Guidelines for Selecting The Best Customer Loyalty Program

In the current economy, it is wise for merchants to place as much significance on customer retention as acquisition. It’s common business knowledge that it costs 3 to 5 times more to acquire a new customer than keep an existing one. So what’s being done to retain customers?

Among the most successful customer retention strategies during the past few years has been loyalty programs. Across the country, air carriers (frequent flyer miles) and grocery stores (VIP cards) have taken excellent advantage of reward programs. As for locally, who hasn’t had a hole-punched card from the neighborhood sandwich shop stuffed in their billfold or purse?

While they promote the same concept, these examples are actually quite different. The air carrier and grocery loyalty programs distribute rewards and capture customer information. The sandwich shop program only distributes rewards. It does not collect any information to further benefit the consumer or their business.

Tip #1: When planning your customer loyalty program, I suggest that you avoid traditional (hole-punch) cards. Opt for a Mobile system instead. The technology is present day, it’s popular among consumers, and it provides you with a highly-effective communication tool.

Don’t confuse communicating with consumers via their cell phone as spamming! Customers “opt in” to participate and have the option to “opt out” at any time.

Based on Nielsen ratings, in excess of 90% of the population 13 years and older carries a mobile phone. Of these, over 90% keep their mobile phone with him or her 24 hours a day.

Your Advantage: Text messaging has the fastest read rate at 90% in 15 minutes with a 97% final open rate (e-mail delivers a high median of 17% open rate in 48 hours). No other system provides you with a more powerful way to interact with your customers!

When researching mobile loyalty programs, select a system that uses your customers’ mobile phones and e-mail addresses for data gathering so it doesn’t disrupt your flow of business. The program should consist of a self-registration station or allow for customers to provide only their mobile number or e-mail address to the clerk at the time of checkout, who then enters it into the Point of Sale terminal. The system itself should collect any additional information (such as birthday, anniversary, etc.) out of the checkout line so it will be fast enough even for fast service restaurants to implement.

Tip #2: Your mobile loyalty program should communicate with consumers through text messaging & e-mail. Since information is gathered by text message and e-mail, the program should automatically attach the customers’ addresses to your consumer base listings. You can then send out texts and e-mails to them anytime using a web-based program.

Don’t misuse texts and e-mails blasts or your customers will promptly “opt out” of the program. Any communication should be beneficial to your customers and should not exceed 3 or 4 messages per month.

Your Advantage: Text messages are personal and enable instant two-way communication. You are establishing a profitable relationship with your customer!

Tip #3: Your program should be fully automatic. During customer check-out, it should only need a mobile number or e-mail address to issue credits and disperse rewards (and never disrupt the stream of business). Additionally, your program should also automatically distribute birthday and anniversary promotions.

Almost all mobile services measure e-mail open/coupon redemption rates and offers extensive reporting functions so you can modify your program to maximize final results.

Now, that’s essentially all the functions included with ordinary mobile loyalty programs. Of course, you do not want to be ordinary! Your program must be better-than-average, unique. Inquire about additional features.

For example, there’s a Mobile Customer Loyalty provider (the only one that I’m aware of) that’s fully integrated into Facebook! That makes the subscribing businesses’ service unique from their competitors and allows Facebook users a simple single-click sign up to complete enrollment. The program then posts relevant notices to customers’ walls and makes exclusive offers to their friends following the hyperlinks. The viral nature of Facebook itself makes this a great way build a loyalty program.

Another example of extra features is the ability to transmit voice broadcasts, if preferred, instead of text. While these are “above average” functions, they should be integrated with your program at no extra expense.

Consumers are three to five years ahead of local business in adapting to the changing channels of technology. Catch up to your customers with a Mobile Loyalty Program that’s fun, inexpensive and profitable. Take advantage of mobile marketing before your competitors.

Source by Terry F Payne

Lunch in a Crunch

“Mom! Where’s my lunch?” The scramble starts the minute the alarm clock alerted. Whether you are a working mom or a stay at home mom, your day crowds at the starting gates and jets forward as fast as a quarter horse at the Kentucky Derby. As you are racing to take the kids to school, you throw a few prepackaged goodies in a paper sack and call it lunch. You promise yourself that tomorrow you will pack a better one.

