Saturday, November 26, 2011

Manifesto for 21st Century Teacher Librarians

You know you are a 21st century school librarian if . . .
● You consider new ways to promote reading. You are piloting/supplying learners with downloadable audio books,Playaways, Kindles, iPads, Nooks.
● You share ebook apps with students for their iPhones, droids, and iPads and other mobile devices (Check out Gale’s AccessMyLibrary, School Edition)
● You market, and your students share, books using social networking tools like Shelfari, Good Reads, orLibraryThing.
● Your students blog or tweet or network in some way about what they are reading
● Your desktop screensavers promote great reads, not Dell or Apple or HP.
● You link to available free ebook collections using such tools as Google Books, International Children’s Digital Library (See ebook pathfinder.)
● You review and promote books in your own blogs and wikis and other websites. (Also Reading2.0 and BookLeads Wiki for book promotion ideas)
● You embed ebooks on your websites to encourage reading and support learning
● You work together with learners to create and share digital booktalks or book trailers.
Information Landscape
● You know that searching various areas of the Web requires a variety of search tools. You are the information expert in your building. You are the search expert in your building. You share an every growing and shifting array of search tools that reach into blogs and wikis and Twitter and images and media and scholarly content.
● You open your students to evolving strategies for collecting and evaluating information. You teach about tags, and hashtags, and feeds, and real-time searches and sources, as well as the traditional database approaches you learned way back in library school.
● You organize the Web for learners. You have the skills to create a blog or website or wiki or portal of some other type to pull together resources to meet the specific information needs of your learning community.
● You make sure your learners and teachers can (physically & intellectually) access developmentally and curricularlydatabases, portals, websites, blogs, videos, and other media.
● Your presence reflects your personal voice. It includes your advice and your instruction, as well as your links. You make learning an engaging and colorful hybrid experience.
● You think of your web presence as a knowledge management tool for your entire school. It includes student-produced instruction and archived (celebrated) student work, handouts, policies, and collaboratively built pathfindersto support learning and research in all learning arenas. (Checkout Pathfinder Swap for examples.)
● You help learners put together their own personal information portals and Knowledge Building Centers to support their research and learning, using widgets, embedded media, and personal information portals like iGoogle,PageFlakes ,and NetVibes and wikis and Google Sites.
● You intervene in the research process online while respecting young people’s need for privacy.
● You work with learners to exploit push information technologies like RSS feeds and tags and saved databases and search engine searches relevant to their information needs.
● Your own feeds are rich with learning content, evidence of your networking. You embed dynamic widgets(including your own database widgets) wherever students live, work, and play.
● You integrate dynamic interactive features in your library’s website–Google calendars, RSS feeds, deliciousbookmarks, Flickr photo galleries, online presentations, blogs, surveys, polls, as ways to interact with and teach students.
Communication and publishing and storytelling
● You know that communication is the end-product of research and you teach learners how to communicate and participate creatively and engagingly. You consider new interactive and engaging communication tools for student projects.
● Include and collaborate with your learners. You let them in. You fill your physical and virtual space with student work, student contributions—their video productions, their original music, their art.
● Know and celebrate that students can now publish their written work digitally. (See these pathfinders: Digital Publishing, Digital Storytelling)
Collection Development
● You expand your notion of collection.
● You no longer strive for the standard catalog, long-tail, just-in-case approach. In tight times, with shared catalogs and easy online purchasing, a just-in-time approach is far more effective. You build your own collection collaboratively, with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the available collections around you.
● Collection should include: ebooks, audiobooks, open source software, streaming media, flash drives, digital video cameras, laptops, tripods, RSS feeds, and much more! And we should seek effective, federated approaches to ensure these diverse formats and platforms are equally and seamlessly accessible.
● You involve your community in collection building using interactive polls and web-based suggestion forms.
● You understand that library is not just a place to get stuff, it is a place to make stuff, collaborate on and share stuff. Not a grocery store, but a kitchen!
● Your collection–on- and offline–includes student work. You use digital publishing tools to help students share and celebrate their written and artistic work.
Facilities, your physical space
● You know your physical space is about books and way more than books. Your space is a libratory. You welcome, and create space for, media production—podcasting, video production, storytelling–producing and presenting.
