Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Season of Giving with Pj Schott

Wow!  I can’t believe that this is the last post for 2012 written by the über lovely Pj Schott.  My how time flies, doesn’t it?  I am thankful for her friendship, the opportunities she has given me professionally, and to have her on my side, in a dark alley, when I need backup.  Pj has lived in several U.S. port cities, Europe, Greece, and the Middle East.  A marketing professional, mystery writer, and futurist, Pj is known to those with whom she works as a problem-solver, an innovative thinker, a top-notch communicator, a visionary, and the soul of a group. She is the owner of the Boston, Massachusetts based company GENIUS and is the woman behind the new Facebook page and blog, Survival for Blondes, where Pj is entirely surrounded by imagined disasters and learns to rise above.

The Spirit of Giving

The time I spend with you, is my favorite time of the month. It's an opportunity to think about what's really important. And to ask myself if there is anything in my life I would like to change. And I take any unanswered questions to that great sage, Winne-the-Pooh. Today I asked him for a special gift, and he gave me the following words.

Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, but today is a gift. That's why we call it the present.
                                                   ― Winnie the Pooh

At this time of year, our thoughts turn to giving. All world cultures, and most religions, include the meaningful practice of gift-giving. Our Jewish friends hand out Chanukah gelt, Yiddish for money. In the Muslim world, the end of the holy month focuses on the giving of charity. In Kwanzaa, gifts are less important than spiritual and social rejuvenation.

Most of my friends and family celebrate St. Nicolas Day, Christmas and New Years. Christmas – first celebrated in the Victorian 1860s – is the most well-known holiday in the world. It incorporates the giving of gifts to children of St. Nicolas Day (December 6th), the pagan traditions – evergreens, candles, sweet treats, yule logs and mistletoe – of the Winter Solstice (December 21st), and the birthday of Jesus (December 25th).

It's Christmas! The spirit of giving abounds. Most of us give gifts to loved ones, but do we give anything else, especially when nothing is expected of us?
Why do we give? Some folks give to feel important or to get their name on a plaque. Others give out of obligation, and do so grudgingly. The lucky ones give simply for the joy of giving, and incredible joy is their reward.
Christmas is the perfect time to become a 'giver.' And it can cost little or nothing. A smile can turn someone's day around. A warm hug can help heal someone's pain. A small bag of food for your local soup kitchen can bring comfort to many.
So go get out there and GIVE, GIVE GIVE. The effect on those around you can seem immense, and giving has the power to change your life forever.

You lucky ducks!  Pj has so kindly offered to give Princess with a Pen readers an opportunity to WIN this fabulous Pooh prize!  To be eligible, leave a comment here telling us about the best gift you’ve ever received.

Click HERE to check it out on Amazon

  Here is the description from Amazon:
Ring in the season with this special 10th anniversary edition of WINNIE THE POOH: SEASONS OF GIVING -- the cherished, full-length adventure that celebrates friendship, family and the true meaning of the holidays. Join Pooh, Piglet, Tigger and Rabbit on a brave quest to find a favorite season they somehow seem to have missed -- Winter! Next, accompany them on a wild search for the perfect ingredients to create a festive Thanksgiving feast, and share in the warm glow of a Christmas that brings a surprise visit from a very special friend. Featuring beloved characters, five irrestible songs, and two new-to-DVD Pooh adventures, this fun, heartwarming Disney classic will keep the magic of the holiday season alive and sparkling the whole year long!

Bonus Features Include Pooh Adventures - First Time On DVD, The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh The Magic Earmuffs, The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh The Wishing Bear, Decorate Your Own Christmas Tree, and Coloring Fun With Piglet.

  • Contest closes at noon, on December 12, 2012, EST.
  • You must leave contact information with your post to be included.  Posts without contact information will not be counted.
  • Good luck!  You're all winners in my book.

I want to take this opportunity to wish each and every one a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy Kwanzaa.  May you be truly blessed with a peace that surpasses all understanding as you enjoy family, friends, and the beauty of the season.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Sibel Hodge talks Gluten Free Turkey

I am pleased as punch to welcome the über cool Sibel Hodge to Princess with a Pen today.  She is a talented writer who has just released her first cookbook, A Gluten Free Taste of Turkey.  I had a chance to preview this delicious book, and I have to tell you; this celiac has a newfound love for cabbage that’s sexy and it knows it.  Please welcome my sweetie pie, Sibel!

Merhaba! A big Turkish-style hello to you all. I’d like to thank the fantabulous Jen Tucker for inviting me onto her blog today to talk about my new gluten free Turkish cookbook A Gluten Free Taste of Turkey

I have dual Turkish Cypriot/British nationality, and although I was brought up in the UK, I now spend a lot of my time in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (it definitely beats the British weather!). My dad emigrated to the UK from Cyprus in the late 1950s when he was a teenager, and he went on to meet my English mum, so I’ve had the best of both worlds as far as cuisine and culture goes.
I’m the author of quirky romantic comedies, mysteries, and children's books (with the odd thriller thrown in), and in my spare time, I’m Wonder Woman! When I’m not writing or saving the world from dastardly demons, you can find me in the kitchen, cooking up a storm.
From an early age, I developed an interest in food and would spend hours in the kitchen with my nan, who was a fabulous chef. From about ten years old I was cooking the family dinner on a regular basis, and that’s when I learned that in order to cook well, you had to love and appreciate food.
During this time, I don’t remember seeing any ready meals or pre-cooked sauces in our house. Nan cooked everything from scratch, which actually prepared me well for when I met my husband, who just happened to be coeliac and needed to follow a gluten free diet.
‘I’m coeliac,’ he admitted sheepishly, just after I’d invited him round for dinner early on in our relationship.
‘Coeliac?’ I gave him an odd look, thinking he was trying to prepare me for some bizarre sexual quirk that sounded a bit dodgy.

