At Paint with Flair, instructors kick down the barriers that traditionally stand between beginners and a paintbrush, starting by creating a comfortable environment. Couples on dates, coworkers looking to bond, or friends out on the town sip on BYOB drinks and snacks as they loosen up and get acquainted with the provided materials (classes for kids and non-drinkers are also available on the schedule). Teachers get groups chatting as they take them on a step-by-step walk through the brushstrokes, color selection, and witchcraft necessary to whip up their own fetching painting, whether it be a reproduction of Van Gogh’s Starry Night or an original design.
Family patriarch Nordy Rockler opened the doors of his first store in 1954 to supply his fellow craftsmen with knowledge, friendly advice, and a large selection of tools for at-home woodworking projects. Now, the chain of retail outlets brims with more than 20,000 tools and specialized woodworking equipment. Next to a steely rainbow of hinges, casters, and screws, a supply of lumber and exotic hardwoods provides planks for building tree houses or just leaving around as a warning to uncooperative trees. The tenor buzz of power tools operated by newly knowledgeable guests drifts from educational sessions on operating equipment and woodworking.
At Nuts and Bolts Hardware, the official STIHL outdoor power-equipment dealer, a friendly staff of handyfolk and hardware experts help clients patch-up pipes, cut glass, or select power tools for an upcoming DIY project. For jobs that need an expert's eye, the shop keeps a handful of technicians who repair small engines, sharpen kitchen knives, and cut keys as guests enjoy complimentary popcorn and coffee.
Thomas Volmer credits his wife, Rachel, for inspiring them to start helming boot camps. She wasn’t always a fitness guru, though. "She was a commercial banker and she was 70 pounds overweight," Volmer recalls. Once she started to reclaim her life, "she just fell in love with fitness," he says. She eventually dropped 80 pounds with proper exercise and nutrition, spurring her to earn her AFAA personal training certification and pursue a career as a full-time trainer.
Personal experience lends Rachel and the other trainers—including Sharon Monk, who lost more than 200 pounds by exercising and eating healthily—empathy and a motivating demeanor when working with campers. At each location, they get groups doing pushups, swinging kettlebells, and flipping tires in a positive environment that's focused on teamwork, rather than competition. "You start as a group, you finish as a group," says Thomas. "But the activities that you do in between might be different based on your abilities."
In addition to leading sessions, Rachel creates easy-to-use online meal plans (including a vegetarian plan), which campers can customize to help them stay on track. Options range from the simple, such as cereal with fruits, nuts, and flaxseeds, to the creative, including honey-sweetened oatmeal peanut-butter cookies. She also includes the calorie count for each recipe. Users can pick from simple meals made for one person or larger entrees designed with an entire family or pet elephant in mind.
Everyone wants to save some money on their utility bills, and the Climate Doctors, a three-time Angie's List Super Service winner, can help homeowners do just that. It sends out technicians to homes to prepare doors and windows for the winter, insulate and ventilate attics, and make ductwork more efficient through cleanings. For those who don't know what they need to do to save money, the techs can audit energy usage and past utility bills.
The techs also install cutting-edge Nest Thermostats, which control the temperature in the house based on the homeowners' lifestyle. For instance, the thermostat will raise the temperature in the house when the homeowners wake up in the morning and lower it when they plan to wrap themselves in a pile of furry cats.