Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Cobbler and Coding (...51)

Today moved along at a rapid fire pace.  After a welcome rest this weekend, I got down to business when I woke up this morning.  One thing I've learned about getting my to-dos done is to finish the least desirable things first.  That doesn't always happen, but I try to make it happen.  It spurs me on to do everything else.  Today, that's just what I did.  After doing the things I had to get to, there were two things I wanted to get to:
  1. Continue to learn PHP to do web pages for the biz venture
  2. Bake peach cobbler
I have no pictures to share of PHP code.  Luckily, finally, thankfully, I was able to see a web page successfully in my browser (thank you, Alex!).  I'd been watching tutorials, following examples, and seeing nothing but 404 Errors.  It turns out I was doing my work without saving the pages to my server folder...amateur mistake.  That, and I had some errors in my code...I'm learning.

I do have pictures of the peach cobbler!  I'm not sharing the recipe, however... it's not worth repeating.  It tasted good at 9:30pm when my head hurt from trying to learn PHP and I needed a boost of energy, but it isn't so good that I'll make it again.
Almond flour, yogurt, and honey crust covered with peaches, cinnamon, butter, and honey.
Ta dah!

Monday, May 30, 2011

Feasting with Friends! (...52)

Make your own spring rolls: a really easy, fresh, delicious, healthy, summery meal.  Also good for an appetizer to go along with your Memorial Day BBQ.  The food requires minimal cooking, some chopping, and lots of finger licking...the dipping sauce makes for messy eating. 

Spring Rolls
Use large lettuce leaves as a wrap for fixings. 
Pork, cut into strips and cooked
Carrots, made into ribbons with a peeler
Cucumber, peeled and cubed
Asparagus, steamed and cut into ¼” pieces
Avocado, cut into pieces

Peanut Dipping Sauce 
2 tablespoons peanut butter
2 tablespoons crushed peanuts
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon molasses
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1/8 teaspoon garlic powder
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

For a drink...homemade margaritas!
1 part orange
1 part lemon
1 part lime
1 tablespoon honey or agave
1 part Tequila (made with 100% agave), add as much as you like. 
Add lots and lots of ice and drink.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Learning Some Language Skills (...53)

I'm spending my morning learning some very basic PHP (scripting language for web development) and Codeigniter (web application framework) in order to create a few web pages for the biz venture.  My approach is to watch the tutorials, several times, mimic the code, then make some modifications to it to see how it works.  With only basic html knowledge, I understand only half of what the tutorials discuss.  Patience and faking confidence is key to being successful at this project.  Right now nothing is working when I load my practice pages.  It's not surprising, but it's frustrating.  My goal today is to get one page to display in my browser the way it's supposed to.  Here's a sample of this morning's efforts:

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Timing is Everything (...54)

Last night brought me to Boston where the Common was filled with Memorial Day flags.  I've seen pictures of this scene in the Boston Globe but never happened to be there in person.  It was a stunning site.  Unfortunately this picture doesn't quite capture the vibrant red, white, and blue:
Memorial Day flags on Boston Common

Timing is everything.  Last night a series of odd mishaps turned messed up plans into a fun and funny evening.  First, we headed to the city for a movie.  It was sold out.  Next plan:  Head back to the car in search of a Frisbee, which I was certain was in my car trunk.  Nope.  Next plan:  Find a bar and share a drink.  This could have worked but our path was changed when homeless gal stopped us to share a very interesting story about how her purse was stolen while she was in the hospital getting a leg brace and needed money for a train ticket.  If only her eyes and face hadn't betrayed her inebriated, drugged state, we'd have donated to her cause.  She quickly became unhappy with us.  As we crossed the street to escape her angry ranting, we saw a wine shop.  Next plan:  buy a bottle and snacks and lounge on the common!  Here's where the timing of our mishaps became key....As we exited the shop with our purchases, our friend Trish biked up to the crosswalk!  Next thing you know, we're all on the common, brown-bagging it with wine, beer, delicious cheese, salty nuts, and a lot of laughing.  And on top of that, 2 other pals walked over to join us.  It all reminded me why I love Boston...a city with so much to see and do but where I can run into friends almost everywhere.

