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Mary Biever | One Writing Mother |

Feast of the Super Slaws

Tomorrow morning on Local 7 Lifestyles, my friend Cheryl Mochau and I will show how to make our favorite summer slaws. Though our recipes are different, we both love making a vinegar-based slaw in the summer time with fresh vegetables. Because our recipes are different, we’re going to demonstrate how to make them on air and compare them.

Listed below are the ingredient lists. If you want to see how we make them, you’ll need to tune in and watch the show. I had to recalculate my recipe because I learned to make slaw with 4-H leaders through catering fundraisers, where we make slaw for 100 to 400 people at a time.

Cheryl’s Balsamic Vinaigrette Coleslaw

serves 4-6

1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons oil

2 tablespoons raisins — optional
4 cups cabbage slaw mix

Mary’s Simply Sweet and Sour Coleslaw

½ cup cider vinegar
1/3 cup water
1/2 tsp. salt
2/3 cup and 1 T sugar

4 cups cabbage slaw mix
1 stalk celery chopped – optional
1 green pepper chopped – optional
1 red pepper chopped – optional

5 Keys to Winning Head Shots

If you are in business, you need a good head shot, or photograph of yourself that can be used both online and in print. Generally, you will get what you pay for.

If you opt for the shot your best friend took of your standing in your living room, it will look like the shot your best friend took of your standing in your living room. If possible, hire the best photographer you can afford.

Tips to a head shot that works:

  1. Smile. Look friendly.
  2. Intense may be hot for vampires, but those brooding shots will suck the life out of your brand. Look approachable.

  3. Dress professionally.  Select clothes that best represent you and your brand. The Avengers t-shirt you can’t live without might be fun on vacation, but most of us need to choose something different for a head shot.
  4. Go high resolution. If you take your own head shot, use the highest resolution camera you have for the best quality possible. Lower resolution may work on the web, but it fails miserably in print.
  5. Size matters. The teeny tiny shot you post as a Twitter profile picture is not going to work for any print publication. You need good-sized photographs to print well.
  6. Photo rights. Discuss with your photographer beforehand your anticipated uses for the photograph. Many in business do not anticipate that they may need a head shot in jpg format to submit to publications, online and/or in print. Make sure you can legally share the photos and that you have purchased rights to do so.
If someone asks you for a headshot for online or print use, be sure to ask the resolution and image size needed. When you ask about file size, the answer you get will be at least 1 of the following: size of the jpg file (for example 543k or 1 MB); resolution (as in dots/pixels per inch in the photo); or image size (for example 3 inches wide). Clarify which file size is requested and then follow it. (Some printers will require a tiff or psd file instead of a jpg.)
Tech Geek Jpg Info:
When you save a file as a jpg, it is portable but loses some of its pixels. So when you save a file as a jpg for print, choose the highest settings possible to preserve as much of the original image as possible. For online use, you want the smallest size possible.


In real estate, “curb appeal” is essential for homes that sell. Your headshot photo is the photographic equivalent of your personal “curb appeal.” While we may not deliberately seek to sell ourselves via a headshot, a bad headshot can create a horrid first impression that can cost you more sales and business than you will ever know.



Ginormous Grilled Sandwiches

Ginormous Grilled Sandwich

Texas toast, turkey, cheese, and arugula!

This dinner was inspired by what was on our fridge on a hot evening after a long day. Grilled cheese seemed to be in order, and we had sliced turkey that needed to be eaten, along with a loaf of Texas toast that the bread store had on sale. And I had picked fresh arugula at Seton Harvest. What to do? Make ginormous grilled turkey and cheese sandwiches. It took the grilled cheese to a bigger sandwich level.
Ingredients per sandwich:

  • Texas toast – 2 slices
  • Swiss and American cheese slices
  • 1 T shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 slices of turkey
  • Arugula leaves
  • Mayonnaise

Create the sandwiches in layers – bread, Swiss cheese, turkey, shredded cheese, arugula, American cheese, bread. Spread mayonnaise on the outside of the sandwiches and grill them until lightly browned.

