Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Sharing knowledge with fellow travelers on the journey

Last month I had a chat with D., who contacted me after reading an article on personal finance that I wrote. Like me, she is interested in making the transition from the corporate world to more values-based work and/or a saner pace of life. I tried to give her as candid a summary as possible of my transition process thus far, and I also recommended some resources that I thought she might find helpful.

I really welcome phone calls and emails and face-to-face chats with people who contact me to learn more about my experiences and to have a sounding board for their own experiences and plans.

I also seek out people who are living and working in a way that I admire and to which I aspire. I try to find mentors and cultivate relationships with them, or at least chat with them and glean what I can from their own experiences.

I feel strongly no matter where we are along our journey, we need to share our own stories and support with those who are following in our footsteps. And we need to seek out the knowledge and support of those in whose footsteps we follow. It's especially important if we choose a life path in which we are swimming against the tide.

Nonprofits and "Mission over Membership"

Just read this article from the NTEN newsletter that I found both pointed and refreshing and wanted to make a note of it for myself:

Mission Over Membership in Online Advocacy by Charles Lenchner, DemocracyInAction

It is a good reminder for those involved in non-profit work that technology/fundraising/outreach strategies must always be in service to the mission - not the other way around!

Mushroom growing kit, day 35, 36: dinner is served

We've gotten two more meals out of the mushroom growing kit! The one below was very simple...we fixed them plain, just to do a tasting of the oyster mushrooms by themselves. Without any seasoning, the flavor is mild, very faintly sweet. The texture of the thicker pieces actually is somewhat like shellfish or abalone as mentioned in the MSSF cookbook - chewy and slimy in a good way (?!?).

The following night, I prepared another recipe from the MSSF cookbook:

Stir-Fried Oyster Mushrooms

Serves 3 to 4 as a side dish

* 2 tablespoons peanut oil
* 1/2 tablespoon Asian sesame oil
* One 1/8-inch-thick slice fresh ginger, peeled and minced
* 3 garlic cloves, minced
* 1/2 pound oyster mushrooms, sliced or torn in even pieces
* 1 cup fresh or thawed frozen peas
* 2 tablespoons chicken broth
* Pinch of sugar
* 2 Chinese-style (firm) tofu cakes, cut into cubes
* 2 tablespoons soy sauce or more

Using a wok or skillet, heat the peanut and sesame oils together until bubbling. Add the ginger, garlic, mushrooms, peas, and sugar and quickly stir-fry for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the broth. Cover and simmer for 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tofu and soy sauce. Cook uncovered for 3 minutes. Serve immediately over rice. --Louise Freedman

Prepping the ingredients:

Into the pan:

Almost done:

This dish with its ginger, garlic, peas, and broth actually reminds me of a dish that R.'s mom makes that I enjoy, with shrimp, quail eggs, ginger, peas, and cashews.

This may be the last mushroom kit update for a while, if not indefinitely. The weather's getting warm, and the kit has been dormant for the last week!

Read the entire saga of the mushroom growing kit

Decluttering into the virtual toy chest

Well, in the course of this massive decluttering project I'm doing, the time has come to part with some of my old toys...

I'm taking a page from my friend S. and photographing the items I'm unloading. Same memories, less storage space! Here is a slideshow of my virtual toy chest.

Updates: opera, househunting, socializing, beading, and (eek) coding

Updates, updates, updates all around...

On the musical front:

Watched DVDs of two operas and one operetta: Rigoletto (film version with Pavarotti), a rather sensual production of Massenet's Thaïs, and The Pirates of Penzance by Gilbert & Sullivan.

Attended more master classes at Stanford, one by John Bellemer and one by Rudolf Jansen (wow. has his own Wikipedia page) for both singers and collaborative pianists.

