Archive

Work and life balance

bookclub

Are you a member of a book club? If so, you may wonder if your book club is representative of the many, many book clubs that thrive in so many venues and so many communities throughout the U.S. and the world. If you are not yet fortunate enough to be part of a book club, you might have wondered what exactly occurs.

To book club members who are curious about other clubs, to book club wannabes, and, especially, to members of the Nonfiction Book Club I’m attending tomorrow, here’s a sneak preview of what to expect.

Our book club protocol

In our book club, members arrive promptly, since the room typically is full with 20 or so serious readers gathered around a large conference table in our town’s library. Club membership is exclusive, only in the sense that we are serious readers. We each attend voluntarily and welcome whoever walks in the door. Often first-timers become regulars.

We select our books for the coming year in December, and, at each month’s meeting, the library provides copies of the book for the following month, which we check out and begin to read. Club members take turns leading the discussion and do so willingly (or with a gentle nudge). Each month’s leader brings a unique, personal style to the table. What all share is a commitment to creating an atmosphere that is respectful. We talk and we listen. We explore many facets of a book and we learn.

Our book for this month is The Botany of Desire: A Plant’s-Eye View of the World by Michael Pollan. It will be my pleasure (truly!) to lead tomorrow’s discussion, since I loved, loved, loved this book.

Here’s what I have in mind:

Greet everyone who walks in the door—the regulars and the newbies. Be sure that everyone has a nametag, a copy of the year’s schedule, and “Talking About Nonfiction Books”—a discussion sheet that club members assembled over time.

Kick off the discussion with a brief introduction (my name, length of time with the book club, interests, and so forth) and ask others to do the same. As part of their introductions, ask them to share a few aspects of the book that they want to discuss.

With pencil (yes, always a pencil with an eraser) in hand, I circle items on the discussion sheet that we should cover during our time together and scribble notes. For me, this sheet, with everyone’s input noted, guides the give-and-take that ensues.

I then let people talk. Let them ask. Let them discuss. Let them argue (amicably). The task is to simply herd the cats.

My two cents

Every now and then, I throw in my two cents. Read More

Advertisements
thanksgiving_half-moons_2016

Half moon cookies made from scratch (My brother Larry, me, and the cookies!)

December is here. With the colder weather and holidays, we often look to comfort foods like these yummy half moon cookies. Yes, they include the white flour and sugar that we like to keep in check. Yet, they are so, so good and often are reminiscent of a favorite childhood hometown bakery, like Snowflake or Harrison or Blooms in Syracuse, New York, where I grew up and still have deep roots.

Whether you call them half moons as we did in the ‘cuse, black and whites, or something else, serve them on a special occasion. After all, we all enjoy some extra sweetness.

Here’s the recipe Larry followed (courtesy of family friend, Eileen). Along with the turkey, we gobbled these up at our Thanksgiving feast!

The Recipe

Cookies

1 – Mix and set aside

1 tsp baking soda

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp baking power

3 1/2 cup flour (sifted)

2 – Mix

1 cup shortening and 1 1/2 cups sugar

Add 2 eggs and 1 tsp vanilla

Mix until creamy and light

3 – Prepare the sour milk

1 cup milk

1 tbsp vinegar or 1 tbsp lemon juice

Let stand for a few minutes

4 – Alternately add to the shortening / sugar mixture

Some of the dry flour mixture and then mix

Some of the sour milk and then mix

Repeat until all of the ingredients are mixed together

5 – Refrigerate for at least two hours

6 – Drop scoops of the dough on a cookie sheet covered with parchment paper

(An ice cream scoop works well. Leave plenty of space between the scoops, since when the cookies flatten, they are large.)

