23 August, 2014

Gluten Free at Burning Man

Remember that you are dust,
and to dust you shall return.
This week I leave for my fourth Burning Man, a week-long arts and music festival in the Black Rock desert north of Reno, NV. Last year I created a special challenge for myself: to make a gluten-free meal plan for the week.

I have started to cut out gluten from my everyday diet but knew it would be even more difficult on the "playa," where extreme temperatures and Leave No Trace kitchens make even typical camp cooking difficult. I did allow myself one exception: if someone offered me food - gluten or no gluten - I allowed myself to eat it. Gifting is a large part of Burning Man and I didn't want to refuse someone's hospitality, especially if I found myself far from my home camp. If I had a serious dietary concern, of course, I would make sure I had gluten-free snacks on me at all times, or be sure to get back to base more often.

For anyone else trying to eat healthier on the playa or looking for good gluten-free options that will work out there, here's a sampling of what I ate last year:
  • Corn chips with Wholly Guacamole -- no preservatives, must keep cold, can be frozen in advance, packaging is recyclable.
  • Avocado -- bring paprika, salt and limes to make your own guacamole or just a dash of salt. Nice to get your electrolytes in. Keep cold so it doesn't spoil.
  • Soft corn tortillas toasted on the grill with cheese and pre-cooked steak strips, topped with gluten-free salsa -- a plastic jug of salsa will be more durable than glass.
  • Nut crackers with tuna -- get the pouches of tuna to reduce waste.
  • Rice crackers with gluten-free, natural peanut butter.
  • String cheese.
  • Yogurt with gluten-free granola.
  • Gluten-free granola and almond milk.
  • Bacon! Lots of bacon!!! -- either pork or turkey bacon, just check the labels for gluten-free.
  • Turkey or beef jerky -- check labels, usually Teriyaki versions contain gluten but depending on the brand, certain flavors may be gluten free.  It's good to get your protein in!
  • Trail mix, either store bought or homemade -- I love almonds and dried cranberries.
  • KIND Fruit & Nut Bars -- a great substitute for granola bars, protein bars, etc. They don't have chocolate so they will keep well even in the heat.
  • Harvest Snapea Crisps. Crunch and lightly salted. Electrolytes are essential on the playa.
  • Pirate's Booty *my favorite* or any other of the Pirate Brands snacks -- I like to get a large bag and separate into my own small ziplock baggies when venturing out to reduce waste, however you may end up eating the whole bag in one sitting that way! The 4-oz individual bags are a good option, remember to take off as much packaging as possible before heading to the desert.
  • Trader Joe's Channa Masala or Madras Lentil boxes -- Indian food that comes in a pouch and can be heated or eaten at room temperature, no refrigeration needed.
  • Pacific Natural Foods Light Sodium Organic Soup, Creamy Tomato -- easy to make, just heat and eat. Sprinkle some nutritional yeast or cheese on top. I always bring a Jetboil to heat liquids as it's small, easy to use, and the pot becomes the cup, which you can then walk around with while enjoying your soup. I got mine at REI but you can also order on Amazon with free 2-day shipping if you're a prime member.
  • Pacific Natural Foods Organic Soup, French Onion -- another easy meal, very satisfying as the sun sets and the temperature drops, or after coming back to camp in the middle of the night when it's freezing out.  I like that these two soups come in boxes as they can be collapsed unlike a canned soup, saving space in the trash bags.
  • Amy's Organic brand soups -- more easy meals, these come in cans so be sure to bring a can opener. It's good to have potatoes, white beans, and and other potassium-rich foods after drinking caffeine or alcohol on the playa.
  • Dried mangoes from Trader Joe's. Dried fruit of any kind. Bananas, apricots, raisins. Also high in potassium.
  • Apples, oranges, lemons, limes.
  • Lots of Gatorade, apple juice, orange juice, coconut water -- can dilute juices with some water for extra H2O, this is how I keep myself hydrated. Freeze everything before you go, it's such a treat to have ice cold drinks during the day.
  • Cucumbers. They don't last long but I love adding a few to a water bottle in the beginning of the week for a refreshing infusion.
  • Teas, instant coffee.
Hope that helped some people preparing to eat gluten-free or mostly gluten-free at Burning Man next week. See you in the dust!

13 July, 2012

Making Money Music

One of the many reasons I love my Mac: Apple Script.

