5 ways to be more productive every day

5 ways to be more productive every day
We all have sooo many things we want to do. If only there was enough time in the day. If only something didn’t come up that we simply had to take care of. If only…

Kick those “if onlys” to the curb! You can get it done, and it doesn’t take a huge, life-changing brain makeover to make it happen. You just need to take a few simple steps.
  1. Move Your Body - Have you heard the good news? Exercise improves memory and brain function. You can take advantage of this to get more done in your day. First thing, before coffee or jumping on TMZ for the latest gossip, move your body. You could go for a walk. You could go for a run. Even something as simple as a few squats and arm circles will reap those brain-boosting benefits. You’ll be unstoppable!
  2. Get Rid of Distractions – Speaking of TMZ, don’t watch it…at least not when you need to get stuff done. Turn off the Internet; if you need to use it for research, set a timer or limit which sites you can visit with a utility like StayFocusd. Turn off email notifications. Put headphones on. Put a Do Not Disturb sign on your door.
  3. Create a Morning Ritual – Make your morning rock with a ritual. An effective morning ritual makes your tasks automatic, which will skyrocket your productivity. Think about it: you already have morning ritual: stuff you do every morning when you wake up. The trick is to change it slightly to achieve what you want each day. Start by deciding what tasks you want to perform each day. Exercise? Writing? Organizing? Next, attach that task to something you’re already doing, like brushing your teeth. Finally, do that task every day after your trigger. Do it for a few weeks to solidify it, and voila! You’ve got a new, productivity-boosting morning routine.
  4. Ditch the Clutter – Visual clutter is distracting. Put those piles of papers away in pretty folders in a desk drawer. Tidy up your workspace. Pick out your favorite, most meaningful couple of knick-knacks and donate the rest. Don’t forget your computer. Take all the icons on your desktop, put them in a folder and sort them out later. Close all unnecessary programs, and turn off any notifications and other distractions.
  5. Better  Done than Perfect – We paralyze ourselves by trying to reach perfection. While it seems like an admirable pursuit, it’s really just another excuse for not completing something. Do the best job you can but get it done. You can’t edit a blank page.

How do you stay productive every day? Share your tips in the comments.

Kayaking in Morro Bay

Pirate ship in front of Morro Rock in Morro Bay, California The air was cool as we pushed off from the dock. I tugged my hoodie closer and settled into the rented kayak. The day was overcast with that strange light that isn’t sunny, yet you still have to squint if you’re not wearing sunglasses. The call of sea lions floated over the ruffling water, and we began to paddle toward the pirate boat, a black and red wooden vessel with two masts. Already I was reaching the waterproof bag looped around my neck that held my iPhone. Everything, every moment, seemed picture-worthy. I was almost breathless, wanting to capture it all. Morro Rock in Morro Bay, California Morro Bay, in San Luis Obispo County, California, has been charming visitors since 1542 when it was discovered by Portuguese explorer Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo. He named the rock that anchors the bay: “El Morro” or crown-shaped hill. At 576 feet tall, Morro Rock has been a navigational aid for mariners for over 300 years. We heard about Morro Bay from our friend Mandy, an expert guide and naturalist. She owns Hidden Coast Outdoors, and she guides bi-coastally, spending summers guiding on the California Central Coast and winters guiding in Cedar Key, Florida. We did a tour with her back in March in Cedar Key, and it hooked us on kayaking. With a little time between Project LiveWire events in San Diego and Bellevue, Washington, we had to check out this magical place Mandy had told us about. Morro Rock looms over the waterfront town, and its grandeur reminds residents and visitors alike to slow down and appreciate life. Along the edge of the bay, there’re gift boutiques, art galleries, bakeries, fresh seafood restaurants and sea lions sunning themselves on the rocks on the shore. Away from the waves, there are houses built into the hill, coffee shops, grocery stores, and a small movie theater. With a population of just over 10,000 people, Morro Bay has all the amenities of a city with the easiness of a small town. Plus, it’s only 15 minutes to San Luis Obispo. Rock Kayak Co., kayak rental in Morro Bay, California We rented our yaks (paddles and life vests included) from Rock Kayak Co., which is right on the waterfront. We’d initially stopped at another small place further down, but the proprietor was sour-faced and rude, so we passed on renting from him. The staff  at Rock Kayak, two late teen guys, were much friendlier, and we had til 6 to get the kayaks back – a full hour later than the other place. It cost us $12 each for the first hour, and $8 for subsequent hours. Kayaking in Morro Bay, California Once in the water, paddling past the pirate ship, we came up on the floating platform in the middle of the bay. It’s so covered with sea lions and harbor seals that the weight dips the corners into the water. You can paddle right up to it, but they don’t recommend getting too close. Sea lions are normally pretty docile, but they can feel cornered like any other creatures. We paddled toward Morro Rock and then back to the boats anchored at the other end of the bay. Birds dove in front of us, plucking fish out of the water. We passed a rundown trawler with a caramel and white St. Bernard on the bow, barking and wagging his tail. What an enchanting afternoon! Kayaking in Morro Bay, California Kayaking in Morro Bay, California Sea lions and harbor seals in Morro Bay, California Sea lions and harbor seals in Morro Bay, California Kayaking in Morro Bay, California

