Monthly Archives: November 2012

Bacon Wrapped Dates Stuffed With Blue Cheese

Aside from being able to brew fresh tea and carefully follow each step of extremely simple recipes, I have little to no skills in the kitchen.  I’m great at cleaning up after Jeremy cooks for me, but when it comes to cooking, I am his opposite.  He can spend hours in the kitchen just daydreaming and playing around with ingredients, only to come up with a fantastic meal as a result.  Making it up as I go along never seems to work out for me, which is why I have come up with a few safe guidelines and I stick to them.

Over the years, while making food for others, I’ve found that there are ways to hide the fact that I’m not such a great cook.  My advice is to pick a simple dish that’s hard to mess up, and then throw in a fancy ingredient or two.  A traditional salsa with diced strawberries and kiwi mixed in.  Lobster mac and cheese.  I once added two drops of truffle oil to a bowl of honey on a fruit and cheese plate and it was a huge hit.

When cooking to impress I also often include bacon in the dish, even though I haven’t eaten pork in over 18 years.  People LOVE bacon, and as long as that’s cooked crispy and perfect, they never seem to care or talk about the rest.

Last week for Thanksgiving I made bacon wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese for Jeremy’s family. They came out great and they were extremely easy to make.

To get started, here’s what you need:

  • A container of dates
  • A pack of bacon.  I recommend thick, center-cut style.
  • Crumbled blue cheese (gorgonzola or goat cheese also works if that’s what you prefer)
  • Toothpicks
  • A baking sheet

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

2. Slice the date open a little but don’t cut it in half.

3. Stuff the date with cheese.  I use a small spoon or a cheese knife to do this.

4. Close the date and wrap with about 1/3 of a slice of bacon, enough to go around.

5. Secure it with a toothpick.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

6. Put in the oven for about 25-35 minutes, or until the bacon is crispy.  I recommend turning them over about halfway through.

7. After they’re done baking, put them on some sheets of paper towel – that helps soak up some of the bacon grease.

8. Serve hot and enjoy!

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Man Uses Google Maps to Walk 5,000 Miles Across Asia

In the summer of 2010, my brother Ryan and I drove from Miami to Los Angeles using only the Google Maps on my iPhone3G (in a Mini Cooper).  I thought that was impressive until I just heard about U.S. Marine Sgt. Winston Fiore, who used Google Maps to walk 5,000 miles across Asia.

Using an Android phone running Maps, Fiore walked across Brunei, China, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam to raise money and awareness for the International Children’s Surgical Foundation, a charity that provides free facial reconstructive surgery for kids with cleft palates in developing countries.  He began walking last October and finished Monday.

In this journey that he dubbed the “Smile Trek,” Fiore said Google Maps was “the hub” of his entire trip.  He used it to find the most accurate and easy walking directions and it guided him through remote villages and along dirt roads.

“Walking directions in Google Maps were critical to my trek. The directions were accurate and efficient — it’s essential to take the shortest route when you’re walking 20-25 miles each day,” Fiore told Google. “But the best part was being routed onto roads and trails through areas I otherwise never would have discovered with, say, driving directions, or even a physical map.”

During Smile Trek, Fiore also used other Google products including Google Latitude, which allows you to find your friends and family on a map and share where you are with the people you choose, My Tracks, which records GPS tracks and shows live statistics such as time, speed, distance, and elevation and Google Translate.

In 408 days, Fiore raised more than $65,000 for the International Children’s Surgical Foundation.

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Instagram Gets Web Profiles

Today, as most social media companies like Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn work to improve their mobile interfaces, Instagram has done just the opposite.  The popular mobile application recently introduced web profiles to give users a chance to share photos and find friends on the web.

The photo sharing website looks a lot like the Facebook timeline, which is a good thing because 14 million Instagram users also use Facebook. This is most likely due to Facebook acquiring Instagram for about $1 billion in April. Since Facebook is one of the largest photo-sharing outlets in the world, they have not allowed Instagram to upload any pictures on the web.

This remains true for now, but users are now able to like and comment on other users’ photos, in addition to being able to browse your own and other users’ photos on the web.  It’s so nice to be able to finally view photos on something larger than an iPhone or tablet screen!  Users can also change their name, bio and profile picture via the web.

A lot of marketers are happy to have Instagram on the web because they have wanted to expand their mobile followers to the web. The social network is now a more effective place for brands to boast their services and products.  Instagram did not function before like some of the other more prominent networks did because it was solely a mobile service. When I visited the site before, all that was there was a simple page which welcomed users and some information on how to download the mobile app.  All of Instagram’s traffic so far has come from mobile platforms. This has been the main setback that marketers have faced in seeing their full potential with a photo sharing social media platform. Imagine what brands can do now that it is on the web.

