10 Essentials To Make Travel Easier #TravelTuesday — Simply Marquessa

I always travel with these 10 items. From personal experience, they have always made my trip run more smoothly. Sealable freezer-type bags, large and small: I place my “leakables” like sunscreen to avoid ruining my clothes (this happened once and I was not a happy camper). I also use smaller bags to organize cosmetics and […]

via 10 Essentials To Make Travel Easier #TravelTuesday — Simply Marquessa

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The Greatest Soup In The World

We Are Chefs

By Ana Kinkaid

How does a soup gain such acclaim that the likes of Craig Claiborne declare it to be the most elegant and delicious soup ever created?

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If the soup is France’s beloved Billi Bi Soup, also known as Cream of of Mussel Soup, the tale of its unique creation and enduring fame involves American millionaires, Greek princesses, racing boats and, of course, legendary chefs.

The story of Billi Bi Soup began in ancient Brittany where the residents of coastal towns have for centuries harvested big, beautiful mussels from the sea. They added these mussels to a variety of their regional dishes, all hardy and savory, but certainly not haute cuisine.

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Centuries passed. By the beginning of the early 1900s, France had gained fame as the culinary capital of the world and America as a leading industrial power. One nation offered elegance and style; the other offered…

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Book Review: Mountain Berries and Desert Spice and Spiced Apple Samosas

Yes, please! ❤

I am probably the first to admit that I often overlook desserts and sweet things. In the case of cookbooks I also tend to find that the obligatory sweet recipes are placed in the back, often as an afterthought and the centre stage is given to the savoury dishes.

Coming out this April, however, is a beautifully evocative book that focuses exclusively on sweet inspirations from the Hunza Valley to the Arabian Sea, written by food writer and cookery teacher, Sumayya Usmani, author of ‘Summers Under the Tamarind Tree’ – I wrote all about her first book here. It’s actually rather refreshing to have a book solely dedicated to all manner of sweet delights from Sumayya’s homeland, Pakistan.

Photography © Joanna Yee – Mountain Berries and Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani is published by Frances Lincoln, an imprint of The Quarto group

She interweaves stories of her childhood and memories…

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The Basics of Online Selling: How to Calculate Your Costs

I’ve been selling on eBay for a long time, just random stuff that I or my siblings don’t use or want. I never understood the basics of selling something, except the concept of getting money. Just recently, though, I have been selling collectibles for which I have no more use. Collectible stuffed animals, mainly; I was really, REALLY big into the whole TY Beanie Baby thing when I was a teenager, and now I find them just sitting around collecting dust.

So, while I am keeping a few that have some sentimental attachment to my heart, the rest are being researched and shipped off to new owners. Here’s what I know now (after a few sales and incurring more loss than gain), and here’s how you can avoid my mistake.

Learning how not to lose:

First off: Grab a pen and pad, and ask yourself these questions:

How much did (insert selling item) cost you? Write that down.

If it was a gift, then it cost you nothing, and you can basically pick your price. But hold up! Picking your price doesn’t mean selling your item for way more than it’s worth. Do some research and see how much items like yours are selling for, and that will give you a good price range from which to pick.

If you bought this item, how much was it? And since buying it, has it become damaged in any way? Look very carefully, and use a detailed eye. Look for scratches, dents, dirt, stains, marks, chips, broken pieces, et cetera. Be aware that these devalue the item in your possession, so anything you can do to clean it up helps you sell it for a better price.

(Major tip: Avoid “cleaning up” if you have a piece of art. Where art is concerned, unless you are a professional in the field of restoration, DO NOT try to clean it up… you see this on shows like Antiques Roadshow, where the owner tries to paint over a mistake or glue something back together, only to find that their work has greatly decreased the value of the item by trying to fix it. Take your piece to a professional first, if you can.)

How old is your item? Time itself devalues any item. Once it is no longer brand-new, its value drops. If it has never been used, it can be sold for about the same price.

Does your item use batteries? Make sure it works fully and completely. If it doesn’t work somehow, make a note.

Write down what you think the current value of your item is, and subtract that from the original price.

Second: Pictures are essential to selling things online. Take pictures with good lighting. If you are selling furniture, leave pillows or decorations out of the picture (unless they come with the furniture you’re selling). Let people make their own deductions. What you think is pretty and fashionable may not be your buyer’s cup of tea. If your item has any important features or damages, be sure to get a close-up shot of it. Do not hide details that you think will not allow it to sell. Be honest.

