Monday, November 30, 2009

Daily Questions Wordle's Way

Here's what Wordle does with yesterday's post on Daily Questions:


Wordle works by generating word clouds from text you submit.

Pretty nifty!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Daily Questions

While we're in the habit of making a list of things we're thankful for for Thanksgiving, it might be a good time to lead yourself first by starting the habit of Daily Questions, a list of questions that you ask yourself every day, covering domains that are important to your well-being, success and happiness, as a way to plan, manage or evaluate the day.

I've found aspects of this idea in 3 authors' books or seminars:

  1. Marshall Goldsmith in How To Take Success to the Next Level, an American Management Association podcast, talks about the idea of taking responsibility for each day by listing out evaluative questions to ask yourself at the end of each day.  If you don't like the answers, it's your responsibility to change the answers tomorrow.  Some examples of his questions include: On a 1 to 10 scale how happy was I during this last meeting? How meaningful was this time? If I don't experience this meaning and happiness, whose fault is it? Every day, answer the questions by yourself or with an accountability partner.
  2. Tommy Newberry, author of The 4:8 Principle: The Secret to a Joy-Filled Life, talks about the idea of 1% Rituals: EMSR is an Early Morning Success Ritual, WDSR is Work Day Success Ritual and NTSR is Night Time Success Ritual. Some examples include 20 minutes of exercise in the morning, prayer time, push ups at lunch etc.
  3. In The Next Level: What Insiders Know About Success, Scott Elbin addresses the need to intentionally establish routines that help you perform at your best.  He divides these into the mental, physical, spiritual and relational domains. One example he gives is establishing a daily routine for short term and and long term planning and thinking.

I now have a list of currently 42 Daily Questions in Work, Relationships, Spiritual, Physical, Home, Husband and Creative domains that I've asked myself every day for the last 5 days. It's helping me both change habits and feel better about the things I already do by becoming more aware of them. It certainly is giving me more to be thankful for this Thanksgiving season.

Let me know if you give it a try.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

November IComLeaveWe: End

Today is the last day of the November IComLeaveWe.  While I didn't make it to all 195 participant's blogs, I thought I'd share with you 8 blogs that I discovered by participating in this event.

  1. Word Grrls - Fighting Writer's Block One Blog Post at a Time. Laura writes about writing, creativity and publishing.
  2. Presently DeMo -  You're Gonna Learn Something New Today. A 20 something blogger who learns something new every day and shares it with her readers. 
  3. Laurel Green - arts, crafts and fun. It was through Laurel that I discovered Stephen Fry's blog
  4. Dena's Recipe Exchange - what to cook when you're feeling stuck. Someone else who came to cooking later in life.
  5. Stirrup Queens -dispatches from the land of If, cities in between and beyond, on twins, books and writing, the incredibly organized sponsor of this collaborative event.
  6. Mosker - life, home ownership and cooking, has a fabulous list of practical links on the right side.
  7. On Blogging Well - hopefully self-explanatory
  8. Visual Arts Junction - I learned about Smashwords here and about publishing

Andi, at Misadventures with Andi, one of the blogs I already follow, also participated and inspired me to do the same.

Thanks for a great week!

Fait Accompli! Cinnamon Rolls

Last week in  Le Menu, I mentioned I'd be tackling Pioneer Woman's Cinnamon Rolls.  Well, here is a visual journey through that process.

First the pastry roller that my mom gave me.  It holds water inside so you can keep the dough from sticking to it.

The dough.

The rolled out dough.

The log.

The rolls in a pan.

and a few seconds movie of the final product!

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Alphabet of Thanks

Thanks to The One Minute Writer for this idea.  What am I thankful for?

A = assets, access, apples
B = blogging, books, bicycles
C = cinnamon buns, car, coffee
D = daylight
E = equality, employment, effervescence
F = feminine, favor, fruit of the spirit
G = gentleness, Google, glasses
H = hospitality, husband, horizon lines
I = ingenuity, independence
J = job!, joy
K =
L = love, Lucchese boots, Lotus Elise
M = mornings, maps even if I can't read them
N = new
O = opportunity
P = promotion, peace, patience, photography
Q = quietude
R = rest, running, reading
S = I won't state the obvious here....., snacks
T = tea time, trust
U = unselfishness
V = vindication
W = womanness, wine, websites
X = a woman's chromosome
Y = yellow
Z =

How about you?