Genius:  "Flasq" is a small bottle of wine, perfect for a spontaneous picnic.
Pretty ironwork in the Boston Common

Friday, May 27, 2011

"Before I Even Eat Breakfast" (...56)

Pitiful me, I did not arise on time to swim at Walden...my late night laptop-ing caused me to over-sleep-in.  Typically I'm an early riser. I cherish the quiet of mornings in New England, breakfast with friends, and a fun workout event.  Missing this morning's planned swim made me think of this article I wrote years ago about open water swimming:

New England Masters Newsletter, September 2005

Before I Even Eat Breakfast  
Open Water Swimming at Walden Pond  
By Regina M. O'Toole

Every Friday morning, from April to October, I drive to Walden Pond in Concord, MA to train for the swim leg of my triathlon competitions.  My teammates, along with many other swimmers and triathletes, gather together along the old gray stone wall on the beach. We gather to train. This majestic (often cold, sometimes warm) water is the ideal place to improve our stroke. We test out our wetsuits, our body positioning, sighting skills, and general comfort and endurance in the open water. My teammates spread out their bags, wetsuits, Body Glide, goggles, and caps and talk while they take in their surroundings: ½-mile wide pond centered in Thoreau's woods, small sandy beach, and best of all, quietness, except for their own chatter.  On cold days, the chatter lasts longer as a way to prolong our entry into the frigid pond. We moan about the cold, we put only our toes in and wonder aloud how long we can actually swim, and we question why we even got out of bed. What makes us get in? - bravado? I think our thirst for challenge drives us. Water temperatures range from 55 degrees to well above 80. In the colder months, my body never warms up quite enough to relax in the water. My fingers and toes are too stiff to kick and pull like I do in a pool, and my jaw too rigid to talk with the other swimmers when we congregate at the other side of the pond. But somehow, in the winter months, swimming at Walden seems better than my warm bed because of the exhilaration I feel once I've exited the cold water and joined my teammates for breakfast. Ah, breakfast. At our breakfast spot, Helen's Cafe, in Concord center, Sandy, our ever attentive waitress, sees us piling in and quickly puts several cups of coffee on our table. We sit together to warm up, whine about our cold hands and feet, eat, and laugh. When the weather is warm, I'm eager to get up and get to the pond, see teammates, suit up, and swim. No stripe to follow on the bottom, just trees surrounding me and acting as my guide.  Walden is my chance to get out and simply enjoy my surroundings. I can stretch out my stroke and get into a rhythm that I can't find when there are walls every 25 yards. The open water makes me feel like there is so much more to swimming than just doing lap after lap in a pool. With no walls around me, I delight in the noise of the other swimmers gliding by me and find joy in the laughs we share as we rest at the far side of the pond. And as I swim back to the small sandy beach, I get to watch the sun rise higher in the sky. It’s a perfect way to train, before the traffic starts, before I go to work, before I even eat breakfast. This is Walden Pond…Thoreau’s stomping ground and my favorite place to greet the day.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What's in a Day? (...57)

Here's how my day went today:
  • 6am:  35 mile bike ride
  • 8am:  multi-egg omelet with cheese, broccoli, peppers, rice cakes on the side, and coffee...yum
  • 10am to 12:  a few visitors, research work (for the biz venture!)
  • 12:45: lunch with a longtime pal, amazing triathlete, and 6 month pregnant friend, Julia!
  • 3pm:  purchased 2 pillows for my porch from Marshall's where I got a great deal because some thread was coming lose on the covers.  I'll make my own zippered cushion covers with outdoor fabric...I'm realizing foam inserts are waaaayyyyy too expensive ($64/yard!) so buying discount pillows and recovering makes more sense.
  • 4:30pm:  watched tutorials on how to use CodeIgniter, a web application "that helps you write incredible PHP programs."  I hope it gives incredible help to write helpful programs, because I am feeling a lot bewildered so far.
  • 6:45 to 8:45pm:  biz venture meeting
  • 10:30:  Now, I'm headin' to bed in order to rise early so I can swim in lovely Walden Pond...

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

40 days have passed since I was laid off! (...58)

40 days have passed since I was laid off!  It's nerve-wracking to take note of the amount of time that's gone by.  Have I done enough with this time so far? Am I using it for the right projects?  Am I talking to who I should talk to? Networking enough?  Exploring what I'm interested in enough?