Broke down and finally got an MP3 player. It's coming in very handy so far, especially after I installed Rockbox on it. I have to confess that I'm enjoying playing with my new toy. What tipped the balance is that Sugar Daddy and I use MIDI and MP3 files a lot during our music practice sessions, and I finally realized that during those sessions, we were basically using our laptops as expensive, power-hungry, and not-very-portable MP3 players. I hope that's not too much of a self-deluding rationalization :)

On the creative front:

Made this bun cover (for a hair bun) out of beads from my trip to Africa a couple years back. I'm working on a pair of matching earrings, too.

On the practical front:

Decided to get serious about buying our first house (well, condo, most likely) this year. Signed up to get new real estate listings. Also doing lots of research, reading, and surfing.

On the technical front:

Working on the local Sierra Club's website event calendar. TOTAL time suck. But I am fast learning Drupal, which is the point (and which is why it's a time suck, being new to it and all).

On the social front:

Had A. over for dinner Sunday night - delightful! A nice bonus is that the apartment is clean, something that only happens when company comes over :) And last Wednesday, met R. and B. for dinner at B.'s place and did a lot of catching up. Had a delicious dinner of garlic naan, Indian vegetables, braised tofu, fresh spring rolls, tea, and peach mango cobbler.

Meeting with About-Face executive director

Last month I had coffee with Jennifer Berger, the executive director of About-Face. About-Face is a media literacy non-profit that equips women and girls with the tools they need to understand and resist harmful media messages that affect their self-esteem and body image. I've been a supporter of About-Face for several years now, and it is always exciting to meet the people who are working to effect social change in areas that I'm passionate about.

I wanted to make some notes about our discussion before it all dribbles out of my head, like stuff tends to do these days...

State of the organization

Three active campaigns
Media literacy workshops for girls at schools/clubs/orgs
"Take Action" program for training girls (teens and young adults) to create change in the media landscape. The girls are in charge of envisioning and executing the action; About-Face provides training, resources, and mentorship/guidance
About-Face website: revamp of tools/resources, update of the Gallery of Offenders and Gallery of Winners
They are in capacity-building mode. Pursuing grants, donors. Big push for funding, esp. building funding momentum for "Take Action" program
Other orgs doing related work on girl's issues: Girls, Inc. (J. recommended that I check them out) and Girls for a Change (local, based in San Jose; "Take Action" modeled after them)
They are on eBay - MissionFish

What are About-Face's current needs? (besides funding, of course :)

Pro-bono or discount consulting: organization and/or tech
Trying to incorporate video into their media literacy presentations & website - dealing with fair use & copyright protection issues
Board members - 3 more needed. ~10 hrs/week commitment plus a "personally significant" monetary contribution; 6-mo. trial term; currently a "governing board" rather than a "working board"
Finding and connecting with new donors
Charitable gift registries
Technology needs/questions
We may have some common interests here (building my resume while assisting their org) - explore further
Understanding CRMs, what they can do for you, which CRM (if any) is best for this org's needs
Pro-bono Salesforce.com consulting (me?), Salesforce Foundation product grants
CMS (esp. Drupal, Joomla) vs. Dreamweaver + Contribute
Trusted community/mailing list for tech advice
They are a Mac house

Action items

List of charitable gift registries
TechSoup white papers on CRMs, CMSs
NTEN affinity groups/mailing list
Explore tech consulting possibilities
Think about people in my network to tap for potential board members, donors

Recent reading: Simple Days

I just finished reading the book Simple Days: A Journal on What Really Matters by Marlene A. Schiwy. As I read Schiwy's journal, I felt several touchpoints of kinship with her: her love of long walks, good food, Baroque music, and singing in a choir; her yearning for simplicity; her frustration when trying to cultivate intimate friendships as an adult, and her different, more relaxed rhythm of life as a non-9-to-5er. And her occasional massive decluttering sessions! From her book:

"Last night I browsed in The Artist's Way and came across the idea that when we find ourselves sorting through things, cleaning out and uncluttering, we are making room for something new in our life. Julia Cameron writes, 'One of the clearest signals that something is afoot is the impulse to weed out, sort through, and discard old clothes, papers, and belongings....By tossing out the old and unworkable, we make way for the new and suitable.' I am in such a phase now, wanting to get rid of things and clear some space, in more than one way. I would love to see my study bare and orderly, not piled high with books and papers, as it currently is. But what is the 'new and suitable' that I am apparently preparing for?"

