Saturday, November 28, 2009

Pamelas Pasts the Holiday Test

Early this week while planning the holiday meal for Thanksgiving, I went into the local health food store to pick up a bag of bread mix for myself, and found a little gem called Pamela's. Knowledgeable staff turned me on to it I must admit; I was bee-lining it for the best of the recent test but couldn't find the right aisle. What the clerk told me was that this one has recipes for pizza and pie crusts and bagels, too! So I decided to buy two bags to try this new brand to make myself some bread, and then test out Pamela's on mom's pumpkin pie recipe for the holiday - the hardest test of all!

First, as a sandwich bread, Pamela's passes the parameters - it's firm enough to cut in slices that don't fall apart for a sandwich, panini, or egg-in-the-middle; and most important, it tastes like regular white-flour bread. It was also a better bread than the other three, the taste and texture were most real and the crust is also generally firmer and better tasting as well.

Second, as a pie crust, Pamela's also passes brilliantly for pumpkin pie, and I can already tell from its pliability for rolling and sugary taste it would be great for apple pie too. I'm used to making my own crust, and while this one is less flaky than the traditional flour version, it holds together nicely, rolls out on wax paper, and tastes even better in my opinion. I used shortening for the even-comparison, as my traditional recipe calls for that instead of butter and my family thinks it makes a better crust. Testing Pamela's for the pie crust was the most exciting to me because I bake a lot of pies at the holidays, and want to eat them too!

I can also tell from it's rolled-out width and texture that it would be fine- although perhaps a little sweet- for pizza crust as well. Will be testing that!

Last, for bagels, it's a hard comparison up here in the altitude that we live (6900), and I'm partial to the NY ones so even the bagels from the store don't satisfy me here. That said, Pamela's were really really good. The sweetness helped, and we added cinnamon and raisins to add some additional flavors and texture. Since it's been so long since I've had a glutenous bagel (10 mos?) with a little melted butter and cream cheese these tasted as good as the typical Colorado version to me!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Social Media 101

Most of my peers have this subject nailed down.... but occasionally I run across someone who I think has it all figured out, all this social media hoopla, and yet they are missing one key element about the system (yes it is a system!) that would make their life online so much simpler. So today's Idea Factory is about all the social media tools I use on a daily or weekly basis. This list will likely change in 6 months, so it will likely require a followup. I know 6 months ago I wasn't using half these tools yet... technology is already light-years ahead of us!

I also knew this would be a good post today when I counted my sites up and realized I regularly post to, gasp, over 30 different profiles. No wonder I need automation technology to keep myself from going crazy, AND to be able to do some work in a day!

Daily I post to: (# of profiles)
Facebook (3), Twitter (3), LinkedIn (1), Flickr (1)

Weekly I post to:
Blogger (4), You Tube (1), Ning (6), The Wheel Life (1), Aweber (1), Examiner (1), Twitpic (2)

Occasionally I post to:
Dopplr, MySpace, Travelwriters, Digg, Ph.Art, RedBubble, CafePress, FotoLibra, TripIt, Blip.tv, Meetup, BlogTalkRadio... and probably a few more I'm forgetting!

The tools I use to keep me going:
When I post to any of my blogs (Access Anything, AA Reviews, Idea Factory, In The Deep) or Examiner, they post automatically to my Twitter via TwitterFeed, and to my Facebook via the Twitter Application. You will have to get familiar with FeedBurner to do so... but it's easy enough.

Sometimes I post to Twitter directly and it goes to Facebook with Twitter App, and sometimes I use OutTwit (now called TwInBox) to tweet. I don't use TweetDeck but I know a lot who do, I just don't prefer it.

I also use SocialOomph to post a week or month's worth of tweets, or just to pretweet something that is time specific, that I don't want to forget about, OR to tweet something multiple times. This is my favorite tool.

I use Retaggr to keep all my profiles organized in one place for networking friends, and use it as a signature on my email (below).


YouTube also autoposts to Facebook, which is nice. So it looks like I spend a LOT more time on Facebook than I really do. :)

Twitter just hooked up with LinkedIn, so add that application if you have a profile there.

