Get Some Validation on your Culinary Skills

12705177_10207155779705992_4238448262698544183_nI often wish that I were a culinary artist. It’s not that I totally love the idea of cooking every night or even every other day. I just like having the feeling of accomplishment when I create a beautiful meal, and of course then get to eat it. A few months ago I attended my first “Cook the Book: Ducasse Made Simple” cooking class at Sainte Terre with Chef¬†Holly¬†Moore¬†Schreiber. The class series is based on the books that Chef Holly has personally worked on while working at the French Culinary Institute, testing and translating the recipes for publication in the United States. I have since also attended the “Cook the Book: David Chang’s Momofuku” class.

Chef Holly is this amazing Kate Middleton look-a-like, super charming, bright-eyed and always smiling creature that also just happens to be a humble culinary genius. From the moment I walked into that first class, she transferred her knowledge about food in such a validating way. Foie Gras¬†and Lobster Newberg became “easy peasy” creations that I could actually tackle. I learned that my knife skills, while not as accurate as hers, were adequate enough to cut onions, carrots, and squash for a french Pascal Veggie tartlet. At my second class, I won’t say I mastered the ability to make ramen from scratch, but I indeed can say that I have¬†experienced having my hands in the dough. Bacon Dashi? Yep, been there, done that. Chef Holly definitely gives me all the validation I need on my culinary skills.

12743580_10207200513384306_4740151207522502442_nSo now, I am excitedly awaiting the “Cook the Book: Dumplings All Day Wong” class on March 24. An event devoted to making any kind of Dim Sum that you can dream up. ¬†I got a fortune the other day and I do believe Po is trying to tell me something here.

So I can already hear you. “How can I get tickets?”. Well unfortunately, the dumpling class is SOLD OUT . . . BUT, maybe, fortunately for you, I have one ticket that is up for grabs!

And, how do you WIN THE GIVEAWAY?

One lucky That Just Happened¬†blog reader will receive a ticket to “Cook the Book: Dumplings All Day Wong” compliments of Sainte Terre. Simply¬†go to SAINTE TERRE’S EVENT PAGE, check out their upcoming events¬†and post which event you are most interested in, in the comments section of this blog below. ¬†Winner will be announced¬†on Monday, March 21, 2016 at around noon.

To learn more about Sainte Terre:

That Just Happened!!
Robin Williams
Marketing Maven, Holiday Lanes

 

IMG_7590UPDATE 3/21/16 – Amy Rich, you are the winner of the FREE ticket to Cook The Book: Dumplings All Day Wong! I will send you a message with the details. Congrats!

 

All Y’all Social Glue

11073554_10204945908980605_1294152985240062350_nI recently ran across the words “social glue”. What I understood social glue to be is a way of bonding or connecting people through various actions and/or sharing commonalities. The first thing that I thought about was storytelling, and, in particular, the All Y’all Live Storytelling Events and Podcasts, that my friends Chris Jay and Sara Hebert produce. Chris and Sara are providing a safe space for people in the Shreveport-Bossier community to share experiences and situations through very personal storytelling. No scripts or notes . . . just get on stage in front of, oh, say a couple hundred people, and speak from the heart.

It never occurred to me that being a storytelling could be such a powerful glue that binds a community until I experienced myself.¬†It was the night before the “Under the Influence” All Y’all event when I was contacted by Chris asking if I’d be willing to step in as a¬†substitute for one of the storytellers. I had previously mentioned that I might be interested, and I had been thinking about the possibility¬†but was by no means prepared to step in less than 24 hours before the scheduled event. What the heck? I said “yes”. I didn’t really know what I would say, nor if I would be able to say it. Chris said he’d call me back in a few hours to discuss the details. When he called me later, he apologized and basically said, “nevermind, it’s not fair to ask you on such short notice”. I knew in the moment that I had to do it. I agreed under the condition that I may chicken out at the last minute. That’s the great thing about Chris, whether he was fine with that, or not, he said something like, “don’t you worry, just give me a signal and we’ll keep on rolling with the show”.

