We all have that one holiday memory. The one where we got exactly what we wanted. Or, maybe, it’s the one where what we gave didn’t quite meet expectations. Either way, the things we get and those we give are often remembered long after the items themselves are gone. To help wrap up 2020 we thought we’d ask members of our PMG Team about some of their best, and worst, gifts ever. Here are their responses to sprinkle a little extra Christmas cheer on your post-holiday doldrums this year. Enjoy!

What is the best gift you’ve ever received?

  1. The best gift I’ve ever received or given is the same for me. In December 1996 we decided to drive down to see my parents, who were on South Padre Island for 3 months, during the winter. We loaded up the minivan and set up an VCR for our daughter, so she could watch movies during the trip. We got down there on New Year’s Eve about 9:00 pm. The whole family had a great time and that was the last time my mom was alive for Christmas or New Years. She passed away the following June. That Christmas I will always cherish and never will forget. I guess we never know when we will have our “last” Christmas, so make it the best every year! (Cindy J, LGA)
  2. The best gift that I received was a homemade stocking that my daughter made for me because I didn’t have one (my favorite part of Christmas is stocking stuffers). In the stocking were handwritten notes from my children about their favorite memories with mom. (Kim O, Recruiter)
  3. A large handmade wooden dollhouse, when I was a child, to be passed down to future generations! (Marisa B, TST Manager)
  4. Nike AirMax shoes. (Ted C, TSC)
  5. My dog Harley was the best gift I’ve ever received. He was given to me after my son passed away and he was basically a life saver. (Daniel O, Welder)
  6. My Sega Genesis from ‘Santa’. (Dave R, TSC)
  7. When I was about 6 or7 years old my parents and grandparents went in together and got me a one of a kind handmade closet/bed for my American Girl Doll Molly. It’s still at my parents’ house and, by far, the most thoughtful and unique gift I’ve ever gotten. (Vivian R, BDR)
  8. When I was 13 I asked for an Xbox every single day, for an entire year. I was THRILLED when I finally got one! (Jazmin C, TS Admin)
  9. A sapphire (my birth stone) ring I got from my parents when I was 17. I still wear it to this day over 20 years later. (Joan F, Controller)
  10. The gift of words in a card, from my parents, each year typically causes a tear or two to fall. It is always accompanied by a good sum of cash, but I appreciate their words way more. (Brandon S, CSM)
  11. In my youth it was a Dear Diary OR a Starter jacket (San Jose Sharks because the colors were my favorite). In my adult life, it was tickets to a music festival (Tomorrowland). (Kelly G, CSM)
  12. That I was going to be a daddy! (Corey M, Machine Operator)
  13. When my husband proposed to me on Christmas of 2013. Not only did he surprise me, it was the most cliché way of proposing to me. It was also in front of my whole immediate family (around 20 people) so there was an audience to share the joy with! (Laura Y, SMSPD)

What is the worst gift you’ve ever received?

  1. When I was 16 I was really into basketball. I wanted “basketball shoes” so badly, like black Nike ones. Because if you have the shoes, you can shoot better, right? I begged my parents for weeks and then, when Christmas came, I opened the box up and it was a pair of black basketball shoes! But they were from Kmart and almost 2 sizes too big for me. I ended up quitting basketball and moving on to something else. I only wore the shoes once. (Laura Y, SMSPD)
  2. Fitted/Too-tight pajamas, from my in-laws. I thought they were actually leggings. (Ted C, TSC)
  3. Anything from my Dad, specifically an L (large size) Twins T-shirt when I was in college.  I have not been an L since I was 10. (Dave R, TSC)
  4. A bag full of used (but still working) light bulbs. (Brandon S, CSM)
  5. It was always clothing that I didn’t pick out when I was a kid. (Joan F, Controller)
  6. I received a pair of mismatched slippers and a large mixing bowl from my former husband while we were married. He only bought the slippers because the sales girl was cute! At the time, I did not like the bowl, but now I wish I had it. (Kim O, Recruiter)
  7. No gift is a bad gift! (Kelly G, CSM)
  8. My grandma sent me this very shiny, silver puffy vest that looked like it belonged to a very elderly person. As much as I appreciated the thought, I returned it and got myself a pair of Birkenstocks that I wear almost every day. It all worked out in the end. (Vivian R, BDR)
  9. I feel bad even saying this, because I’m grateful for any gift, but if I HAVE to pick it’s the funny/hideous clothes my wonderful grandma gave us girl cousins growing up. Sorry Grandma! (Marisa B, TST Manager)
  10. A crystal dish I never used that is still in a box in my basement. (Daniel O, Welder)
  11. Mechanical pencils. I’ll take socks over those any day! Although, I actually really like socks though. (Jazmin C, TS Admin)