● You welcome and host telecommunications events and group gathering for planning and research and social networking.
● You cope with ubiquity. No, you learn to love it. Ubiquity changes everything. In one-to-one schools, students may visit the library less frequently. In such environments, in all modern, truly relevant environments, library must also be ubiquitous. Library MUST be everywhere. Librarians must teach everywhere, in and outside of the library.
● You realize you will often have to partner and teach in classroom teachers’ classrooms. One-to-one classrooms change your teaching logistics. You teach virtually. You are available across the school via email and chat.
● You know that laptops can actually walk back to the library for its space and additional resources in all formats.
Access , Equity, Advocacy
● You are concerned about a new digital divide: those who can effectively find quality information in all media formats, and those who cannot.
● You are concerned about a new digital divide: those who have access to the new tools for creation and publishing and those who do not.
● You consider just-in-time, just-for-me learning as your responsibility and are proud that you own real estate your students’ desktops and mobile devices 24/7.
● You grapple with issues of equity. You provide open source alternatives to students and teachers who need them. You lend flash sticks and laptops and cameras and . . . You ensure your students can easily get to the stuff they most need by using kid-friendly terms and by creating pathfinders.
● You ensure that all students have access to readings appropriate for their differentiated needs and offer books in a variety of formats.
● You know that one-to-one classrooms will change your teaching logistics. You realize you will often have to partner and teach in classroom teachers’ classrooms. You will teach virtually. You will be available across and outside the school via email and chat.
● You don’t stop at “no.” You fight for the rights of students to have and use the tools they need. This is an equity issue. Access to the new tools is an intellectual freedom issue.
Audience and collaboration
● You recognize that the work your students create has audience and that they may share newly constructed knowledge globally on powerful networks,. You help them see that they have the potential to make social, cultural, and political impact.
● You recognize that learners may share their ideas and participate in dialogs beyond the walls of the library or classroom.
● You exploit the cloud as a strategy for student collaboration, sharing and publishing.
● You share with students their responsibilities for participating in social networks.
● You see teleconferencing tools like Skype as ways to open your library to authors, experts, book discussion, debates, and more. Consider starting by examining Skype an Author Network.
● You use new tools for collaboration. Your students create together, They synthesize information, enhance their writing through peer review and negotiate content in blogs and wikis and using tools like GoogleDocs, Flickr,Voicethread, Animoto and a variety of other writing or mind mapping and storytelling tools.
● You help students create their own networks for learning and extracurricular activities.
Copyright, Copyleft and Information Ethics
● You teach students to care about their own digital footprints–and monitor them using people search tools.
● You encourage students to develop academic–NOT invisible–digital footprints.
● You teach students about norms for appropriate behavior in wikis and blogs.
● You model respect for intellectual property in a world of shift and change. You encourage and guide documentation for media in all formats.
● You lead students to Web-based citation generators and note-taking tools to guide them in these efforts.
● You recognize and lead students and teachers to the growing number of copyright-friendly or copyleft portals.
● You understand Creative Commons licensing and you are spreading its gospel.
● You encourage learners to apply Creative Commons licenses to their own creations.
● You are revising and expanding your notion of Fair Use in line with the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media LiteracyEducation .
● You say “yes” a lot more. You know that in their creative remixes and mash-ups, students may use the copyrighted works of others in their own work without asking permission under certain conditions. You are discussing transformativeness with students and faculty. (See The Cost of Copyright Confusion for Media Literacy and Fair useand transformativeness: It may shake your world)
● You use a tool for reasoning whether a proposed use is Fair Use. (Tool for reasoning Fair Use.pdf)
You ask students to ask these two questions when they are using the copyrighted work of others in their own media:
1. Did the unlicensed use transform the material taken from the copyrighted work by using it for a different purpose than that of the original, or did it just repeat the work for the same intent and value as the original?
2. Was the material taken appropriate in kind and amount, considering the nature of the copyrighted work and of the use?
(From the Code of Best Practices in Fair Use for Media Literacy Education)
New Technology Tools
● You consider iPods and iPhones and iPads learning tools and storage devices and reference sources. You know that when you interrupt a student she might be in the middle of a chapter, recording a podcast, transferring data, taking audio notes. You establish classroom or library academic guidelines and norms for their use during the school day.