10995707_10204945854619246_6626746765654232419_nThe day of the event, I only told four people (two of which were my kids) that I would be speaking that night. I didn’t want the pressure of people giving me encouragement and then bailing on them. I have struggled my entire life with shyness and social anxiety and this was going to be a¬†huge step for me, although, at the time, I had no idea how HUGE. I practiced all day, recording on my iPhone and realized that there was no way that I’d be able to go through with it. My voice was just not there. I worried that no one would even be able to hear me. I was making myself sick with anxiety. As I sat in the audience waiting for my turn, I wasn’t sure until that last second if I could do it, and then I stood up. I walked to the stage and I started telling my story. My voice was there. And soon, there were people nodding, and smiling, and laughing, and . . . ¬†bonding with me. The social glue began to flow.

11751413_10205857145360945_6455528596976410319_nBut that was just the beginning. After the event, as I entered the lobby, the connections started to set in as each person who came up to me said things like “your story is my story”, “I have struggled with the same issue for years”, ¬†“You are so brave”. I then met Karen, who had been sitting in a middle seat near the front row, and had become my anchor for getting through the tough parts of my story. She helped me by giving me something to affix to in the audience. For the next few weeks, I’d be attending an event or walking through the grocery store and someone would stop me to say they had been at the All Y’all event and how much it meant to them. In addition, my life has been enhanced by the friendships I’ve built with other storytellers. Jennifer and Esther were the first two storytellers that I met and I can’t begin to tell you how they have influenced my life. (Jennifer was one of the four people I told that I was speaking that night, so there ya go.)

Below the surface, we are all struggling with something. By sharing (and listening to) stories, we can recognize ourselves in others and become connected through sameness. I have come to realize that Chris and Sara are not just providing social glue for our community, they are pouring social cement. Shreveport-Bossier is most definitely strengthened by All Y’all and the bonds being built are amazing.

To learn more about All Y’all:

That Just Happened!!
Robin Williams
Marketing Maven, Holiday Lanes

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This weekend, is the first ever, multi-night event¬†at East Bank Theatre in Bossier City. ‚ÄúMomma,‚ÄĚ an evening of stories about moms, motherhood and more, will be held on Friday, March 11, 2016. ‚ÄúDaddy,‚ÄĚ featuring stories from, to and about fathers and fatherhood, will be held on Saturday, March 12, 2016. Unfortunately, Friday is sold out and Saturday only has a few more tickets. BUT WAIT!! I have a ticket for both nights to give away.

And, how do you WIN THE GIVEAWAY?

One lucky That Just Happened¬†blog reader will receive a ticket from season sponsor¬†Holiday Lanes¬†to both Friday 3/11/16 and Saturday 3/12/16 events. Simply¬†go to ALL Y’ALL BLOG, listen to a few of the podcasts, paste your favorite storyteller title in the comments section of this blog below. (It doesn’t have to be my podcast, but here is the link in case your want it:¬†UNDER THE INFLUENCE: ROBIN WILLIAMS, ‚ÄúMR. BOURQUE‚ÄĚ) .¬†Winner will be announced¬†on Friday, March 11, 2016 at around noon.

UPDATE 3/11/16: Congrats Pat Gill – you are the winner!

 

Feigning Blindness

blackLet me begin by saying that being blind is no joke. For an evening, I feigned blindness for the sake of learning. ¬†As I was thinking of catchy blog titles and things to say, all of the “eye opening” references came to mind. But after the experience, I realized quickly that those silly little comments are not as funny as I originally thought. Imagine only seeing darkness, not being able to see the sun, or your child’s face when they are born. Think about how it would be not to see the food that you are eating.

