a parents guide to self regulation
June 17, 2024

Conquering the Second Shift: Strategies for Overwhelmed Parents

  • Health

Discovering the “right” way to parent a child is hard and utterly impossible. Everyone has their tactics and techniques, but the truth is the same: we all get overwhelmed. That is why Dr. Amber Thornton has curated the perfect tool for overwhelmed parents to help them navigate the ins and outs off parenting. You can find her book A Parent’s Guide to Self-Regulation: A Practical Framework for Breaking the Cycle of Dysregulation and Mastering Emotions for Parents and Children everywhere that books are sold!

Parents guide to self regulation

***

The final work email is sent, the laptop is shut, and a sigh escapes your lips. Relief washes over you for a fleeting moment, quickly replaced by the daunting reality – the “second shift” has begun. This period, stretching from the end of the workday until bedtime, is the unsung battleground for countless parents navigating the ever-present need to juggle dinner prep, cleaning, homework battles, and precious moments of family time. It’s no wonder so many parents feel utterly overwhelmed when that second shift bell rings.

The Burden of the Second Shift

The challenges parents face during this time are multifaceted. Often, there’s a simple lack of time. Between errands, preparing a healthy meal, packing lunches for the next day, and tackling the ever-growing mountain of laundry, precious time melts away like ice on a hot stove.

Exhaustion from a long day bleeds into the evening, making it difficult to summon the patience and energy needed for quality interactions with children.

The problem is further compounded by a lack of support. In many households, the responsibility for the second shift falls primarily on one parent, creating a sense of unfairness and resentment. The constant demands and sensory overload, from the cacophony of children’s voices to the flashing lights of screens, can quickly push even the most patient parent to the brink of overstimulation.

The Toll It Takes

The impact of a chronically overwhelming second shift extends far beyond feeling a little frazzled. It can lead to an unequal division of labor within the family, creating tension and resentment between partners. The constant feeling of juggling work and personal life can disrupt work-life balance, leading to dissatisfaction in both domains. Perhaps most importantly, the stress and exhaustion can take a significant toll on a parent’s mental and emotional well-being.

Understanding Our Triggers: Overwhelm and Overstimulation

To develop effective strategies for tackling the second shift, it’s important to understand what triggers our feelings of overwhelm and overstimulation. Imagine a cup overflowing with water that’s overwhelm. Each additional task or responsibility is another drop that spills over the rim, leaving you feeling utterly swamped. Overstimulation, on the other hand, is like sensory overload. Imagine your eyes bombarded by flashing lights, your ears assaulted by loud noises, and your mind constantly buzzing with demands – that’s overstimulation. Both situations can trigger similar responses:

  • Fatigue: Feeling drained and exhausted, both physically and mentally.
  • Difficulty Concentrating: Finding it hard to focus on tasks or conversations.
  • Irritability: Snapping at children or feeling short-tempered with family members.
  • Decision-Making Difficulties: Feeling paralyzed by the sheer number of choices and decisions that need to be made.
  • Isolation: Withdrawing from family interactions and social connections.

Conquering the Second Shift: Strategies and Tools

The good news is that you’re not powerless against the second shift. By employing a few key strategies and reframing your perspective on this time period, you can reclaim your evenings and turn them into opportunities for connection and family fun.

1. Setting Firm Boundaries Between Work and Family Life

The first step is to create a clear separation between your work life and your family life. This may require setting boundaries with your employer. Avoid checking work emails or taking calls outside of work hours, especially during dinner or family game nights. Utilize tools like “Do not disturb” modes on your phone and consider creating a dedicated “work zone” in your house that’s off-limits after work hours. This helps reinforce the mental shift and allows you to be fully present for your family when you’re at home.

2. Creating a Schedule and Routine

Having a structured schedule can help bring order to the chaos of the second shift. This doesn’t have to be a rigid itinerary, but rather a general framework that provides a sense of control.

Allocate specific time slots for activities like dinner, homework help, playtime, and relaxation. This helps manage expectations and provides a foundation for smooth transitions. Involve your children in creating the schedule, giving them a sense of ownership and making them more likely to cooperate.

3. The Power of Delegation and Collaboration

You don’t have to be a superhero who tackles everything alone. Delegation is your friend. Distribute age-appropriate chores amongst family members. Older children can help with setting the table, younger ones can sort laundry. Even young children can be taught to put away their toys or clear the dinner table. This not only lightens your load but also fosters a sense of responsibility and teamwork within the family. Collaboration goes beyond chores. Brainstorm ideas for dinner together, involve everyone in the cleanup process, and plan family game nights where everyone contributes to the fun.

4. Prioritizing Relaxation and Connection

Remember, the second shift isn’t just about crossing tasks off a to-do list. It’s also about connecting with your family and creating lasting memories.

  •  Schedule Relaxation Time: Just as you schedule time for chores and homework, schedule time for unwinding.This could be a shared family activity like reading a book together, watching a movie, or taking a walk after dinner.It could also be individual relaxation time for each family member – you might enjoy a quiet bath while your partner reads to the children or your children have designated “quiet time” with coloring books or puzzles.
  • Focus on Quality over Quantity: Don’t get caught in the trap of feeling obligated to fill every hour with structured activities. Sometimes the most meaningful moments arise organically. Building a pillow fort for a family movie night, playing a spontaneous board game, or simply snuggling on the couch with your children are moments to treasure.
  • Practice Mindfulness: The second shift is a prime time to practice mindfulness techniques as a family. Take a few deep breaths together after a busy day, or engage in short, guided meditations before bedtime. This helps everyone calm down, reduce stress, and become more present in the moment.

