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November 2011

Carly Fleischmann - An Autistic Teen Finds Her Voice

Autism 2Noah and I just got done watching this amazing video of Carly Fleischmann, a girl diagnosed with Autism and suspected of being mildly retarded.

Her parents worked tirelessly with multiple therapists (40-60 hours a week), trying to assist Carly with her condition. It wasn't until age 11 that Carly became "unlocked", unitentionally, by sitting at a laptop. She began to type. Her first word? HURT. Her second? HELP.

My son was diagnosed on the Autism spectrum at age 4 (PDD-NOS). Thankfully, his troubling, heart-rending behavior (violent rocking, banging his head, tantrums, screaming, unable to talk) has ceased. My husband and I didn't go the route of intensive, recommended, traditional therapy (ABA)--instead, opting for an intuitive, organic route (that I later found out was exactly how the Son-Rise program approaches Autism).

Our risk paid off, and we are truly grateful.

Here's the amazing video of Carly. Make sure you have a box of Kleenex handy.

You can follow Carly on Twitter at @CarlysVoice and on Facebook at her page.

-- Janet Boyer, Amazon Top/Vine Reviewer, author of Back in Time Tarot, Tarot in Reverse (Schiffer 2012) and the Snowland Tarot (Schiffer 2013). Featured in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People Who Are Poking the Box and Making a Difference (A Domino Project eBook edited by Seth Godin)


You're Not Spiritual

People will write off even the clearest, most loving person in the world when he opposes their belief system. They will invalidate him, negate him, obliterate him, prove that he's wrong, he's a fraud, he's dangerous to society, so that they can protect what they really believe is important. They'd rather be right than free. -- Byron Katie

Angel crossI thought he was evolved.

I thought she was spiritual.

I thought you had a relationship with God.

Ever hear any of these statements in relation to an author, a teacher or a minister? Or perhaps, even had these kind of statements leveled right in your direction?

I’m always a bit amused when I hear a person say these kind of things about someone.

Even more amused when it’s said to me.

What does it mean to be “spiritual”? And, what is the benefit of defining such a thing? Isn’t that what religion has done for years?

What happens when you go outside the boundaries of dogma? Excommunication and exclusion at best—persecution, discrimination, stake burned or attacked in crusades, at worst.

I once posted about eating bacon on my Facebook page. An occult author (who rarely interacted with me), replied “As a spiritual person, I can’t believe you eat meat and participate in the torture of pigs who…” Her post went on for several lines.

I thought she was joking at first. But then I realized, “OMG. She really believes this. She MEANS this!”

Suddenly, in her eyes, I was “unspiritual” for eating meat.

Sorry, I didn’t get that memo from the Divine.

Pink smileThen there’s my favorite: spiritual people act nice and sugary to others. (Unless, of course, they get offended, irked or pissed. Then, the gloves come off, and what’s inside comes out. Except, these ones call their reactions “righteous anger” or “holy indignation”…which is, apparently, perfectly acceptable.)

Apparently, I didn’t get that memo, either.

Nor did Jesus (read his words to the Pharisees, the “religious” people of the day), Gurdjieff and other Rude Awakeners.

Enlightenment and spiritual awakening rarely occur in the House of Nice or the House of Appropriate. (Uncle Al, anyone? How about Timothy Leary?)

Why? Because human tendency slouches towards inertia. People enjoy complacency. Millions numb themselves with TV shows, online games, socializing, alcohol, drugs, food and relationships. We don’t want to feel any discomfort, especially in the west—physically, emotionally or spiritually.

The beauty of the Trickster archetype, the Cosmic Rude Awakener, lies in its ability to pierce the veil, to lift the fog, to sound a clarion call. This energy manifests in myth as trickster gods like Hermes, Blue Jay, Coyote, Loki, Raven and so on, as well as in literature and film (Brer Rabbit, The Joker, The Riddler, Star Trek’s Q, come to mind).

The gift of the Trickster? Cracking our clueless veneer, our blind obeisance, our unquestioned beliefs, our fickle loyalties and our capricious “likes” or “loves”—and making us see, know and experience directly…for perhaps the very first time in our lives.

