Saturday, April 28, 2012

Koreon BBQ Sauce Recipe

For the Kogi BBQ Sauce
2 tablespoons Korean fermented hot pepper paste (gochujang)
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon rice wine vinegar
2 teaspoons sesame oil


Monday, February 20, 2012

Pie Crust with Kitchenaid Mixer

All Butter Crust for Sweet and Savory Pies

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  • 1 cup (2 sticks or 8 ounces) unsalted butter, very-cold, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 6 to 8 Tbsp very cold water

  1. Sift flour and salt into bowl.
  2. Cut shortening and butter into 4 to 5 pieces and drop into bowl.
  3. Attach bowl and flat beater.
  4. Turn to Stir Speed and cut shortening into flour until particles are size of small peas, about 30 seconds.
  5. Add water, a tablespoon at a time, until all particles are moistened.
  6. Use only enough water to make pastry form a ball.
  7. Watch dough closely as over mixing will result in a tough crust.
  8. Chill in refrigerator 15 minutes.
  9. Roll to 1/8-inch thickness between pieces of waxed paper.
  10. Fold pastry into quarters; ease into pie plate and unfold, pressing firmly against bottom and side.
  11. Trim and crimp edges.
  12. Fill and bake as desired.
  13. For Baked Pastry Shell: 
    1. Prick sides and bottom with fork.
    2. Bake at 450F for 8 to 10 minutes until light brown.
    3. Cool completely before filling.

Egg Wash

A lovely coating for a pie can be achieved with a simple egg wash.
  • 1 Tbsp heavy cream, half and half, or milk
  • 1 large egg yolk
Beat egg yolk with cream and brush on the surface of the pie with a pastry brush.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Corn Donuts

This is a weird thing I make for my kids now and then. It's adapted from the batter for corn dogs. It might just be a corn fritter, but then I've never looked up a recipe for corn fritters.

  • 1/2 cup bisquik mix
  • 1/4 cup corn meal
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
mix dry ingredients together.

  • 3/8 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon oil
mix wet ingredients together. then mix with dry ingredients.

bring 3/4" deep canola oil to 375. 

drop batter into oil. fry about a minute or until golden brown, then flip over. fry another minute or until golden brown.

drain over papertowels or rack.

serve plain, with powdered sugar, or with honey.

recipe makes enough for 3-4 people as is, or double for more.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Seven Ways to Find the Time to Blog

After a friend recently posted about trying to find the time to blog, I got to thinking: How do I find the time to blog? 

After some thinking, I came up with a few principles. In some ways, I'm the worst person to give advice, because my frequency of posting is terrible compared to any decent blogger. On the other hand, I'm the father of 3 children under the age of 4 (doing attachment parenting no less) and I work full time, so if I can find the time to post, then anyone can.