I put together a simple script to remind me every other Friday that I should invoice my clients. Here's what I did:

  1. Create a calendar appointment that recurs every other Friday, since I invoice my clients bi-weekly.
  2. Create an Apple script that will play a specific playlist in iTunes, as well as open a browser window to my invoicing system (Freshbooks - which I love, btw).
  3. Set the calendar appointment to run the Apple script.

Cool, right?

Here's the script I wrote:

tell application "iTunes"
   set this_playlist to playlist "Make Money"
   play this_playlist
end tell
property theURL : ""
tell application "Firefox"
   open location "https://colorandcode.freshbooks.com/menu.php?CB431CBcm91dGU9aW52b2ljZV9saXN0LnZpZXdGQjc0NTAz"

I created a "Make Money" playlist by searching my iTunes library for any songs with the word "money" in them. Not surprisingly, many of the tracks are hip-hop or rap, but there are a handful of oldies and other genres as well. Here is the playlist:

This Making Money reminder is by far one of my favorite productivity hacks. It ensures that I stay on top of invoicing, and it's much nicer on the ears than an alarm clock.

Do you have any "money" motivational tracks in your music library?

21 May, 2012

Facebook's Stinky Ad Creation Process

Facebook is notorious for making changes to their (recently IPO'ed) platform, without much user input. I understand that users don't necessarily have the future of the platform in mind, but I don't understand how facebook could neglect the needs of its advertisers so blatantly.

Their main competitor, Google AdWords, has built in some support offerings (e.g. Google Engage, which my ad agency is a part of) and extensive documentation around their platform. Although much younger, if Facebook plans to get more $ out of its advertiser platform, I would think it should offer some type of support or, at the very least, a quality service.

Here's the story. I went to create an ad today for an event that Rachman and I are hosting this Saturday. I'm not new to Facebook ads by any means - in fact we have been running ads for this very event for the past several weeks, but wanted to test some new targeting and images.

Challenge #1: Can't create an ad for an event in the Firefox browser.


Until recently, something was broken in all browsers except - gasp - Internet Explorer!? that prevented ads for events from even being created. Event ads are unique in that they allow a user to click to RSVP right within the ad. Facebook gets some points for having a direct event advertisement platform that ties in nicely with the millions of users that manage their social calendars with Facebook. However, as an advertiser, if I can't create my ad - how are you going to get my money from advertising? Silly silly.

Second point: generally speaking, Facebook support for all major browsers seems to be inconsistent. Any [good] web designer knows to test in all the major browsers. I have three of them installed on my Mac, and more virtually. This allows me to test client projects on many browsers before "launch." It also allowed me to create my event ad today... go figure.

Perpetually Loading - Facebook Ad Creation in Firefox

Challenge #2: Facebook ad provides a mere 110 x 80 pixels of space for an image.


Google AdWords are generally text-only, so I guess I'm happy Facebook allows an image at all. Plus, I figure it's a nice exercise, to design within such small real estate. But when I go to upload my nicely-designed ad and the text is all blurry, it's a little concerning. I want to make sure the users can actually read what I'm advertising. So I search the small database of Facebook answers and come across this nice little entry: https://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=103816146375741

Challenge #3: Only 5kb for an image? What are we, in 1999 again?


I'll just optimize the image using pre-millenium standards... severe compression, limiting colors, saving as GIF. This work was necessary back in the day when people had dial-up modems and used AOL... but I'll do it, if it will make my tiny text easier to read.

Challenge #4: No matter what I do, the red-on-black text is still blurry.


I change the text to blue. It doesn't look nearly as cool as my original version, and is now quite different from the original branding I had intended. Red text is much sexier. No, really, from a psychological perspective - it is. It signifies energy, movement, excitement, and life. Exactly what we're trying to convey.

Not fine.

Facebook, if you're going to allow images in your ads, please let us visually-inclinded advertisers create "eye-catching," attractive images that will increase click-through rates and get us more event attendees!

End of rant.

06 April, 2012

My Contribution to a Documentary about my Favorite Pinup Model

I am so excited to be a part of the Bettie Page Reveals All documentary about my favorite pinup legend! She is the often-imitated icon whose life was complicated and controversial, and who unintentionally helped inspire the feminist revolution of the 1960s after her mysterious disappearance into seclusion in 1957. Before she passed away in 2008, she spilled the full story in her own words through a series of interviews with Academy-Award nominated filmmaker Mark Mori, who is now directing and producing the documentary.

