Friday, August 31, 2007

Shabbat Shalom!

Please note: this blog is not updated on Friday nights or Saturdays. Comments made during this time will be put in a queue, to be moderated after Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom!
שבת שלום

Thursday, August 30, 2007

I'm unreasonably happy about my refrigerator today

Our refrigerator is our Mission Control Center. Not only does it feed us, its three outward-facing walls are where we keep our Mailroom, our Reference Binder and various other mission-critical tools.

Over the years it has acquired a few nicks and scratches, which have become rusted. (Hmmm, I wonder why they're all about 3½ feet tall?) Thank G-d, our life is so good that I enjoyed the luxury of being annoyed by this.

But today, thanks to this spiffy new toy by Wall-pops that problem has been solved. (Warning: site has music that starts automatically, but it can be turned off. I didn't see the dry-erase board at that site, or any place that I'm familiar with for ordering on-line. The company makes many purely decorative, non-dry-ease wall stickers in many colors, but the package stated that the dry-erase board comes only in white. I think the dry-ease/whiteboard product is new, so it hasn't shown up on Amazon yet...)

It's a soft, vinyl dry-erase surface, about as thick as a poster board, with removable, re-stickable, re-usable, non-wall-harming adhesive on the back, in a pure white color.

It can be trimmed to any size or shape easily with a scissors. (In fact, I saved some trimmings to play with for crafts: dollhouse sized whiteboards, die cutting shapes, etc. ) I bought mine at our local craft store for about $16 each. (Update: According to a commenter, they're available at Amazing Savings for much less! I wish we had an Amazing Savings here. I'd wallpaper the girls' room with this stuff! See the comments on this post for the details.)

Refrigerator as a whiteboard/dry erase board

(I had to work to get an angle where they showed up, and I adjusted the contrast on the photo to help make the dry-erase surface visible. In real life, the surface is almost exactly the color of the refrigerator. The frog was quickly drawn using the template & method from the Team Tshirts post.)

I had been using a couple of these removable (and restick-able) for about a month, elsewhere in the house. (Inside a kitchen cabinet, on the wall near my bed, in our mudroom. I'm tempted to put one on the shower wall!) They really work! The adhesive really sticks, really comes off (without harming my walls), really sticks again in thelocation. The only trick is to be careful not to erase past the edges of the dry next-erase surface, or the walls will get dirty.

I have had one of these on the top part of the refrigerator (trimmed to fit, with the leftovers used elsewhere as a mini-whiteboard! Woot!!!) but only today realized I could add a lower one for the kids to use, at kid-height, that would cover the rust stains.

It's particularly nice to have a whiteboard on the refrigerator door that won't fall off when the fridge door is slammed. It also takes up no physical or visual space.

I can't believe how (totally out of proportion) happy this makes me!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pantry in a stairwell - some storage ideas

The stairway to our basement is also our pantry. I try to maximize the bits of storage space that don't encroach on the free use of the stairs.

On the walls that have a few inches of clearance, there are wire shelf baskets. These reach up to the ceiling of the stairwell.

When we have bags of chips (or any bulky bag of very light weight), we clip them to the higher shelves (so they are out of the way and above our heads) using clothes-pins. This way, they don't use valuable shelf space.

On the one wall there is about 3" of space, which isn't wide enough for a set of shelves. On this wall, we stack boxes of breakfast cereal face-out.
Emily in 2004 with the Wall o'Cereal after a big Kellogg's sale

Emily in 2004 with the Wall o'Cereal after a big Kellogg's sale. She was as old then as Gretta is now.
{Cue the violins with "Fiddler on the Roof"....}

Above head level on that wall, I've hammered a few nails into a (painted) plank of wood that is attached to the drywall.

These nails are perfect for hanging the net bags that hold heavy produce, such as onions and potatoes.

This is also where we keep the plastic coffee-cup lids, and bulk-purchased plastic bread bags, suspended by plastic bags, hung on mug hooks.

What are your Pantry storage solutions?

Please share them in the comments!

Works for Me Wednesday header at post is part of the Works for Me Wednesday group writing project.)
Here are the rest of my contributions to the WFMW project.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Filing printable receipts electronically with a PDF printer driver

Being able to work with .PDF files is endlessly useful.