I'm heading to an interesting networking eventt, combined with a talk tonight put on by the popular online sales site, Rue La La.  It's titled "Why consumers are addicted to private sales web sites (Hint: The hard wiring of your brain makes the deals impossible to resist)."  Since I'm working on an online venture with two friends, it's a good topic that will speak directly to part of the service we hope to provide, private sales.  I call it a venture, because it is just that.  Based on what we think is a great idea, we're taking on a project with an uncertain outcome.  And what a great experience it is!  The uncertainty seems insignificant compared to the challenge creating something ourselves and learning anything we need to in order to make this a successful business.  If it is not, we will have gained a lot of knowledge in the process.  I like this perspective.  It's the perspective I'm reminding myself, often, to take during this layoff period.  Whatever I end up doing during this time, I'm learning a good deal about what I want to be doing and I'm certain I'll mold a good career for myself out of the experiences I'm having.

Update post-talk: The Rue La La event, despite direction mishaps and locked doors to the building where the event was being held, was exactly what I'd hoped it would be!  I took notes on related books that were referenced and on private sale website strategies. The speaker, Rue La La's SVP of Member Experience, Colin Hynes, gave a clear breakdown of his company's strategy as well as how it needs to change as consumer purchasing habits change.  He used a few video clips to illustrate his points. One video in particular was Dan Ariely's TED talk, "Are we in control of our own decisions?"  In the clip we watched, Ariely, a behavioral economist, discuss people's decisions regarding organ donation.  Watch the clip for interesting illustrations.  Perhaps you'll think more carefully the next time you fill our a form or buy something online...

Overall it was an interesting discussion from a business perspective, but also from a personal perspective. I found myself thinking "oh gosh! I do that..."  when hearing how consumers act in response to private sales.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Training Weekend (...59) (aka 63, 62, 61 recap)

This past weekend I spent three days triathlon training in Waterville Valley, NH.  With about 60 other teammates I conquered two mountains on Friday, climbing approximately 6,000 feet of elevation. That's not easy, but it's a heck of a fun challenge for the legs and head.  Since it's been more than a year since my last century ride, my thoughts included a lot of doubt.  We lucked out with mostly sunny weather and only two short lived rain storms.  Unfortunately the first downpour started at the top of "The Kank," requiring me to muster up all my courage for a 10 mile descent.  Part of the picture above shows some of the group, after the descent, attempting to warm up with food and drink after being drenched and chilled at the top of the mountain.

Halfway mark, stopping for a bagel and some biker brew: coke

The start of a 10 mile ride to the top of "The Kank"
For me, the total mileage for the weekend was 145 miles biking and 11 miles running.  No swimming since the area isn't conducive to it.  Others in the group did over 200 miles on the bike.  Woweeeeee!  This weekend's training renewed my love for long miles on the road.  I found myself dreaming of a possible Fall Ironman...If only that dream aligned with my career goals.  Or could it?

Monday, May 23, 2011

The Dull and the Delicious (...60)

My car's funky electrical problem of a few weeks back was solved today, but not without pain.  My appointment was for 10am at the Volkswagon dealer. The over the phone estimate of 2 hours turned into 5 and lots of $.  The door had to be taken apart and put back together twice to address a faulty door sensor on the driver side.  Just about every hour I was given an update and told it would be a little longer so I stayed put thinking the end was near.  I grew very hungry in the waiting area.  Luckily there was a snack station with coffee, tea, and this old fashioned looking popcorn machine.

It's somewhat dull waiting at a car dealer for many hours, but I munched on popcorn and broke my boredom reading the book Unbroken, by Laura Hillenbrand.  It's for my book club, but wow am I glad it's on our list!  In a nutshell, it's about Louie Zamperini, a 1930s track star turned WWII survivor who faces one stunning challenge after another.  I like any well written novel about resilience and this one is riveting. 

Funnily enough, this story reminded me of another survival story of sorts, by another Louie, but spelled Luis.  Luis Tiant, a baseball player from Havana, Cuba is the subject of the documentary "Lost Son of Havana" which I saw a few years ago at a local film festival.  It tells the story of Tiant leaving Cuba and his entire family, during the start of the Cuban embargo, and the trials and victories he  experienced playing baseball for several major league teams.  He overcame debilitating shoulder injuries as well as the personal pain of being isolated, in exile from Cuba, for most of his adult life.  Anybody who watches this documentary, baseball fan or not, will cry, as I did.