What would you like to read? And a giveway!

Hello, Lovely Blog Readers!

I want to thank you for subscribing and reading. I really appreciate you being there! Since I know your time is precious, I want to make sure I’m in sync with what you want to read, especially because this blog has been all over the map lately. :)

Some of you may be with me from my Late Blooming Chef days, which was all about recipes and me learning to cook later in life. I started a separate blog, Confessions of an Oddball Adventurer, to share the fun and funky things I’ve been lucky enough to do, like mud runs and ropes courses. Then, I combined everything into one site, which went through a couple of evolutions. Now that I’ve moved into an RV and travel with my husband and two dogs – and started my own business – it’s been hard not to blog about anything and everything.

We all have so much going on that it can be easy to get scattered. I’d like to narrow the focus of my blog to what’s most interesting to you and me. So would you do me a favor? Please comment below with what you’d like to read from me. I’d be so very grateful.

And to show my appreciation, I’ll randomly select one commenter to receive a FREE copy of one of my books: Scammers, Schemers and Dreamers or the 5-Minute Guide to Diplomacy, your choice! Thank you, thank you, thank you for your input and for your readership!

My two favorite photo-editing apps

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I love using my phone for photos. I have a fancy DSLR camera that takes awesome pics, but it’s big and bulky and kind of intrusive to whip out at times. So, I end up relying a lot on my phone. It’s easy and convenient. There are tons of apps out there to funky up your photos or improve them, and I use quite a few. But my two favorites for quick edits are Camera+ and Instagram.

Camera+ has been around since it came out for the iPhone in 2010, and it’s been super popular ever since. Its range of features and controls are pretty mind boggling. but my absolute favorite feature so far is the Clarity function. It crisps up any photo, making a so-so snap seem almost perfectly detailed. There are a host of other ways to enhance your photos with Camera+, and you have a lot of control over most of the changes. I am still exploring everything this amazing app can do. If you’re using an iPhone for your pics, you need this $1.99 app.

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Original picture of Meeko, our Rat Terrier, taken with an iPhone 5S

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Clarity in Camera+

It’s really obvious in this picture how much the Clarity function can sharpen the details on a photo as well as enhancing the color. You can practically feel the strands of Meeko’s fur, and the blanket looks so soft and cushy. Sometimes the Clarity function goes a little too far, so I don’t always use it. But it’s often just what I need to make photo pop.

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I used to use Instagram exclusively for the filters. I didn’t add any captions or check out other people’s stuff. Now I do, and Instagram has become a great community for me. I really like the dialogue that happens and the inspiring photos that are shared all day long. I still, though, really love the filters. The latest version of Instagram offers a lot more control and flexibility than it first did. Now just click on the wrench icon to adjust the brightness, contrast, and color temperature and saturation of your pic. And you can now easily adjust the level of the adjustments so you can easily fine tune. I particularly like to combine a filter with tilt shift to create a dreamier image or focus on certain area of my shot.

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Rise Filter and Tilt Shift in Instagram

Like I mentioned before, I definitely use a lot of other apps, but these two are my go-to tools to get nice looking pics on the fly.

