Author Archives: Rhea

A Little Life Hack: WordPress Customer Service

laptop screen displaying a red poster

Poster designed by the author via keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Earlier this month, a horrendous customer service call made headlines. Being the glass-half-full kind of gal that I am, I want to share a sunnier experience with people paid to listen to us whine.

It starts with a WordPress blog–just like the one you’re reading now. I’ve used WordPress for nearly eight years now, and currently own or contribute to half a dozen WP sites.

When I’ve bumped up against the occasional website snafu, I’ve always been able to pluck an answer from the help topics or the forums and fix the problem myself. Then I came up against email forwarding that mysteriously stopped. We’re talking about the service where you can take an address like info@funkycucumber.com and automatically forward it to me@gmail.com (if you’re not doing this yet for your own website, look into it!* It’s free. And it works great. Except when it occasionally doesn’t). Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Public relations/communications, Writing and technology

Publication: Morsels on Morse in The Washington Post

Please ring bell door sign

This sign inspired the lede of my article. Photo by moi.

My article in this week’s Washington Post Food section opens:

A sign on the door of Best Kitchen Supply on Morse Street NE asks patrons to press a buzzer to get in, but regulars know the truth: The door is rarely locked. Within, they find more insider secrets in the form of kitchen treasures of every kind, their prices as inviting as the open door….

You can read the full article online now and catch it in tomorrow’s print edition.

What a fun process this was–really an excuse to bum around some of my favorite shops in D.C. and pick the minds and hearts of the people in them. I focused on three places: Best Kitchen Supply, A. Litteri, and Afrik International Market. I both hope and worry that these morsels on Morse won’t stay a secret for long.

My reporting, as well as my 11-year history as a shopper of Florida Avenue Market businesses, all come together in this piece, and will be tested by readers in the online chat. Tune in to Free Range on Food on Wednesday, 7/23, at noon. I’ll share the virtual Q&A with, among others, a 10-year-old chef-to-be.

Thanks, as always, for reading!

Leave a comment

Filed under DC, Food writing, History

Morning Bread

Morning breadIn the previous post, I shared some of my experience cooking for 40+ acrobats. Though the menu board in the dining room listed details of only our lunches and dinners, the breakfasts were also documentation-worthy. Part of what made them legendary (at least in my mind) was the bread.

Let me set the scene: The four of us cooks would stumble into the kitchen by 6:15 a.m. to set up a breakfast rotation of housemade chai and granola, a hash with whatever grass-fed meat the monkeys (aka acrobats) hadn’t gobbled up the night before, potato hashbrowns, oatmeal, and/or kitcheree. Coffee, hot water for tea, and hot chocolate, too.

One mainstay of these breakfasts was Chef Josh‘s overnight bread, which is an easy and delicious project for cooks at any level. As the name suggests, you start this bread the night before. Instead of the usual routine of letting the bread dough rise for about an hour a couple of times before baking, this one rises slowly over six or eight hours. (If you’re interested in the technical why and wherefore, the key is the high volume of salt. It slows the yeast’s activity).

Here’s a recipe for the bread, scaled down to make one large or two small loaves (recipe after the jump). Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Events, Food writing, Healthy eating, Recipes

Cooking for acrobats

photo 5

I just spent two weeks cooking real food 14 hours a day for 40 acrobats.

You may ask: What do you mean by real food? Or perhaps Who are these acrobats?

The answers are: 1) Food from scratch, with locally sourced produce, dairy, and meat, and nary a processed ingredient in the pantry (thus the long hours); and 2) The participants and teachers of the Acro Revolution Teacher Training in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

The four-person kitchen crew had only met by Facebook prior to our arrival. I came in wondering about a number of variables, including how we would all get along and how my overseeing the vegetarian and vegan offerings would work with the meat dishes.

I didn’t have to worry. Helmed by Chef Josh (second from right), the group gelled quicker than the cream atop our unhomogenized local milk.

Acro Revolution kitchen crew

The cooks of the Acro Revolution Teacher Training were (from left) Rich, Nina, Josh, and your intrepid author.

We developed a flow, and laughed hysterically at the in-jokes that popped up along the way. Oh, we sure did.

Continue reading

2 Comments

Filed under Healthy eating, Local food

Five percent for empowerment: Supporting a community kitchen

Zucchini by Rhea

Zucchini by Rhea

Today, 5 percent of all grocery bills at Whole Foods in Silver Spring will go toward empowerment. That is because those dimes and dollars will support the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Shared Use Community Kitchen.

Not all 85 subscribers to this blog live in the D.C./Maryland area, so I won’t go into detail about the 5 percent day (though if you are in the area, you should go!) Instead, I’ll tell you about this kitchen. According to the project site:

For the past three years, a group of dedicated individuals have been working hard to renovate and reopen the commercial kitchen located in the Takoma Park Presbyterian Church.

Once completed, the kitchen will be available as:
1. an incubator for entrepreneurs to start small food-based businesses,
2. a classroom for teens, seniors, and anyone to learn about healthy eating, and
3. a production space where donated food can be prepared to be sent to local food banks and homeless shelters.

I’m proud to be a part of this kitchen as a board member of the Crossroads Community Food Network, one of the partners in launching the new space. Crossroads is all about food access and empowerment  — empowerment to eat healthier food (through the Crossroads Farmers Market and Healthy Eating Program), to earn a living wage from preparing food (the Community Kitchen and Microenterprise Program), and to embrace the cultural foods of your own community and others’ (all of the above).