The nice thing about .PDF files, is that they look the same on everyone's computer.

For example, someone with Hebrew fonts in their word processor, can create a .PDF version of a document (say, a flyer) with Hebrew in it that can be read on someone else's computer, even though the recipient doesn't have any Hebrew fonts.

If the recipient prints the flyer, it will print correctly on their system and with their printer, without fuss.

Mac users have .PDF capability built into their systems, but Windows folk (like me) have to add it. Luckily, there are many cheap/free and easy methods.

I have been using various .PDF creating printer drivers for a number of years. These are free (or minimal cost) utilities that create .PDF files from anything you can print from your computer.

They work by installing a .PDF-creating "printer" on your system. To make a .PDF file, simply choose this "printer" when printing from any program. Instead of printing on paper, you will be asked for a file name/location of the .PDF file that holds whatever the program would have printed.

I use easyPDF. It has a free version, but I paid $9.95 for a bit more functionality from it a few years ago. There are many free PDF printer utilities available.

Lifehacker recently shared a list of 10 free PDF utilities.

One of the many nifty way to use a .PDF printer driver, is to use it to avoid printing (and losing) paper receipts when shopping or banking on-line. Obviously, if it is something for which you need a physical copy, such as for tax purposes, then print on paper.

Create a folder (in My Documents) called "Receipts". Whenever you buy something or sign up for something on-line that yields a receipt page - you know, the ones that say "Print this page for your records" - simply print to the .PDF driver and save the file to the Receipts folder.

Voila! Now, all those confirmation receipts are stored together. You'll be able to find them, sort them, forward via e-mail, and use text-select to copy and paste data (such as order numbers).

Emptying my head to reboot my Project List

Photo of Boston's John Hancock Building, taken by Juggling Frogs August 26, 2007

I normally keep the list of my current projects in quasi-electronic form, as part of my hybrid(Outlook/Moleskine) system.

Every so often, however, my Project List needs a therapeutic overhaul.

The usual trigger for this is when my list of things to do looms too large for me to have clear mental picture of its structure.

This can happen when:

  • many projects have been completed
  • many new projects are anticipated
  • the holiday season is approaching
  • the holiday season is just passed
  • major responsibilities are shifting
  • schedule changes are coming
  • scheduling milestones occurred
  • it has been a long time since the last "reboot"

For me this morning, I'd check 'all of the above' in that list.

It helps to take an hour or two to get a handle on the status of... everything. This is a step further back from the 'weekly review'.

My approach is to go temporarily low-tech. I grab the past few months' worth of notebooks, their index, an updated printout of the upcoming calendar, along with printouts of project specific schedules, and the latest updated Project List, and step away from my computers, away from my desk.

I clear the dining room table and put up a pot of coffee. This lets me pretend I'm at a coffee shop, free from the (home) office and its distractions. The printouts and lack of laptop help keep me on-task and off-line - both from the Internet, and from the wheel-spinning obsessive editing of the Project List that sometimes clouds my view of the bigger picture.

photo of Project Chart in the making
On a large sheet of paper (small poster-board), I draw a grid of generic sections with a thick marker. These sections represent projects.

Using sticky-note page markers, trimmed tops of sticky-notes, or strips of paper and a restickable glue stick, I dig methodically backward and forward through my notes, populating the project sections on the big, blank project chart with next actions on the little, removable slips of paper. (An approximate color coding is helpful, but only if I'm vigilantly non-perfectionistic about it.)

The newness of the empty chart, and the temporary nature of the paper slips, allow for quick shuffling and a global view of the growing list. At this stage, the printed Project List is used as an input to the Project Chart-making process.

When completed, I use the chart to update the Project List on my computer. Thus, the Project Chart now becomes the input to the Project List.

This step is vital. It's important to complete the cycle, and finish the "reboot" with a single updated, functioning Project List.

If the process is interrupted, the temptation to use the Project Chart as a working Project List will be very strong. This is a huge mistake, as it effectively creates two, out-of-sync Project Lists.