Driving by Faith, Not by SmartPhone

“Sometimes God sends angels to pick up your car and put it where you need to be,” my husband observed after a recent adventure where I looked for a new place, the roads had different names, and I got to the right place but have no idea how it happened.

So, today, as I took a road trip with 4 teens to a place I visited one time 2 years ago and successfully managed to get us wandering residential neighborhoods instead of a college campus, I was nervous. But I had my SmartPhone, so if I got lost, the mapping would help. Even so, I scoped out maps, and my husband printed out 7 different views of maps to help me get them to the conference on time, without our losing our way.

This morning, I was still nervous and turned off my phone to conserve battery power until I need it. (Translated: when I got lost.) As we started, I warned our other teen passengers, “One thing. Sometimes when I’m on road trips and merge into busy highways, I have chats with Jesus where I ask him to help me find a spot for my car. It works, and I don’t have problems when I do that. So if you hear one of my chats, you know what I’m doing.” Then I reminded them if how Nik Wallenda had a chat with Jesus while he walked the highwire over Niagara Falls. I told them my conversations sound a little like that.

Then, half an hour into our drive, I realized I didn’t have my phone. My son searched for it and couldn’t find it. He called home, and it was lying on the kitchen table, where I had left it.

The others, perhaps hearing of my spatial challenges, thought we would turn around. I wasn’t wasting an hour’s gas and running teens late because of my bad sense of direction. So my son took the maps folder my husband organized, played shotgun, and we didn’t get lost a single time. I heard that still, quiet voice inside telling me, “You need to walk by faith, not by sight.” OK fine. Hope that lasted when I did get lost.

I was still worried about my solo drive home – it was 4 hours, which is plenty of time to make wrong turns and end up in the wrong state.  This was the first time since our vacation a little over a year ago when my husband deliberately took us far enough into the Smokies that I had no cell phone reception that I couldn’t check any electronic media for an entire day.

As the drive began, I heard the still, quiet voice again – I needed to walk by faith, not by Smartphone. Sometimes, I get so dependent on the memory in my phone that I forget to use my own brain. As I ate lunch alone, I remembered 25 years ago when I wandered Ireland, Scotland, and England alone, with no cell phone. At least once, I went a week without contacting anyone back home or at school who knew me and thought nothing of it.

How times have changed that now a 4 hour car ride untethered feels odd.

When I got home, I reconnected, just like the Borg would re-attach to the collective. But perhaps, I remembered that there is a place for faith and gut instinct.

Maybe we all need a little more faith.

Message First, Media Second

Media format will come and go, but the content and quality of your message will either linger or fall flat.

Last week, as our 4-H Tech Club did a Retro Media night, we looked at 8 track tapes, cassette tapes, records, slide projectors, and the really big really floppy disks. All those media formats are defunct.

But the message – or song – of quality artists remain. As a child, I remember hearing Johnny Cash singing “Daddy Sang Bass” on the 8-track tape player in our big Brady station wagon. The 8-tracks are gone, but I can still hear the song in multiple media of our day or watch it on Youtube. The movie we once watched on VHS has now migrated to Blue-Ray or can be watched on Netflix.

This applies indirectly to social media. Though I doubt our messages will linger, the methods used remain the same. And if we build them right, the relationships we cultivate will continue.

Sixteen years ago, as I answered and asked questions in email lists, I developed ways to interact, listen, and respond to people around the world that I still use today. Being polite (most of the time), staying uplifting, and finding ways to make people laugh don’t change, whether you’re using a yahoo email group, Myspace, Facebook, Twitter, or whatever replaces those platforms.

Social media is like a relationship enhancer when it’s used well. Sometimes, I meet people in real life and then add or follow them on social media. These give us additional venues in which to learn about each other and cultivate our relationship. On the flip side, I may meet people around the world through social media channels and develop relationships that transcend the tweet or Facebook status, into real life relationships and sometimes business deals.

