Resolving to Do More and Stress Less in 2014

This isn't exactly a New Year's Resolutions list, so much as it's a Stay Sane and Productive list.

I've decided that I've been acting a little bat-shit crazy, at least in my own mind. I'm turning to the internet far too often as a distraction. I'm also over-binging on the binge watching of shows that I missed. As entertaining as that all can be, it's not very productive and it'll make you nuts, if it goes on too long.

But turning to the internet and Netflix is the only way I've been dealing with my overnoodling issue. Overnoodling is my sweet little way of saying Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. I tend to obsess and compulse in times of high stress, which this year, were more often than I could handle. We got through it all, but the leftover affect has been an uptick in my hyper-vigilance and crazy making level of overnoodling. Now I'm constantly worried about locked doors, leaving a light on to make it look like we're home when we're not, and, OH MY GOD is that gas I smell??? All these little worries tend to take up most of my thoughts when I'm not careful, leaving me utterly dysfunctional, rolling myself up into a binge watching ball on the couch.

For 2014, I'm promising myself is to stay out of that loop of crazy, so as much as I hate the triteness of resolutions, I'm stating them out loud on my blog so that I have some kind of accountability. And really, there are only TWO resolutions I'm making for 2014:

1) Keep my idle hands and obsessive mind busy.

2) Set up safeguards to set my mind at ease.

Do More

Sewing:

I've decided to give sewing another try. I had a sewing machine in the 90's when I had my oldest kids. By the time I remarried in 2000, and later had my youngest kids, the sewing machine was just a thing in the garage that constantly reminded me that I failed at something so simple.  I'm sure I gave up on it too easily, most likely trying to run before I could walk. Rather than try again, I sold it at a garage sale for far too little.

Now I wish I would've kept it, not only because I don't want to have to buy a new one, but because someone recently told me that sewing is a great way to tune out from the stress of life. It's certainly a great way to do more AND stress less, so it's going to be my number one thing to do this year. I'll just have to remember to take it easy and just sew some basic things with straight lines. I added a few pins from Tonic Living to my Casa Jones board. I absolutely fell in LOVE with these fabulous fabrics.

Aren't those GORGEOUS??? And just bold enough to wake up all the off white and natural woods that I have filled my home with. I plan to make a few pillows for the couches, some seat pads for the folding chairs outside, and some curtains for the living room and dining area…

...just as soon as I get myself a new sewing machine.

Building:

I've also got a few ideas for our patio. Right now, there's a really awful cover over our barbecue island. It's being held up by to posts that are intruding on our small space. Visible just above it are the front neighbor's stairs to her tiny terrace. Hardly anyone is ever on those stairs, but they're sort of intrusive. And if someone IS on the stairs, well, that's when they're completely intrusive. I found a few patio and terrace ideas (while pinning, naturally) that I'm planning to accomplish this year. The first one is going to involve taking down the old patio cover (reclaiming the wood for a future project) and putting up a little something like this:

The plan is to build it high enough to cover the back of my neighbors stairs without losing too much ambient light that a solid wall would surely block. Somewhere at the top, we'll be hooking up one end of a patio cover and adding some strings of outdoor lights. But first, the slats.

Walking:

Ahhh, walking… without it, I'm a flabby blob of crazy. For some reason, I stopped walking around October. I think that was the height of stress here, I'm not sure. It's all a big haze of craze. The one thing I should NEVER have given up at that point was walking. It's a stress reliever and a great way to burn fat. Thankfully, I was asked to join a WiiFitU Challenge for Nintendo Brand Ambassadors and that was all the motivation I needed to get off my toosh and back on the beach for my regular walks. We were each given a Wii U Fit Meter and divided up into four teams, each competing against the others for most steps taken and altitude climbed. I started trying to just get 5,000 steps in every day, but when we kept coming in second, a bunch of us on the Green Team decided to literally step it up, nearly doubling our personal daily step goals.