Why we use Social Networking:
Since using these tools, our mailing list sign up has increased and I've made tons of new and wonderful contacts all over the world, collaborated with new businesses, sold photographs, booked freelance jobs, and much more.

Some people still ask how you find the time for all this, and how you keep it organized. I've learned that frequency is key, so if I'm particularly unmotivated to reach out to the legions, I rely on SocialOomph a little more.

And yes, sometimes it's entirely overwhelming... just in writing this post and going to Ning (create your OWN social network!) I realized I'd forgotten about three networks I hadn't been to in months. Oops! But when it seems overwhelming, and even infringing, I step back and take a week to myself, let SocialOomph make it look like I'm out there, and forget about the World Wide Web for a few days. That usually gets me to come back with enthusiasm and new ideas.

What to Say:
I've listened to and read much on the subject of social networking to make sure I'm doing the right things for our business. I'd never be this omnipresent if it wasn't for our business; but since we are, I want to do it right. Here are the basics on what to and what not to "Tweet" if you're doing this for yours or someone else's business and marketing.
  • Be personal, let them into your life with pictures, videos, etc., but only give what you're comfortable with
  • Set all security settings to high on Facebook, only let friends or "friends of friends" view your photos and personal information.
  • Don't tweet about every meal unless you're a food critic. Keep it interesting- post your favorite song with Blip.fm one day, repost someone else's link to your new favorite book or movie, share tips, and keep it short.
  • Connect with people who can help grow your business through collaboration, but don't turn people away based on that either- you never know how you can work together in the future.
  • Don't get distracted by the games on Facebook or other sites; set rules for yourself based on how much time you want to spend doing this. It's not exactly quantifiable in terms of income, but it IS free marketing; so decide for yourself- 10 minutes a day to start, up to 30 maximum is recommended.

My Challenge: I challenge you to find (all of) me on all these sites!

My Companies/Profiles:
Access Anything, Andrea Jehn Kennedy Photography, Yampa Valley Sustainability Council

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Comparing Gluten Free Bread Mixes

For those of you who know me well, I don't usually like to make anything that comes out of a box, tube, or packet... but I've been gluten free only since June and am experimenting with recipes so often, that I've found it nice to try the bread mixes from a box.

I've tried three so far, and am happy to report my findings... so far all of these are available at Whole Foods and in multi-packs on Amazon. YUM!



1) Gluten Free Pantry's favorite sandwich bread was just that- so far the best slicing and firm- texture (ie. best hold for a sandwhich). The flavor was the staple white-bread flavor- something I ironically haven't had in my house in years. We switched to nutty wheat breads ages ago for the health factor, and I'm actually quite glad to go back to white bread for PB&J's. Yum. My first notice on this one was that the top sunk about 1/4". Perhaps high altitude, perhaps I just need to try again- either way, it still worked great for sammies, egg-in-the-middle, and everyday tea and toast. It was a bit plain, but overall a good substitute.

You'll need two eggs, butter, and water for this one.

Ingredients

White Rice Flour, Brown Rice Flour, Potato Starch, Skim Milk, Whey, Corn Starch, Brown Sugar, Guar Gum, Salt and A Packet of Yeast.


2) Bob's Red Mill Gluten Free Bread Mix came out super light and fluffy, and I'm partial to Bob because of his rice, tapioca, and other flour substitutes that I buy that work great up here at high altitude. It's a lighter, fluffier bread that GFPantry's dense alternate, so the slices must be cut thicker, but it's definitely a better bread for snack or meal, just not for sandwiches. Has a richer flavor too.
Of all of them, this one stuck to the sides of the breadmaker the most, which usually means that some of the loaf is inconsistent (floury, separated), and did so in this case. If you're careful to scrape the sides down during the mixing phase, it's ok, which I always check because it happens frequently. What made me happy was that #3 below didn't do that at all- nothing to scrape is very rare.

You'll need milk, eggs, butter, and cider vinegar for this one.

Ingredients
Garbanzo Bean Flour, Potato Starch, Corn Starch, White Sorghum Flour, Tapioca Flour, Evaporated Cane Juice, Fava Bean Flour, Xanthan Gum, Active Dry Yeast, Potato Flour, Sea Salt, Guar Gum, Soy Lecithin.