First, make sure that you know why you're blogging. If you don't know, the issue may not be a lack of time, but a lack of clarity or motivation. Rebecca Blood's articles and references on blogging and book, The Weblog Handbook, are useful if you are just finding your voice. Once you know why you're blogging, the following tips may help you find the time to actually get those blog posts going.
  1. Repurpose: If you are an information worker of any kind or a student, you're probably already doing research, generating reports, analyzing information. If you can find a way to take your initial work and repurpose it for use in two places, then you can generate content for your blog with only a little additional work. Be aware that depending on your employment contract, work policy, and employment laws, there could be all sorts of issues about who owns your work, the confidentiality of your work, and a slew of other issues. On the other hand, judging from recent Wired magazine articles, many companies are now opening up and encouraging transparency in all its forms, including blogging. Research this ahead of time so that you're doing the correct legal and ethical thing.
  2. Substitute: You probably already bookmark websites, send emails about interesting articles or thoughts to friends and you may even write the occasional letter or holiday newsletter to family and friends. All of these are material that could be published on your blog. When you publish your bookmarks on your blog, not only do you benefit, but so do your readers. Blog instead of bookmarking, blog instead of emailing, blog instead of writing a letter, blog instead of publishing. 
  3. Get creative: Take the creativity advice of Gifford Pinchot III, and always keep index cards or a quarto on you. The time when you have a creative idea to post is most likely not when you are in front of a computer. So grab that handy pen and paper, outline your post, and it'll be quick and easy to post when you next sit in front of a computer.
  4. Scratch an itch: My own blog originated from my desire to keep track of books that I had read. As I borrowed more books to read (instead of buying), I found it difficult to keep track of books and authors I liked. That make it difficult to decide what books to read next. I could have simply kept a lot on my computer, but how much more fun to share it with everyone. Now using my blog helps me do something I already wanted to do, and that's true even if no one ever reads it. The epilogue to MIT's open source book has an interesting discussion of the open source principle applied to writing:
    "While every writer will tell you they write for themselves, this is more a statement of principle than an actual description of process—a piece of writing, whether a textbook or a novel, needs an audience to succeed. A programmer who claims to writes code for him or herself, on the other hand, is often telling the literal truth: “This tool is for me to use. Additional users are nice, but not necessary.”
    If you can manage to write and simultaneously create value for yourself through your writing, then you have a double motivation to write.
  5. Eliminate barriers: If posting on your blog requires you to jump over a dozen hurdles, you won't do it. Eliminate barriers, and you'll find that even five minutes can be enough to start an interesting post. Use simple blog software with a WYSIWYG editor so you aren't spending time messing with HTML. Keep a browser window open to your blog editor at all times, so it is always easy to get to. Start a post, even if you won't have time to finish it now, and keep the edit window open. You'll come back to it later when you do have time.
  6. Have modest expectations: I'm sure I could have made this a "top ten" list, but seven items came easily, and still fulfilled the purpose of the post.
  7. Set a goal: E set the goal of posting at least once a week, and while she may have missed one week somewhere in there, for the last two months, her blog has had plenty of fresh, interesting articles. Way to go!
Update (4/12/2007): Here are several other resources about finding or making the time to blog:
Update (November 2011): I've been blogging less, but I've also written three science fiction novels, so the principles here work for things other than just blogging. 

Time as a criteria for purchases

Last year I received a bonus from work and discussed with my friend Gene the things I was thinking about spending it on. He suggested getting a handheld game console, as a way to get back into gaming, which we both used to enjoy. He saw it as a way for him to use his down time waiting for planes, waiting for his partner when going out, and so forth.

It sounded really fun, and I was heading down the path of getting one when I realized that I had none of the kinds of downtime that Gene had. I have no time that isn't used for something.

It made me realize that if I was thinking about bringing anything new into my life, then its impact on time would need to be the primary criteria. If I brought in anything new, it would either need to have a 1 to 1 replacement of time spent on something else, or it would actually need to save me time. But it couldn't require me to find new time, because there just isn't any. (Three children under age four, full time work, attachment get the picture.)

Enjoyment or satisfaction, traditional criteria for a purchase would have to be secondary to time. If something had immense enjoyment but required me to find time for it, then I wouldn't actually get to use it, and so I would never realize the enjoyment benefits of it.

A handheld gaming console might be fun, but since it would take time I don't have, there's no point. An MP3 player might be fun, and it would simply replace time I already spend listening to the radio, so it's a better decision. (Although there is some up front time cost to organizing mp3s, playlists, etc.) I haven't been able to find any good examples of something you can buy that brings you enjoyment and saves you time. But if you have any ideas, let me know, because half a year later, my bonus is still sitting waiting for me to spend it. It turns out that this time criteria is a pretty strict filter, because I still haven't bought anything.

Miele dishwasher just fits more, much more, than a Bosch

A Miele vs. Bosch Comparison

In our old house, a 1920 era Bungalow, we had managed to squeeze an 18” wide dishwasher into the kitchen by removing one of the original 1920s kitchen cabinets. There were only two choices for an 18” wide dishwasher: a low end model made by one of the American appliance companies, and a Miele. Having been delighted with our Miele vacuum cleaner, we decided to go with the Miele dishwasher despite its extravagant cost. We were thrilled with our dishwasher purchase, especially after having lived without a dishwasher for several years. Like the vacuum cleaner, the Miele dishwasher excelled in every way at washing dishes: everything always came clean, without any rinsing, it was exceptionally quiet, the dishes were dry at the end (without the energy waste of a heating element), and the dishwasher was very energy and water efficient - so much so that we received a nice rebate from the State of Oregon.

