Background Research Fun: Marketing Via Sensory Input

By N. M. Cedeño

 

 

 

 

Did you ever go into a grocery store and smell cooking bacon as you passed by the area where bacon was for sale? Or step into the baked goods sections and inhale the aroma of baking bread? Did you know that many grocery stores purposely “pipe in” those scents in the hopes of making you buy more than you need? Why would they do that? Because it works.

Fun fact: a research study found that the scent of baking in a grocery store increased the sale of baked goods three-fold. Certain food scents have been shown to not only cause people to overeat, but also to over-shop. Those employees cooking and handing out samples in the aisles of the grocery store are doing their job even if you don’t taste a sample. Just the smell of food cooking is enough to inspire people to buy more food.

Some of my favorite scents, picture by N. M. Cedeno

Scientists have discovered that the sense of smell has a strong impact on memory, consequently certain smells can evoke certain memories and emotions. The “Proustian memory effect” explains how childhood memories linked to scents last a lifetime. So when you walk into an apartment complex lobby and smell cookies baking, and suddenly feel safe, comfortable, and at home, there’s a reason for that. Similarly, real estate agents recommend staging a house for sale with the scent of cinnamon in the air.

But scent isn’t the only way that businesses try to manipulate people into buying, renting, or choosing a service. Sound plays a part as well. From the gentle sound of flowing water in a fountain at a spa or massage clinic to the music selected to play in a store, the sounds you hear in a business are frequently selected to set a particular mood or inspire a particular emotion. Researchers have even done studies to try and find the right combination of scent and music to increase impulse buying in stores.

Innumerable tricks are used to appeal visually to consumers, and not just in the advertisements, product arrangement, and signage. How about that fish tank in your dentist’s office? It’s there because many people find watching fish swim to be relaxing, helping ease the anxiety of patients awaiting procedures and making them more comfortable while they wait. Colors used in décor can be used to make a business seem more cheerful or calm or serious. A particular shade of pink paint has been used in jails for years because it is thought to reduce aggressive behaviors, although the research is inconclusive. Casinos have long applied methods of using décor and layout to manipulate people into gambling more.

Many businesses set out to create an atmosphere to send certain messages. Banks want to project security, professionalism, and respectability. Spas want to create an atmosphere of relaxation. Expensive car dealerships and casinos want create an atmosphere of wealth and luxury and to inspire risk-taking and impulsiveness in customers. Grocery stores want people hungry to buy more food. Upscale boutiques want to project a feeling of exclusivity. All of these places are going to try to send those messages via the sensory input that the customers receive as they approach and walk into the business. Savvy businesses will appeal to as many of your senses as they can.

So, the next time you walk into a business, pause and let your senses take in your surroundings. What do you smell? What colors do you see? What emotions are the scents and color scheme inspiring? Listen to the music. Is it upbeat? Or calming? Are there other sounds in the background that might have been selected to set the mood? How about the lighting? Is it soft or bright? What sensory input has been added to “enhance” your experience? Is the business trying to manipulate you into impulse buying or buying more than you need? Or are they simply trying to get you to relax before your regular dental exam or massage therapy? Not all sensory-based manipulation is bad, but an awareness of it can be very useful.

This blog contains some of the fascinating background research I came across for my Bad Vibes Removal Services series. In the series, the Bad Vibes Removal Services business has a list of available services that includes an emotional atmosphere interior redesign. Some of that redesign involves using the techniques discussed above. Because the books are fictional, paranormal mysteries, the Bad Vibes company services also include cleansing the built-up negative emotional energy from spaces and getting rid of ghosts.

 

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N. M. Cedeño writes short stories and novels that are typically set in Texas. Her stories vary from traditional mystery, to science fiction, to paranormal mystery in genre. Her debut novel, All in Her Head, was published in 2014, followed by her second novel, For the Children’s Sake, in 2015. In 2016, For the Children’s Sake was selected as a finalist for the East Texas Writers Guild Book Award in the Mystery/Thriller category. Most recently, she has begun writing the Bad Vibes Removal Services Series which includes short stories and the novel The Walls Can Talk (2017). Visit her at www.nmcedeno.com.

          

A Plantain is Not the Same Thing as a Banana: Merging Family Menus

by N. M. Cedeno

My husband got lucky in food when he married me. He didn’t have to adapt to a foreign flavor palette the way I did. When people create a new joint household, whether they like it or not, the foods they eat regularly will change depending on each family member’s culinary history. Recipes from each side of the family will get adopted, adapted, or eliminated from the household menu depending on how flexible the couple is and how palatable each finds the other’s food to be. While regional differences between couples can expose variations in traditional holiday meal dishes or recipe ingredients, cultural differences can introduce you to cooked critters you didn’t know anyone would eat.