BoltHow can such beings be “unspiritual”, especially if they are the very catalyst to shake us, stir us and enliven us—to crack the shell of delusion and slumber, allowing the juicy center of our Being to manifest? To help us discover self-defined reality, truth and meaning?

Unmoving bodies of water get stagnant. There is no life in them (think Dead Sea). But moving, churning water—with an inlet and outlet, multiple channels running through the terrain? Teeming with life.

It’s been said “better the devil that you know than the devil you don’t”.

What devil do you know? What devil do you not?

So what are your thoughts, readers? What is “spiritual”? Why? Really think about this and test it against universal wisdom teachings, life experience and your personal truth. I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Also, have you ever been deemed "unspiritual" or even "evil"? Care to share your story here?

Before I go, here are but a few things that people have declared “unspiritual”, “ungodly” or “demonic” over the years. Gives this post some perspective, doesn’t it?

• Music
• Sex
• Homosexuality
• Food
• Alcohol
• Smoking
• Dancing
• Aggression
• Boldness
• Short hair
• Long hair
• Bare arms
• Bare face
• Makeup
• Bowling
• Pants on a female
• Divination
• Praying to spirits
• Honoring nature
• Absenteeism from church
• Not reading holy scriptures
• Lack of prayer
• Ambition
• Female ministers
• Eating meat
• Eating shrimp
• Wearing clothes of different colors or materials
• Making sacrifices
• Not making sacrifices
• Watching movies
• Associating with “unspiritual”, “unclean”  or "shunned" people

I'll leave you with a little example of Jesus the badass:

But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you devour widows' houses, and for a pretense make long prayers. Therefore you will receive greater condemnation.  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel land and sea to win one proselyte, and when he is won, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves. 

Woe to you, blind guides, who say, “Whoever swears by the temple, it is nothing; but whoever swears by the gold of the temple, he is obliged to perform it.”. . . Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone.   Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel!  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence. . . .  Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which indeed appear beautiful outwardly, but inside are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness.  Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. . . .  Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? (Matthew 23:13-33)

-- Janet Boyer, Amazon Top/Vine Reviewer, author of Back in Time Tarot, Tarot in Reverse (Schiffer 2012) and the Snowland Tarot (Schiffer 2013). Featured in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People Who Are Poking the Box and Making a Difference (A Domino Project eBook edited by Seth Godin)


I Am Thankful Giveaway - Encyclopedia of Mystics, Saints & Sages by Judika Illes

Mystics 320As the American holiday of Thanksgiving fast approaches, I wanted to take a moment to share my gratitude for supportive colleagues--many who have turned into friends over the years. Thank you, all.

One such person is Judika Illes, consummate independent scholar and wise woman. Judika was instrumental in the publication of my first book, Back in Time Tarot. I treasure her friendship, value her research and admire her contribution to both esoterica and practical spirituality.

Judika's latest book--Encyclopedia of Mystics, Saints & Sages--is yet another gift to the metaphysical community. HarperOne, her publisher, sent me an extra copy by mistake...so I thought it would be a wonderful way to celebrate the season of giving by offering you a chance to win it!

All you need to do to be entered into the random drawing is to include TWO elements in your one comment: 1. What you are MOST thankful for this Thanksgiving (stories more than welcome!) and 2. The mystic, saint, sage or wise person that MOST inspires you right now. That's it!

Comments are open right now, and will close for the drawing Monday, November 28, 2011 at 10 AM EST. Because of shipping costs, only commenters living in the contiguous United States are eligible for this particular giveaway (this book is heavy!). I trust you understand. However, if you live elsewhere and want to share (I hope you will!), just mention that you live outside the allowed area but wanted to chime in on the gratitude fest.

Let the thankfulness begin (and good luck)! (P.S. I may even put your entries in one big gratitude post. The world NEEDS more good news and uplifting stories, don't you think?)

-- Janet Boyer, Amazon Top/Vine Reviewer, author of Back in Time Tarot, Tarot in Reverse (Schiffer 2012) and the Snowland Tarot (Schiffer 2013). Featured in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People Who Are Poking the Box and Making a Difference (A Domino Project eBook edited by Seth Godin)


A Christmas for the Birds in 1874

A lovely wintry report just in from our intrepid scholar and adventurer, Craig Conley!:

From the outskirts of Snowland comes this charming scene of a miniature Christmas tree in a window box for the winter robins. The caption reads, "Free winter quarters -- the little birds at the window."  From Frank Leslie's Pleasant Hours magazine, 1874.