What is the best gift you’ve ever given?

  1. At my old job I got each of my co-workers a little something very special to their hearts. We didn’t have a manager, no one expected it, and they all opened them up together during the work day with a glass of cheer. The gift itself wasn’t the “best” thing I ever gave, but the sentiment is definitely one of the better. Other than that, I got Jesse (my fiancé) a pretty sweet new snowboard outfit last year. Pretty superficial but it was rad! (Kelly G, CSM)
  2. I got my wife a plush bathrobe, plush slippers, and a new Turbie Twist. Simple, but she LOVED it. (Dave R, TSC)
  3. I was hiring for operator positions at a former employer and a referral came to me with someone who lived close to the facility and had just to America from Ghana. She had no experience but had the desire to work. I had hired her and then started to get to know her. A few months later, with Christmas around the corner, I found out that her kids didn’t even have winter coats and they didn’t know of more support groups to help with winter needs. I went around the office and asked for donations to buy clothes and things for her kids and was able to raise about $150. Then we took them to Target and bought groceries, winter hats, mittens, boots, clothes and games for all of them. To this day, she messages me occasionally to thank me for helping them in a time of need.  She ended up getting hired on at the facility full-time and still works there too! (Laura Y, SMSPD)
  4. I’m all about sentimental gifts, and my best friend was going to study abroad for a year in Cambodia. So, my other best friend and I went and made this DIY Gumball Machine out of a painted flowerpot and fishbowl. Then we stuffed it full of all of our memories from growing up for when she got homesick. We all grew up together and it ended up being a really special moment! (Jazmin C, TS Admin)
  5. Probably a 1 carat diamond ring given to my second wife. In retrospect, I probably should have saved my money but the marriage did last 10 years so… (Daniel O, Welder)
  6. My siblings and I bought my parents (80 and 75 years old) their first automatic garage door opener last year.  They absolutely love it and have constantly told me whenever I see them! (Joan F, Controller)
  7. A surprise, expenses paid, family trip to my dad. (Marisa B, TST Manager)
  8. The best gift I’ve given wasn’t on a holiday. My best friend is a teacher and has had a pretty rough year with trying to teach during COVID, and all that goes with that. I sent her a “happy” containing 25 of The Office stickers, her favorite pen to grade papers with, and a motivating swear word coloring book to remind her that she was awesome. (Vivian R, BDR)
  9. Last year we decided to try something new with our daughters and gifted them an entire year of experiences, instead of a bunch of toys under the tree on Christmas morning. COVID required us to make a few substitutions but we still got to try a few new things: downhill skiing (which the girls loved, while I quickly realized I’m too old to learn), a cooking subscription for one daughter and on-line photography classes for the other, on-line archery lessons, passports for future travel, a trampoline, indoor skydiving, etc. It was honestly one of the best gifts I’ve ever given and I still got to reap the benefits, so I guess you could say it’s the best gift I’ve ever received too! We have all new experiences for 2021 and we made them COVID proof (I think), so we should get to enjoy the spirit of Christmas all year long in 2021 too! (Beth B. HR Manager)
  10. Vacations to Florida. (Ted C, TSC)
  11. The best gift was a wall hanging that had all of my dad’s football cards on it (he was a Minnesota Viking), surrounding the program for the Vikings 25th anniversary team. We went on to make one for when he was on the 40th and 50th teams too. Football was just his job, he would have rather been golfing, but having the artwork and looking over his career was pretty cool. Some of his cards were really bad. The funny thing is that my brother and I did not realize we were bidding against each other on eBay to collect my dad’s cards. (Kim O, Recruiter)

What is the worst gift you’ve ever given?