When we moved into our new house last Fall, we were again faced with purchasing a dishwasher, This time we had more options, because we were looking for a normal 24” width dishwasher. After reading Consumer Reports, we decided to go with the top ranked model: a Bosch. It was still, relatively speaking, an expensive, high end model, but it had received a glowing review by Consumer Reports, and it was less costly than the equivalent Miele.

We waited with great anticipation for the new Bosch to arrive and get installed. We loaded dishes into it, and washed them, and lo’ and behold, we had sparkly clean dishes. We just didn’t have very many sparkly clean dishes. Strangely, the 24” wide Bosch seemed to hold less dishes than the 18” wide Miele. That didn’t seem like it could be possible, so I figured that I needed more practice loading the Bosch.

Well, after a week of practice, I’d had it with the Bosch. Yes, the dishes were definitely clean, but they always came out wet, and even with practice, we still weren’t getting very many dishes in there.

The three drawer configuration of the Miele washer fits
much more than two drawer dishwashers.
Frustrated with this state of affairs, I checked out prices of the Miele, and called the friendly folks at Standard TV and Appliance to see if I could return the Bosch. Even though the Bosch dishwasher had been installed and in use for several days, they still graciously took it back and refunded our money.

I ordered the Miele, and a week later we had the 24” Miele installed. Sure enough, it was clearly obvious that the Miele could hold much, much more than the Bosch. How much can the Miele how? Why can it hold so much more?

I took a few photos of our Miele one morning after having run a particularly large load of dishes. You should know that we have three young kids, so we have an abundance of small plates and bowls – way more than adults or older kids would go through in a day.

Here’s what was in the Miele:

Bottom rack:
  • 10 adult dinner size plates
  • 3 adult large soup bowls
  • 5 adult small cereal bowls
  • 3 large kids plates
  • 4 large kids bowls
  • Cutting board
  • Large pasta colander 
Middle rack:
Middle drawer fits glasses as well as small
bowls and short glasses on fold down shelves.
  • 4 small kids bowls
  • 2 small kids plates
  • 10 kids glasses/cups
  • 2 adult large glasses
  • 2 measuring cups
  • 2 plastic storage containers with lids

Top rack:
Cutlery drawer is good for silverware as well as small
plastic things that would otherwise get thrown around
by water.
  • 4 tiny kids bowls
  • 15 knives, including eating and food prep
  • 10 adult forks
  • 9 adult spoons
  • 7 kids spoons
  • 4 measuring spoons
  • 1 measuring cup
  • 1 sippy cup lid
  • 1 vegetable peeler

In short, there were 55 non-utensils items in the dishwasher ranging from a very large colander to very small kids bowls, and 41 utensils.

I believe there are three reasons that the Miele can fit so much more.

First, the tines that hold plates on the bottom rack are much closer together than on the Bosch, or other ordinary dishwashers. I believe Miele can accomplish this because the dishwasher is so effective at cleaning that it can still get all the dishes perfectly clean even with less room between the plates.

Second, the cutlery goes on a third rack, at the top of the dishwasher, instead of taking up valuable space on the bottom rack.

Third, the middle rack has two fold down arms. I think these arms are meant primarily to help hold wine glasses steady when washing those kinds of glasses, so that they don’t rub against each other. But the shelves function equally well for holding small bowls and plastic food storage containers. In fact, they are especially good for the kinds of small plastic items that normally get flipped over during washing and fill with water. When placed on those fold down shelves, the small plastic items are held in place by the cutlery tray, so they don’t move around or flip over.

The end result of all this extra capacity is that we can do less dishwasher loads (saving money, water, and energy), as well as be able to fit pots and pans that would otherwise end up having to be hand washed. By comparison, if you take the same number of plates that would fill the Bosch’s space-inefficient bottom rack and put them instead in the Miele’s bottom rack, you’re left with enough room in the Miele for two to three large pots.

