Monthly Archives: November 2015

My YouTube Book Trailer—Let’s Hope It Works

YouTube Our Romantic Getaway

It wasn’t enough that I spent years writing my debut novel, Our Romantic Getaway.

Now I have to spend years promoting it?

As a marketing and advertising consultant who makes a living advising clients on how to boost their businesses, the last thing I want to do is get on a soap box and sell me—or my book.

So I haven’t done all the usual things authors need to do like having a launch party, setting up signings at local bookstores, guest speaking and book spieling to the uninterested masses who attend myriad tours for the free food and drink or paying experts thousands of dollars to hype my novel.  I’d much rather spend any available time I can drum up penning the sequel to Our Romantic Getaway.

And I wasn’t convinced that a YouTube video would help me to sell books either, although I’ve seen a few very well produced trailers that had me wavering. But they were mostly live action and extremely expensive productions.

But the marketing side of me won over and I decided to give it a whirl and finally answer the question I have been asking myself for several months: Can a YouTube book trailer (with music!) do the selling for lazy me?

So here it is folks. I hope you like it. Well, truthfully, it’s okay if you don’t, as long as it sells my book.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yigY98ay0UU

America’s Obsession with Green Bean Casserole

Green bean casserole
Love it or hate it, the green bean casserole is a Thanksgiving side dish that stands the test of time and has had a place in the collective American heart for the past 60 years.

A Campbell’s spokesperson was recently quoted as saying that a whopping 40 percent of the cream of mushroom soup sold in the U.S. goes to making green bean casserole and that their surveys show that 30 million households serve it up for the holidays.

Del Monte, founded in 1886, and a major U.S. marketer and distributor of green beans recently asked 3,000 Americans whether or not they plan to eat the good ole classic green bean casserole side dish this Thanksgiving.

Del Monte also asked Americans to divulge one secret ingredient they add to the casserole’s iconic green bean, cream of mushroom soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, and crispy French fried onions to make it unique and different.

And last but certainly not least Del Monte ranked its Top 5 most popular green bean casserole recipes (based on frequency on Thanksgiving dinner tables). You’ll find the recipes at the end of this blog.

I know you’re chomping at the veggie bit to know which U.S. States have the highest concentration of Thanksgiving green bean casserole eaters—AND their secret ingredients.

TADA!

RANKING OF ANTICIPATED GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE EATERS THIS THANKSGIVING 

  1. Louisiana:  60%
  2. Oklahoma:  58%
  3. Kentucky:  57%
  4. Florida:  54%
  5. Wisconsin:  52%
  6. Missouri:  51%
  7. Colorado:  50%
  8. Kansas:  49%
  9. New Hampshire:  48%
  10. Maine:  46%
  11. Vermont:  45%
  12. California:  44%
  13. Mississippi:  43%
  14. Idaho:  41%
  15. Utah:  41%
  16. Texas:  40%
  17. Illinois:  39%
  18. Ohio:  38%
  19. New York:  37%
  20. Michigan:  37%
  21. Alabama:  36%
  22. North Carolina:  36%
  23. New Mexico:  35%
  24. Maryland:  34%
  25. Tennessee:  32%
  26. Massachusetts:  32%
  27. New Jersey:  31%
  28. South Carolina:  30%
  29. Pennsylvania:  29%
  30. Virginia:  29%
  31. Arizona:  29%
  32. Minnesota:  28%
  33. Indiana:  27%
  34. Georgia:  26%
  35. Delaware:  25%
  36. Oregon:  23%
  37. Rhode Island:  23%
  38. Connecticut:  22%
  39. Nevada:  22%
  40. Montana:  21%
  41. Iowa:  21%
  42. Washington:  21%
  43. West Virginia:  20%
  44. Alaska:  20%
  45. Arkansas:  20%
  46. Nebraska:  19%
  47. Wyoming:  19%
  48. South Dakota:  19%
  49. North Dakota:  18%
  50. Hawaii:  17%

