Friday, February 29, 2008

What Are You Doing With Your Extra Day?

Corkscrew courtesy of rawlings

What are you doing with your extra day? As many of you are probably now aware today is “leap day” No, this is “Quantum Leap Appreciation Day” (although that isn’t such a bad idea), but February 29th occurs only once every 4 years. It is, in effect, an extra day. So it is like that bonus that you might have seen at work, and a chance to do something out of ordinary.

Leap Day is an attempt to keep our calendars in synch with the earth’s rotation around the sun. Because it takes 365 days and 6 hours for one complete revolution around the sun, those 6 hours add up to one day every four years. I always remember that a leap year coincides with a U.S. Presidential Election year and the Summer Olympics. In normal years you can look at a day on the calendar falling on such and such day of the week (say February 28th, falling on Thursday) and assume that it will fall on the next day of the week the following year, but with “leap day” it will now fall one day later (on Saturday instead of Friday, in this example).

How many times have you said to yourself that there just aren’t enough hours in the day? Well, guess what, here is a whole extra day! While every day or our life should be considered a gift and we should try to make the most of them all, but this is a bonus. You might be saying to yourself, “great this is a workday, why couldn’t it have been a weekend day?” Ok, maybe there are some things that you’ve wanted to do at work. Even if you factor your work out of the equation, you still have the remainder of the day. That should give you at least a few “extra” hours to utilize. Maybe you can do something with your “Someday/maybe” projects, work on some of those “todo” items that you’ve been neglecting. Why not do something to help celebrate this extra day, something memorable?

So enjoy your “leap day”! I’m curious to hear what interesting and creative things people do today. If you have any comments, I’d love to see them.

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Why Aren't You Working on Your "Someday/Maybe" Projects?

Why aren’t you working on your “Someday/maybe” projects? These are those projects that are you’ve been thinking about doing but aren’t currently doing, commonly referred to in GTD (Getting Things Done) as those “Someday/Maybe”. David Moldawer at Lifeclever has come up with a unique way for you to accomplish more of those “Someday/Maybe” projects.

Everyone has those things that you want to do but put off. Maybe you want to write a book, paint, start a new business, any number of things. In many cases we put them off because we don’t think that we have the time to do it and focus on more pressing and urgent matters, putting it off till we have time. In most cases we don’t have huge slots of time until retirement (or worse still death), so most of us don’t do many of our dream projects.

The idea is that you take 5 minutes daily to make choices about your “Someday/maybe” project(s). The steps are as follows:

  1. Shut out all those external distractions.
  2. Grab 3 index cards
  3. Set your timer for 5 minutes
  4. Make 3 choices about your project(s).

So often, it is all the unknowns about our projects that keeps us putting them off. If you’ve made a lot of decisions about your project(s), you’ll be more able to organize them and make real progress. When you know what it is that you need to do or have made some basic or key decisions, you can work on your project(s) in chunks as it fits into your schedule (or you make it fit into your schedule). Rome wasn’t built in a day, or so they say.

David Moldawer refers to this as Creative triangulation, which he says “is all about separating your creative selves, making the high-level decisions at once without getting bogged down, and then connecting the creative dots separately.”

Of course there will be those projects that you still can’t do now, but you can take away your excuse for not doing many of those things that you’ve always wanted to do. You might not be able to afford to take that dream vacation to that far off land, take a cruise on the QE2, or start your company because money is truly an issue. You may however, give yourself the time to figure out how to finance it after all, but allowing yourself some creative time. You also engage your mind and make come up some creative solutions, when you’d least expect it.

While this might not work for all of your “Someday/maybe” projects, it can help you make real progress on a lot of them. Why not start today? Do you have any other ideas or tips on how to accomplish those “Someday/maybe” projects or do you have any other comments?

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Bringing Your Kids Art to Web 2.0

If you have kids there is probably a good chance that you have a lot of art work done by your kids (especially drawings) just lying around. How about doing something with it, aside from the obvious posting on your refrigerator or putting into a scrapbook? Hhave you thought about making a slideshow/video featuring their art? It is relatively simple to do and your kids will get a kick out of seeing their art in a video.

There are a variety of media programs that you can do this with. I use Pinnacle, but any number of programs will allow you to do this. You'll need a scanner, video editing program, and a dvd burning program (a blank dvd of course), in addition to a dvd player and television to watch it on (you can view it on your computer but the effect isn't the same).