Oh, and the Miele gets all the dishes perfectly clean, and the dishes are dry at the end, and it's very quiet.

I highly recommend this dishwasher - as far as I can tell it's the ultimate dishwasher.

Customizing the Chariot Cougar with a Front Cargo Tray

a.k.a. Hacking the Stroller
With three small kids, we have a yard full of strollers. Single strollers, double strollers, even triple strollers - in normal, umbrella, and jogging styles. But we lacked a good double jogging stroller and we lacked a bike trailer. We knew that some bike trailers could convert to become jogging strollers. After a bit of review, we narrowed our options to a Burkey D'Lite trailer or a Chariot Cougar. After reading the canonical comparison between the Burley and the Chariot, we were leaning in favor of the Chariot, especially because we wanted a good walking/jogging stroller - and while biking was important, it wasn't the sole use.

Having bought the Chariot Cougar, we started using it. And living within convenient walking distance of the grocery store, a very regular use of the stroller became visits to the grocery. And which point, you're left with the question of where to put the groceries. The Chariot does have a very nice cargo area on the back of the stroller. It fits about two large bags of groceries, but because the space is narrow, it's not as easy as just putting two bags in. Instead, we end up packing the groceries directly into the cargo area. It works, but then it becomes time consuming when you get home to carry individual items into the house.

The other problem, as I'm sure that every parent has run into with funny (and/or dangerous) results at times, is when the stroller becomes too back-heavy, tipping it back and sending your child into the air (or simply flipping over backwards when you lift your child out.) This can happen with just a heavy diaper bag, never mind with really heavy stuff like quarts of goat milk and jars of baby food packed into the cargo area.

The Chariot is a very adaptable chassis. It can function as a bike trailer, regular stroller, jogging stroller, and even ski stroller. I noticed that the chassis has two square openings used for the jogging stroller, ski stroller, and bike trailer attachments, but that these square openings were not in use when the stroller had just the regular swivel wheels on front. Since these openings were clearly make to handle some weight, they would be strong enough to carry a front cargo tray, right?

I purchased two 4 foot, true 1x1 square rods at the lumber yard, and used some spare lumber to create a cargo tray. The cargo tray will hold three large grocery bags side by side. It's flat, and has sides, so it can hold a variety of other things that need to stay stable - such as in these pictures when it's carrying our dinner and some plates we were borrowing for a party.

The front and rear cargo areas work well together. By providing a little extra weight on the front, even when the rear area is loaded heavily, the stroller will not tend to tip over backwards. The front cargo area, by virtue of its size, lends itself to all kinds of things that you couldn't even consider without it: such as carrying three kids worth of soccer gear, spare clothes, water, and snacks to the park for a morning of soccer.

Between kids and the two cargo trays, I'm way overloading the Chariot, but it doesn't seem to mind at all. (The factory rear cargo area is only rated for 5 pounds capacity, but I've easily put 20 pounds or more in it.) The stroller is very solidly built.

To build the tray, I first sanded the two 1x1 pieces to take a little off, as the actual tube opening is about 1/16th of an inch less than true 1x1. I put the two 1x1 in place, cut the wood for the bottom of the tray, and then screwed it onto the 1x1s while they were in place. This helped me keep the exact alignment needed. It's a snug fit, and I rely just on friction to hold the tray in place. This seems to work well, although there are definitely holes in the chassis themselves that would lend themselves to a cotter pin if needed.

The one downside is going up curbs without a cutout. With weight in the front tray, it can be hard to get enough leverage to get the front end to pop up over the curb. If it is very lightly loaded, you can do it. Otherwise you need to plan your route to take into account curb cutouts.

Dad Recommends...Books

Although parenting advice is not a usual part of my blog, with three guy friends expecting babies (congrats Gene, Dave, and Nathan), and two of them being first time dads, I figured it's time to share some of my hard-won parenting experience.