Third: You want a good, detailed description of your item, its benefits and/or accessories. You can make the description appealing and marketable, but be honest. If there is damage in any item, in any form, put it in the description. This ensures that the buyer knows what they are getting when they buy, and cannot come back to say, “This isn’t what I ordered! I want my money back!” It also helps you sell things later on, because people leave good reviews and know you are a trustworthy seller. Trust goes a long way in the online world of shopping.

Fourth: You need to account for shipping when selling an item. I made the mistake of putting things online for great prices with free shipping. People love free shipping. The problem was that my item’s bid price did not go up as I had hoped it would, and left me to pay more than the selling price. If you want to go the free-shipping route, that’s great; but make sure you know how much shipping is going to be, and add it into the selling cost. If you do not want to pay for shipping, most websites (like eBay, Amazon, or Etsy) will calculate shipping costs for you; just put how big and how heavy the package will be into their calculator, and they tell the customer how much it will take to ship the item.

Fifth: If you use a site to sell, like eBay, you may be charged a selling fee, such as 10% of the selling price. Make sure this is added into your cost, because you’ll be giving 10% of the money to the website.

Just for kicks, let’s run through how you would do this with a simple item.

This is one of the selling items I had a while back.

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Let’s say this bear cost me $1.00 at a thrift shop. With some research, I find out that with its original tags still attached and great condition, it could sell for up to $17.00 (USD). I decide to go a few dollars lower to make it more salable.

Price for which I bought it: $1.00

      Value and selling price: $15.00

This means that I could make $14.00 in profit. To ship it, I’m going to be paying for it. The United States Postal Service will cost me about $2.54 to purchase shipping for this beanie bear. I have to count in my website’s selling cost, as well. So, if I do free shipping and subtract the selling cost:

                                    Current profit: $14.00

                                 Minus shipping: $-2.54

Minus selling cost (10% of 15.00): $-1.50      

                                      Profit now  =   $9.96 USD

If I decide that the buyer will pay shipping, I don’t need to worry about it. I just need to know what the item weights, and what kind of packaging I’ll use. My profit will be $13.50, having only subtracted the selling cost of my item.

Nice job!

STUFF TO KNOW:  1. Remember to take any batteries out of your item before shipping it – it’s illegal in the USA to ship anything with batteries inside. So, if your item runs on battery power, they CANNOT be inside your package. Take them out before packing it. Be sure to tell your buyers that the item needs batteries to run, what kind, and that you will not provide batteries.

2. In your description of anything, make sure you put “PLEASE READ DESCRIPTION BEFORE BIDDING OR BUYING”. As you know, we humans can be idiots and we ignore things. Putting this in your description or subtitle tells people that there is need-to-know stuff in there. It also helps you if someone tries to say they had no idea your product had a scratch, a dent, a paint splatter, or whatever. Be on the safe side!

3. Remember, be honest!

Feel free to comment, ask questions, or correct me if I forgot something! Ciao!

My Sweet Tooth is Calling… For Popcorn

I don’t know about you, but I love popcorn. Usually just plain, air-popped, salty, buttery popcorn, but I could go for some of these recipes. I bet they’re really fun to make with kids, too! Like rice krispies!

Have I ever told anyone that I love cooking in general? And I’m a big-time foodie. Just so you know why I decided to post about popcorn, rather than my usual daily struggle. Ha!

Here’s the recipe blog I was looking at:

Snacking Doesn’t Have To Be Boring! 12 Popcorn Snack Mixes To Satisfy The Snacker In All Of Us http://forkful.com/whats-hot/12-popcorn-snack-mixes-to-satisfy-the-snacker-in-all-of-us

Dazzling vs. Baffling

“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, then baffle them with bullshit.”

This comes from my mother, who, as I am unloading a frustrating school experience, is sitting next to me and flipping through the day’s mail, listening nonchalantly. I had been talking about an essay I needed to do, but it was on a subject the class had not yet studied. I like to be prepared, so I had started the project a week ahead of schedule. Not only did I have to write an essay and make a Power Point for it, but, because it was an online class, I was required to do a voice-over recording of the topic, as if I was giving a speech to the class. It was a waste of my time, and another needless added objective to the course curriculum (in my opinion). I told her that I had gone and done my own research and everything, and I was not sure that it was on the right subject or not, but I was doing it anyway. That’s when Mom put her two cents in the pot.

