"I cannot live without books: but fewer will suffice where amusement, and not use, is the only future object." -- Thomas Jefferson

Sunday, September 15, 2019

Family Visits and Food

Family Visits and Food

Boy, when they say, food is a big part of vacations, they aren't kidding. On a recent family visit, I cooked, family members cooked and we went out to eat, alot!!!

We had deli sandwiches. Top chef dishes at great restaurants. Great cookout food. Starbucks drinks and more. One of my favorite finds was a Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream shop.

When we went grocery shopping, I enjoyed looking at how American and Mexican food choices differed. While Mexican chain groceries continue to offer a wider variety of choices, America seems to offer 10 flavors of just about everything.

One thing is amusing is when trying to adapt a Jack Monroe UK recipe using American or Mexican grocery choices. It is fun to look items like pease pudding or mushy peas and other things not typically found in America or Mexico, then wondering what to use as a substitute if you can't find an item.

 Then, I am amused by products that are new to me.

Gosh, you would think I knew how to cook. I was cooking up a storm. Some of the recipes were a success i.e. liked by others, and some were not.

Both my sister and my nephew have gardens. With my sister and her husband, we were overrun by tomatoes, at my nephew's we had loads of cucumbers.

My sister made BLTs with the fresh tomatoes.

At my nephews', I picked fresh cucumbers. I did not know cucumber had spikes.

My sister, my nephew and I made: pickled cucumbers; six-hand salad and other variations of a cucumber salad.

Fresh fruits and vegetables are wonderful!

I introduced my sister and nephew to Peanut Butter Mousse and dragonfruit.

Also, I made "Godzilla" Meatloaf. I used my meatloaf recipe and tried to double it. It came out a bit funny looking but still tasted good.

I also made two crockpot dishes, one with chicken from Mabel Hoffman's Crockery Cookery and Mushroom Sauce Pork Chops from The Big Book of Crock Pot Recipes. My nephew and his family liked them.

Slightly Obsessing Over Overnight Oats

Ok, Ok, I know this is a bit obsessive but the light bulb finally went off.

Ok, I can't use the canned carrots here in Mexico for Jack Monroe's Carrot Cake Overnight Oats because I can't wash out the spicy, sour flavorings.

So, I thought cooking a batch of snack carrots would be a good idea for two reasons.

I can make carrots soft enough for an overnight oats recipe and use up the snack carrots since I usually can't finish a small bag of snack carrots before they get stale.

So, I did, and along with other variations, I made Carrot Overnight Oats.

Carrot Overnight Oats
(Adapted from Jack Monroe's Carrot Cake Overnight Oats)


6-12 small snack carrots
Rolled oats
Milk made from powdered milk


In a glass bowl, add 12 snack carrots and cover them with water and a bit more.
Put the bowl in the microwave and use a plate as a lid.
Cook carrots on high for 6 minutes.

Get another small bowl with a lid.

 I eyeballed the measurement of the ingredients.

Drain carrots.
Add 6 cooked snack carrots.
Mash carrots with a fork.
Cover them with a layer of rolled oats.
Add raisins.
Add enough milk to soak the oats.
Add cinnamon and honey, then stir the mixture thoroughly.
Put the lid on the bowl and placed it in the frig.

  In the morning, upon making a serving, add more milk if necessary.


Friday, September 13, 2019

Print on Demand -- Some of My Experiences in Self-Publishing

Print-On-Demand - Some of My Experiences in Self-Publishing

Writing Gina's Dream and self-publishing it as an eBook on Smashwords was an education in: writing; formatting; finding and working with editors and book cover designers; learning new software and applications; ISBNs; distribution, and promotion.

Producing El Sueño de Gina continued my education in POD publishing and translation.

I was lucky, a friend had his book published through The Write Place (TWP), after a bit of research, I thought they did a good job printing and distributing his book, so I published El Sueño de Gina through them as a POD, in a dual book format, at a reasonable cost.

The dual book format is old school but as time goes on, it becomes new, again. Half the book is Gina's Dream, in English, the other half is El Sueño de Gina, in Spanish. It has two covers, one on the front and one on the back. Flip the book and you see the other version.

My education expanded into finding and working with a translator, producing and proofing a manuscript in Spanish and I don't speak enough Spanish to order a sandwich, so it was like diving into the unknown. But, it turned out well, particularly because I had a great translator and TWP handled the job professionally and with ease.

But, things in the POD/eBook Publishing world continue to change rapidly. That was in 2015, now in 2019, I re-researched my POD options for Recetas de una Mujer Maya Modern, a Spanish cookbook, by a friend.

I got a quote from TWP, while it was a reasonable quote, it was too much for me, for a small book.

Essentially, to save money, a self-published author needs to juggle a lot of tasks and learn a lot of skills in formatting for various publishing software and more.

A self-published author is not only a writer, but, an editor, publisher, researcher, marketeer, accountant, web/blog/graphic designer, administrator, and more. If you can't handle these tasks well and have to contract out for any of these services, that's how your costs increase.

