About Dinner

Stouffer’s is running a commercial in heavy rotation for their Let’s Fix Dinner campaign. The point of the campaign is to fix (as in correct) dinner by getting families to fix (as in make) dinner at home and eat together around the table. The spot shows a family setting the table, making a salad and heating a Stouffer’s lasagna. The voice over says the family is having Italian Night, a new tradition they had started. But my question is this: if you have time to put a table cloth, nice place settings, candles and all the accoutrement of a nice restaurant meal, how do you not have time to make lasagna from scratch?

Lasagna is one of the easiest dishes in the world to make. If you just follow the directions on the box of noodles, you will have at least a passable meal. If you want it to be slightly healthier, you can use fat free cottage cheese instead of ricotta. If you don’t want to use all the pots involved in scratch lasagna, you can even find noodles that cook just in the juices they’re baked with. Admittedly, if you want ground beef in the dish, you will have to use a frying pan in addition to the lasagna pan. But, guess what? Fresh lasagna, even a mediocre recipe, tastes better than a frozen meal every time. And the leftovers are even better.

Now maybe not everyone has time to add 15-20 minutes of prep time. But are those people also giving their dinner table the full Martha Stewart treatment?

If you get tired of lasagna on your Italian night, I’m going to break the rules and share a family recipe with you right here on my blog. This is really easy to make (almost impossible to mess up, really), and even gets young kids to eat zucchini.

Grandpa Lou’s Elbows and Zucchini

  • 4 lbs. zucchini (or any squash)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 green pepper, diced
  • 2 tbsn. olive oil
  • 1 can of tomato sauce (or strained canned tomatoes if you want it chunky)
  • 1 lb. noodles (we use elbow macaroni, but you can use anything you want)
  • Spices to taste: salt, pepper, basil, oregano

Start the water for the noodles first, and add the noodles whenever the water is ready. Sauté garlic in olive oil until golden. Add the zucchini or squash, onion and green pepper, and season with salt, pepper, basil and oregano to taste. Cook until al dente. Add tomato sauce (use less if you want it less runny). Strain the noodles and combine.

This makes a LOT of food (hey, Grandpa Lou was Italian, what do you expect), so if you are cooking for less people or don’t want tons of leftovers, you can reduce the ingredients. The proportions here are just for example, there is basically no way to screw this up: it’s just zucchini, sauce and noodles. If you under-salt, the zucchini will be fairly bland, so don’t do it.

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Sponsor my iPad Update

This is a quick update to yesterday’s Sponsor my iPad post. I’ve got my first two iPad sponsors: Aaron Dotson (on behalf of Virginia Supportive Housing) and Wine and Beer Westpark (my favorite local source of home libations). I’ve still got a long way to go to get my iPad, but the early results are promising. If you know someone who might be interested, please share this post (you can tweet it, too).

Here’s a quick summary of the original post: I want an iPad, and in order to buy one, I’m asking for sponsors. Each sponsor will have their logo placed on the back of the iPad, which I will show off where ever I go, including all around Richmond and to conferences in places like Aspen. I’m accepting a maximum of eight sponsors, because that’s how many will fit on the back of the iPad.

If I get to four sponsors, I will buy the iPad, but here’s the new wrinkle: if I get all eight sponsors, I’ll not only buy the sponsored iPad, but also a second to give away. (The second iPad will not have any logos affixed to it—the winner will receive a pristine iPad in the original packaging.)

Contact me today at my email address on twitter @tonyskyday to sign up.

Sponsor my iPad

Some people think it’s the most revolutionary computing device every produced. Others think it’s the worst thing that could to happen to computing. Some people think it’s nothing compared to some imaginary future Linux or Windows-based tablets. But, all these opinions have one thing in common: everyone is talking about the iPad.

When the iPhone was released, it was a revolution of its own. Any time someone pulled an iPhone out of his pocket, everyone in the room wanted to see it. And the iPad won’t be any different. It is going to be a show piece that everyone, everywhere just has to see, touch, and experience.

And I want one. Badly.

So here’s my proposal: I want to find up to eight brands or companies to sponsor my iPad in exchange for logo placement on the back of the iPad. I will use the sponsorship money to purchase an iPad, and produce high-quality vinyl stickers of the sponsors’ logos to decorate the back. 

What’s in it for sponsors? Well, everyone who sees my beautiful new device will, of course, see your logo. I’ll blog and tweet the whole experience (including iPhone app reviews, like this Sonos app review which received 10,000 views in a single day). I’ll show off the iPad and my sponsors to everyone who comes near me. And I’ll take the iPad with me on business trips, like the PRSA Travel Conference in Aspen.

So, contact me today at my email address on twitter @tonyskyday to sign up.

UPDATE: Mere minutes in, and I’ve got my first sponsor—thanks Aaron Dotson for contributing on behalf of Virginia Supportive Housing! Email me to join some great company.

UPDATE 2: And I’ve got a second sponsor—thanks Matt from Wine and Beer Westpark. Definitely check out his blog, they are doing some cool stuff over at WBW. And check out their swarm party on the cover of the latest issue of Richmond Grid.

The Blind Side Kinda Sucked

A chronicle of my trip to San Fancisco.

Skip to the part about The Blind Side, if you so choose.

Last week I attended Eye for Travel’s Social Media Strategies for Travel conference at the Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf. I haven’t updated the blog in a while, so I thought I’d write about the trip in general and the conference specifically.

First, for what it’s worth, I didn’t have any trouble with the signal on my iPhone while I was there. But, I stayed near Fisherman’s Wharf most of the time.

I flew out at four on Tuesday, so I had time to rally the office (and some people from other nearby offices) for #takotuesday at the Boka Tako Truck. The tacos were great and I highly recommend that you check them (they post their schedule on their web site and on Twitter).