The¬†Louisiana Association for the Blind¬†(LAB) presented “Dining in the Dark” at¬†Superior Steakhouse¬†in Shreveport, Louisiana on February 27, 2016. The fundraising event was meant to benefit the residents of Northwest Louisiana who live with severe vision impairment.¬†LAB¬†was established in 1927 and provides jobs, as well as training and services for people of all ages with low vision blindness. They employ people with vision impairment through four different divisions:¬†LAB Industries,¬†Ability Printing,¬†AbilityOne Base Supply Centers, and the¬†Low Vision Rehabilitation Center. ¬†The dining experience was also a way to raise awareness and understanding of what it is like to dine without vision. While dining is not the only challenge that people with blindness have to overcome, it is an opportunity to share a small sampling of the skill learning that LAB offers.

On a side note, I’ve worn glasses since the fifth grade. Well . . . “worn” may be stretching it. I’ve been “prescribed” glasses since the fifth grade. Because of my vanity I didn’t wear them with consistently, and then I started to drive. I realized that I must do something, so I got contacts until 2009 when I had¬†PRK surgery¬†to correct my distance vision. As a kid, I’m not sure why, but I would challenge myself by walking around my house with my eyes closed so that I would be able to find my way around if I ever became blind. I also would close my eyes in restaurants thinking that I could sharpen my hearing. I’ve always thought that I would be able to manage if ever became blind. This event proved me to be full of nonsense.

IMG_7014As my boyfriend Ed, and I approached the table, we immediately saw aprons and eye masks at each place setting. Not just any eye masks, but really swanky, light blocking masks with room for your eyes to blinks. I assumed that was so you would have the ability to keep your eyes open during the experience, while maintaining visual impairment. In the printed program, we found “tips and tricks” for successful dining. We’d need to rely on our other senses and abilities, introduce our table mates, imagine a typical place setting, keep contact with the table, and tips for using utensils and drink ware.¬†¬†What you need to know about me is that I go all in when I participate in events. Once my mask went on, there would be no peeking, so I ran through the tips and got ready to start eating blindly.

Several times during the meal, I was aware that some people at my table had lifted their masks for a peek here and there. I totally get that this was a fun experiment and that not everyone would take it as a serious learning lesson like I had. In fact, at one point I was told that many of the people in the room had already taken off their masks to eat. I realized that I had to keep my mask on. People with low vision don’t get to turn their vision on and off. For just a¬†few hours, I wanted to be immersed in what it felt like and as I sat at the table blindfolded, here are only a few of the things that I felt and thought:

  • Body Language:¬†Body language cues aren’t there to pick up on how verbal expressions land.¬†This alone can make everything more difficult. “Did I say something inappropriate?” “Is that why everyone stopped talking?”
  • I felt isolated:¬†Again, with¬†no visual clues as to when it’s appropriate to speak, I found myself listening and being less engaged in the conversation.
  • Time moves slower:¬†Waiting on the wait staff to deliver¬†food seemed to take an enormously long time. Engaging with dining partners to fill the time is a bit of a challenge when sight is not involved.¬†
  • Trust issues:¬†I can imagine trust issues must be magnified when visually impaired. I trusted the wait staff when they said my wine was at my 1:00 and my plate was set up with certain foods at the 6:00 position.¬†
  • Spatial Relations:¬†Navigating spatial relation is tough. I bumped into my waiter twice when he was setting food in front of me. It made me more conscious that I, as a sighted person, want to be more respectful of a visually impaired¬†person’s personal space.
  • IMG_7019-1Self-consciousness, vanity and confidence:¬†My normal self-consciousness would be challenged if I ever became blind. I noticed as I was sitting at the table I didn’t have much control over what my hair looked like or if my¬†d√©colletage was exposed. I dropped my salad fork before I ever started eating, and my confidence was not very high that I would be successful in feeding myself.
  • Relationships:¬†Being in a¬†relationship with someone would be based on less superficial exchanges. I heard Edward in a very new and different way. His voice inflections and pauses became more important without seeing his facial expressions. I wondered how I would have even met him if I had not first seen him and then to know what he looked like. I tried the clich√© Helen Keller movie version of touching his face and I realized that being able to see a person is way different than relying on the shapes on their face. At one point, Ed and I exchanged a kiss, which was a bit difficult, but also way more hands on, so maybe that was ok.
  • Hearing differently:¬†I was more aware of slight accents, voice changes, and pauses in conversations. As we were dining, I noticed one of the other attendees at our table had an accent that I hadn’t noticed prior to blindfolding. It was helpful in beginning a conversation with him about where he was born.
  • People are really loud:¬†Several voices in the room seemed to be on speaker volume.¬†It made me think that I want to be more aware when I speak in public. It also made me realize that all my practice as a kid did no good for me. All of the sounds in the room were intensified and I had a hard time just being able to hear the people at my table.
  • Smelling:¬†I could smell and identify the food before it arrived. That was almost a comfort. I couldn’t see what I was eating, but I trusted my waiter to tell me what was on my plate. My sense of smell helped me trust what he said.¬†
  • Eating:¬†I found out, and was proud of the fact, that I was pretty darn good with a fork and knife. I decided that I would still need to go to¬†Weight Watchers¬†if I ever became blind, but how would that work? Many of our eating habits are based on seeing our food. I cleared my plate, but to be sure, I asked my server and she confirmed that I did.
  • Impairment:¬†Drinking while visually impaired is a double whammy. By the time my 3rd course arrived, I had two glasses of champagne and almost 3 glasses of wine. The combination of being visually impaired and intoxicated was quite problematic.
  • Social Media:¬†Anyone who knows me¬†knows that I have a slight social media addiction. I like snapping photos, posting on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Not once during my meal did I pick up my phone. I knew if I did that I would be inclined to peek through my mask and I wanted to get the full experience of what it would be like if I were blind. It also reminded me that the visually impaired have to rely on experiential memories rather than visual memories.¬†
  • Visual impairment is not the worst thing:¬†The thought that kept occurring to me was that people with visual impairments have to learn to adjust and do more during¬†just one meal than I have to do all day long.¬†

The “Dining in the Dark” experience was enjoyable, made me appreciative that I have sight, and more aware of the challenges that the visually impaired face each day. I am so glad to have been exposed to LAB and the services that they offer to those who have become blind or of low vision. They are providing opportunity and support to those in our communities who without it may be left in a situation of despair. I’d encourage you to take care of your eyes, and remember the Louisiana Association for the Blind in the event that you or someone you know ever needs their services.

To learn more about The Louisiana Association for the Blind:

That Just Happened!!
Robin Williams
Marketing Maven, Holiday Lanes

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Remington Suite Hotel and Spa

I was given an opportunity to tour The Remington Suite Hotel and Spa. A historic hotel in the heart of downtown Shreveport, Louisiana.

If you’re looking for a place to host a meeting, party, wedding or any special event, may I suggest The Remington Salon and Spa? It’s the only boutique hotel in Shreveport-Bossier and just an absolutely fabulous historic building that will give your event new life. Also, if you have family or colleagues coming in town, be sure to reserve a room here. They will not be disappointed. AND don’t forget about stay-cations for yourself! I am looking forward to staying sometime soon.

Call my friend Emerie Eck Gentry at (318) 425-5000 to book group events.

To learn more about The Remington Suite Hotel and Spa:

That Just Happened!!
Robin Williams
Marketing Maven, Holiday Lanes

How to find inspiration in Shreveport-Bossier (and a Giveaway)

FullSizeRender-1Do you have something that makes you cringe when you hear it? Something that drives you to roll your eyes and stomp your feet? I sure do. When I hear the phrase “there’s nothing to do in Shreveport-Bossier, Louisiana” I have to restrain myself from completely wigging out. You see, when I first moved to Shreveport-Bossier, I will admit that I said it myself. I moved here from South Louisiana and I really just wanted to go home. For many years, I went to work and then headed straight to my house. On occasion, I looked to the arts and entertainment section of the newspaper to find things that might be of interest to my family. I didn’t know many people that could help connect me to the community, so I just stayed home. That was then. And now, I subscribe to the thought that there are things to do wherever you may be.