Cultural differences can make the culinary learning curve particularly steep, a baptism by fire even. For instance, before I met my husband, I’d never had a plantain. Or seco de pollo. Or, ick, guatita. Or even weirder, cuy. If you can’t identify those items, they are traditional foods in Ecuador. My husband, on the other hand, had never had kolaches, homemade chocolate chip cookies, or Southern-style white gravy. I had to learn a lot about South American cooking. My husband, as far as I could tell, got off easy, since he’d lived in Texas for over ten years by the time we married and had been exposed to most of my cuisine.

Maduros with brown sugar

As I suspect happens in many cases, the first of my husband’s family’s dishes that got adopted in our household were the ones that I found the tastiest and that had the least ingredients. Consequently, plantain dishes were first. Plantains, despite looking like bananas, taste nothing like bananas. They must be cooked. You can eat them roasted, mashed, formed into balls, thin-cut as chips, thick-cut and fried as maduros, or fried, flattened, and refried as a tostones (also called patacones). It took me a while to learn to cook the variations.

On the next tier are foods that may take longer for the couple to adopt in their joint kitchen because they involve special techniques, or complicated recipes, or need adaptation from the original to work best in the household. Seco de pollo is one of those dishes in my house. Translated from Spanish, it sounds like it should be dry chicken. It’s not. It’s a chicken stew. It took me years before I attempted to make it because the recipe was complicated and included a few ingredients that I didn’t recognize. But, since I liked the dish, I made the effort to find the ingredients and to learn to cook it.

Two traditional Ecuadorean dishes that my husband likes were extremely outside my experience and tastes. In the melding of our family menus, these dishes got eliminated.  One was guatita, which is tripe in peanut sauce. Enough said about that. The other was cuy. Cuy got tossed because most Americans would consider eating cuy to be akin to eating your pet hamster or, well, your pet guinea pig. Cuy is, indeed, guinea pig. Any dish that I’d have to shop for in a pet store, I’m not cooking. Someone would send the SPCA after me.

{Guinea pig is a traditional food source for the indigenous tribes inhabiting the Andes Mountains. Since guinea pigs are an easily portable protein source, they were an ideal food for the environment. If you are wondering, they are roasted with the head still attached. I took this picture of cuy being cooked in Ecuador. Yes, it looks like a rat impaled on a stick.}

 

So, cohabitation forces a merging of disparate family culinary habits. What gets kept on the household menu and what gets eliminated can depend on a lot of factors. I’m sure you can all think of items that you were only served at the home of one set of grandparents (sauerkraut, anyone?). Those items didn’t make it into your parent’s family menu. What dishes did your parents toss? What items did you toss? What items did you adapt or argue over the “correct” recipe?

 

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N. M. Cedeño writes short stories and novels that are typically set in Texas. Her stories vary from traditional mystery, to science fiction, to paranormal mystery in genre. Her début novel, All in Her Head, was published in 2014, followed by her second novel, For the Children’s Sake, in 2015. In 2016, For the Children’s Sake was selected as a finalist for the East Texas Writers Guild Book Award in the Mystery/Thriller category. Most recently, she has begun writing the Bad Vibes Removal Services Series which includes short stories and the novel The Walls Can Talk (2017).

Find her stories at www.nmcedeno.com or on her Amazon Author Page.

Hey Good Lookin’, Whatcha Got Cookin’ by Cher’ley

 

 This Blog  by Cher’ley Grogg

Food is an important part of our lives and we all have favorite recipes we have been raised with. There were 5 kids and two adults in our family and often we children would bring in visitors and Mom would always say, “Stay to eat. We’ll throw another potato in the pot.” Some of my favorite foods were the soups that Mom made. She had many different kinds of soups, and one of my favorites was hamburger soup.

INGREDIENTS

1 finely chopped onion
1 pound lean ground beef
4 celery stalks, chopped
4 carrots, chopped
2 cups potatoes, cleaned, peeled, chopped
1 28-oz can diced tomatoes (we always had home-canned)
1 6-oz can tomato paste (to thicken quicker)
Pepper and salt to taste

DIRECTIONS

Brown hamburger and drain. Transfer to a pot, add chopped carrots, celery and potatoes.  Continue cooking over medium heat for about 5 -8 minutes.  Add diced tomatoes and tomato paste (do not drain the diced tomatoes).  Blend. Simmer for about 30 minutes or until potatoes and carrots are cooked. Bigger families, “Just throw another potato in the pot.”

