Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner by Joe Kissell

cover of Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner by Joe KisselIn 2007 Joe Kissell, an able an adept technical writer about all things Macintosh with a serious interest in preparing and consuming good food, turned his geekly technical writing skills to documenting the creation of Thanksgiving dinner. Take Control of Thanksgiving, a guide to planning, shopping, and preparing Thanksgiving dinner is the book I wish I’d had the first time I produced a traditional Thanksgiving dinner.

The version of Take Control of Thanksgiving I read has been updated several times since that first version. Using easily understood language, Kissell outlines exactly how and what to do if you’re responsible for Thanksgiving dinner. He covers planning a menu, organizing a shopping list, and figuring out the cooking and prep schedule for a typical Thanksgiving dinner consisting of roasted turkey with gravy, stuffing, mashed potatoes, cranberry relish, candied sweet potatoes, and pumpkin pie.

But Kissel doesn’t stop there. One of the basic principles behind Kissell’s how-to guide is that he keeps the need for alternatives in mind. For instance, Kissell, very much aware of the importance of presentation and visual appeal in terms of creating food people want to eat, feels that, properly speaking, a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is built around “the traditional Thanksgiving colors of white, yellow, orange, red, and brown” (TCT 61),  and consequently cheerfully offers not only the “traditional” Green Bean Casserole recipe, but a nifty suggestion for roasting green beans. Throughout Take Control of Thanksgiving Dinner, Kissell presents a number of alternates for dishes and cooking styles, and provides for adjusting the menu to suit the idiosyncrasies of guests.

One of the things I love about this book, aside from the easy, comfortable, and clear writing, is that there’s a lot of practical help here. Don’t have time for a day of shopping and a day of prep? Joe’s got that covered. Need to cook for more people? See the section explaining how to scale recipes. Worried about a life that includes six months of turkey tetrazzini? It doesn’t have to be that way, if you use Kissell’s very smart “Deal With Leftovers” advice. Plus, in one of the really, smart, helpful user-friendly parts of the Take Control of Thanksgiving ebook is that the book includes a file of shopping guides and prep schedules ready to print and use. Kissell really does cover all the bases—including vegetarians guests, Tofurkey Roasts, and a homemade Polenta Dome.

It’s very apparent that this is a book written by someone who knows what QA and testing means; these are recipes that have been carefully tested and even adjusted with subsequent editions to make sure that they can be successfully prepared by people besides the author.

Whether you’re an old hand at cooking the bird for friends and family, someone venturing into a holiday kitchen for the first time, or interested in exploring alternatives, there’s something here for you. And if you want something beyond the basics, this is my dead easy recipe for homemade rolls, and my mom’s Pecan pie.

Go download the free 33 page .pdf Take Control of Thanksgiving Sample and read the TOC and excerpts at Take Control Books. Or buy the book yourself in multiple formats for a mere $10.00. Take advantage of the fact that you can download the book in multiple formats, and use it while you’re in the kitchen.

Take Control of Using Lion Matt Neuberg

After upgrading to Mac OS X Lion while following along in Joe Kissell’s Take Control of Upgrading to Lion, I began reading Matt Neuberg’s Take Control of Using Lion, and I’m awfully glad I did.

cover of Take Control of Using LionOne of the features I love about Take Control books are the Quick Start pages. These pages, which link to specific sections in terms of typical users and what they’re most likely going to want to accomplish first, are extremely useful. Neuberg’s directions to set up the Dock and System Preferences—especially his suggestions about making text easier to read and work with—work particularly well in terms of making every other aspect of using Lion much more pleasant and efficient. His succinct commentary about which new Lion features are particularly innovative, and ways of using them are equally useful, and easy to follow. It’s no easy thing to explain the changes to saving that Resume brings, for instance, but Neuberg manages it quite well.

For me, in terms of needing to adjust to using Lion immediately in order to keep on schedule, Neuberg’s helpful discussion of Mission Control was especially useful; I was able to start using Mission Control with Spaces immediately to switch quickly between applications and their windows, and my own Spaces with particular groups of windows for particular tasks.

The discussion of new Finder options, and Launch Pad and third-party launchers—complete with practical scenarios for why a user might favor one option over another—is thorough and helpful. Another of the things I love about Take Control books is that the authors are very aware that there’s usually several ways to accomplish the same task on a Mac, and they’re very good about discussion multiple methods—and why one way might suit a particular user or scenario. Neuberg is especially aware that users and their objectives are matters that depend on the individual. He adeptly accommodates a variety of users and scenarios. I am especially grateful for the attention paid to using the keyboard instead of the mouse or trackpad. Neuberg’s thoughtful discussion of keyboard shortcuts, and creating new shortcuts is extremely helpful, and not something that I’ve seen explained nearly as well as it is in Take Control of Using Lion.

The book offers very thorough coverage of Lion, especially in terms of customizing the OS to suit personal preferences; a few other highlights that I found particularly well done are the discussions of font management, something that most users are terribly frustrated by, since the Apple Help for the Font Book is less than adequate. The explanation of Lion’s new Text Substitutions feature is likely to save a number of people from early hair loss from textual frustration. Text Substitutions’ potential for causing extreme irritation is such that I suggest Take Control and Matt Neuberg might explicitly mention Text Substituions in the Quick Start items, instead of subsuming it under Tackle Your Text.

Take Control of Using Lion is well-written, with easy to understand step by step directions and explanations. I honestly can’t imagine anyone using Mac OS X Lion who wouldn’t find Take Control of Using Lion exceedingly helpful; I say this as someone who has been using a Mac daily since 1989. Matt Neuberg has written a book useful to both the diehard cultists like me, and the new users, both of whom can find what they need easily and quickly.

Matt Neuberg’s Web site is here. I note that he’s yet another scholar of dead languages who has found a second home in the digital realm. There’s a free .pdf sample of Take Control Of Using Lion you can download. You can purchase Matt Neuberg’s Take Control Of Using Lion here.

Take Control of TextExpander

TidBITS via their Take Control Books have released a fabulous guide to getting the most out of TextExpander (you can read about TextExpander here); Michael E. Cohen’s Take Control of TextExpander. Like all Take Control books, this one has the Quick Start section, making it easy to set up TextExpander right from the start. Take Control of TextExpander offers complete soup to nuts coverage of TextExpander from downloading and installing to configuring and using AppleScript and Terminal with TextExpander. Cohen consistently offers practical examples, beginning with a step-by-step walk-through for creating your first snippet. Cohen includes examples and explanations for each kind of snippet, and suggestions about how to organize and label your snippets for easy use. There’s a super discussion about backing up your snippets, sharing them, importing other people’s snippets, and more. There’s even an extremely useful Appendix on how to use TextExpander Touch for iOS devices.

I’m a fan of TakeControl books; they’re well-written, easy to use, and affordable at $10.00 for the ebook versions. Take Control for TextExpander is one of the most useful and easy to follow Take Control books I’ve read. The documentation and help for TextExpander is adequate, but not stellar. This book combines practical and theoretical information, and is so easy to navigate to find exactly what you want, that it made TextExpander far more useful to me far more rapidly than I expected. I’ve been using TextExpander for about a month now, daily, and I’ve gone back to this book a handful of times to find out how to do something, and each time, I’ve found just the information I needed in seconds.


I forgot to link to the TidBit’s post about the contents of Take Control of TextExpander.