Wednesday, August 28, 2013

August Rush - Ashtanga Chant

A different kind of song tonight.

First, the ashtanga invocation that is chanted at the start of the Ashtanga Primary series (my favorite yoga that has given me so much!) as chanted by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois.

Second, a variation. 





Tuesday, August 27, 2013

August Rush - Thomas Newman

I discovered my love for Thomas Newman with the Adjustment Bureau soundtrack. I focused tonight's music inquiry into finding more music from Newman. Some of my favorite movies are scored by Newman and I had never connected the dots. Does Newman' music tip these movies into my favorites category, or does Newman only score movies that I'm drawn to?

Here are a few samples and I love and treasure each of these films.

   
  
  
  
  
  
  
 

Monday, August 26, 2013

August Rush - Pablo De Sarasate

One of the best violinist of all times, Pablo De Sarasate, performs Zigeunerweizen.
This is a recording from 1904.
Beautiful.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

August Rush - Bob Dylan

I know I said I would find new music, and this isn't new to me. But.... I don't have it in my rotation and I really should. I was reminded of it when i found it listed as number one best song of all times according to Rolling Stone.



Saturday, August 24, 2013

August Rush - Ray Charles

I found a list of the 100 best songs of all times from Rolling Stone. I clicked on the top ten and came across this one and I love it. I'd never heard the whole song before and I'm glad I found it tonight!


Friday, August 23, 2013

August Rush - Russian Flash Mob

I wish I was there when they made this. Someday, I would LOVE to be in or near a flash mob!
Thanks for the suggestion Bill! 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

August Rush - Dolly Pardon (you'll be surprised)

Dolly Pardon's "Jolene" on slow speed recommended by Mitch. I love this version...




And, if you're curious about the original...

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Saturday, August 17, 2013

August Rush - Passion Pit

I found them, forgot about them, found them again, and will keep 'em!

Take a Walk by Passion Pit


Friday, August 16, 2013

August Rush - Hallelujah

My intent for August Rush was to discover new music and refresh my playlist. I believe we have a soundtrack to our lives and mine needed some new energy.

Tonight, I'm not discovering new music, but exploring one of my all time favorite songs: Hallelujah. I loved this when I heard Jeff Buckley's version years ago. Listening to Pandora tonight I heard a new version which prompted a search for all possible versions. There are too many to post, but here are a few.

For those who love this song as much as I do, I'd love to know which version is your favorite. This song feels transcendent. It feels as if it was written for my soul to sing. It feels as if it holds the weight of the world, effortlessly. 

The original:



My favorite version:


So good.





Justin Timberlake:


Jon Bon Jovi:




Jason Castro - I remember when he sang this on American Idol:



Rufus:


Regina Spekor - always with her own twist:


Carly Rose:




 Skip to 2 minutes in:

 

Celine Dion and the Canadian Tenors - a beautiful surprise! 



Sheryl Crow:




John Cale:



Susan Boyle:

 

Il Divo -  Translated:

Thursday, August 15, 2013

August Rush - Radioactive

Imagine Dragons by Radioactive

I'm obviously late on paying attention to this one.. 64 million views on YouTube.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

August Rush - Buddy Guy

I'll be seeing Buddy Guy at the Hollywood Bowl later this month. I'm loving this one...
"Damn Right, I've Got the Blues"


Sunday, August 4, 2013

August Rush - Built By Alaska

Built By Alaska



August Rush - Said the Whale



August Rush - The Arkells

The Arkells "Coffee"

August Rush - The Opening Act (Young the Giant)

Welcome to August Rush!

This month's goal is all about music! I'm not sure what shape this month will take. I'm going to design it... right... now... as.... I ... type ... this...

  • Find a new song every day for a month. (ask friends!) 
  • Play piano. Every day. At least one song.
  • Go see live music at least once per week. 
  • Visit the Grammy Museum! 
Done. Plan in place. 

First new song: featuring Young the Giant. How have I not noticed them before?





Wednesday, July 31, 2013

July Rides Recap

The original goal: A road trip every weekend in the month of July

I had been looking forward to "July Ride" since I first set the intention back in January. I wanted to make sure that I was exploring the world by road and taking trips (now) rather than postponing (until some indeterminate time).

The Portland trip was amazing (flying rather than driving) and the World Domination Summit exceeded expectations. More on that soon...

But my other road trips were overtaken by work that overflowed into my weekends. It's an unhealthy habit to let work take over my life, but I love my job and it's so easy to let it spill over into my personal time. Mostly because my work is so meaningful that it feels personal - doing my part to protect the ocean.

I digress.

So, I flaked on my road trip plan! In week three, I could still hear the call of the open road and I knew I didn't have the time in July to fully respond. Then it hit me... why take short, quick, turn-around road trips when what I really wanted was to drive forward, into the wide open world of the unknown, and to truly explore unconstrained by time and limits!

