Friday, January 3, 2014

Lynn Marie Hulsman explains: How to Beat the January Blues, Sweetly

Cowboy Marvin is on holiday 

but he's invited one of the Fire Writers, 

the lovely Lynn Marie Hulsman, 

to  the blog this Friday.  

Please give her a warm welcome and enjoy her advice on

How to Beat the January Blues, Sweetly 

If you’re anything like me, once the holiday excitement wanes and the temperatures continue to drop, you struggle a bit with the January blues. Winter darkness can sap one’s energy, and it’s often hard to get back on track with sleep after a prolonged period of late-night reveling. And there are the existential questions that come with the New Year: What have I accomplished and what will I accomplish? Heavy stuff!

I find taking action can lift me out of the doldrums. Here are a few things I do to lift my spirits and keep connected:

1. Plan a vacation. Thinking about fun is the next best thing to having fun. Looking at photos of vacation destinations, discussing plans with your partner or partners in crime, and making lists of the fun activities in store brings pleasure. Daydream a little!

2. Exercise. I know, the last thing you want to do in the cold and dark is get out from under the afghan and up off the couch. I have to trick myself into doing it, but once I get my blood pumping, the world looks like a fresher place filled with new possibilities? I put my jog bra on the minute I exit the shower, then I’m one step closer to being ready for the gym.

3. Green the place up. I bought an orchid from the supermarket on a whim, recently. It’s amazing the effect it has on me when I’m sitting at the kitchen table in the half-light of the evening. It reminds me that life and growth are all around, even when everything seems dormant.

4. Learn something. Whether you take a class or simply follow the directions on a YouTube video and fix your own iPhone screen, learning will make you feel vital. Why not make your first pie crust from scratch or build a bookshelf to handle the overflow of your TBR pile?

5. Connect. It can be tempting to isolate during the chill, dreary month of January. This is the worst choice you can make when you’re feeling blue. Whether you have deep heart-to-hearts or simply share a laugh, being with a friend or two will boost your endorphins. Invite someone over for a cup of coffee and a treat, or bring a treat to share with someone house bound. I suggest my Dried Cherry and Dark Chocolate Loaf. Present it as a do-it-yourself gift to cheer the January of someone special, or bake it into a loaf and serve up sweet slices.

Dried Cherry and Dark Chocolate Loaf Mix

I love this simple-to-make loaf as both a gift and a sweet treat for the table. If making it as a hostess gift or a present, I suggest including a tag listing the dry ingredients that are included in the jar, along with the list of fresh ingredients needed to complete the recipe, and the directions for baking. If you’re crafty, the jar itself or the handwritten recipe can become keepsakes that rekindle memories for years to come. Or skip the packaging, and simply make the delicious loaf as a treat for yourself! Served with a steaming cup of coffee, this moist, decadent loaf is perfect for breakfast, or as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up.

Makes one 9 x 5-inch / 23 x 13-centimeter loaf cake

1 1/2 cups / 180 grams all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 cup / 200 grams granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 cup / 75 grams dried cherries

1/2 cup / 80 grams dark chocolate chunks (I like Ghirardelli)

1/2 cup / 75 grams chopped walnuts

To Make the Mix

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and then spoon into a canning jar. (You can use a large zip top plastic bag if you like, but you won’t get that gorgeous, layered appearance.) Tap the jar gently on the countertop to settle the flour. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger in a bowl, whisk it together lightly, and pour it over the flour in the jar. Continue the layers with the dried cherries, then the chocolate chunks, and finally the walnuts. Put the lid on the jar and decorate as desired. Store in a cool, dark place until ready to use, up to 6 months.

To Make the Bread

1/2 cup / 120 milliliters sour cream

4 tablespoons / 60 grams butter, melted

1/4 cup / 25 grams Confectioner’s sugar

2 to 3 teaspoons whole milk

Preheat oven to 350°F / 175°C and grease and flour a 9 x 5-inch / 23 x 13-centimeter loaf pan.

Pour the jar (or bag) of dry ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir well, using a wooden spoon. Using your hands, make a well in the center and crack in 2 eggs, beating lightly with a fork. Add 1/2 cup / 120 milliliters of sour cream and 4 tablespoons / 60 grams of melted butter. Stir just until incorporated; the batter will be lumpy. Transfer the batter into the prepared loaf pan and bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. Let cool slightly in the pan before turning out onto a cooling rack to cool completely. In a small bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup / 25 grams of confectioners’ sugar and 2 to 3 teaspoons of milk (adding a little at a time to reach the proper drizzling thickness) and drizzle the glaze over the top.

She is the co-author of

 The Irish Pantry with Chef Noel McMeel 
Make Your Own Soda with Chef Anton Nocito (Clarkson Potter)

And if you need a fun, festive treat to warm you up on cold winter nights, check out Lynn's wonderful debut romantic comedy!

Christmas at Thornton Hall

available on Amazon now.


At 28, Juliet Hill is finally ready to be a grown-up. Her New Year's plan of leaving behind a career as chef to the rich and famous in order and go back for her Ph. D in psychology is sure to satisfy both her ultra-logical psychiatrist mom and her buttoned-up lawyer boyfriend. She'll be on the right road to stability right after one last Christmas stint in private service at Thornton Hall, arguably one of the grandest estates in the swanky Cotswalds region of England (think The Hamptons, but with thatched roofs).

Unfortunately, true to her nature, she can't convince her brain to override her heart when sticky situations arise involving lies, paternity, a one-night stand and poison mushrooms! Is a sane and predictable life in the cards for our passionate pastry prepper? Can this creative girl toe the line, leaving her secret spice blends and unpredictable men behind? On the road to womanhood, sometimes decisions are made for us, and other times we have to cook up our own destiny. Join Juliet's journey as she straddles the line between romance and reason.

Lynn Marie Hulsman is a novelist in New York City, where she lives with her husband and two children.

Want to hear more from Lynn Marie?

Come back on Friday, Jan. 10th and enjoy her
Fire Writer Friday Follow Up with Cowboy Marvin.  

And please

Follow Lynn Marie online: Website Facebook Twitter Blog    

Thanks for sharing how to beat the blues 
Lynn Marie!

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