Starting today say goodbye to the starting gates and hello time! All you need is a little time over the weekend to plan your week strategically. First, you want to prepare all your sandwiches ahead of time and freeze them. This will save you so much time each day! Start by making a whole loaf of sandwiches and store them in the freezer. Each morning, all you have to do is gather the goodies and throw them into a lunch sack. For a well-balanced lunch, pack one sandwich, a washed apple, crackers with pre-sliced cheese, bottled water, and a napkin. Viola! You have created a healthy lunch in minutes!

Being on the go is a part of a working mom’s life but remember you don’t need to feel like you are waiting to bolt through the starting gates each morning. With a little preplanning, you can glide into your morning with the added comfort of knowing that one of your many daily tasks is already completed. Now it’s time to plan for dinner!

Source by April Brown

Hunting the McGraw Ford Georgia WMA

I had the pleasure this weekend to visit the McGraw Ford Georgia WMA, and found it to be a nice small Georgia WMA. The only thing I really didn’t like was the fact that there were literally no places to stay overnight nearby. This whole Georgia WMA is only around two thousand two hundred acres, so it’s not a real large Georgia WMA. The roads on the Georgia DNR map were fairly correct, however, getting there from I-75 coming from Atlanta proved to be a chore. I did put very specific directions on my enhanced Georgia WMA map clarifying some roads that had no names, and also a showed a few of the food hot spots on my enhanced map.  

One thing I did like was that the Etowah River runs straight through this Georgia WMA, and there was very easy access and parking right along the bridge going over the Etowah River where hunters could park, and walk all along the Etowah River to locate good hunting spots. I ate at two different BBQ joints while I was there, and one was ok, and another was awesome. I ate first at Two Brothers BBQ just outside of the Georgia WMA. I had a BBQ sandwich and was not that impressed. For starters there were very few choices on the menu, and you could only get chopped pork, which I personally prefer sliced pork, they bring your sandwich out wrapped in thin paper, and you don’t get a plate to put it on. The Brunswick stew was a mush style, which I prefer more of a stew style as opposed to real mushy. I can say that Two Brothers BBQ had friendly staff, and a nice environment with hard wood floors, and country collectibles lined the walls. You do need to know, that they are only open Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from ten thirty a.m. to nine p.m. They are closed Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.  

The second BBQ place I found was a very small ma and pop joint called Amos BBQ. Amos’s BBQ was to die for, the stew was perfect, and the pork was very juicy. They had a large menu of items to choose from, and most important to us hunters, is that they serve an insanely awesome breakfast. They had a variety of fresh homemade biscuits including steak, chicken, tender loin, hot link, sausage, bacon, and gravy. The BBQ is true smoked in a smoker and not exposed to open flame, so all their meats had that great classic smoked flavor. I have to say that there prices were very reasonable. They have been there for five years, and the owners name is Paul Johnson. There hours of operation are Monday through Thursday five thirty a.m. to eight o’clock p.m., Thursday through Saturday five thirty a.m. to nine o’clock p.m. They are closed on Sunday, and they stop serving breakfast at ten thirty a.m., or until all of the breakfast foods are gone.  

I put both of the BBQ places on my enhanced Georgia WMA map for future reference. Outside of these two BBQ joints, I didn’t find any other places to eat that seemed worth mentioning. I did see one small like sandwich shop right in the middle of the small town, but it seemed really expensive. I walked in the door, and just saw a wine menu with like really expensive wines and sandwiches, and turned around and walked back out. Not my kinda place.  

To wrap things up, this Georgia WMA made the perfect day trip for me, I had breakfast at Amos’s BBQ, got out in the woods around nine o’clock, hunted till lunch, went to Two Brothers Pit BBQ for lunch, went back and hunted along the Etowah river for a few more hours which even though I didn’t see anything, it was a nice hike with good views, and then went and ate dinner at Amos’s BBQ, and then called it a day. Overall this is a perfect place to get to early, with good food, and easy access to many hunting areas, and would give it a good grade of a Georgia WMA I will definitely return to, but just no overnight facilities.

Source by Brent Thomason

Top Reasons to Appreciate the Importance of Pronunciation in Language Learning

Is there a real importance of pronunciation in language learning?