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Cookery Upgrade

Cookery 2
Originally uploaded by thyme2003

I haven't had an oven safe casserole or dutch oven since my Pyrex one cracked while I was trying to cook The Sacred Vache, Boeuf Bourguinon. Le Creuset is beautiful but tremendously expensive. There are lots of options too to chose from: enameled, ceramic, cast iron. The lid on one I picked up yesterday was heavier than a whole box of laundry detergent.

So, when I saw this graceful oval plain old ceramic no name casserole yesterday, I decided this was good enough. I'll learn more as I go, I'm sure.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!
Originally uploaded by thyme2003

It's the day before Thanksgiving and I'm thankful for many things.

For one, as you can see from the photo, we've been having an endless fall here. It's almost December and the red leaves are still on the trees.

Often times, Christmas letters contain a good list of what people are full of thanks for. We're thankful, but to whom? The act of giving thanks presumes that there is an object.

In my case, I am thankful to the Judeo-Christian God for all the blessings of my country, family and year. Who are you thankful to?

Website Design Step 1: Registering a Domain Name

A few years ago I created and maintained a personal website for my photography and art business.  I let it go because I needed to focus on work instead for awhile.  Well, it's 5 years later and it's quite possibly time to create a new one. But, things have really changed.

  • I used CuteSiteBuilder back then but that software is no longer available and I'm 1 computer and 2 hard drives away from those old files.
  • Adobe GoLive was my next choice but now I see that's been replaced by Adobe Dreamweaver which is definitely too complicated for a quick "structure and show" project.
  • Services that used to come bundled together have  now been parted out into infinite tiny pieces.  Domain name registration, privacy registration, hosting, shopping cart, SSL etc and most are on a SaaS fee structure.
  • You used to pay one time for proprietary software offered by places like ValueWeb to build your website.  Now it's also SaaS so you have to pay every month for that privilege with no additional functionality over the old model.
I made it through buying my domain name this morning. While it doesn't really need to be a first step, I did it first anyway. I expected it to be easy (silly me) but it took me 2 hours because of these GoDaddy operations glitches:
  • Bombed out of the purchase process several times from trying to add previously deleted line items 
  • Shock and awe when pressing "Pay with PayPal" authorized up to $500 monthly purchases from PayPal for a $40 transaction covering 2 years resulting in my immediate exit and damage control in my PayPal account.
  • I was a previous customer but login can't find me and I can't find my info and any password reset would go to an e-mail address I no longer have therefore must create new customer account
  • Customer Service people won't talk to you unless you have this CallIn ID number, which I also don't have so must create new account
  • Human contact requires that you deal with a very long phone tree, so I didn't.
Whew! I'm guessing the rest will go at about the same pace. Advice about whom to host with especially appreciated at this point. I prefer something much easier than this route. I'm taking a break!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Le Menu for Week of Nov 23rd

Okay, time for the antidote to Julia Child and "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."  When you're tired of scallions, scallops and shallots, try "The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Recipes from an Accidental Country Girl" by Ree Drummond over at Pioneer Woman. Here are this week's selections from PW's cookbook:

  • Pot Roast
  • Cinnamon Rolls
  • Fried Chicken
  • Comfort Meatballs

Not a scallion, scallop, or shallot in sight.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Le Menu Report for Nov 14th week

Last week, I put forth an ambitious menu

My favorites were:
  • Caesar Salad: This version was eggless sparking a needless debate on whether it was truly a Caesar.  Very light and delicious.
  • Cucumber Dill Salad: After making one version with out boiling the vinegar and sugar and one with, it was clear that the one with was much better, more integrated, more like pickled cucumber and less like cuke with some other sweet stuff.
  • Pomme de Terre Sautées: It's my 4th time cooking this and I think I'm getting it down.
I didn't make it to: 
  • Mediterranean Tomato Salad
  • Selle D’Agneau Rôtie
  • Galette de Pomme de Terre au Fromage
I cooked these but will never do them again:
  • Poulet Poché au vin blanc: in a word, tasteless
  • Sauté de Brocoli: in a word, limp

Sunday, November 22, 2009

November IComLeaveWe

Dena over at Dena's Recipe Exchange did a great short piece on IComLeaveWe, also known as International Comment Leaving Week, and inspired me to do the same.

