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Liza Landsman, Chief Marketing Officer at E*TRADE  

What does it take to be a great marketer? “You need to have a really crisp sense of your business objectives. It sounds obvious, but it’s not. The question I always ask myself and my team is ‘In service of what?’ What is it that we want a consumer to do, think, believe differently, or believe more fully after they’ve been exposed to our message? If we can’t express that as a business objective, then we probably haven’t done a good job. You also need to find the right balance between the data and your gut. I happen to be a very quantitative marketer, but I try to balance that with being able to anticipate the unexpressed consumer need. Research gets you to the front door, but it’s your gut that’s going to decide whether there’s a tiger or a lady behind it.”

The marketing guru oversaw the implementation of E*Trade’s new “Type E” advertising campaign, which features Kevin Spacey in a much-anticipated follow-up to the popular talking baby spots.

 

 

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Garden Panzanella

“The Square is a comfortable gathering place in the North Beach neighborhood. As with our other two restaurants, Sons & Daughters and Sweet Woodruff, we source as much produce as we can from our 83-acre farm in the Santa Cruz mountains. Traditionally, panzanella—a bread-and-tomato salad popular in Tuscany—is served with balsamic vinegar and olive oil, but to set ours apart we created an herb vinaigrette with marigold greens from the farm. They have a refreshing, passion-fruity flavor that really makes the salad come alive.”

Who Duncan Holmes, executive chef

Where The Square

 

Ingredients:

1 leek

olive oil

salt

1 loaf day-old bread, torn into pieces 

3 heirloom tomatoes, chopped

½ cup halved cherry tomatoes 

2 Japanese cucumbers, sliced

1½ ounce shaved pecorino romano

 

Directions:

1. Season the white part of the leek with olive oil and salt. Grill over medium heat until blackened, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat, discard outer layers, cut into slices, and toss with remaining ingredients.

 

Ingredients:

½ cup finely diced shallots

red wine vinegar

1 bunch each dill, mint, and marigold greens 

2 cups olive oil

 

Directions:

2. Cover shallots with red wine vinegar. Let sit for 30 minutes.
3. Destem herbs. Blanch in boiling water for 30 seconds, then shock in ice water. Using a blender, combine with 1 cup red wine vinegar, then mix in oil.
4. Dress panzanella with vinaigrette.

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Ruby Red, White & Blue

“Sometimes in our business, we overcomplicate things. A lot of cocktails nowadays require obscure spirits or aperitifs, but not this one. I initially set out to combine Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka with ginger beer, but after seeing tons of our blueberry champagne cocktails being served on the patio during a busy weekend brunch, I decided to go a sweeter, fruitier route. The result is a light and refreshing summer drink that’s easy and good, and there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Who Frank Miller, director of food and beverage

Where Southpaw Social Club

 

Ingredients:

lemon wedge

sugar

fresh blueberries

2 ounces Deep Eddy Ruby Red Vodka 

club soda

 

Directions:

Use the lemon wedge to moisten the rim of a tumbler glass, then dip in sugar. Fill with ice. In a mixing glass, muddle 5 blueberries, top with vodka, and shake. Strain into the tumbler glass, then top with club soda. Stir, then garnish with additional blueberries.

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Astronaut ice cream went to space 1 time.

In 1968, long before it became a staple of museum gift shops, a vanilla version of the freeze-dried treat accompanied the Apollo 7 crew into orbit. Those bite-size cubes served a practical purpose: “It was a high-calorie food,” says John Knight, a former volunteer curator for the historical archives of Whirlpool Corporation. (The appliance company developed the technology used to preserve the ice cream.) Logistically, the lightweight yet energy-dense dessert was ideal for space travel. But its chalky texture left much to be desired, which is why its maiden voyage was also its last. Thanks to onboard freezers, any ice cream consumed in space since then has been enjoyed in its earthly form. 

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Ritz-Carlton, Aruba

Set on a coveted stretch of sand, this debonair resort, open since November, ups the ante on Aruban refinement. All 320 guest rooms face the sea and are outfitted with private balconies, so you can revel in ocean views before exploring the four restaurants, two pools, 24-hour casino, and 15,000-square-foot spa, the island’s largest. Thanks to servers who scoot around on Segways, service is top-notch, even when you’re lying on the beach. Opt for an Aperol-tinged Oranjestad Swizzle, and rest assured your glass won’t stay empty for long.

Airport Queen Beatrix International (AUA) Rate From $649

 

While You’re There 

Indulge in the spa’s Aruba Honey Harvest body treatment, a nearly two-hour experience that incorporates local honey into a rejuvenating exfoliation, body wrap, and massage.
Learn how to prepare dishes like ceviche, guacamole, and risotto during a chef-led cooking demonstration, offered five days a week at the on-site Divi Bar & Lounge. 

 

 

 

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Pop-Up Culture Temporary shops can have lasting effects, on more than just business owners.

By Stacy Cowley

When Tom Daguanno and Max Schmidt launched their custom menswear business last year, they expected it to remain a virtual one. Customers would visit the website—1701Bespoke.com—to book an appointment for a fitting at their home or office, and Daguanno and Schmidt would use the measurements to create a wardrobe of suits and fine garments for them. It was a truly minimalist venture: No inventory, no office space.

Until a client suggested that Detroit, where 1701 Bespoke is based, could really use a high-end menswear store. What if he helped the two find a vacant storefront where they could open up temporarily to test the market?

“He knew someone at a local real estate firm that had this amazing empty space right in the heart of downtown,” Schmidt recalls. “We opened on October 21, and within 24 hours we were booked solid for two weeks.”

The shop they had planned to run for six days instead lasted three months, and it changed the company’s trajectory. Daguanno and Schmidt began hunting for a permanent brick-and-mortar location—and in the process became part of a growing wave of business owners using short-lived “pop-up” ventures to test out new concepts. 

Such stores were once primarily a seasonal phenomenon. Christmas decoration shops and Halloween-costume merchants would rent space and vacate it after the holiday. Those kinds of operations still proliferate, but entrepreneurs in a wide variety of other industries are realizing how valuable limited-run shops can be. 

So are big brands. Walmart used a pair of pop-up stores to test potential locations in California, and makeup seller Sephora created temporary shops in New York City and Los Angeles to promote a new color line. Some retailers get especially creative: Shipping containers, Airstream trailers, and igloo-shaped tents have all been used to house transient endeavors.  

“It’s definitely a growing trend,” says Megan Donadio, a retail strategist with Kurt Salmon, a consulting firm that specializes in consumer products. “It’s a low-overhead way for retailers to test a new product or geographic market, and it often generates marketing buzz.” Temporary ventures can also turn vacant real estate into something profitable that brings new traffic to areas in need of an economic boost. 

One of the biggest experiments with the “test new concepts and see what sticks” approach is happening in West Dallas, an economically struggling area that investors and city officials have long targeted for revitalization. Nearly a decade ago, Phil Romano,
the founder of Macaroni Grill, began buying up real estate there with the help of two business partners. In late 2012, he launched phase one of his plan for spurring development: a 15-acre restaurant park called Trinity Groves that is centered on what Romano calls a “restaurant concept incubator.”

For aspiring restaurateurs, Trinity Groves offers a unique opportunity: It funds ventures it deems to have the potential to expand nationally. In return, it owns a 50-percent stake in the business. 

LUCK (an acronym of “Local Urban Craft Kitchen”) is one of 10 restaurants Trinity Groves picked for its initial wave of openings. Run by a trio of first-time business owners, it pairs regional American comfort food with a rotating selection of craft beers, all sourced from breweries within 75 miles of the restaurant. 