Snowland_birds

Thanks for your fearless reporting, Craig! Snowland is richer because you're out there in the tundras, chasing down sundry frosted jewels for our blog readers!

-- Janet


Yummy Cookies!

9 of Cups Final Cropped 400The latest image from our Snowland Tarot deck is the 9 of Cups. Doesn't it make you hungry for cookies?

Some of the keywords and phrases associated with this card include: Satiety, Feasting, Relishing, Indulgence, Pleasure, Gluttony, Enjoying the "Good Things" in Life, Sensuality, and Gourmand.

Interestingly, some Tarotists call the 9 of Cups the "Wish Card", indicating wish fulfillment and dreams coming true. But you know what they say...be careful what you wish for! We included the shooting star on the cookie jar as a nod to this popular interpretation.

But notice the juxtaposition of the snowman child reverently wishing upon a star (or, perhaps praying or giving thanks for what he has)...and the child wolfing down cookies. "Too much is never enough" or "too much of a good thing" comes to mind.

However, puritanical thought and even some Christian traditions prohibit or frown upon reveling in the senses--including eating, drinking, laughing and dancing. Some Christian denominations like the Church of Christ disallow instruments in their worship, preferring the human voice. (Not sure what they do with the Scripture saying "praise Him with the tambourine" and such, but...there ya go).

As with all cards in the Tarot, there is a continuum of Light and Dark, Helpful and Detrimental, Constructive and Destructive. There are no "bad" or "good" cards in the Tarot, despite what you may have heard. Each has a spectrum of meanings and import, and can be taken to an extreme. The middle way, balance, is the key.

How do you interpret the 9 of Cups card? What do you think of our Snowland Tarot version of this card. And, most importantly, what is your favorite cookie? (Posted recipes get bonus points and our gratitude!)

-- Janet


Get a Free Copy of Journey To You (to Find Your What)

Journey to You 300Here's a wonderful opportunity to get a free book courtesy PublicityResults.com and author Steve Olsher:

Are you ready to discover your WHAT? That is, the ONE thing you were born to do, tap into your unique, natural abilities, and create a meaningful, contribution-based life and career that is both fulfilling and monetarily rewarding? If so, then it's time you read the award-winning book, Journey To You: A Step-by-Step Guide to Becoming Who You Were Born to Be. Receive a FREE, no-strings-attached copy right now by visiting JourneyToYou.com.

Enjoy!

-- Janet Boyer, Amazon Top/Vine Reviewer, author of Back in Time Tarot, Tarot in Reverse (Schiffer 2012) and the Snowland Tarot (Schiffer 2013). Featured in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People Who Are Poking the Box and Making a Difference (A Domino Project eBook edited by Seth Godin


Snowman Mannequin - Thoughts from Noah

8 of Swords Cropped 450As I was prepping the borders of the finished 8 of Swords card on my computer, our son, Noah, peered over my shoulder at the completed painting.

“Do you think the snowman with the hat will cut his strings?” I asked him.

Immediately Noah replied, “After a decade on strings, he probably doesn’t mind it anymore.”

Interesting…I thought.

“Why did the girl cut her strings?” I asked.

“Freedom”, Noah said.

“But why did she cut her strings, but the other marionette didn’t?”

Again, Noah had a quick answer for me: “Because maybe those strings were uncomfortable to her”.

Hmm. Talk about “out of the mouth of babes” and untainted wisdom…

“OK, but what about the artist’s mannequin doll? It doesn’t have strings. Why did it want to leave?”

Without hesitation, Noah says, “He doesn’t want to be in the workshop”.

“But why?” I pressed further.

“Because he wants to see things that no toy has seen before", he answered.

And there you have it. 

What about you?

Do you think the snowman with the bowler hat will cut his strings? Why or why not?

Why did the girl marionette cut her strings? What about the artist’s mannequin?

Where might they be going on a snowy evening?

-- Janet


Build or Boost Your Author Platform by Reviewing

BooksDo you want to build or boost your author platform, while at the same time gain experience, forge industry connections, hone your writing skills and score free books? And maybe, just maybe, land writing assignments and a first book deal like I did?

