Tuesday, November 30, 2010

I did it. I wrote a novel.

Yesterday marked the end of journey through National Novel Writing Month - a challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. And I did it. For almost two decades, I have kept a rather large box of letters. In this box is every letter I have ever received. For many years, I had pen pals from Asia or Europe. Then in 1992, I got a pen pal in New Hampshire. Her name is Mary. We wrote to each other at least once every two weeks for five years. Interestingly, it was only when email became the main medium did we lose touch. I guess not having that physical reminder to refer to and use as a reminder to write back ended our friendship. We sent Christmas cards after that, but it wasn't the same. There was just something about that physical letter.

So when I decided to NaNoWriMo, I knew that I would want to use those letters as inspiration,  The novel is the story of two high school freshman who write back and forth. I pulled out a bunch of those letters and reread them. Even though they were someone else's story, I learned a lot about myself and the person I was back then. Memories can be very deceiving. I really enjoyed writing this novel. My husband was the best cheerleader ever.

Anyway, I present you.

Write Back Soon by Angela Lusk

Click here to read it on Scribd.com or you can email me for a PDF version.

 I decided to publish it in its raw form. I basically just wrote 50,000 words and then my dear husband converted to PDF. Hope you like it!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Book Review: Sliding Into Home by Kendra Wilkinson and Priceless by Nicole Richie

This week book theme is clearly books by people who are famous for being famous. This does not make them good authors. I learned this the hard way.

Sliding Into Home

Well, I think the statement that sums up this book is the question my husband posed to me when he saw I was reading it, “Is that by that idiot on TV? What is she famous for again?” Umm, yeah.

First, I don’t think Wilkinson is an idiot. She has parlayed her biggest assets into a fairly successful career and that does take a good head on a girl’s shoulders. Her time on reality TV also portrays her as a very kind girl with a good heart. Second, she is famous for being Hugh Hefner’s girlfriend and starring on the reality TV shows, “Girls Next Door” and “Kendra.”

However, that does not mean Sliding Into Home is a good book. It’s clear that the ghost writer tried his best, but it just wasn’t enough. The book is basically just the timeline of Wilkinson’s life. Missing from the book is any type of emotion or analysis of what happened to her. It was unfortunate that I read this book right after Diablo Cody’s Candy Girl because it made this omission all the more glaring. Wilkinson relates her time stripping as being crazy profitable and filled with sisterhood and rainbows and unicorns. I really have a hard time believing that. She recounts her time as a drug addict the same way. She could stop at any time, it’s just that she didn’t want to. Drugs magically appeared for free most of the time to maintain her habit. The violence and dirtiness that usually accompanies drug addict stories was suspiciously missing. And then she was able to just quit – again, magically avoiding withdrawal.

I’d give this book a pass unless you were a huge fan of the Girls Next Door. The strongest chapters of the book are where she provides the behind-the-scenes scoop on what was really going on at the Mansion during her time there. Otherwise – leave it on the shelf.

Priceless: A Novel

Priceless: A Novel by Nicole Richie is as good as you'd expect. I had high hopes for this book because I have really enjoyed Lauren Conrad's series of young adult fiction novels. Conrad's use of behind-the-scenes knowledge really elevates the book. In Priceless, Richie is just not bold enough. She has an okay plot and her writing style is adequate. She just doesn't take the risk and really delve into what it means to be privileged due to no doing of your own and the crossroads that many spoiled rich kids reach when they have to decide who they are going to be. She skirts around the edges of that discussion entirely. If she had really dove in, this piece of fiction would have actually been pretty good.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Ask Angie: Preparing for Thanksgiving

As you prepare for the holiday season, I wanted to share a couple questions I have gotten over the last weeks:

How to handle sports watching?
At most Thanksgiving feasts, there will a contingency of people who want to watch sports and others who just want to enjoy time with the family. I suggest utilizing the closed captioning option on your television as much as possible. This way the sports fans can check the scores and enjoy the games, but the rest of the family does not have to deal with the blaring sounds of crunching bones and idiotic commentary. Commentary such as, “If they want to win, they are going to need to score.” DUH!