● You know this is only the beginning of social networking. Students will get to their Facebook accounts through proxy servers and their mobile devices despite any efforts to block them. You plan educationally meaningful ways to incorporate student excitement (and your own) for social networking. You establish classroom or library academic guidelines and norms for their use during the school day.
● You consider your role as info-technology scout. You look to make “learning sense” of the authentic new information and communication tools used in business and academics. You figure out how to use them thoughtfully and you help classroom teachers use them with their classes.
Professional Development and Professionalism
● You seek professional development that will help you grow even if it is not offered by your school district. Even if you don’t get PD credit. You can’t “clock” these hours.
● You build your own personal/professional learning network using social networking tools
● You guide your teacher colleagues in setting up their own professional learning networks.
● You read both edtech journals and edtech blogs, not just the print literature of our own profession.
● You follow selected educators,experts, authors, etc. with microblogging apps like Twitter
● You use Twitter to mine realtime chat about your professional interests. You use hashtags like #tlchat and #edchat
● You learn by visiting the webcast archives of conferences you cannot attend. (For instance, ISTE)
● You share your new knowledge with others using social bookmarking tools like Delicious and Diigo.
● You set up feed readers to push the blog of experts and educators you respect to you on a regular basis.
● You join a Ning or other social network for instance:
○ Classroom20NingTeacherLibrarianNing
○ English Companion
○ NCTE Conference Ning
○ ISTE Ning
○ Future of Education
● You are contributing to the development of a new brand for our profession. When your students move on to the next library, they are going to expect visionary service and instruction and caring, helpful relationships.
Teaching and Learning and Reference
● You are figuring out how to be present for your learners and teachers 24/7, at the point of the information, research, or communication need. Ubiquity changes everything. With computers in every classroom and every home, heck with computers in every pocket, how are you going to share your wisdom and collaborate?
● You understand that learning can (and should) be playful.
● You understand that learning should be authentic.
● You understand that learning can be multi-modal, media-rich, customized to the needs of individual learners.
● You know the potential new technologies offer for interaction–learners as both information consumers and producers. You understand that in this world learners have the power to create and share knowledge.
● You are concerned that, when it matters, your students move beyond information satisficing. They make solid information decisions.
● You are concerned that students learn to evaluate, to triangulate information in all media formats. We must guide them in an increasingly complex world, to make information decisions, to evaluate all their information choices, including books, blogs, wikis, streamed media, whatever comes next.
● You are concerned and excited about what you can do that Google or Wikipedia cannot. What customized services and instruction will you offer that will not be outsourced to Bangalore?
● You continually share new understandings of searching, and evaluation, and analysis and synthesis, and digital citizenship, and communication, integrating and modeling our new standards, dispositions and common beliefs.
● You understand that exploration and freedom are key to engaging students in a virtual environment to promote independent learning.
● You know the potential new technologies offer for interaction–learners as both information consumers and creative information producers.
● You ensure that the library provides an independent learning environment that connects students and teachers in a social, digital, community.
Into the Future (acknowledging the best of the past)
● You unpack the good stuff you carried from your 20th century trunk. Rigor, and inquiry, and high expectations, and information and media fluency matter no matter what the medium. So do excitement, engagement, and enthusiasm.
● You lead. And you look ahead for what is coming down the road. You continually scan the landscape. As the information and communication landscapes continue to shift, do you know where you are going? You plan for change. Not for yourself, not just for the library, but for the building, for your learners.
● You see the big picture and let others see you seeing it. It’s about learning and teaching. It’s about engagement. If you are seen only as the one who closes up for inventory, as the book chaser, and NOT as the CIO, the inventor, the creative force, you won’t be seen as a big picture person.
● You continue to retool and learn.
● You represent our brand (who the teacher-librarian is) as a 21st century information professional. What does the information professional look like today? Ten years from today? If you do not develop strong vision, your vision will be usurped by the visions of others. You will not be able to lead from the center.
● You enjoy what you do and let others know it. It’s always better when you do what you love. (If you don’t love this new library world, find something else to do.)