3) 365 (Whole Foods Generic) Gluten Free Sandwhich Bread
As stated above, this one started out the smoothest, but didn't rise as high as the second one (first actually deflated, deflated loaves make me sad). This one didn't smell as good when it came out either, not a bad smell, but almost none at all. A delicious slice when warm, and it kept its shape when sliced. It had a slightly more box-taste to it (I'm very sensitive to fresh ingredients, which is why I don't buy ready-made or instant foods), so either my box was older, or it's just that generic brand taste. Either way, I'd say this falls into the #2 spot in rating, I believe Bob's brand was the best of all three, although looking at the ingredients, #1 and #3 are basically the same, they tasted the same, held together the same, and this one rose about 1/4" higher.

You'll need water, butter, and two eggs for this one.

Ingredients
White rice flour, brown rice flour, potato starch, skim milk powder, whey, cornstarch, brown sugar, guar gum, salt, packet of yeast.


Bob's also has a GF wheat bread with buckweat and molasses, and I'm itching to try the Ener-G, Delicious, and Chebe brands, so this is just the beginning!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Using Twitter with your phone - The Official Twitter Commands

This direct from Twitter's help desk, some of these mobile commands are new to me... tip of the week from the Idea Factory- you've heard it before-
"Sometimes it just pays to read the instructions!"

Did you know: you can perform certain actions, like following or marking a friend's update as a favorite, by using the designated Twitter commands? Use the commands listed below from your phone, the web update box, or your favorite third party application.

Turning Twitter off and on: device notifications
  • ON: turns ALL phone notifications on.
  • OFF, STOP, QUIT, End, Cancel, Arret or Unsubscribe: turns ALL phone notifications off.
  • ON username: turns on notifications for a specific person on your phone. For example, ON alissa.
  • OFF username: turns off notifications for a specific person on your phone. For example, OFF blaine.
  • FOLLOW username: this command allows you to start following a specific user, as well as receive SMS notifications. Example: follow jermy
  • LEAVE username: this command allows you to stop following a specific user, as well as stop receiving SMS notifications. Example: leave benfu

Fun Stuff: friends, favorites, and stats!

There's more to Twitter than OFF and ON! Use the commands below to send private messages, mark updates as favorites, or even remind someone to update their Twitter page if you're wondering what they're doing!
  • @username + message
  • directs a twitter at another person, and causes your twitter to save in their "replies" tab.
    Example: @meangrape I love that song too!
  • D username + message
  • sends a person a private message that goes to their device, and saves in their web archive.
    Example: d krissy want to pick a Jamba Juice for me while you're there?
  • FAV username
marks a person's last twitter as a favorite and causes the message to show up in your "Favorites" tab.

  • SET LOCATION placename
updates the location field in your profile
Example: set location san francisco

  • WHOIS username
  • retrieves the profile information for any public user on Twitter.
    Example: whois jack
  • GET username
  • retrieves the latest Twitter update posted by the person.
    Example: get goldman
  • NUDGE username
  • reminds a friend to update by asking what they're doing on your behalf.
    Example: nudge biz
  • FAV username
  • marks a person's last twitter as a favorite. (hint: reply to any update with FAV to mark it as a favorite if you're receiving it in real time)
    Example: fav al3x
  • STATS
  • this command returns your number of followers, how many people you're following, and your bio information.
  • INVITE phone number
  • will send an SMS invite to a friend's mobile phone.
    Example: Invite 415 555 1212

Noteworthy Facts

  • using on/off username from your phone only stops notifications to the place the command comes from; you'll still collect a person's updates on the web.
  • using follow/leave username from your phone is the same as using on/off username
  • following someone from a phone for the first time will also cause you to follow them on the web
  • there is no way to stop following a person on the web without visiting their profile and removing them. The off, leave, stop, and quit commands will only disable updates for the device(s) from which they were sent.
  • you don't have to use ON/OFF username from the phone, you can also set individual notifcations from a person's profile page, or check your following page and manage all phone notification settings there.