Secret ingredient drum roll, please…

America’s Top 10 secret ingredients for green bean casserole are:

  1. Bacon (34%)
  2. Mushrooms (17%)
  3. Cheese (11%)
  4. Grilled Onions (8%)
  5. Almonds (7%)
  6. Sausage (6%)
  7. Bread crumbs or crushed crackers (5.6%)
  8. Garlic (5.2%)
  9. Jalapeños or hot sauce (4%)
  10. Sour cream (3%)

Who needs those fancy shmancy roasted root vegetables, gourmet cranberry chutney and all the other sophisticated Thanksgiving side dishes we slave to make? At 60 years old and counting, green bean casserole is here to stay.

DEL MONTE’S 2015 TOP 5 GREEN-BEAN CASSEROLE RECIPES:

#1: Classic Green Bean Casserole
Ingredients:
2 cans (10.5 oz. each) Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 cup milk
2 teaspoons soy sauce
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 cans (14.5 oz. each) any style Del Monte Green Beans, drained
2-2/3 cups French’s Crispy Fried Onions, divided
Directions:
Stir soup, milk, soy sauce, black pepper, green beans and 1-1/3 cups onions in a 3-quart casserole. Bake at 350 degrees F, uncovered, 25 minutes or until bean mixture is hot and bubbling. Stir green bean mixture. Sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake 5 minutes longer or until onions are golden brown.

# 2:  Bacon and Cheddar Green Bean Casserole
Ingredients:
8 slices bacon, chopped
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 container (8 oz.) sliced fresh mushrooms
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons butter
3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
½ cup chicken broth
1-1/2 cups milk
2 cans (10.5 oz. each) Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
½ cup shredded sharp white Cheddar cheese
4 cans (14.5 oz. each) any style Del Monte Green Beans, drained
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 can (6 oz.) French’s Crispy Fried Onions
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Heat a Dutch oven over medium-heat. Cook bacon until crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove bacon and drain on paper towels. Discard all but 2 Tbsp. bacon drippings. Add onions and cook 3 minutes, stirring frequently, or until soft. Add mushrooms and garlic; cook 5 minutes or until mushrooms are tender. Remove from pan and set aside in a separate bowl. Melt butter in the same pan and whisk in flour and cook, stirring constantly, until a light golden brown. Whisk in milk and broth and cook 2 to 3 minutes until mixture is smooth and thickened. Stir in bacon and mushroom mixture and cook 2 to 3 minutes or until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in soup, cheese, green beans and salt and pepper, if desired. Pour into a 9 x 13-inch baking dish (3 quart). Stir well and sprinkle with fried onions and bake, uncovered, 30 minutes until hot and bubbly and onions are golden brown.

# 3: Sautéed Mushroom and Green Bean Casserole
Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon butter
½ package (8 oz.) sliced fresh mushrooms (or 4 oz. Sliced Portobello mushrooms)
1 can (10.5 oz.) Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
1/2 cup milk
3 cans (14.5 oz. each) Del Monte Cut Green Beans, drained
1 can (6 oz.) French’s Crispy Fried Onions
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Melt butter in large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook mushrooms 4 minutes or until tender. Stir soup, milk, green beans and 2/3 cup onions. Pour into a 2-quart casserole. Bake, uncovered, 25 minutes or until heated through and bubble. Stir, sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake 5 minutes longer or until onions are golden brown.

# 4: Creole Sausage and Green Bean Casserole
Ingredients:
1 package (14 oz.) pre-cooked Andouille sausage, sliced
3 cups (12 oz.) grated sharp Cheddar cheese
1 can (10.5 oz.) Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Mushroom Soup
3/4 cup milk
2 to 2-1/2 teaspoons Cajun or Creole seasoning
4 cans (14.5 oz. each) Del Monte Cut Green Beans, drained
1 can (6 oz.) French’s Crispy Fried Onions
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine sausage, cheese, soup, milk and seasoning in a 13 x 9-inch (3 quart) baking dish. Stir in beans and 1-1/3 cup of the onions. Bake, uncovered, 25 minutes or until hot and bubbling. Stir, sprinkle with remaining onions. Bake 5 minutes longer or until onions are golden brown.