By Joyce Kasman Valenza
October 2010

Monday, November 21, 2011

Health Over 50: 4 Easy Ways to Keep Yourself Feeling Young

Ever feel the clock is ticking and you are not quite there...well here's how to keep young and fit after 50...

Excellent health over 50 can be yours if you know how to take good care of yourself. If you've recently passed your 50th birthday, then it's easy to think that your health will now take a downhill turn. However, there are some things that you can do to keep yourself feeling young and healthy.

1. Keep Yourself Active
Just because you are getting older doesn't mean that you can start easing into a sedentary lifestyle. Even though aging is accompanied by certain health conditions like joint pain, muscle aches and such, these symptoms can usually be relieved with the right amount of exercise. If you've never been physically active before, now is the time to get moving. To avoid overwhelming your body, start with moderate exercises. Yoga, walking, swimming and ballroom dancing are all ideal exercises for women over 50. Not only are they easy enough to perform, but they can also be enjoyable.

It's also important to incorporate exercise into your everyday routine. For instance, instead of hiring someone to do mow your lawn, maintain your garden or paint your house; do these chores yourself. Not only will these activities keep you moving, but they will also give you a sense of accomplishment.

2. Keep Your Weight in Check
One of the downsides of aging is that your metabolism also slows down. This means that it becomes much easier for you to gain weight. You might have gotten away with eating a lot in your 20's and 30's without gaining a pound, but now that you're in your 50's, you might find yourself gaining weight with just a handful of peanuts. A lot of women also tend to gain weight around their middle section when they reach their elder years.

You can keep yourself fit by lowering your daily caloric intake to the amount of calories that you can burn. Your doctor and some online tools can help you determine your caloric requirement, but you can easily find this out by simply listening to your body. For instance, if you seem to be gaining weight even though you are eating a normal amount of food, then it's possible that you now require less food to function. Cut back on meal portions and see if it helps.

3. Cherish Your Social Relationships
Your friendships and social bonds also play an important role in your health. In fact, having support from loved ones can boost your immune system, increase heart protection, speed up surgery recovery and improve your longevity. There could be many explanations behind this link between social support and health. One of these explanations is that social support helps you battle stress. Friends listen to your problems and lend you support throughout the trying times in your life. This can greatly reduce your stress. As you probably know, stress is a common factor that contributes to many chronic illnesses.

4. Improve Your Diet
You can also keep yourself feeling young with the foods you eat. Foods that are rich in antioxidants can be greatly beneficial for you at this point. Antioxidants help by battling free radicals which cause aging symptoms and diseases. Include an array of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet to ensure you're consuming an abundance of antioxidants.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Nephrectomy-kidney removal

Just got in from an overnight trip to Penang to viist hubby's nephew who had a nephrectomy, he had his right kidney removed as there was a tumour discovered in it.
Doctors at Lam Wah ee suggested the removal quickly. Thank God he looked fine and is sitting up. So that prompted me to have a re-look at our own kidneys. Their importance and how we neglect to take care of them properly and how dangerous it can be for us when we have kidney failure. So here is some information which I think will help us take care of our kidneys and ourselves.

Kidney disease risk factors include diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, smoking and age. Early detection and treatment can increase the life of the kidneys. High blood pressure can lead to or be a sign of kidney disease. Exercise, a balanced diet and drinking plenty of water will help to keep your kidneys working well.

Risk factors for chronic kidney disease
You are more ‘at risk’ of chronic kidney disease if you:
Have diabetes
Have high blood pressure
Are obese
Are over 50 years of age
Have a family history of kidney disease
Are of Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander descent.

Many diseases can affect the kidneys
Many illnesses can affect the kidneys.
The most important are:
Inflammation of the kidneys (nephritis)
High blood pressure
Hereditary kidney diseases, such as polycystic kidney disease
Scarring of the kidney caused by backflow of urine from the bladder.
High blood pressure can damage kidneys
High blood pressure (hypertension) is increased pressure inside the arteries that carry blood from your heart to all parts of your body. Untreated, high blood pressure can damage your kidneys. All high blood pressure strains the heart and damages arteries. If blood pressure is uncontrolled and remains high, it can damage the vessels that supply blood to your internal organs. The very small vessels are often the first to be affected. If left untreated, this can lead to kidney disease, heart attack, strokes and loss of vision.

There are a number of different causes of high blood pressure but most high blood pressure has no known cause. You are more at risk of high blood pressure if you are older or have a family history of the condition. High blood pressure can also develop as a result of kidney disease or renal artery stenosis (narrowing of the main artery to one or both kidneys). Your kidneys control the amount of fluid in your blood vessels and produce a hormone called renin that helps to control blood pressure.

Medication and lifestyle changes can lower blood pressure
A range of medication is available for high blood pressure. Different blood pressure medications work in different ways so it is not unusual for more than one type to be prescribed. The dose may alter according to your needs.

