pen rainbow

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thursday—Halloween Special

More pix to come...

We won the costume contest at our dance studio!  Good grief!

Bacon 'N Egg

Happy Halloween 2013!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tuesday's Cupboard—Roasted Fresh Pumpkin Seeds

My favorite spice combination and real butter!

A fantastic Halloween treat!
This recipe is just right for 3 or 4 large pumpkins with lots of seeds.

Roasted Fresh Pumpkin Seeds


•  2 to 3 cups of fresh, clean pumpkin seeds

•  1 tablespoon of melted real butter to every cup of seeds

•  kosher salt

•  garlic powder

•  seasoning salt

•  chili powder &/or paprika

•  a couple of shakes from your favorite hot sauce (I use Cholula chipotle sauce, not too hot)

•  ground black pepper

Basic seasonings_kosher salt, seasoning salt, garlic powder, paprika,
black pepper & melted butter

Make It!

1.  Preheat oven to 300°F

2.  To separate the seeds from the pulp, I clean out the pumpkins and throw everything into a large bowl.  Then, I squeeze the seeds away from the pulp (without rinsing) & toss them into a medium-sized bowl filled with cold water.  Don't rinse them under the tap while you're trying to separate out the seeds.  This will make everything a lot slimier and harder to handle.  The seeds will float in the water, so I whip them around with my fingers to further loosen any remaining pulp.  

3.  Strain through a metal colander & give them a good rinse with cold water.

Beautiful clean seeds!

4.  Transfer the seeds back into a clean bowl.  Dab the seeds with paper towel to dry them as much as possible.  They don't have to be completely dry.  The butter and seasonings will stick better if the seeds are less wet.  Keep in mind that pumpkin seeds like to stick to paper towels, so be sure not to throw any away!    

5.  Add melted butter & seasonings to taste.  Transfer the seasoned seeds onto a Silpat, which will prevent burning.  If you don't have a Silpat, lightly coat a cookie sheet with olive oil or give it a spritz of butter-flavored PAM.  Spread the seeds in a single layer on the baking sheet. 

Seasoned & ready for roasting

6.  Bake for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden brown.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Sunday—Have A Pessimistic Week!

Are you a strategic optimist or a defensive pessimist?

Maple trees in our front yard_Fall 2012 _ photo by damp
"By imagining the worst-case scenario, defensive pessimists motivate themselves to prepare more and try harder."   -- Psychologist, Julie Norem—The Positive Power of Negative Thinking

Check out this great article by Wharton professor and organizational psychologist, Adam Grant.   

Click HERE to read the entire article

The Power of Negative Thinking  

1.  Don't whistle while you work!
Positive mood impairs the performance of defensive pessimists.  Pessimists work best when their expectations are so low that they are compelled to take action.  It's the opposite of looking through rose-colored glasses.  

2.  Encouragement discourages.   
Too much praise squashes the natural motivation of a defensive pessimist.  Identifying what's wrong is exactly the kind of feedback that a defensive pessimist wants and needs in order to deconstruct the problem.  Break it down, don't build it up.  

3.  Don't worry, be hapless
Distractions are often prescribed as an effective remedy to anxiety.  Take a walk, read a book, go to a movie, basically get your mind off of your troubles.  To a defensive pessimist, anxiety fuels the drive toward success.  Worrying helps motivate defensive pessimists to do their best work.

4.  Save fantasies for the silver screen
A degree of uncertainty helps a defensive pessimist rally to the cause.  "Can I do it?" is a much more powerful approach than "I will!"

Bottom line
For the defensive pessimist, negative thinking transforms anxiety into action.  The conditions that motivate a defensive pessimist toward action are often the opposite of those that motivate strategic optimists.

Success is not a matter of positive or negative thinking.  It is a matter of choosing strategies that match individual thinking styles.  The irony is that defensive pessimists and strategic optimists both want the same result.  They just have entirely different ways of approaching and solving problems.

Have a negative &/or positive week!  

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Thursday Mini-Post: Wind In My Ears

Simply joyful.  

Odin and his doggie friends go for a ride...

doggy fun

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Good For You, Good for The Home: Speedy Shirt Folding!

This really works, but you'll have to watch the video to learn how!

Tahdah!  My finished shirt

Thanx to DaveHax for this easy-to-follow video on how to fold shirts the speedy way!  I tried it, and shirts come out a little off-center when they are folded, but this can be easily corrected when you make the final fold; just fold the arm in a little more toward the center.