Embrace Imperfections and Let Go

Sometimes, the second shift throws unexpected curveballs. A spilled dinner, a homework meltdown, or a last-minute work call can quickly derail your carefully crafted schedule. Remember, you’re not aiming for perfection. Embrace the chaos, laugh it off together, and focus on creating a positive and supportive family environment. Let go of the guilt of not completing everything on your to-do list.

Communication is Key

Open communication with your partner is crucial. Discuss the division of chores and responsibilities. Talk about your expectations for the second shift and what you both need to feel supported. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, express your needs clearly. Your partner may be willing to adjust their schedule or lend a helping hand if they understand your struggles.

Seeking Additional Support

Don’t be afraid to seek additional support. Consider hiring a part-time housekeeper for some tasks, or explore childcare options to lighten the load on busy evenings. Talk to extended family or friends to see if they can offer help with dinners or childcare a couple of nights a week. Don’t be afraid to ask for help – it’s a sign of strength, not weakness.

Reframing the Second Shift

Instead of viewing the second shift as a chore-filled marathon, try to reframe it as an opportunity for connection. It’s a time to strengthen bonds with your children, create lasting memories, and build a foundation for a happy and healthy family. Remember, quality time spent with your children doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. It’s the simple, everyday moments of shared laughter, warmth, and love that truly matter.

Additional Resources

If you’re looking for further guidance on managing stress and overwhelm, consider reading my book “A Parent’s Guide to Self Regulation: A Practical Framework for Breaking the Cycles of Dysregulation and Mastering Emotions for Parents and Children.” This book provides practical strategies and techniques for managing your emotional well-being and fostering a calmer, more positive household.

This journey of conquering the second shift is an ongoing process. There will be days when you feel like a master chef and a superhero parent, and there will be evenings that leave you longing for a quiet corner to hide in. But by implementing these strategies, cultivating open communication, and prioritizing connection with your family, you can transform the second shift into a time of joy, laughter, and meaningful moments that will last a lifetime. Remember, you are not alone in this journey, and with a little planning and support, you can reclaim your evenings and build a strong, happy family unit, one second shift at a time.

Dr. Amber Thornton
Meet the Author

Dr. Amber Thornton

Dr. Amber Thornton is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and strong advocate for the mental health and well-being of parents. Dr. Amber loves writing and creating content online that will speak to the everyday struggles of ...

perenting
May 21, 2024

Navigating Parenthood: Overcoming the 5 Biggest Concerns of Dysregulated Parents

  • Book Sample

Parents guide to self regulation

When it comes to emotional regulation during parenting the topic always can be a little overwhelming. Being a parent is already hard and dealing with our own emotions plus the big emotions of our tiny humans, can make it even harder. Dr. Amber Thornton, a licensed Clinical Psychologist and strong advocate for the mental health and well-being of parents and Ulysses Press author explains in this article the biggest concerns of dysregulated parents! You can find this and more advice on self regulating emotions and becoming a better parent in her newly released book A Parent’s Guide to Self-Regulation: A Practical Framework for Breaking the Cycle of Dysregulation and Mastering Emotions for Parents and Children.

***

Parenting isn’t easy. We all experience moments of overwhelm, frustration, and self-doubt. I’ve struggled with these emotions myself – feeling overstimulated, irritable, and inadequate at times. However, through my research and personal experiences, I’ve realized that I’m not alone. Many parents out there are grappling with similar feelings, wondering if they’re doing enough for their children and questioning their own abilities.I’m not alone and neither are you. I’ve been there, too. Through my work and research with parents, I’ve discovered that there’s a way forward – a way to break free from the cycle of dysregulation and become the parent you’ve always wanted to be.

I’m thrilled to share some game-changing insights from my upcoming book, A Parent’s Guide to Self-Regulation: A Practical Framework for Breaking the Cycle of Dysregulation and Mastering Emotions for Parents and Children. Writing this book has helped me to reflect even more on my own journey as a parent and the hurdles I’ve overcome along the way.

In my book, I tackle five common concerns that many parents face when it comes to managing their emotions and their children’s. These concerns can weigh heavily on us, causing doubt and anxiety. But they don’t have to define us. With the right tools and strategies, we can transform these challenges into opportunities for growth and connection.

1. Am I inadequate as a parent?

This is a question that haunted me for a long time. I used to feel like I was failing my children because I couldn’t always keep my cool or handle difficult situations with grace. But as I’ve delved deeper into the topic of self-regulation, I’ve come to understand that every moment with my children is a learning opportunity. Even the mistakes and mishaps are chances for growth. In my book, I encourage parents to shift their perspective from feeling inadequate to recognizing the progress they’ve made and the lessons they’ve learned along the way.

Furthermore, I’ve learned that embracing imperfection is essential to fostering resilience in ourselves and our children. By acknowledging our shortcomings and openly discussing them, we create an environment where growth and self-improvement are celebrated. It’s not about being a flawless parent; it’s about showing up, learning from our experiences, and continuously striving to do better for our families.

2. Am I setting a bad example for self-regulation for my kids?

As a parent, I’ve often worried that my struggles with dysregulation would negatively impact my children’s ability to manage their emotions. But what if I’m not setting a bad example at all? What if, instead, I’m showing them that it’s okay to be human and to make mistakes? In my book, I explore the importance of modeling self-compassion and resilience for our children, even when we’re facing our own challenges.

Moreover, I’ve realized that by openly acknowledging my struggles and actively working on self-regulation, I’m teaching my children valuable lessons about resilience and growth mindset. They see that it’s normal to experience emotions and that it’s possible to bounce back from setbacks. Instead of striving for perfection, I aim to show them the power of self-awareness and the importance of seeking support when needed.

