“Furnish” Episode of Big Ideas for a Small Planet

Some coworkers and I went to Gloria’s last night for a going-away party for Garrett since he’ll be working for himself in the New Year. The food was super tasty as always — this wasn't the first time that I had been to Gloria’s and it was a great time.

There was a large-ish flat-panel TV on one of the walls near us and, interestingly enough, it wasn’t tuned into a sports or news broadcast (not that there's anything wrong with that). Instead, it happened to be tuned into a program about furniture making (including what appeared to be a segment featuring some Herman Miller products). And, given that a good chunk of the people at our table have more than a passing interest in productivity pr0n, several of us (myself included) found the show to be a pleasant background accompaniment to our regular conversation.

A few of us eventually tried to figure out what the show was (with the idea that we might be able to catch a re-airing of it later). Confoundingly, though, the channel-identifier which bookended the commercials carried the logos of both Universal HD and The Sundance Channel. After a bit of poking around the web (and a few dead-ends), I think I’ve figured out which show it was. It appears to have been the “Furnish” episode of Big Ideas for a Small Planet which airs on Universal HD under the banner “Sundance Channel on Universal HD” (yeah, your guess is as good as mine on that one).

The “Big Ideas for a Small Planet” page at UniversalHD.com describes it as an “original documentary series from Sundance Channel [which] focuses on environmental topics with features on forward-thinking designers, green products and alternative ideas that may transform our everyday lives.”. More specifically, here’s what’s listed for the “Furnish” episode:

In this episode, a leading furniture company explores the goal of making all new products 100% sustainable; two designers use leftover scrap wood to create recycled furniture; and a Philadelphia-based firm shows off their innovative and stylish home-product designs.

The good news, I suppose, is that we now know what the show was. The bad news, at least for now, is that I checked my TiVo for soon-to-air episodes of the series and I didn’t see “Furnish” among any of those upcoming episodes. Still, my TiVo only keeps track of listings for the next two weeks, so it’s entirely possible that Universal HD might re-run “Furnish” in a few weeks time. (I'm tempted to add a Season Pass for the show just in case that might happen.)

Blondies Recipe from America’s Test Kitchen

America's Test Kitchen - Blondies

The Dallas Camera Club has a potluck holiday party each year and, after thinking about it for a bit, I decided to make some blondies for this year’s party. (Blondies, in case you’re not familiar with them, are like brownies but without the chocolate; they’re a bar cookie which generally have a butterscotch-type flavor.) Well, to be sure, that I kinda had in mind was something like the Sheila’s Dream Bars from Potbelly Sandwiches. To be honest, I’m not even sure if Sheila's Dream Bars qualify and blondies, but that was my best guess — they're moist and dense bar cookies (in the way that a good brownie would be) with oats and chocolate chunks.

As a side note, I’m apparently not the only one looking for something analogous to Sheila's Dream Bars. One guy even wrote to Potbelly to ask for the recipe (but was politely declined). I also came across an attempt at a clone recipe at AllRecipes. Interestingly enough, one reviewer “was trying to duplicate the very addictive Sheila's Dream Bars from Potbelly” and went on to say that “these are EXACTLY what I was looking for” while another reviewer said that they’re “not even close to Sheila’s Dream Bars at Potbelly Sandwich Shoppe”. Great. How’s that for indecisiveness?

Since I didn't really want to take a chance on a recipe which was a toss-up between being “exactly” or “not even close” to what I was looking for, I turned to America’s Test Kitchen to get their take. (America’s Test Kitchen is a half-hour cooking show on PBS. Made by the same group that publishes Cook’s Illustrated magazine, the two groups are known for testing dozens of variants on a recipe before selecting their favorite which they then publish.)

I had recently picked up a couple DVD box sets of past seasons from the show and so I flipped through those to see if there was a blondie recipe. As it turns out, there was (it was from the 2005 season, for those curious). And, pleasantly enough, the recipe wasn’t too complicated either; with the exception of the chocolate chips or pecans, you might even have most of the other ingredients in your cupboard already (flour, eggs, sugar, and so on). The recipe also called for melted butter, so there wasn’t even a need for a mixer — only a spatula to fold some ingredients together.

Next up: the recipe; after that, I’ve included some comments on how they turned out.


  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 1 1/2 cups (7 1/2) ounces unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped (These can be toasted by putting them on a pan and placing them in a 350° oven for 5-7 mins.)


  1. Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a 13- by 9-inch baking pan with 2 pieces of foil. Coat the foil-lined pan with vegetable cooking spray.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder and salt together. Set aside.

  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the melted butter and brown sugar together until combined. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix well. Using a rubber spatula, fold the dry ingredients into the egg mixture until just combined. Do not overmix.