  1. The year I learned to knit (age 8) I made every single person in my family a scarf and very poorly stitched their names into them. It’s so embarrassing to think about but it’s the thought that counts, right? (Vivian R, BDR)
  2. Gift cards.  I love them because they are so practical, but they’re impersonal. (Joan F, Controller)
  3. As a kid in the 80’s, I asked Santa for a ‘My Child’ doll, which was supposed to look just like me. As one of 4 girls, I was the only one of us without red hair and green eyes – so on Christmas morning, I was super excited to find my brown haired/brown eyed ‘My Child’ doll under the tree… but to my disappointment, there she was, with a full head of red hair and big green eyes. Looking back, I’m sure it was what was left on the store shelves as they did their last-minute shopping and my parents probably figured it made sense… but I definitely remember being sad she didn’t look like me. (Beth B. HR Manager)
  4. Roomba Robot Vacuum. (Ted C, TSC)
  5. Earrings to a GF at the time. She hated them. I now say ex-gf for her. (Dave R, TSC)
  6. I don’t give bad gifts. Wait, it’s the gift that I never gave! I bought Laura Y (PMG co-worker and friend) these really cool macaroon ornaments (she apparently likes macaroons) a couple of years back. I did not get the chance to see her that year so I didn’t get them to her. Now, I just pack the box up every year thinking that I can give them to her next year but I never do. Maybe this year, I will. (Kim O, Recruiter)
  7. I am guilty of regifting once. I won’t share what, but I think that’s the worst. Just because of the act in itself. (Marisa B, TST Manager

What wish list item are you still waiting on?

  1. I’d kind of like a DIY gift. I’m the only artsy person in my immediate family, so it’s not often I get something that they made or put together for me! (Jazmin C, TS Admin)
  2. A puppy. I’ve been waiting 28 years for that one. (Marisa B, TST Manager)
  3. Beyond material items, I would really like to search for my birth family. Being an adopted Korean, it would be the greatest gift in the world to know my family history and what happened during my adoption plan. (Laura Y, SMSPD)
  4. I always wanted the He-Man Slime Pit. I still to this day have never received it. (Brandon S, CSM)
  5. The one gift I’ve always wanted, and never got, is still just a winning lottery ticket! In reality, I think I’ve mostly gotten everything I’ve wanted and couldn’t be happier. (Daniel O, Welder)
  6. I have always dreamed of a trip to New York City. I’ve asked sooooo many times but my husband has been there and he just doesn’t have any desire to go back… so here I sit. One of these days, I’ll get there! (Beth B. HR Manager)
  7. I’m still waiting for a 75+ inch Smart TV. (Ted C, TSC)
  8. I wanted an original Nintendo when I was about eight. I’m almost 40 and I’m still waiting! (Joan F, Controller)
  9. Finding my birth family or knowing my adoption story. The closest that I’ve come to that was one year my children gave me the 23&Me DNA kit. I still haven’t found what I’m looking for but it was the most thoughtful gift I have received. My girls know me well. (Kim O, Recruiter)
  10. Student loan forgiveness? Seriously, I’d say maybe Ugg boots. I’ve always wanted a pair and still don’t own them. (Vivian R, BDR)

PMG Employee Spotlight with Amy G.

Amy is the President of PMG and in her 15th year with the company. She is also a card-carrying member of Santa’s Fan Club and gift wraps at an expert level. Obviously, that makes her the perfect subject for our Christmas Special edition of the PMG Employee Spotlight!

What do you like most about working for PMG?

The smart, hard-working, kind group of people I get to call my teammates. PMG was my first job out of college, and I have been here ever since. We have grown a lot over that time. We’ve done that with the input of some very talented, committed people who are able to accomplish more than they otherwise would because they are excellent at working as a team. The opportunity to work with the PMG Team day in and day out is one of the things I value most about my job.