What to bring?
If you have not been assigned a dish or beverage to bring, may I suggest a few different ways you could go:

  • A basket of breakfast foods that don’t need refrigeration such as pancake mix, syrup, bagels and jams. It’s one of the things that many people forget to plan for – especially if they have guests.
  • A basket of foods to help utilize the leftovers: pizza dough, sauce, cheese, a nice loaf of sandwich bread and fancy mustards.
  • Desserts are always welcome

  •  One of those super soft throws from Brookstone
  •  A nice bottle of wine
  •  Fancy dish towels or soap and lotions
  •  Fancy chocolates

Most of all, just enjoy the day. Let all the petty issues and worries roll off you and just enjoy the time with your family and friends. Use the opportunity to ask your older relatives about their history - you'll get some great stories about their high school years, how they fell in love and their first job. And, of course, take a few moments to be grateful. Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Book Review: Delivering Happiness by Tony Hseih

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose

Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose by Tony Hsieh is a great inspiring book. It is part biography, part employee handbook and part company history. Tony Hsieh is the CEO of zappos.com. As a frequent online shopper, I am well acquainted with Zappos and their free shipping and 365 day return policy.

In the book, Hsieh details how he has followed his passion and created Zappos. It is an incredible story. For me, it was very inspiring to read how he made it through the tough times – going from a $20 million buyout to having to sell everything he owned to make Zappos’ payroll. He highlights the core values of Zappos and the huge gains that can be made by being honest, have a singular goal, and creating a fantastic work culture. He realized early on in Zappos development that the niche for Zappos was to be the best at customer service. He then weighed all of the major decisions that followed on that key principle. Later that principle has evolved into the tag line of Delivering Happiness. He challenges all his readers to evaluate how they are measuring up to Zappos core values.

Hsieh’s writing is straight-forward and sometimes even funny. He also includes vignettes from other members’ of the Zappos team. I highly recommend this book.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Brewing Report Great Divide Hibernation Ale and Abita Pecan Harvest Ale

Great Divide Hiberation Ale
It’s easy to see why this English Style Old Ale has medalled at the Great American Beer Festival. It has a rich malt flavor that is complimented with a nice hops finish. The ale is so balanced that the complex hops flavor is offset by the sweet malt in such a way that makes the beer very drinkable. Well done, Great Divide, well done.

Abita Pecan Harvest Ale

This ale is made with Louisiana Pecans. It’s has a good flavor and the pecans add a nice nutty finish to the ale. It has that signature Abita taste that is a good balance of hops.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Are you Watching? Downsized

If you are – please stop. This is a terrible show. And for me to say a reality show is terrible, well, that takes a lot. Let’s remember, I even liked Rock of Love. Downsized is a terrible show. It is supposed to be a reality TV show about how a couple with seven kids who lose everything when the construction industry dries out in Arizona tightens up their budgets and adjusts to life outside the mansion. The lose everything part is right; the tightening and adjusting - not so much.

 They have lost their house, declared bankruptcy and moved into a much smaller 3,000 square foot rental house. Yep, I said 3,000 square feet. The husband is basically not working and the wife is a teacher. The thing that drives me crazy is that the show is edited so that we supposed to feel sorry for this family – crying interviews with the parents and children, a shocking health revelation, and the touching scene where the boy sells his favorite baseball mitt so they can make rent.

However, the reality of the situation makes it a little difficult. The editors can’t exclude that every kid has a cell phone, the ten year old takes $145 a month cheerleading classes, the kids browse the internet, play on the Wii or the ping pong table, coupons are just too hard to use, and the mom can’t be bothered to keep track how much is left on the Food Stamps card. If I sound judgmental – it is because I am judging. These people are clueless. In the latest episode, the wife loses it because their straight-talking financial advisor tells her she has to lose her Starbucks addiction. They could not make rent because they were $300 short and she is defending her $5 a day coffee habit. Use math much?