What started out as a hobby for me (with no intent to publish my own words at the time) can become a conscious decision for you—right now—towards building and boosting a solid online reputation as a reviewer who is informed, articulate and productive…preferably in the genre/s you enjoy writing.

In 2002, I started writing reviews on Amazon.com. I had a passion for telling others about good books—and warning readers about the not-so-good ones.

Nine years later, I’ve penned over 1,200 reviews on Amazon.com with over 26,000 votes from readers. My Amazon ranking went as high as the Top 10 , I'm a hand-selected Vine Reviewer, and I’ve earned a reputation as an articulate, honest and informed book lover and reviewer.

Along the way, I’ve made friends with many authors and publicists, which has not only enriched my life, but expanded my knowledge of publishing. In fact, reviewing on Amazon.com and my personal website wedged my foot in the publishing door and led to several paid writing gigs, both in print and online, as well as my first book contract.

In 2006, I had a spark of an idea—a method, really—that would help anyone learn Tarot cards using their memories, pop cultures scenarios, overheard conversations, news items and so on. I fleshed out the idea, got some great input from a fellow Tarot author and decided that I wanted some colleagues to not only “test out” my BIT Tarot Method…but also contribute actual BIT Tarot Snapshots for my book.

BackinTimeTarot 200One of the first people I wanted to pen a BIT Snapshot using my method was Judika Illes, a popular Mind/Body/Spirit author that I had befriended precisely because of my reviewing (after reviewing a few of her books, she contacted me and we became fast friends).

She was in the middle of writing one of her encyclopedias (her fourth was recently published by Harper Collins), so she didn’t have the time to contribute to my book. However, she liked the concept so much she asked if she could show what I had written to “someone in publishing” (at that time, I was just starting the book, and only had an introduction and three BIT Tarot Snapshots completed!)

I agreed, and within a month, I had a book contract from Hampton Roads Publishing (publisher of the bestselling Conversations with God series) for my book Back in Time Tarot.

You see, that “someone in publishing” happened was the Sales and Marketing Director for Hampton Roads, who happened to be a friend and business partner to Judika, and he, too, loved my BIT Tarot Method idea.

The point to this longish introduction is this: reviewing inadvertently established a solid platform for my career and connected me to publishing insiders. I didn’t intend to build a platform, of course—I was just writing for the love of it.

Well guess what? You, too, can build or expand your platform by writing reviews—on not only Amazon.com, but also Library Thing, Lunch.com, Good Reads and other review outlets.

You’ve heard that platform matters, and I’m here to confirm that this absolutely true. I have a colleague represented by one of the biggest agents in New York City. She’s had a handful of books published, one that’s still a bestseller in the genre years after its publication, and yet…the last time her agent offered a one of her proposals to a publisher she’s worked with before, they asked if she had a platform! As a woman in her 60s or 70s, she did not.

Books MoneyLong gone are the days where an author’s backlist can speak for itself (unless, of course, you’re one of the lightning-strikees like J.K. Rowling).

Apart from content, which is still king, the almighty platform is the biggest advantage you have for publication and sales. After all, even if you write great books—especially in niche fields—the only way people may find about it (especially if you’re signed with a small press with limited marketing efforts) is through your platform.

Platform can include social media efforts like blogging, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. But an overlooked “backdoor” to establishing a solid platform—especially as an articulate, knowledgeable and prolific writer—is through reviewing.

Here are 15 reasons and ways to build your platform as a reviewer:

1. You become familiar with the books and products in your area of your expertise. When it comes time to write your non-fiction book proposal and you get to the part about “how is your book different than what’s on the market?”, you’ll know exactly what to say because you’re not only know the competition, but also can articulate how, and why, yours is different. (And if you can’t, then this will be a good test to see if you’re books is marketable.)

2. You can get free ARC (Advance Reading Copies) and finished books. Most writers are book lovers and avid readers (and should be!), so free items for review ensure that you’re not spending an inordinate amount of money buying books for review just to build your platform.

3. You build visibility among your built-in market. You start reviewing books in your chosen genre or field, your name will become connected with those types of books—especially if you write quality, honest reviews.