I found this passage in the book to be one of the most profound and moving:

"Yesterday I read Elisabeth Kübler-Ross's The Wheel of Life: A Memoir of Living and Dying. Her final words of advice are profound: 'It is very important that you do only what you love to do. You may be poor, you may go hungry, you may live in a shabby place, but you will totally live. And at the end of your days, you will bless your life because you have done what you came here to do.'"

Best of all, there were tasty recipes! I love it when a non-cookbook includes recipes! I've copied some of my favorites here:

Pumpkin Walnut Bread (two loaves)

2 c. whole wheat flour
1 c. unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 c. oats, or wheat germ, or wheat bran, or oat bran
2 t. baking soda
2 t. baking powder
1 T. cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg (optional)
1/2 t. salt
1/2 c. canola oil or melted butter
1 1/3 c. sugar (adjust amount as desired)
1 t. vanilla
4 eggs
2 c. cooked pumpkin or any winter squash (e.g., acorn or butternut)
2/3 c. water (or milk or soymilk)
3/4 c. raisins
3/4 c. chopped walnuts or pecans

Sift together all dry ingredients except sugar in a bowl. Beat together oil, sugar, and vanilla in a large bowl. Add eggs, one by one, beating well after each. STir in pumpkin and water. Add flour mixture, stirring just until smooth. Stir in raisins and walnuts. Bake in two loaf pans, at 350 degrees F for 50-60 minutes. Let loaves cool in the pan for 20 minutes, then put on rack or plate. This is a tasty, low-fat, and nutritious autumn breakfast loaf. I make it often, sometimes doubling this recipe. It freezes well.


3 1/2 c. unbleached flour (I use up to half whole wheat)
2 T. cocoa
2-5 t. baking powder
1 1/2 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. cloves
1/2 t. lemon extract or 1 t. lemon rind
1 c. honey or syrup
2 eggs
5 T. milk
1/2 c. softened butter (1 stick)
1 c. hazelnuts, lightly toasted and ground

Sift together flour, cocoa, and baking powder. Mix together sugar, spices, lemon, honey, eggs, and milk. Pour liquid mixture into middle of dry ingredients and knead until thoroughly blended. Add butter and nuts quickly so the dough does not become sticky. Put in refrigerator for an hour (or for up to 3 days). Roll out dough on a floured surface and cut out with cookie cutters, OR pat with your hands into a low cake pan so dough is 3/4" thick. Bake cookies 10-15 minutes; cake 15-20 minutes, at 375 degrees. When cool, you can decorate them with your favorite icing, or simply melt chocolate chips and coat cake or cookies with chocolate. Cut cake into 2" squares.

Hazelnut Fig Bread (two loaves)

1 c. hazelnuts, roasted and ground*
3 c. unbleached flour (can substitute up to half whole wheat flour)
1 c. oat bran
2 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
8 oz. dried figs (remove stems and soak figs in enough water to cover them for several hours or overnight, then drain)
2 c. milk or soymilk
4 eggs
1 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. melted butter or canola oil

*Put hazelnuts in a baking dish in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Rub off skins, and when cool, grind in blender.

Mix flour, oat bran, baking powder, salt, and ground hazelnuts in a large bowl. In blender, puree figs with milk, eggs, brown sugar, and butter or oil. Pour liquid mixture over dry ingredients and mix just until they are combined. Pour batter into two loaf pans that have been greased or sprayed with Pam. Bake 40-45 minutes at 350-375 degrees. Leave loaves in pans for an hour to cool off. This is very good with butter, or cream cheese or other mild cheeses.