This is a really great question to consider answering if you are trying to learn a language for the first time. Why? Well, some people feel that learning the correct pronunciation of words is too difficult in language acquisition and sometimes allow this to affect their learning process.

What can contribute to this? Attitude. When a language learner has the wrong attitude or viewpoint toward the importance of pronunciation in language learning, it could lead to adapting many bad habits that sometimes may be extremely difficult to strip off for beginners if not corrected. To illustrate this, have you ever heard someone speak and butcher a language? Why does this often occur for learners? One reason is because some learners may say words or expressions without respecting accents that govern the targeted language. Some do it on purpose while others may not be aware of it. I have noticed this when some speak Spanish. Some learners may simply conform and be content with their way of pronouncing a specific word and may not put forth much effort in using the correct way as natives.

It makes me think of an expression that I hear often “they understand me” or “they know what I meant to say”. However, when it comes to the importance of pronunciation in language learning, was it really true that the person was understood? Was the message relayed in a clear and effective way?

As a language lover, I raise these questions because I remember going to Spain in 2001 on vacation with some friends. We were at a restaurant and decided to order in Spanish. I wanted to order a “turkey sandwich” in Spanish which is “un sandwich de pavo”. However, versus correctly pronouncing pavo in Spanish, I said “polvo” which when translated means dirt or dust. The waiter’s reaction? He laughed because he thought I wanted a dirt sandwich versus turkey.

By relating this brief experience, do you see the real importance of pronunciation in language learning? It doesn’t matter what the targeted language is, a learner must understand that language learning is a true art that requires time and continuous effort. However, the attitude of the learner should never be one of self-contentment, rather to strive to correctly pronounce words.

What are some things that will help learners to improve pronunciation?

One thing that you can do in your targeted language is listen to audios everyday and strive to mimic the way natives speak the language. Secondly, try to associate daily with natives that speak your targeted language. Thirdly, don’t be afraid to ask natives to correct your pronunciation if necessary. This will help you to consistently improve your comprehension and speaking skills over time.

Hopefully by this review today, you have come to a greater appreciation of the importance of pronunciation in language learning and communication.

Source by Omowali Isidore

Tips For Planning A Child’s Birthday Menu

The foods you select to serve at a birthday party for a child is important for your guests’ enjoyment. This is especially true when it comes to the choices you make for children. You may a picky eater on the guest list or one who has allergies to certain foods. Learn more about the safest way to make choices for your birthday menu.

Before you begin making a list to take with you to the supermarket, talking to the parents of your little guests is a good idea. Learn about any allergies you will need to be aware of during meal preparation. Some kids are allergic to peanuts while others have serious allergies to dyes. Always making sure about the foods you choose for your guests is the best way to plan a menu.

Finger foods are perfect for smaller children. The kids at your party are going to be excited. Allowing children to have snacks they can grab and eat is better than trying to get everyone still at a table. One great choice for finger foods is sandwiches. However, how creative you are with sandwich making is always a plus when it comes to kids.

Cutting whole sandwiches into unique and cool shapes can help to make them irresistible for kids. Pick out cookie cutters and once you have built the number of sandwiches you need, cut them all out into different shapes. Cookie cutters come in a variety of shapes and sizes, so you will have a great selection to choose from.

Pigs in a blanket is the perfect finger snack for kids. These yummy snacks not only provide fulfilling, good food, you also get fun in the name. Cut several hotdogs in half. Wrap each half in ready to bake canned biscuit dough. Place them about half an inch apart of a cookie sheet and pop them into the oven. You night also consider using ready made croissant dough as well.

The time of year can help you make the right choices for party foods as well. The greatest benefit of summer time parties, especially for children, is grilling out. Most kids love hotdogs and hamburgers cooked on the grill. Something about cooking outdoors brings about another level excitement for little ones.

The parties you have for children are the one that build long lasting memories. Making sure you do everything to make your party most enjoyable for everyone starts with the kinds of kids birthday food you choose to serve.

Source by Ross D Taylor

Camping Trailer Accessories: A Look at the Humble Rome Panini Press

We all know that one of the best things about camping is being able to cook over an open flame. Many people opt to go the traditional hot dog and hamburger route. However, there are times when the ordinary camping fare just won’t do. On those occasions, you may want to reach for a Panini Press Pie Iron. It’s a great camping accessory to have around for that very reason.