4. You make valuable contacts. Making friends with writers and editors can only help your writing career, especially if you support their work and foster good will. If it wasn’t for my friend Judika, I’m not sure I would have gained momentum with my book idea or even sought eventual publication.

5. Building visibility as a go-to person or expert in a certain field can lead to paying gigs. I’ve made money by ghostwriting reviews in both online and print magazines, as well as having my own by-line and columns—all because of my reputation as one of the best Amazon.com reviewers.

6. You can earn passive income by become an affiliate. If you become an Amazon Associate (https://affiliate-program.amazon.com), you can imbed links to the books and products you’re reviewing. When someone clicks on the link and buys something, you get a percentage of the sale. Amz log smallFor years, I’ve made anywhere from $45-$120 of passive income just by imbedding Amazon Associate links in my reviews on my main site and blogs. Other sites have affiliate linking, as well.

7. Writing reviews, especially discerning what you like or dislike in a book, hones your writing skills and informs you of what works—and doesn’t work—in a good book. Don’t underestimate the power of critical thinking and careful word choice to polishing your prose.

8. You’ll spot the gaps. By becoming familiar with what’s been published, you can figure out what hasn’t been done before. Recognizing gaps in a field or genre—and strategically thinking how you might fill those cracks with your unique voice, style and information—will give you an advantage when it comes time to write your book, query an agent or submit a book proposal.

9. Branch out by reviewing books or items outside your area of expertise. If you’re curious about a topic or genre, but don’t have much experience with it, consider expanding your reading and trying your hand at reviewing books outside your genre. You may discover additional passions and marketable ideas—or at the very least, increase your knowledge.

10. You gain credibility as a writer. Most of the paying gigs I’ve landed have been from someone who read my reviews on Amazon, visited my personal site to read other things I’ve written, and then contacted me about a job. Before my first book, I didn’t pursue paying writing gigs simply because I had a young child on the Autism spectrum and chose to homeschool him. Now that he’s doing magnificently and doesn’t need my constant supervision with his schoolwork, I devote more time to monetizing my writing or gaining publishing contracts.

Communication11. You gain access to authors for interviews and stories. When you’re seen as a respected, influential reviewer, it becomes rather easy to land an interview with an author for your site, blog or podcast—even best-selling authors. You could even pitch your article or interview to a print magazine, which not only increases credibility and name recognition, but earns you some money for your efforts.

12. Building industry relationships will eventually pay off during publication. When it comes time to seek endorsements (blurbs), someone to write your Foreword, or contributors to your book/anthology, you’ll have made great friends and acquaintances that are more than happy to help out your writing career. For example, bestselling Self-Help author Monte Farber wrote the Foreword to my first book. Guess how I met him? You guessed it: over the years, I had reviewed many of his products and we eventually became friends. And the Foreword to my upcoming traditionally published book, Tarot in Reverse? Penned by Lisa Finander, author of Disneystrology, whom I befriended when I was editor of a Tarot magazine and she a contributor.

13. You can start with books you already own. You don’t need to go out and buy books to start reviewing! Just take what’s on your nightstand and write a review after you’re done reading it. Or, check out books at the library.

14. Amazon.com, Lunch.com, LibraryThing.com and other sites provide areas for feedback on reviews. Sure, you’ll get some idiots that may just want to harass you because you’ve dissed one of their favorite books or authors—but most people who provide feedback on review sites offer great comments about how your review helped them, specifically…or where it fell short. For example, I once wrote a review of a toy, but failed to mention the age of my son (which would make a difference to the information I provided). A reader pointed out my oversight, and I was grateful to her for showing me why information like that matters to consumers.

Applause15.  You can generate a fan base eager to read your upcoming reviews, articles and books. An eager readership will not only sign up for your newsletter and subscribes to your blog, but will also be first in line to buy your book when it comes out! They will be among your most ardent supporters because, after all, your reviews helped informed them in their purchasing decision…possibly saving them hundreds, or thousands, of dollars over time. (Or, if you’re like me, you’ll be responsible for causing readers to spend some coin on books you’ve raved about…but they’ll be grateful for that, too!)