7 – Bake at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes or until a light golden color

8 – Let cool and add the frosting to the flat side of the cookie

Frosting

1 – Mix

1/4 cup Crisco shortening (can increase to 1/3 cup if the frosting seems too liquidy)

1/4 tsp salt

2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar (can increase to 3 cups if the frosting seems too liquidy)

2 – Add and mix

1 egg

1 tsp vanilla

3 tbsp hot milk

3 – Add to half the mixture and mix

unsweetened cocoa (the amount is up to you)

More Favorite Recipes

The cousins, originally from Syracuse and Elmira and with new generations scattered hither and yon, compiled favorite family recipes, which resulted in A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way. Have a look. Have a taste. Click here to view on Amazon. Clear here to view on Create Space.

Judy and Franken

Judy and Franken

Over the Thanksgiving holiday with siblings in the home where I grew up, I was delighted to see the beautiful cypress bench that my woodworker brother Larry crafted and placed in front of the house. We considered the text that would go on a plaque. Larry’s idea is to get to the point!

Back in Happy Days when families roamed this street, here resided the Shulmans, Ellisons, and Sohls. A ’57 Chevy in the driveway. Kids playing ball, riding bikes, going to music lessons. The Euclid of old, a different place, a different time.

When I arrived back home for our Christmas Day gathering, the bench was occupied. There sat Franken, the newest addition to the neighborhood. While getting acquainted, I had a thing or two to share about our family home, our refuge for five generations. As it turned out, Franken had some words to share with me.

Judy Talks to Franken

Franken, I love seeing you here, waving to the many passersby who are walking, biking, and driving on this busy street, often on their way to classes, work, ballgames, and activities at the nearby campus. Some fitness enthusiasts are passing by the house—and you—before crossing the street to climb the 176 steep steps that lead to a vista of the neighborhood and the city with its landmarks and parks, its drumlins and lakes.

When my Grandpa Shulman (also known as Poppy or Pa) bought this two-family home in the spring of 1951, he had lots of company. There was Grandma, who passed away before the year was over, two daughters—my mother Gertrude and my Aunt Jeanette, my dad Sam, and four Ellison and three Sohl kids. In time, another Ellison baby added to the tumult of a lively family home.

We Ellisons lived upstairs, and our Pa and the Sohls lived downstairs. It made no difference whether you lived up or down, since doors were rarely closed and never locked. Pa, a very handy man, always seemed to be painting, wallpapering, chipping plaster, making a little hole into a big one in one room or another. If there wasn’t enough to do upstairs or downstairs, he was outdoors, pouring concrete to repair the sidewalk.

Read More

Courtesy of Intercom, the Magazine of the Society for Technical Communication, May 2015

Courtesy of Intercom, the Magazine of the Society for Technical Communication, May 2015

In the spring of 1985, I was working in a career services office for a university when a request came from a corporate manager for someone to write a policies and procedures manual. Though I had not worked in corporate America and had not written a manual, a colleague encouraged me to apply. With a degree in Public Communication and a major in Literacy Journalism, I had solid writing skills. I took the four-month assignment, enjoyed the work, did it well, resigned from the university, worked through an agency on a variety of technical and business writing projects, and, a year later, launched my own business.

Part of what I love about running Shenouda Associates Inc. is the ability to schedule my own time. By now, I know what needs to be done to keep the business humming along. My calendar is filled with key dates, so that at the start of any given week, I can set priorities. No longer is every day or every hour booked, which means I have the luxury of doing some of my own creative work, including self-publishing my own books.

Overall, my job includes activities in the administrative, HR, and marketing areas and, of course, many day-to-day activities revolve around the craft of researching, writing, editing, and publishing. Read More

Once a book is authored, published, and printed, there’s the added joy of sharing the finished product. At a recent outdoor music and cultural festival, I did just that. With the goal that A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way reach those who could benefit, the festival was wonderful in so many ways.

A festival

Because the festival was in Syracuse, NY, my hometown, my family who live in the area gathered in a show of support. My brothers Larry and Richard delivered and set up a long table with chairs to display my books. My young grandniece Kara set out the tablecloth, arranged books and business cards, filled the candy jar, and displayed a plaque with the words, “I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.” My nephews Jacob and David and others stood watch. Our table looked very inviting!

