Harry Joiner comments on Tony Hsieh’s presentation at a conference in March of 2009.

Some of you may or may not have seen the following video on YouTube and/or posts commenting on Tony Hsieh on WordPress or elsewhere.  Please follow the link below to view Harry Joiner’s comments on Mr. Hsieh. 

For those of you, like me, who hadn’t heard of Harry Joiner he is an executive recruiter specializing in integrated marketing and “new media.”  Please read his “About” on his wordpress blog to learn more about him.  http://harryjoiner.typepad.com/about.html

I am new to this field and perhaps that is why I had never heard of Tony Hsieh.  After watching his video and hearing him speak to the subjects of social media, corporate culture and branding I am inspired.  Yes, I have used Zappos http://www.zappos.com/ to buy shoes but I was unaware of the great corporate culture that occurred behind the website.

This video and post are definitely worth a viewing and a read.  It is an extremely relevant read especially in these last few days leading up to our internships and entrance into the work world.  Enjoy!



Dishwashing 101

Apparently the home economics classes have stopped being taught in schools.  Sunday afternoon dinners, with more people than space at the table, are no longer a family tradition.  And long gone are the after-dinner lessons from Grandma regarding how to properlly hand wash and dry dinnerware, flatware, stemware and service ware.  (Not to mention pots, pans and other hard to clean, grimy cook ware.)

Not to fear–I am here to explain this process to you.  Now I know most of you have had to hand wash a dish or two but I am sure that most of you just throw most of your stuff into the dishwasher and forget about it.  I am here to tell you that at some point you will have some finer items that will require you to take care of them in a more personal and loving way.  When that day comes I want you to be ready–with your dish soap and dish cloth in hand.

So here goes…

You will need:

  • A clean sink
  • Hot water for washing the dishes
  • Dish washing soap(liquid and meant for the sink not for the dishwasher–sorry Garrett!)
  • Dish gloves
  • Hot water for rinsing the dishes after washing
  • Clean dish towel

1.  Always wash glasses/stemware/barware/mugs/teacups first.  There is nothing worse than having to drink wine, milk or coffee in a glass that tastes and smells like yesterdays eggs.  Disgusting!  This is my biggest pet peave–stemware or glassware that smells of other food.  Think about it.  If you wash your glasses/stemware in the dish water AFTER you have washed off your dinner ware(plates and bowls) your glasses will end up having some funky dinner odours on them.  No thank you.  PLEASE NOTE:  That while dishwashers do provide you with an exceptionally simple way of doing your dishes they do not always leave them smelling truly clean.  You may consider doing your glasses/mugs/tea cups/crystal by hand.

2.  Next you wash the flatware(forks and spoons first, then knives).  You may notice a pattern here.  Anything that goes directly into your mouth should be washed first.  Unless of course you eat right off of your dinnerware and in that case I don’t think any etiquette coaching will help you.

3.  Then you would wash your dinnerware.  Please scrape off the dinnerware and put it into the compost bin.  If you have healthy left overs such as simple grains, steamed veggies and cooked meats/fish you may also consider sharing this with your feline and canine friends(no sauces please).      

4. If you have properly scraped off your dinnerware before washing then your water should be clean enough to do the service wear(containers that you used to “serve” your guest with such as platters, salad bowls, tourines, etc.) and preparation tools(such as knives, graters, wooden spoons, etc).  Please make sure that you scrape off any gooey cheese or sauces so that you do not dirty your water any more than you need to.

5.  Now depending on the cleanliness of the water you can either do your pots, pans and other cooking items(trays, stones, etc.) or empty the water, wipe down the sink and then fill it up and start washing the pots.  If your water is too murky to see through to the bottom and or it smells I would suggest changing the water.  Normally, you can finish cleaning the dishes without having to change the water.  Also consider that you will not be “eating” off of these items and they will be heated thoroughly before adding food.

6.  Once finished all of the above you would then wash any preparation materials that may be contaminated with bacteria.  I use the same cloth as I used throughout the first five steps but I use dish gloves and really, really hot water.  You need to ensure that you removed any excess meat/fish from the cutting boards and then give them a great soak then rinsing with exceptionally hot water.

7.  I then rinse the cloth throroughly and then put it into a wash load with my linens(napkins, placemats, table cloths from supper).

8.  Give the sink a cleaning with baking soda to get out the grime and then rinse with water and vinegar. Remember that mixing the vinegar and baking soda together will give you the start to a great grade six volcano project.