Yet, these are decisions every self-published author faces, especially if they feel they have created a "bestseller."

In articles, surveys and reports on Self-publishing, it is often the "Best Sellers" that garner the attention but these same pieces often note that most self-published authors do not sell many books.

As seen in the Wikipedia's Topic on Self-Publishing :
"The largest, by far, percentage of authors are making less than $500 a year self-publishing, because there’s a glut. There’s over 350,000 books being self-published every year and readers are not finding them. There’s just no way to expose people to all of these books. — Novelist M.J. Rose in 2012” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-publishing)

Unless, the author makes enough income from their book sales to cover the expenses in creating their work and more, whether it's an eBook or POD, it is still vanity publishing.

For example, according to the Authors Guild's 2018 Survey of authors, it claims while the number of self-published authors has increased, their income has not, in fact, it has decreased.
"While self-published authors were the only group to experience a significant increase (up 95% in book-related income from 2013 to 2017), self-published authors as a whole still earned 58% less than traditionally published authors in 2017.

Among the authors surveyed who ranked in the top decile for author-related earnings, self-published authors earned 50% less with a median of $154,000 compared to traditionally published authors in the top decile who earned a median of $305,000. Note that the median 2017 author-related income of $10,050 for self-published romance and romantic suspense writers is almost five times higher than the $1,900 median author-related income for the next highest-earning self-published genre category of mysteries and thrillers.

Moreover, the median author-related income for self-published romance and romantic suspense writers was only $50 more in 2017 than in 2013, which may indicate that self-published romance writers as a group have reached a plateau for earnings under current business models."

Authors Guild 2018 Survey (survey based on 5,000+ published authors): (https://www.authorsguild.org/industry-advocacy/six-takeaways-from-the-authors-guild-2018-authors-income-survey/)

Yet, the number of self-published authors is increasing.

According to Bowker News, self-published print (POD) books increased 38% in 2017:
"Self-publishing of print books increased by 38 percent in 2017 for a total of 879,587. This is the fifth consecutive year of print growth – driven by a 50 percent increase at CreateSpace, a self-publishing platform. Self-published ebooks decreased by 13 percent, continuing a downward trend for the third successive year. Two service providers, Smashwords and Lulu, accounted for 105,037 ebook titles, 81 percent of the ebook total of 129,601." (http://www.bowker.com/news/2019/New-Record-More-than-1-Million-Books-Self-Published-in-2017.html)

I had already published Recetas de una Mujer Maya Modern as an eBook on Smashwords. Now, I wanted a POD publisher.

So, I continued to search for a POD publisher. I went through the usual suspects like: BookBaby, Blurb, CreateSpace, D2D, EBM, Gumroad, Ingram, Kobo, Lulu, and others.

Many of these vendors had made significant changes to their processes and offerings since I last visited their sites. Some had stopped offering PODs; some were too costly for me; with some their POD software was too complicated or had been suspended; and some did not make PODs in other languages.

But, one, Blurb, made a suggestion after I complained about my difficulty with their template. They referred me to MagCloud. I had never heard of MagCloud.

When I visited MagCloud's site, at first, they appeared to be a photo book publisher as well as a business publication publisher. But, they offered the option of producing a "Digest" sized book that fit my needs. Also, they offered saddle-stitching. All this and there were no upfront costs.

All I had to pay for was the copies I bought plus shipping and handling. In addition, MagCloud offered worldwide distribution. Many POD publishers leave it up to you to handle sales and distribution. I went forward.

MagCloud offered templates for a variety of wordprocessing formats including Apple's Pages. After downloading their template, I formatted Recetas de una Mujer Maya Moderna for publication with MagCloud. The template was easy to use.

While I did have a bit of a learning curve translating pixels and points and margin dimensions based on their format, I got it done.

They had an interesting online "Preview" option. You look at the final layout in an electronic proof format.

Using MagCloud's template and website illustrate how self-published authors/publishers are faced with learning to use unfamiliar software or apps. For myself, no matter how much I learn, there is always a learning curve as I get acquainted with various software, apps and websites.

I bought two copies of Recetas de Una Mujer Maya Moderna. One for myself and one for a friend.

For one copy of Recetas de una Mujer Maya Moderna, including one digital copy, and shipping and handling to MX, the cost was $16.81 US. That's steep for a saddle-stitched, 56-page (including cover) booklet, in black and white, and a PDF. But, it is available as a booklet for the enthusiastic book lover outside of the U.S.

The other copy was sent to a friend in the states. The cost was $13.51 US for printing, standard shipping and handling. It took 8 days to reach her. She said it arrived nicely packaged, in good condition and well-made.

Now, I am preparing another booklet for MagCloud publication. I do this because people ask for a physical book of my works.

For the second book, I only encountered one snag. I got confused about MagCloud's character limit in the description text. Once that was fixed, the process continued smoothly.

In addition, MagCloud's email support has been prompt and so far, my concerns have been addressed.