Medications that can lower blood pressure include:
ACE inhibitors
Angiotensin receptor blockers
Calcium channel blockers
Beta blockers
Low-dose diuretics (fluid tablets)
Alpha blockers.
Healthy lifestyle choices are important to improve your overall health and lower your risk of high blood pressure. They can also reduce the amount of medication you need or make your medication work better. Healthy lifestyle choices include not smoking, eating a healthy diet, drinking plenty of water, staying fit, maintaining a healthy weight, avoiding certain medications and avoiding stress.

Symptoms of kidney disease
Kidney disease is called a ‘silent disease’ as there are often few symptoms. Some signs and symptoms include:
Change in frequency and quantity of urine passed, especially at night (usually increase at first)
Blood in the urine (haematuria)
Foaming urine
Puffiness around the eyes and ankles (oedema)
Pain in the back (under the lower ribs, where the kidneys are located)
Pain or burning when passing urine.
When the kidneys begin to fail, there is a build-up of waste products and extra fluid in the blood as well as other problems, gradually leading to:
Tiredness, inability to concentrate
Generally feeling unwell
Loss of appetite
Nausea and vomiting
Shortness of breath.
Reduction in kidney function cannot usually be reversed. However, if detected early enough, the progress of kidney disease can be slowed and sometimes even prevented. In the early stages, changes to diet and medication can help to increase the life of the kidneys.

If kidney function is reduced to less than 10 per cent of normal, the loss of function must be replaced by renal dialysis or a kidney transplant. Dialysis is a treatment for kidney failure that removes waste products and extra water from the blood by filtering it through a special membrane (fine filter).

Early detection can save lives
Early detection of kidney disease can be life saving. Medication and changes to lifestyle, along with an early referral to a kidney specialist, can prevent or delay kidney failure. If you are ‘at higher risk’ of chronic kidney disease, talk to your doctor about having a regular kidney health check. This includes:
Blood pressure test
Blood test for kidney function
Urine test for protein (proteinuria).
Lifestyle changes can keep your kidneys healthy
Making healthy lifestyle choices can help to keep your kidneys functioning well:
Eat lots of fruit and vegetables including legumes (peas or beans) and grain-based food like bread, pasta, noodles and rice.
Eat some lean meat like chicken and fish each week.
Eat only small amounts of salty or fatty food.
Drink plenty of water instead of other drinks.
Maintain a healthy weight.
Stay fit. Do at least 30 minutes of physical activity that increases your heart rate on five or more days of the week including walking, lawn mowing, bike riding, swimming or gentle aerobics.
Don’t smoke.
Limit your alcohol to two small drinks per day if you are male or one small drink per day if you are female.
Have your blood pressure checked regularly.
Do things that help you relax and reduce your stress levels.

Things to remember
You can look after your kidneys by eating healthy food, staying active and maintaining a healthy weight.
Many diseases can affect your kidneys.
Have your blood pressure checked regularly.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What men and women want in a car!

Buying a new CAR? Here are some tips to look out for...

Passionate about cars and motorsports, Cheryl Tay is a familiar face in prominent local, regional as well as international automotive titles. More of her at

Some like their cars big so they can be comfortable throughout the journey, while others like their cars fast as the high speeds thrill.

Asking a man what he looks for in a car is like asking him what qualities he looks for in a woman or a wife. Next, asking him what features of a car matter most is like asking what physical attributes of a lady are most attractive to him.

The general rule of thumb is that women seek reliability, security and comfort in a car; like how they want to feel safe with their man. Hence, size of car for ease of parking, space in terms of storage and cabin, and convenient electronic aids like parking sensors and automatic doors matter to the ladies.

On the other hand, men are more concerned with power and performance, and safety at levels sufficient for all that might. Similarly, they want their women to be smart, look good, feel good and essentially be someone they are proud to call theirs.

After spending some time talking to 50 males and 50 females to understand how the different features of a car appeal to the genders differently, here are what I found men and women want from a car:


•Fuel economy and eco-friendliness
Females tend to be more concerned about the environment, and fuel consumption was the most popular feature mentioned when the ladies were asked to name what matters to them most.

•Aesthetics (i.e. size, shape, colour and design)
Visual appeal is important to both men and women but in a slightly different way. Women want the car to be of a good size for ease of parking, and of a good shape and design that is pleasing to the eyes. But men want their car to be visually attractive, unique to the individual and as outstanding as possible. This is reflective of nature, where animals like the peacock have the male more visually striking than the female.

I singled out style from the rest of the aesthetics because it is the aura and the flair of a car that isn't somewhat the same as the lines of the body that run round the car. It's the fashion of the car and how it makes them feel: emotive appeal, something that women are able to understand better as we are generally more emotional than men.