9.  After washing each item please be sure to rinse it thoroughly with warm to hot water.  The hotter the water the less spots on the dishes.  You can put them into a draining rack or lay them onto a clean dish towel to start drying.

10. Dry the dishes carefully.  If you have found that you missed a spot–stop and wash it again, then rinse it out.

11.  Put away your clean and sparkling dishes.

12.  Give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.

Remember, the day will come when you want to wash your Le Creuset http://www.lecreuset.com/en-ca/pot or you Riedel stemware http://www.riedel.com/ and you will need to wash them by hand.  You now have the knowledge to wash your dishes with confidence.  Now go forth and prosper.  Then use that hard-earned money to buy some quality items so that you too can spend Sunday evenings washing dishes and chatting with loved ones while you wash, dry and put the dishes away together after a long, leisurely meal.

For more information on other housekeeping items please visit:


Over the years I have spoken with a few people regarding the concept of the moist maker, in relation to sandwich making, but not many people understood this concept so I will explain it in further detail here. 

The concept of the moist maker came to me from the television show ‘Friends’.  In the episode entitled “The One with Ross’s Sandwich’ there is an incident regarding a stolen turkey sandwich with a moist maker in it.  If you are unfamiliar with this episode please watch the video.  At 1:47 Ross describes the moist maker.

For years friends and family have been asking me to make sandwiches for them because they are so delicious.  Again, like with the salads, I was telling them that it wasn’t anything special.  It was just a sandwich.  But then one day I realized that the reason why my sandwiches were better than other peoples was because I was “one with the sandwich”.

When making a truly delicious sandwich the sandwich preparer must be one with the sandwich.  You need to picture your self inside the sandwich.  You need to pretend you are eating the sandwich.  You need to consider the moistness of the sandwich while pretending to eat it.

Ask your self the following questions:

Is it moist enough in this sandwich?  Is it dry?  Do I need more flavours?   Less flavours?  Do I have a good bread(pita, wrap, pannini, etc.) to filling ratio?  Have I layered the flavours according to how I taste things? 

I always put the softer, less dramatic flavours at the top of the sandwich and then stronger more dramatic flavours at the bottom.  When I take a bite and then start chewing the first flavours I will taste are the more mild ones and then as I continue to chew the more dramatic flavours will mix into the rest of the taste. 

For example, the top slice will have the mayonaise and the bottom slice the mustard.  This works for strongly flavoured meats, cheeses and spreads.  So, Baba Ganoush goes on the bottom and tzatziki on the top. (unless you have an extremely garlicky tzatziki)

You need to ensure that you also toast, broil, or grill sandwiches accordingly.  Have you ever had a soggy grilled cheese sandwich made with white sandwich loaf bread?  You really need to consider the consistency of the bread when when making the sandwich.  Certain flavours mix better with a nice crusty baguette that is the perfect density and consistency in the center .  Just think how wonderful a soft buffalo mozzarella cheese, fresh tomatoe and basil sandwich would taste on that crsipy baguette at a summer picnic.  Now picture that same sandwich on soft whole wheat bread.  Not so good right?

You really need to become one with your sandwiches and think about what ingredients you have and what would make them better.  Some sandwiches deserve toasting while others taste better at room tempature.  Just think about your ingredients and what makes them yummy.

My favourite layering technique for most sandwiches/pitas/burgers/baguettes/panninis/kaisers, etc is:

Top layer of bread

Mild spread such as butter, tzatziki, alouette spread, etc.

Moist vegetables (tomatoe, lettuce, cucumber)

Cheese (hard or soft)

Meat or meat alternative

Dramatic garnish (pickles, onion, hot peppers, etc.)

Mustard or dramatic spread

Bottom layer of bread

I hope that this has helped those of you who wanted more information on how to make a better sandwich. My sandwich 101 if you will.


Even though it was above freezing today, I found myself in need of a hearty, body warming soup.  I found this recipe in one my Barefoot Contessa cook books and decided to give it a try. http://www.barefootcontessa.com/about.html I added chicken to the soup today to increase the protein per portion but I am sure it would taste wonderful without it.

