Sunday, March 29, 2009

The BEST Cooking Guide

I recently discovered "The Best of America's Test Kitchen." It is an annual magazine that brings together the "year's best from Cook's Illustrated and the America's Test Kitchen TV Show.

While I never heard of the show, I've long enjoyed Cook's Illustrated. I've subscribed to a lot of cooking magazines over the past 20 or so years. I was a long time fan of Gourmet and really like Ruth Reichel, but found I never had enough time to get through the magazine. I read Cooking Light for years and even Food & Wine.

What Cook's Illustrated and its sister publication do so well is speak to actual cooking techniques. They test and test and test recipes and distill their learning so that when you make it at home, it comes out flawless. And they give you great hints for bringing out the best in the recipe. Most of the recipes have "Notes from the Test Kitchen" where they provide simple black and white illustrated tips. A recipe for Restaurant Style Hummas has a note on the "Best Canned Chickpeas" -- again tested, and tested and tested again.

Tonight I made their General Tso's Chicken. I have to say it was even better than in a restaurant with no funky MSG aftertaste.

Anyone who knows me would see that the reason I bought the magazine because of the Tiramisu on the cover. While the recipe inside sounds great. I was disappointed. It calls for using store bought lady fingers. While that's a traditional approach, I have made Tiramisu from scratch. It's so much more rewarding when you do it all. Still, it's worth buying - the tips alone are great.

You can see it here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I LOVE Candy

I have been spanked, punished and made fat by my love of sweets. Now it turns out that bad times are good times for sellers of candy.

As an emotional eater, even I could have told you that. But here is the front page of the New York Times extolling the virtues of tootsie rolls (yum) and other sweet treats. No wonder I can't stop buying those Nestle Butterfinger Easter Eggs.

Read about what the NYTimes found here

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Reading Vs. Listening - My Affair with Audio Books

I started to listen to books on tape several years ago when I began driving to work. I felt that it gave me an opportunity to "read" books that I wouldn't ordinarily sit down to read but knew I'd get something out of.

I've wondered quite a bit during the years that I've been "listening" if I am actually "reading" the book as its read to me, or just hearing the book. As a lifelong reader and also a writer by profession, it is a question that I wonder about a lot. Sometimes, if I'm listening to a book that really grabs me through the language or story, I will buy the book and sometimes read along, or go back to sections that made me think about something important. I did that with Beloved by Toni Morrisson., among others. I'm not sure I would have bought "Beloved" if I hadn't listened to it. And I got so much out of hearing Toni Morrisson herself, read the story that when I sat down to reread sections, I could hear her voice in my head.

I'm now listening to Mark Helprin's "Winter's Tale." I read the book maybe 20-years ago when it first came out and thought it was one of the best books I ever read. I was transfixed by some of the imagery and the tale of New York City in Winter that is filtered throughout. But now that I"m listening to it, I realize that I don't remember much of the story. There are bits and pieces I recall, but LISTENING to it somehow makes the imagery come to life. I find myself thinking about the parallels the anaologies, the craft of the word. When I read, I'm not sure I reflect as much on the actual story inside the story and what the writer is actually saying.

I think I actually retain more of the story and allusions, illusions, language and nuance better when I hear it than when I read it. But I'm sure it is different for everyone.

What I do know is that I can recall details of some of my favorite books as I drive past different roads and remember driving the route while listening to one book or another.

I tried to find studies online about the difference between reading and listening and what one retains/learns, but apparently there's not much research out there. We begin our love of stories and books when our mother or parent or teacher reads stories to us. I know my son still has memories of some of the great books we shared together.

Here's what Steven King said about listening vs. reading on one blog I did manage to find. I agree with him:

"I've argued all my life that the story means more than the delivery systems involved (and that includes the writer). I have never been able to understand the prejudice some people seem to feel about recorded books, for instance. Not only are good stories better when they are told out loud; bad stories declare themselves almost at once, because the spoken word is merciless."

Steven King



Magazines, newspapers and television media have been double hit by both the recession and changing media habits.

This week Time Magazine (in partnership with American Express Publishing) announced a new magazine built by technology. Mine.

Building off the RSS Feeds concept that allows users to customize content delivered to their email based on interest, Time is letting consumers "customize" their own magazines. And they have the option to have it delivered by email or as a printed magazine. Interestingly, it looks like it's free. (But I'd pay just to support the concept).

I signed up as soon as I read about, selecting content from 5 Magazines that Time Editors will assemble. I selected Money, Food & Wine, Real Simple, InStyle and Sports Illustrated. Magazines I like, don't subscribe to and never seem to have the chance to read. I'll get 5 issues delivered (I still prefer to read a magazine the old fashioned way).

This is an interesting experiment by Time. Not only will they attract potential new readers, but they will have a growing list of emails that they can market products to - individuals who are looking for the next best thing.

To get your own copy of Mine, sign up here

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Lessons on the Job

When I started this blog, the idea was to chronicle the little things I learn everyday.