Try it!  You'll be glad you did.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tuesday's Cupboard—Sauerkraut & Canadian Bacon

This simple & tasty traditional German dish is fantastic in the slow cooker!

A delicious slow cooked supper for chilly Fall evenings

Use fresh sauerkraut in plastic bags (in the deli & refrigerated vegetable cases in the grocery store).  If you can't find fresh, go for the large jarred variety.  Canned sauerkraut loses its freshness and is a little stale.

Find Canadian bacon at the grocery store alongside regular bacon or look for it near the lunch meat & cheese section.

From Weight Watcher Slow Good Super Slow-Cooker Cookbook, ©2005 

Makes 8 servings

Sauerkraut & Canadian Bacon
Crock Pot


2½ pounds fresh sauerkraut

1½ pounds baby Yukon Gold or small red potatoes, chopped in half

1 pound Canadian bacon, cut into 1" pieces

1 pkg sliced Granny Smith apples (or 3 medium, cleaned & chopped)

2 tablespoons classic French Dijon mustard

1½ tsp. caraway seeds

1 tsp. dried & crumbled sage or 2 sprigs of fresh sage

½ tsp. freshly ground black pepper

Wunderbar seasonings!

Just clean, cut in half & drop them into the pot!

Make It!

I bulked up this recipe for my 7 qt. oval crock pot.  I used...

•  About 4 pounds of sauerkraut
•  1 pkg. of baby Yukon Gold (the equivalent of 4 medium-sized gold potatoes) 
•  2 pounds of Canadian bacon
•  2 pkgs. of Dole sliced red & green apples
•  3 T. of Dijon
•  3 tsp. caraway seeds
•  2 tablespoons of fresh sage
•  1 tsp. of freshly ground black pepper

Place sauerkraut, potatoes, Canadian bacon, apples, Dijon, caraway seeds, fresh sage & ground pepper into the crock pot.  Mix well.  

Cover & cook until the potatoes are fork tender, about 4 hours on high or 6-7 hours on low.

This will make the house smell heavenly!

Yummy with dark rye or light rye bread!


Monday, October 21, 2013

Monday—The Email Corner

5 great tips for getting your emails noticed!

From AsianEfficiency by Thanh Pham

In the era of email overload, here's how to get your emails read!

Rule #1:  Avoid One-Word Subject Lines
Because a lot of people use key words to search for email that is most important or most interesting to them, use key-word rich subject lines.

Subject:  Meeting (critical info is missing)

Subject:  Mandatory Planning Meeting (this says what kind of meeting it is & who should be there)

Which one is more likely to get read first?

Rule #2:  Be Specific
Give immediate specific information.  This is especially important when people are checking email from mobile devices.  Subject lines should convey the most important info in a bullet format.

Subject:  Mandatory Meeting (critical info is missing_who/what/when/where/why?)

Subject:  Mandatory Mtg_Oct25_2pm_Bob's Office (all of the basic info is there)


Subject:  Hi there!  (The real reason for the email is missing.)

Subject: Overdue Wells Fargo Notice_Oct 12 (The reason for the message is clear)


Subject:  Call Mary  (Vague message)

Subject:  Call Mary_Interested in buying your car_925 555-5555 (Information is provided for immediate follow-up)

Rule #3:  Actionable Format
If the message requires follow-up or action, start the subject line with an action word.

Subject:  New Pix (this does not tell the recipient that he/she has to download photos)

Subject:  Download New Wedding Pix

Using an action word at the beginning of the subject line makes it a "to do" email for the recipient.

Rule #4:  Use Known Key Words & Abbreviations
The art of a good email involves packing as much critical information into as few words as possible.  One way to condense the volume of words without losing meaning is to insert known key words & abbreviations.  If you are a twitter user, you already know the joy of sending powerful messages in short snippets of information.

Subject:  House News (Important info that neglects the timeliness of a response)

Subject:   URGENT—Interested Buyer_Call 415 555-5555 (Vital info is all there)


Subject:  Hello Neighbors! (Forces the recipient to read the body of the message)

Subject:  BBQ at my house this weekend_Oct 13_EOM (End of Message)  All of the info is in the subject line.


Subject:  I'm late!  (Is there more to this message?)

Subject:  Running 15 mins late_start without me NRN (No Reply Needed)

Click HERE for a handy list of common prefixes & abbreviations

Rule #5:  Standardize Regular Communications
For email communications that are regulated in terms of timing & operations, use a system that easily identifies the nature of the email.  For example...Time Cards.  Start your subject line with TC_then the date & project.

Subject:  My timecard (for what time period & for what project?)