Well, I breathed a huge sigh of relief, I can tell you, when he explained to me he had a disease that meant he was unable to eat gluten, not someone who wanted to dress up in lederhosen and be slapped with stinging nettles. Then I thought, unable to eat gluten? That must be really horrible, but how difficult can it be to cater for that? Well, not as easy as I first thought…

Gluten is found in barley, wheat, rye, malt, and oats, and is in most processed foods, so trying to avoid it in those days was a nightmare for a lot of people. A simple trip to the shops took hours as I scrutinized every packaged item looking at the ingredients. As well as being blatantly labelled, it’s often disguised as “thickener”, “stabilizing agent”, “shortening”, and many other things. I nearly fainted from shock because it seemed to be in everything, even the simplest of things like cereal and ice cream, and I didn’t want to accidentally bump him off with a gluten-laden knickerbocker glory (although, I must admit there have been several occasions over the years that I’ve seriously thought about it!). A gluten free aisle was unheard of back then, and he could only get gluten free bread on prescription, which was the consistency and taste of a thousand-year-old house brick. Great for renovating early nineteenth century manor houses but not so good for a nice cheese sandwich. Luckily, now there are hundreds of gluten free foods available in the supermarket and from specialist stores, which is great news, because wheat and gluten intolerance is on the rise.

Even if you’re not coeliac or gluten intolerant, many people are turning to a gluten free diet because it can have many health benefits, including an increase in energy, better digestion and elimination, improving cholesterol levels and auto-immune disorders, controlling weight and bloating, and making you super attractive to the opposite sex (OK, I made the last one up, but I bet it made you want to read on!). Whereas twenty years ago, a gluten free diet would be bland and boring, today it can be eclectic, vibrant, and delicious, which is why I wanted to mix my knowledge of tasty, easy-to-cook, and nutritious Turkish food with gluten free recipes.
Cue A Gluten Free Taste of Turkey, which is a mixture of traditional Turkish cookery, along with dishes that have a Turkish Cypriot twist to them, and my own creations. Our hectic and stressful modern lives mean we want food that not only tastes great, but is also quick to get on the table, and these are the kinds of recipes I want to introduce you to in this book.

Historically, Turkey has been a cosmopolitan melting pot of ethnic groups such as the Ottomans, Byzantines, and Persians. It’s bordered by Greece, Bulgaria, Georgia, Armenia, Iran, Iraq, Syria, and the Mediterranean and Aegean seas, so it’s no wonder that the food is a colourful fusion of traditions, countries, tastes, and deliciousness (I don’t care if that’s not a word since it describes Turkish food perfectly). Turkish cuisine is considered among the world’s best because of the variety of dishes, the use of natural ingredients, and a huge mixture of flavours and tastes. It’s also a very healthy diet, with lots of vegetables, grains, beans, herbs, olive oil, spices, and fruit.

While it’s fantastic that nowadays we can walk into a supermarket and find any kind of item from all over the world, whatever time of year, it does have its drawbacks. In order to cope with our food demands we’re increasing the amount of chemicals in our environment. Pesticides, bulking agents, hormones, chemicals that make a fruit or vegetable look a better colour, chemicals that increase the shelf life of consumables, and the over processing of food. All these things make our immune systems more sensitive and susceptible to problems, and affect our overall health, which is why intolerance to gluten and other allergies or insensitivities are on the increase. In a North Cypriot supermarket or market you’ll find fruit and veg that have grown in the shape nature intended, unlike a supermarket in the UK, where a tomato has to pass a tomato circumference test and be colour matched to a pre-conceived idea of what shade it should be, because shock horror, no one would possibly want to eat a tomato with a knobbly bit on it, or a potato that looked like a duck (I’ve found several of those in North Cyprus, plus quite a few in the shape of a heart, which is very cute!). Essentially, the Turkish diet goes back to the basics of cooking from scratch, with an emphasis on using fresh seasonal produce, with a lot of organic methods, just like our ancestors did for thousands of years.

Turkish and Turkish Cypriot people love to eat, therefore they love to cook! Hospitality is second nature, and you can’t visit any friends or family (or even strangers) in North Cyprus without being offered something to eat and drink. The sharing of food is almost as important as the preparation and the eating of it.  It’s all about vibrancy, taste, enjoyment, colour, and yet at the same time, simplicity.

Cooking, like writing, is a creative expression. You can take an ingredient, add a dash of colour, a sprinkling of spice, a few drops of imagination, and a splash of passion, and it can turn into something truly amazing. And the fantastic thing is that you can make a dish completely your own by changing some of the ingredients. The recipes included in this book should be used as a guideline because you know your taste buds better than anyone does. If you want to substitute, say, parsley for coriander, or cinnamon for cumin, then go for it. It’s all about making the food work for you. Wherever you can, please try to use organic ingredients. It’s kinder to the environment and animals, and it’s healthier for you.
 The most important thing in cooking is to have fun with it, so experiment, eat, and enjoy! And, as we say in Turkish…

Affiyet olsun! (Enjoy your meal!)

Sibel xx

Thank you for stopping by Sibel!  You can find Sibel, her new book, and Sibel herself below.  Thanks so much for spending time with us today!

A Gluten Free Taste of Turkey is available to buy now in ebook format for Kindle from:

It's also available in paperback from  and

You can visit Sibel Hodge at her website