The new goal: THE GRAND CANYON!

Isn't this one of the ultimate road trips? I was inspired and booked my time off and reserved by hotels that same day. And, travel hacking gave me most of my hotels for free! Thanks Chris Guillebeau!

The trip won't be in July, but it will be a grand road trip and one I can't wait to start! One month away! I haven't been to the Grand Canyon yet so it's the perfect adventure. I'm also staying a few nights in Sedona.

As with most of these monthly goals, I set a course, an intention. Some months, the goal is met as planned. Other months, I may veer off in another direction. But every month, I experience a life I wouldn't have lived had it not been for this plan to live with deliberate intentions. Feeling grateful.

The call of the open road...

Road-Trip.jpg



Thursday, July 4, 2013

Northbound with a Guru Taxi Driver at the Wheel

Today is the first of four "July Rides" and the longest of any of my trips. I'm in the airport now waiting for my flight to Portland for the World Domination Summit.

What am I looking to gain by taking overnight or day trips every weekend for a month?

On the surface, it gives me the chance to see new places and finally make it to places that I never seem to make a priority. That is part of the driving force between all my monthly goals - to not let time just slip away. To set direction. To create. To ship. To live a pro-active life rather than a passive life.

On a deeper level, it is part of my lifelong search for meaning.

These goals place me in places and situations I wouldn't be otherwise, and it is in these places that I most often find meaning and wrestle with the concept of purpose and of truth - existentialism at its finest.

In the cab this moring, I found myself quiet and introspective. Slowly the taxi cab driver started to coax me into a conversation. I was relunctant at first, deep in my own thoughts and recovering from the hustle of running out the door on time. But soon enough, this guru taxi driver led us into a beautiful conversation of meaning and truth. Here are a few of his wise comments...
  • Happiness is a choice.
  • We see the mistakes our parents made, but we can change. We can turn it around and make better choices.
  • A baby sits. A baby learns to crawl, then crawls. A baby learns to walk, then walks. A baby learns to run, then runs. There is a time and a season for everything. (reminds me of Maya Angelou's "When we know better, we do better."
  • When we talk to each other, we both learn. Without talking, nothing happens.
  • We must avoid those that are negative. They will influence us and take away our happiness.
  • It is not how often you fall, but how you get up (and how you help others get up)
He imparted much to me in our brief ride to the airport. All things I've heard before, but his words were especially poignant today, as I begin this trip. As I slowly detach myself from work. As a I hopefully rediscover my bliss.

He also said we work too much. When we have a free day, we mostly "relax" at home. My thought is this and it haunts me as of late: But what kind of life is this? To work. To work. To recover for a day, then return to work.

I love my work. I can list hundreds of reasons why I love my work.

But am I walking instead of running?

Monday, July 1, 2013

July Ride

This month's challenge: to take a trip out of town every weekend. Tackle one direction (North, South, East, West) each weekend of the month to see and experience something new.


Friday, June 28, 2013

Minimalism continued...

This is now past the point of ridiculousness.
Why do I have so much stuff that I never use, wear, or or even like!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Minimalism

Hoping this isn't just one month of simplifying, but a lifelong shift to minimalism!




Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Ten more items out the door!

Sometimes an unexpected item in the back of a drawer can bring back a flood of memories. The emotions can be intense when letting go of items that symbolize so much more. The momentum of ten items a day is keeping me moving forward, thankfully!


Saturday, June 22, 2013

Minimalist Project

In additon to these boxes, and a lot of the contents within, I also (finally) let go of my compost bins (I set the worms free!), two giant pieces of plywood, and everything else that was cluttering my side patio.

Clean. Done. Simple. 


Friday, June 21, 2013

The process continues...


It is hard to part with some of these items. They are beautiful and sentimental! But I never use them. So I saved parts of each collection (one wood bowl and one olive dish) rather than the whole set that I never use.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

The unexpected bonus


Every month I embark on a new challenge, there is always an unexpected discovery. I should have guessed this would happen, but being that I love to shop (clearly), I just didn't see it coming. With all this purging (10 items a day!), I have no desire whatsoever to shop or buy anything new this month. We had our charity ball last Saturday and rather than buy a new dress, I just wore a gown from a few years back. Instead of feeling like I was missing out, I felt good making the right minimalist decision. And, I'm saving so much money by not making any new purchases!

Walking gently on this Earth. Ignoring the lure of conspicuous consumption. Living simply 


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Ten items from the wine drawer


I'm so thankful I set-up this challenge to be ten items per day. I found ten items (more if you count each item separately) by just going through one small drawer. Letting go, ten items at a time! 

Monday, June 17, 2013

Letting go of sentimental things...

Letting of sentimental things is one of the most difficult parts of this 30 day challenge. I want to hold on to things that remind me of family, friends, trips, and experiences. But I have to remind myself that I carry these memories in my heart and in my digital photos, not in dusty boxes in my closet.