If I'm interrupted, I mark down where I left off, and use my regular tools (notebooks, calendars, project lists) in "real life", restarting the chart-making process (with updated printouts, if necessary) when time permits.

Admittedly, I sometimes sneak a digital picture or multi-page scan of the completed chart once it has been used to update the Project List., ostensibly for "backup", but, truthfully, I find it hard to discard my creation (and the work it represents) without a proper tribute.

The last step is the gleeful and cathartic tearing off and crumbling up of the little slips of paper. This prevents the Project Chart from impersonating a Project List. This also allows the Project Chart to be tucked away and reused, the next time I need a reboot.

May all your systems run clear in the upcoming (academic and Jewish) new year.

(See also my annotated picture of a (recycled, homemade) magnetic clipboard for multiple temporary to-do lists for a way to 'empty the head' while in the thick of a complex project.)

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Kosher Cooking meta-Carnival (KCmC?!)

Kosher Cooking Carnival (KCC) logo

Table of Contents~ Breads~ Salads ~ Appetizers ~ Soups ~ Side Dishes~ Entrees(Meat) ~ Entrees (Dairy) ~ Entrees (Pareve) ~ Desserts ~ Snacks ~ Condiments ~ Beverages ~ Recipe websites and lists ~ Articles about Food, Cooking, and Celebrating ~ Articles about Keeping Kosher ~ Cookbooks ~ Just for Fun ~ KCmC Index

In the almost two years since Batya started the Kosher Cooking Carnival, it has reliably provided a cookbook's worth of new articles and recipes every month.

I had the privilege of hosting this month's edition. In the process of collecting the previous carnival's links (to avoid duplicates), (and also to help me find recipes for my own use) I started to compile an aggregate recipe index from the previous Kosher Cooking Carnivals.

Until attempting this, I had no idea how large it had grown!

What follows below is either a KCmC (Kosher Cooking meta-Carnival) or a KCMC (Kosher Cooking Mega-Carnival).

Thank you, Batya for creating, maintaining, and nurturing this incredible ongoing collaboration!You should be very, very proud! All of our tables have been enhanced by your efforts!

Past posts and future hosts, as well as a submission form for your recipes can be found at the Official Kosher Cooking Carnival index page.

Table of Contents:




Soups (and soup accompaniments)

Soup +/- matza balls

other than chicken soup

Side Dishes

Entrees (Meat)

Beef (other than Cholent)



Entrees (Dairy)

Entrees (Pareve)


not fish





Recipe websites and lists (not all are specifically kosher)

Articles about Food, Cooking, and Celebrating

Articles about Keeping Kosher


Just for Fun

Here is the list of the Kosher Cooking Carnivals included in this index:

Table of Contents~ Breads~ Salads ~ Appetizers ~ Soups ~ Side Dishes~ Entrees(Meat) ~ Entrees (Dairy) ~ Entrees (Pareve) ~ Desserts ~ Snacks ~ Condiments ~ Beverages ~ Recipe websites and lists ~ Articles about Food, Cooking, and Celebrating ~ Articles about Keeping Kosher ~ Cookbooks ~ Just for Fun ~ KCmC Index

Past posts and future hosts, as well as a submission form for your recipes can be found at the Official Kosher Cooking Carnival index page.

Disclaimer: If a link was not functioning when I checked it, I tried to fix the link or find the update. If I couldn't get a link to work I didn't include it. I also left out any links that required registration to view. Everyone is encouraged to visit the KCC posts themselves for further discussion of the recipes in the comments. It took a long time to edit and check links, so I can't promise to keep it updated. (Maybe after KCC#30?)

Index of Recipes on Juggling Frogs

Table of Contents~ Breads~ Salads ~ Appetizers ~ Soups ~ Side Dishes~ Entrees(Meat) ~ Entrees (Dairy) ~ Entrees (Pareve) ~ Desserts ~ Snacks ~ Condiments ~ Beverages ~ Recipe websites and lists ~ Articles about Food, Cooking, and Celebrating ~ Articles about Keeping Kosher ~ Cookbooks ~ Just for Fun ~ KCmC Index

If you liked this article, congratulations! You have great taste. Please brew yourself a cup of coffee.
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