Clean Up Your Writing In A Single SWEEP

SweepIn preparing to help a young friend with some looming writing tasks, I decided to refresh my memory on the process of writing itself.

I was surprised to see that during the (mumble unintelligibly) years since high school, the key words of the process haven’t been changed to create an easily remembered acronym. Ah well, you know what they say, if you want a job done right, you’ve got to do it yourself!

S         Start the creative juices flowing.

    • Pick a topic.
    • Who will your audience be?
    • Brainstorm ideas.
    • Perform any necessary research.
    • Create a rough outline to help your ideas flow smoothly.

 W        Write.

    • Turn your outline into sentences and paragraphs in your own words.
    • Read what you wrote. Does it say what you intended?
    • Show it to others and ask for feedback.

 E         Evaluate your writing to make it better.

    • Reread what you wrote.
    • Consider the feedback you got from others.
    • Rearrange words, sentences or paragraphs so that ideas flow smoothly.
    • Take out any parts that don’t serve a purpose to your ideas.
    • Add more content where it is needed to improve clarity.
    • Replace any overused words.
    • Read what you wrote aloud. Does it sound right?

 E         Edit for grammar, spelling and style.

    • Be sure all sentences are complete.
    • Correct any spelling or grammar mistakes. (Computer spell/grammar checkers are great tools. Use them!)
    • Run it past another set of eyes. It’s easy to read past your own mistakes.

 P         Put it out there for others.

    • Post your writing on an online blog, forum or social media site.
    • Create a book of your own.
    • Send a copy to a friend or relative.
    • Collaborate with an artistic friend to illustrate your creation or put it to music.

Write OnKeep this process in mind every time you face a writing task, no matter how small. By the time this process becomes a habit, you will have turned into an effective writer.

Stay tuned, budding writers. I’ll be digging deeper in future posts.

What Is Process, And Why Is It A Big Deal?

Merriam-Webster defines process as a series of actions or operations leading to an end. Whether we are aware of it or not, process is there for us every day helping us to be successful in each task we undertake.

To get a better feel for how widespread processes are in our lives I googled the phrase “Why is process necessary?” WOW! There were more than a dozen different areas Processrepresented in just the first few pages of search returns, ranging from things as complex as environmental assessment and medical research to things as seemingly simple as haircuts.

If you stop and think about it, we even use process when getting dressed in the morning. Let’s face it, you don’t ever put your slacks on before your underpants, right? It’s a process, you know!

But is process necessary? We could bumble our way through life by trial and error. Eventually we’d get our underpants on before our slacks. But wait! Isn’t trial an error a process in itself? And to what does trial and error lead? It leads to the process of elimination whereby we eliminate the impractical in favor of the more practical. ANOTHER PROCESS!!

Processes are part of our natural existence. They are sets of unifying principles operating in all systems. Most importantly, processes are tools at our disposal. They make life simpler.

Stay tuned for my next post, which will explain why I was thinking about process in the first place!

ONE MILLION Steps for Health

The New Year is well underway, and I’m sitting back and reflecting upon my biggest 2012 accomplishment, one million steps. These are steps that were taken above and beyond my normal daily efforts, steps that were taken for the sole purpose of their health benefits, or so I thought. Let me tell you how I did it.

First off, understand this, I hate to exercise. I’m a busy person with dozens of hobbies, and I don’t think I can even remember a time when I was bored, so the biggest challenge I faced when setting this goal was keeping my interest level engaged. That’s why I decided to try and find a way to combine exercise and travel, something I enjoy that I don’t get to do as much as I might like. Since my budget didn’t allow me to fly off to a new location each day and walk around seeing the sights, I had to get creative.

NuStep

NuStep

I decided to use a recumbent stepper as my vehicle of choice (www.nustep.com). Although I also have a treadmill and there is always the great outdoors, the NuStep seemed like a great way to go to take a million steps with low impact. The NuStep also has ski poles so I’d be able to get a full-body workout while taking my steps. I don’t have to remember to pocket my pedometer because it counts for me. And the good people at NuStep provided a conversion for steps to miles.

In order to keep my interest level engaged, I decided to track the number of miles I was stepping and plot it out on a map using www.runningmap.com. Each week I’d total up my miles, and put them on the map, and discover what all I had “seen” on my “travels.” Google is great for learning about places you find on a map!

2012 Walking Map

2012 Walking Map

My first destination was, Fallingwater in rural southwestern Pennsylvania, a house designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. I’ve long admired this beautiful house, and would love to visit it someday.