A few blogs that consider this same dilemma:

http://www.theminimalists.com/sentimental/
http://www.becomingminimalist.com/how-to-simplify-your-stuff-and-honor-your-memories/
http://mnmlist.com/how-to-let-go-of-possessions/

Saturday, June 15, 2013

150 items and counting

I am at the halfway point. I've gathered 150 items. Most of them will be donated to Goodwill this week and a few were just tossed or recycled.

The challenge is becoming more difficult. The first 15 days were relatively easy. I made a first pass at my closets and a few cabinets to find things I knew I didn't need. But now I'm taking a second look and it's becoming harder to let go.

I've read a few blogs that talk about owning 100 items - and they mean owning 100 items total. It seems impossible! While I'm not striving for such extreme minimalism, I still admire the simplicity.

What does owning less mean to me?
  • Simplicity. 
  • Consuming less which is good for the environment and lessens my carbon footprint.
  • Consuming less which allows me to save more, and spend more on experiences rather than things. 
  • Consuming fewer goods that hurt developing countries and enslave a powerless workforce.
 In my home, it means...
  • Living with less clutter.
  • Having closets that are organized and simple.
  • Simple wardrobe choices - paring down to only things I love and that I feel good in.
I'm still embarrassed that I own this much. I live in small place and it's unbelievable how many things are tucked away in boxes, cabinets and drawers. Wish me luck in the days to come!
 


Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Too many clothes

As I get further into this month, I'm facing the reality that I have way too many clothes. What exactly does that mean? On the surface, it means that I have closets full of clothes that I never wear. The quantity is overwhelming and only adds to the clutter. On a deeper level, I'm embarassed by the waste of spending too much money for things that end up unused and buried in a closet. Imagine what I could have done with that money? A trip? A donation to a noble charity? Life experiences rather than belongings.

This is, sadly, a lifelong habit. But one that I would love to turn around. I don't think I recognized how much this issue has weighed me down. My goal is to truly take a minimalist approach to my clothes.
  • Keep significantly fewer clothes.
  • Keep only one of any one type and wear it until it's time to replace it.
  • Buy only clothes that I absolutely love.
  • Buy less often.
The principles are simple, but I've yet to achieve them so far. Perhaps this month will trigger the radical change I need to transform.

By the way, I feel awfully petty even talking about clothes. First World Problems. But it's part of daily life that just needs my attention... then I'll return to contemplating the meaning of life. Ridiculous, I know!



Another set of 10 items to sell/donate:

Inspirational closets:



beautifully-organized-closets



Monday, June 10, 2013

How to get rid of "just in case things"

Excerpt from the Minimalists: 20/20 Theory

"Anything we get rid of that we truly need, we can replace for less than $20, in less than 20 minutes from our current location. Thus far, this theory has held true 100% of the time. Although we’ve rarely had to replace a just in case item (less than five times this year for the two of us combined), we’ve never had to pay more than $20 or go more than 20 minutes out of our way to replace the item. This theory likely works 99% of the time for 99% of all items and 99% of all people. Including you.

More importantly, we haven’t missed the hundreds of just in case items we got rid of, and we didn’t need to replace most of them at all.

Getting rid of these items clears one’s mind, frees up their space, and takes the weight off their shoulders.

What are you holding on to just in case?"

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Reminders of simplicity

wrapping dumplings in
bamboo leaves, with one finger
she tidies her hair

(Bash ō 1644 - 1694) 



Saturday, June 8, 2013

Friday, June 7, 2013

Letting go...

Accepting change and knowing that which I held before, no longer serves me. 





Thursday, June 6, 2013

So much stuff!

I've kept so many things thinking I might use or wear them someday. This process is helping me shift away from someday and focus more on today. Simplify, my mantra this month. 





Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Simplify

A pattering of rain
on the new eaves
brings me awake.
Koji


50 items cleared, 250 to go. 




Tuesday, June 4, 2013

31 Days to an Uncluttered Home!

This month's challenge (to recycle or donate 10 items every day) will unclutter my closets, but I'm hoping it will also simplify my home and create more detachment to personal belongings. I am inspired by Leo's blog at http://mnmlist.com/ but my minimalism ambitions are not quite as extreme as Leo's.

As with most of my other monthly challenges, there is often an unexpected result that comes into being but only time will tell on this one...

During the first few days, the decison about what to let go of are quite simple, but I know that as the month progresses, I'm going to have to reach a bit further. In preparation, the following principles that I've read over the years may help:
  • If I haven't worn it/used it in a year, let it go.
  • If it doesn't work, let it go.
  • If it is worn, let it go.
  • If it isn't beautiful, let it go.
  • If I'm saving it "just in case I'll need it someday", let it go. Live in the now.
  • Everything I own should have value because I need it or I love it.
  • Do not keep gifts I've received out of guilt. Better to let it go and give it a more noble purpose in the world by someone who will use it.
  • I'm trying not to buy anything this month, but if I do, I need to let go of something in it's place (above and beyond the 300 items I'm already striving for)
Just like every word in a Haiku is necessary, beautiful, and meaningful, so should all my personal belongings follow that same guideline. And with that, another batch of ten is assembled for departure.