There's just three parenting books that were useful enough to me that I'd want to recommend them to others:
  • The Baby Book by Sears: This is the bible of attachment parenting. Attachment parenting is not a parenting style for everyone, but I do think everyone should make a conscious decision about how to parent before becoming a parent. Exposure to attachment parenting via The Baby Book is something that I would heartily recommended, even if parents don't end up using attachment parenting whole hog.
  • Smart Medicine for a Healthier Child by Zand, Rountree and Walton: This book is worth it's weight in gold for the number of visits to the doctor that we've avoided. It is very complete - I can't ever recall not finding what I was looking for. And what makes this book so amazing is that every entry contains a descriptive of the ailment, followed by information on conventional western medicine treatment, herbal treatment, vitamin and nutritional treatment, dietary recommendations, homeopathic treatment, and folk medicine treatment. It's so great to see all these different healing modalities in one place. 
  • No Cry Sleep Solution for Toddlers and Preschoolers by Pantley: If you start out by always "wearing" your child to sleep, at some point you'll need to transition them to learning to fall asleep on their own. This book explains exactly how to do that. 

Things to Learn for Expecting Dads

When we were expecting our first child, I remember my partner E reading book after book about being pregnant and the experience of childbirth. I am not exaggerating when I say that she probably read close to twenty books on pregnancy and childbirth. When we woke up the morning after our daughter R was born, I remember E saying something to the effect of "What do we do now? I read all these books on pregnancy and childbirth, but I didn't read anything about being a parent."

Indeed, after the act of childbirth is finished, and you find yourself a parent, there will be no time to read books on parenting.

So while expectant moms are worrying about things like where to have the baby, what vitamins to take, and what exercises to do, it is up to you, expectant dads, to go learn about things that new parents, not expecting moms, need to know.

Here's a list of skills and other things that you should learn about, and preferably practice, prior to the birth of your baby:
  1. How to cook meals, clean the house, do dishes, do the laundry, contact key doctors and friends without having to ask your partner. No kidding, this may sound silly, but after childbirth the last thing mom wants to do is worry about any of this stuff. Ideally you will have friends and family helping you with many of these tasks, but you should be able to do them without having to ask your wife questions. You may never have called your wife's best friend before, but you may need to do it after the childbirth. Do you know her last name? Her phone number? Could you get it without waking up your wife when she is taking a precious nap?
  2. How to hold a baby. Read about it in a book, and practice with a friend's baby, a doll, or a pet.
  3. How to feed a baby. This is sort of a trick question. With luck, mom will be nursing and you won't need to feed the baby. If you do need to feed the baby because nursing isn't going well, you'll probably have a lactation consultant or doula on hand to help. 
  4. How to change a diaper and dress a baby: This is kinda obvious, isn't it? You'll be doing this 20 times a day in the beginning so get good at it. Oh, and a hint: changing diapers before your child starts solid food at about six months is a piece of cake compared to afterwards. So get started early and enjoy the easy ones.
  5. How to clean up spilled milk and baby spit-up. You'll be doing this lots.
  6. How to pack a diaper bag. Make a list of everything that needs to go in the diaper bag. Put this by your front door or closet - where ever you keep the diaper bag. Check the list every time before you go out.
  7. How to install a car seat. This is so much easier if you have a LATCH-ready car and LATCH-ready car seat. If not, make sure you try it out ahead of time.
  8. How to put your baby in the car seat.
  9. How to get a baby to sleep. This is probably one of the most fun parts. I love hold babies and watching them fall asleep. Very much related to...
  10. How to sling a baby. Ah, the modern day baby sling is a relief. You can hold your baby and send email, blog, or surf the web. You can hold your baby and wash dishes. You can hold your baby and garden. There are lots of slings out there, try a few. Practice getting babies in and out, because it isn't always obvious.
  11. How to burp a baby. 

If you have these skills, you'll be a master dad.

Cod Liver Oil

For the most part, I think expecting dads should steering clear of trying to influence the diet of expecting moms. But  there is one item I would strongly recommend after reading an article at my pediatrician's office: cod liver oil

As reported in Psychology Today and elsewhere, cod liver oil supplements during pregnancy and while nursing have a strong correlation with increased I.Q. Take cod liver oil through pregnancy and while nursing, and raise your child's I.Q. by 3-4 points, in addition to reducing the risk of premature birth and low birth weight

Carlson's Lemon Flavored Cod Liver Oil tastes pretty darn good too: My partner and I, as well as all three kids love it.