Like all relationship building and networking done well, social media can translate long term into new business contacts and business. I’ve met a business owner in China via Twitter, established a relationship with him, Skyped at Starbucks in the wee hours of the morning, and then brokered a deal between him and another local company.

We generally get out of social media responses that mirror what we put into it.

  • Bland and boring begets bland and boring.
  • Greedy pander always offering free stuff results in an audience of people out for themselves, who will fight for the free stuff.
  • Community promotion results in stronger communities.
  • Real inspiration and encouragement can bring out the best, most noble parts of other people.

With movies and music, the ones that outlast their media format are ones that reached out and grabbed people, touching them in memorable ways.  They could be funny, dramatic, or downright scary. But they captured our imaginations and touched our hearts.

With social media, the relationships that will last beyond the format are the ones that cultivate relationships, that show a personal touch with which people can relate.


Walk Your Wire and Why Wallenda Matters

“The impossible is actually possible,” Nik Wallenda reminded us.

I was a reluctant viewer of the Niagara Falls walk at first. Then I saw him crossing the wire and heard the commentary. Besides being a brilliant showman and remarkably talented, Wallenda was exactly what our whole world needs right now.

We can get sucked into the black hole of bad news and potential problems. They aren’t just in our own back yard but are looming around the planet. The more we get sucked into the bad news, the more likely we are to lose hope and give up.

As Wallenda walked the wire, placing one foot in front of the other, he showed us how we can walk out of that dark pit into something better.  They had a microphone on him to talk with him during the walk, and in those most intense parts he was quietly praying, showing that when the wind’s swirling around us – sometimes from all directions, and the path is slippery, and we can’t see our way, we can succeed.

Wallenda explains,

“When I’m on that wire it’s a mind game more than anything. It’s important to stay focused on the goal, on the prize that’s on the other side.”

Then he adds that we can all do that with whatever battles or challenges we face.

After he reached the other side, he was asked why he did it. His answer?

“To inspire people around the world”

Wallenda reminds us to reach for the impossible and gives us hope.

He reminds me of Shirley Temple during the Great Depression. Her movies were popular in a bleak world because of her “can do” attitude.

In a new century, we have Wallenda. We need others to do the same.

The best way we can get those others is if we all decide right now, that we’ll take our shot and walk our own wire. What are you waiting for?

Retro Night Digital Memories

Monday night, our 4-H Tech Club had its first ever Retro Media night. Members (and leaders) brought old forms of old digital and music media. Then, we went through the different items, what they were, how they worked, and when they were used. Finally, it concluded with a presentation by our ever-talented Josh, explaining the history of old media. As I watched what was defined as “old media,” I began using computers back in the “ancient media” days.

Then I realized that those of us who used old media need to record our memories of what we used and how we used it. These will be good for future posterity. So here is mine.

My first memory of computers came in kindergarten, when our teacher had us make Christmas wreaths out of recycled IBM cards. We stapled them into points, put them on cake circles, and sprayed them gold, putting a Christmas decoration in the middle. The only other real memory I have of a computer was watching Kurt Russell in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and Dean Jones in Snowball Express.

In high school, my school got its first computer (note singular number). They built a special room behind our math classroom so it could be computer controlled. The top ten math guys (yes, they were all male) were allowed to do independent programming study. Our math teacher explained to us the basics of programming, and I knew instantly I would rather study Latin instead. I had no desire to emulate those guys because I never wanted to wear a pocket protector for my pens. They carried real floppy disks that were films they put in a special envelope to carry with them in binders. My mother started to use one for work. But I thought I would never use “those” things.

I did, however, enjoy typing and was excited when our high school typing class got its first row of electric typewriters. I was in Selectric heaven. In the middle of college, an English professor made me experiment with Wordstar on his word processor. It was clever, but I saw no real reason I would ever need to use it. If I remember correctly, that word processor had minimal if any hard drive space. The program was on a floppy we put in the “B” drive, and we saved documents to a floppy in the “A” drive.