  4. Fold in the semisweet and white chocolate chips and the nuts, and turn the batter into the prepared pan, smoothing the top with a rubber spatula.

  5. Bake until the top is shiny and cracked and feels firm to the touch, for 22 to 25 minutes. Place the pan on a rack and let cool completely (about an hour). Cut into 1 1/2- by 2-inch bars.

Makes 36 bars.

I’m generally pleased with how these blondies turned out — they’re tasty and I have few worries about having any left over at the end of the holiday party. Still, I’m not sure they exactly matched how I thought they’d turn out (more on that in a bit). In preparation for writing this post, I took a notebook with me to the kitchen and jotted down a few thoughts as I ate one of the blondies:

  • Aroma: Right out of the oven (or out of the RubberMaid cookie container), these have a pleasant butterscotch aroma.

  • Texture: Their texture, for the post part, is quite good. They tend to break apart easily in your mouth without being fragile enough to crumble apart in your hands.

  • Density: This is one of the few gripes that I had — these have a density quite similar to a cake-style brownie. Now, if that's your bag, you're all set. For me, though, I tend to prefer more of a gooey brownie and I think that type of texture would have been my preference here.

  • Other notes: The flavor white chocolate chips came through quite well. That’s all well and good, but I think I would have preferred if the semisweet chocolate chips could have taken a more prominent role. In fairness, some rejiggering of the ratio between white chocolate and semisweet chocolate chips could probably take care of this. (Or, if you really like white chocolate, the recipe could probably remain unchanged.)

In all, I think I’d give these blondies about a 7/10. They’re quite good and, for all I know, they might represent the Canonical Blondie Taste™. I think it just happened to work out that I was making a recipe for something which the recipe might not have been aiming for.

Thanksgiving 2007 Photos

Dad on the Stairs

My parents moved to a new house in the Charlotte, NC area over the summer (more specifically, to Cornelius, NC) and I went to visit them over Thanksgiving. Naturally, I took my camera along and I’ve posted my shots from the trip.

In addition to my usual camera gear, I also took along my WhiBal white balance card and it worked a treat. In particular with the turkey preparation scenes within the kitchen, the lighting was an amalgamation at best — there was cloudy-sky natural light coming through the windows, a few overhead CFLs and the occasional splash of incandescent light from the adjacent rooms. I’m not sure any sane person would have known how to manually set his or her camera’s white balance to properly account for that, but it was a complete non-issue with the WhiBal. Such a handy gadget, that.

Getting Multi-Safari to Work on Leopard 10.5.1

If you’ve upgraded to Leopard but still need to test a site in an older versions of Safari, you can do so through Multi-Safari. Much along the lines of the stand-alone versions of IE that are out there, these packages allow you to run older versions of Safari.

Interestingly enough, though Multi-Safari worked fine under the retail version of Leopard, it stopped working under OS X 10.5.1, offering the error “You cannot use the application ‘Safari 2.0.4’ with this version of Mac OS X.”. Fortunately, the maintainer of the Multi-Safari project, Michel Fortin, looked into it; and, within his blog entry describing the issue, some of the commenters chimed in with their own suggestions.

In particular, Thomas Aylott deduced that “Apple has specifically blocked all versions of Safari < 3 from running on Leopard 10.5.1” (d’oh!), but figured out a workaround by tweaking some of the package internals. To Thomas’ credit, he also compiled a fixed-and-ready-to-download version of Safari 2.0.4. I’ve tried it on my own machine and it works great.

Dallas Camera Club Scavenger Hunt Photos

Looking up at a traffic light at Griffin Street

The Dallas Camera Club holds a photo scavenger hunt each year — sometimes it’s in downtown Dallas while other times it’s elsewhere in the metroplex. (It’s confined to a general geographic area each year to help level the playing field.) Indeed, this year’s scavenger hunt was held downtown on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago. Here’s what was on this year’s list:

  • Reflections — it hadn’t rained recently, so street-reflections weren’t really in the cards, but there were other reflective things to find.
  • Geometric or Repeating Patterns — this was pretty tough, but I think I found a shot for this.
  • Looking Up — we just had to find a shot that looked upward, which might seem easy, but doing so artistically took some figuring.
  • Humanity — this one covered people, which might seem like a slam-dunk, but was actually tough since downtown Dallas is a bit deserted on a Sunday morning.
  • Texas or US Icons — I guess this primarily encompassed Texas or US flags, though I would imagine that other Texas- or US-themed items would qualify as well.

Anyhow, I’ve posted my scavenger hunt photos. I was pleased to be able to get a shot in each category, but that doesn't mean that I've “won” — the club hands out awards for the scavenger hunt based on the number of categories completed and the quality of those shots. The awards haven’t been announced yet, so I’m looking forward to seeing how those turn out.