•Comfort and space
Some people place more emphasis on how to get to the destination instead of getting to the destination. Women have highlighted that comfort and space are important factors in a car because they want to enjoy their ride. That means having a good air-conditioning system, sufficient cubby holes for storing their belongings, generous head and leg room and a spacious cabin that will make the car feel welcoming and non-claustrophobic with more sunlight streaming in. Sufficient storage space such as in the boot is also essential.

As I mentioned earlier, women crave for security in their men. Likewise in cars, they need to feel protected from danger when seated within their cars. Having airbags all around, good braking power and parking sensors are some examples of things that contribute to making a woman feel safe.

•Ease of drivability
There were some women who mentioned performance of a car. After hearing them elaborate why, I began to realise that it's not the same kind of performance that men crave for. For the women, performance of a car refers more to the ease of driving the car. Besides being of a visually-pleasing shape and an easy-to-park size, the car should preferably have blind spots that are easy to overcome, smooth and quick acceleration that will help to get out of situations fast, and power steering with enough feel. Convenient driver aids like keyless entry, automatic wipers, automatic headlights and automatic tailgate buttons (in SUVs and MPVs) are some of the things that can really save the day.


It's not about how to drive the car, but how the car drives. Men are more particular when it comes to the cornering, turning, steering and braking abilities of the car. How the car feels in their hands and on the road is more vital than how many cup holders the cabin has or how many bags the boot can hold.

Men are hungry for power and they seek for performance from their cars. Also, due to the technicality of it all, men are more often seen tuning their cars and improving the specifications of their cars such as power-to-weight ratio, getting more torque, more power, faster acceleration times, higher stability during braking and sharper cornering.

This would be a key concern for females as well, though not on the same basis. Men want reliability from the car, knowing that they can trust the engine, chassis and the build quality; like how they trust their wives to take care of the children. Women want reliability from the car in terms of a sense of security when being with it, like how they need their spouses to be able to head and run the family.

This is a common factor brought up repeatedly by both men and women, but not for the same reasons. In a stock car, males will ask about electronic driving aids like traction control and anti-lock braking system (ABS). Also, men increase the car's safety levels in tandem with boosting the car's power and specifications so that the car has more control at higher speeds.

•Chick magnet factor
Personalising the car is to make it reflect the driver's identity and also to impress the chicks. Being able to draw attention by looking cool or sounding loud is the reason why some men spend so much money doing up their cars. Giving the car vinyl wrap or airbrush of some cool design, or upgrading of the exhaust system are some of the things they do. This leads to the next point…

•Ability to modify
By modifying here I mean tuning of the car under its bonnet and also dressing up of the car on its exterior with body kits and spoilers.

The list can go on endlessly and of course there are also common factors that both men and women emphasise. Pricing and value for money, for example, are definitely somethings that both males and females will consider when buying a car.

But through this exercise, I learnt that men are as picky about choosing their cars as they are when choosing their wives. Also, women — who generally buy less big ticket items and thus tend to be more spendthrift — view a car more like a pet than a partner!

Happy driving!!!

How to be a good home cook!

The holiday season is here and many of us will do doing some home cooking whether we like it or not. Even if we are so busy, we still have to cook sometimes so here are some tips:

1. Season Dishes Properly
As chef Stephanie Izard sees it, "I think that people are afraid to use salt to bring out the natural flavors. Not that we want to make anything too salty, and not be healthy, but [you should add] enough seasoning and [use] the right mix of ingredients in dishes so you have the right balance of sweet, salty, and savory. This allows the dish to come together and make your mouth happy." How to do it? She recommends salting throughout the whole process and tasting as you go — it's even what she teaches her new cooks.

In her kitchen, when cooks first come to her, she takes a batch of soup, and has them add in a little salt and take a taste, and continue to do that. She explains that, "Slowly the favors come out of the soup and come to life. And it's the best way to learn about seasoning."

2. The Secrets of a Good Salad
Salads might sound boring, but theyre definitely not in Izard's world. What's her secret? Texture, consistency, and freshness of ingredient. But the real kicker is the dressing. For her, "It's all about bold dressings." She says that the key is to make sure that everything is in the salad for a reason and then to finish it with a bold dressing. (No, she's not talking about ranch, that's for dipping.)