IComLeavWe: Join the Conversation

For one week, Nov 21 through 28th, we focus on commenting on blogs as a great way to encourage conversations, learn about some new topics, meet some new friends and find some interesting blogs/people to follow just from the comments you leave.

195 bloggers are participating this month.  (I'm number 158 on the list)

Thanks for joining in the conversation!

Food Photography

We had the good fortune of participating in a team cooked dinner with friends of ours recently. It was a bit of an Iron Chef event in that both of us were trying either new dishes or perfecting recently learned ones.  The light in most houses in the evening is too low to use my regular camera without the flash and once you add the flash, the food looks unappetizing.

I tried something new.  I used my FlipVideo Camera to shoot a very short video of the food, then used the FlipShare software to take a snapshot from the video, then used Photoshop to sharpen, enrich and warm the image. Here are the results.

Confit de Canard

The pale green in the plate provides a nice contrast to the canard legs.  The taupe table cloth is a lighter shade of the chocolate rim of the plate.

Pommes de Terre Sautee

The blue of the bowl provides a nice contrast to the creamy yellow and the brown of the potatoes.  The round shape of the bowl and the oblong shape of the potatoes provide additional contrast.

Poached Pears in Pomegranate Sauce

The piece de resistance in my mind of the meal.  The chocolate rim of the plate is a darker shade of the browns in the Lacey cookie and the pear.  The browns are also the same value (amount of darkness) as the wine sauce.

I'm quite excited now that I can do more food photography.  Doing this experiment with the Flip VideoCamera (High Def) was really worth it.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

May Light Pass Through Me

May Light Pass Through Me
Originally uploaded by thyme2003

I love light. I love it shining through things, on things, around things and I photograph that as often as possible. What's important about doing that? I got curious and started to explore starting with one of my favorite resources, the dictionary.

Translucence means permitting light to pass through but diffusing it so that persons, objects, etc., on the opposite side are not clearly visible. 

Transparent goes a step further; having the property of transmitting rays of light through its substance so that bodies situated beyond or behind can be distinctly seen.

But it isn't whether the bodies situated beyond can be seen that fascinates me so much as it is what the act of being either translucent or transparent does to the object itself. The act of transmitting light reveals the inner structure of the object and something about the nature of the source.

The Bible has some interesting things to say about that:

For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:6 (New International Version)

In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. Matthew 5:16 (New International Version)

Particularly during this Thanksgiving and Christmas season, may His light pass through me and bring Him praise.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

10 Pebble Principles for Innovation

Thomas J. Buckholtz, former CIO of GSA under former President G. H. W. Bush, PhD in Physics from Berkeley, author of 2 books, gave a talk this evening at the EMC Leadership & Innovation Speaker Series. While Buckholtz structured his talk using his recipe for stories, the title of the talk, “One Pebble Creates a Ripple,” proved a rich organizing metaphor for my resulting thoughts about innovation and about what was created there. 

10 Principles of Pebbles:
  1. Have lots of them
  2. Re-launch them often
  3. Watch the ripples to see where they go
  4. Watch other people’s pebbles….want to make a ripple? Surf it or amplify it or join it or pass it along.
  5. What entrenched relationships and processes/shorelines will this pebble unbalance/invade?
  6. What’s the pattern?  What pebble would change the game? What ripple? From where/whom?
  7. What’s the size of the pebble and the size of the tank?  Will it cause a storm in a teacup or splash in the ocean?
  8. How you throw it makes a difference.   Hard, soft, short, long.
  9. Learn from the landing for the next throw.
  10. Skipping the rock from group to group makes more ripples.
Tom J. Buckholtz, the speaker, also provided a summary of the event from his point of view.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Don Edwards San Francisco National Wildlife Refuge

Originally uploaded by thyme2003

I've visited this lovely sanctuary twice now, most recently over a lunch hour. The DESF is the first urban wildlife refuge in the US.