The conference, which was all day Wednesday and Thursday, had an interesting format—it was organized into panels, but the panelists gave presentations individually, then answered questions from the attendees as a group. As you can imagine, the results were somewhat mixed. I particularly liked the presentations by Virgin America, Google, InterContinental Hotel Group, Forrester Research, and Vail Resorts. The conference organizers promised to make the slides available, and if they’re on the web somewhere, I’ll link to them with some more detail about the presentations.

There was some talk about Foursquare at the conference (but not as much as I thought there would be, considering all the hotels represented) and someone added the event as a location, but after just two checkins at the hotel restaurant I was awarded mayorship. I guess I was the only one willing to publicly declare my presence in a hotel bar.

I’ve been to several SMCRVA events, and even a social media conference in Fairfax, so I was curious to see if people outside of Virginia had anything different to say about social media. I did learn some new things about how hotels and other locations are using social media, but for the most part there doesn’t seem to be anything big we’re missing in RVA. I wonder if a general-interest social media conference would have been a different experience.

A buddy of mine from college happens to live out in San Francisco, so we caught up on Thursday after the conference. It was great to see him, but my main takeaway from the experience was that I’m old: I hadn’t seen him in nearly ten years.

(Skip the following long story about my flights home.)

Friday morning after breakfast I stopped by the hotel’s business center (a euphemism they use for a closet with two crappy computers with credit card readers on them) to print my boarding pass. (Fortunately, they did provide the ability to print boarding passes for free.) That’s when I found out my one o’clock flight was delayed until after three. Meaning I’d miss my connection to RIC. Delta’s web site nicely offered to let me book an alternate flight, but the slow-as-molasses “business center” computer had time limit, which expired while I was looking for a new seat.

I called the airline who nicely offered to let me stay overnight in Detroit and fly back to Richmond in the morning. Thanks, but no thanks. I tried to talk them into booking a different airline that would get me back to RIC around midnight as planned, but the best I could do was book a 10:45 p.m. red eye to Atlanta, to arrive home at 10 a.m.

For some reason, my boarding passes would not print from the Delta site. Expecting a problem (my day hadn’t been going swimmingly so far), I cut short my tour of San Francisco and headed to the airport four hours early (unwisely subjecting myself to rush hour). I checked in at the ticket counter, and still didn’t get a boarding pass—I would have to get my seat assignment at the gate just before boarding.

When they finally started handing out seat assignments, I had the sinking feeling I’d end up jammed in a center seat for a 5+ hour flight. They asked for volunteers to get bumped to morning flight. Figuring I would rather be comfortable in a hotel in SF than jammed on an overcrowded flight, I jumped and was the second volunteer. And the offer of a $400 voucher didn’t hurt either.

As it turned out, they were able to put me on a flight through Cincinnati (which, for airline purposes, is actually in Kentucky) only an hour later than the flight I volunteered to give up. And the only seat left on the flight to Cincy was in first class. Yeah, we call that a bonus. Snuggled cosily in my first-class seat, I watched the in-flight movie:

The Blind Side

I do my best to go into movies with, at best, neutral expectations. I find it leads to much greater enjoyment of all kinds of movies. So, I wasn’t expecting for this to be the best movie ever, or to get bowled over by Sandra Bullock’s performance. And in sports movies, I expect a certain level of cheesiness. The Blind Side, however, failed to meet even my minimal expectations. The acting was fine, but the writing and directing… sheesh. I’m not sure I even have the vocabulary to describe how corny it was.

Now, I happen to have known a little bit about the story going in, from reading about the book (and even reading some excerpts in the New Yorker). Perhaps that colored my experience with the film, but I’d like to think I still would have groaned at the part early in the film where the teacher told Bullock’s character that “Big Mike” was basically an idiot, but he scored in the 98th percentile on “protective instincts.” Have you ever been given a test that graded your protective instincts? Is that something they only give to foster children? And then I groaned again when it came up in the scene where Mrs. Tuohy knew better than anyone on the practice field how to get Michael to be the best damned left tackle ever. (“Your team is your family; protect them like you would me and SJ.”)

Here is my summary of the movie:

Voice over, sad part, groan-inducing part, training montage, groan-inducing part, inappropriate laugh, more voice over.

Oh, and that training montage? Playing the Mickey Goldmill role was the youngest Touhy, SJ. Maybe I left my suspension of disbelief back at the airport. Good thing the little white boy was there to teach the big black boy how to play football.

I thought Sandra Bullock was good, but that Tim McGraw was better. The best part was the parade of cameos by current and former Division I college coaches.

Now I’m back safe and back to work on Monday.

Programming my DVR from away from home.

  1. Visit dishnetwork.com.
  2. Try to log in with several username and password combinations.
  3. Click “Can’t Login?”
  4. Enter my phone number (was that my home phone or cell phone?) and zip code to get an email to recover my password.
  5. Answer a secret question.
  6. Check all possible email accounts. Twice.
  7. Finally get the email, which has my password in plain text.
  8. Log into dishnetwork.com.
  9. Find and click on Dish Remote Access.
  10. Realize I stole the Ethernet cable from my Dish receiver to use for my Netflix streaming DVD player.
  11. Sigh.

On the plus side, the Dish Remote Access site is actually pretty cool. I gather that it’s the Sling Networks interface.

About the Food

There is a crescendo brewing about the food we eat. You read Fast Food Nation back in 2001. You saw Super Size Me. You watched Food, Inc. Now Jamie Oliver is on a mission to teach children about food. In the TED Talk below, he talks about the food we eat and his TV show shot in Huntington, W.Va. The demonstration of how much sugar kids get just from milk is impressively frightening.

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It seems to me that setting a good example for my kids is the single biggest reason I have for getting my act together. I’m posting this here to remind myself.