My mom could create something that tasted good from practically nothing. When my children were younger, I too picked up some cheap and far-reaching dishes. When times were tight, the cook would always find ways to stretch the budget just a bit. I discovered many things that made good gravy, even a bit of flour and bacon grease tasted good over biscuits fresh from the oven. But, I find that I miss my mom’s simple recipes and since my children and grandchildreI remember n aren’t around much for meals, I’m still trying to learn to not cook for an army, but most of the older recipes tend to taste better when “super-sized”.

Aunt Linda is the main cook in “Stamp Out Murder”, people visiting McKeel’s Bed and Breakfast want good old-fashioned, West Virginia style food and Linda doesn’t disappoint them. In fact, many of the return guests do so because of her wonderful, mouth-watering recipes.

***Do you miss your Mom’s or Grandma’s cooking? What was your favorite dish? Do you have a favorite dish that you fix?***

Cher’ley’s Books are listed below and on sale at Amazon and local bookstores. Her newest book is an Advanced Coloring Book and she has one that is freshly published with 11 other authors.

Stamp Out Murder”.
 The Secret in Grandma’s Trunk” This is an especially good book for your Tween Children and Grandchildren
The JourneyBack 3The Journey Back-One Joy at a Time and the B&W Edition of The Journey Back
Boys Will Be Boys   The Joys and Terrors of Raising Boys-An Anthology
 Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico 

All About the Girls 5(3)

Four Moons and Fair Ladies Four Moons and Fair Maidens

Memories from Maple Street U.S.A: Pawprints on My Heartlink coming soon

Wonders of Water      Advanced Coloring Book

And please join me on my Facebook Fanpage, that’s managed by one of my most faithful fans: Cindy Ferrell
Here’s a link to Cher’ley’s WEBSITE

A Meal Worth Waiting For

Steph_2_cropped. jpgBy Stephanie Stamm

One of my friends, along with two of her sisters and her daughter, took a tamale-making class in Santa Fe earlier this year. This past weekend at my friend’s cottage, she and her daughter, with help from those of us who were visiting, treated us to what they learned. I’ve known for a long time that making tamales is an involved process, but I’d never been a part of it until this weekend.

We had three different kinds of tamales: chicken, zucchini/summer squash with cheese, and lobster with corn. In addition to the three separate fillings, we had two different kinds of masa (corn flour dough) and two different kinds of chili pepper dipping sauces—both of which required dried chilis to be roasted and rehydrated and then combined with garlic, tomatoes, and spices.

As you might imagine, the entire process took hours. I confess that I only helped out in a couple of basic ways: I shredded chicken, and when the ingredients were all ready, I assembled some chicken tamales for steaming. The rest of the time, I watched or stayed out of the way while my friends did the more difficult stuff.

IMG_0258
This delicious sauce contains roasted chilis, tomatoes, and spices.

Many years ago, I helped another friend make mole, which also takes a long time, because all the different spices and the peppers and some other ingredients have to be toasted and ground and then pureed and cooked. The tamale sauces may not have been quite as involved as the mole—if only because they didn’t have to be cooked as long—but they were plenty involved. At one point, the fumes from roasting chilis so permeated the air inside the cottage that breathing became difficult. I was outside at the time, but the air coming out through the windows made me cough.

Once all the ingredients were ready, we gathered around the table, covered with bowls of masa, tamale fillings, and corn husks. Since we were making three different kinds of tamales, we wrapped them in three different styles. That way we’d know what filling we were getting by the shape. The lobster tamales were shaped into little closed rectangular packets tied about the middle. The corn husks around the veggie tamales were left open at one end, the other end folded and tied about the middle. The chicken tamales, the ones I formed, were wrapped kind of like Tootsie rolls with a tie on each end.

A bowl of tamales ready for steaming.
A bowl of tamales ready for steaming.

At first I struggled to wrap the dough around the chicken filling and then to secure the little strips torn off the corn husks for ties around the rolled tamales, but after I’d completed a few, I fell into a rhythm. By the time the last tie was tied on the last tamale, I was sorry we were out of masa. I was having so much fun, I wanted to make more.

The assembled tamales then had to steam for an hour before we could eat them. But, boy, were they worth the wait. Especially the lobster ones. (Any twinge of disloyalty I might have felt to the chicken tamales I’d assembled was countered by the lobster tamales’ sheer deliciousness. Wow…)

So, if you ever get the opportunity to make tamales, go for it. It takes a while, but the saying is true: good things do come to those who wait.

Margaritas made the meal complete.
Margaritas made the meal complete.