3. Am I repeating a pattern of parenting that I grew up with?

This question hits close to home for many of us. We’re often keenly aware of the ways in which our own upbringing influences our parenting style, and we may worry about perpetuating harmful patterns. But what if we’re not doomed to repeat the past? What if we can break free from those cycles and create a new, healthier dynamic with our children? In my book, I offer strategies for recognizing and challenging these patterns, paving the way for positive change.

Additionally, I’ve found that understanding the roots of my parenting behaviors has been instrumental in breaking the cycle. By examining my own upbringing and the patterns I observed, I’ve gained insight into why I react certain ways and how I can choose different approaches for my own family. It’s empowering to know that I have the power to rewrite my parenting narrative and create a more nurturing environment for my children.

4. How will I ever learn to self-regulate when times are always hard?

Parenting is tough, and life is full of challenges. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and wonder if we’ll ever be able to get a handle on our emotions. But what if every difficulty is an opportunity for growth? What if we can learn to navigate life’s ups and downs with greater resilience and self-awareness? In my book, I provide practical tools and techniques for managing stress and regulating emotions, even in the face of adversity.

Furthermore, I’ve come to see challenges as opportunities for personal growth and transformation. Instead of viewing difficult times as insurmountable obstacles, I approach them as chances to develop my self-regulation skills and strengthen my resilience. By practicing mindfulness, setting boundaries, and seeking support when needed, I’ve learned to navigate even the toughest situations with more ease and grace.

5. Will my dysregulation cause a lasting impact on the relationship with my family or their mental health?

This is perhaps the most heart-wrenching question of all. We want nothing more than to provide a loving, supportive environment for our children, and we worry that our own struggles will harm them in some way. But what if our efforts to repair and grow actually strengthen our relationships in the long run? What if our children learn resilience and empathy from witnessing our journey? In my book, I emphasize the importance of repair and accountability in maintaining healthy family dynamics, offering guidance for nurturing strong, resilient connections with our loved ones.

Moreover, I’ve found that by acknowledging my mistakes and taking responsibility for my actions, I’ve deepened my connections with my family. When I apologize and make amends, I show my children that I value our relationship and am committed to fostering trust and understanding. Through this process of repair, we not only heal any wounds caused by dysregulation but also strengthen the bonds that hold us together as a family. Through my own experiences and the stories shared by other parents, I’ve come to believe that self-regulation is not just a skill – it’s a journey of self-discovery and growth.

And while it’s not always easy, it is possible to cultivate greater emotional resilience and create a more nurturing environment for ourselves and our children. So if you’re tired of feeling overwhelmed and unsure of yourself as a parent, if you’re ready to take control of your emotions and create a more harmonious family dynamic, then this book is for you.

Join me on this journey as we explore the power of self-regulation and discover how it can revolutionize your parenting experience.

I invite you to order A Parent’s Guide to Self-Regulation: A Practical Framework for Breaking the Cycles of Dysregulation and Mastering Emotions for Parents and Children, and join me on this journey toward growth and self-discovery. Together, we can create a more nurturing and supportive environment for ourselves and our children.

Thanks for tuning in today, and I’ll catch you next time. Take care!

Dr. Amber Thornton

Learn more about Dr. Amber

Dr. Amber Thornton

May 8, 2024

Serial Killers of the 80s

  • Book Sample /
  • True Crime

serial killers of the 80sTake a deep dive into the rise and fall of some of the most notorious serial killers of the 80s, including Jeffrey Dahmer, Joseph James DeAngelo, Dennis Lynn Rader, and the Night Stalker.

Neon leg warmers, big hair, rock band T-shirts, and mix tapes — 1980s’ nostalgia at its finest. But just below that saccharine facade lurked a seedy underbelly of inconceivable human monsters like no decade before had ever seen. The Golden Age of the Serial Killer brought a sharp increase in violent crime, panic, and terror, which in turn sparked a chaotic race between serial murderers and law enforcement officers tasked with both stopping the killings and delivering justice to victims and their loved ones. The Big Book of 1980s Serial Killers is for the true crime fanatic who wants to investigate these cases and discover the ins and outs of how crimes like these are solved.

Drawing from meticulous research, contemporary journalistic accounts, and trial transcripts, this book traces the various ways in which law enforcement cracked some of the most challenging serial killer cases in history. Serial killers included:

  • Doug Clark and Carol Bundy (Sunset Strip Killers)
  • Jeffrey Dahmer
  • Joseph James DeAngelo (The Golden State Killer)
  • Larry Eyler (The Interstate Killer)
  • Lonnie David Franklin, Jr. (The Grim Sleeper)
  • Samuel Little
  • Gary Leon Ridgway (The Green River Killer)
  • Dennis Rader (The BTK Killer)
  • Richard Ramirez (The Night Stalker)
  • Tommy Lynn Sells
  • Arthur Shawcross (The Genesee River Killer)
  • Aileen Wournos

Are you ready to hunt the worst serial killers of the 80s?

* * *

Serial Killers of the 80s: Why Were There So Many?

From Jeffrey Dahmer and the Golden State Killer to Richard Ramirez and BTK, serial killers seemed to populate the 1980s like no other decade—and that statement isn’t one of those “When I was young” remarks that end with telling kids to get off your lawn.

The data, unfortunately, backs it up.

The 1980s capped the height of a three-decade surge in serial murders, which then began a steady decline through the 1990s and the first two decades of the 2000s.