And that's how we won!!!

Those steps do burn calories, which is great for weight loss (I lost eight pounds after one month on the challenge… HOLLLAAAA!!), but really, it's more about staying sane! If I don't go out and take those daily walks, the obsessive mind takes over. And that's never good. So now my goal, since I know I can do it, is at least 10,000 steps a day. It's not really that hard to do. It's more about making the time and getting out there. And the Fit Meter connects with the Wii U Fit program on the Wii U, which is filled with all kinds of fun calorie burning games that keep me on a nice endorphins buzz. That'll definitely help with the stressing less.

Stress Less

WeMo Switch

Waking up in the middle of the night in a did-I-leave-the-lights-on-to-make-it-look-like-someone-is-home freak outs when we're away is no way to stay sane. OH! And the iron! Because you know how I'm always wondering if the iron is still on… 

Thankfully, I was given this amazing little gadget that I've set up at Casa Jones to help end those freak outs. The WeMo Switch by Belkin is a WiFi enabled switch that allows me to turn electronics on and off using an app on my smartphone. So now when we're away, I can easily control my lights and electronics!

To really be stress free, the app allows me to set up all of my electronics on a schedule. The WeMo Switch app can handle multiple switches, so we can set a switch for lights in every room. Maybe even a radio or a television somewhere. 

Hmmm… I might be overnoodling again.

NetCam HD 

Another gadget we got to put my worrisome mind at ease is the NetCam HD by Belkin. Also WiFi enabled, the NetCam HD has night vision, a wide angle lens, crystal clear audio, and is accessible through my smartphone. I can even save live video through the app. When we're away, I have it monitoring our home. And when we're not traveling, I can set it up in the learning center to make sure the kids are actually working on their lessons while I'm walking on the beach.

So now I can have some peace of mind being able to access these gadgets anywhere I'm connected through the apps at my fingertips on my Verizon LG G2. 

Sweet!

Here's to stressing less and doing more in 2014!

FeastPDX Day 3: Now We're Cooking!