During summers in the mid 1980’s, I worked full-time in the university library and spent half my day in the cataloguing department. We typed check out cards for books (on a typewriter). We had an electric typewriter eraser in case we made a mistake on the card or call number of a book. They were discussing one day migrating to a digital card catalog, and the library used me as a focus group person – as a token idiot who knew nothing about computers to see if I could make sense of their prototype online catalog. (I did)

Then, in 1989, I had to learn to use a computer to keep my job. Part of my job involved keeping records for a physics professor who was doing space station research for NASA. Those were the dark DOS days, and I remember getting excited to see a computer with a real hard drive. Laser  printers were expensive, and the engineering/science building had 1 laser printer in it, in a computer lab. If I wanted to print something on it, I had to save the document to a disk and take it with me downstairs to wait my turn to print in the computer lab. We used an integrated word processor/spreadsheet program called Symphony because its word processor let us type in code to custom-make physics formulas for tests and handouts. We felt advanced because Symphony took 20 floppy disks to install on a PC. We had it installed on a PC in the student lab, but student engineering prankers would delete it at least every other week. So every other week, before I could print, I had to re-install Symphony. Besides printing downstairs, we had a 24 dpi dot matrix printer for every-day printing. In addition, we had an advanced IBM Selectric typewriter which we could attach by cable to our computer, and I could send standard business letters to print on it. Obviously, there was no control for font size or style, but it saved time from going downstairs for the laser printer.

We enjoyed an early version of the Internet with our research. Each day, I would manually type in commands to log into a supercomputer to run a program and later to download results to convert to spreadsheet graphs. It took at least 15 minutes of manual commands to actually make the connection. Near the end of the year, when a programming intern perfected his program to automatically log in (it took 5 minutes instead of 15 and worked without my input), I was so happy I think I jumped on my desk and danced a happy jig.

Later, I worked in an office that used Wang word processors. Then, we upgraded to a network with WordPerfect (for Dos). By this time, I was named the network administrator for the office and coordinated our office’s move, network expansion, and upgrade from Dos to Windows. In a single weekend, after we hired a new computer company to service our account. One of the most vivid memories is that the we had a 4 gigabyte hard drive in our network server, and I had to custom order backup tapes because our memory requirements were too large for what was stocked in office supply stores. This was for a computer network with 50 PC’s.

When Richard and I bought his first Mac for graphics, a Japanese factory had exploded that made an essential part of RAM. As a result, for his first Mac for graphics, we paid $100 per megabyte to put 40 MG of RAM. It was a huge amount.

Those are my earliest digital memories. What are yours?


A Nine Week Farewell Tour – The Love Song of a Mother

In 9 weeks, my daughter leaves for college. A friend of mine told me I’m the first-time college mom, so I worry more about every detail. Almost everything on our checklist of things to do before she leaves is complete.

But none of those checklists recognize that in two months, our home and family will forever change.  How can we make the most of these final weeks while juggling 2 businesses? Add to that teens’ job schedules and summer trips, and these weeks will zoom. I sing the song “Sunrise, Sunset,” to myself, wondering how she grew to be a beauty, he grew to be so tall, and the years flew.

How can we make these weeks a celebration with happy memories? Today, we began a farewell tour bucket list. A few hours each week, we’ll make a family outing to one of the places we’ve gone as a family.

Today was the zoo. Walking a zoo with teens is different from taking them to Zoo Toddlers 14 years ago, when they got to feed monkeys, birds, and even an elephant. Once more I told the story of trying to take babies to the zoo, ages 23 months and 1 month, by myself in a double stroller a month after a c-section and discovering the challenge of the zoo’s hills. We could laugh over an emu’s biting my daughter fingers, and our paddling a boat in the pond at the zoo.

I’m not sure where each of our next 8 weekly adventures will take us. My hope is they will remind us of good things and a happy life. Unlike T. S. Eliot’s Prufrock who lamented in his love song that he could measure his life in coffee spoons, I can measure my life in time spent with friends and family.