“One of the reasons we named the restaurant LUCK is we fell into this out of dumb luck,” says chef and co-owner Daniel Pittman. He and his partners had long talked about opening their own place, but the financial and logistical obstacles seemed insurmountable. When one of them heard a radio story about Trinity Groves, the group scrambled to apply. One year later, in November 2013, LUCK poured its first pint. 

Trinity Groves gives its tenants a $500,000 build-out budget and handles all of the back-end processes like obtaining building permits, recruiting workers, and managing the accounting and payroll. It sounds like a dream setup for fledgling entrepreneurs, but there’s a Darwinian catch: “If you don’t do $1.5 million a year in sales, you’re out of there,” Romano says. “We have a profit matrix. If they take a swing and miss, we’ll put somebody else in there who should get a chance.”

So far, Trinity Groves is succeeding at its two major goals: Its restaurants are making money, and they’re sparking interest in a part of the city that has long been overlooked. On a typical Friday night, the eateries—ranging from Chino Chinatown, a Latin-Asian concept by Uno Immanivong, a past contestant on ABC’s The Taste, to Kitchen LTO, a “permanent” pop-up that features a new chef every four months—draw as many as 10,000 customers to the complex. 

Jeff Herrington, communications director for the West Dallas Chamber of Commerce, says the crowds at Trinity Groves are catalyzing a fresh wave of residential and commercial development interest. They’re also generating employment opportunities: “This is an area that needs jobs, and Trinity Groves creates them,” he says. “It hasn’t just been, ‘Here, come be a server at minimum wage.’ They’ve involved people in the neighborhood in midlevel management jobs.” 

Herrington’s is just one of many organizations nationwide that are paying greater attention to the role pop-ups can play in strengthening neighborhoods. The Philadelphia Fashion Incubator, a collaboration between the city government and local partners, offers fledgling designers a yearlong residency with mentors and the chance to sell their collections at pop-up events. In New York City’s Lower East Side, the Storefront Transformer project, established by a group of real estate– and design-minded citizens, provides artists and entrepreneurs with a six-by-six cube filled with supplies needed to transform empty and underused spaces into temporary businesses. And in Oakland, California, Popuphood, which matches new merchants with vacant storefronts, has become an important part of the city’s economic development strategy. 

Out of a storefront in downtown Detroit, the nonprofit D:Hive runs a year-round business incubator featuring a rotating cast of establishments. Each gets two months of free rent, marketing support, and a $1,000 build-out budget. 

“People have this romantic idea of what it’s like to have a store, but they don’t have the experience of running it 24/7,” says April Boyle, D:Hive’s director of small business initiatives. “Pop-up is the trend of the moment, but it’s really as old as retail itself when you think about things like mall kiosks and art fairs. It’s a lower-overhead way of testing your idea, building your brand, and getting real-time customer feedback while actually making money.”

Revolve Detroit, another development program, commissions artists to transform vacant spaces. It then finds innovative retailers for the redesigned spaces and stages events meant to bring crowds to districts that have the infrastructure and density to support new businesses long-term.  

It can be a tricky transition. Detroit Fiber Works opened this past fall as one of a dozen businesses selected for Revolve’s revitalization project on Livernois Avenue, once one of America’s premier luxury-shopping districts. Devastated by the 1967 riots that tore Detroit apart, Livernois had became a stretch of boarded-up storefronts broken up by the occasional hair salon. 

Artists Mandisa Smith and Najma Wilson initially envisioned their store as a cooperative: a place where local designers, painters, jewelry makers, and other artisans could sell their wares. 

That approach didn’t work. “We couldn’t find enough artists that were interested in paying a fee and working in the gallery,” Smith says. 

So, like many pop-up operators, they tossed out their original plan and made a new one, turning Detroit Fiber Works into a boutique and gallery stocked with handmade products, supplemented by a schedule of fiber-arts classes and special events that bring in guest speakers and artists. In December, when the Revolve installation ended, Smith and Wilson negotiated a three-year lease and turned their temporary store into a permanent one.

A brutal winter made their first few months tough, but there have also been serendipitous surprises. The artist chosen by Revolve had created an eclectic space nothing like the minimalist, all-white shop Wilson and Smith had imagined. It turned out to be a stroke of genius: The setting has become an attraction of its own. Whimsical painted squiggles and embellish-ments adorn the walls, while lacquered-down brown paper bags cover the floor—a twist on the idea of fiber arts. A giant chandelier filled with charms, tassels, vintage knickknacks, and glass globes is the centerpiece. “People come in, and they’re just mesmerized by the chandelier,” Smith says. “We’ll never get rid of it.”

As the snow thawed, foot traffic picked up again, and Detroit Fiber Works acquired one of the best boosts a new store can get: neighbors. The street’s recent arrivals include an organic pastry shop, a children’s apparel retailer, and an eco-friendly housewares store. 

While Smith and her partner focus on reviving their block, Pittman and his team at LUCK in Dallas are already thinking about how to scale up the business they began as an experiment into a brand that can spread across America. “Our concept lends itself to anywhere there’s craft beer,” he says. “Opening more is definitely something we’re interested in.”

The notion of establishing structured programs to foster retail experiments is also poised to go national. Trinity Groves’ restaurant incubator is unique for now, but it might not stay that way much longer: “We’re giving talented young people the opportunity to own their own businesses, and we’re creating jobs,” Phil Romano says. “We have people from all over the country coming to look at this, saying, ‘We want to understand how you’re doing it.’” 

Stacy Cowley is a journalist based in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her on Twitter @StacyCowley.


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20% of people name their cars.

If you cruise around town in a ride dubbed something like Stella or Big Red, you’re not alone; a survey by marketing firm DMEautomotive found that one-fifth of drivers play the name game with their wheels. According to Adam Waytz, a Northwestern University psychologist who studies why we anthropomorphize objects, we tend to think our autos resemble us—just look at the smile on that grille!—so naming them is only natural. It also helps us make better sense of how they work. “We see cars as humanlike because that provides an understandable framework,” Waytz says. So next time you get a flat, forgo angry epithets, and call your car by its “real” name. It’ll be humanizing—for both of you. 

 

 

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Allison Janney, if a picture paints a thousand words, what are you doing in that picture? I’m laughing.

In Tammy, you’re sandwiched between Susan Sarandon and Melissa McCarthy, playing Sarandon’s daughter and McCarthy’s mother. If you had to name that sandwich, what would it be called? The McJandon.

If there is one advantage to being 6 feet tall, what is it? I can see above the maddening crowd.

If you had to choose only one book for your library, what would it be? A dictionary/thesaurus. I always feel my vocabulary could use improvement.

If you could have created any one great work of art, what would it be? Joni Mitchell’s Blue. She has one of the most soulful voices; I wish I could sing like her.

If you had coined one phrase of wisdom, what would it be? This too shall pass.

 

 

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Lollipuff An online auction site that snuffs out knockoffs.