Subject:  TC_10/12-16_client name (all of the important info is there)

Or, for personal correspondence...

Subject:  Things (A crazy-making vague message if there ever was one!)

Subject:  MU_Free Furniture_10/23/13 NRN
MU could be the abbreviation you use for "Moving Update," but this info has to be shared with the recipients beforehand.  The subject line tells what is going on and when.  NRN = No Reply Needed

If you know how to create email filters or rules, that can also save you a lot of time sorting through essential and non-essential email.  These are usually found in the mail preferences (try the pull-down menu under "Preferences" under "mail").  Check gmail for their system preferences.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Have a Collaborative Week!

How cognitive science defines creativity

Oakland Bay Bridge_photo by dsmp
Post-processed using Autopainter I_Van Gogh

The Creative Process
Preparation:  How do I do this? the first step in the creative process.  A willingness to chase down ideas.  Learning.

Incubation:  Mind-wandering away from the current task, then returning to the task.  Exploring.  Let go of standard notions.

Illumination:  Recognition of new connections.

Verification:  Critical thinking.  Craft the message to the intended audience.

Creative Collaboration
The sum of all ideas.  Your ideas are not you.  A criticism of your ideas is not a criticism of you.  The creation of something that is grander than anything you could ever produce on your own.

Letting Go of Singularity
Transforming:  Take an idea and create variations.  Innovating on top of a platform that already exists.  Giving people the freedom to combine and transform; making something that did not exist before.

Keep Pushing
Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just get to work.  --Chuck Close, Photorealistic Artist

Get inspired...How To Be Creative_Off Book_PBS Digital Studios (9:13 minutes)

Have a wonderfully creative week!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Thursday Mini-Post: CARPARK

A funny vid from Bird Box Studio


Directed by Ant Blades_audio by Tom Drew

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Wednesday—Good for You, Good for Your Fireplace

Sharing this fantastic DIY idea from Pepper Design Blog!

A great DIY for your fireplace screen!

I've been looking for a way to give my brick fireplace a facelift before it's time to start writing Christmas cards on November 1st...I think this is it!

Two years ago, I overhauled our outdated wallpapered living room and painted the walls, ceilings, and center beam in basic white.  I brought the entire room into this century by replacing dingy shutters with white textured curtains from West Elm.  The carpet came back to life after a thorough cleaning with environmentally-safe rug shampoo, and we replaced the 1980's beveled-glass chandelier over the dining room table with a fantastic white flower petal pendant lamp from Amazon.

Photos from Pepper Design Blog
The only thing left was the original brick fireplace!  Okay, white paint it is, and I'll finish it off with this neat DIY fireplace screen.  I really like the aspen disks against the black matte chalkboard painted background.  Very cool!  It looks like it stands upright on its own.  If not, use a couple of pieces of scrap wood attached to the base of the screen in back to provide support.


This screen was originally designed for a non-working fireplace, so if yours is still working, stick with a  safer wire screen.  This one is all wood and basically made of kindling!

Get out your nail gun, kids!  This is going to be fun...

Click HERE for DIY instructions   

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tuesday's Cupboard—Slow Cooker White Bean & Sausage Stew

More healthy food for dancing!

Heaven in a crock pot

I've been making a lot of crock pot recipes lately for our busy dance lesson nights when I don't have time to cook.  I doubled this recipe and served it over hot brown Basmati rice.  Yum!!

Adapted from the original Weight Watchers recipe, Slow Good Super Slow-Cooker Cookbook, ©2005

Makes 6 servings (double it for 12 servings)  

Italian White Bean & Sausage Stew

Single Recipe Ingredients — I double this

•  1 large sweet onion, chopped
•  2 (15 oz.) cans of cannellini beans (white kidney or any white bean), rinsed & drained
•  1 large fresh fennel bulb, rinsed & chopped, including fronds
•  3 garlic cloves, chopped (or 3 tsp. jarred chopped garlic in water)
•  1 large green bell pepper, seeded & chopped
•  1.25 lbs. uncooked mild Italian turkey sausage (1 package), casings removed
•  1 (14 oz.) can Italian-style diced tomatoes
•  1/2 cup dry red wine or chicken broth
•  1/4 cup of fresh crisp basil, chopped
•  Grated Parmesan cheese for sprinkling on top

Make It!

1.  Sauté the sausage, onion & garlic in a large nonstick skillet until meat is no longer pink & starting to brown

2.  Transfer sausage mixture to the crock pot.  Add the rinsed beans, chopped fennel, bell pepper, tomatoes & basil; stir to combine.