Somewhere along the way I found out that if I wanted to be connected to a community, I first needed to leave my house, and secondly, I had to put some effort in on my¬†part. I¬†kind of had to be a researcher in my own life. I started, uncomfortably and awkwardly, attending events. I visited tourist welcome centers to find attractions located¬†in Shreveport-Bossier. I scoured the newspapers to find events. I asked people what was going on in town. As the internet became more ingrained in my¬†life, Googling and Facebook events became the go-to places for my inspiration. These are all fantastic ways to get information, and I will maintain that flow, but my favorite way to get the SB scoop is through the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau’s (SBCTB) newly redesigned website Shreveport-Bossier.org. Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 3.36.00 PMThis website has been around for a while and was already one of my go-to sites, and in particular, the SB Fun Guide link that holds the events page. Today the SBCTB unveiled a redesign of the website with a celebratory launch party at Great Raft Brewing.¬†SBCTB President Stacy Brown gave an introduction to area partners and shared some of the new features of the website.¬†With the redesign, there is so much inspiration and a resource for both locals and tourism visitors. What you will find out is that Shreveport-Bossier has more to do than you can even imagine.

What can you expect to find on the site?  Maps, brochures, photo and video galleries, trip advisor and social media integration, geo-triggers for coupons and events, and itinerary planning:

  • CASINOS – gaming, night life and horse racing
  • THINGS TO DO¬†– Attractions, shopping, family fun, sports, nightlife, group experiences and outdoor recreation. Be sure to click on the Attractions Link to see the multitude of experiences such as performing arts, museums, art galleries and historic places. There is also a great link for free offerings!
  • EVENTS – Festivals, music and annual events – <<<< This is one of my favorite parts of the site because it hosts the SB FUN GUIDE, which is the event driven piece
  • RESTAURANTS – food and drinks!
  • HOTELS – where to stay
  • MY TRIP – a personal trip planner to build an itinerary for a visit to the big SB

Screen Shot 2016-02-09 at 10.06.05 AMIn my job at Holiday Lanes, I have¬†become active in the SB Attractions Association and am currently serving as president of the association. One of my personal goals is to share local event information with as many people as possible in the community. First,¬†I’m asking¬†my attraction/hotel/restaurant/travel industry colleagues to BE AWARE¬†that you¬†can UPDATE¬†your¬†venues on the newly designed site; and ADD¬†events to the SB Fun Guide. For the event driven page to be successful, it will take input from those who are planning, marketing or hosting local events. The SB Fun Guide is also undergoing redesign and will hopefully be launched next week (Feb 2016). Secondarily, I want this site to be¬†top-of-mind for locals and visitors when looking for inspiration for things to do in Shreveport-Bossier. ¬†Chris Jay, social media and public relations manager of the SBCTB, says¬†that he is super excited that the new site will allow easy and quick uploading of featured events which will¬†showcase partners, whether they are festivals, restaurants or attractions. Ideally, a venue would like to promote for several weeks, or months, prior to an event, but being able to make changes in a matter of minutes will be transformative for local tourism partners who might find themselves in need of a last-minute promotional boost.

So . . . how do you find inspiration in Shreveport-Bossier?

And, how do you WIN A GIVEAWAY?

One lucky That Just Happened blog reader will receive Bowling for Six people from Holiday Lanes. Simply go to Shreveport-Bossier.org, find the attractions link and locate the Holiday Lanes link on the site. Paste the Holiday Lanes Attraction page link in the comments section below AND THEN tell me which part of the Shreveport-Bossier.org website gave you a bit of inspiration. Winner will be announced on February 17, 2016.

Panderina Soumas and David Doe, local ambassadors and SB visitor guide cover models share a smile at the website Launch Party.

Other ways to connect with the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau:

That Just Happened!!
Robin Williams
Marketing Maven, Holiday Lanes

 

2/17/16 – CONGRATS Bill McGill – you are the winner of a bowling certificate for six to Holiday Lanes!