I hope this will help us remember this is not an end, but a transition to something new, as in “Sunrise, Sunset,” – years that have been “one season following another, laden with happiness and tears.”

Oh Yes They Will Eat Vegetables – At Festivals and Concessions

“We tried selling vegetables years ago, but they didn’t work so we won’t do that again,” I heard again today from someone who works in food sales at a festival.

Times have changed.

Our 4-H Leaders sell concessions and cater meals to help raise money to help pay for project manuals. Four years ago, I began my mission to introduce healthier options. The first couple of years, I felt like Don Quixote, dreaming an impossible dream to make diets a little more green than greasy. When we sold breakfasts, we tried introducing wraps and found they appealed to a different audience than the traditional biscuit sandwich. Last year at one event, we sold as many if not more wraps than biscuit sandwiches.

As we prepped food to sell at a fundraiser festival today, I again went on my quest. We switched to artisan tortillas that happen to be whole wheat – and cost less than the ones we used to get. We added new items to the menu: yogurt, bananas, apples, oranges, kiwi, and veggie packs. Each veggie pack included organic baby carrots, celery sticks, and cherry tomatoes, with ranch dressing available as a dip.

There were still the regular side items for my German hometown – baked beans, German potato salad, and cole slaw. (Our cole slaw is a sweet and sour variety which is out of this world and as a vinegar-based salad, is not high in calories.) The regular side items still sold very well.

But this year, things were different. Several people in line specifically asked for healthier options. There was an interest and passion for better choices I’ve never before seen.

As I worked the cashier spot at lunch, several made a point to thank us for providing foods they were able to eat. I was repeatedly told by people that they had dietary restrictions which eliminated our traditional food choices. Because we opted to offer options they could eat, they could support our fundraiser dinner.

We had a sell-out meal today with almost everything gone. The apples, oranges, bananas, and yogurt all sold completely out. Besides swapping out the vegetable options, several chose to take fruit or yogurt instead of our other offerings of apple crisp or the best Texas sheet cake on the planet.

If you’re working a fundraiser and planning menus, my message is:

Simple, healthful food options will sell. Try a few and see how it goes. The only work involved in what we tried was individually wrapping the apples and making the veggie packs.

Forward-thinking food concessions that meet this need now will build their reputation and brand to ensure more repeat business in future years.

If you’re a consumer trying to support festival fundraisers, if they don’t offer healthful options, make a point to ask them why they don’t and inform them that you would have bought more food if they had.

What Will Your Kids Think – Divorce and Social Media

“I feel so sorry for “X,” my son commented a couple of years ago. “Every time she got sick this year, her mom complained about it on Facebook and complained about what a pain it is. “X” must think her mom hates her when she’s sick.”

I immediately had a jaw-dropping moment. For years, I had taught teens to think “What would adults think” of what they post on Facebook.

Turnaround is true too. When teens start Facebook at age 13, if they friend adults, they see what we think. So we must also be mindful of “What would kids think.”

We lead by example. Facebook is no more the place to hang our family’s dirty linens than a clothesline is. Before we hang clothes on the line, we wash them.  Not every stained cloth, and not every family secret needs to be hung on the social media line to air dry before the masses.

This is doubly true when families are broken or torn apart. Growing up in a single parent home and working through a marriage breakup is hard enough on kids when it’s done in private. I’m thankful I got to work through MY parents’ breakup during the 1970’s before the Internet was invented.

Whenever kids I know have to work their way through a breakup, it saddens me. But it doubly breaks my heart when their parents take the breakup to social media and air their grievances in public.

Heartbreak is real. Talk to close friends. Talk to counselors. But please, please, please don’t post it on Facebook for your kids or their friends to see.

Teen years are tough in good circumstances. They are hard enough in bad circumstances. The baggage of a divorce, even one like my parents’ that was desperately needed, hangs with a kid – I know because I live it.

Adults – act like adults and lead by example by choosing not to vent your frustrations in a Facebook status. Your ability to vent online does not give you the right to embarrass your children or hurt them more.