WAIT!!! Did you read about Day 1 and Day 2? Oh good. Glad we're all caught up.

~~~ 

Rarely do I put up the Do Not Disturb sign on my door. I like coming back to a bed that's made, a sink that's been wiped down, and fresh towels. It's like a visit from the Clean Fairy.  But when I wake up late and have to make a mad dash out of my room, leaving my tech gear and clothes all over the bed, I put the sign out. I looked back at the mess on my way out and thought, "Good thing I'm not bringing anyone back to my room!" 

This guarantees that you most definitely WILL bring people back to your room. 

But more on that later. 

On to the awesome events of FeastPDX Day 3 :

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I rushed over to the main stage at Director's Park for the event I'd been looking forward to: Whole Foods Best Butcher and Fish Monger Face Off.  I saw some people signing in at table and walked over to see if this was where I needed to be. When I gave my name, this absolute sweetheart named James complimented me on my blog, to which I answered, "Oh no... I think you have the wrong Sugar." Then he said, "Sugar Jones... Sugar in the Raw, right?"

And I died. 

Bloggers: You know... I mean, you KNOW what it's like to write and write and write and then wonder what people think. I mean, you have analytics that tell you people are reading, or at least showing up, but unless there is a random giveaway or a spammer from Bangladesh, comments are very rare any more. So when we get to meet people that validate you with kind words... bloggers... you know what I'm talking about. 

*sniff*

Okay, back to the Butchers and Fish Mongers. 

After James and "The Little Picklers" signed me in, I walked into a VIP viewing area off to the side of the tent where the contests would be taking place.

I met up with the other bloggers that I had made friends with (thanks to my on-line-now-IRL-friend, Brandie Kajino of Spoon and Saucer) and had the most interesting Bloody Marys ever. The Bloody Mary toppings bar was filled with foods that I thought were munchies. When I asked where the plates were, the bartenders said, "Oh those aren't to eat off a plate. You skewer them for your drink." Having never put meatballs, ribs, artichokes, or mussels in a drink before, the whole exercise made me go outside of my comfort zone with food.

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After three Bloody Marys and watching the first part of the fish mongering contest, I ran over to Le Cordon Bleu (which, if you're ever there for a cooking class, it's in the same building as Target downtown) to take my classes on condiments and salt block cooking.

Andrea Slonecker (author of Pretzel Making at Home) was the instructor for our class, Homemade Condiments, Sweet and Savory. Altogether, we made three condiments (tomato paste, mustard cream, and parsley butter with horseradish), a salty caramel sauce, and our very own pretzels. I enjoyed the class so much, I had to buy her book.

We used a special vanilla-infused salt in our caramel from a specialty salt store, The Meadow. Turns out, the proprietor of that store is the country's leading salt expert AND the instructor of my salt block cooking class. 

Mark Bitterman is as enthusiastic about salt as anyone I've ever met. He will tell you, unequivocally, NOT to use Koshier salt. I don't know why... just DON'T DO IT! In this class, we used beautiful Himalayan sea salt blocks. A natural chemical reaction occurs when you place food on salt blocks, causing the foods to absorb the flavors of these salt blocks. 

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We sliced cucumbers 1/8" thick and placed them all over a block to sit for 20 minutes, then flip for another 20. I thought I might cut the time by 5 minutes on each side because those cucumber slices were a wee bit too salty for my liking, but as we talked about it, I thought about how good they would taste diced and tossed into a ceviche. 

While the cucumbers were absorbing the salt of one block, we worked on chopping a beautiful piece of Kobe beef into teeny tiny bits for Steak Tartare to eventually top on the cucumber slices, we grilled scallops on a block heated to 500 degrees, and then watched as Mark melted chocolate into a fondue in a salt bowl. We washed all that down with a mint julep served in a -- you guessed it -- salt cup. It was all amazing and I fully plan to add a salt block (and Mark's book on Salt Block Cooking) to my kitchen.

I made it to one last Speaker Series that left me wishing I still lived on my 1/2 acre with my chickens and fruit trees. The panelists of Beat the Devil: Create an Awesome Food Business Without Selling Your Soul were all business owners who found success simply doing things thoughtfully and ethically. 

Each panelist was asked about their early experiences in their respective businesses. Here were snippets of each of their responses:

Piper Davis (Grand Central Baker): "There was no plan other than to get up and do a job that we wanted to do ever day." She also added a bit of advice to "adjust your expectations about money when in a sustainable business."

Chuck Eggert (Pacific Foods): Their early goal was simply "to become the most respected brand in natural products. "We've never done anything to apologize for." 