After 5 hours of book reading pleasure, I jetta'd from the VW dealer and stopped off at Bedford Farms Ice Cream which was conveniently across the street...My "Taste Test" has been documented here.

Bedford Farms Ice Cream Stand in Bedford, MA

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Outta Here and Headin' to the Highway! (...64, 63, 62, 61)

I'm off to NH for a tough and fun weekend of biking and running among the hills of Waterville Valley.  So excited to see friends and some gorgeous scenery!  The forecast is less than ideal but looks to be improving.  It's likely be wet riding, but as long as it's not below 60, we should still be able to feel our fingers and toes on the bike.

Among our many bike ride thrills in the White Mountains, is climbing "The Kank."  The Kancamagus Highway runs through the mountains and has an elevation gain that scares the pants off of me.  I love the challenging climb up, but the descent terrifies me.  I get quietly concerned while most of my fellow riders screech in their excitement.  I've ridden down in sun, wind, and rain but every single time requires a lot of self pep-talking.  You'd think as a biker I'd enjoy the speed, but it's endurance riding that grabs me, not the excitement of speed.

These pictures are from Wikipedia.  When I return on Monday, I'll have some photos of my own to post...though maybe all with a splash of rain on the lens.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Thinking vs Doing (...65)

I am going to read the book Poke the Box by Seth Godin.  I will. Tomorrow...or soon after.  Guess what this book is about?  It's about getting unstuck from the mode of thinking about and planning to do stuff and just doing it.  Basically, it's about taking action instead of contemplating it.  And I am going to read this book, just as soon as I get an email from my local library telling me it's available through interlibrary loan.

The reason the book's subject caught my eye is because in this layoff period I'm thinking about doing A LOT OF DIFFERENT STUFF.  I want to do every single thing I think of doing.  That can be a problem.  Simetimes this thinking of doing gets in the way of doing.  My sister and I talk often of working together on a business project, something we could enjoy doing together and possibly make money from.  But it's tough to get momentum on our plans.  Recently, after we'd discussed yet another business idea, my sister said to me along these lines:  "Let's just start doing this and not plan it because otherwise we'll never start."  That's the kind of mindset Seth Godin is talking about!  I'd like to apply this idea to all of the stuff I think of doing.  It speaks to my recent feeling that I'd rather fail at trying something I want to do than being successful spending time on things I don't enjoy. 

Here's a short excerpt from the book, via the "Look Inside" feature on Amazon:
"This is a manifesto about starting.
Starting a project, making a ruckus, taking what feels like a risk.
Not just "I'm starting to think about it," or "We're going to meet on this," or even "I filed a patent application..."
No, starting.
Going beond the point of no return.
Making something happen."

I imagine "Leaping" is a matter of getting some practice at thinking less and doing more.  I think most people are good at leaping into some things but not everything.  For example, I know when it comes to sports, I dive right in.  Literally, I dive in with about 2000 people to start the Ironman triathlon and don't think twice about what's in store for me: elevated heart rate, packed and chaotic swim, being blind sided by other athletes...many people are apprehensive about the 2.4 mile swim.  I ignore my fears and just go.  This approach serves me well in sports and that's the approach I'd like to bring to every one of my projects, work and personal.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Porch Prep and More Pillow Talk (...66)

My mission today was to revive my porch from its long cold Boston winter slumber.  This involves moving my indoor plants outside, adding a few new ones, and making the seating comfortable.

This year I have new seating!  It's a lovely long bench bought last year at the Brimfield Antiques Show.  The bench is wrought iron, six feet long, and sturdy.  The curved back caught my eye and the price was right.  I've already sanded, painted, and rust-proofed it.  Now all I need is cushions and pillows! 

I'm on the hunt for an affordable way to make this bench comfortable for summer lounging, reading, laptop lallygagging, and BBQ eating.  It's not inexpensive to buy durable off-the-shelf pillows for outdoor use.  So, finding greatly discounted pillows at an outlet store or making them myself is the goal.

Today I found these two pillows at T.J.Maxx for $12 each.  They're outdoor and large 20x20 pillows, good for my two Adirondack chairs.  But I'm not convinced I'll keep them so they're still in the bag. 

The bench needs a custom cushion because it's an uncommon length.  Most cushions I've found online are too short, too puffy, and toooooo pricey.  Many are $150 to $200... Sewwww, sewing the bench cushion is my next project.