Here’s how Fei Deyle, founder and CEO of Lollipuff, describes the scam-free source for pre-owned couture: “A few years ago, I started a blog about my obsession with Herve Leger dresses. United by a mutual interest in fashion, my readers and I eventually began selling our gently used designer items to each other. That’s when I got the idea for Lollipuff. It’s a marketplace for secondhand women’s luxury apparel and accessories that uses an in-depth screening process to ensure authenticity. We require a minimum of eight highly specific photos per item, which help us identify, for example, if the serial number on a Chanel handbag is in the correct font and what the hardware should look like for that year. Sellers publish listings for free and receive payments through PayPal, with Lollipuff taking 7 percent. Buyers can purchase items immediately at a set price or place a onetime bid that only the seller can see. Our collection includes Céline, Herve Leger, Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin, Alexander McQueen, Jimmy Choo, Chanel, and others, sometimes at more than 90 percent off retail value.”


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Men are contacted 31% more when they use “whom” in online dating profiles.

When Wired staff analyzed data from Match.com and OkCupid to find out which words correlate with top response rates between men and women, they found that dudes who dig a particular pronoun are most popular with the ladies. One possible explanation: “Grammar is often seen as an indication of your socioeconomic background, which can say a great deal about where you’re headed in life,” says Dr. Helen Fisher, the chief scientific advisor for Match.com. Wired’s findings also show that the “hottest” profile pics feature toothy smiles as opposed to tight-lipped ones. So if you’re soul mate–searching, better brush up on syntax and your pearly whites.

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The speed of Heinz ketchup is .028 miles per hour.

If it comes out of the iconic glass bottle at any other rate, the company won’t sell it. But lucky for you—and your fries—science can help speed things up. “Ketchup is a Bingham plastic, meaning it behaves like a solid under low stress and a liquid under high stress,” says Michael Graham, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and editor of the Journal of Non-Newtonian Fluid Mechanics. The trick is to shake the bottle and then smack it—the glass will exert force on the re- liquefied ketchup and help to “push” it out. Heinz won’t reveal its speed-calibrating methods. For now at least, they remain saucy secrets. 

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We switch between tech devices 21 times an hour.

That’s according to a study by OMD UK, a London-based media agency, that asked 200 people to record how many times they toggled between mobile phones, laptops, and the like. It doesn’t surprise Dr. Larry Rosen, a professorof psychology at California State University–Dominguez Hills, whose research has found that students focus on schoolwork for about three minutes before giving in to digital distractions. “If you’ve got a limited time to study,” hesays, “you’re staying up later, and you’re probably not as functional because you’re stressed.” Multitasking clearly takes a toll on nonstudents, too. We’re all subject to the many distractions of—wait, what were we saying?

 

 

 

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Rancho Valencia

This sumptuous spa resort, 25 miles north of San Diego, has long been a haven for honeymooners and wellness buffs. Now there’s extra enticement to enter into its pampered seclusion: A recent $30 million renovation breathed new life into all 49 guest casitas and added a gleaming, open-air yoga pavilion and a destination restaurant, Veladora, that epitomizes modern California cuisine. A revamped fitness program brings in top instructors to lead classes on everything from Power Sculpt to Pilates—a great excuse for a post-workout steam, scrub, and massage at the adobe-swathed spa. At the end of the day, there’s no reason to leave your fireplace-equipped patio. But if you must venture out, there’s only one way to do it: behind the wheel of a Porsche 911 convertible, available to guests via the resort’s complimentary test-drive program. 

AIRPORT San Diego International (SAN) RATE From $650

 

While You’re There 

Eat local at the Rancho Santa Fe Farmers Market. The crepes and croissants from Francophile purveyor Oh La Vache make for a fine start to the day. Open Sundays

Play ball on one of the resort’s 18 newly resurfaced tennis courts, ranked No. 1 in Southern California for the past six years by Tennis magazine.

Tailgate at the San Diego Polo Club, where matches happen Sundays at 1 and 3 p.m. Seersucker suits and wide-brimmed hats are encouraged.


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PopExpert

Consult with wellness pros from the comfort of home.

Here’s how Ingrid Sanders, founder and CEO of PopExpert, describes the online self-improvement source: “Oftentimes, we are so consumed by achieving success in our careers that we forget to invest time in other areas that add value to our lives. I started thinking about the abundance of health and wellness professionals in the world and how to make them more accessible. The answer was PopExpert, which connects people with specialists in a variety of fields through live video chats. Users can choose from three categories: Life, Work, and Play. Life covers topics like meditation, relationships, and nutrition, while Work includes career mentoring and productivity. Things like music, language, and style are housed under Play. You can learn more about the experts in their profiles, which also show their availability and rates, and, in just two clicks, you can schedule a time to talk. Sessions typically last 50 minutes and cost anywhere from $30 to a few hundred dollars. There are 3,000 experts on the site, including celebrity chef Mikaela Reuben, renowned birthing coach Latham Thomas, and many more.”


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El Grito

“I thought it would be fun to create a margarita that gets spicier as you drink it, so I made ice cubes infused with Sriracha. For the cocktail itself, I use añejo rather than blanco tequila. Corralejo makes its añejo with a bow toward bourbon—it rests in charred oak casks for a year—so the flavors of wood and smoke are really integrated into the spirit. Most margaritas have salt on the rim; instead, we put it in the drink. Just like in food, it wakes up and rounds out all the flavors. I’ve always said that the culture in Tulsa outweighs its population. We’re just one example of the bars here that are doing cool things with cocktails.”

Who Aaron Post, owner

Where Valkyrie

 

Ingredients:

1 ounce Sriracha 

3 cups water

2 ounces Corralejo añejo tequila

1¼ ounces Cointreau

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1 pinch kosher salt

4 Sriracha ice cubes


Directions:

1. Stir together, and freeze in an ice cube tray. 

2. Shake ingredients with ice, and serve in a Collins glass over Sriracha ice cubes. Garnish with a lightly massaged rosemary sprig.

 

 

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Mind Over Chatter
Conversationalist Judy Apps simplifies small talk.

Spirit: Is talking different than conversing?

Judy: Most people prefer talking to listening, but conversation involves both. It goes two ways, like a game of tennis, and both people get something out of it, whether it’s pleasure, information, or a connection.

S: How can you get over a fear of making small talk?

J: Taking a big breath gives you confidence as well as some air to talk with. In fact, any sort of movement helps. Look outside at something. Wiggle your toes. It gets you out of your head and keeps you from being so self-conscious.

S: How should you frame questions?

J: The general advice is that you should only ask open questions, ones that can’t be answered without a full sentence. But some people are quite daunted by them, so a comment often works well because it gets the other person to open their mouth and make a noise, which for some is a start.

S: What makes people bad at conversation?

J: They think it’s only about having something to say. Books talk about finding the right topic and being entertaining, but you’ll get more out of it if you’re relaxed and curious. There are a million opportunities for small talk, and we shouldn’t treat each one as if it’s a matter of life and death.

S: Is it something you can practice?

J: Once you’ve convinced yourself to be lighthearted about it, practice all the time. When you’re shopping, don’t just silently hand over your change; make a comment about something in the shop. And it’s OK if not every encounter is successful. Not everyone is going to want to talk that day, and that’s fine.”

 

Judy Apps is a communication coach and the author of The Art of Conversation.

 

 

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Joe De Sena, founder of Spartan Race  

How do you overcome obstacles? “Whether you’re running 100 miles or running a business—and I would argue that running a business is a lot harder than running 100 miles—it’s all about being in the right frame of mind. Often, it’s not a matter of if things are going to get ugly; it’s a matter of when. The way I get through those pain points is bytreating every situation as a learning opportunity and reminding myself that it could always be worse. If you keep things in perspective and leave your ego out of it, then it just becomes a matter of putting one foot in front of the other.”

The endurance-racing veteran recently released his first book, Spartan Up! A Take-No-Prisoners Guide to Overcoming Obstacles and Achieving Peak Performance in Life

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Hummingbirds consume 2 times their weight daily.  

Hovering over flowers at 3,000 wing-beats per minute takes a lot of energy, even when you weigh less than an ounce—which is why, despite the aggressive eating, these teensy fliers maintain a steady mass. “A hummingbird’s diet is mostly sugar-loaded nectar, which its body quickly converts to energy,” says Ross Hawkins, founder and executive director of the Sedona, Arizona–based Hummingbird Society. The mini creatures consume anaverage of 6 calories daily; to put it in perspective, if a 170-pound man had the same metabolism, he’d need to chow down on 2,900 Oreos a day to stay the same size. How’s that for eating like a bird?

 

 

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Trout Cakes

“The Grey Plume’s menu is seasonal and driven by local farmer supply. We get our groceries from growers in Nebraska and Iowa, and we make everything from scratch—from pickling veggies to churning our own butter. This is Nebraska’s version of a crab cake. The trout comes from a sustainable aquaculture farm in the Ogallala Aquifer, two hours west of Omaha. The recipe is simple and easy to replicate using other ingredients, so you can try it with seafood that’s specific to your region. Pair it with spinach salad and bacon vinaigrette or put it atop a simple Caesar salad. It normally pops up on our bar menu, so it would be a fun snack for a cocktail party.”

Who Clayton Chapman, chef/owner

Where The Grey Plume

 

Ingredients:

2 6-ounce steelhead trout fillets 

4 tablespoons crème fraîche

1 egg 

1 egg yolk

zest of 1 lemon

2 tablespoons minced chives

1 teaspoon minced flat-leaf parsley

4 tablespoons bread crumbs  

¼ cup all-purpose flour 

2 eggs, beaten

1 cup bread crumbs 

3 tablespoons grapeseed oil

 

Directions:

1. Dice fillets into 1/4-inch pieces. Add remaining ingredients plus salt and pepper to taste. Mix well, and form into 2 to 4 patties. 

2. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Dredge patties in flour, then in beaten eggs. Coat in bread crumbs. Pour oil in a hot sauté pan. Sear trout cakes until golden brown. Flip, and repeat. Place on a baking sheet, and bake 8 to 12 minutes. 

 

 

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Gabrielle Union, if you could give men one piece of wisdom about women, what would it be? You don’t have all the answers.

If you could rid yourself of one deeply personal fear, what would it be? Bees. Only because I look so stupid when I’m running away from them. 

If a picture paints a thousand words, what are you doing in that picture? Laughing. At the person running away from bees. 

If you could give your 10-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be? Orthodontia is your friend. 

If you were doing a photo shoot right now, what would make you smile biggest and brightest? A cheeseburger. Or maybe some chicken and waffles from Roscoe’s. 

If you had a personal motto, what would it be? Bad things happen to people every day. Your pain is not unique. It’s all how you choose to deal with it. 

If you were actually Kristen in Think Like A Man Too, what’s the first thing you would do to build amazing relationships? Stop talking so much.

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Reach of Confidence A slew of new companies are banking on an age-old concept: trust.

By Melinda Mahaffey Icden

On a trip to Amsterdam two years ago, my husband and I decided to skip the traditional hotel stay and give Airbnb, the popular accommodation booking site, a try. Two sets of friends had recently used the service, which matches travelers with individuals looking to temporarily rent out their living spaces, and had nothing but rave reviews for the San Francisco–based “community marketplace” that’s fostered 11 million bookings since its founding in 2008. 

But despite the fresh strawberries laid out in the sunny kitchen and a specially made guidebook listing the owner’s favorite local spots, I never really warmed to the idea of staying in a stranger’s apartment. I touched as little as possible, I used as little as possible, and I nervously encouraged my husband to do the same. 

So I was blindsided when, upon our return home, we received an irate email from the owner, who accused us of scratching her floors. She was mad about the alleged damage to the expensive bamboo, certainly, but what she was really angry about was something far less quantifiable: She felt deceived because we had left without saying a word about it.

The situation we found ourselves in ultimately boiled down to an issue of trust. She felt betrayed that we would attempt to shirk our responsibilities; I was hurt that she was accusing us of something that, to the best of my knowledge, we hadn’t done. It seemed we both felt that the other person had violated the Golden Rule of the arrangement: Treat the other person (and their stuff) the way you would like to be treated.

But let’s stop for a moment at seemed and felt. Trust is not quantifiable; rather, it’s a judgment, a perception, a feeling. Despite the innate fuzziness, it’s also an essential human trait, one that’s been around since the dawn of civilization. “The reason we trust is because we can accomplish more by working together than we could on our own,” says Dr. David DeSteno, a psychology professor at Northeastern University and author of The Truth About Trust. “By the division of labor, human society has flourished.”

We need trust to prosper, even if it can feel risky at times, so it should come as no surprise that a host of startups are banking on just that. These new companies are off to a good start—but how will an age-old concept hold up in a postmodern future ruled by the Internet?

MONETIZING TRUST

When people use the term “sharing economy,” also called the collaborative or gig economy, they’re referring to a revolutionary batch of businesses that allow you, the user, limited use of a stranger’s possessions—things like homes, cars, and power tools—while that individual makes some extra cash off something he or she already owns.

Airbnb, for example, offers ac-commodations for rent, from extra apartment bedrooms to castles and backyard tents. Car services like Uber and Lyft provide rides, while Spinlister facilitates the shared use of bikes, skis, and snowboards. On NeighborGoods, you can borrow a ladder, hammer, or drill, and DogVacay supplies a home away from home for your pooch.

The sharing economy also encompasses more amorphous concepts like time and expertise, allowing people to put their “extra” hours and skills to income-generating use. On TaskRabbit, you can hire able hands to build your IKEA furniture; your Homejoy housekeeper will tidy up your pad; and Postmates links you up with a courier who will purchase food or merchandise and have it to you in less than an hour. The common thread between all of these ventures? They each facilitate, via the Internet, the exchange of goods or services from one individual to another. 

“These are really old market behaviors that are being reinvented through technology,” says sharing-economy expert Rachel Botsman, co-author of What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption. “We used to trade in villages. Now we live in a global village, and we can use this in ways and on a scale we’ve never experienced before.”

Indeed, the scale is large: Although these companies are often termed startups, some are not all that new—or financially precarious. RelayRides partnered with General Motors in 2012 and has raised $19 million from backers such as Google Ventures (which was also behind a significant portion of the funding that pushed Uber past a $3 billion valuation last year), and Lyft, already worth $700 million, recently garnered another $250 million. As this issue was going to press, Airbnb was reportedly in talks to raise more than $400 million from Silicon Valley venture capital firms, which would value the company at $10 billion, making it worth more on paper than entrenched brands like Hyatt and Wyndham despite not owning any actual lodging properties. 

Beyond those outsized valuations, the sharing economy has earned a nice chunk of change for the little guy, too. In January 2013, Forbes estimated that the industry would collectively generate more than $3.5 billion that year alone for its participants—people like you and me. And this way of doing business shows no sign of slowing down: There’s news of money raised or initiatives launched seemingly every day. “The collaborative economy is representative of a deep socioeconomic shift,” Botsman says. “It’s what I call distributed power, and that’s only going to move forward.”

Evaluating Trust

Trust is not the only issue facing the industry—various states are currently navigating the legality of apartment and ride sharing, for example, and the regulations and taxes that come with it—but it’s arguably the linchpin to its continuing ascension.  

For the millions of successful transactions that have already taken place, you usually only hear stories about the traffic accidents and trashed apartments, which have a greater effect on public perception than tales of success. Think about hitchhiking. Once upon a time, it was associated with the freedom of the open road, but it fell out of favor after the general public began to perceive it as scary. Today, critics point to the legitimate dangers and insurance issues of car-sharing, but it raises a question: Why do we so willingly get into cabs? Isn’t that driver also a stranger you know absolutely nothing about? We do it because we assume—we trust—that the driver and company have been properly vetted by the appropriate authorities and are following all rules and regulations.

But in the early days of any Internet endeavor, a lot of those built-in security systems don’t exist, especially when it comes to peer-to-peer transactions. When you buy something on eBay, for example, you don’t have an opportunity to judge body language, and a rating system is only a small—and potentially flawed—window into the seller’s past behavior. With the sharing economy, that risk only gets heightened because the consequences of a failed transaction can be much more serious. When you buy online, you’re risking a thing; if that pillow looks cheaper in person than it did in the photo, annoying as it may be, you’re only out a bit of money. More importantly, you’ll always have a buffer because no matter how acrimonious the situation may get, you’re never going to physically meet the seller. When you share online, however, you’re potentially risking yourself; if the car doesn’t arrive or that apartment doesn’t exist, you could be left out in the cold—literally.

Reinforcing Trust

Thinking about the risks that come with trust can send you careening down the rabbit hole. The power players in the sharing economy know that, and they’re proactively working to create policies to protect their users. 

“This is a brand-new experience for a lot of people, and trust is central because we’re at the forefront of creating online-to-offline interactions,” says Phil Cardenas, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer who now heads Airbnb’s 80-person Trust and Safety team. “It’s the lens through which we think about all of our projects.”

The company already has a no-fee, $1 million guarantee against property damage for its hosts in a number of countries, and it recently began offering safety devices like first-aid kits and smoke detectors to U.S. hosts. In 2013, Airbnb rolled out its Verified ID program to make sure that users’ virtual profiles line up with their real-world identities. “When you check into a hotel for the first time, you give a credit card and a copy of your ID,” Cardenas says. “We’re trying to create a sharing-economy version of that kind of verification.” 

This sort of program isn’t limited to one company: A number of enterprises, including Traity, Virtrue, and Fidbacks, have popped up to provide solutions for establishing and verifying user identities.“I truly believe the value of being anonymous in these kinds of Web marketplaces is ending,” Botsman says. “You will come to value your identity and want to build that profile because otherwise you won’t be able to enter into these new venues. Your reputation will become a commodity.”

The current verification options may not yet be perfect—DeSteno’s research has found that an individual’s trustworthiness is situational and based on his or her assessment of short-term versus long-term risk, making the past a poor indication of future behavior—but they’re a start at creating new protocols for how we as consumers, and, more importantly, as people, comport ourselves online. 

Will verification push us toward an online Age of Aquarius where we all become better people? It’s easy to be your worst self when you’re not publicly accountable for your words or deeds, but to thrive in an economy built on trust, we all need to be on our best behavior. Research suggests that people are more likely to trust someone like themselves, a tendency that’s on the rise. Future verification systems might help remind us that the people behind the screens are individuals just like us, not just avatars or funny usernames. And then, when we actually come together, face to face, because we’re sharing a car or a living space or a bicycle, we’ll remember how much we have in common—perhaps discovering, as we navigate an ever-changing digital age, that we’ve actually been brought closer together.

Melinda Mahaffey Icden is Spirit’s contributing senior editor.

 

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Melissa Cookston, restaurateur and World Barbecue Champion   

What’s your secret sauce? “A good sauce has a lot of different ingredients, as does a successful business. For starters, never sacrifice quality to turn a dollar. At my restaurant, we don’t ever take shortcuts. Another ingredient of success is culture. I’m from Mississippi, the Hospitality State, and I treat every guest as if she were sitting down at my own dining room table. Lastly, don’t ever forget where you came from, no matter how successful you become. I firmly believe in paying it forward. I get a lot of questions from people who want to start a barbecue business or enter a competition. I’m not necessarily going to send them my sauce recipe, but I’ll always tell them, ‘This is what’s worked for me. It may not work for you, but I’ll be glad to share what I know.”

The co-owner of Memphis Barbecue Co. and vice president of the National Barbecue Association recently released her first book, Smokin’ in the Boys’ Room

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3,800 pounds of fresh mint are used at the Kentucky Derby.  

Aromatic abundance is essential to the 120,000 juleps served over the course of Derby weekend, and all that spearmint is grown less than 10 miles from Churchill Downs, giving spectators a true taste of Kentucky. “Most of the mint you see in bars is Israeli mint; depending on what time of year it was harvested, it can be overly oily,” says Fred Minnick, a contributing bourbon expert at the Kentucky Derby Museum and the author of Whiskey Women. “Kentucky mint is extremely vibrant, and its oils are less intrusive.” A homegrown ingredient for a signature thirst-slaker? How refreshing.

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You can grow 11 miles of hair in a year. 

If you took every strand on your head—all 100,000 to 150,000 of them—and laid them end to end, after a year of growth you’d have anywhere from 7 to 11 miles of hair on your, er, hands. While each strand’s average output is roughly a centimeter per month, its lifespan is only about four years, which explains why most manes don’t fall longer than mid-back. But you can maximize growing potential. “Eating a healthy diet that’s rich in protein and iron is a good way of maintaining hair health,” says Dr. Paradi Mirmirani, a dermatologist in Vallejo, California, who specializes in hair disorders. In that case, we’re throwing another steak on the grill.

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The Lodge on the Cove

As the saying goes, “Everything old is new again.” That’s never been truer than at this boutique hotel, a Classical Revival–style mansion from 1900 that opened this past fall after a six-month renovation. Located a few blocks west of The University of Texas at Austin, the property—which landed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975—was built by Dr. Goodall Wooten, the son of one of UT’s original regents. Legend has it that his wife, after whom the hotel was named, chose to add the stately exterior columns in 1910 instead of taking a trip around the world. Today, the handsome hideaway boasts 47 rooms, 10 of which are tucked inside the original home. (You’ll find the other 37 in a sleek, art-filled annex.) From the carefully executed old-timey cocktails—think “prescriptions” and “cures”—at Goodall’s Kitchen & Bar to the decidedly modern pool area, we think you’ll agree that this freshly polished grand dame is indeed ready for her reemergence.

AIRPORT Portland International Jetport (PWM) RATE From $169

 

While You’re There 

Take a ride on the Rugosa, a 1960s wooden lobster boat, to try your hand at harvesting Maine’s most famous export. The 90-minute jaunt doubles as a scenic tour.  

Eat oysters and locally sourced organic fare like gorgonzola-and-spinach egg rolls at long-running hot spot Bandaloop.

Trace history at First Families Kennebunkport Museum, which details the lives of Kennebunkport locals ranging from sea captains to summer residents George H.W. and Barbara Bush. 

 

 

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Automobile

“At Dead Rabbit, which is named after a legendary Irish gang that existed in Lower Manhattan in the 1850s, we celebrate ingredients that were prevalent at the time. One of those is absinthe. This drink is a riff on Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon, and the recipe you see here is our reincarnation of the one that appears in Daly’s Bartenders’ Encyclopedia, written in 1903. Parfait amour is basically a more complex orange curaçao. The sweetness of that and the celery cordial combine with the anise flavor of the absinthe, and it’s all balanced out by champagne. Even though I’m partial to Irish whiskey, it’s one of my favorite drinks on the menu.”