What are your main responsibilities as President?

I wear a lot of hats! I’m responsible for working with our team to develop and execute our organization’s growth strategy and operational best practices. As a result, that means I get to work in almost every area of our organization from lead generation to sales to technical solutions to operations to project management.

What do you like most about your job?

The ability to quickly impact outcomes! Our company is small and that allows us to be nimble. If a team member recommends a process change or new best practice, that we believe will positively impact results, we can quickly develop a plan to implement and monitor progress, and roll it out.

What did you do prior to working at PMG?

Prior to PMG I was a college student. I worked as a both a server and sold pull tabs and meat raffles (for those not from Minnesota, that is a raffle for a prize of meat from a local butcher with proceeds going to a charitable cause) during college.

What advice would you give to a recent new hire at PMG?

Don’t be afraid to ask if you have questions. Everyone on our team is always so welcoming and so willing to answer questions and help get a new team member up-to-speed!

What has changed about your perception of manufacturing from before working at PMG to now?

I used to think manufacturing meant manual labor. But what I’ve learned since coming to PMG is there’s so much more math, science, engineering, process and teamwork that goes into every point of manufacturing than I realized. There is true talent and skill in almost every position on a manufacturing floor!

What did you want to be when growing up?

A lawyer. A few family members pointed out at a young age that I was good at winning arguments, and it might be a good future career for me!

What advice would you give to all the girls and young women out there who are just starting to think about where their career paths may take them in the future?

When I was younger, I never thought I’d work in manufacturing.  Now I do, and I love it! Have an open mind and know that you can do whatever you want to do, no matter what it traditionally looks like. Find your passion, work hard, surround yourself with good people, and there is no limit to what you can accomplish.

What are some positives/opportunities to leading a team during the holidays?

I feel like the holidays are a time of year when I reflect more than usual on the things I am grateful for, and have an opportunity to share those thoughts with the people around me. Usually around this time of year our team gathers to visit with Santa, have a holiday potluck and gift exchange, and to get together for a holiday party. Those celebrations are great opportunities to say thank you for being an incredible team!

What are some negatives/challenges to leading a team during the holidays?

Balancing business demands with wanting to make sure people get time with their families to celebrate the holidays without work distractions. I think we try to do a pretty good job of this but, sometimes when we are very busy heading into the holidays, I know shutting work off can be difficult.

If you could give one gift to your team for the holidays, what would it be?

The item on each of their lists that is purely for their happiness! Our team worked even harder than usual in this incredibly challenging year, and persevered as a result, so I’d give them a gift that would bring them enjoyment as they take some well-deserved time off around the holidays!

If you could get one gift from your team for the holidays, what would it be?

My list is pretty short this year! A puppy is on my list, but I think my family has that one covered. Just having the opportunity to work with our team makes me incredibly happy. I’ll miss gathering for our holiday party this year due to the pandemic, so a good gift would be just having the opportunity to connect during our Zoom with Santa to wish each other a Happy Holidays!

What animal best describes you at work?

I’m going to go with a pack animal that displays solid teamwork and communication, like a wolf, because I truly believe that PMG’s best outcomes happen when we get all of the right team members together and sharing input to come up with our most successful path forward.

What are some hobbies you do in your free time?

I love to cook. My grandma always said baking bread was her “occupational therapy”. I began cooking with her at a very young age, and have loved it ever since. I think I love cooking because you can see the delicious outcome of your work, and enjoy it with your loved ones. I also love spending time outdoors with my family biking, playing on the swing set, and playing kickball.

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Where is the best place you’ve traveled and why?

The Tahitian Island of Moorea on my honeymoon. It is beautiful, pristine and 100% paradise.

What celebrity/inspirational person do you admire the most?

This year I’ve been inspired by the healthcare workers who are on the front lines of the pandemic. Both those caring for the sick as well as supporting the families of those who are sick and cannot be with their loved ones at the hospital. My family, like so many others, have been cared for and were able to stay in touch with family members who were sick because of healthcare workers who were willing to sacrifice their health (and time with their families) even more than usual this year.

