I know we had that line in the water for some time. In my career, I’ve seen how genuine, patient, follow up can lead to new sales, strong partnerships and important visibility. I’ll share a few examples for the non-believers.

First, I was asked to speak on a panel recently on the topic of women in business. This wasn’t a hospitality targeted event or a corporate gifting audience, we were speaking to women working in all stages of their careers - full time, contract, just starting out, mid-career, with families, and seasoned empty nesters. I agreed because I was committed to sharing my story in the off-chance it might resonate with a woman in the crowd. After the panel, I received a message via LinkedIn from an attendee who said she thought her CEO would love knowing about our artisan gifts. She connected me with the CEO’s Chief of Staff, and I followed up. They then connected me to another individual, more follow up. Fast forward, and we’ve now delivered repeat orders to that global client, all based on the fact that I spoke on a panel months ago.

Second, even though our main target is corporate, we do sell gift boxes to individuals too. You never know who those individuals are giving a box to, who else they know, and/or where they work. Our marketing “speaks” to corporate, however, individuals order off the website from our full Gift Box Collection. In one example, customers have loved our gift boxes so much that they referred us to their favorite luxury vacation resorts. After several emails and phone calls, the resort executives then ordered our gift boxes for their VIP guests.

Lastly, years ago I read the book, Small Giants, and loved it. I enjoyed it so much, I took a train to New York City to hear the author (an editor at Inc. Magazine) and a featured CEO from the book, speak at Columbia University. Before the session began, I introduced myself to the speakers and invited them to come speak in Central Pennsylvania , where I lived at the time. I went home and followed up on my request. We worked on the details, and Bo Burlingham and Norm Brodsky came to Harrisburg to speak to entrepreneurs in Central Pennsylvania. Somehow, I managed to get two editors from a major publication to speak – no speaking fees – in our small city. It was a big success with entrepreneurs attending from all stages of growth. Later, I took the train back to Manhattan, to have lunch with Bo, ask questions and hear more of his insights on writing content. Looking back, that was a big moment in my life, when you realize what you can accomplish when you set your mind to something.

In our current business endeavor, we are lean and I don’t have time for days full of coffee meetings and casual lunches, I’m not suggesting that. I am saying that creating opportunities for selective outreach, with genuine intention, and persistence can be productive if you’ve laid the groundwork.

You can create your own path forward. Find your spot, set the environment, and cast your line. You might be amazed what it nets over the coming months.

Below is my signed copy of Small Giants (of course!) and a picture of our event coordinator (Jeanmarie Kline) , myself (the one with the rebel blonde streak), Norm Brodsky and Bo Burlingham. Still a favorite photo of mine!

Working the Second Shift

In recent weeks I’ve had several conversations with folks who’ve hit a season in life where change is looking pretty darn attractive. The voice calling them to blaze their own trail, launch a new company and step out of an unsatisfying office environment is growing louder. Many of the issues in the current corporate culture make it appealing for people to launch a second opportunity. They feel compelled to leave an uninspiring environment to forge their own path. Going out on your own is an exciting proposition filled with promise, high expectations and the thrill of tackling the unknown. It also brings a new level of unpredictability. One question to ask upfront, is this a business or a hobby?

Here are a few thoughts on the realities of this decision:

  • Should I stay or should I go? The dilemma of deciding to move to part time in your day job or save money while you’re full time is complicated. I’ll say upfront, it’s also very personal. Remaining full time means all your business activity is relegated to evenings and weekends, which I’d suggest isn’t viable long term if business growth is the goal. On the flip side, scaling back your day job has a real impact financially, one that requires serious considerations of the ripple effects. I’ll address the part-time option here, since that’s the decision I made one year after we launched Red & Rugged. While going part time means you do have more hours to focus on your business, it also means you have to bring a daily focus to time management, because you’re now splitting that time with another role. Jumping back and forth between emails and phone calls related to two different roles is not ideal, and it decreases your ability to focus consistently on issues at either company. I dedicate full days to one role, to stay on one agenda and one business. I’ve learned to be more diligent about planning the week and what I have to produce each day – appointments, client communication, web content, social content, writing etc. Otherwise, the days slip by and little is produced. You have to be committed to the Sunday evening planning time, even if it’s 20 minutes. Discipline is key.

