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Showing posts from June, 2012

The Great Taste Testing Potluck

Sunday night Jonathan and I held a Taste Testing Potluck Party in lieu of our usual 3-4 course Sunday open house dinner. All guests were asked to bring four brands of a product for double blind taste test comparisons by the group.

To facilitate the double blind study, I had each guest bring their selections in identical containers with labels for each item denoting the brand. Once at my place, I moved the labels to the bottom of each container (so that they were now hidden), and then asked another guest to move the containers (without looking at the bottoms) to the dining room table. The guest helping with this task laid out the products in a neat row across the table and then we slapped down blank post it notes in front of each item for guests to record their name and rating (rated as compared to the other items of the same variety on the table).

Products we tested and brands are shown below. Results follow under the listing.

1. Kettle style potato chips, 'Salt and Vinegar' …

Farmhouse Vegetable Soup

Adapted from Cook’s Illustrated, we found this to be a fantastic weeknight dinner. It’s affordable, works for all seasons and easily adapted to a strict vegetarian (vegan) edition. Serve with fresh bread. Ingredients1/8 ounce dried porcini mushrooms 8 sprigs fresh parsley plus 3 tablespoons chopped 4 sprigs fresh thyme 1 bay leaf 2 tablespoons unsalted butter (use olive oil for vegan adaptation) 1 medium yellow onion, diced 2 carrots, peeled and diced 2 celery ribs, diced 1/3 cup white wine 2 teaspoons soy sauceSalt and pepper 6 cups water 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (use vegetable broth for vegan adaptation) 1/2 cup pearl barley 1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces 1 1/2 cups chopped green cabbage 1 teaspoon lemon juice Instructions1. Grind porcini with spice grinder until they resemble fine meal, 10 to 30 seconds. Measure out 2 teaspoons porcini powder; reserve remainder for other use. Using kitchen …

So Much Data

In my quest to become better organized, I've tallied a master list of all the data I generate and where I log it. Upon review, it seems to be very haphazard - some things are tracked in analog systems while others are recorded in digital format. When I decide to record a new type of data I often struggle in deciding which format to store it in and also which particular product to use in the format category.

I'm REALLY interested to know what kind of data you personally record, whether your habits in recording have changed over the years, and what formats and products you use for your recording. Drop me an email in reply, comment on this blog entry on the website (http://songsofgratitude.blogspot.com), or comment on the facebook syndication.

Data Item Recorded, Format (analog/digital), Products

medical records, digital, google docs (Excel Spreadsheet)
nutrition, digital, sparkpeople.com
exercise--cardio, digital, dailymile.com
exercise--strength, analog, Eat Clean Workout Journa…

People Doing Bad, People Doing Good

Never underestimate the power of an individual to make a difference! 
You guys, get ready to cry. 
Please stop and take a moment to read this- it will brighten your day (after you cry first). 
Karen is a bus monitor in a small town in NY- whose frequent bullies (mid school boys ugh) were caught on camera tormenting her. A twenty-something aged gentleman in Canada stumbled across the video (it had been uploaded to YouTube by a student) and wanted to do something for Karen to show her how much she is loved. He created a funding campaign on one of those microfunding sites with a goal to raise $5k to send her on a nice vacation. He raised over $120k (and the campaign is still active), brought the national spotlight on Karen (who has since made an appearance on the Today show) and bullying. It's been an amazing spectacle to watch.
Read the complete story, see the video, and track the fundraising campaign

Becoming an Effective Person: Sharpen the Saw

Continuing notes from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
The final habit for effective living offered by Covey is one of renewal, or what he refers to as ‘sharpening the saw’. In essence this means taking care of ourselves from a holistic perspective:
physical health: stewardship of our body including physical fitness, nutrition, proper rest, etc.mental health: stewardship of our mind and talents including continuing education and training, reading, writing.spiritual health: stewardship of our spiritual life including prayer, meditation, worship, and study.social health: stewardship of our social relationships including civic duties, service to others, practicing habits four through six. According to Covey we should ensure that we carve out time in our weekly schedules for each of these stewardship areas alongside our Quadrant II activities.
Since my mission statement (again, here for reference) already incorporates these four areas of stewardship as subset point…

Becoming an Effective Person: The Path to Interdependence

Continuing notes from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Having put forth three habits that comprise personality responsibility and independence, Covey turns to address interdependence (cooperative action).
Building interdependent relationships:
seek to understand people, their thoughts, and their motivations so that we can empathize and know what matters to themattend to details; small kindnesses and courtesies are importantkeep commitmentsclarify expectations in relationships to avoid confusionalways strive to demonstrate personal integrity (first three habits)apologize whenever it is warranted Habits four, five, and six build on these concepts:
Habit Four: Think Win/Winseek mutually beneficial outcomes whenever possibleWin/Win or no deal strategy for collaborating with those we do not hold commitments toWin/Win or compromise strategy for collaborating with those we hold commitments to this habit takes tremendous integrity because it requires choosing the best …

Becoming an Effective Person: Put First Things First

Continuing notes from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey
Habit three of effective living can be summarized as life management.
Remember that habit one was recognizing our agency, habit two was demonstrating the leadership to chart our course and now here we are at habit three- active management on a day to day basis in line with our chartered course.
From a computer/IT perspective this is running the program we’ve written. The most important part of running our program is keeping our commitments; is adhering to the features we’ve documented in writing the program. Doing this is a show of self-discipline.
We have to master self-discipline in order to succeed in running the program as written. Integrity is having the discipline to submit our will to our principles we’ve centered our life on.
Here Covey introduces his organizational paradigm of Quadrant management. Quadrant I activities under our management are those which are urgent in nature and important (furth…