3.  Pour the wine over the top & stir to combine.  Season with 1 tablespoon of freshly ground black pepper & kosher salt to taste.  Cover & cook on high 4 to 5 hours or on low 6 to 7 hours.

4.  Serve over hot long-grain Basmati rice lightly seasoned with 2 to 3 T. of real butter (for 2-1/2 cups of rice), kosher salt & freshly ground black pepper.

Single recipe ingredients

Fresh fennel & green bell pepper

Bon Appétit!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Monday—The Texting Corner

Modern Day Snail Mail by Christina Vanko

I saw this on the wonderful blog that I follow called, Laughing Squid...

Send a handwritten note!

When designer, Christina Vanko, inherited her father's calligraphy pen, she decided to exchange handwritten calligraphy messages in place of standard text messages for a week.

By doing so, she improved her grammar, thoughtfulness, and spelling.  Her friends seemed to appreciate the extra effort and the beauty of a handwritten note.  Each message was handwritten, then converted into a photo to be sent as a text.

What a neat way to remember her dad.   :)

Pretty cool idea, huh?  It may be faster than poking around a teensie little iPhone keyboard in a vain and fruitless effort to defeat autochecker.  I seriously hate the autospellchecker monkey who lives in my iPhone.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Sunday—Have A Heroic Week

The bravest people on Earth —First in a series

Photo by Whit Welles_on Wikipedia

"I helped them out, and I fell in love with it."   ---Capt. Mack Greene, Campobello Island Whale Rescue Team

In 1995 a guy named Mac Greene started a whale watching business in the Bay of Fundy, which in case you don't know, is located off of the northeastern coast of Maine just over the US/Canada border between New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.

It has the highest tides in the world, and because of its nutrient rich waters, the bay also provides the hunting and breeding grounds for 12 different species of whale, including the North Atlantic Right Whale, one of the rarest whales in the world.  There are only 350 of them left worldwide.

Captain Greene began working with a team of marine scientists who were studying the whales, and when a fin whale became tangled in a mass of fishing gear, he helped to cut it loose.  Fin whales are the second longest animal in existence (next to the Blue Whale) reaching 80 feet and weighing up to 74 tons.  

Rescuing any wild animal that is scared, trapped, and injured is a dangerous task, regardless of its size.  But, rescuing the world's largest creatures with sharp tools from an inflatable boat in a bay where the difference between high and low tide is the height of a 4-story building takes skill, experience, courage, and teamwork. 19 years later, Mac Greene is still part of the Campobello Island team who helps rescue the Fundy Bay whales.

To all of the brave people who have helped to save a whale...You are all heroes!

Campobello Island Whale Watching Cruises on facebook

Pirate's Cove Whale & Seabird Cruises on facebook

Great Whale Conservancy on facebook

Check out this amazing footage of a humpback whale jumping for joy after being freed from fishing nets in the Sea of Cortez in Mexico

Friday, October 11, 2013

Friday—The Creative Cloud Corner: Pumpkins!

First pix done with Photoshop Creative Cloud & Lightroom5

3 pumpkins

Texture by Kim Klassen

Lightroom preset by Kim Klassen_autumncopperII

Custom orange gradient by dsmp

dreaming of a white pumpkin
Texture by Kim Klassen_BeyondBeyond

Bokeh by Jerry Jones_Shadowhouse Creations

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Thursday Mini-Post: Convos: Make The Bed

So, so good...A new episode of Convos with My 2-Year Old (Epi 2, Season 2) — Make The Bed

David Milchard as the grown man Coco, Coco as herself, and Matthew Clarke as Coco's real-life dad

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Wednesday—Good for You, Good for The Bathroom: Wall Mounted Towel Holder

I've always loved these in hotels!

Check out this neat wall rack for storing towels in your bathroom.  Shower-ready and within reach whenever you need a hand towel, bath towel or washcloth.  I like things where I can see them!

Click HERE for a link to Crate & Barrel — $55.96 on sale — $69.95 regular price

Yay for hotel towel racks!  

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Tuesday's Cupboard—Slow Cooker Caribbean Chicken

Another delicious supper for your crock pot!

Casual, delicious & easy!

Caribbean Jerk Chicken


•  2 bunches green onions, cleaned & chopped
•  2 — 7 oz. cans of diced mild chiles
•  4 T. cider vinegar
•  4 T. honey
•  2 T. olive oil
•  2 T. Caribbean jerk seasoning
•  2 tsp. kosher salt
•  2.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breasts, rinsed & patted dry, then cut into 2" chunks

Make It!