Check out the links below for more specific information on making tamales:

http://mexicanfood.about.com/od/deliciousmaindishes/a/Tamales.htm

http://allrecipes.com/video/141/how-to-make-tamales/detail.aspx

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Connect with me:

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I am the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy series, The Light-Bringer:

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I have also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes:

Undead of Winter Front Only Into the Storm Cover

Avocados of Discontent

Steph_2_cropped. jpgBy Stephanie Stamm

Last week I heard a story on the radio about avocados and how we might have a shortage because of the drought in California. Apparently, it takes 50 gallons of water to produce a single avocado. California and Mexico are the top producers of the avocados sold in the US. Listening to this story, I also learned that US demand for avocados has made them so valuable that the Mexican growers can no longer afford to eat the fatty green fruits themselves. Avocados have reached what the radio story and this National Geographic “Onward” article refers to as “a quinoa moment”—when demand outstrips production, and the indigenous farmers can no longer eat their native food because of the need for the money to be made selling it to us.

This story saddened me. It stripped me of yet another layer of innocence and ignorance. Each time a particular food is “discovered,” marketed, and popularized, we shift the balance of food production and consumption. And we wealthy Americans, fed by our media diet of what we should be eating for health reasons (avocados are rich in good fats) as well as by our desire to eat what tastes good (who doesn’t love guacamole?), send demand into orbit to satisfy our voracious appetites.

Meanwhile, we discard food that looks less than perfect. This NPR article refers to a National Resources Defense Council report estimating that “anywhere from 1 to 30 percent of food grown by farmers doesn’t get to the grocery store.” Much of what doesn’t look good enough to be marketable is plowed under; other wasted food ends up in landfills. The article goes on to state that “Food waste is among the biggest contributors to landfills in the U.S.”

All this while 49 million Americans have difficulty providing food for their families, and worldwide, one in nine people live in hunger.

It’s not all bad news. That same NPR article reports that some food producers donate the not-so-perfect produce to food banks, a group of US entrepreneurs have started a venture they’ve dubbed Imperfect Produce to create a market for misshapen or discolored vegetables and fruits, and the Raley’s grocery store chain is launching a program to sell what Food Justice_coverwere once produce rejects in their stores. Those of us who grew up on farms or shop at our local farmers’ markets know that imperfect looking fruits and vegetables taste perfectly fine—and frequently taste better than the so-called perfect ones. If you’ve ever compared the taste of a knotty heirloom tomato to a perfect red globe-shaped hot house one, you know what I’m talking about. Perhaps these movements will help alleviate our superficiality about appearance—at least where food is concerned. In addition, Food Justice efforts are increasing (see Food Justice by Robert Gottlieb and Anupama Joshi and these websites for examples:  https://cagj.org/food-justice/, http://www.detroitfoodjustice.org/).

Still, I am disheartened, because most of us—and I include myself here—don’t stop to consider the wider ripples caused by all our food choices. In my middle class way, I’ve tried to do my part by participating in Community Supported Agriculture farm shares, shopping at farmers’ markets, frequenting restaurants that feature locally grown foods, and buying organic. IMG_0255But I haven’t ever limited my food consumption to what’s grown locally and seasonally. And I love avocados. Guacamole and chips. Avocado on toast. Avocado and onion sandwiches dressed with red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Avocado in salads. Half an avocado with a squeeze of lemon juice eaten with a spoon. Perhaps to my shame, I probably won’t stop eating them, but my enjoyment of that luscious, green goodness can no longer be innocent.

Ursula K. LeGuin’s powerful short story called “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” (you can read it here) tells of an idyllic community whose perfection is sustained by a sacrifice that some see as too great. I keep thinking about that story. Everything is connected; eating is a political act; and my privileged ability to buy an avocado whenever I want one must entail some responsibility to give back or try to restore some balance. Right?

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Connect with me:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

I am the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy series, The Light-Bringer:

wings_promo

shadows_promo

I have also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes:

Undead of Winter Front Only Into the Storm Cover

Not worth the salt!

For CCThis post is by Nancy Jardine

Who would have thought it! Salt isn’t all that good for me.

When I was born, way back in history (i.e. the early 1950s) nobody told me that I shouldn’t eat too much salt. They didn’t tell my mother, either, so salt was added in cooking to make what wasn’t a particularly tasty meal more palatable.

saltWe were, however, a family who almost never added salt to our food at the table so our salt intake was a proportionally reasonable amount. The dreaded chips (i.e. French Fries) were the exception, but they weren’t a food on our plates all that often. Deep fat frying wasn’t my mum’s favourite cooking method.