Who Jack McGarry, head bartender 

Where Dead Rabbit

 

Ingredients:

¼ cup superfine sugar

¼ cup celery juice

¼ cup water

½ ounce celery cordial 

ounce Pernod absinthe ½ ounce Marie Brizard parfait amour

dashes Bittermens Orchard Street celery shrub

ounces Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut champagne

 

Directions:

1. Make celery cordial: Combine ingredients. Heat until sugar is dissolved, then cool.

2. Combine first four ingredients in a mixing glass. Add ice, then stir. Top with champagne. Strain into a sling glass. 

3. Release the oils of a lemon peel over the drink. Garnish with a lemon peel.

 

 

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Fried Broccoli

“Rather than jamming as many tables as we can into Pinewood Social, we provide things to do. There’s a coffee shop and six bowling lanes, and this summer we’re adding a pool, an Airstream turned tiki bar, and bocce ball. When we were creating the menu, Randall Pruden, one of the sous chefs, asked if I had ever had fried broccoli. ‘Not battered, just fried, so it’s caramely and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside,’ he said. He added sea salt and lemon juice, and it was just awesome. We wanted to have a vegan appetizer, so we came up with the dipping sauce. People are always impressed by how simple—but how good—it is.” 

Who Josh Habiger, culinary director 

Where Pinewood Social 

 

Ingredients:

canola oil 

2 heads broccoli, cut into florets

zest of 2 lemons 

sea salt 

½ cup raw almonds

¼ cup golden raisins

tablespoons red wine vinegar

1½ tablespoons Dijon mustard

shallot, chopped

clove garlic, chopped

½ cup olive oil

½ cup water

juice of 1 lemon half 

 

Directions:

1. Fill saucepan with 2 inches canola oil. Heat to 375 degrees.

2. Fry broccoli until edges appear crispy, about 30 seconds. Remove, and set on a paper towel. Top with lemon zest and sea salt.

3. Using a food processor, puree ingredients until smooth. 

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Sarah McLachlan, if we listen to your new album, what can we expect? Oh, you know, love, lust, betrayal, loss, mourning, resurrection. Typical stuff!

If you had a personal motto, what would it be? Be mindful and proceed with kindness, and don’t burn bridges, for someday you will surely have to walk back over them.

If you could rid yourself of one deeply personal fear, what would it be? Any fears I have seem to be legitimate, as recognizing fear has saved me from harm on more than one occasion. So I would rather hold on to them.

If you’ve learned one parenting tip with your two young daughters, what would it be? Take a breath, count to 10, and don’t engage in the argument. 

If you could give your 10-year-old self one piece of advice, what would it be? Know your worth and stand up for yourself and others. Also, it will get better.

 

 

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Candy Crush has been downloaded more than 500 times.  

The addictive app—where colorful treats are pulverized with finger-swipes—scored the most mobile downloads in 2013, an achievement that Marcos Sanchez, VP of global corporate communications at mobile analytics company App Annie, attributes to the game’s recipe of risk and reward. The intuitive gameplay pulls people in, “but it’s difficult enough that players feel a sense of achievement when they finish a level,” Sanchez says. Candy Crush is free, but gamers hungry for goodies like extra lives and power-ups shell out about $650,000 daily, making it thetop grossing app of 2013, too. Talk about sweet success.

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Laughing Matters

Psychologist Peter McGraw explores the intersection of science and humor.

What’s the value of humor? “Most obviously, it’s something that makes us and others feel good,” McGraw says. “But a shared sense of humor can also be an indicator of a successful relationship. If you and I laugh at the same things, it says we see the world in a similar way, and we’re likely to get along in other, non-humorous situations.”

What makes things funny? “It starts with the realization that a negative or threatening situation is actually acceptable or safe. In scenarios like this, which are wrong yet OK, we laugh to indicate to others that the violation is benign—so laughter serves a social purpose.”  

Do you have to be born with comedic talent? “Everybody’s funny in their own way, but some people do seem to have an advantage at being broadly funny. They tend to think it’s innate, but it can’t be, in the same way that any other complex skill isn’t. Your ability to play the piano or hit a tennis ball is improved through practice, coaching, and experimentation. That’s why the best comedians are older—they’ve taken years to hone their craft.” 

How can you tell a better joke? “Test it out in advance. Great comics make a joke seem spontaneous, but they know it’s going to land because they’ve told it before. If you tell a joke and it doesn’t go so well, don’t be afraid to apologize. My standard apology is, ‘This is what happens when someone who studies what makes things funny tries to be funny.’ I know that if my first joke doesn’t get a laugh, my apology will. I’ve had to say it enough times that I know it works.”

 

Peter McGraw is co-author of The Humor Code and runs the Humor Research Lab at the University of Colorado Boulder. 

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The new Spock in next month’s Star Trek on pals, Pittsburgh, and pointy ears

1) STEELY ROOTS: Pittsburgh, the city I grew up in, is an incredibly supportive community. It’s a surprisingly cultural town with a tight-knit collection of enormously talented theater artists. My experience as a young actor in Pittsburgh has a lot to do with starting me on the path that has led me to this point.

2) THE S WORD: “Surprise” is a word I try to live by. I invite it all the time into my experience, into the roles I play. I’m understanding more and more that every gift or opportunity emerges from a challenge or conflict. I wouldn’t have the things I have without those challenges, or if I did, they wouldn’t mean as much.

3) ENTOURAGE: My closest friends are many of my college classmates. We sustain each other through all the ups and downs. They didn’t really care when I was unemployed, and they don’t really care that today I have a job. It is important to be surrounded by those kinds of people: the ones who know the real self.

4) VULCAN SALUTE: I can’t say how amazing it was to have Leonard Nimoy be such an integral part of the process of making Star Trek. Getting to know him was one of the highlights of the experience—and considering him a friend is one of the great honors of my life.

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A rec room classic gets an injection of testosterone.

What do you get when you cross a foosball table with the bumper of a farm pickup? Answer: On the Edge Marketing’s Diamond Plate Foosball Table . Made of durable polycarbonate materials, the manly game looks tough enough to withstand years of beer-fueled abuse. The 55-by-30-by-34-inch table also comes with a built-in mp3 player dock, speakers, and amplifier—perfect for rocking out as you spin-kick the winning point down the playing field. Two chrome soccer balls; a chrome-plated ball return bin; and eight rows of stylish, black- and silver-colored figures ensure that no player will ever look like a girly man. $1,223

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February/Paperback
An Incomplete and Inaccurate History of Sport

THE CONCEPT: ESPN commentator Kenny Mayne offers his somewhat random, frequently erratic, and highly entertaining take on the wide world of sports.

SCOUTING REPORT: Mayne covers an abundance of sports (bowling, horse racing), but leaves almost as many out (swimming, roller derby). He often goes on tangents about unrelated topics—like a discussion of Starbucks in an entry on hunting—as well as personal anecdotes, such as the epic summer from his youth when a neighborhood kid hit 843 wiffle ball home runs. His daughters’ illustrations make the book even more surreal, a welcome contrast to the often-overserious genre of sports books.
GET IT: Feb. 3

February/Hardcover
Galway Bay

in a nutshell: Author Mary Pat Kelly revisits the great immigration of Irish citizens to America during the mid-1800s by following a single fictional family. After surviving a potato famine in their native Ireland, Honora and Michael Kelly and their children join 2 million of their brethren in immigrating to America. But they soon discover that things are not much easier on this side of the pond. Follow the family as it gets swept into Chicago’s shift from frontier to “city of the century ” and then winds up in a bloody Civil War.