In general, here are the steps that you'll need to do:

  1. Select the pictures or art work that you would to put into in your video. You'll probably want to select a large number, knowing that you might not be able to use them all. It is better to be able to edit down (or trim) then to try to stretch them out.
  2. Scan the pictures in. You'll want to set your scanner to a higher resolution (meaning larger file sizes) . Generally the more pixels you have in your scans, the better your pictures will look in your video.
  3. Select music for your video. There are a variety of themes that you might use in deciding what song to use. Maybe, there is a favorite song of your kids that would work nicely. Maybe, there is a song that just seems to match the art work, or maybe, something that contrasts the selected art work is what you're looking for.
  4. Put your pictures into your work area. You'll want to look over all the art work that you have scanned and put the ones that you wish to include and put them into the video work area of your video editing program for your initial sequence.
  5. Insert the music you've selected into your video to see if you have extra frames after the music stops or if the music continues for several minutes after your frames stop. This can give you an idea of if your song will work with the art that you've selected to use or if you want to add or subtract additional art work. You can also stretch or contract the interval between frames to match the length of your selected song. In some cases you may wish to stretch out the interval between frames or speed it up for dramatic effect.
  6. Remove your selected song. You can put it back in later but if you still need to do any editing, you could hurt the sound of your project if you do further editing with the music in your video.
  7. Edit your frames. There is a good chance that what you scanned is not how you want it to look in your video. The art might be framed in portrait and you want it in landscape (vertical verses horizontal). You might also want to crop or cut things out of the art. There are any variety of things that you might want to edit.
  8. Edit the length between your frames to match your music. If you have more pictures than your music, you can shorten the interval between frames whereas if you have more music than pictures, you'll want to stretch the interval out. If you have selected some art work that you think doesn't fit in, you can still delete it or change the sequence.
  9. Add your music.
  10. Save what you have done. You can save at various times or make use of auto save. It is very frustrating to put a lot of work on something and the program crashes. It doesn't hurt to save often!
  11. Preview your video. Make any adjustments that you deem necessary.
  12. Save your final version.
  13. Burn to a dvd.
  14. Enjoy watching your kids eyes light up and the laughter as they watch their art work come to life!
If you involve your kids in the process (or at least part of the process), they'll get a kick out of it and you'll have a nice keepsake memory for years to come. I put together a slideshow based on art work that my kids did in December and posted it on our channel at YouTube. Feel free to have a look.

What creative things have you do with your kids art? If you have any comments, I’d love to hear them.

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Monday, February 25, 2008

7 Tips to Stop Eating Before You Feel "Stuffed"

"Sunday Roast 2" courtesy of ronny7362
I have previously written ‘’10 Tips for Reducing Fat in Your Diet” and that the “Power of One” was a must have diet book . Here is another diet strategy from the book. The book says that you should “Stop eating when you are approaching feeling full but have not yet swallowed the lead-filled beach ball’, when it describes strategy six.

What does that mean? To put it more simply, when you’re eating a meal, you need to stop eating before you feel totally stuffed. How many times have you eaten a wonderful tasting meal and later felt guilty because you ate too much and maybe you now even feel like taking a nap as a result.

Most diets and common sense would dictate that we need to reduce our portions. You might be able to eat some of those things that you know aren’t healthy for you, if you’re able to control how much you eat. And we tend to stuff ourselves with fatty and sweat foods that are higher in calories, that only expand our waistlines.

We’ve become programmed over the years to “finish” what is on our plates. The book talks about how our body creates a fictional famine that compels us to keep eating past where we really should stop. Most of us have heard our parents (and might have even said to our kids) that we should finish our plate because there are starving kids in so and so. There is a guilt associated with not finishing your plate and this often drives us to eat what is remaining on our plate, past where our body really needs it.

To meet our body’s needs we need to stop eating after we don’t feel hungry any longer but before we reach the point where we feel “stuffed”, but how can we do this? Here are some things that you can do…

• Put smaller portions on your plate or don’t even put it on your plate to begin with. If you have smaller portions, you can finish you plate without that “stuffed” feeling.
• Don’t wait to eat until you are feeling starved. If you eat before your stomach starts making noises or are being driven by your cravings, you’re more likely to be in control of what you eat and can think with your brain instead of your belly.
• Eat your meals slower, you’re not in a race to eat as fast as you can. When you eat quickly you don’t enjoy your meals as much as if you eat them at a more leisurely pace. You also don’t “taste” all the flavor or are not able to appreciate the effort that went into making the meal if you’re racing through it.
• Walk away from the table more often. How often have you been eating a meal and something called you away from your plate, upon your return you discover that you aren’t hungry any longer?
• Don’t go back for second and third helpings.
• If you give yourself smaller portions, you can say to yourself that while that tasted good and that you realize you could eat more but since there isn’t any more on your plate you’ll stop.
• Over time you can develop a knowledge of knowing how much is enough. This knowledge needs to become second nature and a habit.