Rome Industries makes a great Panini Press crafted out of cast iron, it is 22 inches long and features an 8″ x 4″ cooking area. Remember, if you have just purchased your first pie iron, you will need to season the Panini press just as you would a cast iron skillet. Seasoning protects the cast iron from rusting and helps prevent foods from sticking while cooking. Experienced pie iron chefs all have their own unique way of preparing the iron and bread for cooking in a Panini press, but we have found that simply spreading butter on the outside of each half leaves it a perfect crispy golden brown. This will also help keep the sandwich from sticking to the cast iron plates. If you decide to use oil make sure that it has a high smoke point. Otherwise, you may inadvertently end up infusing an unpalatable smoke flavor into your meal. Oils that tend to have smoke points above 350 degrees Fahrenheit are refined canola, safflower, soy and sunflower.

Depending on what you are using as sandwich ingredients, heating each side of the Panini press for about 3-4 minutes should pre-heat the iron nicely. Now let your imagination run wild. My favorite is a jalapeno bagel with some turkey, cheddar cheese, a big chunk of tomato and some banana pepper relish. Oh so good! Because of its size the Panini press doesn’t have to be relegated to just making sandwiches, it perfect for cooking hotdogs, hamburgers and my favorite crescent roll cherry pie.

There are several camping accessories that would pair well with the Rome Panini Press. A Pie Iron recipe book will keep the good ideas going once you become hooked on campfire cooking. The Picnic Time Asiago Folding Cutting Board which is compact and self-contained, makes a great area to cut up sandwiches and share with others. If you plan to have a number of pie irons going at the same time, a large over the fire camp grill will help to keep your Panini press level during the cooking process.

Source by Bill Rowell

Child Health – What Can We Do?

There is a lot of concern about child health in America at the moment. This is not a new phenomenon – Calvin Coolidge instigated the annual ‘Child Health Day’ in 1928. It is held on the first Monday of October each year. Health professionals from all over America meet to discuss child nutrition, fitness, obesity and health education.

Most health professionals agree that the key to healthy choices is education from an early age before bad habits have time to form. Parents need to protect and develop their children’s health from the outset.

Apparently, one in six children in America is obese and this can lead to health problems such as asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

What Can We Do?

The problem today is that children have access to computers, electronic games and of course television. Obviously these are all sedentary pastimes and children are not getting enough exercise.

In the past children would play out on the street with their friends running here, there and everywhere – only coming home when they were hungry or it was getting dark. These days’ security conscious parents are not willing to allow their children out alone – it is much easier and safer to let them sit in front of the television or on a computer. In addition, because of time constraints and work commitments, children are usually driven everywhere by parents.

One solution to this problem is to enroll your child in one of the many child education schemes available. Many of these schemes combine games and exercise and learning and can greatly enhance your child’s social and behavioural skills.

A Child’s Diet Is Important.

Another major problem in child health care is diet.

Firstly it is important to lead by example – overweight parents tend to have overweight children. Serve a balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and watch the portion size – a seven or eight year old does not need an adult portion. Cut down on snacks and fizzy drinks – or make sure snacks are healthy. Children can easily get used to peeled baby carrots (very crunchy and sweet), apple and banana slices or seedless grapes.

If you take your child to one of the excellent child education schemes make sure their lunch box is packed with healthy food.

You can provide peeled sliced raw vegetables with a yoghurt dip, some whole grain bread, a favourite fruit, some cold chicken, a mixed salad with sweet corn and grated carrot – and to drink, water or semi-skimmed milk. Whatever you do leave out the cookies, chips, chocolate and fizzy drinks!

Source by Artur V Cosicov

How to Cure Hemorrhoids With Beer, Chocolate and Walnuts

Now you can cure hemorrhoids with delicious tasting, fun foods!  What more could you ask? 

Experts estimate that as much as 90 percent of all diseases are linked to free-radical damage in the body.   Hemorrhoids are caused by free radical damage to the region in and around the anus.  

Free radicals are a natural byproduct of the body turning food into energy.  However, if there are more free radicals than the body needs, they can become harmful.  