I will talk about MagCloud's promotional options as well as internet visibility and sales, in another post.


Authors Guild Author Income Survey 2018


MagCloud / Recetas de Una Mujer Maya Moderna


Bowker News


The Write Place

Wikipedia - Topic - Self-Publishing

Recetas de Una Mujer Maya Moderna Delivery to Mexico

Recetas de Una Mujer Maya Moderna Delivery

Shipping to and from Mexico

I am using this situation to illustrate some of the difficulties in receiving or sending packages internationally to or from Mexico.

I have used Amazon and received about half of my orders. So, I no longer have my orders shipped to Mexico, they are shipped to my U.S. address. 

On 3/13/19, I ordered two copies of Recetas de Una Mujer Maya, a small cookbook, from Blurb/MagCloud (http://www.magcloud.com/). One was shipped to a U.S. address, the other to Mexico.

The U.S. delivery was received on 3/16/2019 and the book arrived in good condition.

In regards to my copy of Recetas de Una Mujer Maya Moderna, Blurb/MagCloud used the U.S. Postal Service to ship the package.

According to Blurb/MagCloud's tracking function, the package did arrive in Mexico but I never received it. Plus, I could never find a way to locate the package through the Mexican Post Office, Correos de Mexico.

I contacted Blurb/MagCloud via email on 7/12/2019. They shipped me another copy via UPS and I received it on 7/24/2019. It arrived in good condition.

I have used Fedex for many years and have had numerous issues with deliveries and shipments in Mexico. While I have received all my packages, most get held up at a customs office where I have to go and have them examine the contents.

This month Fedex held up a package and did not notify me. I only discovered the problem after contacting the recipient to find they had not received the package.

After using Fedex's tracking function which gave me no useful information. I had to contact the Fedex help number three times. One, to find out where the package went and two, to find out why it was never shipped. The situation got so complicated, I had to take the package with me to the states and have it sent from there.
It is important to learn the intricacies of sending and receiving packages in Mexico. Things are always changing.

Fedex Mexico - https://www.fedex.com/es-mx/customer-support.html

Correo Mexico - https://www.correosdemexico.com.mx/Paginas/Inicio.aspx

UPS - https://www.ups.com/mx/es/Home.page

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

No Bake: Pineapple Overnight Oats

When I returned home, I got frustrated. I had a pantry full of items but because I lacked one essential ingredient for several recipes, I floundered. What do I make? Unfortunately, my “Use What You Have” method did not help this time.

I love Jack Monroe’s Carrot Cake Overnight Oats from her Tin Can Cook Cookbook (https://cookingonabootstrap.com/2019/05/30/carrot-cake-overnight-oats-recipe/). But, where I live, the canned carrots are seasoned with salty and sour spices that I could not rinse out.

So, I decided to make a variation on the recipe using a replacement ingredient for the carrots.

So, after three trips to various tiendas, I got oats, milk, and canned pineapple. This venture was Not Tightwaddery.

I was bound and determined to have a breakfast of overnight oats. During the process, I did a bit of research about overnight oats recipes and found answers to several of my questions.

There are several types of oats according to the Oldways Whole Oats Council (https://wholegrainscouncil.org/whole-grains-101/easy-ways-enjoy-whole-grains/grain-month-calendar/oats-%E2%80%93-january-grain-month/types):

Raw, Whole Oats Groats, Steel Cut Oats, Scottish Oatmeal, Rolled Oats Regular, Rolled Oats Quick or Instant, and Oat Flour.

On my visit to my family, I made the Carrot Cake Overnight Oats with quick oats. While the result was good, the oats were semi-soft, that was not a problem, they just gave the dish a different texture.

For this recipe, I used rolled oats which are thicker. This gave my new overnight oats recipe a thicker, crunchier texture.

Also, @TheKitchn gave some great information about making and storing overnight oats recipes. I wondered how long the oats would keep in the frig and found this article: This is How Long Overnight Oats Will Last in the Fridge, (https://www.thekitchn.com/this-is-how-long-overnight-oats-will-last-in-the-fridge-248415).

Also, I found I had already made an Overnight Oats Mug recipe years ago (https://riastoneblog.blogspot.com/2014/02/mug-no-cook-fruit-oatmeal-treat.html). With my new information, I can improve that recipe.

No Bake: Pineapple Overnight Oats


Food container with a lid
1 Can of chunk pineapple, drained
Rolled oats (Instant will work, too)


I had to eyeball the measurement of the ingredients based on the size of the food container.

Basically, layer the bottom of the food container with some of the pineapple chunks.
Top with a thick layer of oats.
Add honey and cinnamon according to taste.
Stir mixture well
Pour in milk to cover the oat mixture.
Stir well.
Cover container with the lid.
Store in fridge.
Check mixture about an hour later.
The oats will have absorbed most of the milk.
Add a bit more milk and stir.
Check later if necessary.

In the morning, upon serving, add more milk if mixture is too thick or dry.