 A.C. Gallo (Whole Foods Market): A.C. grew up in a family that had a market in NY. He read Chemical Feast when he was in college and decided to become a vegetarian. He left school to work at alternative bulk whole natural food market, which lost many of its providers when California passed a stricter "organic" law. His guiding principle then became integrity and always asks himself, "What is the right thing to do?"

Kim Maleck (Salt & Straw):  This panelist left the biggest impression on me. I don't have a direct quote (probably because I was enthralled by what she was saying), but the gist of what Kim was saying was that she just wanted a place where people come to hang out and get to know their neighbors while enjoying a little something in her shop.

Kim's professional career started at Starbucks when there were only 30 stores and eventually enjoyed a string of awesome jobs, including a project she worked with Bono on. She had a secret dream to open an ice cream shop, but ran away from it for years. Thankfully, her boyfriend and her cousin helped her make that dream come true and now she has a popular community ice cream shop that serves  

Steve Smith (Smith Tea Maker):  Didn't know anything about tea or blending when he started. Learned while working. Took time off in Europe. Saw how the artisans were doing it. Goals were not to open hundreds of locations, but to serve an artisan product. His goal was to "have a unique product and to rise above the noise in a crowded market."

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That afternoon, I met up with some more on-line friends for the first time. I might have snuck them into the media lounge for some wine tasting and then might have asked them back to my room at the former gay bath house. Just as I walked up to the door of my room, I saw the Do Not Disturb sign and remembered the mess I left inside.

Damn that Murphy and his laws!!!!

Thankfully, we were all tipsy. I went through the bags of stuff we got from our visit to Feast and gave them as much stuff as I could so that I could fit the remaining items into ONE box of wine (and other tasty treats)  to get them on to my flight under Alaska Airlines' new Wine Flies Free program. So if I ever invite you to my messy room, just know that there will be food and drinks involved, so just ignore the towels on the floor, okay?

The last event I attended was High Comfort. I'd tell you all about it, but Irvin did such a great job of that over at my new obsession, Eat the Love. Go check it out! 

OH! One last thing... 

Do you know what else I learned while at Feast PDX? I learned to rely on Evernote. I used this amazing app on my Samsung Galaxy S4 and Samsung Galaxy Camera from Verizon to collect my thoughts in several notebooks, attaching images taken with my devices right into the notes. And while I was connected, the notes synced with my Evernote account in the cloud and eventually back onto my desktop. It was like a lightbulb moment when I finally made myself use it. With as many gadgets as we have available, it's the ability to be connected anywhere on those devices that make life that much easier.

Whew... I'm hungry. I'm gonna go make something to eat... 

Juice Up with Mophie + Giveaway

Remember in the old days when you had to stay plugged in to the wall and you had to choose between going out into the sun or working? Our mobile lives are second nature to us. We don't think twice about being able to work from the road with all the devices at our disposal.

Until, of course, we run out of juice. 

Suddenly, we're panicking, looking for an outlet as feverishly as Jesse looking to score on Breaking Bad.  You can hear your snarky friends saying "ABC... Always be charging!" You think about every opportunity you had to plug in but didn't because you're invincible and that extends to your devices and that arrogance just lead to that very moment where you are standing in the middle of nowhere, waiting for a train at a deserted location between a lumber yard and a grove of trees, and not being able to finish a post that you are half way through. (Okay, maybe that was ME, but you get it, right?)

Well, no need to get the sweaty face of junkie Jesse... Mophie is here to save your mobile behind!

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Because Mophie loves you. And truth be told, I love my Mophie Juice Pack Power Station right back! So does my husband and my friends who were recently saved by the juicy goodness of the power station.

 

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And since Mophie probably loves all of you guys, too, I'm going to give you all a chance to win one! Just leave me a comment below and share this post on at least one of your favorite social channels. Winner will be chosen on Friday, June 21st. 

If you don't win or if you aren't patient enough to wait for the announcement next Friday, you can pick up your own Mophie Juice Pack Power Station. BONUS: They're on sale right now! Save $10 when you buy a Mophie Juice Pack Power Station during the month of June at your local Verizon store or order on-line

Good Luck! 

Saturday in Seattle

While we were up in Redmond for the Nintendo shoot, we decided to spend a day in Seattle at Pike's Place Market. None of us had ever been, so it was a whole lot of fun discovering it together.  

We knew that Pike Place Fish Market was the well known place where fish mongers throw fish, but other than that, we really had no idea what else to expect. Once we came around the corner and saw the famous Public Market sign and clock and the bustling crowd, we all got really excited. It was like walking into a living postcard! 

 