Maybe the show will get better now that a financial advisor has entered the picture, but I am doubtful and I don’t plan on sticking around to find out. The idea of the show is interesting. I just wish they had picked a family that was committed to actually living with their means. I think that is what would make good television. Watching the debate about keeping cable and internet access or the 10 year old’s cheerleading.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Cooking for Isaiah

So I had plans. Big huge plans. I was going to cook a recipe from this cookbook and then post pictures of what I created next to the pictures from the book and it was going to be lovely and inspiring and you were going to buy the cookbook and make recipes too and then we would all be happy.

Then I substituted brown rice for arborio rice and my dreams were shattered. This is NOT, I repeat, NOT  a good substitution because brown rice isn't as starchy. This creates irreparable damage if you are trying to make risotto cakes, which I was. So instead we got a very flavorful bowl of brown rice. Oops.

BUT - that doesn't mean this cookbook isn't fantastic, because it is. It is the 100% best gluten free cookbooks I have ever seen. And it is now one of my top ten favorite cookbooks. I present you:

Cooking for Isaiah: Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Recipes for Easy Delicious Meals
Cooking for Isaiah: Gluten-Free & Dairy-Free Recipes for Easy Delicious Meals by Silvana Nardone

The recipes are approachable, but not something you would think of yourself. She offers easy substitutions for gluten free flour or pancake mix and covers all parts of the meal. She also has pictures. I love pictures. They inspire, but also let you know if you are on the right track.

 This is a must buy, people. Give it to anyone you know with a gluten or dairy allergy or a commitment to good food. Just don't substitute brown rice for arborio rice. That is a BAD idea.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Hot Topic: The Carnival Splendor

I have had it with the media coverage of the Carnival Splendor. In case you don’t know, last week the Carnival Splendor cruise ship had a fire in the Engine room. The ship was disabled – no electricity and no working toilets for several hours – and had to be towed back to San Diego. From all the passenger accounts, this very serious situation was handled professionally. The cruise line is going beyond the call of duty to make the passengers whole – reimbursing for the cruise, offering another free cruise, waiving all charges and getting people home the fastest way possible. More importantly, every single person arrived safely back in San Diego. The media is trying to spin this as the “Cruise from Hell”. I cringed listening to reporters try to goad passengers into saying bad things about the cruise line or their experience. To their credit, many of the passengers spoke about what an outstanding job the crew, the Captain, and the cruise line did. Sure, they complained about the food, but that was about it.
The news could have been filled with heartwarming stories about how everyone pulled together. The message board are filled with such andetotes – human chains carrying food between decks, passengers carrying disabled passengers from deck to deck and opening up their cabins to those without windows or working toilets. Instead, we see one reporter after another trying to manipulate the truth to build the “cruise from hell” story.

Not too long ago, we had another story of a captain who relied on his training, made good decisions and safely ferried passengers through a serious situation. They called it the “Miracle on the Hudson”, not the “Flight from Hell.” I believe that the crew of this ship deserves the accolades and it’s a shame that CNN and other news outlets missed that important part of the story.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ask Angie: Can’t people just say thank you?

Dear Ask Angie :
I hate the holiday season! I am not a Grinch or anything – it’s just that I really enjoy buying people gifts or doing special things for them and people make such a big deal about it. They say things like “You shouldn’t have. It’s too much.. I’ll pay. We should split it. I couldn’t take that from you.” It is SO annoying! Why can’t people just say thank you?

I agree with you! I find this habit incredibly annoying! During the holiday season, we hear so much about how what we give is a blessing to other people and we should give, give, give. I believe being a gracious receiver bestows just a great of a blessing as giving. I mean who is going to do all the receiving from all this giving if everyone refuses to take help, a gift and a free lunch every now and then. People should just say thank you – and mean it. It is rude to deny people the opportunity to do nice things for you. I’ll say it again: IT IS RUDE!!!

If I want to buy you lunch – let me. I am not keeping a score card and neither should you.

