April 22, 2011

Photo Friday

 A mother-daughter project.

We both post a photo every Friday - no description, just a moment from the week we want to capture and remember.

Inspired by SouleMama's {this moment} and 3191 (blog and book).


April 19, 2011

P.S. On Eating Skate -- and an Impressively Quick Reply

Wanted to add this...because by the time I finished writing and posting the previous entry, this response was in my inbox. Incredible!

Dear Ms. Heller:
     Thank you for your inquiry regarding skate fish.  This is the response I received from our Director of Purchasing. "We source Winter Skate, not one of the species mentioned...this species is not endangered and is fished by permit only with a quotable catch to ensure its sustainability."
     We appreciate you taking the time to share your feedback.
Denise Fiore
Office Manager
Restaurant Education & Operations
The Culinary Institute of America
1946 Campus Drive
Hyde Park, NY  12538
Phone:  845.451.1547
Fax:  845.451.1094
Web Site:  www.ciachef.edu
Food is Life
Create and Savor Yours.™

Eating A Skate May Be A Mistake

I had a lovely time with my friend Susan touring around the Mid-Hudson Valley last weekend.
We walked the trail around the Vanderbilt Mansion and got to sit out on the rocks by the Hudson River during the few cool but sunny hours. Later, when it rained, we toured the insides of the Mansion as well as the home of FDR. Susan and I also met up with my college roommate Barbara who lives in the area.

But the main attraction of the weekend was the time that Susan and I spent at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) in Hyde Park. We had dinner at one of the CIA restaurants, American Bounty, and took a Gourmet Meals in Minutes cooking class.

I was going to write more about both the dining and class experience. But when I googled to find an image of what I ate on Friday night, I didn't find a good photo to post but instead found some disturbing information. This is what I wrote to the CIA just now on a comment form on their website:

When I was at American Bounty last Friday, I ordered the skate fish. I had talked generally with our servers about local and sustainable foods but did not ask a specific question about this only fish on the menu. Although I had seen skates on beaches, I had never eaten one nor knew about them as edible (I have since seen the 1980 Julia Child video on cooking skate).When I returned home, I googled Skate and was dismayed to find that:
 "In 2010, Greenpeace International has added the barndoor skate, bottlenose skate, spotback skate, and maltese skate to its seafood red list. "The Greenpeace International seafood red list is a list of fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, and which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries." wikipedia
Could you please tell me what kind of skate was served and where and how it was caught? Any other comments about why it was chosen to be on the menu would be appreciated.
Will the CIA respond?
Have you ever eaten skate?

Next time I'll share more about the wonderful cooking class...
And dear readers -- just click on this link if you would like to view Julia Child's Skate cooking demonstration:


April 13, 2011

On Absolutism

I recently ate lunch at one of the Chinese buffets in town. When I told a new acquaintance where I was going to eat, he was extremely surprised.

I write, think, and talk a lot about sustainability and living my beliefs. I have worked hard to reduce the negative impact I have on our planet, and to increase the positive impact I have in my own community. I am working on growing and preserving more of my own food, and I buy a lot of local, bulk, and organic foods. And like everyone, I am also human.

 A mostly local breakfast with a kiwi from California

When I was vegan, people often said to me "I would be vegan if it weren't for ________," where the blank was cheese or ice cream or even bacon. I hear people make similar statements about other things "I would do x, if it weren't for y exception."

My response is always "So go for it." There are always going to be exceptions and shades of gray. If we wait until circumstances are perfect, chances are we'll never do anything. I do think commitment and follow through are important, but getting started is more important, and many people need that gradual easing in or the occasional exception.  

That's OK. Give yourself permission to not be absolute about everything, to not be perfect, to allow yourself exceptions without having to feel guilty. I enjoyed my Chinese buffet lunch, and that's OK. Those exceptions and shades of gray are all OK, as long as you are moving in the direction you want to be going. So get started. NOW.

April 11, 2011

Has Spring Sprung?

Maple syruping is done -- great season. Over 7 gallons. The lilacs are budding and the crocuses are out. The stone house is surviving. Spring is in the air.