It's not like me to be star-struck but Bettie is one of only two exceptions. So when I saw a posting on a Bettie Page newsletter asking for Photoshop experts to work on her film, you can imagine my response. I am honored to help out with such an exciting project and all of the images I have been working on only serve to make me more excited to see the final film, which premiered at the Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender yesterday.

I made this video while I was working on one of her photos as a "teaser."

Of course, it is a real tease; you can barely see any of Bettie except for a tiny thumbnail on the right at the end... but hey, that's fitting with her personality, too! I can assure you the full shot is just lovely.

03 February, 2012

Oops, I Guest Posted Again

Around midnight last night, I finally finished a guest blog post on my former university professor's site, "Business School Presenting." It had been in the works and on my to-do list for a very long time, so I'm both excited and relieved to finally have it posted on Dr. Ridgley's site, whose URL makes me laugh.

Go on over to http://www.ihatepresentations.com/?p=2845 to read my article about some very basic personal branding steps.

If you're still here, I just want to make a quick point about blogging in general -- and how it's not easy to find time to write quality content and balance all of your other real-life, big-girl responsibilities, especially when you're not getting "paid" for it, but it's rewarding in its own rights, as both an exercise and a sort of time capsule -- and then maybe sometime today I will finally go to bed.

Yes, it is noon and I have been awake, with no caffeine, for at least 24 hours. One conference call to go and then I'm setting myself free for the evening and quite possibly the rest of the weekend.


02 January, 2012

Season's Greetings or, My Obligatory Year-In-Review

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year! I would like to share this e-Card with you which I [snail] mailed to all of my clients, before I indulge in a bit of self-reflection.

I am writing this post while on the road with my MacBook Air and a mobile hotspot, somewhere between Daytona Beach Shores, FL and Charlotte, NC. Actually, to be more exact, we are on Route 26 West near Columbia, SC. I spent New Year's Eve with my boyfriend in downtown Orlando, FL and in a few days, we will return to central NJ, all the while listening to audiobooks like Einstein's biography and "7 Habits of Highly Effective People."

Looking back over the year, I've made many changes in 2011 which have allowed me to mobilize my work, explore new parts of the country, and learn what it takes to be an entrepreneur. I am proud to have done my first Bikram yoga class in Chicago, IL, nearly completed a 30-day Bikram yoga challenge, collaborated with fellow bloggers, worked with talented photographers, interviewed a top international dance music producer, established and nurtured several key partnerships, and hired contractors including voice-over talent, a User Interface designer, and PHP developers for some "pet projects" which I expect to be launched next year. I can't believe how much I've grown this year, and I look forward enthusiastically to 2012 in which I will set even more lofty goals for myself and strive to reach them.

If you're still reading at this point -- and I'm honored that you are -- I WISH YOU A FANTASTIC 2012!!!

Till the next post,


04 October, 2011

An Epic Journey West, and Back Again

A week ago I returned from a month-long road trip, whose primary purpose was to bring my friend Rachman and I to the Burning Man festival in Nevada, but whose secondary purpose was to see as much of the country and friends as possible along the way. Therefore, we chose a Northern route outbound, and a Southern route inbound, not necessarily the most efficient but certainly the most interesting. I had only been "Out West" once with my family when I was much younger, in an RV we affectionately called by its brand name Lindy. Seeing some of these sights for the second time with adult eyes was very rewarding, and seeing plenty of new ones as well. We toted our laptops, an mp3 player loaded with audiobooks and hour-long mixes from our favorite artists, a very handy GPS, and one printed guidebook. Our unplanned stops involved coffee, WiFi, restroom breaks, and tips from the local business owners. Our planned stops are mapped out below!

The route out...

View The Road to Burning Man in a larger map

The route home...

View Roadtrip Back to New Jersey in a larger map

In total, we drove about 7,156 mi, or about 5 days 2 hours (over a 4-week period). Our longest nonstop leg was roughly 18 hours, when we *ahem - Rachman* decided to forego Salt Lake City, UT and get right to Reno, NV where friends were waiting. He took the wheel overnight and we got to Reno at about 10 am on Thursday before Burning Man, leaving us plenty of time to explore Lake Tahoe, "float the river," and purchase camping supplies from the local Walmart. It was certainly the experience of a lifetime but, with any luck, I'll have another one soon!

