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6.02.2012

How to Get Stuff Done





Do you have a ton of things to do? Or maybe it's just one of those lack-of-focus days? Today's Really Good Idea is to try the Pomodoro technique. The basic rules are that you will set a timer for 25 minutes. Work on one task, and ONE task only, for that 25 minutes, then take a five minute break regardless if you are done or not. Then jump back in for another 25 minutes. After four Pomodoros, take a longer break. The website has a cheat sheet that spells out the "rules" of the Pomodoro, but you can practice this without the book or worksheets. Just pick a task, set a timer, limit distractions (close email), and focus.

This is intended as a work and study method. In fact the cheat sheet suggests that we should just enjoy free time, but I've been taking personal liberties with the original intention and have found that it adapts well to nearly everything:
-One Pomodoro is just enough time to get in a high-intensity cardio blast workout like a Tabata or GetFitsu.
-It's enough time to cut up and repackage veggies for the upcoming week.
-My expedition adventure racing friends tell me it's a perfect amount of time for a nap during a long race.
-It takes the daunting task of cleaning the basement on a sunny day and turns it into a quick exercise, IF you stay focused. That's the key, and it takes practice. Don't be too hard on yourself if it takes awhile to get the hang of this!  For me, some days are certainly better than others.

A Pomodoro can also help you limit activities that maybe you shouldn't be doing for long periods, like watching TV or stalking people on Facebook. Give yourself 25 minutes to watch your sitcom on DVR. I've found that if I'm only watching TV for 25 minutes without any other tasks, I get bored and stop watching!

Remember, ONE task at a time. If you commit to cleaning out the garage, you aren't checking your phone or chatting with neighbors. You are cleaning the garage only! If you get interrupted, take note of it and move on. Like any good life lesson, the Pomodoro technique is easy to understand, but tough to master. Practice!

5.08.2012

Powerful People Making a Difference

I've had the good fortune to surround myself with a few incredible people lately. Because of the support I've received from them, I am healthy and fit. I'm eating clean, working out regularly and writing down my goals. I've learned to create a future and enjoy the journey. I'm happy. It would be pretty easy for me to go buy a card and send it to these people who have really made a difference. Nice touch, but not enough for the impact they have made in my life. These people put 110% of themselves into their business and efforts They are good people, but more importantly, they have created great businesses and they deserve your support.
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Today's Really Good Idea is to Give Thanks Through Action

Hallie from NewUToday donates to her local ministry for every three likes she gets on her Facebook page.  Three likes, and the ministry gets peanut butter and diapers. How simple is that?!? Hallie also posts healthy recipes, quick and awesome workouts, and tips to remind us to be mindful. It's a healthy break from all of the clutter found on Facebook. Because of Hallie's guidance, I now eat foods I would never have considered a few years ago, and likewise cringe when I think of what I used to eat! THANK YOU, Hallie, for everything you do and for continuing to pay it forward. Everyone, please "Like" Hallie's NewU page!

Paula from 180 Adventure puts on the Stubborn Mule Adventure Race in June. She is a passionate adventure racer of 12+ years, and gives back to this community by hosting one of the best run races in the mid west. Paula does not profit financially from 180 Adventure or the race; she operates 180 Adventure, LLC on her own with a small but trusted group of volunteers. She is a "google master" and has learned everything she needs to know to set up her website and run her business by searching, reading, trying, failing, trying again.... although she is happiest when she is running in the woods and finding unique areas to set the race course each year. Her volunteers happily stay up all night and run through swamps just to help her out. The thing about Paula is that she doesn't have an "ask". A classic overachiever, she might subtly mention that she has a need, but will simply do it herself if no one runs with it. So I'll do some asking for her. If you have a business, please consider contacting Paula and offer race prize swag, or partner with her in web links and Facebook posts to increase exposure. Grab your Muddy Buddy friends and do the Stubborn Mule. "Like" 180 on Facebook. Web and graphic design help? Yes!