If I see a bracelet that reminds me of you, let me give it to you damnit without some ten minute speech about how I shouldn’t have and you don’t have anything for me, blah!blah! blah. Just smile, say you love it and thank you very much.

How someone receives a blessing is a real statement to their character.

Think about the last gift you received or the last time someone tried to do something nice for you.

How did you react?

Were you gracious?

Did you allow it to be a blessing to person giving the blessing?

Or were you a jackass, mucking up what could have been a beautiful by arguing about it?

Let’s try a little less jackass and a little more gracious this holiday season. Okay? Thanks!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Book Review: Candy Girl by Diablo Cody

Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper

I took a break from business books to finally get around to reading Diablo Cody’s book: Candy Girl: A Year in the Life of an Unlikely Stripper. I really love the scripts for Juno and United States of Tara so I was looking forward to this book. I was not disappointed.

The book details the year that Cody entered the world of stripping, exotic dancing, entertaining, whatever it is you want to call it. Her perspective is very unique. She loved stripping, craved it. The book details her time at several strip clubs in the great Minneapolis area. The parts I found most interesting were how she details the economics of the job and how hard girls had to hustle to meet quotas so that they didn’t owe the management money at the end of the night. It’s interesting that the work she found most degrading was trying to get men to buy a drink coupon or a t-shirt. I generally like her writing style. Sometimes the pace gets stymied by a lengthy description, but overall it’s a fast read. I especially liked that she wasn’t trying to impart a moral or teach a lesson. She set out to tell the story of her year as a stripper and she did that well.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Brewing Report: Magic Hat Winter Seasonals

Odd Notions – Winter ‘10: We were a little timid to try this one since our experience with the Odd Notions Fall 10 was terrible. This ale was the exact opposite. Where the Odd Notions Fall 10 was overwhelming with strong flavors, this beer was much lighter. It has a caramel color with a good head. Based on the color, you would expect a heavier malty taste, but instead the brew is very light with a mild malt and flowerily background with a slight taste of hops. The lightness is deceiving because it has a 6% alcohol content. The flower notes come from the hibiscus with is brewed into the beer. It definitely doesn’t taste like a traditional heavy winter beer. It has a high drinkability, but not a “must-try”. The Magic Hat brewery describes it as a red ale with subtle spice and a slight zing from rye and Hibiscus petals. We definitely didn’t pick up the spice and zing, but that may be more a comment on our palates than the brewery’s description.

Howl Winter Seasonal – It is a black ale that hits all the right notes – smooth, full of the roasted malt and slight coffee flavors and avoids the bitter notes that often plague a black ale. It is a great complement to winter and the heavy comfort foods that go with it. This is a must try.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Are You Watching? Survivor

I have been very intrigued by this season of Survivor. The season started with the “Older” tribe versus the “Young” tribe. Then they switched things up and now they have merged. The interpersonal dynamics have not been all that interesting and the game play hasn’t been particulary noteworthy. It’s hard to follow two seasons with the ultimate game player: Russell. The challenges have also been a lack luster. I am wondering if the producers made the challenges less physical so more of the “older” tribe would last longer if Nicaragua just didn’t have any much land available to lay out the large obstacle courses. The tribal councils have rescued this show. It’s been amazing to see people just mouth off. They can’t control themselves at all. It seems like whatever game play they had goes out the window when they see Jeff. It’s always fun to watch who is going to keep their cool and who is going to just lose it. That’s definitely what keeps me coming back each week.

Are you watching? What do you think?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Recipe: Savory Swiss Chard Muffins

These muffins are great use of CSA greens. They are savory and make a great complement to a bowl of soup on a good day. I found them at the Pioneer Woman's Tasty Kitchen website.  