Monday, June 3, 2013

Liberation from clutter

Over the wintry 
forest, winds howl in rage
with no leaves to blow.

- Natsume Soseki 




Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dishes be gone

I'm embarrassed to admit I have dishes that are still in their original boxes. 
Wasted space, wasted money, wasted resources.
Simplify.



Saturday, June 1, 2013

Live like a Haiku in June

I love poetry, in all its marvelous forms. The haiku is remarkable  - in just 17 syllables, a good haiku can convey beauty, meaning, and transformation. Despite the limiting constraint of just three short lines (5 syllables, 7 syllables, 5 syllables), poets can express profound meaning. Every word of a haiku is conscious, deliberate, and necessary - and results in a simplistic, beautiful, inspiring expression. 

And so begins my month of transforming my home using the same principles of the haiku. Every belonging is conscious, deliberate, and necessary - and results in a simplistic, beautiful, inspiring expression. 

The idea - Donate or recycle 10 items every single day during the month of June. 

To liberate.  To transform. To simplify. 



Friday, March 22, 2013

Why reflecting on death can bring about meaning and purpose

Excerpt from http://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/authors/gunaratna/wheel102.html:

"This contemplation of death is one of the classical meditation-subjects treated in the Visuddhi Magga which states that in order to obtain the fullest results, one should practice this meditation in the correct way, that is, with mindfulness (sati), with a sense of urgency (samvega) and with understanding (ñana).

For example, suppose a young disciple fails to realize keenly that death can come upon him at any moment, and regards it as something that will occur in old age in the distant future; his contemplation of death will be lacking strength and clarity, so much so that it will run on lines which are not conducive to success.

How great and useful is the contemplation of death can be seen from the following beneficial effects enumerated in the Visuddhi Magga: — "The disciple who devotes himself to this contemplation of death is always vigilant, takes no delight in any form of existence, gives up hankering after life, censures evil doing, is free from craving as regards the requisites of life, his perception of impermanence becomes established, he realizes the painful and soulless nature of existence and at the moment of death he is devoid of fear, and remains mindful and self-possessed. Finally, if in this present life he fails to attain to Nibbana, upon the dissolution of the body he is bound for a happy destiny."

Thus it will be seen that mindfulness of death not only purifies and refines the mind but also has the effect of robbing death of its fears and terrors, and helps one at that solemn moment when he is gasping for his last breath, to face that situation with fortitude and calm. He is never unnerved at the thought of death but is always prepared for it. It is such a man that can truly exclaim, "O death, where is thy sting?"

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

To seek out new life and new civilizations....



"Someone once told me that time was a predator that stalked us all our lives. But I rather believe that time is a companion who goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment because they'll never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we've lived."
~ Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

The Portable Atheist

“Death is certain, replacing both the siren-song of Paradise and the dread of Hell. Life on this earth, with all its mystery and beauty and pain, is then to be lived far more intensely: we stumble and get up, we are sad, confident, insecure, feel loneliness and joy and love. There is nothing more; but I want nothing more.” – Christopher Hitchens, The Portable Atheist

I'm ordering this book today... 

I'm also enjoying this quote from Orwell, especially the "humanist attitude"...

“A normal human being does not want the Kingdom of Heaven: he wants life on earth to continue. This is not solely because he is ‘weak,’ ‘sinful’ and anxious for a ‘good time.’ Most people get a fair amount of fun out of their lives, but on balance life is suffering, and only the very young or the very foolish imagine otherwise. Ultimately it is the Christian attitude which is self-interested and hedonistic, since the aim is always to get away from the painful struggle of earthly life and find eternal peace in some kind of Heaven or Nirvana. The humanist attitude is that the struggle must continue and that death is the price of life.” – George Orwell, “Lear, Tolstoy and the Fool”

Monday, March 18, 2013

Seven Pounds

I just watched the last seven minutes of Seven Pounds. I love this film - it's beautiful, original, thought-provoking, and overflowing with love and tears.

Would I live my life differently if someone had died to give me my beating heart?




Sunday, March 17, 2013

no death, no fear

A friend recommended "no death, no fear" as part of my Morbid March exploration. I started the book tonight. In the initial pages, the book is already serving as a poignant reminder that our views on death are intrinsically tied to our views on religion. I know this to be true, but this book reminds me how separated I am from those who follow a religion. Yes, naturally our views on death are different. But, more importantly, and more interesting to me, is how will our religious views, or lack of a religious view, define meaning and purpose.