By eating to where you don’t feel hungry any longer, but don’t feel “stuffed” you find yourself well on the road to weight-loss and healthier eating. Do you have any tips to avoid “stuffing yourself” of if you have any comments, I’d love to hear them.

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Are You Managing Your Digital Photos With Picasa?

Picasa screenshot

Are you using organizing your pictures with Picasa? If you have a digital camera, you probably have hundreds (if not thousands) of pictures on your computer, so managing them can be challenging. There are lots of applications and programs that can be used with digital pictures, so deciding on what applications to use can be overwhelming. Picasa is a handy photo application that isn’t too complex for the “digital newbie” and its free.
This is the first strategy in the book.

An appealing feature of Picasa is that you can see all your pictures quickly. Have you ever fumbled through Windows Explorer trying to find a picture before? While Windows Explorer (and many of its substitutes) will give you a thumb view, the navigation with photos cumbersome. My digital camera uploads pictures in new folders buried about 4 levels deep, so that makes it that much more difficult to quickly find pictures in a normal Windows Explorer utility. Picasa lets you quickly see all your pictures and move from one folder to another. You can also apply a couple of different views to your tree of folders.

Picasa keeps an eye on your pictures so you can keep an overview. After you have initially indexed your pictures, Picasa watches your folders for new pictures. Picasa updates its information on your pictures only when it is open, so when you start it up, it will look for changes to you watched folders. You can determine what folders you would like to have watched, so it ignores all your other folders, so it doesn’t hijack any system resources.

Picasa Photo Editing Options

Picasa lets you do some simple editing, which is good for new or amateur photographers. While it doesn’t offer all the features of the more expensive photo software programs, it does offer many basic editing tools that you might need. Once you have selected a picture that you want to edit, you can remove red eye, crop pictures (remove unwanted portions of your pictures), as well as adjust the contrast and color all under the “Basic Fixes” (see "Picasa Photo Editing Options" screeshot above). Under the “Effects’ tab you can turn your picture into a black and white photo, give it a grainy look, apply a “Soft Focus”, and apply a “Glow” or a “Focal B&W”.

"Photo Tray"

Picasa services

I often order pictures online via Picasa. As you click through your pictures, the active one will appear in your “Photo Tray” located in the lower left corner of Picasa (see "Photo Tray" screenshot above). By clicking on the “Hold” button, you can gather pictures that you want to order. You can also star your pictures. I like to do this with pictures that I have ordered so that I can quickly find them (for those times that Oma wants more copies of the pictures to send to her friends). Finally after you have select the pictures that you want to order, you can click on “Order Prints”, found in the lower right corner of Picasa (pictured above in the "Picasa services" screenshot). You can also use your printer on your photos (the “Print” button is pictured above in the "Picasa services" screenshot as well). After doing some calculations I determined that it was cheaper to order prints online than to print them off my computer. After clicking on “Order Prints”, you can select the region that you’re ordering from and there will be various services for you to select regardless of weather you’re in the U.S., Germany, New Zeeland, or many other locations. Picasa transmits my pictures to the service that I use and then a window will pop up in your web browser where you can then determine the size of pictures wanted as well as the quantity. I have to note here that how this part works will probably vary depending upon which store or service you use. One final point on ordering prints online, is to consider the file size of your pictures when they’re being transmitted. If they’re larger files, you’ll want to limit the number of pictures that you order at a time, this cuts down on the transmission time as well as the likelihood that your transmission will be disrupted! You might want to limit the pictures you select at one time to 30 or less anyways.

Picasa is part of the Google family so it integrates with other Google products and is fairly user friendly. From the lower right hand corner, you can put your pictures in Google’s “Web Album” or “Blogthis” and post your pictures directly to a Blogger blog. There is also an option to do Geotaging on your pictures with Google Earth.

