Archive for the ‘simplicity’ Category

On workdays I don’t have a lot of time for breakfast. I had gotten into the habit of eating poorly, whether that be grabbing a couple of Pop-Tarts, stopping at a fast food joint for a biscuit (and soda, since I don’t like coffee), or getting a 3-egg omelet from the restaurant downstairs in my office building. Eating is important to getting physically fit and it’s the area I fail the most, which is why I’ve struggled a lot with building fitness and losing weight.

In one of my runner magazines, I saw a suggestion for “summer porridge,” because it was easy, healthy, and something that can be prepared the night before. If you’re not familiar with summer porridge, it’s basically oatmeal that has time to soak the liquid up overnight in the refrigerator, removing the need to cook the oatmeal. Perfect if you have a limited amount of time in the morning. Here’s my simple recipe:

1/3 cup quick cook steel cut oats
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup plain yogurt
1/3 cup fruit
1/2 tablespoon honey

Note that all the key ingredients are 1/3 cup. That’s what makes it easy to remember.
I throw the ingredients into a container, mix the ingredients together with a spoon, and then put the porridge into the refrigerator, where it’s waiting until morning. It’s been great! I find the meal refreshing, filling without being too heavy, and I stay full until lunch time. Also, I’m getting real fruit, not fruit juice (which too often has added sugars), I’m getting the oatmeal for fiber, and the yogurt helps with digestion.

Now you may be thinking, “What kind of yogurt?” I did. There are some recipes that say to use Greek yogurt and that if you substitute with regular yogurt, you need to reduce the milk. I am using regular yogurt but I didn’t reduce the milk. For me, it’s the right consistency. For my wife, it’s a little too much liquid, so you’ll likely need to adjust the milk/yogurt amount depending on what type of yogurt and how much liquid you like with your oatmeal.

As for the plain yogurt, I did see recipes that called for vanilla flavored yogurt. In my case, I’m getting enough sweetness through the fruit and the honey. Therefore, I didn’t want the added sugar that you get with flavored yogurt.

That brings me to the last item, which is the fruit. We’re in winter and fresh berries aren’t available where I live. I do have frozen blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, etc., in my freezer. I have found that if I measure out the 1/3 cup and combine, that by morning the fruit are chilled but no longer frozen. Therefore, I don’t bother trying to defrost them.

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Here is where I had a lunch time meeting today:


It’s another private spot in downtown Columbia, another place to get away. Today’s lunch meeting consisted of an alumni board meeting for my high school alma mater. It was a conference call and it was my first as part of the board. As a result, I wanted to:

  • find a place of privacy.
  • find a place of serenity and quiet.
  • get some sun.
  • steer clear of the office.

The fountain in this location is more prominent and the flowing water is soothing. This particular spot, while in downtown, is located on side streets where there isn’t a lot of traffic. As a result, I was able to focus on the conference call and make good use of the time.

Even when you find private spots, consider what is good and and bad about each one. I could have gone to the spot yesterday, but the amount of background noise would have been in competition with the voices on the phone, even with a headset. This particular spot is slightly less private (more people know about it) but always much quieter, even with people present. That’s why today’s spot was the best place for me to attend my meeting.

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New mortar & pestle!I used to be a collector. Not a collector in the traditional sense where one focuses on a particular hobby like stamps or coins or tea cups. I mean where if I started to get one of something and there was more variations of it, I felt almost compelled to get the rest, even if I realized I wasn’t going to use them. I have quite a few chess books because of this.

My compulsion to want to “complete the collection” also fed into the desire to get the latest and greatest. Case in point: video game consoles. I had a Super Nintendo as soon as I could “afford” one, I bought a Sega Saturn because of Nights Into Dreams, I made sure to be one of the first to get the Playstation when it showed up and I got lucky and was able to find the Playstation 2 in a big box store where they didn’t take pre-orders. A friend won a chance at an XBOX 360 pre-order but he didn’t want it, so I bought it off of him. That last one may have been the best thing I ever did to break these habits.

At the time, there were only one or two games suitable for young children on the XBOX 360. This was before Viva Pinata! The only game we cared about was King Kong. And for a good long time, it was really the only game we cared about available for XBOX 360 for young kids. Eventually, a co-worker offered to buy the 360 off of me because it was just sitting there collecting dust. I sold it and realized I didn’t miss it. That’s when I realized I didn’t need the latest and greatest. Yes, we have an XBOX 360 again, as my boys are teens and there is Viva Pinata and Kinectimals and other titles intended for a younger audience. However, I’ve still not picked up a PS3 and I’ll probably wait a while on Nintendo’s new Wii offering.

Why does all this matter? Because plenty of folks who were happy with their purchases when they made them are unhappy when they are not SOTA (State of the Art – thank you Shadowrun) any longer. For something like the iPad 3, that SOTA period was about 7 months. And that’s spurred the following posts:

My family’s iPad 3 is only a few months old. We obtained it for homeschool and entertainment and at the time we purchased it, it was more than enough for us. How much have things changed with the announcement of the iPad 4? Nothing has changed. It is still more than enough for us. And the thing is that I bet for all those iPad 3 owners out there, they were fine with their iPad 3 until the iPad 4 announcement. So what changed? Only attitudes and desires. The iPad 3 didn’t suddenly rust and corrode and fall apart. It is still just as capable and powerful as it was prior to the announcement.

When we have something that does the job or more, then it’s perfectly fine not having the latest and greatest. We don’t have to keep up with SOTA. In fact, keeping up with SOTA can cause a lot of stress and worry and certainly impacts our finances. There are better places to spend the time and money. Now, if you’ve got something that’s not doing the job or you had already decided to treat yourself, that’s a different story. But if what you have is working for you, be satisfied with it.