If the examination of death will lead to a better understanding of life, then the results of my investigative journey will be from the viewpoint of an atheist (with compassion and love and appreciation for alternative and religious viewpoints)

I'm peering down the rabbit hole...


Saturday, March 16, 2013

Celebration of Life - checklists

I started the process of researching funeral and "celebration of life" checklists. Just as I suspected, it is overwhelming! I can't imagine sorting through all this while grieving - and I know my grieving is dramatic and all-consuming - so I'm glad I'm making an attempt to prepare all of this for me and for my family now, while there is nothing to grieve.

Turns out, there are no easy-to-follow, comprehensive checklists that are quickly found online, so I started building my own. I'm using excel and compiling good questions and recommendations from sites like:

http://www.obituaryguide.com/template.php
http://celebratelives.wordpress.com/checklist-and-instructions-at-my-death/
http://elegantmemorials.com/funeral-service-checklist
and many more...

This is daunting. I'm trying to just focus on the logistics, not the emotional ramifications of loss, at this point.

More work to do, but the process is started. I'll have more details soon, but for now, I'm hoping to create celebrations for me and for my family that are loving, meaningful, and that truly celebrate and capture the essense of our time here on this earth. Easier blogged than done...



Friday, March 15, 2013

Tuesdays with Morrie on a Thursday

Finished Tuesdays with Morrie today. I enjoyed the read. I found Morrie delightful, but Mitch's writing derivitive. How rude of me to critique a writer for attempting such a noble literary work. But I felt like I've read this before and aside from a few noteworthy lines of text, most of the writing quality was ordinary at best.

I loved getting to know Morrie.... some meaningful anaphorisms that I will carry with me...

“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”
“Don't cling to things because everything is impermanent.”
"Everyone knows they're going to die,' he said again, 'but nobody believes it. If we did, we would do things differently.”

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Thoughts on aging...

I had a wonderful talk tonight with a dear friend of mine. Gigi lights up a room. She has this energy and aura that embraces you. And when she holds your hand or looks you in the eye, you feel connected in a way that is so often lost in the fast-paced, technology-laden communication of today.

She is 83.

We spoke of many things, but two related to aging that I thought were relevant this month. At 83, she knows this for sure:
  • She can say no. She can say no gracefully and without guilt. She can say no even if the cause is noble, because time is precious and she can now be selective with her time.
  • She has chosen her friends carefully. She knows she doesn't have to spend time with anyone whose energy isn't positive or enriching. She knows who her true friends are and she relishes her time with them.
  • Friendships, true and genuine friendships, are to be nurtured and treasured.
After our conversation, I also know this for sure... there is love. Love in friendship. Love in family. And there is a love in soul mates. As Gigi said, "he" is out there. He is born. And we will find each other.

The last tidbit isn't related to my monthly theme.... but perhaps it is. Perhaps in examining the meaning of death, I should remember that love has to be part of the answer.

Thank you, dear Gigi.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A little night meandering... in the form of a poem...

Because I Could not Stop for Death
by Emily Dickinson


Because I could not stop for Death—
He kindly stopped for me—
The Carriage held but just Ourselves—
And Immortality.

We slowly drove—He knew no haste
And I had put away
My labor and my leisure too,
For His Civility—

We passed the School, where Children strove
At Recess—in the Ring—
We passed the fields of Gazing Grain—
We passed the Setting Sun—

Or rather—He passed Us—
The Dews drew quivering and chill—
For only Gossamer, my Gown—
My Tippet—only Tulle—

We paused before a House that seemed
A Swelling of the Ground—
The Roof was scarcely visible—
The Cornice—in the Ground—

Since then—'tis Centuries—and yet
Feels shorter than the Day
I first surmised the Horses' Heads
Were toward Eternity—

 

I Heard A Fly Buzz When I Died
by Emily Dickinson


I heard a fly buzz when I died;
The stillness round my form
Was like the stillness in the air
Between the heaves of storm.

The eyes beside had wrung them dry,
And breaths were gathering sure
For that last onset, when the king
Be witnessed in his power.

I willed my keepsakes, signed away
What portion of me I
Could make assignable, and then
There interposed a fly,

With blue, uncertain, stumbling buzz,
Between the light and me;
And then the windows failed, and then
I could not see to see.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tuesdays with Morrie

Today, I read 110 pages of Tuesdays with Morrie. I have heard about this book for years, but never read it. I'm guilty of often ignoring mainstream bestsellers... literary snobbery, I know. But, I'm happy that my friend Heather recommended it for this month.



Here are two of my favorite quotes so far...

“The truth is, once you learn how to die, you learn how to live.” 


“So many people walk around with a meaningless life. They seem half-asleep, even when they're busy doing things they think are important. This is because they're chasing the wrong things. The way you get meaning into your life is to devote yourself to loving others, devote yourself to your community around you, and devote yourself to creating something that gives you purpose and meaning.”