When I left Fallingwater, I headed out to Kentuck Knob, another Frank Lloyd Wright home in the vicinity. What the heck? I was in the neighborhood, right? From there I started off in the direction of Washington, DC. Since it was an election year, I thought it might be fun to witness all the hoopla from inside the beltway. And while I was there I managed to take in the National Air and Space Museum.

The year ended with me making my way east toward the mid-Atlantic coast, where I’m still stepping around today!

Another tool I used to keep myself stepping, was social media. I tried to regularly post my mileage on Facebook. Friends are amazingly supportive and will help hold you accountable as well.

The really cool thing is that I started all of this for the sole purpose of health benefits, but what I gained was so much more. Along with the cardio benefits, I gained some knowledge about rural America, read up on some sights along the way, and found out that friends don’t have to be nearby to be outstandingly supportive people. Perhaps the most wonderful outcome of all this is that there is at least one person out there making tracks of their own now, and a couple more that are thinking about it. It’s great to have inspired others, but even better…that inspires me to keep going.

It’s 2013 and 1.1 million steps here I come!

Food and the Space Time Continuum

Today I defied the space time continuum.  I took a hambone, some smoked sausage, and some stale bread from last year and combined it with some split peas, celery, onions, and bacon from this year.  Then I added a little loving attention, and voila, one timeless pot of Split Pea Soup with Kielbasa.

Split Pea Soup with Kielbasa

I know of another way to defy the space time continuum in the kitchen.  You ready for this?  Get grandma’s old cookbook out.  You know the one with her scribbles in the margins and notes to herself scattered throughout.  Find the recipes with stars or circles or notes about being someone’s favorites.  Then gather together in the kitchen, cook some food, and share memories.  Not only will the food taste better than fast-food carry out, but I’m willing to bet you’ll find everyone smiling and enjoying the time together!

And in the meantime, if you want to taste some of that Split-Pea Soup for yourself, you can find the recipe at:

 http://www.steffaniskitchen.com/wwc/recipepage.asp?vSelRecipeID=369

5 Great Uses for Old Bread

Bread products. At our house, we use them every week, but we never use as much as we buy. Hot dog buns are a great example. With the introduction of bun-sized hot dogs, we now have the same number of dogs as buns. That’s a good thing. It takes two weeks for my husband and me to consume a whole package of hot dogs, but it only takes one week for a package of hot dog buns to get stale. We also can’t eat a whole loaf of bread in a week. If you hate wasting food, like I hate wasting food, here’s some great uses for that old bread sitting on top of your refrigerator.

Dressing–It doesn’t have to be Thanksgiving to make dressing. You don’t even have to Bread Dryingbe eating turkey. Dressing is also great with pork chops, chicken, and ham.So the next time you have more bread products than you can consume, spread them out and let them dry. Then just bag them up until you have enough to make a batch of dressing. Your family will love you for it!

Bread Crumbs–You can also put the old bread through your food processor or blender. Don’t dry it out before you process it and you’ll have soft bread crumbs to use in things like meatloaves. Dry it out before processing and you’ll have dry bread crumbs to use for things like breaded pork chops. Leave them plain. Add some seasonings. You’ll love the money you save.

Croutons–Salads are only as good as the freshness of the ingredients you use. Why Croutonswould you serve your family lovely fresh greens, lush tomatoes, and crispy cucumber slices and then throw hard lumps of bread from a box on top? If you’ve never had homemade croutons before, you simply have to try them sometime. They’re like little pieces of seasoned toast, crisp on the outside, softer on the inside, and full of flavor. Melt some butter in a saute pan, add some seasonings, and then toss in your old bread cut up into cubes. Saute the bread cubes until they are golden brown. Your family will take a whole new interest in salads!

Bread Pudding–You can even make dessert out of old bread.  Bread pudding is kind of like a dessert equivalent of French toast. Combine gently stale bread with fruit, nuts, chocolate, your favorite liqueur and add a wonderfully eggy custard and you’ve got a warm and wonderful dessert that just begs for a dollop of whipped cream.

Bird Food–Last but never least, don’t forget our fine, feathered friends. Bread crumbled up into small pieces is fine to scatter outside for the birds.

Mourning Dove

Try these recipes that use old bread:

 

My Tomodach–What My Dad Means To Me

As I sit watching touching stories about dads from all walks of life on CBS Sunday Morning, I find myself remembering my dad and reflecting on what he means to me.

Robert F. WhiteLong before I was even a glint in his eye, my dad served in the military during the Korean Conflict.  He loved the far east–particularly Japan.  And from as far back as I remember my dad called me his tomodach–that’s Japanese for buddy.  That’s what we were–buddies.

From my earliest memories my dad was the center of my world.  If he was sitting in the big, black swivel rocker, I was sitting on his lap.  If he was riding the Wheelhorse tractor around the yard, I was sitting on his lap.  You name it.  Wherever he was, I wanted to be.