Excess free radical buildup can be caused by stress, cigarette smoking, harmful ultraviolet rays from the sun, the waste product of metabolism, toxic chemicals from pollution, contaminates and/or pesticides in foods, and high intensity/short period exercising known as distress exercise. 

Free radicals are associated with oxygen molecules that damage cells in the body by stealing electrons from them. Antioxidants stop the damage by providing the electrons demanded by the dysfunctional oxygen molecules.  When the body can not produce enough antioxidants, supplements are needed to keep the body healthy.

Fortunately, there are many foods that provide antioxidant materials for the body like fresh fruits and vegetables. Eating a wide range of different types and colors – blueberries, green and red grapes and deep orange fruits will provide the “free radical scavengers” to neutralize the damaging molecules. 

Of the many foods, barley is one of the better antioxidants.  Barley is used in beer, so drinking beer will help cure hemorrhoids as well as other illnesses.

Similarly, dark chocolate has been shown to be a great producer of antioxidants.  Dark chocolate is especially good for the skin.  This is why it proves useful in the treatment of hemorrhoids.  Hemorrhoids are a skin condition.  

Walnuts are another food that helps produce an above-average number of “free radical scavengers”.  Walnuts are high on the list of antioxidants because they are rich in vitamin E.  Walnuts also contain omega 3 fatty acids which have been shown to reduce fat.  Excess fat is often associated with hemorrhoid problems. 

Now, you don’t have to drink beer in order to get your share of antioxidants from barley.  In fact, you can combine barley, chocolate and walnuts to make delicious cookies.  Here’s the recipe: 

  • 1-1/2 cups organic barley flour
  • 3-1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup oil
  • 1/2 cup rice syrup or malt syrup
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 cup finely chopped walnut
  • 1 cup dark chocolate or carob chips
  1. Place the barley flour in a large bowl. Add the baking powder and mix well. Slowly stir in the oil and work it through the flour with a fork until it is evenly distributed. Add the rice syrup or malt syrup, vanilla, and egg. Mix until a stiff dough is formed. Add the walnuts, the chocolate or carob chips and mix until they are evenly distributed throughout the dough
  2. Dip a 2-tablespoon measure (such as a coffee scoop) in water to keep dough from sticking to it. Use this measure to scoop the dough onto an oiled cookie sheet. Wet your hand in cool water and flatten each cookie with your palm. Bake at 350F for 10 – 12 minutes.

There you go!  Now you can get rid of hemorrhoids by eating cookies.

Source by Daniel Griffiths

The Sacrificial Tuna

I didn’t grow up in a religious house. We were “High Holiday Jews,” which, in layman’s terms, are Jews who only attend synagogue on the most sacred Jewish holidays. On those days, we would solemnly pray and rend our garments and starve ourselves in worship of the Lord. But every other day of the year the Lord could go fly a kite.

As a child, I particularly liked Yom Kippur, when adults are not allowed to have anything to eat or drink all day. The official reason for the fast is to cleanse our souls of the sins of the previous year. I suspect the actual reason for the fast is to give Jews another reason to complain.

I used to make wagers with myself as to which elderly parishioner would faint each year from dehydration, starvation, or Metamucil withdrawal. After the first one dropped, the rest of the parishioners often gave up on their own efforts, viewing the unlucky victim as a necessary sacrifice to a merciless God.

“Oy, I’m not going like Ida, someone get me some rugaleh!”

Even more than the fainting alta cockers,* though, my favorite part of Yom Kippur was that, as a kid, I was immune from the ritual fast. I’m not quite sure why that is. Kids sin just as much as adults do, and often without guilt or awareness that they did anything wrong. My Hebrew School class alone was a hotbed of emotional torture and abuse. The Torah was no match for atomic wedgies.

I suspect the true goal of allowing children to eat while their parents starve, like the goal of most Jewish traditions, is to instill a sense of guilt in the children. Of course, most kids would probably have some sympathy for their parents on Yom Kippur. And I did, in those first few self-aware years. But by the time I was 9, I had grown weary of my mother’s constant guilt trip. Nothing too small or trivial was immune from its reach.

“You finished the milk? Oh well, calcium, shmalcium. Who needs a skeletal system?”