In my part of Glasgow, Scotland, take-out meals were non existent apart from the ubiquitous British ‘Fish ‘n Chip’ shops. Our nearest Fish ‘n Chip shop was 5 miles away. With no family car at our disposal, it meant that it was only on a rare occasion that I had fish and chips from the chip shop. My mum cooked fish  (though not deep fried) every Friday, since the Fishmongers Mobile Van always had the freshest on Fridays  – so fish was a regular in our diet with a little salt added before the cooking. However, I always had chips (oh dear!  with salt added) after my Monday night swimming classes, along with a huge pickled onion, eaten while I waited for the bus to go home from the swimming pool.

image acquired from www.123rf.com for my use
image acquired from http://www.123rf.com for my use

So, what’s happening to me right now? With a 3 year old toddler, and a baby of almost 9 months in my house 24/7, we have gone almost SALT FREE! For the last few months, since my grandson has been eating solid food, we rarely add sodium chloride (salt) to cooked food. We aren’t adding salt to boiled vegetables and meats but we are adding more herbs and spices which make things taste very good. That means Riley gets the benefit of eating what the rest of us do (no expensive baby products) and it’s actually healthier for all of us.

NB. I confess to being the one who still adds just a tiny smidgen of salt at the table- but only occasionally on French fries…and I might manage to stop this habit in about another 60 years.

However, the use of salt got me thinking. When I first started to research my current favourite time period of Celtic/ Roman Britain, I was quite surprised to find out that salt was very important to the first Celtic peoples of Europe. For the first Celts of the Hallstatt region of Austria, salt was a valuable trading commodity and, in some cases, it was more important than precious metals like gold and silver. Yes- they could have prestige in wearing a fabulous golden torque or silver armband fashioned by the very best Celtic smith, but if their food was bad and ‘off’ then they might be dead before they got the chance to parade around in their  fine jewellery.

Salt is one of the oldest and most commonly used methods of food seasonings, and salting of food is an important process in preserving food. It was a highly prized and expensive commodity till a few centuries ago when new production methods were introduced to make it a commercially viable and readily available and cheaper product.

The Celtic Hallstatt salt mines in Austria are said to be the oldest known salt mines in the world and were first mined in approximately 800BC. By 400 BC, the people of the area were transitioning from using pickaxes and shovels to the practice of open pan mining – an easier method. salt mine Germany

This photo from Wikimedia Commons is taken in a German museum and depicts the situation for the earliest salt mining methods.

By the first millennia BC, the Hallstatt Celts were trading salt with Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome for things like wine and other luxuries they couldn’t make themselves.

We all know what it is to earn a salary for the work we do every month but many may not know that the word originates from the Latin word salarium. This word meant the amount of salt ‘nominally’ paid to soldiers of the Ancient Roman Army of the Republic, the practice continuing into the army of the Ancient Roman Empire. 

It was one of those catch 22 situations. Meats and fish needed to be salted to preserve it. Soldiers needed to eat the healthiest possible food. The Ancient Roman Army officials were very sneaky in that they made their soldiers effectively work to be healthy!

Not worth the salt meant (it’s believed) that a soldier wasn’t pulling his weight and didn’t deserve his pay. It’s worth noting that there was a ‘paymaster’ in the Roman Army who totted up the annual amount owed to a soldier. From that money ‘held’ for them by the ‘paymaster’ the soldier then had to pay for his own food (including salt) and his own equipment. It was worth working hard because it meant a soldier was able to eat as well as possible. It goes without saying that if a soldier’s equipment was torn, worn, or sub-standard in some way then money was ‘docked’ from his held amount in order for him to purchase the replacements.soldier's kit Over the term of 25 years served (sometimes less depending on the type of soldier and his function in the army) a recruit might manage to save a little from his salarium to ‘bank’ each year. By then, after being ‘cashiered’ the soldier might have a reasonable amount which would allow them to run a small plot of land for a potential family- him not being allowed to officially marry till after serving his term. (This rule of ‘no marriage allowed’ eventually changed by around the third century AD) I guess a soldier who didn’t actually like too much salt might have been able to save more – but I’ve no evidence for this!

I blogged about the Roman Soldier’s kit in 2013- if interested click HERE to read about it.

The word salad also comes from the same Latin root, the derivation meaning the ‘salt added to fresh leafy greens and vegetables’ which accompanied a meal in Ancient Rome.

Salt continued to be a valuable trading item and was partly the reason for those first ‘Hallstatt Austrian’ Celts to migrate and barter salt all around Europe. Some of these original Celts eventually ended up in Britain, their descendants likely to have been the forebears of the Celts in my (fictitious) Celtic Fervour Series of Historical Romantic Adventures.

There are a number of ancient salt mining sites across Europe but the Celts I’ve **just finished**(yipee-the manuscript has gone to my editor!)  writing about in ‘The Taexali Game’ (my time travel novel for the younger end of the YA market) would have hated being sent to any of the salt mines of the Roman Empire. In this latest novel, some of my Celtic Taexali people of north-east Scotland are bartered off as slaves in a major treaty with the Roman Emperor Severus in AD 210. If those slaves were sent to a salt mine, their life expectancy was drastically reduced. Dehydration from being in the ‘salted’ atmosphere was disastrous.