Fabric.com sells discounted outdoor fabric, but still pricey at $10 a yard.  I need 4 yards, foam batting, and welting cord, so I'd like to find a better deal.  The other challenge,and  the most enjoyable, is choosing fabric.  Look at these gorgeous prints!

How to narrow the options...How to choose among these beauties...Oh yes, and how to make a cushion...I've made a purse, baby blanket, and an apron up to now, but a custom box cushion with welting, constructed to fit snugly around a foam insert?  Hopefully a future post will include a stunning "After" picture worthy of Remodelista!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Want to Work from Home? YES (...67)

Recently my mother sent me this article:  "Want to Work from Home?  Find Your Element." by Tsh Oxenreider.   My mom sends me several a week (hi mom!).  Reading this one was good timing for me because it's exactly what's on my mind.  I'm enjoying doing my own projects enough that I'm wishing for some way (any way!) to work from home, for myself, on my own business.  But how to earn a living doing this? I don't know.

The article's message is simple:  Find your element, and you can make money doing it.  It's also a familiar message:  "Do What you Love, Money will Follow" is a two decades old book about harnessing your talents and desires to create your vocation.  But it's not an easy concept to put into action.

Your element, according to Oxenreider, is the area where what you enjoy doing and what you are skilled at doing come together.  Of course, these things have to come together in a productive way...earning a living is the goal after all.  If committing to your own interests and talents can turn into a career why is it such a struggle to do?  Can it also get me a 401K, health insurance plan, and job security?  I think it's possible, but it's hard to feel confident in this idea just yet.

I'm still exploring what I'm interested in pursuing most, of all my interests.  Perhaps one will stand out that I'd like to master.  Or, maybe it's a matter of doing many of the things I'm interested in to create a distinct occupation for myself.  When there is so much pressure to get a job it is a challenge to feel like this type of self-exploration, especially in my mid thirties, is valuable, or even acceptable.  In moments I feel like the best action would be to take a job in my field as soon as possible.  But in other moments, I feel sure I'm interested in failing miserably at trying to create a career out of what I love to do, than doing work I can't put myself into.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Potluck! (...68)

There are few meal-centered get-togethers I like better than a potluck.  It's a fun and relaxed way to share a meal and you never know what kinds of dishes you'll get to taste!  Plus, no one person needs to do all the house prepping, meal making, and clean up.  I've hosted a few potlucks now and then but last winter I was craving company and the combination of friends and food on a more regular basis.  Since I wasn't sure I'd commit to a regular hosting responsibility on my own, I asked a friend to co-host monthly potlucks with me.  And so was born Somerville Potlucks!   Each month we alternate houses and each meal has a theme.  The first gathering, a soup potluck, was so enjoyable to have mid winter, I knew right away the idea would take hold.  Today was the 4th Somerville Potluck with a Cinco de Mayo theme.  The food was out-stand-ing!

I made guacamole with these ingredients:  avocados, tomatoes (roasted), garlic, hot pepper (roasted) but not nearly spicy enough, red onion, and limes.  It was OK, but not a candidate for a repeat.
This pretty thing is a Lemon Layered Cake with Dulce de Leche.  De-li-cious!  It was tasty, but I admit to botching the dulce de leche...I boiled the milk and sugar for 3 hours and it never condensed to the thick caramel-like, milk-like, frosting-like consistency that it was supposed to become.   Last minute, I made a simple caramel frosting on the stove instead.  It's topped with white chocolate curls!  Tomorrow, or soon after, the Somerville Potluck blog will have pictures from tonight's Cinco de Mayo celebration and soon recipes will be posted as well.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Layoff Dayoff #2 (...69)

All week my running pal Mark said we were going to "crush it" on our Saturday morning run.  This made me dread my early morning workout today...anticipating the discomfort of an uncomfortable pace.  7AM felt painfully early and 55 with no sun felt chilly.  But we did crush it...sort of...maybe not for some folks, but for me, an 8 minute pace is really very tough to sustain for 15 miles.  The rest of the day my legs felt crushed.  And the rest of me too.  But a nice kind of crushed.  It's a good exhausted feeling that makes the simplest things, like eating a good meal, having a cup of coffee, and sitting on the sofa feel far better than usual.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Do Overs (...70)