Like any approach to platform building, writing reviews and gaining a following will take time. But if you’re looking for an inexpensive way to expand your reach, hone your skills, increase your knowledge, forge industry contacts and form treasured friendships, reviewing may be the perfect way for you to get name recognition, secure writing gigs or land a book deal.

-- Janet Boyer, Amazon Top/Vine Reviewer, author of Back in Time Tarot, Tarot in Reverse (Schiffer 2012) and the Snowland Tarot (Schiffer 2013). Featured in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People Who Are Poking the Box and Making a Difference (A Domino Project eBook edited by Seth Godin


Calico Chili

We LOVE making and eating chili at Chez Boyer, especially when the weather starts getting chilly. Chili is one of the easiest things to cook—and the hardest to screw up.

Here’s my Calico Chili recipe that can be tweaked according to your tastes (more about that at Chilithe end of this post):

*2 lbs. ground beef
*1-2 teaspoons minced garlic
*2 Tablespoons chili powder
*2 cans of diced tomatoes (14.5 oz)
*1 can crushed tomatoes
*1 can kidney beans, undrained (dark or light—15.5 oz)
*2 cans northern beans, 1 drained—1 undrained (15.5 oz)
*1 lb. bag frozen corn
*Olive oil
*Salt, freshly ground pepper and sugar to taste

Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or large cooking pot (unless the ground beef is fatty, then you won’t need it) on medium-high heat. Add the ground beef and sauté until no longer pink. Add the minced garlic, salt (approximately 1 Tablespoon), pepper and chili powder. Combine. Then add all the tomatoes, beans and bag of corn. Simmer on low for 30 minutes – 2 hours. Add sugar to taste (about 1 Tablespoon).

And that’s it! I just made a pot and my son loved it so much, he just ate his FIFTH bowl!

Here are some variations:

• If you’re a vegetarian, substitute 2 lbs. of fresh mushrooms for the beef. You can use any kind, but I like the white button mushrooms chopped in large chunks because they resemble the mouth feel of meat. In the past, I’ve added some sliced mushrooms to the meat mixture while browning, so you can do that, too.

• If you don’t want to add the liquid from the beans, you can drain them—but then add more crushed or diced tomatoes. I have added stewed tomatoes to the mix, as well—but the pieces are so large, you may want to cut them before adding.

• You can use any type of beans. I’ve used kidney beans, northern beans, black beans (Ron’s favorite), garbanzo beans (chick peas)…it’s really up to you. I think the best tasting combination is the recipe I’ve just shared, though.

• If you’re watching your fat intake, feel free to drain your meat mixture before adding the cans of tomatoes and beans. I’m of the Paula Dean school of cooking, so the more fat, the better for me!

• If you don’t have fresh garlic on hand (I rarely do), just use minced garlic in a jar (doesn’t matter if it’s preserved in water or olive oil…I’ve used both).

• You can add diced onions and/or diced green peppers to the meat mixture if you want. I rarely do because the diced tomatoes I use often have onions already in them, as do the stewed tomatoes. I’m not super big on the green peppers in my chili, plus, it can cause some major heartburn (if the chili itself doesn’t get ya!)

• You can use any combination or variation of crushed, diced or stewed tomatoes. One time, Ron brought home roasted diced tomatoes, which added a smoky flavor. I mostly use Italian diced tomatoes because of the extra spices.

• Adding sugar is a trick I learned from my Dad, who was an E6 staff sergeant cook in the army. We add sugar to our chili AND our spaghetti sauces, and everyone always raves about our “secret” ingredient. Interestingly, both my Mom and my Dad make chili differently from me (and each other). In fact, at their church, they always end up winning 1st and 2nd place in the chili cook-off. (I keep threatening to go back to Christianity just so I can join their church and beat their ass in the annual chili cook-off!)

• For added richness, you can substitute butter for the olive oil—or add butter TO the olive oil. Take care you add the meat rather quickly, though, because butter has a low burn point. Adding olive oil raises the burn point, which would give you some more heating time before adding the meat.

-- Janet Boyer, Amazon Top/Vine Reviewer, author of Back in Time Tarot, Tarot in Reverse (Schiffer 2012) and the Snowland Tarot (Schiffer 2013). Featured in Tales of the Revolution: True Stories of People Who Are Poking the Box and Making a Difference (A Domino Project eBook edited by Seth Godin