Some "little" things that are actually big from the CEO at a Town Hall Meeting:

"Be Positive" - meaning even though the economy sucks, you're scared shitless about your job and our industry is at an unknown crossroads, if you have a positive attitude and approach everyday with a positive point of view, you will be happier and more successful. Agree.

On Leadership -- "You don't learn leadership from reading a book" - brilliant, but obvious observation.

Last - "there are no good Chinese restaurants in NY" -- well coming from someone who has lived in Asia for 15-years, that might be true. But I think if you head to Chinatown, you can't go wrong.

Friday, March 13, 2009

John Stewart - My Hero

Best line of last night's John Stewart/Jim Cramer interview: "I understand that you want to make finance entertaining, but it's not a... game," said Stewart.

Best opening - Cramer going on Martha Stewart that same morning and beating a piece of dough as Martha tells him to think of it as John Stewart.

A chastised Jim Cramer, apologetic, contrite, even a little fearful was a sight to see. You gotta give him credit for facing his toughest critic, going on the show and acknowledging he was wrong.

The real heart of the interview however, was John Stewart's relentless focus on the everyday investor. The millions of individuals who thought that saving their money in a 401K, putting it in mutual funds and maybe a couple of stocks, would serve them well for the future. (I'm raising my hand here).

We got screwed (Mom - would have used another word here, but I know you're reading).

Who is CNBC's audience he asked? Is it the Wall Street "insider" or is it the average American looking for sound advice. Stewart wanted to know why CNBC and all the other major financial news organizations did not see the problems in the market coming and warn the public. Cramer's answer: we were all seeing growth over a long period of time and thought it would continue.

When the company I work for moves to new office space, we'll be 4-blocks from where John Stewart tapes. I'm getting tickets.


Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Suicidal Bambi

I've lived in a wooded area of Connecticut long enough to keep a vigilant eye out for deer and other animals on the road. But this morning as I followed a line of traffic, a deer ran out in front of my car in what can only be described as a suiciadal panic. Of course, I hit it.

It landed off to the side of the road in one of those piles you pass all to frequently on side streets. Only this was not a side street. Perhaps the time change confused it and me. And while saying it was on a suicide mission may in some way make me feel less responsible, I just didn't see it coming. According to one statistic there are over 1.5 million crashes involving deer every year. That according to a website -- -- soley created to cater to those involved in car crashes with deer. (They even ask for your pictures!).

A CT site advises drivers to "move to Hawaii" to avoid hitting deer.

My husband and son both asked "Is the deer dead?" before asking if I was ok.

Our state has come to regard deer as rats with long legs. We now hunt them to cull the herd.

Regardless, I still cried this morning as I drove away. Not the way I wanted to start my day.


Friday, March 6, 2009

Used Cars

Sitting in a used car dealership can be quite an education. That's what I did the other day while my husband and son took a used 2001 Volkswagen Jetta for a test drive. My son found the car online. He's been looking for months. He and my husband have checked out a number of cars, but the one at the right price with the right stuff had yet to surface.

That is until Saturday. We got to Auto Trader in Stamford just in time. As soon as Eric and Michael left for a drive, another father and son arrived wanting to see the same car. After 20-minutes they left. I was still there. And I did learn a lot.

Despite conventional wisdom that consumers are downsizing, they are not getting rid of their cars. So that means there is a lack of inventory for used cars. The haggling that you'd expect to reduce the asking price to something a little more realistic does not happen with used cars today. They give very little. I watched it in action.

And no wonder. People are not buying new cars. And the supply and demand for used cars has shifted. If no one is trading in old cars (and some 15 million are taken out of supply every year due to accidents, etc), there are not enough used cars to meet demand.

What also struck me as I sat in the "office," was that this little used car shop was selling only foreign made cars. They told me they could not keep Toyota Land Cruisers for more than a day - they sold as soon as they came in. They had 3 or 4 Mercedes, BMW's, Volvo, Saab's, etc.

One guy was looking at a Volvo for his wife. He went over the car carefully. He reported that it was missing a lug nut. The tires were bald. The guys said, "yeah, the tires are low, but they are legal." Meaning, we're not giving an inch - maybe a lug nut - but no big deals. They guy wanted to trade his Ford Focus. They gave him $2,000. It's now on their site for $6,488.

Where one business suffers, there's always an opportunity.

Here's a hot tip - perhaps now's the time to buy Hummer NPR Reports here that GM will put this brand up for sale. Apparently in war torn countries, nothing beats a hummer.

PS - we bought the car.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Good Karma = Good Coffee

My sister has this karma thing - everyday she tries to do one simple act of kindness. For her, most often that means letting some crazy Boston driver cut in front of her in traffice.

But in Illionis, paying it forward took on a different meaning on Sunday when one customer at a Starbuck's drive through paid for the drink for the car behind him. This set off a chain reaction. Apparently it kept going until 160 customers paid for the drinks for the person behind them. Bet that 161'st customer who broke the chain has a lousy day.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Snow Day

A post my friend Michelle will love - nothing but pictures of the glorious snow outside. Thanks to Michael for the artistic stills - wish he caught the dog as she vacumed up the snow as part of her favorite snack...
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