WRITING SAMPLE: “August now and no doubt remained. Blight had killed the entire potato crop of 1848. Fields, planted at such sacrifice, were black and blasted. For the third time in four years we’d lost our food.”
GET IT: Feb. 9

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Each NFL game gets 36 footballs.

So why do the pros require more pigskins per game than a high school gym? Most of the time, they’re just playing it safe. New balls get swapped into the game for a lot of reasons. Sometimes players keep them after a big play or flick them to a fan following a touchdown. A dozen balls appear only for kickoffs , punts, and field goal and extra-point attempts . Still other balls go to record-setters or wind up on charity auction blocks. And open-air stadiums—such as the one in Tampa Bay for Super Bowl XLIII this month—like to have a few spares, too, just in case the weather turns ugly .

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How a top young chef went from Subway to culinary star.

I think I always had the ingredients of a cook. I asked for an Easy-Bake Oven when I was 6, but I never had the patience for the light bulb to heat up, so I ate everything raw. You could say I was a demanding kid. At 29, I’m still demanding, and it’s paying off. I received the James Beard Rising Star Chef Award in 2008, and I competed in The Next Iron Chef . For a Minnesota kid who started at Subway , it feels wildly gratifying. But receiving an award is one thing. Living up to it is another.

I grew up on Rice Krispies bars and Cheetos . Those humble culinary beginnings come through in my cooking at Café Boulud in New York City, as does a newly discovered patience. These days, I’ll wait four weeks for a sausage to cure. What a change that is from my days with the Easy-Bake Oven.

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February/TV

Dollhouse
Your favorite restaurant. Your childhood house. Your middle name. Imagine if someone could erase these memories. That’s the situation Echo (Eliza Dushku ) finds herself in as a member of an underground agency hired by the wealthy and powerful for odd jobs. In the new show Dollhouse , creator Joss Whedon returns to the small screen with his first new series since the short-lived Firefly in 2002. Just try to remember the show premieres on Feb. 13.

February/Film

Fanboys
Most people in 1998 would have stood a better chance of escaping from the Death Star than scoring a sneak peek at a Star Wars sequel. But that doesn’t stop four fictional super-geeks from traveling cross-country in Fanboys to try a major heist: Stealing Episode I: The Phantom Menace from George Lucas’ headquarters to show their dying friend. On Feb. 6, Kristen Bell (Forgetting Sarah Marshall) headlines an ensemble comedic cast. We like the lineup of nerd-friendly cameos, including William Shatner and Seth Rogen . What more could a fanboy want?

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Darius Karsas riffs on a sweet treat.

Our restaurant serves food that reminds people of their mom’s cooking. So when we had to come up with the bar menu, we turned to classic kid beverages—Kool-Aid , Sunny D —and created updated, playful versions. The Hooville takes on the creamy and chocolatey Yoo-hoo , but with added almond flavor, since what goes better with chocolate than almond? It’s a nutty, rich-tasting cocktail that makes a really good after-dinner drink. Darius Karsas is the bar manager at Ketchup in Los Angeles.

Hooville
1 3/4 ounces vodka
3/4 ounce amaretto
1 1/2 ounces Yoo-hoo
White chocolate shavings

Combine the vodka, amaretto, and Yoo-hoo in an ice-filled cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with white chocolate shavings. Makes one Hooville.

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Travel back to a simpler time in northern Kentucky.

Want to get all shook up? It could happen in Pleasant Hill , home to the country’s largest restored Shaker village.

Located about 70 miles southeast of Louisville , Shaker missionaries from New York established the community in 1805.

Spread over nearly 3,000 acres of farmland in Harrodsburg , Shaker Village includes an 81-room inn , 40 miles of trails, a living history museum with 34 original and restored Shaker buildings, craft shops, and a furniture showroom.

Stroll through the clapboard 1820 Meeting House, where services were held. Enjoy a meal in the Trustees’ Office Dining Room, where you can dine by candlelight on sliced pork with apple cider sauce. Next, watch costumed interpreters demonstrate 19th-century woodworking techniques in the living history museum. Finally, end your stay with a trek along the hiking trails, a horseback ride, or even a canoe trip down the Kentucky River. Just don’t get too shook up in the boat.

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The actor/singer/comedian reflects on the stage, Sammy, and staying in the moment.

1) New Media: You always have to find new things to conquer. An improv comedy TV show? I found out I can do that. Broadway? A Vegas show? A CD of great music? I can do that too. I never stop reaching for greatness and challenging myself. You want to make sure everything you do is as interesting as the last thing you did.

2) Straight Talk: I’m a straightforward person, and that comes across, even in comedy. Sixty percent of connecting with audiences is natural. You’ve got to be an open person. And the other 40 percent is just being a good performer. People respond to a guy who looks them in the eye.

3) Sammy’s Lead: Las Vegas was Sammy Davis Jr. ’s world, and every time I step on stage at the Venetian , I feel like I’m stepping into a house he built for guys like me. There were times when a black performer couldn’t even come in the front door. Sammy showed that not only could you be an intelligent black performer, but you could have class and style too. Without him, there would be no me.

4) Book Smarts: My grandmother, who raised me, turned me onto books when I was a little kid. I got called “nerd” a lot, but I still read everything I can get my hands on. The Lord of the Rings completely freed my imagination, which is—in a lot of ways—what led me to improv. I started reading sci-fi and fantasy, which led to writing my own stories. Going to the stage was the next logical step.

5) The Here and Now: Staying in the moment is important. In improv, when your partner’s talking to you, you can’t be thinking, Oh, I’ve got such a great joke! You’ll tell that joke three minutes later and everyone’s moved on. Same goes in real life. If you’re not enjoying that moment, then you’ve already missed the moment.

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8,000,000,000 candy hearts will come out this year.

It all started in the 1800s with a hard candy called cockles . The shell-shaped treats were stuffed with small papers. Daniel Chase of the New England Confectionary Company (NECCO) later invented a process that allowed him to print words directly onto candy. By the early 1900s, candy hearts evolved into their current form, with phrases like “Be Mine” and “Kiss Me.” About 20 years ago, NECCO began retiring worn-out sayings for new ones. This year, look for “Honey Bun,” “Spice It Up,” and “Recipe 4 Love” to come from your secret admirer.

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Because freeing your follicles can change your perspective.

By Steve Almond

DURING A DEBATE TOURNAMENT back in college, my partner and I decided to have a little fun. Rather than arguing on behalf of nuclear disarmament or public transportation, we proposed that all people on planet Earth should shave their heads at least once in their lives. We combed through the Old Testament and Greek mythology for supporting evidence. We invoked the holiness of Buddhist monks and the Egyptian priest class. We mocked our opponents for their “follicular snobbery.” We lost.

The judge said our arguments lacked gravity. Perhaps he was right. Or perhaps he was simply bitter over his own male-pattern baldness . In either case, the verdict had a strange effect: I began to take this conviction seriously.

In my own moony, collegiate manner, I believed head-shaving had been given a bad rap, linked to criminal behavior, conformity, and emasculation. To me, it represented a brave rejection of our culture’s hair-obsessed narcissism . Which is why, upon arriving at grad school a few years later, I walked into a barber supply shop and bought an electric clipper.