It’s sad to say that even in the 20th century AD prisoners were sent to salt mines in Russia and Germany to serve out their time. Nasty business, I think.

Salt is still a valuable commodity, but of course we can acquire it by many methods nowadays, our latest technology much kinder to those who work in the industry.

The big question I’ll leave you with is… Do you still like to salt your food?

Have a lovely weekend…and enjoy whatever is on your plate!

Nancy Jardine writes Historical Adventures and Contemporary Mysteries with different degrees of romance in them. She will soon (come 2015) be publishing Time-Travel action adventures for the YA market.

Find Nancy at: Blog, Website, and Facebook

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Novels are available in print and ebook formats from:
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Nancy Jardine Award Finalist The People's Book Prize 2014
Smashwords
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And many other ebook retailers

Black Friday

propic11_1This post by L.Leander, Author of Fearless Fiction

Black Friday. We begin to hear the never-ending commercials for the event in October and November.   Somehow Thanksgiving gets shoved aside as people eagerly anticipate the biggest shopping day of the year. I am not a fan, and here’s why.

You can read more about Black Friday HERE.

In my day (I’m sounding like an old lady again) Thanksgiving was a revered holiday.dinner It originated with early settlers of America and the Indians who owned the land coming together to make peace. As the day’s popularity grew, it became a time for reflection, thankfulness for our world,  families, the food on our tables, and most importantly, a God who loved us. No store was open in my Thanksgivings of the past. The whole world took a break to be thankful and it was almost as if time stopped for 24 hours while we counted our blessings. We watched the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the morning and then helped Mom get things ready. We usually had cousins, grandparents, aunts and uncles and anyone my turkeyfolks thought needed companionship. After eating our fill, the kids would run outside to play Duck, Duck, Goose in the snow. We played until we were wet and half-frozen but when we came in to dry off there was pumpkin pie! At the end of a special day with relatives and friends, I always felt full of love. At dinner we each said something we were thankful for before my Dad led us in prayer to bless the meal.

Read more about the 1st Thanksgiving HERE and HERE

Read about Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade HERE

prayer

Thanksgiving is a time for families to get together to reminisce. The table is laden with food and everyone goes home with leftovers to enjoy later.

Enter Black Friday. It has commercialized Thanksgiving, but I harbor no bad feelings for those who love it. My sister, her three girls (whose husbands care for their children), a cousin and a few friends leavesnowroad immediately after the Thanksgiving meal is over and drive to Green Bay, WI, where they have secured motel rooms. Since my sister lives in Michigan’s beautiful Upper Peninsula, they are only a 2-½ hour drive from Green Bay. They love the time together and although I’m always invited, I politely decline. It’s not my cup of tea. The entourage checks into their rooms and go out as soon pajamasas the sales start, often in their pajamas. They shop the sales they want and go back to the motel to sleep for a while. They do more shopping the next morning, then head to Appleton to catch the sales there. Another night in their Green Bay Motel and they’re on their way home, their cars laden down so much that the tires groan under the weight.moreshops

It’s not that I hate to shop that I don’t go along. Give me a music store, a bookstore,a fabric shop, or a yarn shop and I’ll make haste to get there.  Just not on Black Friday.  It makes no sense to me to stand in long lines for something that will probably be sold malleatout by the time your turn comes. I like to rest the day after Thanksgiving, often sewing or reading before hubby and I tackle the leftovers. I contemplate the life God has given me and the blessings I sometimes forget to count. I’m not fond of crowds of people pushing and shoving their way through stores, trying find a parking space, and waiting in the food court to get something to keep you sewinggoing. That being said, I love the stories my sister brings back about the wonderful deals they got and I’m very glad they have a good time together.

Call me old-fashioned, but I still think of Thanksgiving as a time to be thankful; a day of rest and relaxation with family you may not have seen for a while. When I was working I protected Black Friday, because it was an extra day I could do something I wanted to do but never had time for.

What do you think about Black Friday? Are you a lover, a hater, or ambivalent? I’d like to hear your thoughts.

 

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You can read about the origin and rules of Duck, Duck, Goose HERE

Watch a video of the game HERE

 

Books by L.Leander:

Inzared Queen of the Elephant Riders Video Trailer

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Inzared, Queen of the Elephant Riders

 

Inzared, The Fortune Teller Video Trailer

Inzared The Fortune Teller Book Cover

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inzared, The Fortune Teller (Book Two)

 

13 Extreme Tips to Self Publishing

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13 Extreme Tips to Marketing an ebook

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You can also find L.Leander here:

L.Leander Website

Amazon Author Page

Facebook Author Page

L.Leander Books Blog

L.Leander’s Book Reviews and Interviews

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What’s Cooking?