“Did you fill the gas tank? Last week you forgot, I almost ran out of gas on the highway. I suppose I deserve to be run down by an eighteen wheeler, huh.”

“Happy Birthday, Jo! Just about this time 29 years ago I was receiving my third blood transfusion and writhing in agony.”

It was almost calming, in a way, the stability of it all. The seasons could change, communism could fall, and my testicles could drop, but I could always depend on the eternal guilt trip. Still, you can only cry wolf so many times before the villagers stop come running.

So when Yom Kippur rolled around, I didn’t pay much attention to my mother’s complaining. Years of living with her had provided me with built-in earplugs, tuned into her frequency only. Most Jewish kids develop them, out of sheer necessity. It was either that, or become a momma’s boy. I already had enough to contend with without adding a Norman Bates complex to the mix.

But just because I didn’t sympathize doesn’t mean I instigated. You might not feel bad for a harpooned man-eating shark, but you don’t get near its jaws while it’s still thrashing about. Usually I just stayed out of her harpooned way on Yom Kippur, much like I did on any other day that she might be unstable, like her day of the month, tax day, weekdays. I envied my friends who had alcoholics for parents — at least their mood swings are predictable from the smell of their breath. Plus they always had good booze in their liquor cabinets. We had Manishevitz, which is only good if you prefer diabetic comas.

It wasn’t difficult to stay out of her way, for the most part. As the offspring of narcissists, I was almost entirely self-sufficient by the time I was 5 years old. I was the only pre-schooler with his own ironing board and first-aid kit. My sister did her best to shoulder the responsibility, but my parents had an effective divide and conquer strategy that Hirohito would have admired. In my house it was every toddler for himself.

Unfortunately, though I was self-sufficient, I was not very handy. Failure to operate the most basic household tools is the first sign of homosexuality. Gays often have difficulty working with their hands, and are prone to tripping over their own feet. Something about homosexuality impedes hand-eye coordination, which seems anomalous, considering our wonderful hand-eye-penis coordination. I’m pretty sure at least half of Jerry’s kids were actually just severe homosexuals.

Usually my lameness had little impact on my self-sufficiency, even when personal possessions would rip, tear, or break. It’s not difficult to work around physical lameness, once you realize that squares can actually fit inside circles and vice versa. You’d be amazed at how little masking tape it takes to reattach a stuffed Miss Piggy head to her body.

So masking tape, thumbtacks, and other primitive tools allowed me to survive without resorting to help from my parents. But when I turned 11, I developed an addictive taste for tuna fish. I never really liked tuna fish before; actually, as a kid, I avoided all canned foods. Something about eating food out of a can disturbed me. Despite our high-tech, modern world, we still eat food from cans. It seemed like a ritual from bygone eras, from before the days of computers and digital watches. It was an out-dated tool of survival. Like locomotives, or procreation.

Somewhere around prepubescence, though, I lost my sensitivity towards metal-encased food products. Which required me to use a can opener, the most enigmatic of all kitchen utensils. Have you ever examined a can opener? All those wheels and levers and intricate mechanical functions. And I’m not even talking about the really complex ones with all the extra bells and whistles. You know, the ones that cost the same as a studio apartment in Bensonhurst.

Suddenly, for the first time since the womb, I was dependent on my mother again. It was not a pleasant feeling. I tried to avoid seeking my mother’s help. First I tried to ween myself off of tuna fish, but that was no use. I have an addictive personality. Fortunately my addictions tend towards mostly benign activities, like bathing, or oral sex. But once I click with a certain food product, I can’t stop myself. I’ve single-handedly kept Frito-Lays in business for the past thirty years.

Next I considered asking strangers to open the can. I was sure I could find someone in the street to do it. I was a pretty cute kid.

“Excuse me, kind sir. Would you please open this can for me?” I’d ask a passer-by, holding out the can opener. I was so skinny as a kid, he’d probably think I was a starving child, perhaps being neglected by his parents. I considered the possibility that he might call Child Protective Services who would take me away, but that was a risk I was willing to take for a tuna fish sandwich. Plus I figured the boys’ home would probably serve tuna fish for lunch all the time.