1.  Place cut-up chicken & chopped green onions in the crockpot

2.  In a large glass measuring cup, mix together chiles, cider vinegar, honey, olive oil, jerk seasoning & salt.  Pour the mixture over the chicken & green onions.  Stir to coat chicken & onions with the sauce.

3.    Cook on high for 3 to 4 hours or on low for 5 to 6 hours until the chicken is fork-tender.

4.  Serve over hot, long-grain Basmati or jasmine rice.  I cook mine in a rice steamer, then add 2 to 3 T. of real butter; season with kosher salt & freshly ground gourmet mix pepper.  

Available at Safeway

Honey & cider vinegar balance sweet & savory flavors

Use 2 cans of mild green chiles

Be sure to rinse & pat dry the chicken

A fantastic blend of Caribbean flavors!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Monday—The Free Media Corner

Look at all of this cool stuff!  

i ❤

If you like free online resources, you're going to love this website.  From free ebooks to free online courses, really is the best free cultural & educational media resource on the Interwebs.

Get smarter!  Take advantage of all 750 free online courses.  Watch 575 free movies, from Oscar winners to the mysterious Film Noir.  Learn to speak a new language.  Find intelligent video sites like Bad Astronomy and Big Think.  

And, free books!  All 51 volumes in the Harvard classics, a list of audio books as long as your arm (550 titles), and K-12 ed resources, including CK-12, the open textbooks forum for K-12 students all over the world.

This really is a great website!

Check it out & have fun exploring! 

Sunday, October 6, 2013

Sunday—Have a Fresh Week

Take charge of your food

New leaves on our white pom tree

On January 4, 2011, the president signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) into law enabling the FDA to strengthen the minimum standards for the safe growing, harvesting, packing and holding of food products on farms.  Let's take a look at the effectiveness of these changes...






Since the FSMA was signed into law...




Salmonella with a side of E. coli

I don't know about you, but I can eliminate small turtles, hedgehogs, African Dwarf frogs, water frogs in general, chicks & ducklings, frozen rodents, and whatever veggie booty is, from my diet altogether.  Sucks if you're eating at Restaurant Chain A or traveling to Germany.  And, if you work in a microbiology lab, don't put anything in your mouth.  

This is why I enjoy reading government reports.  The definitions are often so broad that weird things make it onto the lists.  African Dwarf frogs, for instance.  According to the CDC website, the definition of a foodborne outbreak is when "two or more people get the same illness from the same contaminated food or drink," and then barf and spew their butts off (I added that last part).  When it comes to frog-related outbreaks, people weren't eating frogs, they were handling them.  I have a hunch that a few of the 241 individuals who got sick were kissing these frogs.  The rest weren't washing their hands.

So, why are hedgehogs on the list?  Because 26 pet owners from 12 states were playing with their adorable pet hedgehogs, not eating them.  Kids put their hands in at least fifty disgusting things every day, so playing with a pet hedgehog is a perfectly undertandable way to contract Salmonella.

"Restaurant Chain A" is an intriguing one.  The CDC report states that it was a "Mexican-style fast food restaurant."  The map shows that the outbreaks occurred mainly in the Southern Central & Midwestern states.  90 percent of the people who got sick ate something with lettuce in it, 77 percent reported eating cheese, and 35 percent consumed tomatoes.  Ground beef was ruled out because of effective food handling and cooking methods used at the restaurant.  So, it was probably the lettuce.      

Fast-food chains aren't the only places that get hit with foodborne illnesses.  In Copenhagen last February, 63 people who dined at NOMA (arguably the best restaurant in the world) did not anticipate massive vomiting and diarrhea, despite the fact that this 2-star Michelin restaurant is known for serving delicacies made from moldy fruit and fermented sea grass.  Fine cheddars and cured meats are proof that old food can be delicious, but I am telling you right now that I will never eat something that has been mummified.

Just last month (September 2013), 162 people contracted Hepatitis A after they ate organic pomegranate seeds imported from Turkey, all purchased at Costco.  The 10 states affected were Arizona (23), California (79), Colorado (28), Hawaii (8), New Hampshire (1), New Jersey (1), New Mexico (11), Nevada (6), Utah (3), and Wisconsin (2).  Hepatitis A, btw, is transmitted through exposure to fecal matter.  I'm not sure how they managed to get crap on pomegranates in Turkey, but the CDC might want to recommend that people simply grow their own poms.     

How to Grow Your Own

Pomegranates from Tricia_GrowOrganic Peaceful Valley


Have a fresh & healthy week!