What does this mean to me? The first quote reminds me of how important it is to consider our own mortality. In understanding the certainty of death and facing the uncertainty of the timing, I will naturally change the course of my life. By facing death, I should consider the life I want to create for the remainder of my days.... however long they may be.

The second quote is especially poignant. I have dedicated much of my life to my work - I find joy, reward, and challenge in my work supporting a non-profit environmental organization. However noble, I need to remember that even non-profit work can be overly-consuming and can drive away meaning if I'm not careful. Most days, I love my work and I'm grateful for the fulfillment. On rare days, I know that I work too much (70 hour weeks are not sustainable) and I sacrifice too much. Is more balance in order, or is it time to tip the scales in a new direction, or is it time to throw out the scales entirely?




 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Fresh Foods February

As much as I love these daily endeavors and monthly goals, some months do not go as planned. During the few months that I've missed the mark, it's either because the goal seemed less exciting to me than originally planned or life is just too busy to make time for the goals. I can handle the former and I'm open to changing plans. The latter can be disappointing since I want to make these projects a priority, but the reality of a demanding job can sometimes foil my best intentions.

In February, I had planned for an entire month of unprocessed, whole foods. The first few weeks, I had about a 30% success rate with even less success in the last half of the month.

On the bright side, I soon after discovered the Nutribullet! A friend introduced me to it while we were talking about Fresh Food February. It's amazing and has transformed my way of eating. It's a simple, easy way to have fruits and vegetables every single day. I've been using it to replace my lunches on most days, and sometimes as a snack or a breakfast. I've occasionally used it replace dinners if I had a large lunch during the day. 

Combinations such as:
  • Spinach, carrots, apples, water, flax or chia seeds
  • Spinach, carrots, bananas, apples, water, flax or chia seeds
  • Spinach, mango, pineapple, water, flax or chia seeds
  • Banana, peanut butter, milk
  • Kale, bananas, pineapple, strawberries, flax seeds
I love my Nutribullet! Even though my whole foods month was a bust, I discovered the Nutribullet which I would have NEVER found otherwise. 

June 1, 2013 Update: I'm still using my Nutribullet about 4 times a week. I love it !

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Expenses Revisited

In order to maximize available credit cards with sign-up bonuses, I'll have to be more creative about using my credit card for ALL purchases. So, I'm shifting more of my payments to credit cards - such as my annual car insurance. Tonight, I shifted my monthly cable/internet bill to a credit card.

I'm still waiting on the Blue Bird AmEx so I can load with vanilla reloads and pay my rent (hope this works!)


Monday, January 21, 2013

Elite Status

I know I need to focus on this area, so I'm going to tackle my top loyalty programs to determine what I need to do to get elite status. Reminds me of one of my favorite movies "Up in the Air"....

From the ever-helpful Chris:
"Get elite status wherever you live—and then get it elsewhere.
Travel companies offer “elite status” to their preferred and most frequent customers. Why should you care about such a thing? Because at hotels you’ll get free upgrades, free breakfast, free internet, late check-out, and other perks. On airlines you’ll get priority boarding, priority seating, upgrades (sometimes), and better help if something goes wrong.

You can often get elite status through a “challenge” where you agree to complete a certain amount of travel in a certain period of time. In other cases you can simply call up and request a status match.
One way of getting elite status without traveling much at all is by registering for free when it’s available as a limited-time offer. This happens several times a year with many different hotels and airlines.
You may wonder why you’d get an elite status from a company you don’t expect to patronize. Status matching is the answer: you can use it to gain elite status from a company you do expect to patronize. "

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Need miles? Mint 'em!

Quick tip From Chris: "By the way, if you’re worried about not being able to spend enough to qualify for multiple mileage bonuses, there’s a trick for this too: buy $1 coins from the U.S. Mint. They come in boxes of $250 each, and you can exchange them at your bank for the same value. With free shipping, it won’t cost you anything at all, and you’ll also earn additional miles for the “purchase” of the coins."

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Wwoof - Organic farm volunteer program

I kept seeing references to this, but dismissed the links initially. Now I'm intrigued. This might be an enlightening and rewarding way to travel and meet new people. The physical labor would be good for my mind and body, while also connecting me with nature and grounding me in the natural food cycle. The more I read about it, the  more I'm interested!

The details:

"Visitors, or ‘WWOOFers’, spend about half a day on a host farm, learn about the organic movement and sustainable agriculture, and receive room and board - with no money exchanged between hosts and WWOOFers. WWOOF is an educational and cultural exchange program. WWOOFing is a way to learn practical farming skills, be part of the organic agriculture movement, and experience the heart of American agrarian culture." 

Join

Main site is here, http://www.wwoof.org/, with additional sites for farms around the world!

Friday, January 18, 2013

Planning for Bumps!

Think, rethink. Evaluate, reevaluate.