I have a passing familiarity with the Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge and it is definitely in a rural area. It was a great surprise to find one smack dab in the middle of the San Francisco Bay Area, 1 mile away from a busy freeway and the same distance from a mega-hi-tech South Bay center.

My timing was imperfect as they were spraying liquid manure on some of the land but the kind ranger, anticipating my distress, pointed me to a hidden floating dock some distance away. Tic tocing along the rock and dirt road in my cloth covered high heels, I discovered that he wasn't joking, there really was a dock.

Down a few steps from the levee and right on the level of the water. It was a great observation platform for all kinds of bird wildlife. I took over 75 pictures (trying to get a good one) in 30 minutes before I needed to head back to the car.

I was worried that the manure stench would cling to my clothes so I spritzed myself with some travel sized perfume that I had handy, apparently for just such an occasion.

The few witnesses to my high heeled performance were a white haired couple reading books on a bench, a few hip high school children and some incredulous minders.

It was definitely different and worth a revisit.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Le Menu for Week of Nov 14th

Here's what I hope to do this week! 

Le Menu

Week of 11/14/09
Caesar Salad (Salads: Food Writer’s Faves, p 22)
Cucumber Dill Salad (Food Writer’s Faves, p 27)
Mediterranean Tomato Salad (Food Writer’s Faves, p 32)
Poulet Poché au vin blanc (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol 2, p 253)
Selle D’Agneau Rôtie (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol 2, p 199)
Galette de Pomme de Terre au Fromage (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol 2, p 394)
Sauté de Brocoli (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol 2, p 341)
Pomme de Terre Sautées (Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol 1, p 526)

Le Menu Report: 4 Lessons Learned

This past week, I learned 4 things in the kitchen:

The Secret Ingredient: The buttered spinach recipe includes a little nutmeg which does wonders for the taste of spinach.  Totally unexpected.  

Changing Plans is OK: Really, I knew this before but this experience reinforced it. The spinache recipe was a bit like a tax form.  The first paragraph said blanch the spinach according to the recipe on the previous page.  When I turned to that, the first paragragh said wash the spinach according to the instructions on the previous page.  The only difference between blanched and buttered spinach was 4 tablespoons of butter in addition to the one already added for the second part of the blanching recipe. I considered my blanched spinach already buttered and stopped there!

Leftovers are a Savings Plan: Morroccan Lamb Tagine reheats beautifully!  It reheats best if you've skimmed off all the fat before putting it in the freezer.  All it takes is a few hours in the refrigerator to bring that stuff to the top. It's wonderful as a working girl to know you've got some good stuff in the freezer for those nights when you're just too tired to work the stove.

Knowing the Basics Enables Creativity: Sometime in the past month I've cooked Bifteck Hache a La Lyonnaise or ground beef with onions and herbs, more commonly known as a fancy hamburger. This turns out to be a great base recipe for Bifteck Hache a La Anything You Want.  This week I tried Garlic and Herbes.  Tasted pretty good! And it gave me confidence that someday I might actually be able to improvise.

Happy Cooking!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Jewels in the Desert

Around the corner from my house, someone has taken an old single story duplex, torn out the ratty yard and put in extensive drought resistant cacti complexity. I pass by every day, twice a day.

In the morning, when the sun is just right, the many twinkling jewel sized blossoms in his yard sparkle and shimmer in mid-air, vibrant despite the lack of water resources.