Baby Monitors

Dad Recommends...Baby Monitors

We have two baby monitors, both of them audio-only models. The first one we used with our older daughter was the typical Graco baby monitor that almost everyone has. It works fairly well, and we continue to use it. It's analog, on the 49mhz frequency.

Then we needed a second monitor for our twins. To insure that it wouldn't interfere with our daughter's monitor, we got a digital monitor, since digital monitors usually run on a completely different frequency. It's called the Summer Infant Secure Digital Monitor, and it uses 900mhz. This particular monitor is awesome in that the receiver has a docking bay, and it automatically recharges in the docking bay. Then the built-in rechargeable battery is good for 8 to 10 hours of usage. This means that you can carry the receiver around with you, clipped onto your belt, or put it on the kitchen counter, and you're not worrying about power cords or AA batteries running out every couple of hours. Even now, two years later, the built-in battery stills holds a good, long charge, and it's never given us a problem. Plus it always has very clear reception.

One difference between our older daughter and the twins is that we always wore our daughter to sleep in good attachment parenting style. We never really missed the video feature with hr, because we really only needed the monitor to know if she woke up - and if she did, then we would go get her. But with the twins, after about a year, we started putting them in their cribs at the start of the night for them to fall asleep on their own. Most of the time they fall asleep quickly, but on some nights, they might cry for a little while. Then we're always wondering, "are they crying because they're having a hard time falling asleep, or because they got their leg stuck in the crib or  some similar other disaster that requires parental intervention?" Because of this, it really would be handy to have the video feature to be able to know this without having to go in the room.

Summer Infant also makes a handheld video model that similar to our digital model in that it has a built-in rechargeable battery. From the reviews on Amazons, customers seem to have left pretty good feedback, both on the product itself, and on their experiences with the company. Without having had a video baby monitor ourselves, I'd probably look first at the Summer Infant video models first, based on the good quality of the Summer Infant monitor we already have. 

2011 Update: Several years later, we no longer need a baby monitor in our kids rooms. But if we're down in the basement watching TV, and they need us from their second floor rooms, it's still hard for us to hear them. The solution we've come up with is a set of walkie talkies. Modern walkie talkies are completely silent when there's no transmission and they use rechargeable batteries. It's a great solution for young elementary school aged kids in a large house. 

GeekDad Wayback Machine: Places to Take Your Kids in Portland

GeekDad has a good list of places to take little geeklets in Portland, Oregon. Although most of the suggestions will be well known to natives, there were a few really good ideas I hadn't seen before. Here's a couple of direct quotes from the article:

  • Side trip (from OMSI): The Portland bridges. From OMSI it is a quick walk to the downtown bridges and more than once I've been offered tours of the towers and inner workings just for showing interest.
  • Willamette Locks at Oregon City: River engineering is a big part of the economy in the region (for good and ill) and the Willamette Locks are a great, close in, example of how the rivers are operated for commerce. My kids got to operate the locks under the supervision of the lock master - smiles from ear to ear. Make sure the locks are in operation before visiting. The Army Corps of Engineers operates the locks only when they have the budget to do so. If your kids like this trip consider a visit to Bonneville.
  • Arrival of the Jayhawks: A few times a year the Coast Guard Jayhawk rescue helicopters come up from Air Station Astoria to do a SAR demonstration. They always do a demonstration at the June Rose Festival Fleet Week but my favorite place to get up close and personal is the occasional open houses at Coast Guard Sector Portland. The demonstration is within about 100 feet of dock and you get a great view. At either of these events you can tour the USCGC Bluebell, our local buoy tender. (I'm a Coast Guard Auxiliarist so I have a bias on this one). Photos here.
  • Evergreen Aviation Museum : Home of the Spruce Goose. If the kids are interested aviation this is trip you must take. They have wonderful collection of aircraft from the beginning of flight to WWII war birds to an SR-71 all under the longest wingspan of any aircraft ever built, Howard Hughes' Spruce Goose.