Yesterday, after 3 days of staying up until 1am, I felt frustrated with my lack of discipline.  I didn't do anything worth mentioning until 1AM, just browsing my favorite home repair and decorating blogs and reading.  Going to bed at 1am and getting up at 9am, exercising in the evening, eating late, getting to bed late...it's a cycle that doesn't work for me. I'm not naturally a night owl.  I'm an early owl.  I'm at my best if I rise at 6am, exercise, eat a big breakfast, and start on my projects.  But without an external schedule imposed upon me it's easy to stay up late.  So last night I abandoned the night owl routine, got some work done in the early evening, went to bed early, and got up at 7am.  I suspect I'll have to re-establish this schedule from time to time.  How do people who work from home full-time stay on schedule?  I suppose it takes practice and I should get a few do overs since I'm no at this game.

Another gorgeous day beckoned me to Concord for my second cookie at the Main Street Cafe (note, important new blog page Taste Testing).  This time it was oatmeal and boy oh boy...what a disappointment.  Can you tell by the look on my face?  Probably not, so I'll tell you, frankly, this cookie did not please my palette.  I don't like overly sugary cookies.  Luckily, this cookie did not taste overly sugary.  It also did not taste oatmeal-ly. Or cookie-y.  I like to taste the oatmeal, some brown sugar, a little saltiness, but this tasted like wax paper.  After an hour bike ride to get it, I was disappointed.  Luckily, I'd toted a banana in my bike shirt pocket and had that delicious treat to gratify my hunger.

A bright surprise from the cafe...the ice tea came with a pink straw!  My nieces would love this!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Caulking-gun Makes Caulking-fun (...71)

sandpaper, cloth, bowl of water, caulk, caulking-gun
This afternoon I did a longstanding repair job in my bathroom - filling in the cracks around the floor molding.  Anybody can do this chore, it's easy as pie and incredibly satisfying to see the clean, pretty results.  Before using caulk to do some work on my bathroom when I renovated it a year ago I didn't know that caulk is the secret to making a room look like it was finished by a professional.  It can fix a whole bunch of ratty, gappy, wonky, icky, ugly surface problems in your house.  I dig this stuff:

All you need for a little job like this is shown in the picture above: sandpaper to remove loose paint, caulk, a caulking-gun, cloth, and a bowl of water.  My method is to apply a bead of caulk along the area I want to finish, take a piece of cloth around my finger, dampen it in the bowl, and then press my finger along the caulk joint to smooth it out from one end to the other.  Once the caulk is cured and hardened, you can topcoat and it looks beau-ti-ful:


Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Balancing Actions (...72)

I haven't been targeted in my career path thus far.  Actually, I was targeted early on.  Around age 24 I decided I wanted to work as a digital video editor.  I taught myself the software, interned, freelanced, and started working full time.  Then I changed my mind and moved into a related field, broadcast post production.  It was a good shift for me.  I liked the work, learned a lot, committed myself to the job, and got promoted.  But then a big health scare, a brain tumor, shifted my direction, or, better put, my concerns.  Work felt insignificant to me.  The product, a television show, lost its luster.  I couldn't see my work goals anymore but my personal goals came into focus.  Personal goals got most of my energy, effort, emotions, and thoughts.  Career goals suffered.  But now I want to shift my efforts.  I don't intend to drop personal goals, but I want a better balance.  I want my personal and professional goals to coincide.  So, with that in mind, this evening I  went to the Marsh’s Women’s Executive Business to Business (WEBB) Women and Wine Reception.  It was held at Brix on Broad, an impressively well stocked boutique wine shop, owned by two women in Boston.  The intent of these events is to provide networking opportunities for women in the form of interesting and educational social events.  The combo of a wine tasting, networking, and author talk is brilliant.  Talk about a good balance! 

The speaker, Pam Lassiter, gave us all a copy of her book The New Job Security Rather than read from her book, she offered a few bite size career questions for us to think about as we consider our future.  Her ideas were easy to swallow along with our glasses of wine, cheese, and charcuterie!