 

Rosewood Home Market is a family affair

imageI’m super excited to share about a new business in Bossier City. Rosewood Home Market celebrates with a Bossier Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting. Owner Suzanne Wilson lends her home decor talents with one of a kind vintage, urban, and farmhouse home decor. With a huge smile, Suzanne tells me that she was decorating her home and couldn’t find exactly what she wanted around town and decided to open a business. Isn’t that a great reason to start a business? I think so.
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This business is definitely a family affair. Husband, daughter, sister, mom, dad, mother-in-law, son-in-law, cousins, and of course the chosen family: best friend, were all there early making sure all the details were squared away for the arriving guests. I heard “is everything marked”, “paw-paw, does this look ok?”, hey, who left this here?”. It felt kind of like being at the family Thanksgiving dinner preparations.
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At Rosewood Home Market, you will find an array of gorgeous home decor, writing papers, soaps and gardening accessories. They have a mix of new and antique items. Suzanne mentioned that they had about 30% antiques in stock. Many of the things in her store are made by local artists, such as paintings, t-shirts, cotton wreaths, farm doors and furniture. This gives a new venue for local artists to sell their creations. I probably should have left my pocketbook at home.
imageI was interested to find out that Rosewood Home Market will be carrying¬†locally grown flowers in the Spring. I’m a flower girl. Flowers make me smile! I’ve always wanted a place to stop in and grab a bunch of naturally grown blooms to cheer up my house and as gifts for my friends. Farm to store.¬†Cut flowers.¬†Not bred for shipping.¬†This will be such¬†a treat.
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As the ribbon cutting was beginning, Suzanne’s dad led the event in an overwhelmingly emotional prayer that showed how proud he was of his daughter. It again made me feel like I was around the family dinner table.
imageRosewood Home Market is located at 2850 Douglas Drive Suite A in Bossier City, LA. Stop by and find something special for your home.

 

That Just Happened!!
Robin Williams
Marketing Maven, Holiday Lanes

Keeping Rhythm of Life

IMG_5971Fireworks and congratulations to the Residence Inn by Marriott located at 501 Traffic Street in Bossier City on their Bossier Chamber of Commerce and Greater Shreveport Chamber of Commerce Ribbon Cutting. Owner, Mike Kalthia welcomed the guests with great excitement.

RI Owner, Mike Kalthia and Bossier Chamber of Commerce President, Lisa Johnson

RI Owner, Mike Kalthia and Bossier Chamber of Commerce President, Lisa Johnson

With 131 rooms, Bossier City’s newest hotel boosts many great amenities, such as free laundry, fully equipped kitchens, and free breakfast. The Residence Inn Shreveport-Bossier City/Downtown is an all suite hotel, with extended stay as a¬†focus and is a¬†Dimension Development managed property. Although extended stay is a focus, Residence Inn can accommodate any overnight stays. Jennifer Boone, sales manager says that one of the great things about Residence Inn is that they assist¬†their guests in keeping the rhythm of life. Traveling can disrupt normal routines and Residence Inn’s offer ways¬†for¬†guests to continue to thrive in their personal and business routines.

One service that all Residence Inn’s provide, but very few take advantage of is complimentary grocery shopping. Leave a list at the front desk and your food will be waiting in your room upon your return. This is an important part of my travel life, as I try to maintain a somewhat heathy diet. Many times, I walk to nearby grocery stores in an effort to maintain my normal eating habits. Now that I know this bit of info, I will be looking forward to using the service. This makes it easy to travel with a plan.

In addition to hotel rooms, the Residence Inn has tasteful and spacious event areas for meetings and conferences with catering services available.

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Ethel, Gary and Felicia want to make your stay fabulous

New business is always great for Shreveport-Bossier and I hope you’ll keep Residence Inn at the front of your mind when in need of hotel rooms for family and work associates. General Manager, Gary Theus, promises to offer the best service around.

Residence Inn Shreveport-Bossier City/Downtown is located at 501 Traffic Street, Bossier City, LA 71111. (318) 584-7125

That Just Happened!!
Robin Williams
Marketing Maven, Holiday Lanes

 

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Fireworks add to the ribbon cutting festivities