Wintery Wet Basketball

We were looking for something to do today that would get is outside. The temperatures were above freezing, even if just barely, so we wanted to take advantage.

We talked about going for a walk, or to a playground, but Noah decided he wanted to play basketball. We didn’t know what the court would be like so we headed to a playground with a basketball court just in case it was flooded or too wet.

Luckily it worked out and we got to play. It ended up turning into a boys vs girls game which didn’t seem overly fair to me, but Noah and I held our own!

Donairs and Donair Pizza

While I was away in Spain meeting my new team one of them, Simon, asked me about food in Nova Scotia and if he came here what he would have to try. The first thing that came to mind was donairs.

Truthfully I don’t actually eat a lot of donairs, but when I do I enjoy them. It is much more common that we will make a donair pizza here at home and eat that instead.

So in case anyone is interested I thought I would share the recipes we use to either make either donairs or the pizza.

We tried a few different variations of the donair meat and sauce recipes, but our favourite came from this site by Glen Petitpas https://www.cfa.harvard.edu/~gpetitpas/Links/Donair.html.

Donair
Image From: https://www.flickr.com/photos/40726522@N02/8600781370/

As I mentioned we usually make a pizza instead of the donair pictured above. To do this we cover the crust with the donair sauce, break up the meat into little chunks and spread it out then you can add onions and tomatoes over top of that if you like. To finish it off cover it with grated mozzarella cheese. Cooking time really depends on the crust but for us we usually do 450 degrees Fahrenheit for about 10 minutes.

If you happen to try out any of the recipes below let me know what you think. As I’m writing this we have donair meat cooking in the oven for pizza tonight and I’m looking forward to it already.

Donair Meat

  • Time: 3hr
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 3 pounds lean hamburger
  • 3/4 cup bread crumbs
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • 1-2 tsp cayenne red pepper (depending on your taste)
  • 1 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 3 tsp paprika
  • 2 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt

The original recipe recommends seeing if you can have your butcher or meat shop triple grind your hamburg, but we’ve only done this a couple times and didn’t notice a huge difference. We now just grab packages from the cooler in our supermarket.

Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Knead for 20 minutes. Shape into two tightly formed loaves. Bake on broiler pan for 2 to 2 1/2 hours at 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Cool loaves and slice into thick slabs. Meat can be frozen for future use. You may find that the inner parts of the loaf are not browned enough. This can be remedied by re-heating the meat in a frying pan. This browns it nicely and gives it that slightly chewier texture.

Heat donair meat in a frying pan. Dip a pita bread in water and fry in frying pan to soften (this is VERY important). Place a generous amount of sauce on bread. Top with meat, chopped onions and tomatoes and finish off with lots more sauce. Put on some old clothes, then roll up or serve open face on a plate.

Donair Sauce

  • Time: 10 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 2/3 cup canned sweetened condensed milk
  • 1/4 cup white vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder

(Or for a 14oz tin of sweetened condensed milk, add 1/2 cup vinegar, and 1 tsp garlic powder)

I usually mix the garlic powder in with the vinegar first and then add the sweetened condensed milk. Stir it up until it is a consistent thick texture. We find it best to chill it in the fridge for a while before using.

Pizza Dough

  • Time: 1 hr 30 mins
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 pkg yeast

Mix together & let yeast rise, then whisk in:

  • 2 eggs
  • 4 tbsp oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Add 4 cups flour

Knead.
Put dough in covered bowl in oven with light on for 1/2 – 1 hour. Makes 3 round pizzas, or two large square pizzas. Knead in a little flour if sticky. Oil pans & stretch dough to fit. Add toppings. Let sit at least 15 min. before baking. Bake at 450.

Barcelona Team Meetup

I was extremely fortunate enough to spend last week getting to meet and work with my new team in Barcelona Spain. It really was an invaluable experience. Being so new to the company I really appreciate being able to build in person connections with them.  

I’m a pretty introverted person but I really tried to be open and be in conversation with people, but I’m much more comfortable sitting and taking things in. Hopefully I wasn’t to quiet. 

I took some pictures and have shared some below but the don’t really do the city justice. It was beautiful. Even though I don’t speak any Spanish or Catalan everyone was still very friendly and patient with my attempts to communicate. I did end up with some things I don’t think I ordered at restaurants but I was up for experimenting anyway so it worked out well. 

Jen and the kids were surprised that I ate things like octopus and little fish heads and all, but it was all really good. Oh and the ham. There seems to be a whole lot of ham everywhere. 

Many of my co workers have written about our meet up and shared much better pictures than I took. Here is a good roundup. If I missed anyone let me know and I can add it in. 

My Daughters and Their Dolls

For Christmas this year Caile and Ella each wanted one of the 18 inch dolls which some of their friends had. I figured they were a little old for dolls and that they would quickly get bored of them and they would end up at the back of the closet or somewhere similar. So far though this hasn’t happened.

Actually the opposite has happened. They are with these dolls all the time. They treat them like their children and take care of them very well. If we are playing games at night they will stop in the middle if it reaches their dolls bed time so they can take them up stairs, change them into their pyjamas and put them to bed.

I think the best part is when they leave for school each day they setup their dolls doing activities so they aren’t bored while no one is around.

11th Wedding Anniversary 

Eleven years ago today I was nice and warm waking up in a cheap hotel room in New Orleans. We had just flown in the day before, leaving extremely cold weather behind.

We had a couple delays on the way which meant we missed most of the offices where we could get our marriage licence. This was a problem as we were getting married the very next day. The rules had just recently changed, but only for the New Orleans Parish, that you didn’t have to wait 72 hours after getting your license before you could get married. The only office still open was way out in the country and it was closing soon as well. They hadn’t heard of the rule change and didn’t want to give us the license.

During this time I was second guessing our crazy plan run away all by ourselves and getting married with little time and far away from our comfort zone. We’re we going to have to take our Honeymoon gift cruise not being married?

We actually left the office and we’re walking back to our waiting cab when an employee banged on the window and told us to come back in. She said the worst that could happen would be they wouldn’t marry us tomorrow, but she didn’t want to be the reason that stopped it in case the rule did change. So thankfully we were able to leave with our license and now to head to our hotel for the night.

We woke up to a beautiful day and helped each other get ready in the hotel room. I was pretty much completely ready but Jen was not yet in her dress. Now it was time to head down to the banks of the Mississippi River and hop on the river boat where it’s captain would marry us.

With the boats wedding planner and photographer as our witnesses the foggy morning made for a beautiful back drop, but all I was seeing was Jen walking up to the main deck towards me.

Most of the ceremony I don’t recall, but I’ll be able to picture how radiant Jen looked and recall the overwhelming happiness I felt until the day I die. Oh and I’ll always remember her trying to place my ring in the wrong hand too.

Our wedding was a fun adventure just like the past eleven years have been. I’m looking forward to building so many more memories with my wife and best friend for many more years to come.

2015 Starting out big

2014 was a very good year and 2015 seems like it is going to continue right along.

We started last night with a great group of friends and family coming over with their kids to our house for a get together. We had good snacks and conversation. The kids had a good time, playing, watching movies, and some sparkler fun outside.

New Years Eve Sparklers

The grown ups ended the evening off with a game of Settlers of Catan, I came close to winning, but no such luck.

The first bit of this year is going to be pretty interesting. Jen and I are celebrating our 11th anniversary on the 3rd of this month and then the next day I leave for my first team meetup.

While I’m very excited to get together with my team in person, I’m also pretty nervous. I mean I barely leave my house these days and now I’m preparing to leave the continent for the first time. It will be worth it though and Spain will be nice this time of year. It’s calling for a fair amount of snow the day I leave so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to get out easily. We’ve had pretty decent weather so far, but it’s turned cold now so it will be nice to go to a bit warner climate.

Joining Automattic

This post has been rattling around inside me for some time now so I think it’s about time that I get to writing. It’s been just about a month since I first started working full time at Automattic but the whole process started long before that.

I’ve been using WordPress to build websites for quite some time. I signed up for a WordPress.com account in 2007 I’m guessing to get an API key to use Akismet to handle spam on one of my self hosted sites. Years later I did help a client customize a site on WordPress.com but for the vast majority of the work I did it was all self hosted version of WordPress.

I know I had heard about the company Automattic before this, but the first real time I remember it was in 2010 when I heard Matt Mullenweg on an episode of the Big Web Show that I really realized what they were doing. I had just recently graduated from University and was just getting started so I never really considered applying at that time.

It wasn’t until July of this year that I ended up reading another interview of Matt. It really struck me that I might actually stand a chance at working for this company and it sounded like an amazing place to work. So I set out an applied to be a Happiness Engineer. But I rushed it and I didn’t do a good job of presenting myself. It didn’t take long before I received an email saying they weren’t interested at this time with the suggestion to volunteer in the support forums to better get to know the product and to get a feel for some of the work I would be doing if I was hired.

If there has ever been something that I’ve been good at over the years though it is getting the job. I don’t have a good track record of staying at one place very long though. It’s certainly not because I haven’t worked for good companies but I always just thought I saw something better, got bored, or something made me unhappy. I’m fairly certain a lot of it was just not being overly happy with myself though.

With that in mind I slowed things down a bit and made sure when I applied again I would make sure I would at least get to the interview stage. I didn’t even wait a long time to reapply, but I worked hard in the forums trying my best to help people and to get to know the WordPress.com product. I started using my WordPress.com account as well which this blog is on.

At this time it wasn’t until mid September that I heard back again, but this time I was offered an interview. The hiring process is tough, and long, but it I really appreciate it and I’m convinced that our hiring team knows how to find the right people because I haven’t had a negative interaction with anyone yet.

After my interview I was asked to do a small project. In this case I was asked to look though the existing support documentation and find a something that needed improving and fix it, or find something that didn’t exist and write it. From there they must have liked what I did and I moved onto a second interview. Keep in mind that all these interviews and communication were text based. Arranging times over email, but then the actual chats over Skype messaging.

At the end of the second interview I was asked to do a Trial. This entails essentially doing the job as a contractor for a number of weeks. This allows you to really figure out what the job is and if you like it, and allows them to ensure that you are a right fit for the team as well. No one expects you to do it for free, or to leave a job you already have to do the trial. They are flexible and allow you to work the hours you can around your existing job and responsibilities.

Obviously the more time you put in the faster you will figure things out so my wonderful wife Jen basically completely took over the household while I worked all day at the University and then came home and put in as many hours as I could into the Trial. It was honestly exhausting and at one point I really almost burnt myself out so I slowed down a bit.

I love the Trial aspect of hiring. One job I previously took I tried to get the company to let me come in and get a feel for the job, the environment, and the team before I accepted an offer. I would do it for free on my own time, I just wanted to make sure I was making the right decision. They let me come in for a few hours one day, but that really doesn’t give you a full picture of how things will be. For Automattic to immediately give me access to just about everything full time employees have access to and let me learn as much about the job as the company and the culture itself works well for both them and me. Plus they paid me well to do it.

On my birthday October 30th I was having a feedback chat with my hiring team at the end they surprised me with the good news that they were happy with everything I did during the Trial and they were moving me to the final part of the hiring process. That is a chat with the CEO Matt himself. This part amazes me as well. He still talks to every person and signs off on them before they are hired. Keep in mind how crazy busy his schedule must be even without the hiring aspect, but to take the time to talk to me for a long time truly shows how much he cares about the company and the employees alike. I was nervous as can be but it went well and at the end he told me was offering me a job and sent the letter of offer.

It’s been a fairly long journey to this point, but it is only getting started. You are a trusted and valued employee and it shows in everything the company does. In return we all love the company and what we do. I mean how great is it that I get to help people get themselves setup online so they can share their thoughts and ideas. I honestly feel that this company and this position were almost tailor made for me.

We are hiring so if you want to hear more certainly let me know, or better yet visit our site and apply.

The Women of Automattic

Sandy McFadden:

One of my new team mates made me aware of this post today written by our team lead Zandy Ring. A lot of the things she talks about apply to everyone.
I shared a lot of her feelings even after I was hired. I still seem to be suffering from impostor syndrome, although it’s getting better all the time in a big part to my amazing team.

Originally posted on Revelry Reverie:

Something pretty amazing happened yesterday. All the women of Automattic had dinner together to talk about something incredibly important to us: getting more qualified women to apply at our company.

We are lucky. Automattic makes sure that an open position goes to the right person, regardless of gender. A lot of companies work hard at this, and many are getting it right (at least most of the time).

We have noticed, however, that in our case, fewer women apply in the first place. Anyone in a technology or traditionally male-dominated field obviously knows this already. One of the things we discussed was how each of us ended up applying to Automattic – interestingly, many of us believed – no, assumed –  we wouldn’t be qualified enough, and ultimately needed a nudge.

We, as women, can read a job description and see one item that we may be weak on or…

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Good Christmas Gift Idea

In my Boxing Day Reflection post I mentioned that I wanted to get more gifts that instead of being physical things would be things that build memories and experiences. It’s not like we don’t do any of this now I just want to do more of it in the future.

For the past few nights we’ve been playing board games. These were gifts that we bought and had been given. These always make for fun family evenings. Sitting around the living room floor and watching the competitiveness come out in the kids :-) They love beating Mom and Dad at games.

Another tradition we started a few years back was to stop buying gifts between our family and my sisters family. We have four kids and she has three, with another on the way, so it adds up pretty quick both in cost and the number of gifts under the tree when we were buying things.

For the past few years instead we plan out an event fun for our families to get together and do. This year we were going to separate the boys and the girls which I wasn’t really fond over. The girls were all going to go do a jewelry making party at a local shop. Us boys were still unsure what we were going to do. Last minute though the shop had to cancel the party so we were looking for something else fun to do.

The kids love the Madagascar movies and The Penguins of Madagascar was playing at the theatre so we all went to see that instead. It was a pretty fun movie. I love how they throw silly things there for us adults to laugh at as well. One common bit of humour throughout was the shouting puns of celebrity names. Things like Nicholas, cage them, and Drew Barry, more power.

Even though you don’t get a chance to talk to everyone at the movies it is still a fun way to spend an afternoon, taking it easy after the busy holidays and building up that memory with family. I like these types of gifts.