My daddy was my very best teddy bear, hairy chest and all.  As I got older, my dad was the best tucker-inner at bedtime.  The last part of our bedtime ritual was my dad pulling the string of the music box that hung on the wall by the door.  I used to love this part so much that on those nights I didn’t fall to sleep right away, I would holler out into the living room that he forgot to play the music box.  I must have not fallen asleep a lot, because my dad added another part to our bedtime ritual.  Right before pulling the string on my musicbox, my dad would say.  “Now don’t say I didn’t ’cause I did.”  Then I would giggle and he’d pull the string.  I don’t remember, but I’m betting I’d still holler that he forgot.

A little older and dad was the chief chicken fryer and leftover disposAll.  My dad made the best fried chicken, ever.  As an adult, I evolved into a good cook, but I can’t even come close to making fried chicken as good as my dad’s.  I probably never will.  And in our house, we weren’t allowed to waste food.  If mom put it on your plate, you ate it–even lima beans.  But Dad was always there to rescue us.  Once Mom got up from the table my sister and I would pass our plates to dad and he’d scoop the food we didn’t like onto his own plate.  I guess he might have still been hungry, I don’t know.  But at the time, he was simply the hero who rescued me from another helping of lima beans.

My dad was also the dad of many platitudes.  If there was a life lesson or a value that needed to be passed along, my dad had a saying that would fit.  Any job worth doing is a job worth doing well.  If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  These are the two I remember best.  There are others too.  They pop into my head at appropriate moments to remind me of lessons learned.

Robert F. White

Four years ago, in 2008, my dad left on an adventure.  For a while I would say that I lost my father, but as time goes by I realize more and more that he’s not lost, nor am I.  He’s still my tomodach, and my hero, and my teacher, and he’s with me in every thought that I have–not always in the forefront, but he’s there.

Happy Father’s Day, Dad.

Top 10 Reasons That Old Tortoises Separate

I read a story on the internet today about a pair of tortoises, Bibi and Poldi.  According to the story, Bibi and Poldi grew up together and eventually became a tortoise couple They’ve been together for 115 years, until recently that is.  Apparently something has happened to drive a wedge between the romantic reptiles.  As I read the article I found myself dwelling on what might have happened to split up the happy couple.  This is what I’ve come up with:

10.  Poldi finally decided to tell Bibi he didn’t like her vegan meatloaf.

9.  Bibi announced that after 115 years of doing all the cooking it was Poldi’s turn to cook . Poldi said forget it!

8.  Having heard each other’s stories well over 100 times, solitude was better.

7.  After a century of her being a little bit country and him being a little bit rock and roll, they just didn’t want to make music together anymore.

6.  Poldi mistakenly admitted that shell made Bibi look fat.

5.  Both Bibi and Poldi blamed each other for their poor performance during the Comcast auditions, which led to the Slowskys becoming the spokestortoises.

4.  Bibi finally got tired of Poldi flirting with every female zookeeper assigned to the reptile house.

3.  After working up the nerve for the last 100 years, Poldi finally asked Bibi if she would be interested in a three-way.

2.  Bibi announced that she wanted to explore her feelings for the other female tortoise at the zoo.

And the number one reason that tortoises separate?

1.  Poldi caught Bibi secretly reading “Fifty Shades of Grey.”

The Perfect Pork Loin:A Step-By-Step Guide

Bacon Wrapped Smoked Pork Loin

Bacon Wrapped Smoked Pork Loin

This weekend I decided to smoke a boneless pork loin roast–a cut of meat I’ve never prepared in the smoker. Usually pork loins are sliced into chops which can be grilled, baked or fried, or they can be left as roasts and prepared in an oven, crockpot or on the grill.

Pork loins are lower in fat than cuts from the shoulder, but they can still be prepared to  perfection in a smoker. Here’s how!

The night before you plan on smoking your pork loin, you will want to inject the roast with a marinade. This serves two purposes. It adds flavor and helps to keep the meat moist when smoking. Then slather the pork loin with a nice thick paste and rub it all over to help seal in all that marinade. I use a combination of barbecue sauce and mustard. Finally, pat the whole roast with a dry rub mixed with lots of brown sugar to form a nice gooey crust all over. Wrap the roast tightly in plastic and refrigerate it overnight.

On smoking day, you’re going to have to do some backwards math. Remember, smoking is a low and slow method of cooking, so it takes a bit more planning regarding time. You’re going to need between 3-1/2 and 4 hours total time, so make sure to get started early enough.

