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Entries from November 1, 2005 - November 30, 2005


Hand-Cranked, Homemade Pumpkin Pie

For Thanksgiving this year, I had a little bit of fun, seeing how hard it would be to bake a pumpkin pie from scratch. Our yearly visit to the Elegant Farmer yielded two perfectly-sized pumpkin pie pumpkins, which gave me the idea to give it a go.

The process was actually not difficult as much as it was putzy, but that's alright. There is a bit of fun in the putzy things of life, such as making espresso or what have you.

First, the pumpkins are halved, then the seeds and inner stringy stuff gets scraped out with a spoon. Next, I spread a thin layer of butter on a large flat pan (12 x 18) with 1/4 inch high edges, adding about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of water to the pan. The halved pumpkins are placed onto the pan (adding the water simply keeps the pumpkin edges against the pan from burning).

I baked the 4 pumpkin halves for about 45 to 50 minutes, until I could tell the flesh was very soft by inserting a knife, then removed the pumpkins and left them on top of the stove to cool. As they cooled I sliced the halves into smaller pieces, preparing for their processing later.

Once the pieces of baked pumpkin were baked and cooled, I setup a hand-cranked food processor loaned to me by a friend on the kitchen table. This cool tool separates the heavy pulp, skins and stuff not fit for pie into one bowl, while the good stuff gets strained down a plastic corkscrew gear through a pumpkin strainer screen and into a second bowl.

My son helped crank while I fed and pressed the pumpkin chunks into the processor, until we cranked through both pumpkins. It was mussy and gurgly but loads of fun for both of us. :-)

Apparently pumpkins can be processed with a blender, though the skins must be manually separated from the pulp, then the pulp gets blended thoroughly. I may have to try that next year, just to see how easy it is to pull off.

Some of the final pulp was stored in a 16 oz sour cream container and put in the fridge, while I prepared a pumpkin pie to use the rest of the pulp. I made use of the convenient recipe from some solid pack pumpkin (store bought) for a simple recipe:

Pumpkin Pie

  • 1 Unbaked Pastry shell
  • 3 eggs slightly beaten
  • 1 cup white or brown sugar (I prefer brown)
  • 1/2 TSP Salt
  • 1 TSP Cinnamon
  • 1/4 TSP Cloves
  • 1/4 TSP Ginger
  • 1/4 TSP Nutmeg
  • 16 oz Pumpkin pie filling
  • 8 oz Evaporated milk

Prepare a one-crust pie shell. Combine the eggs, salt, sugar and spices in a bowl and beat well. Blend in the pumpkin pie filling. Add evaporated milk and beat well.

Turn into the one-crust pie shell and bake at 450 F for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 F for 40 to 45 minutes. You know the pie is done when you can insert a knife into the center of the pie and have it come out clean (no filling on the knife).

I've made this recipe with canned pumpkin filling and it's quite good, though fresh filling is even better. It has a bit better taste than the canned filling, in my opinion. But I truly love the spices the most: nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon and ginger all rock! :-)

More than likely, canned pumpkin will do the trick for most of my future pumpkin pies, but it was still great experience to make a pie from pumpkins.


The Last Voyage of Columbus

last-voyage-lg.jpgIt was a spur of the moment choice to pick up The Last Voyage of Columbus as I strolled through the Milwaukee Public Library's Central branch one afternoon. I was awaiting the bus, looking for something interesting to read, when I spotted the book on the Librarian's Choice table.

I enjoy learning about world history, and I've not read much about Christopher Columbus, so I was intrigued by “the Last Voyage” in the title. The author's name, Martin Dugard, rang a bell as well. Then I remembered — Martin wrote some of my favorite coverage of the Tour de France this year, on his weblog.

I checked out the book, and am glad I did — it's an excellent job of historical storytelling and a tribute to the man who was Christopher Columbus. This was one of the rare non-fiction books I couldn't wait to read more of: reading a chapter at lunch-break or a few chapters before bed.

The story revolves around Columbus, of course, but provides significant insight into the times in which Columbus lived. Dugard did a fine job of providing a setting for Columbus' insane idea to sail westward as a way of reaching China and India.

But Columbus' first 3 voyages are not the main topic of this book, though they are recounted for perspective. The real meat of the story is about Columbus' 4th and final voyage from 1502-1504, in which he aimed to find a passage through the new world, as an alternate way to arrive in Asia.