3 cups Swiss Chard Green Leafs or Kale thinly sliced

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

1 teaspoon Salt

½ teaspoons Curry Powder

1 cup Sour Cream (heaping Cup)

3 whole Large Eggs

1 cup Grated Cheddar Cheese (heaping)

½ cups Bread Crumbs

½ teaspoons Baking Powder

Preparation Instructions

1. In a glass bowl (or any other microwave safe dish), combine Swiss chard, olive oil, salt and curry. Microwave for 2 minutes, until the greens wilt a bit and smell nice. Drain excess liquid.

2. In a different bowl, combine sour cream, eggs, cheese, bread crumbs and baking powder. Mix well and add the cooked greens. Mix well.

3. Divide mixture between 9 (preferably silicone) muffin pan cups or individual baking cups (oil well or line with paper cups if you are not using silicone) and bake in a 350F (about 180 Celsius) for 35 minutes.

Serve at room temperature or cold from the fridge. These should come out moist and juicy, so don’t overcook them. Next time, I plan to get myself a mini muffin pan and make miniature appetizers.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Hot Topic: The new NFL rules

In Sunday’s Indianapolis Colts game, Austin Collie took a hard hit that left him unconscious on the field. The referees took a lot of criticism for penalizing the defense by calling the hit unnecessary roughness and giving a fifteen yard penalty. I think the ref was right to throw the flag. He saw helmet to helmet contact and a player lying unconscious on the field. The penalty was excessive for what the hit was, but without instant replay, I don’t see how the refs could have known that. This call ignited a lot of conversation because sports fan are worried that the NFL’s recent crackdown on concussions and helmet to helmet hits is going to take away from the sport. Somehow, if the defense line can crunched the head of an offense receiver, the sport will be lost.
I support the NFL’s increased attention on the risks associated with head injuries. I think they have been ignored for far too long and players have been encouraged to return too quickly from serious head injuries. I think the NFL is really missing the boat by holding only the players responsible after reviewing instant replays a week later. If the NFL was serious about head injuries, it would institute a minimum two week waiting rule for any player that sustained a head injury and all players would be evaluated by a NFL physician or physician panel in addition to the team doctor. The NFL would also begin researching alternative helmets, collars and padding that would further protect the players. A huge part of football is tackling. Any tackle, not just helmet-on-helmet could result in a serious head injury.

I understand that the men who chose to play this game understand the risks, or at least I hope they do, but if technology exists that can make the game more safe – the NFL should use it.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Ask Angie: Planning a trip with friend

How do you plan a vacation with a friend so you don't end up hating each other after?

This is a great question because I cannot tell you the number of times I have had friends come home from a trip and vow to never, ever travel with their latest travel mate again. So I have developed this check list of questions to help guide your discussions regarding your travel.

You have to know yourself and your expectations. What are you trying to get out of this trip? Days spent with an umbrella drink on the beach or hikes that last for hours and end in a muddy puddle? Waking up early each morning to double check your detailed itinerary or playing it by ear? BE HONEST! No one is as laid back as they think they are.

Think about your friend – How is she with logistics? Always late, annoyingly early? Good with directions? Never asks directions? Likes to have a plan or makes things up last minute? These traits will not change on vacation.

Getting it all out on the table. The most important to thing to remember when you have any conversations regarding planning the trip is that you have to be 100% honest and not just say what you think the other person wants to hear. You can be great friends that never ever travel together. It’s okay. The consequences of not being honest could ruin your trip and potentially your friendship. Once you both commit to being honest, here’s a couple questions to review together:

1. What type of vacation are you thinking about? Adventure? Beach? Ski? All-inclusive? Road trip Cruise?

2. How much do you want to spend for flights/hotels/cars?

3. How much do you want to spend daily? Fancy restaurants v. Street food?

4. How much time do you have to research and plan the trip?

5. Is it important to you that we do most of the activities together? Should the activities be planned in advance?

6. How will we make decisions on the trip ie. Where to go to dinner? (Careful here. The “I don’t care where we go gets really old really fast.)

7. What would make this vacation great?

8. Do you like having a detailed itinerary or going with the flow?

9. Is there anything you are concerned about regarding this vacation?

I recommend separately writing down the answers and then comparing. This ensures all the people involved really think about things, are honest about what each person wants, and one person doesn’t sway the whole group.