Blueberry Corn Muffins (one dozen)

1/2 c. softened butter or vegetable oil
1 c. sugar
2 large eggs
1 t. vanilla
2 t. baking powder
dash of salt
1 1/3 c. unbleached flour (you can substitute whole wheat for some or all of it)
2/3 c. cornmeal
1/2 c. milk
2 c. blueberries, fresh or frozen
1-2 t. sugar mixed with a sprinkle of cinnamon or nutmeg

Heat oven to 375 degrees F. Line a muffin pan with foil or paper cups. In a large bowl, beat butter with sugar until fluffy, then beat in eggs, vanilla, baking powder, and salt. Measure flour and cornmeal together and add to the butter mixture. Fold in milk and blueberries just until mixed. Put batter into muffin cups and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden on top, and let cool for 15 minutes before taking out of pan. These freeze well and I always double the recipe.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Mushroom growing kit, day 34: new crop started!

The moment we take our eyes off the mushroom growing kit, it starts sprouting new mushrooms! Some babies made their appearance a few days ago, and look how much they've grown already!

Here's a closer look at a cluster of babies. Not sure if this particular cluster will make it to maturity. According to the kit's instructions, not all of them do.

Getting Drupal experience as a Sierra Club web volunteer

This was in a recent newsletter of the Loma Prieta chapter of the Sierra Club (of which I am a member):
Web Support Needed

Help improve the chapter’s website and web services. Seeking a web developer familiar with Drupal related services including installation, configuration, design, module development, and customization.
It's a fortunate stroke of serendipity. I am looking to get some Drupal experience, and this is a great opportunity to do so while helping out a local environmental organization - and putting it on my resume as non-profit experience.

I had a chance to chat with the person coordinating their website effort, and we've identified some easy tasks for me to start with. I'm going to start working on it tomorrow.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Job listings at Beaconfire Consulting serving non-profit clients

This contractor job listing caught my eye. I don't have the qualifications (yet), but in future, this is the kind of work arrangement that appeals to me.
Beaconfire Consulting: Careers

Beaconfire often utilizes independent contractors as part of providing our clients with the best advice and solutions for their business needs. We prefer contractors who are not employed full time and who may be able to commit anywhere from 5-20 hours per week on an as needed basis. Flexibility, availability and reliability are key to building a contracting relationship.

We are looking for contractors with the to fill the following roles. If interested, send resume and cover email/letter according to the instructions in each listing. Please include the role or position of interest in the subject line.


Mushroom growing kit, day 27: another feast, and back to square one

We harvested the rest of the mushrooms from the kit and prepared another recipe from the MSSF cookbook:

Scrambled Eggs with Oyster Mushrooms

Serves 4 as a main course

Most mushrooms may be used with scrambled eggs, but oyster mushrooms converts them into an elegant main dish.
  • 1 pound oyster mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup peanut oil
  • 1/2 cup slivered shallots or green onions
  • 8 eggs, beaten slightly
  • 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
Dredge the mushrooms in the flour. Heat the oil in a large sauté pan or skillet. Add the mushrooms and cook until brown. Add the shallots and continue to cook for a few more minutes. Stir in the eggs, Tabasco sauce, parsley, salt, and pepper. Scramble the eggs and sprinkle the sesame oil quickly over the eggs while they are still soft. Serve immediately. --Edward Lodigiani

I recommend it! It's one of those recipes where the ingredients and preparation methods are very simple, but the combination of flavors and textures is ingenious and delicious.

Now we are back to square one. Sniff, sniff...the mushroom block is bare. We will keep watering it per the instructions and see if we can get another flush of mushrooms.