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While we never saw anyone throw a single fish, we did get a nice shot of the kids in front of the fish counter. Because we're awesome tourists, that's why. 

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We didn't really have much of a plan other than to walk around, take in the sights and smells, and try to stay warm.  We arrived early enough to avoid huge lines at most of the popular spots. Our first stop was a little donut stand, manned by a sweet, albeit, scary looking dude. Fresh, warm donuts plopped down off of the small conveyor belt to keep up with the long line that was forming as we left.

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We walked out of one area, and then into another, and then BOOM! So many beautiful flowers! There were rows and rows of gorgeous tulips, hyacinth, daffodils and so many other flowers of every hue! And just behind the blooms were rows of ladies, quietly and masterfully assembling lovely bouquets to sell.

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Thanks to the awesomeness of social media, I was let in on a little bit of deliciousness. It was suggested by more than one person to go have some Mac & Cheese at Beecher's. I'm so glad we did! I don't think I've ever tasted cheese so delicious.

(Side note: We almost missed our flight grabbing some more mac & cheese at the last minute in the terminal. Seriously good cheese!!)

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We walked over to the waterfront so that the kids could ride on the ferris wheel while Mr. Jones and I had some quiet time over a cuppa coffee. While we were sipping, we got some interesting texts from the top.

"OH MY GOD THIS IS SO HIGH!!!!" 

Glad we decided on the coffee. 

On the way back over to the Farmer's Market, we noticed a sign for "THE GUM WALL" and a crowd of people walking in the direction the sign was pointing. I was too curious to pass that up. Apparently, the attraction was an alley wall surrounding the entrance of a theater that was covered with (yep, you guessed it) gum.

Along the Gum Wall were notes that had been stuck on and little "icicles" dripping from ledges. Boys lined up to throw their gum against a high window, cheering whenever a wad would stick. 

While I thought it was hilarious... delightful, even... my kids couldn't have disagreed more.

 

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We definitely enjoyed the sites...  

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the smells...

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 and the sounds of this Seattle landmark. 

We especially enjoyed this little ditty that we caught on video:

Can't wait to visit again! 

 

Introducing the Yummy New HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE!

Recently, Verizon sent me the new HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE to try out. Since my husband was dealing with an older clunkier version, I decided to let him try it out for me. The latest version of the Incredible comes with the Android Ice Cream Sandwich operating system, boosted and abetted by the HTC Sense 4.0 user interface. I'm not talking about the creamy frozen dessert

but this delicious little bit of technology:

Within a few minutes of handing over the new Droid, I regretted my self decision.

The first thing I noticed (and envied) was the bigger, brighter, sharper looking screen. The 4-inch Super LCD screen is bigger than the iPhone 4S display, but it's still smaller than the recent Android Mr. Jones had been carrying. The screen colors are so bright and vibrant. I just wanted to keep touching the shiny device.

The Incredible 4G LTE comes with a rich selection of media choices, including Verizon Video, HTC’s own Watch video store, a combined Music app and the Beats Audio package, and the 8 megapixel camera is back but this time accompanied by a VGA front-facing camera and all the latest photo options and editing tools.

The new Incredible 4G LTE also includes additional built-in apps include VZ Navigator, Amazon Kindle, My Verizon Mobile and many more.

But the biggest different from the version that Mr. Jones was carrying around (and from the most recent version two years ago) is the addition of the super fast Verizon 4G LTE network. This is where I really wish I would've received a His & Her's set. I am INCREDIBLY impatient when it comes to downloads, but Mr. Jones, having the older clunkier version, didn't ever download anything. He couldn't fully appreciate this, could he? I mean, the phone should really go to someone that downloads more stuff, right?

I saw how fast the device downloaded music and movies, just a fraction of the time that my phone downloads, and the consistently lag-free web browsing response, even on video... plans to trick him out of the phone flickered through my mind at lightning speed, too! But then he looked over at me with big puppy dog eyes, a glimmer of a tear in the corner of his eye as though he had just discovered something miraculous, and exclaimed,

"It plays movies! The phone plays movies!"

How can I deprive my poor husband of the amazing technology that is the HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE?

I CAN'T!!

And that's why I'll just have to go get my own.

Darn.

~~~

The HTC Droid Incredible 4G LTE costs $149.99 after a $50 online discount and requires a two-year contract. It is available exclusively through Verizon Wireless.