Picasa also offers some other features that make it easier to organize and find your pictures. You can associate keywords with your pictures as well as adding descriptions to them. You can rename folders as well providing a place taken and further description. In addition there will be a separate album for all of your starred pictures. You can also create new albums of specific types of pictures or themes. There is also a simple batch edit that allows you to rename multiple flies. You can put a name in the box that will be applied to all pictures selected in addition to including the date in the filename.

As you can see, Picasa is a very useful photo application and it can help you to manage much of the things that you’ll want to do with your pictures. If you’re using Picasa, how are you using it? Have you found any unusual uses or applications of it? What other applications are you using to manage your pictures?If you have any comments or suggestions for items that you’d like to see covered in this blog, please feel free to leave a comment. If you like what you’ve read please help spread the word.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

We've Been Selected for a Couple of Blog Carnivals

Systems-Overload has been selected to appear in a couple of recent blog carnivals. So, what is a blog carnival? Blog carnivals are similar to magazines in that they’re a collection of articles or posts published at various intervals covering a wide variety of topics. They do differ from magazines, in that they link to the posts that they refer to, often offering a brief description of the selected posts.

"What are you giving up for Lent" was selected for the February 11th edition of the New Blog Showcase and "17 Recipe Ideas for Your Playoff Party" was selected for the February 16th Weight-Management and Fitness Forum 11th Edition. I want to think Tina at Thinksimplenow for the idea of submitting to blog carnivals. Here is a list of carnivals from a community of blog carnival publishers. Although the list contains a lot of carnivals, it should be noted that this is not a complete list of all blog carnivals.

If you find a carnival about an interesting subject, you’ll find a variety of posts about that subject from various authors. This can be a good way to quickly learn about a subject or to get a wide range of information about that subject. You can host a carnival at your site, if you’d like as well.

So why would I want to be involved in a blog carnival? Being included in an edition provides the author exposure to a different audience and will hopefully lead to increased readership. If you have any comments or suggestions for items that you’d like to see covered in this blog, please feel free to leave a comment. If you like what you’ve read please help spread the word.

I would like to thank Weightmaster and Random Yak for selecting my posts!

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Monday, February 18, 2008

10 Tips for Reducing Fat in Your Diet

"Fried Breakfast" courtesy of woodsy

Previously I have recommended “Lose Weight with THE POWER OF ONE” by Stephen Moss as a must have diet book in addition to “A Winning Attitude and Weightloss” . Today I thought that I’d discuss one of the strategies from the book. This is a basic tenant of many diets and that is to reduce the amount of fat that you consume to as low as possible. This is the first strategy in the book.

While many diets try to follow this, they build it in as an assumption, without much explanation of why and things that you can do in addition to following whatever recipes they might provide.
I think that most of us “know” in our hearts or subconscious that we need to reduce our fat intake. This is drilled into us all the time by the media, maybe we have even become numb to this fact. Aside from the extra weight that this often contributes to in people, there is the risk of cholesterol build up, heart disease, and a whole slew of other unhealthy conditions that can result from a diet containing a lot of fat.

How can I reduce the amount of fat that I consume to as low as possible? Here are some basic strategies.

  • Cut down on the number of egg yolks that you eat. You can substitute egg beater type products or often use only the egg whites
  • If you have a recipe calling for ground beef, you can remove the grease after cooking. Try using a pasta strainer and rinsing with water a few times and then reheating. If you do this a few times you’ll remove a lot of grease
  • Cook with a low fat oil or cooking spray.
  • Try to bake more than you fry.
  • Use lower fat meat in you cooking. You can make use of lower fat meats in many recipes. You might even use a meat substitute product instead of meat.
  • Reduce the amount of meat being prepared or remove it from the recipe. Maybe you can use a little bit of meat in your recipe for flavor or maybe your dish would be just fine without it.
  • When preparing poultry, remove the skin and visible fat.
  • Substitute low-fat or non-fat products where possible.
  • Taste your food before you dose it in a fatty dressing.
  • When eating in restaurants don’t order side dishes containing fat such as butter, mayo, and salad dressings
  • Be creative.

Incorporating the strategy of reducing your fat intake as much as possible can make a huge difference in your health and can greatly aid your weight-loss efforts. It also isn’t as hard as you might think. Do you have any good tips for lowering your fat intake? I would love to hear them.