Radford University psychology professor Dr. Mike Aamodt has been compiling and analyzing serial killer statistics for decades. His information shows that a staggering nearly 770 serial killers were operating throughout the United States between 1980 and 1989. More conservative estimates put the number at closer to 300; differences in the definition of a serial killer (number of murders, time frame, etc.) can result in raw number discrepancies, but a sharp increase in serial murders in the 1980s is evident using any metric.

Victimhood statistics follow a similar trajectory. The worst year for victims, according to Aamodt’s data, was 1987, when 389 people were murdered by serial killers. From there, the number of victims per year began dropping, and by 2011 serial killers claimed the lives of under 100 people in the United States annually. That number may grow if remains are found of other missing individuals and linked to serial killers, but the trend is moving in a positive direction.

Investigative advancements likely increased the number of identified serial killers in the 1980s. More sophisticated methods of evidence and data collection along with better information sharing processes allowed law enforcement to link murders to the same perpetrators, especially across jurisdictions, in ways that hadn’t been possible even a decade before.

Meanwhile, in the decade of decadence, big hair, and neon everything, a sharp overall increase in violent crime coincided with a prevailing atmosphere of panic and terror—all occurring within a unique time in American societal history.

While there are many things from the 1980s to be nostalgic about, serial killers and the circumstances that aided their proliferation are not among them.

Life in the 1980s

The 1980s saw a restitching of the country’s social fabric, and several of those moving threads placed some individuals directly in harm’s way and exponentially increased their odds of falling prey to serial killers. Many of these same phenomena also helped serial killers escape capture.

  • Sex Work
  • Cocaine Epidemic
  • Women’s Movement
  • HIV/AIDS Epidemic
  • Runaways, Hitchhiking, and Partying
  • Racial Tensions
  • People Moving Farther From Home
  • Stranger Danger and Satanic Panic

Catching 1980s Serial Killers

Taken all together, when a serial killer was on the loose these cultural factors created a tense, terrifying atmosphere that sparked a chaotic, dramatic race between killer and law enforcement, who were tasked with both stopping the killings and delivering justice to victims and their loved ones.

Who would win?

Law enforcement ultimately did prevail against many of the deadliest and most horrific serial killers of the 1980s. All of those featured in this book were eventually brought to justice, even if, in some cases such as BTK, the Grim Sleeper, and the Golden State Killer, that justice took decades, requiring advanced DNA testing and new investigative techniques such as genetic genealogy to finally enable investigators to catch up with the scant clues left behind by the murderers.

Some of those advances and techniques may be why the number of serial killers has dropped and why, as Dr. Harold Schechter, serial killer expert and professor emeritus at Queens College, told Slate in 2011, “The golden age of serial murderers is probably past.”

Drawing from meticulous research, contemporary journalistic accounts, police reports, court opinions, and other primary source materials, The Big Book of 1980s Serial Killers looks back on ten of the most challenging and fascinating serial killer cases in history, placing them in the unique historical and social context of that most peculiar decade: the 1980s.

* * *

Can’t get enough true crime? Check out The Big Book of 1980s Serial Killersbelow, as well as our other fascinating (and freaky) serial killer content.

 


Photo by Octavian Dan on Unsplash

NEW RELEASE

The Big Book of 1980s Serial Killers

Take a deep dive into the rise and fall of some of the most notorious serial killers of the ‘80s, including Jeffrey Dahmer, Joseph James DeAngelo, Dennis Lynn Rader, and the Night Stalker. Neon leg warmers, big hair, rock band T-shirts, and mix tapes — 1980s’ nostalgia at its finest. But just below that saccharine facade lurked a

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New release

Calling All Armchair Detectives

All True Crime
Mother's Day
May 7, 2024

Mother’s Day Gift Book Guide

  • Book Guide

As Mother’s Day approaches, it’s time to celebrate the remarkable women who have shaped our lives with their boundless love, wisdom, and unwavering support. How can we ever begin to thank our mothers, step-moms, grandmas, mothers-in-law, and other maternal figures? While we should celebrate them year-round, let’s give them a little bit more love this Mother’s Day. Check out some of the Ulysses Press approved book gifts perfect for any book-loving mom.

Want to make her Mother’s Day even sweeter? Make some quick and easy French-Toast, it’ll be the perfect in bed breakfast while she enjoys her new books.


For our musical moms:

The Official Britney Spears Coloring Book: This official coloring book is the ultimate way to pay tribute to the Princess of Pop and the perfect gift for any Britney fan. So hit that Britney playlist one more time, grab your pens, and get coloring!

2Fish: 2Fish is a collection of intimate poems (and a few short stories) written by Jhene Aiko from her adolescence to adulthood.


For our romance loving moms:

 

Romantasy Coloring Book: Featuring 24 illustrations inspired by all the best parts of romantasy books, this captivating collection will have you bringing mythical creatures, magical landscapes, and ethereal characters to life through color.

Build Your Own Romantic Comedy: Live the cheesy rom-com love story of your dreams with this hilarious mix-and-match adventure through adorable meet-cutes, fun montages, and grand romantic gestures. . . all leading the way to the final kiss.


For our moms that love to cook:

50 Things to Bake Before You Die: This heavenly collection of dessert recipes—gifted to us from the greatest bakers and chefs from small-town café owners to fancy restaurateurs to TV show hosts—is a call to arms, to action, to revolution! Or, at the very least, a call to turn on the oven. Because who has time for the third-best brownie recipe or so-so Nutella-stuffed chocolate chip cookies?

The I Love Trader Joe’s® Snack Boards Cookbook: Create stunning boards, creative charcuterie, and delicious spreads for every occasion with 50 recipes featuring your favorite Trader Joe’s® products.