If you don’t think you need to have this conversation or you don’t want, I would say minimally you should assign a person to be in charge for each day so you don’t have to spend an hour and a half discussing where to go to dinner because everyone is saying, “I don’t care” and each person should identify one thing they really want to do during the course of the vacation.

Do you have any good trip stories? What tips do you have for planning a trip with friends?

Monday, November 8, 2010

Book Review: Good Boss/Bad Boss and the No Asshole Rule

I have been on a business-related book reading bender lately. Don’t worry I’ll get back to fun fiction in the next couple weeks. I was really looking forward to the Good Boss/Bad Boss and the No Asshole Rule books by Robert Sutton. I was pretty disappointed.

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't

The No Asshole Rule: Building a Civilized Workplace and Surviving One That Isn't is basically just chapter after chapter of why not to hire assholes. Yeah, kinda figured that out myself. I would have appreciated more guidance on how to change the culture at your worksite so that isn’t tolerated beyond just citing the studies and case studies of where it has been implemented. I find it incredibly difficult to move from a culture of “At least he/she turns in the work on time” to “we won’t tolerate any behavior that negatively impacts our business or our employees.” The reasons for why this shift is important are clearly laid out in the book, but I am missing how to get from point A to point B.

Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best... and Learn from the Worst

Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best... and Learn from the Worst by Robert Sutton is better. The book devotes its chapters to the qualities of a good boss: good listener, asks questions, listens to employees, confident, decision-maker, etc. This book would be very helpful for someone who has not found a good mentor or example of “good boss” within his/her organization. It provides a good amount of material to help you reflect on your own leadership style and the case studies illustrate the points very well. Again, the person reading would have to be open to changing it up or evaluating their performance. I could see it being used as a tool by a supervisor to help a manager evaluate their own performance.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Brewing Report: Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale

Kentucky Bourbon Barrel Ale by Alltech Lexington Brewing and Distilling Company is the reason people go to Craft Beer Festivals. It won the 2007 Silver Medal at the Great American Beer Festival in the Barrel and Wood-Aged Category.

This beer is insanely good. It is smooth and robust, more suited to sipping than chugging. It is aged in bourbon barrels – hence the name – so it takes on a whiskey flavor on a beer backdrop. It was the best beer we had at that Savannah Craft Beer Festival. We were devastated to find out it is only available in Kentucky and Ohio.

So, if you find yourself in KY or OH – you must check this out. That’s an order!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Those typing fingers are flying!

So I am writing a novel.

And I am going to do it in a month.

I have signed up for NaNoWriMo aka National Novel Writing Month. http://www.nanowrimo.org/

The challenge is to write a 175 page novel in one month with no regard to quality. Yep, that’s right – basically write a crappy novel in one month.

The freedom to just write and not edit is very encouraging.

As you can see from the widget on the side, I got a few words working. You’ll be able to track my progress as the weeks go on.

My story is a the story of a girl's freshman year in high school– there just can’t be too many! . The chapters are framed by letters to a pen pal. I want to explore the idea of how our perception of reality and actually reality don’t exactly line up. The pen pal letters contain the silliness of a freshman girl - the "I kina like this boy, but I also like this boy." While the narrative just reports the facts.

I find the Just Do It attitude very freeing and I have amassed a group of writing buddies online to help with motivation and encouragement.

We’ll see how it goes!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Are you Watching? The Good Wife

The Good Wife: The First Season - Special 7-Disc DVD Edition (Includes Limited Edition Bonus Disc)

Season Two of The Good Wife is telling the sophomore slump to SUCK IT!

Disclaimer: I am a sucker for these law/crime shows. There is just something so satisfying seeing the crimes solved in an hour while the back story continues to develop. And the back story on The Good Wife is just so darn good.