Jennifer FlatenThis post by Jennifer Flaten

I signed the kids up for summer school. When I went to school summer school was akin to a stretch in the big house. Your parents threatened you with it, if you didn’t get your grades up and if you did end up in it, you spent the entire time looking out the window day dreaming about all the wonderful fun you’d be having on the outside. If only you weren’t trapped inside learning algebra.

Now summer school is more like an affordable day camp for kids. This year the kids could build paper roller coasters, put on a summer theatre production, or learn how create motion picture masterpieces among other things.

I let the kids sign up for fun stuff, but I also signed them up for cooking class, after all, it is important to feel comfortable in the kitchen.

Actually, my motives weren’t purely altruistic. In the class, they learn how to make muffins, cookies and pizza to name just a few. Aside from them getting more comfortable in the kitchen, the kids bring home samples for me.

Yep, it’s all about the muffins for me. So far, they brought home muffins and a huge batch of spaghetti, which my husband happily packed in his lunch box.

They did make pizza, but some how I didn’t get any pizza. How many samples I get varies depending on hfile5811252090673ow much the kids liked the cooking project of the day.

I know it makes the kids happy to know I am looking forward to sampling all their hard work and conveniently, school lets out right before lunch so I don’t have to worry about what I am having for lunch.

Today I got two strawberry empanadas-tasty-but I know when cookie day rolls around they won’t bring me even a crumb.

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I Swear It’s Only Mint by Erin Farwell

IMG_3021_1Each spring I get in touch with my inner farm girl that manifests in the desire to grow crops in the warm, fertile soil. My efforts are hampered by a yard that has almost full shade, little knowledge of what I am doing, and a thumb that is more brown than green. These facts don’t stop me from sallying forth to the garden center to purchase plants that will either be eaten by deer and squirrels or wither and die.

Last year I changed my process and met with success. I grew several varieties of mint (peppermint, chocolate mint, orange mint, spearmint, etc.) along with lemon balm, catnip and basil. I purchased a food dehydrator and herb grinder and made fresh-grown teas.

Some teas better than others and I will never grow pineapple mint again. While some teas tasted great others were so-so and generally weaker than I wanted no matter how much mint I used. I wondered if part of the issue was how I dried the herbs. Maybe the food dehydrator was too harsh.

I went on-line to research the issue and found that mine was a common plight. The overwhelming consensus was to chuck the dehydrator and use a hanging drying rack. 8494-advanced-nutrients-quick-cure-drying-rack-miniThe one most often recommended, highest rated, and best priced on Amazon was the Advanced Nutrients Mini Quick Cure Hanging Drying Rack.

I placed my order.

When it arrived I confess to being disappointed. At only 9 inches in diameter and 6 inches deep, I thought it would be too small for my needs and regretted only getting one with 4 tiers. Then I opened it. The tiers sprang from the package, snapping into neat mesh racks that were 24 inches in diameter. When hooked together it’s over 4 feet high. I know understood the Amazon reviewer who said she loved it but didn’t think she could get it back into the package.

Mint

Instead of worrying about the drying rack being too small, now I had to figure out where to hang it. I also needed instructions. Assembly was easy and obvious but I wanted to know if I needed to trim the leaves off of the plants before placing them on the mesh or leave them whole? How long will it take for the leaves to dry? I looked around the kitchen, thinking perhaps the direction had been flung into a corner during the rack’s explosion from the packaging but I couldn’t find anything.

So I went on line.

There I learned many, many things. Of great significance is that this dryer is the most recommended by and for marijuana growers and I was directed to several videos and websites that explained why. I went back to the Amazon reviews and found while the majority of the buyers had used it for drying peppers and basil, there were several people who put the word herbs in quotation marks and one person said how great this was for keeping different strains separate while drying.teacup

When I was in law school someone accused me of being stupidly good as a child. Here is a perfect example of the consequences of that upbringing. I didn’t have a clue… Thank goodness I didn’t purchase the hydroponic growing kit that was offered as a partner product or I might have been placed on a government watch list.

But I swear, officer, it’s only tea.

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Adventures in Cooking and Writing by Stephanie Stamm

Stephanie Stamm PhotoA few weeks ago I decided to try my hand at making ciabatta. I like to cook, and I’ve made bread before, but I’d never tried making this light, airy Italian bread. Normally, I just buy it from a favorite local bakery (which, I’m happy to say, recently reopened after a fire two years ago at the original location). For some reason, though, I decided I’d try baking something new. So I pulled out my copy of Paul Hollywood’s 100 Great Breads and looked up ciabatta.