Matt from Get Fit Staying Fit has developed a product that is so simple it's silly. GetFitsu is a fitness card game that's affordable, transportable, understandable, and any ability-able. Buy the cards, and you get access to full videos of each exercise on his website and more playing options. His website itself has tons of workout ideas and nutrition information for everyone. I love GetFitsu because I don't have to think about what to do, I just flip the card and do it. It can be as easy or as hard of a workout as I want. And knowing the guy behind GetFitsu is priceless. Matt has incredible energy and drive, he hosts a daily workout for anyone interested, and he smiles ALL THE TIME. Just like his website says, he makes fitness fun. His Facebook timeline is full of facts, fun and inspiration; support him by clicking "Like". Buy GetFitsu for yourself and your friends. And keep your eye on this guy, I'm sure he's always got something up his sleeve....

To say that Sue from Spartan Fitness has made the greatest impact in my life in the past year and a half would be an understatement. Sue brings life to the words "show up, follow the plan", and new life to those who do it, through her "Blueprint for Change" corporate wellness program. In this program we're weighed and assessed , given goals and held accountable, and rewarded when we meet or exceed all of the numbers.  I didn't meet my goals by the time the program ended, but I don't mind because I've learned that the real work has just begun. With Sue's help through a FREE online challenge she runs, I'm setting new goals. And now when I "show up", I'm following my own plan. Spartan Fitness is Sue's livelihood, but giving people tools to change their lives is her life. Sue's social media campaign is just getting underway and the time to jump into the fun is NOW. Check out the new session of classes in McFarland; there is something for everyone. And just like Matt (above), you need to keep your eye on Sue too....

And finally my dear friend Heidi. I will never again doubt the phrase "good things happen to good people". Heidi's story is the epitome of karma. I first met Heidi when she was working as a wildlife biologist for the WDNR and worked part time with me at REI. I kept track of her when she moved out west to open a bike shop/bakery, and now she's in Door County, WI operating Island Bread Company on Washington Island. She's been everywhere and knows people all over, yet still makes everyone in her life feel special. It's Heidi's tenacity and courage that draw people naturally to her, and with that courage she launched a Kickstarter project to request funds for a wood-fired brick oven. As you'll see from her project page, she has 13 days to go and is nearly fully funded! But her costs go above the pledge amount and being nearly funded is no guarantee. Heidi doesn't have a business Facebook page; much of this campaign has been through personal pages and word of mouth. Please, just check out her project page and back this project. I'm stealing these words from a fellow backers' blog because I can't say it any better myself-  "it's not just about a brick oven for a girl to work...it's about a community, a gathering spot, economic development one job at a time, preserving an ancient craft, it's about YOU!"....  And it's really damn good bread.

Thank you.





2.18.2012

Ipad 101

I just got an iPad and find myself unable to put it down. As an Android fan from Day 1, I never expected to get so hooked on an Apple product! I have spent five days with my new toy and simultaneously am more productive while the life is getting sucked right out of me from lack of sleep and sunlight (I am assured this is temporary).

Conclusion? iPads are a Really Good Idea.

So far, I have played games, created a budget that syncs with my bank accounts, loaded all my favorite media, and resumed blogging. Not too bad for only five days. I figured by the time spring officially hits in Wisconsin, I may have taken over Canada.

Favorite apps to date:
-Evernote: Should never require explanation
-Ticket to Ride: An online board game and likely the main reason I got an iPad!
-Mint.com: The dreaded budget made easy!
-Google Currents: Yes, this google girl at heart will still use their products! Currents is an online magazine/RSS reader
-Google Music: Since all my music is in their cloud, there is no reason for me to switch it over to iCloud. But I have iCloud too!
-CloudOn: Can never have too many clouds. This one displays and allows me to edit Microsoft documents via Dropbox. Perfect for using Apple with a PC.
-Words With Friends and now Scramble with Friends. Need more friends....
-NPR Music: I haven't had much time with this one, but the UI is amazing and I can't wait to dive in!
-And of course, BlogPress.

Since this is my first post on the iPad, it's only fitting I should post my first picture taken with it.