The main character is a woman who stands by her cheating, potentially law breaking husband who is running for re-election. Yet, it’s not that simple. She is also a very talented lawyer in her own right who constantly struggles with the decision to stay with him. We see how the media’s coverage of the scandal and the campaign impact their family. We see how the dirty wheels of political campaigning work – a sanitized version, of course. And, we see her struggle with doing the right thing – both in how to deal with her feelings toward a co-worker and in the cases she takes on week to week.

I always worry about shows that set up sexual tension between two characters. I worry that the writers will cave to the desire to resolve that tension. Here, they are keeping it going. The gimmick they used to keep it going was a little annoying. A conveniently deleted voicemail message was a little to 90 minute Rom-Com for me. But all is forgiven.

Overall, I am loving this season. They take on contemporary topics – this week a Nobel Peace Prize nominee is accused of groping a masseuse in a thoughtful, even handed manner.

If you are not watching – you should be.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Hey Good Lookin'! Whatcha Got Cookin'? Hamburger Buns

I was shocked at how easy these hamburger buns were to make. Now I make them at least every 2 weeks.

Hamburger Buns

1 cup milk

1/2 cup water

1/4 cup unsalted butter

4 1/2 cups flour
1 package instant yeast

1 tablespoons honey

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1 egg, room temperature

1/2 tsp onion powder (optional)

Heat the milk, water, honey and butter until butter is melted. I usually put it in the microwave for 1 minute. The butter continues to melt. Once it is cool to 120F, you can carefully beat in the egg. Then let it cool some more.

Mix 2 cups of the flour , the yeast, salt and onion powder (optional) Mix into the milk mixture. Stir in the rest of the flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Beat well after each addition.

When the dough pulls together, (it will form a soft ball) turn it out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. This should take about 5 minutes.

Divide dough into 8 equal pieces if you want large hamburger sized buns. More if you want smaller buns.

Shape into smooth balls, flatten slightly, and place on a silpat covered baking sheet.Let rise for 30 to 35 minutes.

When buns have almost doubled bake at 400 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes.
You can brush the tops with egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds, sesame seeds, coarse sea salt, or whatever you like.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Hot Topic: Media Coverage of the thwarted Yemen attack

I am very upset with the recent headlines emphasizing how our law enforcement and anti-terrorism “barely” prevented the bomb attacks that originated in Yemen. Below is a copy of an email I sent to the editors of the St. Petersburg Times in response to a front page article entitled: “Bomb disaster barely averted.”

Dear Mr. Brown,

I am all fired up about a front page story “Bomb disaster barely averted.” I understand from the lack of byline that you all just pieced together the AP and wire coverage. I feel this coverage was an irresponsible way to represent the heroic acts that prevented loss of life from a terroristic attack.

You are a journalist. How in the world do you know if it was “barely”? What does “barely” mean anyway? Should they have caught them in Yemen – the country that is fake cooperating with us? Should they have hired psychics to tell them who the bombers were going to be and then imprisoned them so you could report that they clearly prevented a terrorist act? Give me a break. Yes, the bombs flew on planes before they were intercepted. That could have been your headline, in fact. “Bombs flew twice before detection.” But instead you try to sensationalize the facts and make it seem like it was luck. The truth is that THEY STOPPED THE ATTACK!

This country is under threat daily from sources and plots that we, as civilians, cannot imagine. When something goes wrong, it is an abysmal, catastrophic failure that only reinforces our leadership is inadequate. Yet, when something goes right, when loss of lives is prevented – you can’t even give them credit for that. You degrade their efforts by saying “just barely” or “they got these but there could be more.” It’s disgusting. I understand that this operation was not perfect and I am not recommending a parade, but I would appreciate some even-handedness.

I admire the St Pete Times for its journalistic integrity. I continue to subscribe because your investigative pieces are top notch. I just wish you had used some of those talents in the telling of this story instead of relying on the insulting characterizations of the AP.

Thank you.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Ask Angie: When to Confront and When to Accept: Part 2

Last week, I raised the question: When do you confront and when do you accept? The response I got was very interesting. Most people said that it really depends on the situation. I mostly agree. I do feel that many people get this all confused and end up at an extreme – either holding their loved ones to unrealistic expectations and then getting pissed when they don’t meet them or imitating a welcome mat and becoming resentful.