# 5:  Main Dish Green Bean Casserole
Ingredients:
2 cans (10.5 oz.) Campbell’s Condensed Cream of Chicken Soup
3 cups chopped chicken or turkey
2 cups uncooked instant white or brown rice
2 cans (3 oz. each) French’s Crispy Fried Onions, 2-2/3 cups total, divided
1-3/4 cups milk
2 teaspoons soy sauce
¾ teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon black pepper
4 cans (14.5 oz. each) Del Monte No Salt Added Cut Green Beans, drained
½ cup slivered or sliced almonds, 2 oz.
Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat a 13 x 9-inch glass baking dish with non-stick cooking spray. Stir together soup, chicken, rice, 1 can of onions, milk, soy sauce, oregano and black pepper in a large bowl. Add green beans and stir until well blended. Pour into baking dish. Bake 30 minutes or until bubbly. Stir bean mixture. Coarsely crumble remaining onions and sprinkle evenly over beans. Top with almonds and bake 10 to 15 minutes or until almonds are light golden brown.

HAPPY THANKSGIVING EVERYONE!

AND DON’T FORGET TO MAKE GREEN BEAN CASSEROLE!

The U.S. Issues a 2015 Holiday Travel Alert, Etc., Etc.

ISIS global-threat

The New York Times has become a real Debbie Downer lately. My usual routine of brewing me up some liquid energy and enjoying a little morning news has become a real kill joy.

I need to find a better way to wake myself up in the morning because there is zero enjoyment to be had as my eyes glaze over the front page of my revered paper lately.

ISIS is badder than ever, Brussels is shut down, France is brutally enforcing their emergency edict, there is mass hysteria in the U.S. over the relocating of Syrian refugees to the various American suburbs, and Governor Chris Christie cries while remembering the family friends he lost on September 11, 2001.

Who needs this crap first thing in the morning?

It didn’t surprise me that yesterday the State Department issued a rare worldwide travel alert for American citizens during the 2015 holiday season—and through February 24, 2016.  We didn’t need the SD to tell us we are in dangerous times.

What surprised me was their following one-liner explanation for why the alert: “Members of the Islamic State are returning from Iraq and Syria.”

RETURNING?

Is the State Department trying to give us a clue that they’re on their way HERE?  I mean really, can they be a little more specific?

Not that I wanted to read on, but I was hoping for a little clarity.

Here was their follow-up: “Islamic State, Al Qaeda and other extremist groups continue to plan terrorist attacks in multiple regions.”

REGIONS LIKE WHERE? Please State Department, give me a hint.

“U.S. citizens should exercise vigilance when in public places or using transportation,” the alert said. “Be aware of immediate surroundings and avoid large crowds or crowded places. Exercise particular caution during the holiday season and at holiday festivals or events.”

Well, call me stupid, but this pretty much confines me to my house.

I really wanted to rip up the paper right there, or stab my eyes out with a hot poker, but I couldn’t stop myself from reading on.

As I tried to keep the coffee down, I came upon another tidbit:

According to the United States military, this past Saturday they destroyed 283 Islamic State tanker trucks transporting oil out of eastern Syria.

Here’s the kicker: The strikes near Deir el-Zour and Hasaka Syria are part of a NEW campaign to cripple the ISIS oil revenue.

NEW CAMPAIGN?

Our U.S. military hasn’t been worried about ISIS oil revenue before this?

Okay, I decided enough reading was enough when I skimmed through a few other joyless missives like:

“Iraq and Syria as we know them are gone.”

Call me naïve, but I didn’t think things could get any worse.