Those are "cookie balls" before I gobbled them up at work.

ALMOND COCONUT CHEWY COOKIES

1 1/2 cups soft Medjool dates, pitted (pack them down in the measuring cup)
1 cup raw almonds, processed into chunks or chopped
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
2T brown rice syrup
2T Chia
2T Flax

If using a food processor, process almonds first, then add the rest of the ingredients. Continue to process until chunky and batter sticks together easily.

Form into round balls. Store in refrigerator. Good luck keeping them around long.

Here's to another round of blogging by yours truly!

12.09.2011

" Which one would YOU use? "

As a former sales professional I have high standards for customer service.  I typically don't even ask for help in stores anymore because inevitability the staff will come up short of my expectations.  However the past few times I've really needed help,  I've used the phrase "Which would you use? ", and it's really paid off.

Today's really good idea is TWO good ideas!  I recently went to the Home Depot to get something for my ever-plugged shower drain.  As I was preparing myself to spend $30 on a fancy CO2 snake,  a salesperson asked if he could help.  Instead of my usual "no thanks,  just looking",  I asked for his opinion on the options I was considering.  Instead of selling me the more expensive tool, he suggested a $3 pokey stick with flange-y grabbers which I'm sure is on an As Seen on TV special somewhere.....

Well guess what?  The Zip-It stick worked! It's flexible and designed for clogs that are within the the first meter of the pipe; something I learned from my Home Depot guy. It was simple to figure out what to do with it, and easy to use. Had I gone with the more expensive option, I know that would have worked too but it would have taken me longer to figure out.  It's the holidays, and we all know time and money is limited, so I'm even more grateful for the help I received.  And as a bonus, next time my shower drain clogs, I don't have to pour chemicals, and more money, down the drain.

So be sure to use salespeople for advice.  You don't have to take it, and you might be surprised at the help they can offer. Ask specific questions to help them help you. There is a lot of bad service out there (don't even get me started on my credit union), but every once in awhile you will find a gem.

12.01.2011

Really Good Kitchen Ideas Part One

Kitchen Gadgets that Really Work!

I've spent more time in the kitchen in the past six months that I have in the last 10 years. I've learned that if you want to eat healthy on a budget, you're gonna have to prepare your own food 90% of the time. I wouldn't consider myself lazy, but if there is an easier way to to do something I'm all for it. It's all about efficiency!

Today's really good idea is to share the kitchen gadgets that have become invaluable to me this year so you might get some great gift ideas for the efficient person in your life.

Immersion Blender: You can likely replace that big bulky normal blender with one of these (unless you like to chop ice a lot- wouldn't recommend it with the stick blenders). I got mine at Kohl's. It came with a wisk attachment that I never use and a tall container to blend in which I couldn't photograph because it's dirty. I make a batch of smoothies every day and so far my stick blender has held up to the task.




Citrus Squeezer: Yes, these really work and they are actually quite fun to use. You will get so much more juice out of your citrus! It's a very quick way to lightly season your fresh veggies, and add that essential lime juice to your guacamole. I've discovered that I have a knack for making very good guac, and I don't ever want to put ketchup or mustard on my veggie burgers again. The citrus squeezer has changed my life in many ways. Can't tell you where my model came from; it was a gift from the very smart friend of course. These things are everywhere.




Silicone Egg Cup Thing: My mom makes great eggs, and recently gave me her original set of egg coddlers. I used them for a bit but couldn't ever get the egg just right, never just like mom's.  Always watery or over-cooked, not qualities I was seeking in my morning egg. So I came across these modern versions which really work great!

Simply spray the inside of the cup with just a bit of your oil of choice, crack the egg in, and set in a shallow pan of boiling water. You will have to experiment with the amount of cooking time. If you like your whites cooked and your yolks a bit "loose", cook your first egg for as long as it takes your sprouted bread to toast and get "buttered".  That's my recipe for the perfect egg.  I found my silicone egg cups at my favorite local kitchen shop that I can't remember the name of but they are now dead to me anyway because they moved from their convenient location on Willy St. to the Capitol Square.