This garden, these jewels remind me that God promises to make a desert into a garden. It reminds me that even in lack, God can sustain me, can make me bloom and in that desolation, the bloom will be that much more noticeable.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Le Menu Report

Last week's menu was challenging! I learned 5 things from the experience:
  1. When the recipe says to put parchment paper underneath the cookie dough on the cookie sheet, the author means it and not for the reason you might expect, to keep the cookie sheet clean, but to keep the cookies from spreading across the baking sheet becoming flat disks suitable for playing frisbee with the dog.
  2. When the recipe says "short ribs" it means bone-in short ribs even though the modifier is deleted, not boneless.  4 lbs of bone-in short ribs go a short way and would have been balanced with the quantity of mushrooms, bacon and pearl onions while the same quantity of boneless go for weeks!
  3. Banana nut bread made with fresh bananas rather than the traditional slightly spoiled bananas gives the bread a much lighter, fresher banana taste.  I prefer this even though it is non-standard.
  4. Fresh raspberries are likely to spoil overnight or within 48 hours so buy the day you plan to use them or buy frozen.
  5. You need to live in a metropolitan market with a diverse population to be able to walk into a store and buy harissa paste.  I had no problem but I can imagine parts of the world where you'd need to mail order this or make from scratch.
Happy cooking!

Saturday, November 7, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

Theres No Place Like Home
Originally uploaded by thyme2003

The continuing spate of warmish weather inspired me to get a pedicure and wear these beautiful shoes on this 56 degree day.

The shine and smooth color of the patent contrasts nicely with the rough texture and uneven coloration of the cement.

These remind me of Dorothy in the movie, The Wizard of Oz. She wears sequined red pumps with a blue and white gingham dress, a mixup of high class and everyday if I ever saw one.

Plus, if you click your heels 3 times and say "There's no place like home" over and over, eventually you get to go back where you came from.

These are shoes that I wear just to celebrate the pleasure of being alive and having fun.

Friday, November 6, 2009


What to do if you can't afford the expensive players but still want to win? This book answers that question.. Moneyball shows how Billy Beane, coach of the Oakland A's, figured out a game changing way of selecting a team that resulted in more wins per dollar than many of the more well funded teams. 

Game strategy before Billy valued players with high home runs because of the assumed tie to winning games.  What Billy and his staff discovered is that this isn't the best predictor of wins.  Things like high percentage of on base was a more critical statistic.  Since current strategy didn't favor on base percentages, those players were undervalued.

What Beane discovered through analysis of reams of data is not what people think wins games but what REALLY helps win games.

Note: I am not a baseball fan at all (I can't keep the Oakland A's and the San Francisco Giants sorted out in my head) but I really enjoyed this book because this question of how to win when the decks are loaded against you is applicable in lots of places in life.  Enjoy!

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Grand Central

Grand Central
Originally uploaded by thyme2003

Last weekend we were out of town in Portland on vacation so I didn't have a chance to put together a menu plan for last week. Fortunately we could live off the fat of the land, the leftovers I had stored up in the freezer from cooking portions for 6 when we are only 2.

While in Portland, we visited the famous Grand Central Bakery in the Hawthorne and had some delightful pastries. They were just releasing their first cookbook, aptly named The Grand Central Baking Book. It had an interesting recipe for Banana Walnut Bread and Pumpkin Spice Bread. My husband offered to buy me a copy and I was sold.

The Banana Walnut bread was fresh and beautiful, much better than any box banana bread I had ever made. The Pumpkin Spice Bread was autumnal and wonderful but I still favored the transformed experience of the Banana Nut.

This week, now that we're back in the groove, here's what I'm giving a go:

Le Menu

  • Triple Chocolate Chip Cookies (The Grand Central Baking Book, 61)
  • Black Cherry & Raspberry Kuchen (The Grand Central Baking Book, 48)
  • Sautéed Chicken Chunks with Harissa and Couscous (Simple to Spectacular, 263)
  • Short Ribs Braised with Mushroom and Pearl Onions and bacon (Simple to Spectacular, 470)
  • Buttered Spinach (Julia Child, 470)
  • Endives à la Flamande (Braised Belgian Endive (Julia Child, 493) Pending new casserole
  • Pomme de Terre Sautées (Julia Child, 526)