I don’t know if you laughed at that introductory line, but I sure did. For one, there is something oddly funny about expletives to me; probably because when I was growing up, I had never heard one obscene word until I was fourteen years old. By then, I knew they were “bad words”. Secondly, my mother said it so factually– so casually— that it caused my brain to get off of its current track and consider the thing she had uttered.

In a split second, I went from exasperated to laughing hysterically. I still giggle a little bit when I think about it. I’ve come to this conclusion: We, as the human race, learn the art of “faking it” throughout life. We do it all the time. Too much. That’s sad, isn’t it?

We all learn the art of “faking it.”

We do this in relationships  with people of whom we are not particularly fond. You can be as friendly as sunshine toward that person on the outside; but inside, you are gritting your mental teeth and devising a strategy for slipping away. Everybody has a family member that we love dearly, but we’d rather not see them when it comes to family reunions or Thanksgiving dinner. We come up with a plan to avoid that bear hug or pinch on the cheek from those personal-space-invaders.

You can fake to your employers that you really do like your job and work hard at it. In reality, it makes you want to rip your hair out on a daily basis and throw yourself out a window.

I have to fake it a lot when I have panic attacks. At home, it’s not so bad. My family knows I’ve been having them (they didn’t know for a long time, until recently). But when I’m out in public, in my car, at work, in the middle of a massage session or a conversation, I have to pretend that nothing is wrong. I have to pretend that my insides aren’t screaming to get out and I just became as scared as hell over nothing. I am calm, happy, and confident. I am still massaging, or driving, or talking. I have to stifle tears and make sure I do not curl up into a ball to hide from myself.

If you’ve ever given a public speech before, you know how nerve-wracking that can be; but what do we do? We put on a happy face and welcome our audience. We learn to hide the anxiety. It is said that most people have a greater fear of public speaking than death. (I’d rather give a speech than die, but that’s just me.)

So what’s the difference between dazzling them with brilliance, versus baffling them with you-know-what?

Example 1: Baffle Them!

When I worked at A.C. Moore, I was forced to come up with solutions to customer’s craft problems within a few minutes. People would come up to me with ideas that they found on Pinterest or Facebook and say, “So how would I make this?” Having never made or seen the item before, or the type of material for which they were looking, I would suggest ideas off the top of my head that may or may not have been the best solutions. If you watched their faces, you could see whether the light was coming on overhead, or if it needed a new it needed a new bulb (or just a different idea). If I had absolutely no clue what they were looking for, I would ask somebody else on the sales floor.

In short, you just made your way through the Swamp of I-Don’t-Know-Jack-Squat without stumbling into the muck. Maybe, just maybe, that bulls**t actually turned out to be something worth more.

Example 2: Daring to Dazzle

When you dare to dazzle them with your knowledge, your brilliance, or your expertise, you take considerable risks. Those risk can be your fear. You are afraid that maybe you have learned all that you can, but in the long run, you really don’t know anything. Perhaps if you are put to the test — even with all of your practice and repetition — you will stumble and cause chaos. You will fail. You will not make it to the other side. Getting dirty is inevitable when you trip, but you have to move. Keep going.

This, too, is a lesson we learn throughout life.

It takes courage to dazzle people. It takes strength. Hard work gets put into the outcome. You learn along the way. The result means  reaching your goal, as well as the dignity  and honest reputation that come with it. Gaining self-confidence is also a win.

In short…

All that said, different situations call for different choices. Sometimes “faking it” is necessary. Consequently, choosing to be courageous, honest, and use what you know is paramount to being successful.

Your turn. You decide.

Sorry nobody clapped for you, people suck

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Bridgette Tales

It is pretty much always the same. Lines of kids in caps and gowns, flowers, balloons, crying moms and fussy babies, speeches about the meaning of life, scattered bursts of applause and snapping cameras (mostly cell phones now).

Every time I attend a graduation, I’m proud and happy for the graduates. I never get tired of seeing all that hopefulness.

But it comes with equally strong feelings of hate for the human race.

I try to suppress it.

I focus on the mom with the tissues in front of me that screams out, “I love you baby!” as her boy walks across the stage.

I focus on the dad beaming two rows down who is videotaping the entire thing with due diligence.

I focus on the grandmother who is overcome with such joy that tears run down her face.

Then it happens again, another name is called that is met…

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