Kale Mixed Berry Smoothie

KaleMixedBerrySmoothie2 The other day, I found the Lipstick & Berries on Instagram, and I was smitten. Ashley’s pictures are gorgeous, and everything she eats is so healthy and vibrant. I feel more energetic and nourished just looking at her stuff! So today when I went shopping, I was inspired to pick up fresh fruit, unsweetened almond milk, Medjool dates and curly kale – to whip up a smoothie. I’d never tried sweetening with dates before. They worked great! I might not ever use anything else.

Be sure to blend this thoroughly, or you’ll have bits of kale and chunks of dates at the bottom of the glass – which is not necessarily a bad thing.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup frozen mixed berries (or fresh berries and ice)
  • 2 handfuls of curly kale
  • 2-4 Medjool dates, pitted (or other sweetener of choice)
  • 1 cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or other non-dairy milk)

KaleMixedBerrySmoothie3 Directions:

  • Blend together until smooth.

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Coast-to-Coffice: Gluten-free goodness at Cuppprimo

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I don’t always get to meet the owners of the coffee shops I work in; when I do, they’re always nice. But I’ve never met one more exuberant than Amy Brown of Cupprimo. Sitting with a friend at one of the tables, she was joking with me and my husband from the moment we walked into her compact space, before we even knew she owned the place. Glancing around, I recognized her shoulder-length blond hair and sparkling blue eyes in the oversized photos that decorate the walls. The pictures include Amy’s husband and kids and lots and lots of cupcakes.

Speaking of cupcakes, they’re delicious here, even the gluten-free ones, which can be hard to make taste good. That’s probably one of the reasons why Cupprimo was featured on the Food Network show “Cupcake Wars” back in 2012. Aside from TV stardom, baking fresh gluten-free cupcakes every day is really what sets Cupprimo apart from other bakeries in north Austin. Cupprimmo always offers at least four GF flavors, and custom orders are more than welcome. The “regular” the cupcakes are freshly made each day, too, and they’re just as yummy as they’re GF counterparts.

The flavors range from familiar – Primo Vanilla, Double Chocolate, Strawberry – to fantastical – Lemon Pistachio, Drunk Pineapple. Be sure to try the Blue Velvet made of old-fashioned wedding cake with cream cheese frosting. It’s almost too pretty to eat, but that won’t stop you. Or, at least, it didn’t stop me! If you have flavor ideas, don’t hesitate to tweet them Amy (Twitter handle: @cupprimo). She’s very open to new flavor combos and very responsive on social media.

From a working standpoint, Cupprimo is a pleasant space to toil away on the laptop. There’s free wifi, a bar looking out over the parking lot, and small tables in the front. The back has comfy chairs for reading or conversation.

If I lived in Austin, Cupprimo would be a regular stop for me – but not more than once a week. With their scrumptious offerings, it’d be too easy to expand my waistline while emptying my wallet!

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Pineapple M&M Cake

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This Pineapple M&M Cake is inspired by a cake I saw at an Iron Skillet restaurant at a truck stop in California. It was so pretty with colorful mini M&Ms on top and plenty of sweet pineapple filling between layers of yellow cake. I had a single, luscious bite and instantly had a very strong urge to dash to the buffet and haul the entire cake over to our table. Good manners kept me from doing it, but it was a close call!

Here’s a recipe to try at home.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/4 cups whole milk (to increase the pineapple flavor, sub 1/4 cup pineapple juice for part of the milk)
  • 1/2 cup pineapple filling
  • 1 can whipped white frosting (or your favorite homemade frosting)
  • 1 bag mini M&Ms

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Grease and flour two round nine-inch cake pans.
  • Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  • Add eggs, one at a time, and continue beating. Mix in the vanilla and salt.
  • When well incorporated, add the baking powder, and then the flour and milk a little at a time, alternating the two.
  • On medium speed, beat the batter for about 2 minutes, until thick and creamy.
  • Split the batter evenly between the two cake cake pans.
  • Bake for 30 to 35 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  • Set aside cakes to cool.
  • Spread about 1/2 a cup of frosting on the bottom layer of the cake, to about a 1/2 inch from the edge. Then top with the same amount of pineapple filling.
  • Carefully place the top layer on, and frost the top and sides of the cake.
  • Sprinkle the top with mini M&Ms.

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