  • Sustaining the pace. In the first year, you’ll have crazy energy due to the excitement and enthusiasm of the new business. Long hours can even be fun, especially if you love what you do. I’ve seen it many times with co-workers and colleagues. And I’ve learned this lesson the hard way in years past. Year two of a business is different. Assuming you require some level of normal sleep, self-care, from the beginning, is crucial. Translated, if you burn yourself out in year one, with late nights, all work, no play, you’ll burn yourself out for future years too. Looking ahead, you’ll need that energy to sustain, persist, and plow through the long days. Year one is setting the foundation, however, year two and beyond will test you even more as you learn valuable (some say painful) lessons that are inevitable and unpredictable. Brand building, closing sales, product development, finding talent, and of course, financial management, are just a few of the tasks that require a founder’s attention.

  • A business or a hobby? You read it all the time in the business books: it takes twice as long and always costs more than forecasted. So true. That’s why investors love serial entrepreneurs. They’ve learned on someone else’s dime first. It’s also why the stats on successful businesses that make it past year three and five are so dismal. People run out of money, and/or the energy and will to keep going. (Remember, you are supposed to be enjoying the business.) Sales are key, and consistent, predictable sales is the goal. Revenue matters, and cash really is king.

Nothing happens without capital to invest and grow. If the decision is to run a business, you’ve got to attract revenue to gain momentum and offset your personal investments. This moves your company toward being a financially viable business, not an expensive hobby. There’s nothing wrong with a hobby you love, just make sure you know the difference.

Finding Artisan Works in this Season of Urban Craft Shows

The aroma drifting through the afternoon air might be one of hot Philly cheesesteaks, or the sounds could be those from the boats arriving on the Chesapeake Bay in Baltimore. Artists will be converging on both cities in February for major shows featuring handcrafted décor. A little farther away, on a plane ride to the chilly Midwest, ceramic artists will descend on a third show in Minneapolis. Buckle up, here’s a preview of the roadtrip ahead.

In the midst of a flurry of chocolates and red wine, we’ll be exploring the tastes and talents of Philadelphia. For the first time, our travels will take us to the American Handcrafted show, touted as the largest handmade wholesale show in the U.S. It’s been recommended by artists we already collaborate with, and who will be exhibiting. This event includes juried American and Canadian artists, promoting more than 500 artists in attendance. As luck would have it, we had already booked a weekend in Philadelphia, that same show weekend, to enjoy Valentine’s in the shops and restaurants of Center City. The narrow streets and festive storefronts around City Hall offer a genuine creative vibe, not to mention their proximity to Reading Terminal (Hello! Breakfast pizza!). A lucky twist of fate for us to enjoy two adventures on the same weekend.

We’ve mentioned the American Craft Council show in Baltimore before, an annual event we regularly attend. This show is ever-expanding beyond ceramics and forged metal, with more than 550 artists showcased. We particularly enjoy the shared Hip-Pop booths for emerging artists. We recommend you research who you want to see in advance. It’s a big show, and strolling the aisles to admire and engage with artists takes us close to four hours. The good news is, there’s usually a bourbon tasting right at the perfect rest spot on the conference floor. Even your taste buds will be stimulated!

The Midwest will be home to the NCECA show this year, quite the shift from Pittsburgh where we were lucky enough to drive last year. As an educational event targeting ceramic artists, NCECA is more focused on the skills and tools ceramicists need to enhance their craft. The beauty of this event is the collection of pieces aggregated in regional showcases on the exhibit floor.

We plan to share the fruits of our show travels with you in upcoming newsletters so be sure you’re signed up (see bottom of this page to sign up). A few gems will make it into our home, as is the case every year, and some will be the highlight of future custom gift boxes.