For our crime junkie moms:

Cold Cases: Discover the fascinating true crime stories of JonBenét Ramsey, the Black Dahlia, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum theft, the Amber Alert case, the Cleveland Torso Murders, and more. A must-read for murderinos, armchair detectives, and online sleuths of all kinds!

Serial Killer Trivia: Perfect for any true crime junkie or connoisseur of macabre tales, this fact-packed book quizzes readers on their true crime knowledge and offers fascinating stories of well-known murderers as well as lesser-known, but just as nefarious, killers.

The Big Book of 1980s Serial Killers: Neon leg warmers, big hair, rock band T-shirts, and mix tapes — 1980s’ nostalgia at its finest. But just below that saccharine facade lurked a seedy underbelly of inconceivable human monsters like no decade before had ever seen.


 

Musical Loving Moms:

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Romance Loving Moms:

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Kitchen Loving Moms:

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True Crime Loving Moms:

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90s
April 23, 2024

1990s Coloring Book – Downloadable Page

  • Book Sample

1990s Coloring Book

Dude, the ’90s were totally rad, like, seriously! Why would I want to live in the 2020’s? The ’90s music was off the hook. The music scene? Killer! Grunge was in full swing, and hip-hop was blowing up the charts. And if you missed your favorite show? Bummer! No streaming back then, just good ol’ VHS tapes. And when it came to fashion, baggy jeans and flannel shirts were the bomb. Those were the days, no doubt about it.

OK maybe we can’t necessarily time travel to the 1990’s, but we can try to. Introducing our re-editioned 1990s Coloring Book. We’re giving readers a free downloadable page. Who can forget the absolute star power of these pop icons?

Share your creation on socials and tag us @ulyssespress! Happy drawing.

Catch you on the flip side, later gator!

* * * * * *

Click Here to Download!

 

 

More 90's Trends!

1990s Coloring Book

Relive the best decade ever with this most excellent coloring book featuring some of the greatest hits of the '90s, including the Spice Girls, Full House, Beanie Babies, Leonardo DiCaprio, Jerry Springer, Baywatch, and more! Calling all '90s babies! Dust off your scented markers and get ready for a blast from the past—it’s time to

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New release
ticket to ride railroad
April 11, 2024

Ticket to Ride™ – The Official Cookbook Sneak Peek: Thimbleberry or Raspberry Brownies

  • Cooking /
  • Recipes

Game night is finally here and it could not be completed without a delicious dessert to go with a fabulous fun game of Ticket to Ride™. Before you prepare what routes you will be embarking on tonight, make sure you try these mouth watering brownies that can be found in the newest and only Ticket to Ride™ – The Official Cookbook. 

Thimbleberry or Raspberry Brownies from Ticket to Ride™ – The Official Cookbook

If you’re lucky enough to have access to thimbleberries, the subtle, tart-sweet Midwestern berries similar to raspberries, try them swirled into a pan of rich, fudgy brownies. This recipe uses berries in three forms: fresh, freeze-dried, and jam—to really highlight the fruit flavor.

Makes: 8 servings | Active time: 15 minutes | Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients

1 tablespoon plus 1 cup softened unsalted butter, divided

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 cup self-rising flour

3⁄4 cup cocoa powder

1 cup dark chocolate chunks

1 cup fresh thimbleberries or raspberries (see note)

1⁄2 cup freeze-dried raspberries,crushed

1⁄4 cup raspberry jam

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 12 x 9-inch baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter.
  2. In a large bowl, beat the 1 cup butter, eggs, sugar, flour, and cocoa powder with an electric mixer or by hand until smooth.
  3. Gently fold in the chocolate chunks and fresh berries.
  4. Pour the batter into the greased pan and top with the crushed freeze-dried raspberries and dollops of jam.
  5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool completely before cutting.

Note:

Thimbleberries are very delicate so they’re rarely produced commercially. Feel free to use raspberries for an almost-as-good result.

 

——

Enjoy game night with Ticket to Ride™ – The Official Cookbook and these brownies and remember you can pre order the Official Cookbook today! 

Ticket to Ride Cookbook

Perfect for Game Night or Movie Night

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Ticket to Ride™ Hot Chicken
April 11, 2024

Ticket to Ride™ The Official Cookbook: Hot Chicken

  • Cooking

Ticket to Ride CookbookAll aboard! We’re going to our next destination.

How was Washington D.C.? Did you enjoy those delectable Half-Smoke Sausage Bites? I bet they were absolutely delicious. Now, get settled and get your Destination Tickets ready, we’re heading to Nashville! As part of our sneak peek series to the Ticket to Ride™ The Official Cookbook, we’re loading the train and heading South! So, gather your ingredients, don your chef’s hat, and get ready to turn up the heat in your kitchen as we make this Southern classic… Hot Chicken!

Brace yourself for a fiery adventure with this Nashville Hot Chicken recipe from Ticket to Ride™ The Official Cookbook!

* * * * *

Hot Chicken from— Ticket to Ride™ The Official Cookbook

Nashville’s best-known poultry is sweet, spicy, crispy, and juicy. After the chicken is fried to a perfect golden brown, it’s slathered in a coating made from leftover frying oil, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and brown sugar. This combo of sweet and spicy ingredients is sure to make things steamy as your route takes you through Tennessee.

Makes: 4 servings | Active time: 40 minutes | Total time: 2 hours 40 minutes

Ingredients:

1½ cups dill pickle juice
8 or so bone-in, skin-on chicken pieces (thighs, breasts, legs, wings)
2 cups flour
¼ cup cornstarch
3 tablespoons Creole seasoning
1½ cups buttermilk
⅓ cup Southern-style hot sauce, such as Frank’s RedHot
2 quarts neutral oil, such as peanut or vegetable
⅓ cup ground cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 tablespoon light or dark brown sugar
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon salt

Directions:

1. Pour the pickle juice into a large ziplock bag. Add the chicken pieces and let them sit in the brine in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours, or up to overnight.

