Friendly Printing

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I love cooking, and I enjoy trying out recipes I find across the Web. When I see a recipe I want to make, I print it out and file it in one of my binders. Tragically, many recipe sites – including one of my favourites, Chocolate-Covered Katie (healthy vegan desserts; check it out!) – don’t have a function that lets you print out a recipe without the unneeded images, comments, navigation, header, and other extraneous bits that use up ink and paper.

Until recently, I’d always copy-paste each recipe into a Word document before printing, formatting it in my beloved Gill Sans font, and adjusting margins and font size to get it onto one page. This took up a fair amount of time.

My online Print Friendly bookmarkletrecipe life changed forever when someone pointed out that Print Friendly – makers of a WordPress plugin – also offer a browser bookmarklet that can be used to easily print anything on the web. It lets you do things like automatically remove graphics, shrink the font size, and hide any text you don’t need. Mind = blown.

Print Friendly also makes a WordPress plugin and offers an option for WordPress.com – though if you’re adding recipes to WordPress.com, I’d recommend using the recipe shortcode instead, which comes with a built-in print feature.

Printing out recipes may sound old school, and perhaps someday I’ll go digital. But for now, the Print Friendly bookmarklet is just the ticket, and has made my online recipe adventures even more pleasurable.

Print Friendly Modal Window

Let’s Talk About How to Grow Garlic

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Do you love garlic?

Fortuitously spotted at the Park Silly Sunday Market in Park City, Utah

At this year’s annual Automattic all-company Grand Meetup, the four-minute flash talk I gave my colleagues was a crash course in growing garlic.

Many folks later told me they were inspired to try growing garlic in their own backyards, so I thought I’d expand on the presentation, which was just an overview. (Four minutes is very short!)

The tips on garlic-growing were gleaned from a workshop by farmer Dan Brisebois, one of the organizers of the Ste-Anne-de-Bellevue Garlic Festival. Some of the specifics are geared to climates like mine – plant hardiness zone 5a – where the ground freezes during the winter.

Preamble

I readily admit that I’m far from a gardening expert. I’m also a lazy gardener who can never remember to water what needs to be watered, trim back what needs trimming back, or otherwise pay close attention to my poor little garden.

I’ve also discovered that local squirrels very much enjoy consuming the fruits of our garden labours, without even so much as a thank-you, or note of appreciation.

The good news? Garlic. It’s easy to plant, requires almost no maintenance, and the squirrels could care less about it.

Allow me to share my yearly ritual:

Planting

garlic stock

  • Plant your garlic in the late fall, as you would with flower bulbs like tulips. I usually plant mine in late October.
  • Garlic needs to grow in well-drained, sandy or clay soil. It doesn’t like to sit in wet soil. You can add some compost or composted manure to your soil before planting.
  • Get some good garlic with large – but not gigantic – cloves and split them up. Make sure each clove still has a little of the “basal plate” attached, which is where the roots will grow. Dig small holes about 2-4 inches deep and place one clove in each hole. Plant smaller cloves shallower, larger cloves deeper. Space your plantings in rows 4-6 inches apart, root-side down. Leave 12-15 inches between rows. Plant in full sun.
  • Cover the soil with a thick layer of dead leaves, hay, or even cardboard. Do not use cedar mulch, as it’s too acidic. Mulching helps keep the ground fully frozen throughout the winter so the bulbs survive and don’t rot.
  • Rotate your garlic – don’t grow it in the same spot every year. Dan recommended ideally reusing the same plot only after 4-5 years.

Spring

spring garlic shoots

  • By mid-spring, you should see green shoots starting to poke up out of the ground, through your mulch. If you don’t see anything coming up, move the mulch away to warm up the ground a bit more. Once the shoots start coming up, push the mulch back around the plants.
  • Mulch also helps with weed control and keeping moisture in the ground. You can water your garlic once a week if it’s a particularly dry year, but if your soil is well-mulched, you may not need to water your garlic at all – I’ve never done it.
  • After June, do not water so the bulbs start to dry out gradually, once the leaves have stopped growing.

Scapes

garlic scape

  • Certain types of garlic form gorgeous, delicious, scapes. Snap them off once they’ve curled up to direct growing energy back into the plant’s bulb underground.
  • Garlic scapes are tasty in everything from omelettes to pesto. Store them loosely wrapped in a plastic bag in your fridge’s crisper drawer.

Harvest!

garlic just out of the ground

  • Your garlic is ready to harvest when there are about 5-6 green leaves left on the plant. Each leaf corresponds to one layer of skin around the bulb. Don’t let all the leaves die down or you’ll be harvesting individual cloves and not bulbs.
  • My garlic harvest usually takes place in late July or early August.
  • Very carefully loosen the soil around each bulb with a small trowel or shovel. The garlic is extremely delicate at this stage and it’s super easy to damage a bulb when you’re pulling it out, so be careful with your fragile crop!
  • Pull out each bulb, leaving on most of the dirt. Removing heavy chunks of clay is fine.

Curing

garlic curinggarlic in bowl
  • Bring all your cloves inside, to a cool, dry, dark place where they will cure for a few weeks. The 2-3 week curing process ensures that each stem dries and closes completely, so you can store your garlic for many months afterwards.
  • Lay out or hang up each plant in a way that air can circulate around it, so it dries evenly. I usually lay out my garlic in the basement, on a dryer rack sitting in a laundry basket, or some other type of makeshift structure. Don’t place it in direct sunlight.
  • After a few weeks, take one plant and completely cut the stem about a few inches above the bulb. If the stem is completely white, with no green still showing, it means the garlic is cured and ready to store.
  • Trim up the roots on each bulb (not too close of a shave!) and wipe off the dirt. You can also remove one or two layers of outer skin if you like.
  • Once it’s cured, don’t ever wash the garlic or place it near water.
  • Your cured garlic should last 6-8 months in a cool, dark, dry place, depending on the type of garlic you’ve grown.
  • If you find the willpower – I  never have – save some of the bigger cloves to plant next year.