Soaking Wood ChipsAbout an hour before you want to begin smoking, put your wood chips in a bowl and cover them with water to give them plenty of soaking time. There are a number of different types of wood available, and the type of wood you use is up to you. Some people like to use mesquite with pork. My favorite is a mixture of hickory and cherry woods.

Then 30 minutes before smoking time, fire up your smoker and preheat it to 200 degrees, and pull the pork loin out of the fridge. Wrap one of the smoker racks with aluminum foil. This will help with cleanup later.

Marinated and Rubbed Pork LoinNow you’re ready to unveil the pork loin. After a night in the fridge wrapped up with all those wonderful flavors, your loin is going to look fantastic. Try to remember that it hasn’t been cooked. Sure it looks, good but it’s not tasty yet!

Next you’re going wrap the pork loin with bacon. This will help to keep the roast moist and add another layer of flavor. And finally, insert a temperature Bacon Wrapped Pork Loinprobe into the loin from one end. The worst thing that you can do to a pork loin is to overcook it, so you want to make sure you have a way to monitor the temperature without repeatedly opening up the smoker to check. You don’t want to lose all that great smoke!

Fill the wood chip holder with your soaked chips. Add a mixture of apple juice and water to the water bowl and then slide the roast on the rack into the smoker and shut the door. A three-pound roast should take about 2-1/2 hours. Baste the roast with apple juice 2-3 time during the smoking process. Basting time is perfect to check on that temperature too.  Remember, you don’t want to overcook the roast.

When the internal temperature of the roast reaches 145 degrees you want to pull it out of the smoker. If the bacon is not as brown as you’d like it to be, whip out your handy dandy kitchen blow torch to pretty it up a bit. Then wrap the roast in foil and allow it to rest for 30-60 minutes before slicing.

Bacon Wrapped Smoked Pork Loin

This roast is delicious, beautiful, and certainly suitable to serve to company! You can find the full recipe at Steffani’s Kitchen.

Eating Out or Dining In

Have you ever wondered how much of a premium you pay when you go out for a steak dinner instead of cooking that steak at home?  Well I have, most recently this evening when my husband and I sat down to a couple of Delmonicos grilled to perfection.

We also had a lovely spinach salad with fresh strawberries, hard-boiled egg, and honey mustard dressing.  Baked sweet potato with butter and cinnamon sugar, and sauteed mushrooms.

Fortunately, I still had my grocery receipts so after dinner I sat down and calculated how much our steak dinner cost us.  Here’s what I found:
0.92  Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Egg, and Honey Mustard Dressing
10.41  2-12 ounce Delmonicos
2.14  Sauteed Mushrooms
0.68  Baked Sweet Potato with Butter and Cinnamon Sugar (big enough to share)
1.10  Pop (this is a high estimate–I just used the price of a 2-liter on sale)
That’s a total of $15.25.  That’s right!  $15.25 for a fantastic steak dinner for two!
So how much would we have had to spend if we had gone out for this meal?  Well I knew it was going to be more expensive, but I was surprised when I discovered how much more expensive.
That same meal at a national chain steakhouse like Texas Roadhouse would have cost us $49.56 including tax and tip.  That’s 325% more.  Granted someone else would have cooked the food and washed the dishes, but we would have sacrificed the relaxing, quiet ambiance at home for the overly-loud, peanut-shells-on-the-floor atmosphere at the roadhouse.
So now let’s aim for the ambiance and see what that meal would have cost us at a fine dining restaurant.  Are you ready for this?  At a finer restaurant, that meal would have cost us $77.59 or 509% more.
Wow!
So the next time your mouth is watering for a delicious steak dinner, think about heading out to the grocery instead of a restaurant.  You can always take those savings and buy a nice bottle of wine to enjoy with your meal!

The Final Frontier

SpaceX Launch May 22, 2012

© SpaceX

Last week Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), an American company that designs, manufactures and launches American rockets and spacecraft, launched its Falcon 9 rocket into space.  Then again three days later SpaceX’s unmanned Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial spacecraft to successfully attach to the International Space Station.

Wow!  I can’t remember feeling like this since I was in grade school sitting on a linoleum floor watching any of the Apollo launches on a 19-inch black and white TV on a rolling AV cart.  It’s good to know that Americans are back in space, even if it isn’t NASA.

Burt Rutan said it well in a talk he gave back in 2006 when he said “It’s not good enough for us to have generations of kids that….look forward to a better version of a cell phone with a video in it.  They need to look forward to exploration.”

It’s good to see that entrepreneurs are stepping up and filling the gaps when it comes to space travel.  I don’t know if these ground-breaking commercial steps into space will lead to any type of space tourism that I could afford during my lifetime, but hope has returned, along with that childhood twinkle in my eye and my imagination.