It seemed like a good plan, except I lived in the suburbs, and there were almost no pedestrians. My neighbors were not an option either. We had alienated them long ago with our very constant and very loud arguments. I’m not sure who called the police on us more often. It was probably about half and half. Either way, it’s not easy to enjoy Wheel of Fortune with your next-door neighbor screaming at her husband at the top of her lungs for purchasing another laser disc player.

After a year of debating my options, I decided that either I had to learn how to use a can opener, or else resign myself to needing my mother’s help for the rest of my life, which was of course not without precedent. I’m pretty sure Carol Brady made her kids lunch when they were well into their 20s and 30s. But then again, I’m pretty sure she also bathed them when they were well into their 20s and 30s, and that did not appeal to me at all. Still, all things being equal, I enjoy a challenge, as long as it doesn’t require public nudity or anything sports-related.

So when Yom Kippur came around that year, it was a perfect opportunity for me to develop my can opening skills. My parents spent most of the day in their separate bedrooms, ostensibly contemplating their sins of the past year but more likely blaming each other for them, so I would have full reign over the kitchen to tackle the white whale standing between me and my meal. And it wasn’t just lunch that I was after — tuna fish is a wonderfully multifunctional canned food. Make a boy a tuna fish sandwich and he’ll have lunch. Teach a boy how to use a can opener and he’ll have dinner.

The coast clear, I reached into the kitchen drawer and extracted my mortal enemy from its resting place. It came willingly, without a fight. Its complacency only heightened my resolve.

“It’s you or me, Mister,” I said to the utensil. I liked calling inanimate objects “Mister.” Except my stuffed Miss Piggy, who insisted on being called “Ma’am.”

Next I took a can of tuna fish out of the cupboard and held it up to my nose. I could smell the bitterly sweet tang of the tuna inside. It struck me how just a few millimeters of metal made the difference between survival and starvation. The tuna called to me, saying “eat me” over and over again. This was before those words took on a different meaning in my world.

I placed the can on the counter and arranged the can opener above it in the most logical manner possible. The opening mechanism slid into place. Success! I reviewed the notes I had taken the last time my mom used the can opener. I had watched her carefully in preparation for this momentous occasion. She was opening a can of dog food at the time, but I figured a can was a can.

According to my detailed instructions, the next step was turning the knob clockwise. I estimated it would take at least eight to ten twists to open the can. Everything was going as planned. I felt energized, probably how a military commander feels when he leads his army into a battle he knows he will win. I was just a few moments from tuna nirvana. This wouldn’t be just lunch. This would be a personal triumph.

I gripped the knob with my left hand and began twisting. Unfortunately, I forgot to remove my right hand from the can when I did. The opener sliced into my index finger.

“Fucking shit!” Those words still have the same meaning in my world.

I ran to the kitchen sink and held my bleeding finger under the running water. My eyes began to well with tears. Not because of the blood — as a world-class klutz, I was accustomed to cutting myself with various sharp instruments. Even a fine-toothed comb can be a dangerous weapon in the wrong hands.

No, I was disappointed in my failure. Did this mean that I was doomed forever to seek my mother’s help every time I wanted tuna fish? This had dire implications for my future. Would I have to go to a local college, just so I could come home every day and have tuna fish? Would I need to live with my mother for the rest of my life, to feed this addiction? And what if I developed a taste for other canned foods? I didn’t love canned corn yet, but my tastes were notoriously erratic.

“Jonah, what are you doing?”

It was my mom. After a day of not eating, she looked even more gaunt than usual. Her hair fell lightly around her shoulders, instead of being pulled into its customary stern bun. She was wearing her aqua blue housedress, one of three housedresses she wore on a repeating cycle. She owned a fourth one also, a pink and purple number with white trim, but she only wore that one when the other three were in the wash. I never quite understood why that one was the alternate. It was prettier than the other three. Maybe she was saving it for special occasions, but I doubted that the Queen was going to come over to watch my mom clean the toilets anytime soon.

“I was . . . I was . . .”

I couldn’t finish the sentence. I was frightened, not just that she would be angry at the mess, but that she would be angry at having a failure for a son.

She turned off the running water and wrapped my finger with a paper towel.

“Come on.” She led me to the bathroom. “Sit.”