Rules of the Road When You're Partners in Life and Business

Talking business over morning coffee, finances over lunch and operations at dinner. If you’re not careful, this is what happens when you’re married to your business partner. To some, this might seem exciting, others terrifying. Long term, I’d suggest that a constant integration of the two worlds isn’t optimal.

Walking the marriage/business partner line requires a different awareness level than working with a business partner who leaves at the end of the day. Here, our goal is to have both a successful business and a fulfilling marriage, and avoid having the business become all-consuming. This isn’t as easy as it sounds, especially when you’re both passionate about the business and like to work.

The single most important change we made to separate work and personal, was to get back to a regularly scheduled business meeting. No missing it for our favorite TV show, or because I need to practice yoga, or he wants to get to the gym. Nope, our meeting time is sacred.

Consider these points, and the value of a set partner meeting where business issues get addressed on a predicable schedule. By absorbing most of the casual discussion around business issues, this meeting leaves more personal time for enjoyable conversation (or naps!).

Make note of the topics you need to discuss. I admit, I’m normally the guilty one when it comes to bringing up business issues randomly. With a set meeting now, I document the things that pop into my mind on our white board. They’re all in one place and the majority don’t require an instant answer. The spontaneous peppering of questions, however innocent it may seem, isn’t a great way to set the mood at home. Plus, it’s important to have a focused conversation and not be addressing business issues while you’re trying to cook dinner or do the laundry.

Consistent data points. Create a set of data points so both people are informed of key metrics. For example, when one person is doing the finances, the other person needs to be updated consistently. Data eliminates gray areas of question. If both partners are buying products, in our case wood vs ceramics, we both need to know the current status of the income statement. Other data points include social media and email marketing metrics, and web analytics. My partner is the “maker” in the business, however, he’s also a co-founder. He has good, objective business insights even though he prefers the maker space.

Regular communication. Talking about issues such as the timing of shipments, the hand-off of projects, the arrival of items, is necessary. In our case, I need to know when the gift boxes will be in the studio and ready for fulfillment. I can’t get gift boxes the day they ship and he can’t be expected to hand-craft a gift box overnight. Surprises aren’t good, discussing timelines is critical to a streamlined process and lower blood pressure.

Plan time off for the year. We looked at calendars during our December meeting and set time off throughout the coming year. Now we don’t have to pry open a long weekend, in the midst of projects, which is way more stressful. We have some flexibility built in, however, it’s marked on our calendars.

I won’t kid you and say it’s a perfect plan. There’s still overlap. However, the scheduled meeting has cleared the way for more relaxing personal time together. Namaste!

The Value of Playing Outside Your Sandbox

After five hours of driving through snow, sleet and rain, I answered my cell phone to hear the manager at our bed and breakfast destination tell us they were out of power – an ice storm. By now we were only fifteen minutes away. The Inn, and the associated event (the entire reason for the trip), he said, were in the dark. We pulled over and were still in shock trying to figure out what to do next, when the phone rang again. “Nevermind,” he said, “the power is back on.” False alarm.

This is just one example of our traveling life adventure. We drove five hours through dicey weather for an evening dinner, and then drove back the next morning to meet other commitments. The manager of the Inn laughed when he told us at breakfast the next day, “You get the award for the longest ride for a dinner.” It was a long twenty-four hours, but it was worth it. We received quite an education on how to showcase a spectacular evening of food, wine and hospitality, in a beautiful setting outside of Charlottesville, VA.

This business requires a lot of creative energy, as I’m guessing yours does. I get asked why we spend the money to travel to dinners and abroad if it isn’t directly related to a specific sale. But I say it is. It’s important for us to see first-hand how different professionals select their décor, host an event, and display their wares. How do others put on a show? How do they show off their products? What are their products? This is how you see trends and spot new ways of doing things. Or see what’s possible. Sometimes, you see what not to do.