This is something a lot of people wished Instagram did a long time ago.  Websites like Webstagram allows users to surf profiles on the web, but it isn’t the same experience. It is kind of like buying bootleg DVD’s on Canal Street instead of watching it in IMAX theaters. I am really happy with this Instagram launch and I cannot wait to see what they do in the future.  Instagram founder Kevin Systrom has already hinted at more stuff in the works, saying “It’s not the last thing you’re seeing from us on the web.”

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Did You Unfriend Anyone During This Election?

For the last few months, I have been waiting for the election to end.  Not so much because I was eager to know the outcome (I wasn’t particularly crazy about either candidate), but more for the ads, phone calls, and social media rants to end.

In elections past, before the days of Facebook, I couldn’t tell you where most of my friends stood on the political spectrum.  There were no “like” buttons and I didn’t have to listen to a political rant unless I tuned into a talk radio station or was in the presence of someone speaking about a candidate.  But now thanks to social media, I now know how hundreds of my friends feel about Obamacare, abortion, gay marriage, Big Bird, the Middle East, horses and bayonets, marijuana legalization and more.

Sometimes I read and saw a lot more than I would’ve liked to.  If I see one more person threaten to leave the country or post another Sesame Street meme I’m going to scream.  My news feeds were constantly filled with political chatter, and it was negative more often than not.

During this election I realized how politically fired up some of the people I care about really are.  Before social media I had no idea that they were total right or left-wing whack-jobs who had so much to say that they felt compelled to write a 400-word Facebook status every single day.

Many times I wanted to add to my “Most Annoying People on Facebook” list, and a few times I even considered unfriending.  I didn’t, reminding myself that everyone is entitled to their opinion and that it’ll be over soon.

I was not alone in considering to unfriend people.  According to a Mashable poll of 2,772 people, the majority of voters (46%) couldn’t take it anymore and unfriended someone during this election.  Like me, 32% thought about it but didn’t, and 22% didn’t even consider it.

Mashable poll results of who unfriended someone on social media sites during the 2012 election.

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The Email Marketing Faceoff: Obama vs. Romney

According to StrongMail, the email marketing campaigns of President Obama and Mitt Romney are weak.  When it comes to implementing a good quality email marketing strategy, none of these two parties came out with the upper hand.

StrongMail is an email marketing provider for big name companies like MasterCard, Sony, and AT&T.  The marketing experts at StrongMail analyzed emails by both parties from August 11 to September 10, using the same analyzing system they do for their clients. The two campaigns were praised for their specific viewpoints, but Obama’s campaign contained more professionalism. In an overall email marketing analysis, they were found to lack in many important areas of email marketing.

StrongMail discovered that the content of both emails appealed to their respective markets, often times advertising their need for donations or volunteer efforts. It was found that Obama’s emails were more targeted towards avid digital technology users, which are mostly people who are under the age of 40. Even though Obama did win the professionalism battle, they went through a slight discourse when one of his subject lines was “I’ll Be Damned,” after his party celebrated out-raising the Romney campaign in August. The content of Romney’s emails was something that was seen in the ancient email marketing days. It was text-heavy. After Obama gave a speech in September, his party sent out emails with less than 50 words asking for donations. Romney responded with a 275-word critique of Obama’s speech. Good email marketing is not word heavy and it should get straight to the point with consumer benefits or offers. For example, Obama offered Obama items with free shipping in return for donations. Incentives are always good!

Neither one of the campaigns put data to good use. Both campaigns had a high immediate delete rate. For anyone who opened an email from either candidate, 1.5 immediately hit delete for an Obama email and 1.3 for Romney’s. In Romney’s situation, this was due to the fact that they didn’t have a target audience, nor emailed at the right time. As far as Obama goes, his party was emailing donation requests to people who already donated. There was no personalization on either side.

When it came to actually pumping out emails, for every email Romney sent, Obama sent 20. According to StrongMail, there was just a larger list of democratic voters. In this situation bigger was not better because Obama received an extremely high spam rate. About 93% of Romney’s emails made it to inboxes compared to Obama’s 85%. However, Obama’s average open rate was 10.7% compared to the 6.4% of Romney’s.

When it is all said and done, what really matters most is whose name is put on voter ballots, but could email marketing play a big part in determining who is more fit for presidency in the next four years? Being technologically savvy and keeping up with digital trends is important, after all.  It shows intelligence and both parties had their flaws.

Only five more days until Election Day!  Who do you think will win?

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Casey Kurlander, Search marketing Specialist, BMI Elite