I look forward to the funds and attention this day can bring, and appreciate the community contributions and support we receive. By reading this post, you’re already part of the empowerment. So thank you!

3 Comments

Filed under Community events, DC, Events, Food access

Books on slowing down, from unlikely sources

woman sitting in front of moon

Is she checking her watch?? Photo by geralt on Pixabay

When I learned that Jeff Bridges released a book on Zen and mindfulness last year, I didn’t exactly fall off my meditation pillow (as the NY Times review explained, the book was what you’d expect). The actor who played the unemployed, roach-smoking Dude in the ’90s cult hit The Big Lebowski makes the perfect guru for the chill life.

But high-octane achievers like Russell Simmons and Arianna Huffington? Their books made me stand up and take notice.

I know–I’m confused about why they came out with these books, too. Let’s poke at this.

Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under On media, Writing markets

I can haz perspective?

Photo: Paul Reynolds

Photo: Paul Reynolds

As a writer and college instructor, I can easily sink into my own world. Yet this past week, I’ve had the chance to see that world from the other side.

The writing sphere usually involves lightly stalking my subjects, asking questions, rejoicing when they respond, then writing and revising. Rinse and repeat.

For teaching, the routine is mostly to come up with activities and explorations that hopefully lead to learning and/or thinking. Rinse. Repeat. The rest of the time I make up assignments and criteria, hope students follow said criteria, and then check assignments and find that they sometimes do and sometimes don’t follow it. The success of that last item determines whether my hair remains intact or not.

So my trip to the point-of-view equivalent of Australia started last week when I discovered a student has quoted me in an article about farmers markets. I loved the experience of sitting in the interviewee chair, and then seeing what the interviewer chose to use.  It’s like one of those lolcats  suddenly faced with her own reflection.

Zowee! I can haz perspective? Continue reading

Leave a comment

Filed under Teaching

Be a Fresh Checks Family Sponsor!

crossroads logoCalling all business owners and good food lovers: Now’s the time to sponsor a D.C.-area family trying to put more healthy, local food on the table. Sign on by this week to get your name and logo on farmers market materials all over Montgomery and Prince Georges counties.

Details below (cross posted from the Crossroads Community Food Network)

On June 4, Crossroads Farmers Market will open for our 8th season in our new, more visible, location. You can find us on Anne St. University Blvd. in Takoma Park, and we’re thrilled to welcome back all of our customers and vendors, along with some exciting new vendors.

For us to carry our success to our new location, we need not only our customers and our vendors – we also need your help. Over the past seven seasons, thanks to the support of our community, we’ve distributed over $240,000 in Fresh Checks, all of which have gone directly to low-income families to spend with local farmers.

Help us continue to offer Fresh Checks again this season. Go to crossroadscommunityfoodnetwork.org and click the “donate” button. Please consider signing up to make a monthly recurring donation. Just $20 per month over the course of a year will match farmers market SNAP (food stamp) purchases for one family for the entire 25-week Crossroads Farmers Market season.

The money you give will match funds spent with federal benefits so that low-income people in our community can have access to healthy, fresh, local produce. Our goal for the 2014 market season is to provide $50,000 in Fresh Checks to our low-income customers. So far, we’ve raised $38,000—over 75%—through foundations and local government. Now, we are calling on our community to help us raise the final $12,000.

Your donations allow us to continue building a vibrant and inclusive local food system in the Takoma Langley Crossroads and beyond. We’re grateful for your support!

Leave a comment

Filed under Community events, Food access, Healthy eating, Local food

Celebrating Earth Day where I want to be

plants and planters by a rainy window

With my office smelling like wet soil and a motley crew of plants and planters straggling across my desk, I’m in a good place to celebrate Earth Day.  It doesn’t hurt that the plants came from a campus clean-up project that one of my classes planned last week, and the egg carton planters came into being thanks to another class activity yesterday. I’ll spend another few minutes with these signs of spring, then head to a board meeting for the Crossroads Community Food Network. We’ll be talking about that organization’s fragrant, colorful farmers market, which opens in just six weeks.

I hope you’re celebrating where you want to be this Earth Day, or that you’re on the way.

Leave a comment

Filed under Gardening, Sustainability, Teaching

Attending a Passover Seder

Rhea:

In the Passover Seder, we say “let all who are hungry, come and eat.” So I was excited when writer friend Whitney Pipkin approached me with a craving to try her first Pesach experience. She and her husband forked in the new information and traditional foods earlier this week, and Whitney wrote a colorful post about the evening. Very pleased to share it with you!

Originally posted on Think About Eat:

seder horizontal

As a journalism student at the University of Oklahoma, I was once assigned as homework what would become one of my favorite pastimes later in life: go participate in a cultural or religious ceremony that is outside your realm of experience.

For the assignment, I attended my suite mate’s African American Southern Baptist church. It felt like an easy way out in some regards. But, having grown up in a comparatively stoic Presbyterian church in Kansas (although we did have a “contemporary” service), it proved to be a rich cultural experience. I was enthralled as the pastor sang half the sermon while nearly dancing down the center aisle, accompanied by a chorus of ‘Amen’s from those in attendance. It made my church look like nap time by comparison.

I began to cherish these types of cultural experiences and seek them out on my own. I love the feeling and learning that comes with entering into a…

View original 858 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized