Personal Sabbaticals

From time to time I will stumble upon a TED talk that will really spark my interest and occasionally it will drive me into the TED site to explore and watch more talks! A while back I saw a link to this talk by Stefan Sagmeister, a designer from New York City. His talk, titled “The Power of Time off” was something that has really given me lots to think about.

A few years back, Sagmeister stumbled on the concept of a sabbatical, a set period of time to put aside your regular work and do something totally different. In this case, Sagmeister closes his entire studio every seven years for an entire year and moves somewhere that interest him. He feels that the value gained from these personal sabbaticals are worth more then any income he would have gained actually working. 

While I have never, nor will I ever, been able to take a year off, I have had short vacations that have rejuvenated me. The best came during a very hectic time and was one week totally off the grid: no internet or phone! I wish I could do something like that every year!

The Fun Theory

Can you make trivial things, or things that are good for you, so fun that you don’t think twice about doing it? Recently a video made the rounds (Facebook and Twitter) about how many more people will take the stairs rather then the escalator if it is fun. 

 

The same group did a few more experimental videos, building the worlds deepest trash can:

Or a bottle bank arcade: 

What is something you would like to make more fun?

(via The Fun Theory)

Making Yogurt from Scratch

Last Christmas we were given an Excalibur food dehydrator  and have used it on and off this spring. This summer, however, we began putting it to use in earnest.

During peach season, we cut and dried a box of peaches every night (That’s as many as we could put in the dryer.) When we got pears that was the way we preserved them. Most of our 450 lbs of apples went into sauce but we saved a few for the dryer. I have continued to look for excuses to use the dryer, and was recently comparing notes with my sister, Karah (who also has the same dryer) on how we use our dryer when she mentioned making yogurt.

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Ever since the kids started eating solid foods, yogurt has been a big part of their diet at home. We have tried a few different kinds but have mostly settled on plain, sometimes organic, yogurt. The kids, of course, would choose flavored yogurt every time we go to the store, but the sugar content is too high for our preferences. 

So when Karah mentioned yogurt, my ears perked because that was something that I have wanted to make for a while. I’ve been experimenting with it a little and still don’t have it perfect yet but I’m fairly happy with the results and thought I’d share what I do.

Here is what you will need:

  • 7 1/2 cups of milk (I’ve only used non-fat but you can use full fat if you’d like)
  • 1/2 – 1 cup of Powered Milk
  • 1/2 cup of yogurt (I’ve read you can use yogurt cultures but haven’t tried those yet.)
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar or honey

Additionally you will need the following tools:

  • Double-boiler that holds at least 2 quarts (We don’t have a true double-boiler but use a 3.5 quart sauce pan with handles on each side inside a 6 quart pan.)
  • Candy thermometer
  • Wire-wisk
  • 2 quart jars with lids and rings
  • 1 pint jar with lid and ring (optional)

Making it happen!

The first thing you need to do is to heat the milk. Put water in your larger pan (or the lower part of the double boiler), and then the milk in the smaller, inside part. Heat the milk to 180ºf using your candy thermometer to ensure that the milk doesn’t get too hot.

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While the milk is heating, stir in 1/2 – 1 cup of powdered milk with a wire wisk. The less fat in your milk, the more powdered-milk you want to add.

When the milk reaches 160ºf, I begin to fill the my sink with cold water. Once it reaches 180ºf, remove the small pan from the double-boiler and place it in the sink of cold water. Make sure the water is below the top of the pan. You can add ice t cool it faster or just add more cold water as you need to. 

Put a few table spoons of water in the bottom of each of your jars and put them in the microwave for 3 minutes on high. The water will boil and steam. Once the microwave is done, place the lids on the jars to keep the steam in. This will sanitize the jars.

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Once the milk has cooled down to 110ºf, mix in 1/2 cup of plain yogurt with the wire whisk. Now add your honey or sugar and stir it in with the whisk, too. You are now ready fill the jars. Dump out any remaining water from the jars and fill them with the warm milk and yogurt mixture. I try to put at least 2 cups into the pint jar to save for starter for the next batch. They say you can use it 4-5 times before you should start it with fresh yogurt. The remainder is then poured into the 2 other jars. Put the lids on and screw the rings on tight.