I hope you enjoy growing garlic as much as I do!

All photos by me except slides 1, 2, 4, 5, 9, 10, 34 via iStockphoto

Ladies Learning WordPress

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Yesterday I had the huge pleasure of mentoring at another Ladies Learning Code workshop, led by the multi-talented Elida Arrizza. This one was very close to my heart, since it was WordPress for Beginners.

The 40 participants learned a ton throughout the day, from installing WordPress locally, to getting a handle on The Loop, through customizing a theme.

Ladies Learning Code WordPress Agenda

The Day’s Agenda

Have a peek at the slides and learner files on Github and some of the day’s tweets:

I’ve had a blast mentoring with Ladies Learning Code and look forward to more events in the fall. Special thanks to Nancy Naluz for bringing LLC to Montreal and doing a fabulous job organizing the workshops.

The Gentle Art of the Flatter-Nag

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Much digital ink has been spilled on the subject of diversifying the speaker pool at tech events, and in particular, getting more women to give presentations. (I won’t rehash that conversation here, and if you don’t think diversity at tech conferences is important, this post isn’t for you.)

I want to share a simple technique I use to try to get more awesome women speaking at events I care about. And it’s pretty simple. I contact all the women I know who have expertise in the subject at hand – often WordPress – and encourage them to speak.

It’s so simple, but it works. Very often women let self-doubt take over, and need that extra nudge to submit a talk. A friendly word or two of encouragement is often all it takes.

Behold: The Flatter-Nag

flattery battery

flattery battery courtesy of roadsidepictures

One of my friends who I recently prodded to submit a talk to a local conference gave my technique a name I think is quite apt:

Flatter-nagging: Asking someone to do something while simultaneously complimenting them.

Sometimes, they respond that they’d been thinking of applying, but weren’t sure what to pitch. So I help them brainstorm ideas – starting with the simple question “What are you most passionate about when it comes to WordPress” – and that usually helps to narrow down the topic pretty quickly.

Sometimes, the reaction is more like, “Who, me?” They don’t feel like they know enough to speak publicly about WordPress. What I find fascinating is this response has come from people who help users troubleshoot WordPress issues all day! (It’s amazing how we take our knowledge for granted, myself included.)

I gently remind them that they surely know more than they think, and that people love hearing speakers share what they’re passionate about.

If this is an issue you care about, try out my technique sometime – or share it with others. I hope you’ll find it simple, but effective.

Hasta la próxima, Miami

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I had the opportunity to spend time in Miami last week after a long time away. A lot has changed but in some ways the city seems stuck in the past. I put together a few observations.

Things I will miss about Miami

  • Hearing Spanish all around me
  • Fresh tropical fruit juices
  • Cafe con leche
  • Sun and blue skies
  • Palm trees
  • The turquoise ocean
  • Mojitos everywhere
  • Cuban rice and beans (congri)
  • Fresh fish
  • Plantain chips
  • Cheap parking

Things I will not miss about Miami

  • Styrofoam everything
  • Lack of public recycling bins
  • Pedestrian traffic lights that take forever to turn green
  • Needing a car to go any distance
  • Taxis that may or may not come
  • Taxis that take forever to arrive
  • Taxis that don’t take credit cards
  • Basically, taxis in general

Until next time, Miami – thanks for your hospitality.

Robot Calling

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The phone rings.

I glance at the caller ID screen and don’t recognize the number, so I don’t bother picking up. If I’m near a computer or my iPad I’ll probably Google the number for clues.

I check voice mail. Oh, yay! I’ve won a cruise to the Bahamas… for the fourteenth time this year.

Nine out of ten phone calls I get these days are either surveys or robocall spam. The automated calls from my local Honda dealership that are so conversational they sometimes suck me into replying “Hello?” are particularly annoying.

The days of friends and family calling to chat are just about over – and I’ll admit I’m rarely compelled to initiate a call myself. My dad still calls to catch up now and then, which is refreshing.

I miss the sound of the phone ringing as something positive to look forward to. Would it be a friend wanting to see how I’m doing? A family member calling to share their latest news?

I wonder if I’m being nostalgic for no good reason. Email, Facebook, and Twitter are are the main ways I communicate these days, and they seem to serve me well. And yet, every time the phone rings and it’s not a real human, I get a little wistful.

Do you miss having “real” conversations on the phone? Do you still call your friends?

WordCamp Updates

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WordCamp MiamiI have two little bits of WordCamp news to share.

I’m delighted to be speaking at this year’s fifth anniversary edition of WordCamp Miami, taking place May 9-11. My session is Getting Comfortable With Child Themes. On Sunday I’ll be helping out at a workshop teaching WordPress to kids and in between sessions I’ll be volunteering at the Happiness Bar. It looks like a fun event – last year there were trading cards and an ice cream social featuring Nutella-flavoured nitrogen frozen goodies. Who knows what surprises this year holds? Looking forward to meeting new folks and seeing friendly faces.

A session I presented at last year’s WordCamps in Montreal and Ottawa called Help Me Help You: The Art And Science Of Getting Good WordPress Support is now up on WordPress.tv. The talk went on to inspire two posts on the main WordPress.com blog: The Art and Science of Getting Good WordPress Support, and its follow-up, How to be a WordPress.com Detective, which looks at more advanced troubleshooting techniques. Check them out if you’d like to learn more about strategies for solving WordPress conundrums big and small.