I thought I had all the ingredients I needed, but I discovered that my little packets of yeast contained far less than the recipe called for. Okay, I thought, I’ll make a half batch. Then I found a note in the “Tools, Techniques, and Tips” section of the book that told me to use 25 percent less yeast if I was using instant. I was. So now I had not only to halve the rest of my ingredients but then to increase them by 25 percent. My math brain was getting a little confused.

Add to this that Hollywood’s recipe said to use “a generous 1 1/2 cups of water,” which was to be divided in half. Generous? How much over 1 1/2 cups is generous? Another tablespoon? Another 1/8 cup? Well, whatever. I’d make it work.100 Great Breads Cover-Amazon

The recipe said to start by whisking 2 cups of flour and the yeast with “a generous 3/4 cup of water.” I made the necessary mathematical adjustments for my half batch and put the ingredients in the bowl, using just a bit of extra water. As instructed, I began to whisk. The ingredients immediately clumped into a wad of dough in the middle of my wire whisk. Clearly, I had not been generous enough with my water. I extracted the dough from the middle of the whisk and added enough water to reach a reasonable whisking consistency.

After letting the mixture ferment for the required time, I added the remaining ingredients. This time I was more generous in my interpretation of “generous 3/4 cup.” I let the dough rest as instructed, then tipped it onto the counter to divide into two pieces and, as the recipe said, “stretch” it into loaves. Wait. What do you mean “stretch”? My mixture was oozing over the countertop. If I didn’t catch it, it was going to drip off the edge. Whatever I’d managed to create was not something I could stretch.

Okay, how to salvage? Well, add more dry ingredients, of course. Now, ciabatta is not supposed to be kneaded, but I didn’t know how else to mix additional flour with my oozing dough. So I kneaded. By this point, I was laughing. I had no idea how this bread was going to turn out, but I was determined not to give up on it.

It might help you to know that I was raised by a mother, an excellent cook, who taught me that recipes are just a suggestion. I frequently adjust or substitute ingredients to suit my taste or to use whatever I happen to have on hand. I do understand that baking sometimes requires a bit more precision than other types of cooking, but I was already in the thick of this. I figured I might well see it through.

DSCN3198
This beautiful loaf came from the bakery. Mine did not look like this.

The bread turned out okay, though it wasn’t exactly ciabatta. Thanks to my kneading, it was much denser, with tiny air bubbles instead of the pockets you find in the real thing. But it still smelled pleasantly yeasty, it still tasted good, and making it was an adventure.

One of my friends once told me that I am perhaps the most fearless cook he knows, because I will add, subtract, or substitute ingredients, or even make up my own recipes. He added that when I succeed, the results are delicious, and when I fail, I fail spectacularly. It’s true. The failures can be inedible. But I’m okay with that. I’m still willing to bend the recipe rules the next time I find myself in a situation where I don’t have the exact ingredients or the exact quantities.

I wish I had that same fearlessness when it comes to my writing life. Instead, I worry that I’m making the wrong choices. I don’t give myself the same freedom to succeed beyond expectations or to concoct a glorious failure. (See this post on my personal blog for more reflections on fear, failure, and freedom.) Perhaps that’s because, while I love to cook, I don’t define myself as a cook. And I do define myself as a writer. In reality, each is only one part of me, and I’m more than the sum of those two, or all, my parts. (This reminds me of Erin Farwell’s excellent post on writing and self-definition.) Maybe the answer is to release that identification of self, or self-worth, with the action, and to see writing, like cooking, as something I do, not something I am, to focus on “write” as a verb and not “writer” as a noun. That might make it easier to write about whatever I want or need to write about and let the writing succeed or fail on its own merits. Then I can embrace the joy and adventure of writing, learning both from my successes and my spectacular failures.

In what areas of your life are you fearless?

100 Great Breads book cover from Amazon

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Stephanie Stamm is the author of the New Adult/Young Adult urban fantasy A Gift of Wings.

A Gift of Wings Cover

Half-Seraph and skilled fighter, Aidan Townsend could no longer live with the consequences of being a celebrated member of the Forces of the Fallen. So he walked away from it all and created a human life—as singer/songwriter for a successful Chicago band. He keeps his angelic abilities hidden—even from himself. Lucky Monroe is about to turn eighteen, looking for a job, contemplating college, and coming to terms with her beloved grandmother’s descent into Alzheimer’s. When her cousin takes her to hear a popular local band, and she sees fiery wings extending from the back of the lead singer, Lucky is drawn into a world of Fallen angels, demons, and ancient gods. While eluding a supernatural stalker and surviving an attack by sword-bearing rogue angels, Lucky must figure out who and what she is willing to be, to save someone she loves.

She has also contributed stories (one fictional and one true) to the following volumes:

 Into the Storm CoverUndead of Winter Front Only