Today I am going to focus on the difference between setting an unrealistic expectation and communicating what you need. I call it the “change your stripes” test. There is a huge difference between asking someone to fundamentally change who they are and just letting someone know what it is you need in this moment. I find a couple examples to be helpful:

1. Expecting me to go on a 14 hour hiking excursion that necessitates using an ice axe because you love it is an unrealistic expectation. If you have met me, you know that the only thing I am doing with an ice axe is carving a vodka luge. Asking me to join you on a short hike more suited to my abilities or discussing the option of taking a hiking trip without me is communicating what you need.

2. Expecting you to magically know that I have had a bad day and need you to greet me at the door with a hug, a glass of wine and a hot bath waiting is bat sh*t crazy. Sending you a text or email with that information several hours before I head home is communicating what I need.

3. Expecting the friend who has been late to every single event you have ever attended with her to be on time for something because she “knows” how important it is to you is asking to attend a closing ceremony for that friendship. Lying to that friend about what time she needs to be there or kidnapping her so she is with you and cannot possible be late is just plain old smart.

Do these make sense?

When we enter into a relationship with someone – it is an as-is contract. There are no promises or warranties that those personality traits that don’t make your top ten are going to disappear because that person is now in a relationship with you. And let’s be honest, that person is putting up with some smelly business to be friends with you as well.

How many of you have heard the phrases:

• “How was I supposed to know?”

• “I thought that’s what you wanted!”

• “I’m not a mind reader.”

• “You should know what I need”

• “Well, he should KNOW!”

• “Why do you insist on leaving the sponge in the sink? Haven’t you noticed that I always put it back in the holder? Why don’t you put it back in the holder!” (What? That one is not so familiar? Hmmmm…)

Somehow many of us end up thinking that if we communicate to someone what we need that our relationship isn’t perfect. That if we have to tell the other person that we need a year off from exchanging gifts, or someone else to figure out dinner, or that Valentine’s Day is going to be really hard this year and you would really appreciate it if people sent you cards, then something is missing. Our perfect partner/ friend/ mother/ sister/etc. should have the magic power to read our mind. That is a ton of CRAP! I can’t be mad at you for breaking the rules if I never laid out the rules clearly and applied them consistently. Well, technically, I guess I could be mad but that would be kind of dumb and really annoying for the other person.

For me, that perfect relationship is the other person who shows up, rides your crazy train, and if I say I need something reasonable, he/she does his/her best to make it happen.

You picked the person because of their stripes – you can’t expect them to erase them mid-stream.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Book Review: Switch by Chip and Dan Heath

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard by Chip Heath and Dan Heath

I found this book to be a revelation. It’s smart and delivers on its promise. By the end of the book, I had a much clearer perspective on to make change. One of the reasons that I like this book so much is that it focuses on the systems in place – not the people. Too many books focuses on the people and start from the assumption that there is something wrong with them: they are lazy or they are dumb. These assumptions lead only to two solutions: inspiring pep talks or more training.

Switch focuses on the environment and the systems that are in place that lead to a given result. The Heath brothers argue that to be successful you have to change the systems, the environment or the person’s mindset. They go through all the emotional pieces that make people resistant to change.

A great example of the book’s ideology takes place at a factory. This factory has struggled with safety. Workers are getting their hands caught in one particular rate at an unacceptable rate. Now, some ways to deal with this could have been to “educate” the workers on the dangers of getting their hands caught in the machine, or to create a punishment/incentive scheme. The managers look at the problem and realized that no one wants to get their hand stuck so they devised a safety mechanism where in order to operate the machine, two buttons a arms length apart had to be pressed. If both buttons were not pressed, the machine would turn off. Now it was impossible to both run the machine and get your hand caught. Genius.

I highly recommend this book. It is one of the few management books I plan to purchase and go back to over and over.