Becoming an Effective Person: Begin With the End in Mind

Continuing notes from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
Covey states that the second habit of a highly effective person is to organize life around a vision of what we value most, or in his words, to ‘begin with the end in mind’. Along these lines we should document what matters to us with a personal mission statement or statement of purpose. This is leadership; this is setting a vision of what we want to accomplish.
From an IT/computer perspective this habit is writing the program for our system.
The best programs we could write per Covey focus on solid principles (again, unchanging deep truths) and we must be careful not to center life on anything but those principles lest we make them little idols in our life. He cautions against a life that prioritizes marriage, family, money, work, possessions, pleasure, friends, enemies, church, or ourselves at the exclusion of everything else.
I went through this exercise many years ago – creating a statement of purpose- …

Becoming an Effective Person: Be Proactive

Continuing notes from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey.
According to Covey, the first habit we must cultivate for success is that of proactivity. This means abandoning the paradigm of strict determinism:
stimulus------>response
Instead we must embrace a paradigm that includes the interjection of man’s free will:
stimulus---->thought/will---->response
We are not mere robots led around by our noses; we can choose to stop and think before acting. We must take initiative to act in our circle of influence. Note that this is not simply superficial positive thinking or an attitude adjustment but addressing realities and thoughtfully choosing the best course of action.
Our circle of influence:
that which we have direct control over – our actions and characterthat which we have indirect control over – our collaborative work with others From a computer/IT perspective this habit is simply the embrace of the reality that we have a hand in programming our own syste…

Becoming an Effective Person: Overview

I’ve been reading The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey. It’s my second reading of the work - my first reading was early last year but with the stress of my father’s death I didn’t absorb any of the material. There’s a lot to review and comment on so I’ll be writing my notes in sections. According to Covey, the field of success literature began with an emphasis on building character (fidelity, integrity, humility, etc). However post WWI the field turned toward a cult of personality and most modern success literature addresses the superficial of social relations like how to get people to like you and how to build your “brand”. Covey criticizes this new paradigm and reminds us that social ethics are secondary success factors; we can only experience true success and enduring happiness if we have a foundation of underlying character. “Search your heart with all diligence for out of it flows the issues of life.” Proverbs 4:23 “What you are shouts so loudly in my ears I …

Sweet Potato Casserole

Made this for dinner tonight as a side for baked ham. Very good. Source: Cook’s IllustratedServes 5-6 Bake the casserole in an 8-inch-square baking dish for 35 to 40 minutes. IngredientsSweet Potatoes3.5 pounds sweet potatoes (3-4 medium) Streusel2.5 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened, plus additional for greasing pan 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (1 1/4 ounces) 1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (1 3/4 ounces) 1/8 teaspoon table salt1/2 cup pecans (2 ounces) Filling2.5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted 1 teaspoons table salt1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract 2 teaspoons lemon juice Granulated sugar to taste 2 large egg yolks 3/4 cups half-and-half InstructionsFOR THE STREUSEL: While potatoes are baking, butter 13 by 9-inch baking dish. Pulse flour, brown sugar, and salt in food processor until blended, about four 1-second pulses. Sprinkle butter pieces over flour mixture and pulse until crumbly mass fo…

Fried Yuca

Tonight’s experimental dinner consisted of Peruvian roast chicken and fried yuca with spicy mayo. The chicken was unremarkable, but the fried yuca was fabulous. I was very nervous preparing it for dinner as the tuber contains hydrogen cyanide and it must be prepared carefully and correctly to avoid poisoning (Yuca must be boiled to release cyanide into the cooking water). It’s been an hour since we sat down at the table and I’m not feeling any cyanide side effects so I think I did alright. Recipe below, adapted from Gourmet Magazine. Serves 2For sauce1 T feta cheese, crumbled fine 1/2 cup mayo 1/2 jalepeno, pureed in food processor 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper 1/4 teaspoon black pepper 1/4 lime1/2 tsp Penzey’s Arizona Dreaming seasoning
For yuca1 large fresh yuca (cassava) About 2 cups vegetable oil 1/4 teaspoon salt Make sauce:
Mix together sauce ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Fry yuca:
Trim ends of yuca and cut crosswise half, then peel, removing waxy brown skin and pinkish la…

Caribbean Rice and Beans

This is a favorite recipe in our house, adapted from the rice and beans dish served all over Belize. Menu suggestion: serve with Jerk chicken or stewed chicken and fried plantains.IngredientsServes: 8olive oil1 onion, chopped2 garlic cloves, crushed1 red pepper, seeded and finely choppedwhite wine (to taste)2 tbsp chopped fresh thyme2 cups uncooked long-grain rice (jasmine works well)1 can can coconut milk1 can black beans, drained and rinsed1 can white bean variety (small white, navy beans, etc), drained and rinsed salt and freshly ground black pepperfresh thyme leaves to garnishhot sauce (I prefer Marie Sharp's)Preparation methodPrep: 10 mins | Cook: 20 mins1. Cook the rice with your usual preferred method (I like cooking in microwave on 50% power for 15 minutes with a 5 minute rest after: one part rice to two parts water and a T of oil), but substitute the coconut milk (stir before emptying can btw) for part of the water. So instead of 4 cups of water for our two cups of uncook…