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The last step is to place the filled jars into the food dryer at 120ºf. This can be done with a food dryer but there are other methods as well.

Now it’s time to let the cultures grow! Leave them in for 10-12 hours. The longer they are in the dryer, the stronger the flavor.

When the yogurt is done, put the jars in the fridge and let them cool off before you eat it. We sometimes mix the yogurt with honey or sugar-free fruit spread to give it some additional flavor or you can eat it plain (My favorite!).

I’ve tried making some vanilla flavored yogurt but am not yet happy with what I have tried.

Hope you enjoy it yourself as much as we have. 

 

Speed up iPhone syncing with OmniFocus

I recently dropped MobileMe in favor of a collection of other free or inexpensive tools. Today I realized that I needed to find a new host for syncing my OmniFocus files. OmniFocus copy

While trolling around the OmniFocus forums, I found mention of “compacting” the database to speed up sync times. That is just what I needed! In the last few months, the database had gotten so slow that I was rarely using OmniFocus on the phone at all.

So here is what I did to clean it up. First, ensure that all items from the phone are synced to the computer.

  1. On the iPhone, open OmniFocus and proceed to the setting page. Click the big red “Reset Database” button. This will destroy ALL your OmniFocus information on the phone so be forewarned! On the next screen, the phone will display has two buttons. We will come back to those at the end.
  2. Next return to your Mac and open OmniFocus.
  3. Go to the Sync pane in Preference and select “Sync with Nothing”
  4. Click “File -> Compact Database”
  5. Return to the Sync pane in the Preferences on your Mac and setup your syncing again. For me, I just clicked the “Advanced” button and all my setting where there. Click “Sync Now” to start the process.
  6. Now back to the phone. Select the button to setup syncing. I used the “Share Setting” in OmniFocus on the Mac which broadcasts the settings for 1 minute over the WiFi network and that worked great for getting them to the phone.
  7. Once you enter your login credentials, OmniFocus will sync and you are ready to go.

When this is completed your file will be much smaller. Mine dropped form 450kb to 111kb. My understanding is that the program keeps multiple copies in Zip files of your database so it can keep things in sync and the more you have, the slow your sync goes. I’ll be keeping this in mind and will probably reset things periodically.

How to post photos to Flickr, Facebook and live to Tweet about it

I’ve recently been asked by a couple people how I upload pictures to Flickr and get Facebook to post a note about it as well as send a tweet out about it. Here are my secrets!

Email to Flickr

Flickr: Your AccountFlickr provides a wonderful email interface that allows you to upload images by sending them as an email attachment. Additionally you can make it post a notice an short link to Twitter once that photo is uploaded.

Emailing to Flickr: In your account preferences, you will see a tab titled “Email“. This page lists all the email addresses associated with your account, your email preferences as well as your Flickr inbound email addresses. The email address listed as Your Flickr upload email is the address for you to send your pictures to for direct posting. The email subject becomes the picture title and the body of the email becomes the description. Flickr also allows for a syntax to keyword it.

Add Twitter: If you also have a Twitter account, Flickr will send a Tweet out for you and include a link to the picture on Flickr. To set this up, to to the “Extending Flickr” tab, scroll down to the section listed as “Your Blogs” and click “edit”. From that page click “Add another blog” and select “Twitter” from the drop down. Follow the instructions to link your accounts and you will then be given a new address on the “Email” page that is your post and Tweet address.

NOTE: Keep these addresses private. Anyone who sends a message to this address will be able to post to your account. Flickr provides a means to reset the addresses if you need to.

Add a little Facebook

Are you ready to add in some Facebook integration? Back on the “Extending Flickr“, there is a section near the bottom titled “Your Facebook account”. Click the link that is provided to link your two accounts.

You will see a screen similar to the one below:
Facebook | Brent Hardinge

Enter your Flickr username and follow the instruction to link the two accounts.

Now each time a new picture is added to Flickr, Facebook will post a message about it.