Cheddar Corn Chowder

8 ounces bacon

1/4 cup good olive oil

6 cups chopped yellow onion (4 large onions)

4 tblsp unsalted butter

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

12 cups chicken stock

6 cups medium-diced white boiling potatoes, unpeeled (2 pounds)

10 cups corn kernels, fresh (10 ears) or frozen (1.4 kg)

2 cups half-and-half cream

200 grams (approx. 2 cups, loosely packed) sharp white Cheddar cheese, grated

In a large stock on med-high heat cook bacon in olive oil for 5 mins ( or until crisp).  Remove bacon with slotted spoon and rest on paper towel.  Reserve for topping.  Reduce the heat to medium, add the onions and butter to the fat, and cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent.  Stir in the flour, salt, pepper, and tumeric and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the chicken stock and potatoes, bring to a boil, and simmer uncovered for 15 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.  If using fresh corn, cut the kernels off the cobs and blanch the kernels for 3 minutes in boiling salted water. Drain. (If using fozen corn, you can skip this step.)  Add the corn to the soup, then add the half-and-half and Cheddar.  Cook for 5 minutes, until the cheese is melted.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Serve hot with a garnish of bacon.

Today I sauteed 4 chicken breasts, medium-diced in a pan.  I then added it to the soup in right before the cream and cheese.

I also think you could add ham, medium diced to the soup.  It really was a great soup and my whole family enjoyed it.  Even the picky five year old.  He told me that he loves this soup and that I should make it again tomorrow.  Lucky for both of us that this soup yields enough for 10 to 12 people.  We have a lot of left-overs.  I will have the best lunch at school this week.

I have made this soup over 15 times and every time I make it I love it.  It is a quick meal that the family enjoys.  It is great on crisp fall evenings and on cool winter days.  This recipe is from the Joy of Cooking and from Bon Appetit–it is a combo recipe.

This one is for you my French friend…

Butternut Squash Soup

  • One  3 1/2 lb butternut squash halved and seeded (I have tried using different squash but they do not taste as good)
  • 3 Tblsp butter or vegetable oil
  • 2 large leeks–white part only–cleaned thoroughly and chopped
  • 4 tsp minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 6 cups of broth–a mixture of any of the following will work: chicken, vegetable, water and/or white wine
  • 1  1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Tblsp of fresh thyme

Place the squash cut side down on oiled baking sheet into a preheated oven set to 400F.  Bake squash until fork tender, about an hour.  Remove from oven and let cool.  Then scrape the pulp from the skin.

Melt in a medium sauce pan over med-low heat butter or oil.  Add and cook for 5 to 10 mins, stirring until tender not browned the leeks and ginger.  Then stir in the squash and 4 cups of the broth. (keep 2 final cups for later)  Bring to a simmer again and cook for 20 mins.

Puree the mixture until smooth and then return to the pot adding in the final 2 cups of broth and salt.  Heat through.  Garnish with thyme.

Variations on the basic butternut squash soup:  

  • I have also added grilled chorizio sausages, sliced thinly as a hearty garnish. 
  • I have also added corn to this recipe, especially if the squash is not as sweet/ripe as it should be. 
  • You can also try adding in curry powder–I would use approx. 3 tsp for this soup recipe above. 
  • I have also seen red peppers and beans added to this dish to make it southwestern.  I would also add cumin to it then.
  • The last and perhaps most interesting combo is with tart green apples, apple cider and bacon as a garnish.  Interesting.

It really is a versatile base for other creations.

Be sure to just add vegetable broth if serving to vegetarians.  They do not appreciate the chicken broth.  Opps!

Happy cooking

For more great recipes visit www.epicurious.com

For variations on Butternut Squash Soup recipes see http://www.epicurious.com/tools/searchresults?search=Butternut+Squash+Soup

Almost every dinner entree I cook at my house comes with a side of fresh, crisp greens with a homemade dressing.  My salads usually consist of hearts of romaine and a rainbow of other garden vegetables, cheese, olives all topped with my olive oil and balsamic vinagrette.  It makes my mouth water just thinking about it. 

When asked by guests at my dinner table how I make such a delicious salad I usually tell them that it is the selection of fresh veg, the way I cut up the veg and the quality of ingredients in the dressing.  Then just this past evening while serving birthday dinner to my extended family I realized that while all of those things do contribute to the quality of my salads I have to admit that it may be my salad spinner that makes my salads stand out from the rest.

I own an OXO salad spinner.  I have had this spinner for over five years now and I use it at least threee times a week.  (Let’s do some math for the logical people out there:  52 weeks x 5 years =260  260 weeks x 3 uses a week = 780 spins)  I believe I paid approximately $30 or so for it which seemed a little pricy at the time considering you can get other spinners for one third that price.  It was a wise investment and I am glad that I bought it. 

My spinner has a pump on the top to allow for easy spinning of the salad, it has a rubber base on the bottom to stop the spinner from slipping and it has a break button located on the top for quick removal of the lettuce once finished spinning.  Yes, it is a miraculous invention.  Oh, and it has a lid that fits on top to keep your greens fresh once you have prepared your salad. 