2. Set out two shallow dishes. In the first, mix together the flour, cornstarch, and Creole seasoning. In the second, pour the buttermilk and hot sauce.

3. Dunk each chicken piece into the flour mixture, then the buttermilk mixture, then back in the flour mixture. Place the breaded pieces on a wire rack set on a baking sheet.

4. Pour the oil into a large pot—it should come about a third to halfway up the pot sides—and heat over high heat until the oil reaches 350°F. (To check the temperature, use a cooking thermometer dipped into the oil or clipped to the side of the pot.)

5. Use tongs to carefully place half the chicken pieces in the oil. Fry for 7 to 10 minutes, depending on the size of the pieces (small thighs will cook faster than large breasts). Repeat with the remaining chicken pieces, then turn off the heat.

6. To make the spicy oil for the chicken, transfer at least a cup of the used cooking oil into a heatproof bowl. Add the cayenne pepper, paprika, brown sugar, chili powder, garlic powder, and salt, then mix everything together. Use a brush to coat the cooked chicken pieces with the spicy oil.

More Destinations

Ticket to Ride™

All aboard! Set out on a culinary journey through North America with the first-ever official Ticket to Ride™ cookbook. Based on Alan R. Moon’s iconic board game, Ticket to Ride™: The Official Cookbook offers dining car menus inspired by your favorite destinations throughout the United States and Canada. Imagine yourself riding the rails

Learn more
New release
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March 28, 2024

Vagus Nerve Stimulation: A Beginner’s Guide

  • Health

Vagus Nerve Stimuation

Your vagus nerve is the largest and most important nerve in your body. It carries messages to and from your brain, gut, heart and other major muscles and organs. However, common issues like inflammation, stress, or physical trauma can interfere with the nerve’s ability to function. Luckily, there are tons of quick-and-easy ways to exercise the nerve, strengthening its function and restoring your body to good health. Packed with easy-to-follow exercises and activities, Activate Your Vagus Nerve will show you how to unlock the power of the vagus nerve to heal your body and get back to a state of balance, all through vagus nerve stimulation.

What is the Vagus Nerve?

The vagus nerve (VN) originates in the brainstem—essentially the trunk of the brain that senses, processes, and regulates the vast majority of the automatic functions of the body. For the most part, we do not have to consciously think about these functions to make them happen. These functions are called autonomic and are regulated by your autonomic nervous system.

  1. Beating of the heart
  2. Blinking of eyelids
  3. Breath rate and depth
  4. Constriction and dilation of blood vessels
  5. Detoxification in the liver and kidneys
  6. Digestion in the digestive tract
  7. Opening and closing sweat glands
  8. Producing saliva and tears
  9. Pupil dilation and constriction in eyes
  10. Sexual arousal

Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Inside the brainstem are various clusters of neuron cell bodies called nuclei. Here, neurons take in information from other cells throughout the body. These nuclei have different functions and are distinguished with Latin-derived names. Nuclei are like a router on a home internet network connection. Some information comes into the router through your cable connection or telephone line, the information is processed in the router, and other information is then sent out from the router to your computer, television, and any other electronics that are connected to your network.

There are two main types of neurons, and they send information in one of two directions. The first are afferent neurons, which receive information about what is taking place in and around the body. Afferent neurons take information from the body toward the brain, called afferent information. The second are called efferent neurons, which send out information with regulatory or motor effects (called efferent information) to various organs and structures throughout the body, so efferent information is carried from the brain, toward the body.

The vagus nerve is connected to four different nuclei within the brainstem. Eighty percent of the information transmitted by the VN is afferent information, meaning that the most common direction that information flows in the VN is from the organs of the body to the brain. The remaining 20 percent of the neurons in the VN have an efferent signal, from the brain to the body, leading to specific functions taking place in each cell and organ. It’s intriguing to learn that most medical students are shocked at the fact that only 20 percent of the VN’s function is efferent, as it has so many efferent effects on the organs—just imagine then the amount of information that this nerve relays back to the brain, more than four times as much as the information it relays away from it.

Like the wires of your home network connection, the bundles of neurons within your nerves send information along their length using electrical signals, which, upon reaching the end of the nerve, lead to the release of a chemical signal called a neurotransmitter. These neurotransmitters will bind to receptors on the receiving cells, leading to an effect in the cells at the end of the connection. The major neurotransmitter utilized by the VN is called acetylcholine (ACh for short), which has a major anti-inflammatory effect in the body.

Managing the inflammatory system is one of the most important functions of the VN; it is the major inflammatory control system in the body and has far-reaching effects on your personal state of health and disease. Many of the health conditions that my patients suffer from are due to high levels of inflammation in certain organs and systems, from the digestive tract to the liver and even the brain.

Inflammation is an important response within the body to keep us safe from bacterial and viral invaders, physical trauma, and other things that should optimally not enter the body. When inflammation levels are not kept in check and become chronic, the effects can be wide-ranging and lead to many different health conditions. Some common conditions correlated to high inflammation levels include:

  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • Diabetes
  • Heart and cardiovascular disease
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
  • Ulcerative colitis

 

As well as any condition that ends in the suffix –itis Most of the organs affected in these conditions are innervated (or connected) by the VN. Thus, it is not just possible but highly likely that the VN is working suboptimally and not having its anti-inflammatory effect on these organs, leading to chronic inflammation and disease.