You’re happiest when…

I’m with my family.

What’s your favorite restaurant and your must-order there?

I love food, so it’s hard to pick just one! There is a local place in a smaller town near us that has amazing atmosphere and food, called Main Street Farmer, that’s near the top of my list. They have a spicy turkey burger and amazing fresh cut French fries with garlic dipping sauce. I could eat about 1,000 of those fries!

What is your favorite Christmas tradition personal and professional?

Personal: Getting together with my grandma, aunts and cousins to make 500 ravioli for our family Christmas dinner.

Professional: When Santa Claus visits our office and everyone brings their families in to visit with him. I’m looking forward to the Zoom edition (due to COVID) of Santa’s visit this year!

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What is your favorite Christmas-Only Treat:

Chocolate Peanut butter Ball cookies. Also, my husband’s grandma’s recipe for eggnog with ice cream. It’s basically eggnog and with a half gallon of ice cream to stay cold. It’s delicious!

What is your best Christmas memory?

When I was 8 years old, and Santa brought the puppy I wanted more than anything for Christmas.  Before Christmas, my mom told my dad that we could not get a puppy. Luckily, he figured out that my mom would not make us return a gift from Santa!  We all ended up loving the puppy, including our mom. The puppy was our family dog for the 14 years following that Christmas!

What is your worst Christmas memory?

I don’t have one. I have been lucky enough to spend every Christmas of my life with my family and loved ones. Even in the years when we’ve been less merry because a seat at the table is newly empty, being together, sharing memories and celebrating the season was still wonderful.

“We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.” – Winston Churchill

It’s the season of giving! So, in lieu of our corporate holiday party this year, we’re spreading the holiday spirit a bit further and donating to the charity of choice for each of our corporate employees. We asked them to share their reasoning for the non-profit they selected and we had such amazing and powerful response.  I have a feeling this won’t be the last time we make such a request.

I’m overwhelmed and excited to say we donated over $7,000 to 45 different organizations, locally and internationally:

  • Food shelves
  • Homeless shelters
  • Animal rescues
  • Children in need of toys, food, clothing, and hospital care
  • People affected by Alzheimer’s, Autism, Cancer, Crohn’s & Colitis, Diabetes, Down syndrome, Lennox-Gastaut syndrome, Leukemia & Lymphoma, MS, and Organ, Eye, & Tissue donation
  • Soldiers and their families affected by the trauma and experiences of active duty

We donated in memory of people we lost before we had a chance to tell them the impact they had on our lives, in honor of the little 4 legged critters who healed our hearts when we didn’t realize they needed healing, and out of respect for people who have fought a harder battle than we have had to fight.

We are thankful to be able to provide hope to organizations who provide hope to the people who find themselves in need of their services. It’s a gift we can give to them, but it is such a gift to us as well. Find other ways PMG has donated here!

Our wish for you this holiday season is that you are able to find the spirit of the holiday’s through the gift of both giving and receiving.

HAPPY HOLIDAY’S from your friends at PMG!

Beth Bangtson, HR Manager

We’re on a mission to improve break time for the American workforce one lunchbox at a time. From the shop to the warehouse to the field, production is powered by people who are fueled by food. And we’re sure most of us would appreciate something better in our brown bags. If you missed last month’s Lunchbox Hack, check it out on our blog page now. But, if you liked what you learned (or you’re just tired of the same old same old), read on to harvest the fruits of our (admittedly delicious) labor.

This blog normally features tips, tricks, and recipes to perk up mealtime during your workday. However, this month’s Lunchbox Hack will focus on a seasonal treat straight from my family’s own kitchen, in honor of the holiday spirit (and the fact that dessert is a legitimate part of even pre-packed lunches). The good news is it’s not just for you! This tasty gift will keep on giving all season long as you share with family, friends, and co-workers alike! Without further ado, I present to you my personal all-time favorite cookie: The Chocolate Crinkle.