The 4th voyage was indeed Columbus' toughest, as he and his fleet encountered many trials, problems and dangerous situations, including mutiny. Reading about the drive and dedication he had to his task was inspiring, especially in the face of the troubles he encountered along the way.

I was amazed me to read about the achievements Columbus had in his career as a discoverer. Not only “the New World” but South America and nearly discovering the Pacific Ocean — he focused on a location a mere 35 miles across the Isthmus of Panama from the Pacific ocean, at the current location of the Panama Canal.

Was Columbus perfect? By no means. He had his own flaws and made some bad decisions. What's interesting to me was how he dealt with the challenges presented to him on this voyage, how dedicated he was to discovery, and his skills as a sailor, captain and navigator.

If you're looking for a good historical storytelling and have interest in one of history's most interesting personalities, I recommend Martin Dugard's The Last Voyage of Columbus.

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Cool New Site:

My friend and fellow Milwaukee-blogger Todd, filled me in on the latest ibw.gifproject from 800-CEO-READ called InBubbleWrap, which just went public this week. The idea behind InBubbleWrap: a place online where you can compete to win business books (and eventually other stuff) online. It's a little like Woot! in that each day IBW offers just one item on the site. However, instead of selling that item, visitors can take a shot at winning that item in a drawing.

All that's required is an account at IBW, then Monday through Friday you need to check their RSS feed, or stop at the site and tell 'em “I Want One!”, then answer the trivia question to have your entry submitted. Trivia questions aren't difficult, I think they simply assure that a real person is competing.

Then at the end of the day the IBW crew reviews the entries and picks a winner — or in some cases several winners, based on how many copies of the book are up for grabs. If you win, you're notified via email, and then confirm you really want the prize through a URL in that email.

Next thing you know, you have cool business books arriving in the mail! In fact, I've just received Grapevine and a complimentary The Big Moo this week from my participation in the InBubbleWrap beta test. All in all a very cool concept and a great way to get some nice reading materials.

Ryan, the director of IBW tells me they're looking to expand beyond just books. If you're interested in having your product or service featured on IBW, I'd suggest dropping Ryan a line.

Best Wishes to Ryan, Todd and the InBubbleWrap crew! :-)

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Design Class Talk: What Would You Tell 'Em?

I just got off the phone with one of my former design instructors over at my alma mater, Milwaukee Area Technical College. In the next month or so I'm going to pay a visit to MATC and give a 1 hour talk and Q&A to design students approaching graduation next spring.

I have a pretty good idea of what I'd like to talk about, along the lines of Thoughts on the Design Industry I wrote last month: globalism, the designer glut, emphasis an on drawing and sketching, emphasis on being good communicators, writers and leaders. I also plan to share good design resources on the web in a handout: design blogs, podcasts and whatever tools I think might be useful or inspirational.

I thought it'd be interesting to throw this upcoming talk out as an opportunity for other designers and non-designers out there to suggest specific thoughts, topics, websites, blogs, or podcasts they felt could benefit these students in my talk.

If you were able to share an insight, truth, tip or resource — what would it be?

• Something you thought was important in school that didn't turn out to be so important

• A hard lesson learned as a designer or more generally from your business life

• A skill or technique you feel is important for design school students to learn

• General suggestions for students about to graduate from college

• Good books to read

• Good blogs to read

• Good Podcasts to listen to

• Anything else you feel could be relevant or helpful to these students

FYI, this is a 2-year technical college setting, so these students will likely have pretty good technical training, but could really use resources and tips from the other side of the equation: the arts and the theoretical side of things.

Feel free to leave your suggestions in the comments area of this post.

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Stas Kovalenko: IT Guy

stasMy good friend Stas Kovalenko, a visitor in the US from Kyrgyzstan, mentioned last week he's hunting for an IT job. I thought it'd be interesting and fun to mention Stas on my blog, along with his resumé.

Stas is a really great guy — funny and fun-loving, curious about technology and just a really nice guy to hang with. He's interested in all sorts of technology, particularly Linux and Unix and has a great perspective visitor from Kyrgyzstan, hoping to stay here and make a life for himself in the US.

Stas just earned his Associate degree at Waukesha County Technical College as an IT Network Specialist, and worked for 5 months at WCTC as a lab assistant, doing troubleshooting, anti-virus updates and networked printer support. He's also had experience doing a computer network support internship at the college, doing all sorts of IT tasks (check out his resumé 64k PDF).

If you happen to have a position or project work for Stas, I'm sure he'd love to hear from you. Stas can be reached directly at if you're interested in saying hello.

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