Our travels have taken us down the road to Philadelphia and the Eastern Shore, up north to Vermont, along the Hudson in New York, and flying west to Colorado. We’ve also journeyed to Rome and Paris. These trips have inspired us to figure out how best to bring the beauty of the world around us into what we create in our artisan business - in terms of color, accent pieces and textures. We have a better understanding of just how many choices there are, with a lot more to learn. It has broadened our minds.

The expense of travel to locations and events outside our niche, or sandbox, is tied to business growth, creative energy and our own inspiration, I’m sure of it. You don’t have to travel around the world – although that would be nice – it’s amazing what you can learn from people just down the street. Saddle up, start your engines, hit the road. Play in someone else’s sandbox and see where it takes you.

Notes from a Living Postcard: Rome

Our recent trip to Italy was quite an excursion, this being our first visit. I’ve highlighted a few notes from our journal of adventures in Rome, to give you a sense of each day. I won’t get into the details of each tourist stop, for that I’d need an e-book, and more time. This is about how it feels to be immersed in the neighborhoods of the city. Ciao Bella!

Are those Palm trees? It was one of the first things we noticed getting off the plane. It never occurred to us that Rome was in a climate of Palm trees. Sorrento, we expected it to be balmy and Mediterranean. But Rome? We had not expected it. We need to get out more.

The minute you step outside and into the streets of Rome, you are in the thick of it. That’s the best way I can describe the feeling. It’s loud and boisterous, yet friendly. On the other hand, crossing the street, navigating between motorcycles and cars, is an act of pure survival. Riding in the backseat of a taxi is even more so. We’re still unclear how the drivers know when they can turn and drive on the active train tracks of the above ground transit lines.

It must be the narrow streets that seem to put you so much closer to the action (than in NYC by comparison). There appear to be minimal rules-of-the-road too, mere guidelines, except for the fact that motorcycles can do whatever they want, go wherever they want, and park wherever they want. The few times we were inside a car, I stopped looking out the front windshield at the chaos, and focused on looking out my passenger window. I figured, if I was going to go that day, I’d be looking at something lovely when it happened.

Black is the new black. Women sport chunky boots and black skirts or jeans, with helmets in-hand. And they wear it well, even in 90 degrees. It almost made me want to come home and buy a motorcycle. My rugged half definitely wanted me to do it.

Live music is everywhere. From Piazza Navona, to the Saturday morning market, to the side streets near Trevi Fountain. A budding musician plays at every turn.

We stumbled into an area known as the Ghetto, after being lost for 90 minutes when we tried to navigate our way home from the Colosseum, in the rain. (Note: The blue dot on GPS does not always show where you’re really located.) This streetscape was the silver lining discovery of Rome, with outdoor restaurants lining each side, and pedestrian only foot traffic. Pasta was being hand-cranked outside by the front door of the restaurant where we decided to eat dinner. The live entertainment arrived at dark to attempt back flips over a hand-held bar, in the middle of the street. I tried not to consider what would happen if they miscalculated and landed on our tables. The waiters seemed unconcerned.

Then there was the marching “tin man” as we called him. It was hard to imagine the miles he must cover in a day. (Remember, it was almost 90 degrees at the end of September.) He marched around the market, then showed up hours later at the Pantheon. And he was still marching. He carried the drum like a backpack, with the beat of the drumsticks tied to his shoes. Every time he walked forward, the rope pulled and the drum beat. His free hands then played a tune on the accordion. We had to give him a tip. As I said, a musician at every turn.

After four days in Rome, we were ready to hop our train and head to Sorrento to indulge in the warm breezes, Aperol Spritz, and relaxation of the Amalfi Coast. Rome is both intoxicating and exhausting. There’s no denying that you feel alive and energized in Rome, as all your instincts and senses are on alert. The people, and energy of the streets, command your full attention.

From left to right below: The Ghetto, Pasta making in the Ghetto, Trastevere neighborhood, Piazza Navona, Spanish Steps, “Tin Man”