While the U.S. says Iraq and Syria are goners, the Russian-Iranian axis vision, along with their proxies, Hezbollah, Bashar al-Assad, and Tehran-backed Baghdad seeks to restore Iraqi and Syrian borders and governments.

Good luck with that.   And what a dream team, huh?

Oh, and Putin seeks to dominate the Syrian government with or without Assad. Putin is not interested in targeting ISIS but aims to establish a solid strategic base for Russia in the Middle East.

Should this surprise anyone? I mean come on, the man has a super inferiority and Napoleon complex.

By this time, I needed more than a cup of Joe. I needed a valium. But I couldn’t stop reading.

Iran is ensuring FULL protection for Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria.

Oh, terrific. Let’s throw in an Israeli-Hezbollah war for good measure.

And last but certainly not least, this final bit of news caused me to throw my much-needed coffee down the kitchen sink and shove the paper deep into the garbage can:

“American ground combat forces will have to be deployed to provide cohesion and leadership.”

DEPLOYED WHERE?

U.S. boots on the ground. Joy to the world.

 

Am I a Poet, but Don’t Know It?

Word Girl
At a dinner party a few months ago, I was asked by a friend if I was a poet. “No,” I quickly and definitively answered.

And then she queried “How do you know?”

I didn’t speak it, but I thought it: Duh, I think I’d know if I was a poet.

I tried to be pithy in my actual response to her: “Maybe I’m a poet and I don’t even know it.” She rolled her eyes and changed the subject.

But her question stuck with me all these months.

I have over the years tried my hand at poetry. Haven’t we all?

But I was never good at rhyming. The perfect timing of rhyme scheming seemed cheesy to me. Now I recognize that not all poems have to rhyme, but they often flow better when they do.

I wrote a Haiku once, but the whole three lines, totaling 17 syllables throughout seemed forced.  And three lines was near impossible for someone like me.

As the self-proclaimed queen of verbiage, the poems I have written over the years have been rather longish. Getting a four-page poem to rhyme and flow would take a fair amount of poetic talent. Or maybe they aren’t poems at all. Maybe they’re super short, short stories.

So here’s my question: Am I a poet?

For those of you who are familiar with my writing style, you know that I can occasionally be sardonically witty.  But for the most part, I am supremely morose. I apologize for that. Sort of.

Anyway, I combed through some of my journals and found this entry I felt compelled to share. It was one long rant of a paragraph, so I chopped it up a bit. Perhaps you too have an ex-friend. Perhaps I am a poet after all.

It’s my birthday today
and I’m not thinking about
how I’m going to spend it.
I’m thinking about
my ex-best friend
and how I wish we were
fourteen again
caring only about
boys and clothes,
and  listening to
Simon and Garfunkel
while we weep over
life altering happenings.
First kisses and sweet sixteen’s,
pimples, breakups, and proms,
becoming women,
high school graduation
and leaving for college.
I want my teenage years back,
and my grandmother,
and my dog Raleigh.
I want to sleep out in a tent
in my still best friend’s backyard
and sneak boys into her house
while everyone is asleep.
And I long to hear her mother’s shrill voice,
ordering us to shape up.
I want to giggle with her
and hang out for hours
in her magazine perfect bedroom.
But her room is gone
and so is our youth,
and her parents.
And our friendship.
And I wonder what we will share next.
What event might break
the silence.
The thought is unnerving
and scary
so I put it out of my mind.
Instead, I remember
the good times
the old times
when we were young and naïve
with flowers in our pigtails.
Kodak color prints
of the two of us
in teeny weeny bikinis,
with our hair in jumbo curlers.
And then engagements,
marriage, pregnancy,
the miracle of birth,
child rearing.
I want to remember
even the bad times
they were okay too
because we shared them.
Heartbreak, deceit,
misunderstandings,
tough love,
health scares,
divorce, remarriage,
rejection, repudiation,
the golden years,
ex-best friends forever.
Girl on a park bench

A Veterans Cemetery Most Americans Will Never Have the Honor of Visiting

Graves of the fallen are seen with Omaha Beach in the background at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial, on September 27, 2013, at Colleville-sur-Mer, France. (Photo by Warrick Page - American Battle Monuments Commission)

World War II was waged on land, on sea, and in the air over several diverse theaters of operation for approximately six years.