Back at my apartment, I stood in front of the mirror in my bathroom and plugged in the device. It buzzed and trembled in my hand. I took a deep breath and watched as tufts of hair drifted to the floor. Within a few minutes my head looked like a pale, stubbled fruit.

How did I feel? I felt incredible, even better than I’d ever imagined. I felt clean and sleek and somehow…simplified. I walked outside to my porch and the wind rushed across my bare scalp and the thousands of nerves gathered there sang out in glee.

Then my neighbor Holly appeared in the driveway. “Oh God,” she said. “What happened to you?”

“Nothing,” I insisted. “I did this myself! Just now. With a clipper.”

Holly cocked her head. “Seriously,” she whispered, “you can tell me.”

As it turned out, walking around with a shaved head kind of freaked people out. Michael Jordan could get away with it . But he was the world’s greatest basketball player. I was merely one of the world’s most obscure and annoying short story writers . And I admit that my lockless look was extreme. My nose, never a dainty arrangement, appeared swollen to three times its normal size. The various scars and deformities of my skull—relics of a childhood spent in combat with my brothers—were suddenly on display. I looked funny, but my appearance felt like a much more honest accounting of who I was.

I spent nearly a year living this way, quite happily. I might never have grown my hair out at all, were it not for the beautiful woman I met at the end of my first year. She was not interested in dating someone whose head—to quote her—looked “like a nicked-up bullet.” Ouch.

So the clippers went into storage and my hair reemerged, in various awkward configurations. But the itch to buzz never left and a few years later, during a particularly merciless Boston summer, I dug out the clippers. It was just as pleasurable the second time—and just as distressing to my friends.

I hope this explains my personal fondness for head shaving. But the question remains: Why would I advocate it for others? I’m going to offer six reasons, which I hope you will read before nudging the person in the seat next to you, pointing to this article, and murmuring, “This guy is out of his mind.”

OK, here we go.

1) It feels really good.
Have you ever had your scalp massaged ? Or even just had someone run his or her fingers through your hair? It’s just about the best feeling in the world (among the top three, anyway).

The reason it feels so good is because the scalp is exquisitely sensitive. It has the thickest skin of any part of the body, and therefore the highest density of nerve endings, especially around the follicles. This will become clear to you the moment you kiss your curls goodbye. Simply put: It’s impossible not to caress your scalp.

I even came to love the act of shaving my head. I’d let my hair grow out a centimeter or two, buzz it back down and, if I was feeling decadent, slather my head with shaving cream and work with a razor. The result was a head so smooth it felt almost rubbery. I would then immediately go swimming. The water felt divine, as if God were kissing me on the crown of the head.

2) It strips away your vanity.
To be clear: I have nothing against beautiful hair. My wife has beautiful hair. But it’s hard to dispute that our consumer culture has gone overboard in emphasizing the importance of beautiful hair. How else might we explain the proliferation of shampoos, conditioners, thickeners, and mousses that stare out from the supermarket shelves? Take a look at your own bathroom. I’d be willing to bet you have a dozen hair-care products.

This is to say nothing of the incessant emphasis on hair restoration for men. Larry David , the grumpy hero of HBO’s comedy Curb Your Enthusiasm , has a very funny riff on the discrimination suffered by bald men in this country. The joke works because it’s rooted in truth: From the Age of Samson to the Age of Fabio , a healthy, lustrous head of hair has always represented physical prowess and sexual power. This is part of what makes the sheering of one’s locks seem like such an extreme, transgressive act.

3) It can set you free.
With some caution, let us examine the case of Britney Spears. Back in February of 2007, pictures surfaced of the pop singer shaving her head . The reaction was one of horror. How could she do something so self-destructive?

But consider what has transpired in the months since. By all accounts, Ms. Spears has straightened out her personal life, gotten back in shape, and relaunched her career . Shaving her head may have been her way of flipping out the paparazzi, but it also trimmed the narcissistic excess from her life. Intentionally or not, it turns out to have been an act of spiritual liberation.

This was part of the reason why I loved the ritual of shaving my head. It felt like a purification rite. A number of professional athletes describe having the same feeling. They make it a point to shave their heads before big games. It’s not just a ploy to intimidate your opponent or to cut down wind resistance. It’s a way of eliminating distractions.

4) It’s eco friendly.
I’m not going to overstate the case here, but it just happens to be true that when you have a shaved head you use a lot less shampoo and hot water and towels.

5) It fosters greater empathy.
Remember that old American Indian expression about how you have to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes before you can know his heart? The same rule prevails when it comes to hair.

There are, of course, many reasons why people wind up with no hair on their heads. They go bald. They get sick. They make a religious or cultural decision. They join the military. Sometimes, tragically, the decision is imposed on them.

Whatever the cause, they wind up moving through the world in a state of greater vulnerability and humility. That was certainly how I felt. Heck, my own mother gasped and said that I looked “like a refugee” the first time (since birth, at least) she saw me sans hair.

But these reactions didn’t make me angry. On the contrary, being judged makes you less apt to judge others—and more apt to sympathize with them.

6) It’s only temporary.
For the past few years, I’ve been telling my wife that I want shave my head again. “Go right ahead,” she always says. “Then hand the clippers to me.” This is her attempt at a deterrent.

The flaw in her logic is obvious: Hair grows back. To those who see my proposal as a radical one, I offer this reminder: Head shaving is, at most, a temporary measure, no more radical than a bad dye job. If you find life with a shaved head to be embarrassing or difficult, you have only to survive a few months of wearing hats. That’s what makes hair so remarkable: the miracle of regeneration.

Oddly, this argument never holds much sway with my wife.

And honestly, I don’t expect you to run out and shave your head, simply because some guy in a magazine says it’s a profound experience. But on the off chance that you do, please know that I support your decision. Oh, and also: Please don’t tell your spouse it was my idea.

Steve Almond’s latest book is the essay collection Not That You Asked . He lives with a full head of hair in Arlington, Massachusetts.

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Dear Reader,

About half an hour ago, while surfing the Web, I came across some facts so alarming that I immediately took a nap.

According to Dr. Gregg D. Jacobs of the Sleep Disorders Center at the University of Massachusetts Medical School , adults as well as toddlers have a “biological readiness to fall asleep” in the middle of the afternoon. The only difference is, toddlers act on that readiness by taking a nap. Most adults don’t, except for those happy residents of what sleep researchers call “siesta cultures.”

During the mid-afternoon, while sensible toddlers and Latin countries catch a few winks, here’s what happens to the rest of us:

• Our moods tend to darken.
• Accidents increase.
• Daytime deaths from all causes spike—probably, researchers think, because of those accidents.
• Our body temperature drops slightly. (I have no idea what this has to do with naps, but sleep researchers like to mention it.)

Here’s the good news: Ten minutes to half an hour is all the nap you need. This holds especially true if you’re like most Americans, getting an average of one hour less sleep than you’re supposed to. That’s why I followed the example of power-nappers like Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison, and Albert Einstein .

I heard someplace that many Japanese drink a cup of coffee before napping ; the caffeine takes about 20 minutes to kick in, eliminating that groggy post-nap feeling. I had a Coke instead of coffee, and 20 minutes later had to go to the bathroom. The technique works, though. (Admittedly, this letter might put even caffeinated nappers to sleep.)

Before my prose inspires you to nap, read Daniel Radosh’s story on sleep technology . Meanwhile, a note to my co-workers: If you see me snoring on the floor of the conference room, please don’t wake me up. I’m napping for your own safety.

Jay Heinrichs
Editorial Director

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