Read the entire saga of the mushroom growing kit

Keep CA state parks open - public hearing on Tuesday 4/15 in San Jose

I just sent this message out to family and friends:
Dear friends and family,

If you share my concern about the state government's plans to close a number of state parks, I invite you to join me at a public hearing on the closures, to be held in San Jose next Tuesday. At this hearing, the State Park and Recreation Commission will be accepting spoken and written public comments. Details on the time and location of the hearing are given here:
I haven't seen confirmation of these details from an official source, so I recommend contacting the California Department of Parks and Recreation to confirm the date/location before attending: 800-777-0369, www.parks.ca.gov

Also, please spread the word to other interested folks who might be able to attend. Hope to see you there!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Science Debate 2008

I heard about this today and it interested me. You can join as a signatory to show your support for the debate and for candidates to accept the invitation. From their website:

Science Debate 2008: Call for a Presidential Debate on Science & Technology

Science Debate 2008 is a grassroots initiative spearheaded by a growing number of scientists and other concerned citizens. Science Debate 2008 has invited the presidential candidates to participate in a debate on policy issues affected by science and technology, to be held on April 18.

The debate may include such policy issues as: American economic competitiveness and support for scientific research; policy approaches to climate change; clean energy; the healthcare crisis; science education and technology in schools; scientific integrity; GM agriculture; transportation infrastructure; immigration; the genome; data privacy; intellectual property; pandemic diseases; the health of the oceans; water resources; stem cells; conservation and species loss; population; the space program, and others.

This is a policy debate. It is not intended to be a science quiz. Nor are we interested in state-level battles such as the evolution versus creationism/ID debate. Our goal is to find out how aware candidates are of America's major science and technology problems and opportunities, and how they propose to offer the kind of visionary leadership and policy solutions that will tackle those challenges and ensure America's place as the most scientifically and technologically advanced nation on earth. This is your opportunity to demonstrate that you are such a leader.

The debate will be held at 7PM on Friday, April 18, 2008 at the Franklin Institute in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This is four days prior to the Pennsylvania primary. The debate is non-partisan. All viable candidates for President will be invited. It will be held even if only one candidate participates.

The cosponsors have reputations for putting on fair and informative events serving the best interests of the public and the highest principles of this nation. We intend to make the debate available for broadcast on nationwide television on April 18 and re-broadcast at a later time on both television and the internet.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Mushroom growing kit, day 19: harvest and feast

We picked several of the clumps of mushrooms today. Here's the first:

And here are a couple more clumps:

The mushrooms await their culinary destiny...

Which is to be prepared with the following recipe from the MSSF cookbook:

Mock Abalone

Serves 4 as a side dish

Sautéed oyster mushrooms are similar to abalone in taste. Serve them hot.
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 2 small garlic clove, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 pound oyster mushrooms (cut large ones in half)
  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
  • Lemon wedges and/or soy sauce

Put the flour, salt, pepper, marjoram, thyme, garlic, and paprika in a small paper bag. Add the mushrooms and shake well.

Heat the butter and oil in a sauté pan or skillet and sauté the mushrooms on each side for 2 minutes or until golden brown. Serve immediately with lemon wedges and/or soy sauce. (by Lois Der)

Here the mushrooms are getting coated with the seasoned flour:

And now into the pan!

They're cooking up nice and golden:

Getting the fixin's out. For mock abalone, gotta have our salt, lemon wedges, and tabasco:

Bon appetit!

A closer look. The spouse pointed out that they look like pork chops.

And so we ate them. Delicious! The texture and appearance does bear a resemblance to abalone or some other mild shellfish. I do think that this dish attests to the fact that ANYTHING breaded and fried in enough butter tastes good. The spouse commented that "it tastes like something as unhealthy as you would get at the county fair," which is not necessarily a good thing in his book, but is fine by me :-)

More recipes and pics to come, I'm sure - those mushrooms are ready to eat!

Read the entire saga of the mushroom growing kit

Mushroom growing kit, day 16-18

Day 16, front:

Day 16, back:

Day 17, front:

Day 17, back:

I see stir fry in my future.

Day 18, front:

Day 18, back:

Notice how the edges have gotten quite frilly and turned up.

We are going to be eating a lot of oyster mushrooms very soon. Fortunately, the Mycological Society of San Francisco has an excellent online mushroom cookbook with a whole section devoted to fabulous oyster mushroom recipes.

Read the entire saga of the mushroom growing kit