It’s important to remember that these conditions do not occur in isolation and if one of these conditions is present, another is likely to be taking place. The same signals are sent through the vagus nerve to and from nearly each internal organ, so if inflammation levels are not controlled in one organ, the same is likely occurring in other areas.

Exercises for Vagus Nerve Stimulation

Simple Breathing Exercise to Stimulate Your Vagus Nerve

The first and most effective way to positively affect your vagus nerve is to learn to breathe correctly. Simply put, rapid, shallow, chest breathing is a sign of stress, which activates the sympathetic branch, while slow, deep, belly breathing is a sign of rest, which activates the vagus nerve.

Breath is our one window into the autonomics.
—Dr. Jared Seigler

The vast majority of us have not learned to breathe correctly. In fact, we have subconsciously trained ourselves to forget the correct mechanics of breathing. If you haven’t yet completed the paradoxical breathing pattern test on page 128, I highly recommend doing it now. Correct breathing patterns are directly linked to autonomic nervous system function and altered breathing patterns tell the body that it is under stress.

This fact is even more amplified once you realize that the average person takes approximately 23,040 breaths per day.

When we want to learn the best, most efficient, and most effective way to breathe, we must look toward leaders and examples that live amongst us. Consider some of the greatest vocal and instrumental performers of our time. If you have ever attended a concert or opera, you have likely noticed that exceptional singers and instrumentalists can sing an entire set of songs without much of a break. In songs recorded by greats such as Frank Sinatra, Aretha Franklin, and Celine Dion, the artists rarely sound as though they are out of breath or unable to hold a note because they trained their breathing patterns. Opera singers are some of the most effective breathers on the planet; they have learned to control the function of their diaphragm while holding the vibration of their vocal muscles.

Another group to consider are high-performing professional athletes. These are the best of the best—those who do not crumble under pressure. Stars like Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Cristiano Ronaldo, Tiger Woods, Wayne Gretzky, Nolan Ryan, Ken Griffey Jr., and Babe Ruth all had one thing in common—they were all able to control their stress levels by ensuring that their breath patterns stayed optimal while they were performing. To perform at such high levels, these performers trained themselves to remain calm under high-stress circumstances by using a slow, calm, and comfortable breathing pattern. You, too, can learn to create an optimal breathing pattern that can signal to your body that you are not under stress, thus allowing optimal signaling via the vagus nerve and parasympathetic nervous system.

Multiple research studies have shown that slow breathing exercises are highly effective in improving heart rate variability. One study showed that slowing your breath rate to six full breaths per minute for five minutes was effective in increasing HRV immediately. If this is individualized, the effect on HRV is even more effective. Determining the slow breath rate that is optimal and feels right for you individually will have the greatest positive effect on your HRV levels.

Here are simple steps to practice this exercise:

  1. Sit up straight without allowing your back to rest against anything.
  2. Exhale completely to remove all air from your lungs.
  3. Put your right hand on your chest and your left hand on your belly, just above your belly button.
  4. Take a deep breath in through your nose for five to seven seconds, allowing only your belly to rise (feeling only your left hand rising).
  5. Hold that breath for two to three seconds.
  6. Exhale through your mouth for six to eight seconds, allowing your belly to fall (feeling only your left hand falling).
  7. Hold your breath, without any air entering your lungs, for two to three seconds.
  8. Repeat steps 4 through 7 as many times as you feel comfortable or for a set period of time.

Take five minutes per day to practice deep belly breathing on your own and your body will thank you. For best results, perform this practice multiple times per day, especially during periods of stress. Even a single minute of concentrated focus on slow, deep breathing can have significant positive effects on your mood, stress levels, and overall health. Work to focus your attention on breathing in through your nose rather than your mouth to make this exercise even more effective when you are practicing it.

If you have already learned to practice this simple deep breathing exercise and are up for something a little more challenging and advanced, I recommend trying the Wim Hof breathing exercise. Wim Hof is a Dutch “daredevil” according to Google, however in learning his method, I now see him as a visionary. He is also known as the “Ice Man” as his training and methodology involves the use of breathing exercises and cold exposure as well as commitment to the practice.

Learn more exercises and techniques to boost vagus nerve stimulation with Activate Your Vagus Nerve.

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Activate Your Vagus Nerve

Repair your vagus nerve and experience amazing health and wellness benefits Your vagus nerve is the largest and most important nerve in your body. It carries messages to and from your brain, gut, heart and other major muscles and organs. However, common issues like inflammation, stress, or physical trauma can interfere with the nerve’s

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what are cults
March 26, 2024

What Are Cults? – Sneak Peek of Cults: A True Crime Collection

  • Book Sample

What about true crime has us all coming back for more? A new podcast? Immediately subscribed and downloaded all the episodes to listen! A new documentary? Binged it with all the lights out even though it’s creepy! A new book? Yes, I need to read it all in one go. Cults still dominate the news cycle and continue to fascinate us. But what are cults? How do you identify one and know the warning signs before you’re, well, in one?

In Cults: A True Crime Collection, Wendy Biddlecombe Asgar leads you down the dark path of what happens when true believers go too far with the shocking stories of the world’s most infamous and horrific cults. From The Order of the Solar Temple to the NXIVM cult to Charles Mansion, you will learn what led these leaders and their followers to commit such terrible crimes like mass murders and human sacrifices.

If you want to learn more, keep reading for a sneak peek of the book! And don’t forget to pick up a copy of Cults: A True Crime Collection.

Cults: A True Crime Collection


Do Cults Still Exist?

It’s hard to imagine being swept up by a charismatic cult leader to the point where you’d do anything they said and follow any order they gave, including murder or another bizarre criminal act. But everyday people have and continue to join cults, which often promote a very different message than the one they use to lure people to join.