17 August, 2011

Guest Post by Jaycie Leishman: Summer

Deviating from my normal routine, this is the first-ever guest post by a fellow 20-something blogger (20SB) friend, Jaycie Leishman from Wellsville, Utah. She has a beautifully simple blog layout with hand-drawn illustrations scattered throughout, which I love, and I was instantly drawn to her writing style. Now, we are swapping blogs for the day! You should go visit her blog for even more of her witty musings, and to see what damage I've done to her blog in my guest post today... ;-)

to some, summer is the greatest part of the year.
snow cones, tanning, swimming, camping. the works!

to a small few [like me] it's the WORST part of the year.
sunburn. sweat. working. allergies. razor burn.

it's not necessarily something i enjoy arguing over, so i thought for my guest post i'd write about something we can all agree on. not to mention, i am my own person, and i don't like to stick to the rules. so we're talking about...(drum roll, please)...

ice cream.

i scream. you scream. we all scream for ice cream. it's the perfect treat no matter the season, and especially in the summer time. i'll be honest, i have fallen head over heels in love with ice cream. it's not only my favorite food group, but it's an art, a passion, sometimes a poison.

you could say that i'm somewhat of an ice cream prodigy. let me explain.

when i started working at Cold Stone in the mid 21st century (aka four and a half years ago), i decided i'd work harder than everyone else until i knew absolutely everything about ice cream. it didn't take long. let's be honest, it's not exactly rocket science.

i know it's terrible quality. that's what i get for using my phone...i'm the smokin' hot one on the right! ;)

i'd spend hours thinking up creations that would knock the socks off people. when normal people slept, i dreamed of ice cream. when normal people ate cereal for breakfast, i stumbled out the door in sub-zero temps with an ice cream treat in one hand, hot chocolate in the other.

my first custom creation: Mint Heaven. (please keep in mind i didn't say i was a writer of witty titles...)
mint and cheesecake ice cream mixed half and half. mixed with oreos and white chocolate chips.
super simple, super amazing. it doesn't sound like much, but try it. you'll see.

after that it became a game. people came in daily without any idea what they want. soon, i could narrow it down by asking four simple questions.

  1. what is your favorite kind of pie? - this is important because it gives me a feel for what kind of sweets they like. my favorite response is, "I don't really like pie."
  2. what are your favorite kind of chips? - this gives me an idea of how their taste palate compares to mine.
  3. chocolate, peanut butter, or fruit? - this helps me determine the sweet things they like.
  4. any allergies or dislikes i should know about? - after all, i'm not going to try to kill my customers.

based on these four questions, i can create a custom creation for any human on the planet, no matter how savage i think they are.
i just have a knack for putting together flavors that just knock the pants off people.
the guarantee: "if you don't like it, i'll make you a new one, free of charge."
let's just say i've never had to recreate an ice cream. and i only give them out free to hot guys who ask for my number, but that has nothing to do with my mixing skills. just my shameless, flirting skills...

my name tag, of course, introduces me as Lord Voldemort.
i was dubbed a wizard by a co-worker, and boy did it stick!
one day i asked him, "why Voldemort?"
his reply, <thoughtfully> "well, Dumbledore and Voldemort are the two greatest wizards, right?"
me, "right."
him, "Well, I figure you'd be more likely to use your powers for evil."

of course Amy and i haven't met. i know pretty much nothing about the girl, other than that she's got some mad skills in the art department, and i haven't asked her the four questions yet. i do, however, have a pretty good idea for an Amy creation.

it would be called The Decadent Amy Dessert.
picture this:
oatmeal cookie batter ice cream.
graham cracker pie crust.
yellow cake pieces.
a spoonful of cherry pie filling. also, a spoonful of apple pie filling, both chopped up a little bit.
a dash of cinnamon.
wrapped up in a warm drizzle of caramel.

(think apple crisp/cobbler, what have you. then times the pleasure factor of that by a million.)

voila! i am a super genius. and for more of my magic, you can find me at jayciepenny.blogspot.com.


Thanks, Jaycie, now I have a craving for Cold Stone... either The Decadent Amy Dessert or a Mint Heaven would really hit the spot right now...

Till next time,

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