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Experience IceeIn our lives we’re too often focused on the big things: savings, retirement, jobs, houses, vehicles, finding the right one to marry, etc. We can and do miss the little things. However, the little things matter. They matter an awful lot more than we give them credit for.

This past weekend I dropped off my wife and daughters so they could attend a birthday party. My boys and I spent the afternoon geocaching and we trekked through a suburban shopping center and into a bit of wilderness near by, all in 100 degree weather. We love to go geocaching and the boys and I have found that it’s a great bonding experience. All in all we had our best day geocaching ever, knocking out 10 geocaches, including 3 found earlier in the day when the girls were with us. But that wasn’t the best part.

The best part, I think, was when we went back to that suburban shopping center hot and thirsty looking for refreshment. We stopped at a place known mainly for cookies and ice cream because I remembered that they had Icee treats. The boys and I ordered our cool refreshments and then got back into the van to go get the girls. The Icee treats were naturally a big, big hit.

Why do I think that the Icee drinks were the best part? Quite simply, when both boys separately told me what a wonderful day they had, the Icee was mentioned first. I had some left over when we got the girls and I gave it to my 7 year-old daughter. At the end of the day, birthday party included, the thing she talked about the most was the Icee. She didn’t get a full one yet it was the highlight of her day. If you had asked me when the day begun would I have ever thought an Icee would make that much of an impact, I would have said, “No.” If you had asked me after ordering and receiving the Icee treats if I thought they would be the highlights of the day, I would have responded the same way.

Don’t get so caught up in the big things that you miss or overlook the little things. Even worse, don’t become so consumed with big goals and big dreams and big objectives that you neglect the little ones. If you do, you’ll likely find that some little one was really a big one in disguise. That day I just described it was that Icee, which represented the star on top of the Christmas tree, the finishing touch to a great day. It could be anything.

It could be a brief conversation with someone you don’t know that well which leads to a lifelong friendship. It could be offering a helping hand to a neighbor who returns the favor when tragedy strikes in your life. It could be a memory you’ll retain forever of watching your daughter splash in a $5 pool bought at a local big box store. These are all examples of how little things are really big things. Don’t neglect the little things.


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I picked this up on Sunday: a simple pressed metal lantern with all the sides enclosed. It is designed to hold a candle of a decent size. The one seen burning here is rated for 35 hours.

However, I didn’t get it for the light it puts out, which is relatively little. Rather, by using a scented candle, in this case lavender, it adds to the experience of sitting on the porch at night. Because the only exit from the lantern is at the top, the scent from the candle is an occasional one when the breeze catches it just right. Therefore, it isn’t overwhelming. Couple with this that lavender is supposed to help one relax and de-stress, making it perfect to burn after a long day at work.

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Life isn’t fair. Bad things can and will happen. If we focus solely on these things, we actually worsen our health. The key is to consider things and reasons to be grateful. There is a health benefit, as described in this Psychology Today article from 2009. Not only does being grateful help our physical health, it helps our mental health, too, but we tend to feel happier, too. The circumstances don’t change, but the weight we give to the negative aspects lessens and this balances out our perspective.

One simple exercise given in Enjoy Every Sandwich is to every day think about 2-3 things to be grateful for. This allowed a doctor knowingly facing esophageal cancer (with a 90% mortality rate) to face life head on, to make the most of each and every moment he had left. It was a practice he had before that fateful diagnosis and it served him well as he fought a disease that he beat once but ultimately lost to. While Dr. Lipsenthal did this each night, it might be better to do this each morning, to start your day. That way you start it with the attitude of gratitude.

Take the time each day to be grateful. You will be healthier and happier for it.

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There’s so much going on nowadays. As we try to prioritize things, it’s really easy to lose time and resources focusing on things we can’t really change or don’t really matter. I was having just such a conversation with a co-worker on Friday. He was feeling overwhelmed. It was stressing him out. I shared with him the following graphic (I first saw this at The Happiness Project):

I’m not a graphic artist, but I think this gets the point across. Two circles:

  • What I can control
  • What  matters (to me)

There are things I can control that aren’t important. Why waste time on those things? If I have time to get to them then maybe I attack them. But as it stands, I have more than enough to do without worrying about stuff that doesn’t matter.

There are things that matter over which I have no control. It doesn’t matter how much I worry, stress, etc. over those things, I can’t change them. To spend any more time on them would also be a waste of time.

It’s only at the intersection of the two that we can make a real difference in our lives. We should focus on things that we can control that matter to us. Even this subset of things is probably a list a mile long. Those are the things we prioritize, though. And when something pops up outside of this intersection, we don’t waste cycles on it. Maybe one of those things drifts eventually into the intersection. Then we give it a priority and we deal with it when we get to it, in its proper order.

I know this is the ideal and that I focus time and effort on things that don’t matter or worry and fret about things over which I have no control. The key is to realize when I am behaving this way so I can minimize the amount of time wasted. For instance, my hair is naturally going gray and it’s going gray at a pretty good clip. Yes, I have control over what my hair color is if I want to resort to dyeing it but does it matter? No. So I don’t think about it. In fact, the only time I ever think about what color my hair is occurs when someone mentions it. And then it doesn’t linger. I’m at peace with my hair color. It is the other things that I haven’t come to terms with that I have to watch out for.

And, by the way, I do consider prayer being included in what I can control. So if something matters to me, then I do include prayer as an option. Some people may laugh at this, but it’s part of my faith. I believe prayer works. I realize that some don’t. If you don’t, don’t include it in your options of what you control.



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