New readers may not know, but those who have read my blogs before are well aware, that I’m a lifelong native of the North Country (aka Minnesota). Not coincidentally, so is the Chocolate Crinkle! This staple of the Christmas cookie platter was invented in St. Paul during the early 20th century by Helen Fredell. Mrs. Fredell’s creation was met with so much buzz by the baking community that Betty Crocker herself begged Helen for the recipe when served them at the Fredell home. Betty then famously recounted the scene (and included the recipe, introducing it to the rest of America) in her confectionary classic Cookie Carnival. The acclaim that followed in the almost-century since is simply delicious destiny.


The method for making Chocolate Crinkles is simple but notoriously finicky. The secret to success starts with COLD dough, which Momdish.com does a great job highlighting. However, if your baking skills are basic at best, feel free to also review this link to the  Original Betty Crocker recipe too for additional helpful hints. Then get in the kitchen and start cracking on your crinkles!


This pro-tip comes straight from Minnesota’s resident Chocolate Crinkle maven (my mom, Margaret)! Crinkles are essentially the cookie version of a brownie. As such, they are one of the few cookies that actually improves as they age. This happens because, while the outside gets crunchier with time, the inside stays gooey and moist creating a tasty texture contrast. Over time however, the powdered sugar tends to fall off. To avoid this, Mama Margaret recommends patting your dough balls repeatedly while rolling them in sugar to ensure your toppings don’t end up on the bottom of the tray.


Did I mention cold dough is critical? Because it is. Thus, the best thing you can do to make sure your cookies turn out is leave your dough in the fridge as long as possible. My mom’s rule of thumb is to go at least twice as long as whatever your particular recipe recommends. If you do this there’s a good chance your Christmas Crinkles will even make Kris Kringle himself come back for seconds!

Josh Erickson, ReTool & Technical Solutions Associate

FlexTrades provides labor solutions to American manufacturers. That’s what we do in a nutshell and we take the “solution” part of that equation seriously. With that said, all of us here end up asking a lot of questions to make sure we find the right way to solve the real problem. However, we receive a fair amount of questions ourselves and we can honestly say, this is the first time we’ve ever gotten the following question:

Dear FlexTrades,

You talk a lot about automation and what a benefit it is to efficiency and safety. I work in a shop that is still very old school, like everything is 100% hand-made old school. EVERYTHING, even including our tools. We never have the right ones either. I don’t even know what a metric wrench is, let alone where to find it in the tool room. I also saw a webinar you did on the importance of healthy habits, like good nutrition, for those working in manufacturing but our cafeteria only serves milk, cookies, and candy canes. Worst of all, every employee works every day of the year and only gets one day off but our boss is exactly the opposite. It seems like he only works for one day a year and uses PTO for the other 364. Help! How can I start to change things here? 


Teed-Off Toymaker

Thanks for the question, TT. We’re big fans of the work you and your colleagues do and we’d be happy to try and help. Our thoughts are below:

Upgrade Your Toolbox

It sounds like your toolbox could use an upgrade at the very least. We wrote a blog on the must-have tools in every technician’s toolbox. You can read it here. It might even give you some ideas for your Christmas wish list.

Practice Your Communication

Conflict is  a sign of a healthy team, believe it or not. As long as it’s constructive and handled appropriately. With this in mind, we also think your team might benefit from training focusing on communication in a manufacturing environment. If you communicate productively, your contention should quickly turn into contentment. Improved communication could even help you address your grievances with your boss directly (and hopefully successfully).

Build Your Resume (Just In Case)

It’s important to remember that, no matter how hard you try, not all work environments can be improved. If this turns out to be the case for you don’t continue to be employed unhappily. Rather, we suggest you read this blog about what to avoid on your resume.  Next, polish up your CV and find someplace else to work that might make you happier.

Don’t forget!

If you’d like to try to apply your talents beyond toymaking, PMG can always use more technicians with mechanical aptitude. Feel free to send your resume to recruiter@flextrades.com and we’d be happy to see if we have a project that might bring you more pleasure. Thanks for the question and have a happy holiday season!

Warmest Wishes,

The Writing Team at FlexTrades