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Friday, February 15, 2008

Help Us Name the Puppies

Mia and puppies (Day 1)

I hope that everyone had a really nice Valentine's Day. I hope that next year we can come up with some good ideas for the romantically challenged for Valentine's Day.

This is really a little bit off-topic for this blog, however, our breeder has a new litter of Breaded Collie puppies (10) and needs double names beginning with the letter "K". For more details (and pictures of course) go to "Help Us Name the Puppies" on the DC Heron Family blog. I'm looking forward to seeing some cute and creative names!

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Photo Organizing Tip Number 1

When I was a kid, back before digital cameras, we used to have this trunk where most of our pictures were kept. When I got a little older is was fun to go through the trunk and remember the pictures and take a journey down memory lane. The problem with our "system" (if you want to actually call it that) was that it took forever to find whatever picture(s) you might be looking for.

When I started taking pictures of my own, I decided that I would pictures into photo albums immediately, so that I could find pictures that I was looking for easier. I always have photo albums around so that I can put pictures in right away. You don't need to have super fancy albums, just something that you can easily and quickly put your pictures in. You will also want to be able to remove the pictures easily, so if you use a permanent album, it will be harder to reorganize them if you decide to do that later.

What about doing theme albums? You can still reorganize them later if you wish, but at least you have an organization to them and have a better chance of finding what you're looking for then in the "trunk" "big box" or "everywhere" systems. Putting your pictures into albums right away allows you to have a better idea of what pictures you have and you can collect them for your various themed scrapbooks and fancy albums. You'll also be able to put together themed albums a lot quicker now because you can actually find the photos you want.

The "trunk" or "big box" systems are fun for when you want to take a random trip down memory lane, but how often to you have hours to find that one picture? Do you have any special photo organizing tips that you would like to share? Feel free to tell us about them in the comments section.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Ask The Readers: Valentine's Ideas for the Romantically Challenged

"Valentines 4" courtesy of xymonau

Valentine's Day is quickly approaching and I was thinking that some of you might have some ideas of Valentine's gifts for the "Romantically Challenged". Here is my first ask the readers, what would you give...

  • Your girlfriend/boyfriend
  • Your newlywed wife/husband
  • A new girlfriend/boyfriend
  • A girlfriend/boyfriend that you're in the doghouse for what you got for Christmas, their last birthday, or Valentine's Day last year, or some other reason.
  • A girlfriend that you're planning on asking you to marry.
  • A spouse that has stood by you through some pretty hard times.
  • A longtime wife/husband that you want to show your fire still burns
  • A girlfriend that doesn't like flowers/candy
So please be creative and help out our "Romantically Challenged" friends with some Valentine's Day ideas.

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A Winning Attitude And Weightloss

Photo "Salad" courtesy of woodsy

"When we win, I'm so happy I eat a lot. When we lose, I'm so depressed, I eat a lot. When we're rained out, I'm so disappointed I eat a lot." Tommy Lasorda

Losing weight is like so many other things in life, a large portion of its success can be attributed to having the right attitude. I talked with a friend the other day who said that she had just “outed” herself at the weekly Weight Watcher meeting. She had told her group how she had told her group how she was frustrated because since the Christmas holidays she seemed to keep gaining and losing the same pounds and not getting farther in her weight loss. Her group leader and the rest of the group provide a lot of support and encouragement and it seemed to be the thing that she needed to get past that plateau. It was one of those moments of clarity for me, when I realized that so much of success in life is dependent upon having a positive, can do, or the right attitude.

When I say “Diet” in a room of 100 adults, most of them will cringe or tune me out. What is your reaction when you hear that four letter word? One of the problems is the definition the way that we think of diets. Diet has many definitions including its most basic; “the usual food and drink consumed by an organism (person or animal)” (, but most people tend to think of diet as “the act of restricting your food intake (or your intake of particular foods)” ( and to “eat sparingly, for health reasons or to lose weight” ( Sadly, many people look at a diet as a short-term highly regimented limitation on your food intake with little choice, that it sub-consciously doomed to failure. With the later definitions and beliefs it is no wonder that most “diets” (of the short-term choleric and quantitative restrictive type) fail, before they even really start.

My friend said that she would have days where she was already over on her points and figured that eating this or that then didn’t matter and that since her group was on vacation that she still had time to lose weight before the next meeting. This is a common defeatist attitude that people on “diets” often have. Life does go on and while you might find yourself having to “deviate” for a meal, a day, or so but then you need to get back to following what you know is in your own interests and not give up.