But it is the images, photos, movies and film of our soldiers, our heroes, our sons, storming the beaches of Normandy, France that made the most impression on me as a child. The horrific images of bullet-ridden young men collapsing in the water and on the beaches of Normandy are forever seared in my memory.

In August of 1995, I took a trip with my husband to Normandy France to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of World War II. It was a trip that not many Americans take. Those who do make it to France are mostly too busy whooping it up in Paris, or Cannes on the French Riviera to care about a little region like Normandy.

I will never forget standing on the bluff that foggy, rainy, and bitterly cold day. I imagined that the weather the morning our soldiers stormed those beaches was probably very similar. As I reverently walked along the fog obscured cliffs and looked down at the desolate Omaha Beach, what shocked me the most was their impossible-to-climb steepness—over 1,600 feet.
cliffs-on-omaha
How could our soldiers have possibly scaled those fearsome and heavily German defended cliffs? History has taught us that sadly, many of those brave young men who stormed the beaches early in the morning of June 6, 1944, lost their lives on that fateful day.

Omaha was the bloodiest of the D-Day beaches, with roughly 2,400 U.S. troops turning up dead, wounded or missing. The rough surf wreaked havoc with the Allied landing craft and only two of the 29 amphibious tanks launched at sea managed to reach the shore.

As I gazed at the choppy waters beyond Omaha Beach, bound at either end by large rocky cliffs, I sadly envisioned those brave young men wading through neck-deep water to a shore many would never reach and who gave all they had for liberty and justice.

Overlooking and looming over the crescent shaped beach behind me lay a peaceful, eerily quiet lawn of thousands of their headstones. The meticulously manicured and immaculate grassy grounds with row upon row of white headstones in perfect alignment was humbling and devastatingly moving.

The Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial house the remains of 9,387 of our military dead, most of whom lost their lives in the D-Day landings and ensuing operations.

Three hundred and seven of those interred are “Unknowns.” There are three Congressional Medal of Honor recipients, four women, a father and son, and 33 pairs of brothers. The servicemen and women laid to rest there came from all fifty states and the District of Columbia.

The spine-tingling cemetery overlooks Omaha Beach and its main paths are laid out in the form of a Latin cross. The site of perfectly aligned headstones on the pristine emerald green lawn sent a chill through my body that I can still recall today. Each grave was marked in snow white marble—a Star of David for those of the Jewish faith, a Latin cross for all the others.

Nothing could have prepared me for the emotion I felt as I took in the serenity of the hallowed resting place for those valiant soldiers, the majority of whom were still in their teens, who made the supreme sacrifice for the cause of freedom.

I realized as I stood with my hand over my heart while the national anthem and taps played in the background, that there would never be another place that would evoke such an awe-inspiring and life-changing effect on me. And I will never forget the respect, gratitude and immense feeling of pride I felt to be an American.

In the Garden of the Missing,  there was a wall inscribed with 1,557 names. Those heroes who gave their lives in the service of their country but whose remains have never been recovered or if recovered have never been identified.

The following heartbreaking inscription appears on the wall above the names of the missing:

HERE ARE RECORDED THE NAMES OF AMERICANS WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES IN THE SERVICE OF THEIR COUNTRY AND WHO SLEEP IN UNKNOWN GRAVES.

THIS IS THEIR MEMORIAL THE WHOLE EARTH THEIR SEPULCHER.

COMRADES IN ARMS WHOSE RESTING PLACE IS KNOWN ONLY TO GOD.
Storming the beaches of Normandy
Normandy american_cemetery_overview