Thousands of cults around the world are active today, and it’s estimated that between 2 and 5 million Americans have been involved in a cult at some point in their life. Certainly not all cults commit murder or force their members into mass suicide. And it’s true that only the most extreme, gruesome, and nefarious cults ever make it into the news. But many cults do share similar characteristics, such as an unwavering faith in an absolute leader and an intense devotion to an ideological cause, that lays the groundwork and possibility for criminal acts to take place.

What Are Cults?

Cults are defined as groups of people who have joined together or an ideological cause, such as religion, politics, science fiction, or self-improvement, and are under the total control of a charismatic leader to whom they are completely devoted. Cult beliefs are all-consuming, and cults usually isolate themselves, shunning the outside world to prevent conflicting viewpoints, including from the news and media, to permeate the tight-knit group. The cult leader, who can be alive or dead, is always right, has important information that only they know (such as the day the world will end or biblical secrets), and cannot be questioned by his or her followers.

You don’t look for cults; cults look for you. A common misperception is that only unintelligent and easily impressionable people can be stupid enough to be swept up by a cult. Many recruits are “normal” people who may be lonely and searching for answers.

What About Cult Leaders?

To gain followers, cult leaders need to have enough clout and persuasion to convince members to leave their old lives behind and join their cause.

On the surface, cult leaders express a goal of living in a better world—think of Jim Jones’s utopian society—but these figures are in actuality driven by a desire for money, sex, power, or a combination of those three things.

They provide a spiritual answer that their followers have been craving, and might share it, if you leave behind your family, turn over your assets to the group, and drop all shreds of individuality to become part of a collective cause.


Don’t forget to pick up your copy of Cults: A True Crime Collection! In this book, you’ll about Charles Mansion, Heaven’s Gate, Vampire Clan, Jim Jones, The People’s Temple, and more.

OUT NOW!

Cults: A True Crime Collection

Discover the truth of what happens when true believers go too far with the shocking stories of the world’s most known and horrific cults like The Order of the Solar Temple and the NXIVM Cult. Cults have been around for centuries, and many have been dubbed as satanic and murderous due to their heinous crimes. In Cults: A True Crime

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New release
ticket to ride cookbook
March 15, 2024

Ticket to Ride™ – The Official Cookbook Sneak Peek: Half-Smoke Sausage Bites

  • Book Sample /
  • Cooking
  • Recipes

Ticket to Ride Cookbook

It’s not a successful game night until you have a good group of people, a fun game, some friendly competition, and delicious food. And you can have all of that with the first-ever official Ticket to Ride™ cookbook!

Before you choose your train colors and get giddy with the Destination Tickets you’ve chosen, prepare the most mouth-watering recipes inspired by routes throughout the United States and Canada. Travel from coast to coast while enjoying New York-style pizza paired with San Francisco’s iconic mai tai. Or experience New Orleans’s shrimp po’ boy and top it off with Little Rock’s decadent possum pie.

Wherever you need to go in the game, we’ve got a recipe for you. To celebrate the release of the book, we’re giving you an exclusive look at one of the recipes. Enjoy this yummy Half-Smoke Sausage Bites recipe to serve as an appetizer for your next game night!

Washington, DC’s Half-Smoke Sausage Bites from Ticket to Ride™ – The Official Cookbook

An icon of cuisine in Washington, DC, half-smoke sausages are a regionally unique take on the hot dog. If you don’t have a Destination Ticket that routes you through DC to pick up these spicier, more coarsely ground sausages, you can also substitute any cased, smoked sausage to make these little bites. Pair with pickled onions and deli mustard, or simply grab and go.

Makes: 4 servings | Active time: 30 minutes | Total time: 1 hour

Ingredients

1 sheet frozen puff pastry

1 large onion

3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

8 ounces smoked sausages (see note)

1 egg, beaten

3 tablespoons sesame seeds or everything bagel seasoning

1/2 cup deli mustard

2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

ticket to ride cookbook

Instructions

1. Defrost the puffed pastry in the refrigerator according to the package directions, then cut into strips the length of a sausage, wide enough to roll around the sausage.

2. To pickle the onion, slice it paper-thin and add to a bowl with the vinegar and salt. Let sit for at least 45 minutes.

3. Preheat the oven to 425°. Sear the sausages in a large pan on the stovetop over medium-high heat until browned on the outside, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove and let cool.

4. Place a whole sausage on a piece of puffed pastry. Roll it up so that the pastry covers the sides of the sausage. The ends will stick out. Repeat for the remaining sausages, then place the rolls on a baking sheet and brush with the beaten egg. Sprinkle the tops with sesame seeds or everything bagel seasoning.

5. Cook in the oven until the puffed pastry is golden brown and crisp, about 12 to 15 minutes. Remove and let rest for 5 minutes.

6. Slice into ½-inch rounds and plate with the pickled onions, mustard, and—for extra heat—sprinkle with crushed red pepper flakes.

Note

Half-smokes are ubiquitous in DC; even the Washington Nationals baseball team has deemed them their “official dog.” Despite this, they are harder to find once you’ve left the city limits. It’s worth the online trip (and the shipping) to get the real thing!

Have fun playing Ticket to Ride™, and don’t forget to cook and eat your way through the Ticket to Ride™: The Official Cookbook!

COMING SOON!

Ticket to Ride™

All aboard! Set out on a culinary journey through North America with the first-ever official Ticket to Ride™ cookbook. Based on Alan R. Moon’s iconic board game, Ticket to Ride™: The Official Cookbook offers dining car menus inspired by your favorite destinations throughout the United States and Canada. Imagine yourself riding the rails

Learn more
New release
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