Since food is our body’s fuel and is needed for most everything that we do and can have such a dramatic impact on a whole host of health related conditions, it would be to our benefit to be more selective about the kinds and amounts of foods that we do eat. You would not put diesel into your car, if it ran on normal gasoline, or if you did it probably wouldn’t run for very long!

Heat disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes; while they can’t always be totally eliminated by diet alone, a lot of the effects can be minimized through diet and you might be at a stage in your life where you can still ward them off with a healthier diet.

Most of us have reasons to live. That is maybe you want to see your kids grow up, maybe you want to see your grandkids grow up, maybe you have exciting plans for your retirement. Whatever the reason, most of us have a reason to live and a reason that we use to help us find our attitude and motivation.

There are a lot of “diets” out there and while many of them aren’t really designed to work on a long-term basis, there are still many others that can be successfully used (you might need to modify some of them slightly). Some basic elements of a good menu of foods designed to help your body perform better and increase your health, while losing weight include the following…

· You must like enough of your selections that you can follow it on a long-term basis. I remember hearing about a cabbage soup diet and thinking that there is now way I could do that for very long. You should also be able to add recipes and other items to the selection available.

· The diet isn’t designed so that you’ll lose too much weight to fast. While crash diets, can help you lose weight quickly, losing huge amounts of pounds in a short period of time often leads to that yo-yo effect of gaining back all that you lost and gaining even more.

· The quantities of foods and the types of foods that you eat should not leave you feeling like you’re starving after having just eaten. This will almost invariably lead to cheating on your diet.

· Most diets don’t have provisions for those occasions where you don’t have good choices available (going to parties, the holidays, and so on), if your diet has such provisions, this is definitely a plus.

· The diet is made up of foods that your body needs. If your diet doesn’t provide the nutritional elements that your body needs then you might be able to use some supplemental vitamins but it is better if your body gets all that it needs from your diet.

· Should be easy to implement, with the items that you need to buy available at local stores. A family member went on a diet where she and her husband had to buy a lot of special stuff that was very expensive and while they did lose a lot of weight at one time, it all came back (and then some).

· Can you easily return to it after that occasion where you where at an event where it wasn’t possible to eat things from your diet’s menu selection? While this could fall into the easy to implement item from above, your diet should get bonus points if accommodates this point, better still if it helps you deal with those events by offering menu items you can eat or suggestions.

I have previously recommended the Lose Weight With The Power of One as a must have diet book. While it doesn’t to tell you what to eat, it will give you some strategies that should be following in incorporating any changes that you plan to make to the types and quantities of food that you eat. It is written in story form, which helps you to better absorb the strategies.

When you have found your reasons, motivation, and a “diet” that is sustainable, then you’re stacking the cards in your favor. Remember that there will probably be times where you won’t be able to follow your diet, in which case you accept this and make the necessary adjustments at the next snack, meal, or day because it is in your best interest to be healthy and you stand to gain the most of anyone by a healthy you. Do you have some tips on finding or keeping your motivation while on a diet or do you have any other good diet tips, I’d love to hear from you.

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

What Are You Giving Up For Lent?

Easter Eggs courtesy of TouTouke

Ash Wednesday, February 6th,, marked the beginning of the season of Lent. “What are you giving up for Lent?” is a question that many Christians have asked themselves and will be asking others.

In addition to the idea of giving something up for Lent (the period beginning on Ash Wednesday and ending on the Thursday before Easter), the season often includes periods of fasting and prayer. Many Catholics will eat fish on Friday, avoiding all other meat. Some people will give up meat all together for the season. Other people will give up alcohol, chocolate, and a variety of other things.

Christians don’t have a corner on fasting. Fasting is an integral part of Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, and other world religions. While the reasons and the history behind fasting in the world faiths vary, they’re often based on purifying yourself and bringing yourself to another spiritual level or awareness. Fasting can include abstaining from some or all food, drink, or both, for some period of time. During the fasting period, the fasting can be total or partial. There is also fasting for medical reasons that can promote a type of detoxification. As well as those people that might be doing some kind of hunger strike or protest. The person who has fasted will often have a new sense of appreciation for what they have. It can also show them that they can live without whatever they have given up during their period of fasting.