I've known that when a flight is oversold, the airlines will often offer a free ticket to anyone who is willing to be bumped to the next available flight. I've sat in airports and wished I could take their offer, but I was always following a structured itinerary and wasn't willing to change plans.

So.... why not plan for a bump? The original idea came from a friend of mine - a suggestion to take advantage of more of those offers. Immersed in this month of travel hacking, it dawned on me that I should plan for a bump. In other words, schedule my flights to allow for potential bumps and even choose flights that are nearly full or that overbook often. Brilliant! Why not spend a few extra hours in an airport, reading a wonderful book, in order to gain a new travel voucher?

Whenever possible, I should also arrive to the gate earlier and volunteer to be bumped should the flight be oversold or overweight.

Easy travel hacking strategy - the only cost is a few extra hours at an airport with a great book!




Thursday, January 17, 2013

Mystery Shopper for Travellers

Mystery shopping locally has alway seemed like a burden. Too much research, hassle, and documentation for such small rewards. However, there might be opportunities for travel mystery shoppers. Brought ot my attention by The Professional Hobo's blog, here is the link: http://www.evaluateitbysqm.com/EvaluateIt/

I read through the site and it appears there is an estimated 50% discount on travel and dining. I completed the brief survey to apply. I'm not convinced it will be worth my time, but I'm willing to test it out this month.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Driving across the country, for free!

This won't get me to Paris, and it requires an investment of time. Nevertheless, it's still an weapon to keep in my travel hacking arsenol.

http://www.autodriveawaydc.com/carlist.html


"In North America, there are a lot of companies that will pay you to drive someone's car from point A to point B. Maybe they are moving, or the car was bought online – who knows, but you are essentially a car courier. They give you the car, a date to get it to the destination, and gas money. It's great for long-distance travel. In Canada, hittheroad.ca is the major national company. It's hard to find a national company in the US, but this website provides a good directory of cars on the move: Autodriveaway."

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Couchsurfing! It's real!

So no travel hacking month would be complete without a day on couchsurfing. Is it real? Are there really people in the world who would open their homes up to strangers, for free? And, would it be safe for woman travelling on her own? Seems the answer is a resounding yes!

Couchsurfing is a community of over 5 million members in 97,000 cities — and every country — around the world. Our website connects travelers and locals who meet offline to share cultures, hospitality and adventures – whether on the road or in their hometowns.

Our Mission is simple: Create inspiring experiences.

We envision a world where everyone can explore and create meaningful connections with the people and places they encounter. Building meaningful connections across cultures enables us to respond to differences with curiosity, appreciation and respect. The appreciation of diversity spreads tolerance and creates a global community.

At the Couchsurfing headquarters in San Francisco, we’re working tirelessly to create the greatest possible online platform for our community to achieve its goals.

I'm not signing up quite yet, but this is a top site to save and one that I can't wait to experiment with.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Servas

I kept seeing travel hacking sites mentioning Servas. Tonight's research was all about Servas. It's fascinating and it's noble, but I'm not sure it is for me. I love the ambassadors of peace concept. It's hard to believe this exists given society's fear of strangers and lack of cultural exchanges. But Servas exists and it's beautiful. I don't think it would afford me the kind of freedom I want when I travel, but it's nice to know about programs like this. It has value and is worth sharing and definitely worth the research tonight. Rather than repost the content, you can discover the details yourself here: http://servas.org//content/blogcategory/40/75/

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Keeping up with the details

Today was a documentation and implementation day, rather than a research day.

  • Bought 5 cheap items at Z Pizza to get my American Airlines Dining Loyalty program started. Once I hit 12 purchases, I'll start accruing points faster. The cashier was a little confused but still was happy to run each item through as a separate transaction.
  • Activated my Blue Sapphire card, set up my online account, established autopay, and registered the card to the AA Dining Loyalty program.
  • Activated by Hilton card with the same details as above.
  • Made an online purchase using Sapphire, and used the store portal to get 3 times the points.
  • Booked a hotel using Sapphire card, and used the store portal to get 3 times the points at Hotels.com.
Busy day and more to come this week!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Another cheap airfare finder

Move over cheaptickets.com....

I started the month speculating that there had to be better sites out there to push me past the old, familiar (but reliable) cheaptickets and priceline. Here is a new one.... http://www.whichbudget.com/

This came recommended from this site which has a few gems contained, but more on that tomorrow!


Friday, January 11, 2013

Priceline... just got better!

Quick tip today...

I'm a big fan of Priceline. I've been using this site since 2000. My first flight was a roundtrip to Italy for less than $500 and I've been using Priceline for some flights and all of my hotels since then.

I just came across this website, which helps the bidding process. I can't wait to try it out on my next booking.


Signing off for now... happy hacking!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Earning miles by paying rent? Awesome video will show us how!

As a newbie to travel hacking, I thought there must be an easy way to earn miles for paying rent or student loans. But neither of these bills accept credit card payments, and as I found out yesterday, there are no substantial rewards for debit cards. What's a girl to do?