April 6, 2011

Tips for Working from Home

Although I'm currently unemployed, I "work" on many different projects. The most pressing one right now is a business plan that I am writing, and I have been finding it extremely easy to be distracted by other things. That said, I have also gotten a tremendous amount done so I thought I'd share some of my strategies for staying focused.

1. Get out of the house
Yes, it's true. My number one tip regarding working from home is not to do it, or at least not to do it all the time. If you have gotten into a routine of procrastinating at home, it is especially important to change the setting to help break out of that. Some people go to cafes or diners; I prefer the library

2. Stop multi-tasking
I am not the first person to say this but it is certainly worth repeating. Most people are more productive when they only try to do one thing at a time. So close your web browser. Close all extraneous programs and windows on your computer. Consider turning off your phone. Move items off your desk that are unrelated to the current project (just move them out of sight for now, don't get involved in putting them away right now). Just do one thing.

3. Do the most difficult task first 
I sometimes get stuck in the trap of putting off and putting off a task that I think will be odious. The best way to address this is to get it out of the way first. The task I am dreading is usually not as bad as my anticipation of it. Even if it is difficult, once it is done it takes a weight off my shoulders, gives me momentum, and makes everything that comes after seem easier.

4. Find your best times for work
When do you have the most energy? When do you have a quiet space to yourself? Do you need to make calls to people who are only available during specific hours? When are your other commitments?

5. Set specific time periods for work and breaks and stick to them
Treat whatever you need to get done like a "real" job. Using the information from #4, set a work schedule - decide what time you will start work, and how long you will continue before taking a break. Small rewards for sticking to your schedule are appropriate.

6. Make a work date
Like an exercise buddy, a work buddy holds you accountable to someone else, and can be a good motivator to follow through when you are having trouble following through on commitments to yourself.

What are your strategies for getting work done?

Traveling in March

Those of you who read The Dream Year blog (thedreamyear.blogspot.com) know that Alan and I like to travel -- we enjoy being outdoors, hiking, and CA is one of our favorite places to do that and more. So even though we had terrible weather (I admit that it wasn't as bad as at home but still...it rained every day!). We had wonderful connecting times with old friends and family and stayed in Lafayette (outside Berkeley), Point Reyes, and Sebastopol. Went on a personal wine tour at Bouchaine Vineyards in Napa (thanks again, Andrew), to see a very good local production of The Glass Menagerie, saw a documentary about the folk-singer Phil Ochs, went to one of my favorite stores (the Spirit Matters outside Inverness. I especially love their Quan Yin and Tara sculptures), took beach photos, took a few hikes (last photo is of our picnic at windy spot by the ocean before turning around for the 4.5 mile trek back), and ate some incredible CA -- local, organic -- meals.
Wonderful to get away in the winter, especially during this seemingly extended one.

April 2, 2011

Inspired by Zen Habits

Some of you may have seen Leo Babauta's blog zen habits listed in the sidebar (under Currently Inspired By). I've had it listed there for a while, but haven't written about why I find it inspiring.

The blog is very simple, even stark. White with black text, no images, no ads, no lists, boxes, or sidebars. He writes about mindfulness, productivity, and minimalism, and many of the posts are written as lists or how to's. The advice is generally concise, helpful, and easy to read. Implementation, however, is always more challenging. Sometimes I can get lost in reading through the archives, but I find the most effective way for me to use his blog is to limit myself to reading one or two posts at a time on a topic I feel that I need a push on at that moment.

As recommended by Leo Babauta (and many other experts on time management), I have cut back a lot on the amount of information I take in, including the number of blogs I read. In fact, zen habits is now the only blog I peruse on a regular basis. I find that it is one of the few blogs that inspires me to do something more than just read more blogs.

If you have not visited zen habits yet, here are a few posts well worth checking out. I also recommend looking through the archives.

Monk Mind: How to Increase Your Focus
Top 20 Motivation Hacks - An Overview
Minimalist Fun: The 100 Things Challenge
lessons from a car-free life

April 1, 2011

Photo Friday

 A mother-daughter project.

We both post a photo every Friday - no description, just a moment from the week we want to capture and remember.

Inspired by SouleMama's {this moment} and 3191 (blog and book).