Regardless of if you’re Christian or not, you can use the period of Lent to make some changes in your life, to recommit yourself to the resolution(s) that you made for the new year, or you can evaluate the resolutions that you made to determine if you want to continue them or what changes you might need to make. Have you been thinking about going on a diet? Maybe you could go on a diet for the Lent period. Maybe you have been thinking about quitting cigarettes, or maybe you have been thinking about making some other changes. Because Lent is a defined period of time, you can use the time as a trial run for your change. If you find that you’re able to easily make your change, then you might be able to use that success as a spring board and adopt it permanently. If you found that you the change was too hard to make or that you really don’t want to make the change, you can decide not to permanently adopt your change without quilt because you made an agreement with yourself that it was for the Lent period.

You’ll need to establish some ground rules.
• What kind of change are you going to make?
• Will your change truly be for the whole time or only certain periods (i.e. fish on Fridays, or fasting on certain days)?
• Consider what factors might hamper your change. If you’re going to quit smoking and you usually have a cigarette after drinking a cup of coffee or having a beer, you might want to look at changing other habits that involve the habit that you’re trying to change, or that might be in conflict with the change you’re trying to make.
• What will you do when presented with situations where it is hard or difficult to comply with your change (i.e. if you give up certain types of food or are on a special diet and you are somewhere or some event where you aren’t able to comply like a party or a restaurant that doesn’t have the type of food that you’re trying to eat).
• Think of things that you can do to make your change fun and not seem like a sacrifice (especially if you’re thinking of making your change permanent).
• Involve family, friends, and co-workers in your change. Maybe you can go on a diet or quit smoking together and you can motivate each other to go on with your change.
• Hang out with others that are making the same change, have already made the change, or are likely to encourage you. Stay away or limit your contact with those people that are demotivating.
• Break it up into smaller chunks. You can do almost anything is possible if you break it up into small enough durations. With Alcoholics Anonymous they live one day at a time. With the passing of time and success, you’ll see that you can make the change and it will hopefully become easier.
• Lastly, review your experiences with the change that you made. Based on your experiences do you wish to make it permanent?

So what are you giving up for lent? What change are you going to make? Are you now recommitted to your New Years Resolutions or have you modified them? You can use the period in a spiritual sense but you can also use to at a laboratory for changes in your life. Feel free to tell us what changes you plan to make during Lent or do you have any tips that you would like to share?

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Dealing With All Your Dirty Laundry

Our Laundry System

You have probably thought about it at least once or twice, but there are some things that you do over and over in life and never seem to complete them, like laundry and dirty dishes. When while you can't do them once and for all, but there are things that you can do to help you do them in a more organized fashion and save yourself some time. This was the intention of of the shelving unit shown above.

Over the holidays I bought and built the shelving unit show in the picture and put it together in our basement. I bought it from Ikea, but I imagine that you could buy something similar or that will work in similar manner from other furniture stores or home improvement stores like Home Depot or so on. You need some sort of shelving unit with space enough between shelves for your laundry baskets (at least 4 baskets) and you might want to allow extra space to store other things.

If you don't already have laundry baskets, you'll probably want to buy some. You'll need at least 4 for the shelving unit and then a few more for transport, folding, and etc. One of the keys to our system is that you always have baskets in the shelving unit to collect your dirty clothes. At the bottom of the shelving unit is a large laundry basket for towels and whites, as we seem to have a lot of this type of load that needs to be done often. We have one basket for pinks (the girls wear a lot of pink). There are baskets for medium dark and heavy dark clothes. I've head enough colors fade in the wash changing the overall color of my clothes to recognize that they need to be properly separated.

Our house is multi-level and doesn't have laundry shoots, so we have areas where we collect laundry on a couple of floors. We can carry these devices down to the basement and sort them there. One of the good things about this set up is that you can easily see when you have enough dirty clothes to do a load, which for us is pretty often! You might want a few extra laundry baskets, because you should always have baskets in your shelving unit to collect your different loads and I've found that laundry baskets don't always make it back to the basement otherwise.

The shelving unit doesn't need to be in a basement, you can set one up (space permitting) in other locations. You could set this up in your laundry room, garage, or other areas that have enough space. Ideally you want this as close to you where you have your washer.

By having a storage unit that will accommodate the types of laundry loads that you do on a regular basis, where you can see easily see what needs to be done, can really help you keep up with your laundry. Unfortunately, you'll still need to fold, iron, and put them away, but at least you'll be more organized about it. What are your tips for handling laundry? Feel free to comment and share them.

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