My favorites of the ideas she presented were these two:  "What do people seek you out for?" She suggested we ask ourselves.  I like this approach to thinking about career direction because everybody can come up with an answer to this.  Another tip from Pam:  "Be a jack of all trades, master of two."  This suggests that we need not neglect any of our interests. We should pursue all of them but make a few our focus.  Helpful advice for me right now as I find myself skipping around from one thing I like to do after another.  Which do I want to focus on and incorporate into my next job?  And why is this question so tough for me?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

99% Lallygagging, 1% Focus (...73)

99% Lallygagging, 1% Focus...I'll hang on to that 1%.  Mental fatigue sets in pretty fast when I job search online.  I could only take so much of it today.  A few hours into work researching, I moved on to a few disruptive habits:  channel flipping (gasp!!), website surfing (not so terrible, depending on the sites, but I can quickly get lost in the NY Times Home & Garden section), and magazine reading (Fast Company and LAVA).  As well as a few calming habits:  cooking (polenta!) and exercising (killer mat workout by TA!).  Here's where the 1% focus comes in...Today I started research to prep for a meeting with a friend of mine with whom I'm working on a potential online business.  This got my full attention.  I'm so excited about having an interesting project that uses some of my skills but also provides a great deal of challenges to problem-solve and opportunities to gain experience.  I'm not sure at what time today I stopped being idle and started to zone in on this new project, but once I got going it was all I could think about.  That's a good feeling to have when it can feel like these laid off days lack order.

Monday, May 9, 2011

To Concord for Cookies (...74)

It was a gorgeous day for a bike ride!  I headed to Concord, MA where the Main Streets Cafe serves up perfect egg burritos, coffee, and soooooooo many good looking pastries that you don't know which to choose.  But I went knowing that I'd buy a cookie.  I can't get over their stacks (and I mean STACKS) of enormous Oatmeal, M&M, Chocolate Chip, Everything, and Peanut Butter cookies!  I haven't tried them all but I plan to this summer.  These cookies are only a 16 mile bike ride from my front door...and they make a much tastier mid-ride treat than an energy bar!

Hello, cookies!!!

This chest of pastries requires a longer bike ride and somebody just as hungry to share your plate...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

My What's Next (...75)

A good read for anybody who's been laid off is Rob Pergoraro's blog, specifically his first post "Departure" about being let go from The Washington Post. He was the consumer technology columnist at the newspaper and left after 17 years.  He shares his thoughts on what he's grateful to have more time for now that he's unemployed.  I identify most with this line from his blog post:  "The kitchen has a stack of recipes overdue for me to try, while the rest of the house hides a long list of deferred-maintenance chores."  Another post, "What's Next?" discusses what other former columnists have moved on to in their careers and what he's contemplating now.  In this post I appreciate his list of what he would like his next job to include and why.  That's a good place for anybody to start.  I've come up with a few things so far that I want in my next job:
  • A collaborative and enthusiastic work environment where personal and professional growth is supported.  This reads like a line from an employee handbook but it's what I'm looking for in a work atmosphere.  I've heard start-up company environments can be like this because the staff is specifically interested in the company's goals and has closer involvement in the company's success.
  • A business focused on something with which I can personally connect.  I can easily find something in almost any job that I could get interested in but I prefer to work for a company whose product or services holds significance for me, that I can't help but be enthusiastic about. 
  • It should involve web technology and social media.  I took a class last year on web development, html, and css.  Taking that class exposed me to enough web technology to help me know that I want to learn more.  I'm also eager to work someplace where I can become more familiar with social media and how it is used in business marketing and sales.
  • I wouldn't mind starting my own business.  This helps me fulfill bullet point #1 and #2.  A good start.  And I could try to incorporate any of my other interests:  the web, triathlon/fitness, meal sharing (see my other blog), to name a few.
As Rob says in his blog post, "I suppose that doesn’t narrow things down all that much."  This is hard work determining what's best for what's next.  What's the best way to go about this?  I'm dying for suggestions...

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Trombones (...76)

"76 Trombones led the big parade..."  It's day 76 of the Ruskin Project countdown and what pops into my head when I hear this number is the main song from the musical play The Music Man, "76 Trombones."  This is an appropriate song for today's drive home from New Jersey when my car began making odd beeping and buzzing sounds.  Listen up:

Not only were there unspecified sounds but the overhead light spontaneously turned on and could not be turned off, the radio wouldn't remain on one station, instead it scanned perpetually, and the car would no longer lock automatically.

Overhead light on while driving at night makes for very poor visibility!

Sister creating clever shield with paper and hand so I could see the road...

Obviously some type of an electrical problem (I think...).   Or, my car has developed a case of The Love Bug.  Time for a check up.