I kept reading about the American Express Bluebird card and some wacky way of using Vanilla Reloads from CVS. If this sounds weird to you, then you are just like me! If this sounds normal, then you must already be a professional travel hacker.

It's confusing, so I was thrilled to find this easy, simple and awesome video that explains it all in less than two minutes.

There is some concern that the Vanilla Reloads will be pulled from the shelves (apparently Office Depot pulled out), but for now, they seem to work.

I registered and the card is on the way! If this works, then I can churn credit cards faster by reaching the minimum amounts sooner to earn the bonus miles.  https://bluebird.com/


Additional tip for Vanilla Reloads:

"@Mike B- If you bought a MyVanilla Personal Reloadable Prepaid Card you WON’T be able to transfer the funds from that card to your Bluebird card. That card is actually a card that you load money ON, much like the Bluebird card. 

Instead, you need to buy ones that are called “Vanilla Prepaid Reload” cards. They are the ones that look EXACTLY like the ones I show in the video. Make sure those are the ones you are buying. The titles they give each card are very confusing, but if you buy the ones that look exactly like the packaging I show in the video, you can load those on the Bluebird card."

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Debit Cards - It's a bust.

Ok, so sometimes your research won't turn into some brand new, shiny strategy. Today's research negated my plan to pay my 2012 taxes using a debit card to earn miles. Instead, after a lot of research, I found that debit cards with rewards are essentially obsolete. The few cards (I found three) that offer miles, rewards, or cash back have such high annual fees that they make the rewards inconsequential. I could provide you with all the links, but trust me, as of today you won't find a debit card worth the trouble.

So, my tax plan won't work unless I want to try the bluebird / vanilla reload plan but I'm not yet sold on that concept yet either.

It's a bust. Not as much fun, but even ruling out a concept is progress on the journey to master the art of travel hacking!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Turning an IRS payment into miles

After 7 days of travel hacking research, I think I have the basics down. The major mile earning strategies are fairly straightforward. Churning cards (with careful timing) and rewards programs are the high earning methods. Now, I see the rest of the month as exploring other ways to maximize points. At month's end, my hope is that I have a firm strategy in place, but one that takes very little time to manage and keep up. Efficient, easy, economical, and enjoyable (more travel!)

Tonight's general concept is a focus on finding all the ways to turn every expense into a mile-earning opportunity. The specific strategy is IRS payments.

I just came across this website and it has a zillion helpful tips:

"The IRS lists payment processors through with you may make payments to it via credit or debit card, including 1040, 1040ES and many other types. The credit card fee ranges between 1.88% and 2.35% (expensive miles). But the debit card fee is a flat fee ranging between $2.99 and $3.95, making this a very good deal for some payments via a debit card that earns miles. You may also make some state and local tax payments at Official Payments Corporation.(In the Taxes section.)
  TurboTax, and possibly other tax preperation software, can be purchased via many miles and cash back shopping portals. For example, Big Crumbs offers 10.5% cash back for TurboTax as of January 4, 2013. (In the Taxes section.)
1,000 Southwest Airlines points for filing your federal return with TurboTax. (In the Taxes section.)"

That means I'll have to make sure I have a debit card that has rewards as well. My current debit card used to have minor rewards, but the bank has since discontinued the program. Stay tuned for a debit card reward comparison tomorrow...

Monday, January 7, 2013

Another layer - Dining Programs!

I'm adding on another layer of bonus points and rewards. I linked my existing cards to American Airlines dining loyalty program.

The general idea is to link existing credit cards to a dining program. So, when I charge a restaurant expense to my credit card, I'll receive my normal miles that the credit card issues and I'll also receive points through this dining rewards program too. Extra points!

After linking the card, I can also get a bonus by:

1Join the AAdvantage Dining program for free.
2Spend $40 or more on a single dine at a participating restaurant, bar or club within 30 days
3Complete your review within 30 days of dining. (The review link will be emailed to you and takes only a minute to complete.)
4Earn 1,000 AAdvantage® bonus miles!*


I can also start accruing more points by attaining VIP status:

"The general earning is 3 miles per dollar spent, but once you hit 10 dines you get VIP status where you earn 5 miles per dollar. To quickly get VIP status, simply go to a participating bar/ restaurant/ fast food place and order 10 cheap items and ask them to swipe them separately. They may look at you weirdly, but that often happens to me when I’m doing things related to obsessive mileage collecting."

AA buried this information on their website, but I finally verified it here (I even had to switch to Google Chrome to see the chart since Internet Explorer wouldn't show it): I need to make sure to have a valid email and have 12 transactions (so I'll try the Travel Guys crazy tip of buying 12 things at once to start the accrual quicker).

I also set a reminder to register my new credit cards (from the last two days) to this program as well once the cards are delivered.

And away I go with a new layer to the travel hacking game!