The first person to stop by bought A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way. She noted that the $18 price tag was a very good sign, since 18 is the number for Chai, which is Hebrew for life. Passers-by perused the book, delighted to find recipes for food they love, contributed by, in some cases, people they knew. I discovered that foodies love to cook, bake, eat—and talk!

I was happy to meet Kara’s friend Sophie. It turned out that her mom is the second cousin of one of my oldest and dearest Syracuse friends who has some recipes in the book. It was my pleasure to give Sophie’s mom my book as a thank-you for her kindness to Kara.

A childhood friend Myra and her adult daughter Lisa stopped by. I had not seen them in 25 years and pointed out that Rose, who was Myra’s mom and Lisa’s grandmother, gave my mom (my much loved Ma) a wonderful recipe for strudel, which is included in the Cookies and Pastries section of my book.

When I recognized a passerby as a member of the clergy who, faithfully and compassionately, visited my dear Ma daily during her final days, I greeted him but could not speak for several long moments, viscerally feeling again those difficult days. In gratitude for his support, I gave him A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way where he will get to know my Ma at her best as well as the many loved ones she nourished.

My cousin Maxine greeted visitors to our table, sharing her enthusiasm for the recipes and snippets of family lore that season the book’s pages. My sister Sandy stopped by just in time to hear a gentleman named Harold describe a recipe that his mother brought with her from Europe many years ago.

A recipe

At home, from her collection of treasured recipes, Sandy retrieved a recipe for plum kuchen that looked very close to the recipe Harold described. She wrote, “Mrs. M always brought it for holiday meals or a Sunday pizza night. She was a terrific cook. I’m sure this recipe came with her from Germany.” Read More

Back cover for A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way

Back cover for A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way

A new look

This week, I dressed up my blog! The old header, which highlighted Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal, my first book, is gone. A new, impressionistic splurge of colors now appears. Just above it, there is a new menu item, Eating Our Way. Just above that, there’s a new book title, A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way. And to the right, there’s a new image, showing off one very tasty dish―part cookbook, part inspiration, part memoir―that is now hot off the press! With this facelift completed, I sit back, look, and enjoy it.

A new book

The reason for this new look? I wanted to include my new book in this blog. The original blog focused on how to transition successfully from one phase of work or one phase of life to another, based on the process detailed in Career Success in 12 Easy Steps: A Journal.

This refreshed, revitalized blog retains the existing blog entries and categories and additionally showcases the results of paying attention to the many earlier postings in this blog. Being mindful of Capabilities, talents, and strengths; Decision-making, problem-solving, and organizing; Motivation and inspiration; Self-discovery and self-actualization through exploration and reflection; and Work and life balance; I now have A Bisl of This, A Bisl of That: Eating Our Way as an addition to my Products, services, and offerings. It is now among my Success stories!

A new opportunity―for you

Look over this blog. See what resonates. Let the postings, the comments, the books, the menu, and the categories evoke something positive in you. Let the impressionistic dots, patterns, ripples, waves, and colors splashed in the new header allow you to picture an opportunity that is waiting just for you. Perhaps it is a project, a product, or another creation. Tell us about it. Tell the world!

My writing desk is a work in progress.

My writing desk is a work in progress.

While you are looking at this photo of a work in progress, I am marveling over the real deal—the varnished, cherry writing desk, now with knobs on the two drawers and a panel that goes over the drawer on the left to provide additional surface.

From the unfinished writing desk that my brother Larry and my cousin Marty are modeling in the photo, you can likely tell that this is homemade. Larry, our family’s very own woodworker and furniture maker, asked me what I’d like at the start of this very tough upstate New York winter. Answering Larry’s question was easy. I wanted a writer’s desk. Read More