She explains that you can use vinaigrettes in different ways and not just for salads. Try putting a dressing over a piece of chicken for dinner or over pasta. Sometimes it's good to take some of the simple things and play mix and match in the kitchen

3. Flavorful Chicken Dishes
Most people love chicken (vegetarians and vegans excluded of course), but Izard suggests skipping the boneless, skinless, chicken breasts for chicken thighs. Why? “Because that’s where all the flavor is.” Not that she’s dismissing chicken breasts. She uses those for her sandwich and thinks they are tasty, but the thighs are another option for home cooks looking for something different in the kitchen that will be both flavorful and exciting.

4. Properly Cooking Proteins (with Patience)
With fresh fish like salmon or halibut, "It's all about proper seasoning and proper cooking." Izard says that she gets a lot of questions from home cooks asking, "Why is my fish getting stuck to the pan?" Instead of switching to non-sticks, she suggests these basic principles for making perfectly cooked fish or proteins in a regular pan. "Just get the pan smoking hot, put in oil with a high smoking point, put in your fish, and after it gets a little bit brown, turn it down, and then it's all about patience." Though she's fallen prey to impatience, she recommends getting a glass of wine or beer and chilling out. Let the natural sugars in proteins caramelize, by stepping back and letting nature take its course. Don't push.

5. Flavor-Boosting Pantry Staples
"I'm a huge fan of Sambal," says Izard. Other ingredients that help add flavor? She says that they use Dijon mustard at the restaurant and in the cookbook a lot. The same goes with soy sauce and fish sauce. She explains that you can use them in stews, soups, and sauces Its all about adding layers of flavor.

6. Don't Be Discouraged
We asked Izard if she’d had any recent kitchen blunders while making this book or if she continues to have them even after being a successful chef. “Happens all the time!” she told us. So home cooks, don’t get discouraged because even Top Chefs are prone to making mistakes and trying experiments that don’t work — it’s important to keep trying and not give up.

7. Basic Beer and Wine Pairing Suggestions
Have some fun with this. While the old belief was that white went with fish and chicken and red with meat, Izard says that, "There will always be something in your realm of what you like to drink that will go with the food." She suggests picking a night that you'll play around with it and see what your mouth gets excited about so you can figure out what works for you.

The important thing to keep in mind with beer and wine, she explains, is that it's all about a personal preference. There are some basic suggestions in her book that you can start with or try recommendations from your local wine shop, but then it's up to you to experiment and find what you like. Try having some friends over and doing a tasting and just have fun with it.

8. How Much Food is Enough for a Dinner Party?
There’s always the fear of running out of food, so how do you know how much to make? “I always make too much food, because I forget that people will only have a taste of each dish.” While Izard tries to give portions in the book, she says that leftovers are great to give to friends in a Tupperware on their way out — “It’s like a parting gift.”

9. Where to Begin
It's always good to start with a recipe that's been tried and tested. Izard recommends beginning with a cookbook — her's would be preferable — following the recipes very closely at the beginning, then slowly stepping away and coming up with your own recipes and twists. "Pretty soon, the cookbook will just be decoration on your coffee table."

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Happy cooking and happy holidays.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

New job, new environment, new friends...

Yes, it's already been a month since I changed jobs. Changing jobs is nothing new I suppose but for a 50-something woman, the question everyone keeps asking is "Why the change? What happened?" For me, why not? I guess we shouldn't be afraid of change. WE will never know what's in store , what's on the other side of the field if we do not take any action. I wanted a change sometime back...I felt not appreciated the past few years, I felt there was more for me to contribute. I was a good manager and a leader so I am told. So to me, it was a good and right decision.

I am glad my present employer gave me a chance to join her management team and I am glad the new workplace is exciting, vibrant and keeps me busy and on my toes. Working long hours has been a pleasure so far, though my knees do have to keep up...I am glad my former bosses have retired. My ex-colleagues are pleased and can move forward now. I moved bascially to give my self space and a chance to prove that I am still good at what I do. For me, there is no such thing as giving up on your career and getting ready for retirement. I don't think i am ready to retire just yet...even the thought of signing up till 60 seems not a bad idea...cos' I really can't see myself staying home and twiddling my fingers and toes. I believe I still have some productive years left and can contribute to the nation.

So here's to new challenges and fresh faces and places...
to all who fear moving and change, don't be...go do it now.
Nothing can be worse than where you are now...if you are in control.
Give yourself a chance and flyyyyyyyyyy...