What's the best way to spray the inside of your egg cup? With a Misto of course! I have two of them, one for olive oil and one for the inevitable canola oil. I could use two more as my sister gave me some much-coveted avocado oil and a few flavored oils from Fustini's. Oil misters are great because they don't need propellents to spread just a light mist of oil on your pan or baking sheet. Plus, you will use a lot less oil. When you are shopping for one you will see some negative reviews about clogging. Those negative people did not read the instructions or just don't care; if you clean your mister out every once in a while you won't have a problem. Get a multi-pack; trust me.

Originally I thought I had just a few good ideas of kitchen gadgets, but as I was grabbing my citrus squeezer for tonight's guacamole batch I came across a few more 2011 acquisitions that just can't be overlooked. I probably should have done the Twelve Days of Kitchen Gadgets, but that really good idea will have to wait until next year... oh dear Lord someone has already done it.

Got a kitchen gadget that has changed your life?  Share it with the rest of us!

11.30.2011

The Recipe for "Who Hash" Revealed?!?

You're a foul one, Mr. Grinch.  But I would still touch you with a thirty-nine-and-a-half-foot-pole for the inspiration.  Today's really good idea is to make sure you have some fun with your recipe mistakes!

I was looking for a good way to use up my leftover turkey and remembered this awesome recipe:
Turkey Quinoa Meatloaf
Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup quinoa
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 (20 ounce) package ground turkey- I used cooked leftovers
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon hot pepper sauce
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 egg- nah, just a can of black beans
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar- for the topping (I skipped this part)
  • 2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce- for the topping (I skipped this part)
  • 1 teaspoon water- for the topping (I skipped this part)

Directions

  1. Bring the quinoa and water to a boil in a saucepan over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the quinoa is tender, and the water has been absorbed, about 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  2. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  3. Heat the olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion; cook and stir until the onion has softened and turned translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute; remove from heat to cool.
  4. Stir the turkey, cooked quinoa, onions, tomato paste, hot sauce, 2 tablespoons Worcestershire, egg, salt, and pepper in a large bowl until well combined. The mixture will be very moist. Shape into a loaf on a foil lined baking sheet. Combine the brown sugar, 2 teaspoons Worcestershire, and 1 teaspoon water in a small bowl. Rub the paste over the top of the meatloaf, if you are in the mood.
  5. Bake in the preheated oven until no longer pink (for uncooked turkey) in the center, about 50 minutes. An instant-read thermometer inserted into the center should read at least 160 degrees F (70 degrees C). Let the meatloaf cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

My turkey was already cooked and therefore I would not achieve "the mixture will be very moist". I just chopped it up into small bits. I also didn't want to add an egg but as luck would have it, I had a can of organic black beans for added protein and moisture. I followed the recipe other than those modifications, and doubled the hot sauce for an extra kick. It really seemed to be moist enough so I shaped into two loaves and cooked and cooked, and cooked.  An hour and 10 minutes later I had a nice crumbly pile of Turkey Loaf Stuff, which my very smart friend promptly named "Who Hash"!  The flavor is great and I will likely serve it over cauliflower (like I did with my polenta-gone-wrong!).  Cauliflower fixes everything, and I will most likely make Who Hash again. As an added benefit, Who Hash is so dry it makes you crave water!

11.29.2011

Dining "Out" on a Budget

Are you having a craving for your favorite local restaurant but you want to stay home? Think of one of your go-to favorites and google it, you will likely find the actual recipe or something very close!  Try the Great Dane's Inner Warmth Peanut Stew and Panera's Black Bean Soup to get started; both of these recipes have been sampled at home by my very smart friend and they are very good!

The next time I'm craving cheese but simply can't drive to Chicago, I'll try this Pizza Pot Pie from the Chicago Pizza Oven.  Naughty, indeed. Now if only there was a recipe for the entire menu at Shaw's Crab House....

Lastly, try this great site if you want to browse for ideas.

Happy eating!