She took out some rubbing alcohol and a bandage from the medicine cabinet, and started dressing the wound. Her eyes were half-closed, and her legs appeared ready to give out any second. I didn’t want her to fall on the bathroom floor, which was cold, unforgiving marble. (My parents had rejected out-of-hand my suggestion to install pea-green shag carpeting in the bathroom.) But she didn’t seem to notice her own weakness. As she wiped the blood from my fingers, she moved with instinct, not with deliberation.

She covered the cut with a Kermit band-aid. She wouldn’t buy me Miss Piggy band-aids — presumably, a pre-emptive attempt to curtail my sexual orientation — so I settled on Kermit. Which was fine with me. Something about his color struggle appealed to me. Plus there is something inherently antiestablishment about a frog who loves a pig.

“Let’s go.”

She led me back to the kitchen. I sat at the kitchen table while I watched her prepare my lunch. Her hands shook while she twisted the can opener and dumped its contents into a tupperware container. She mixed the tuna fish with a little mayo and sliced some lettuce and tomato, which she placed on the bread — steps I was planning to skip in my attempt to prepare lunch, as they required handling a knife, and I was pushing my luck already. She garnished the plate with two chocolate chip cookies and slid it in front of me, along with a big glass of milk.

“Eat.” She kissed my forehead, and left me with my hard-earned sandwich. I watched her stumble out of the kitchen. She looked small and frail, the aqua blue housedress hanging around her like a potato sack, a few stray grey hairs around her temples belying her age. There was so little to her, without her force of will to hold her up. I imagined a day when she would be sitting at the same table, and I would make her lunch and kiss her on the forehead. I expected that day to come sooner than I expected, whether I wanted it to or not.

So I couldn’t operate a can opener. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad. There were some good local colleges, and I could live rent-free. Plus, I hate moving, especially packing. There was always so much dust on everything, and reminders of times past that you wished were present.

Fortunately, by the following Yom Kippur I had lost my taste for tuna fish. And I knew how to open a peanut butter jar.

Source by Jonah Haslap

Advantages of Cupcakes

More and more often people are using elaborate cupcake displays rather than traditional cakes for special occasions such as weddings, baby showers, birthdays, parties or festive holidays. Cupcakes, being little miniature cakes are becoming extremely popular because they have so many great qualities that set them apart from everyday regular cakes.

Cupcakes are so simple to make, they are easy to eat, look cute, taste wonderful and can be decorated creatively to match the theme of your event. In fact it now seems that more and more people are fast becoming cupcake fans due to their wonderful qualities and truly inspired designs.

Cupcakes have been around for a long time, yet now it seems that they are making a welcome reappearance in today’s world. This could be due to the fact that they are so simple to make, appeal to people of all ages and can be decorated in many different ways that makes them highly versatile.

They make a great dessert treat as an alternative to traditional desserts such as cakes and chocolates. They also work really well when served at special occasions such as large parties and functions as its very easy to plan exactly how many to make, something more difficult with cakes.

Another great advantage of the cupcake is the sheer variety of flavours they offer, and the ability to offer multiple flavours at your function just by creating different varieties of cupcakes. You could go for vanilla cupcakes, strawberry cupcakes, lemony cupcakes or any combination of flavours. Cupcakes can even be made from healthy ingredients like applesauce, strawberries, bananas or shredded carrot.

Cupcakes need to be frosted before they’re complete and there are so many options available when it comes to frosting flavours. Some of the flavours you could use are Raspberry Butter Cream, Caramel Cream, Chocolate Ganache, Mint, Cream Cheese etc. Cupcakes can also have various toppings such as strawberry or chocolate sprinkles, coconut, miniature chocolate chips, nuts, pieces of fruit or even can be glazed.

When it comes to displaying cupcakes, a centrepiece stand is useful. This arrangement looks particularly spectacular when displayed in lieu of a traditional wedding cake. They can be tiered to produce that wow factor that your guests will definitely remember.

With all of the benefits that cupcakes offer, it’s no wonder they are becoming so popular. So if you haven’t used cupcakes before for your special occasion, perhaps its time to try out these magnificent treats for yourself.

You can find even more cupcake ideas and information from Strawberry Cupcakes.

Source by Jan P Stevens