Some of you may wonder why anyone would need such an item and to that I say–obviously you do not eat eight  to ten servings of veggies a day.  Salads are one of the easiest ways to ensure that you are getting the proper nutrition and fibre into your diet.  I won’t go into the details of why that is beneficial to you because frankly I do not have time for that today.  Just know that your mother was right, you do need to eat your vegetables.

I digress, back to why you need the salad spinner.  Having lettuce that is clean, yet dry, is crucial to the quality of a homemade salad that tastes like a restaurant quality salad.  (This reminds me of my speech about ‘being one with the sandwich’ and having a ‘moist maker’–I should blog about that one day soon)  I digress again.  Right, OXO salad spinner.

 The dry lettuce is crucial to making a perfect salad and salad dressing.  Simple theory really.  Oil and water don’t mix.  If you don’t remove all of the water from your lettuce after washing it the oil for your dressing will not properly adhere to the lettuce.  If the oil doesn’t adhere to the lettuce then you will have an improper balance of oil and vinegar, not to mention herbs, on each mouthful of salad.  I know, the horror.

So, the next time you are eating a homemade salad and are thinking…why doesn’t this salad taste as great as Nancy’s or perhaps “such and such restaurant’s?  Know that the difference is in the lack of spinning and the resulting poor adherence of the vinagrette to the greens.  So, now you know why my salads taste so great.  The secret is out.  The difference is in my OXO salad spinner.

View more information about this product at http://oxo.com/OA_HTML/xxoxo_ibeCCtpOXOPrdDtl.jsp?a=b&item=46556

Killer bees

Here is a subject that I never thought I would be blogging about.  Killer bees.  Where to begin?

At the tender age of nine I horrified in my desk listening to my grade 5 environmental studies teacher telling me that there was a swarm of killer bees approaching us.  I could hardly believe me eyes and ears.  There I was sitting and watching as my teacher casually showed me the path that the killer bees were taking.  The large and broad arrow that was starting in South America and making its way rapidly towards North America and specifically to Niagara Falls.

What were we doing just sitting there in our chairs?  Why weren’t we arming ourselves with nets, bug spray and blocking entrances?  Why did we have to sit in school waiting for these horrible winged creatures to attack us with their deadly stingers?    Were they actually going to let us out for recess to fend for ourselves?  Why can’t I go home and see my Mommy?

After a few geography lessons from my mother and her National Geographic text books, I came to realize that this threat was not a hard crisis but a creeping one.  It was more of a subtle threat lurking on the outskirts of my reality.  Similar to the thought of a summer job to a teenager, mortgage payments to a twenty something or RRSP’s to a thirty something.

Now to the basic information on killer bees:  

  • In 1957, 26 Tanzanian queen bees are “accidentally” released into the wilds of Brazil
  • Media attention grew at the prospect of these agressive bees mating with the average North American bee
  • The bees are more likely to swarm, attack and follow “prey” for longer distances away from the hive
  • The bees are travelling northward toward the continental US and will be coming to a town near you soon! (Well, that is not entirely true, but that is what I believed back in 1984)

Fast forward to present day and most students in my class have not heard of the killer bees.  Nor do they know the fear that many of us born in the 70s had when we first heard of these bees.

If you were to go to the wikipedia website and look up this topic you will find this information to be true.  You can also see a map of the United States showing the path that these bees are currently taking.  With an alarmingly slow rate they creep northwards.  Closer and closer they come to Canada.  Closer and closer.  Not so quickly that you notice but fast enough that the thought lingers in the back of my mind

Now I am not trying to alarm you, nor am I trying to downplay this whole concept.  I just want you to be informed citizens.  I am imparting wisdom to you.  It is your choice if you choose to share this information with your loved ones.  I personally have not told my two children.  It is yet another harsh reality of this world that I am sparing them from.  

If you wish to learn more about this subtle doom please visit  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Africanized_bee

2 SNL skits on the killer bees(there are over five in total):  http://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/the-killer-bees/29161/  and ttp://www.nbc.com/Saturday_Night_Live/video/clips/bees-dramatic-scene/29153/  (I have tried to watch these videos but apparently you can only watch them if you have a US feed or live in the US)

A great t-shirt for those of you who remember the SNL skits about the killer bees:  http://www.nbcuniversalstore.com/detail.php?p=6201%20http://www.nbcuniversalstore.com/detail.php?p=6201