A Book to Help Cats

Yes, it’s out!  Also, it contains a story I wrote about my own cats.  Check it out!

Completely Cats – Stories with Cattitude is Published! To say the Completely Cats team has had a roller coaster ride over the past few days would be a huge understatement. At around 10 am UK time on 21st August we announced the publication our book, Completely Cats – Stories with Cattitude, on Twitter and Facebook.…

via Completely Cats – Stories with Cattitude is Published! — Katzenworld

Pairing Poetry with Pictures

If you want to draw your readers to your poetry, add color.  Better yet, add a drawing or photograph.  It can be surprisingly easy to pair a poem with an appropriate photograph.  Here I’ll share some tips for doing just that!

First, start with your poem.  I’m using this one, recently written by poet Lenore Plassman.

August Afternoon

Birds down in the creek dive and chatter

the cells in my ears twitch in acknowledgement

tomatoes ripened to a mirror shine

my bones stretch to grasp flown over,

common doves arc my synapses alert,

sucking in moisture another Sunday,

another tromp humble pie and humble be

for now that’s what I get:

another moment piled into all that live

cell into cell, above, below.

 

It’s nice, and could use an interesting photo to draw her readers in.  So I noodle around on Pixabay (I’m a contributing member, but you don’t have to be) and select something that matches the mood and theme of the poem.  I look for something with an area on it that could be overlaid with text.  I come up with this image:

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That works okay.  Next, I think about my text.  I decide to go with a simple font in white to match the simple words of the piece.  I use GIMP, a free program, for all my editing needs.  I work in layers to make things easier.  You could do most of this in Paint if you wanted to.  I placed my text, picked a size that was readable, tweaked the position of various things, and cropped my image to make the poem the focal point.  I got this:

August Afternoon Poem 900.jpg

Simple, eyecatching, and great for Facebook, Twitter, or other social media.  You can even have the poem printed out at a drug store or online, and make little handout cards with them.  Happy creating!

 

 

 

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Wake Your Taste-Buds from the Snack-Trance

I struggle to lose weight.

One of my biggest barriers to doing that is – guess what?  Too many empty calories.

Too many calories, period.

I get into a “snack-trance” where I’m eating and not really noticing how much.

Thinking about this recently, I considered the difference between Tuesday and Wednesday of this week  Tuesday, I blew my calorie budget while I was at work, eating things like Red Vines, a muffin, a peppermint patty, and extra rice. I ate most of that mindlessly.  I was hungry when I got home.

Wednesday, I was much more on target.  I ate more vegetables, stayed on target, didn’t have a muffin even though I could have.  Guess what?  I was actually slightly less hungry when I got home.  Either way, though, I was still hungry when I got home, so why didn’t I pick better foods to eat when I was at work?  And why didn’t I notice what I was eating so I could actually enjoy it?

Some time I’ll write an article about this, but for the moment we’ll leave it at this: it’s really important to be able to tell whether your mind is making you hungry out of habit, or whether your body actually needs fuel.  Filling your body up with water rich, nutrient rich food will help reduce your cravings, make you feel fuller, and leave less room for unhealthy food.  Snacking can actually be good for you as it helps fight hunger and prevents blood sugar crashes.  You simply need to do it in a healthy way.

Just as there are lots of things holding us back from exercising every day, there are lots of things that can sabotage our desire to eat healthy foods in a healthy way.  So I’ve listed some common ones.  If you like, skip down to whatever catches your eye first.

The Basics:

The simpler, the better – the fewer ingredients you see on a package, the better.  Better yet, no package.

The easier, the better – keep your healthy snacks near you so you grab them when you’re hungry, and keep them simple so they’re easy to make.

The more water, the better – which is more filling and satisfying, a bunch of grapes, or the same grapes, made into raisins?

Make it easy to eat – prepare your snacks in batches, cut vegetables small, and invest in a few small containers to pack them in.

Be aware of high starch or high sugar fruits – especially if you are sensitive to them, it’s best to avoid grapes and bananas.  Better to have apples, berries, or melon.

Don’t get in a rut – just like with exercise, change it up.

Buy seasonally – it’s cheaper, and you can try out new foods.

Cut veggies, cheese, or other snacks into small pieces – you will eat more slowly.

I forget

Make your healthy snacks memorable.  Use colorful foods and containers.  Leave yourself notes.  Put healthy foods in the prime ares of the fridge, cupboard or pantry.  Make sure you bring your snacks with you by keeping them with something else you need – if this means you keep your keys in the fridge for a while, so be it!

The flavor is boring

Spices can be your best friend.  Cinnamon on your oatmeal.  Curry powder sprinkled on zucchini slices or carrot sticks.  A squeeze of lime on that chicken breast or baked fish.  If you are tired of boiled eggs, try them with yellow or spicy mustard.  Another trick is to have turkey pepperoni with your boiled eggs – with each bite, have a slice of pepperoni.  Low calorie flavorings like mustard and hot sauce are your allies.  If you don’t mind salt, soy sauce or tamari are great options too.  They add flavor without extra calories, and studies have shown that bolder flavors cause us to be more satisfied with less food.  Don’t forget lime and lemon juice, or flavored vinegars!

I can’t chew very well

There are ways to make healthy snacks easier to chew.  For instance, if you can’t eat carrot sticks, steam them lightly or microwave them in a closed container for 30-45 seconds.  Or cut them into “coins,” microwave lightly, and sprinkle with your favorite spices.

If you like them, cucumbers, zucchini, eggplant, cooked squash, cooked sweet potato, or lightly steamed cauliflower are all easy to chew.  Cut into small pieces and sprinkle with your favorite spices.

I’ve found that soaking nuts in water makes them a lot softer, too.

Nut butter on peeled apple slices is also good.

A shake made with frozen fruit and yogurt, and perhaps a scoop of protein powder, is very easy to eat and can be kept in a thermos.  Just keep track of what you put in it.

I need something easy to carry

Luckily, small Tupperware style containers are not only cheap, but easy to find too!  If you buy a few of them, they are pack-proof, convenient, easy to clean, and you save money in bags too.  I like the kind that are basically a snack cup with a lid that screws on.  I keep nuts, cut up veggies, cherries, cherry tomatoes, and any number of things in mine.  Another easy to carry snack is a meal bar, or even an orange or apple.  Oranges are especially good for their portability.  Protein shakes can be portable, just reuse your old drink bottles.  The wider the mouth, the better.

I don’t have much money

I feel you!  Vegetables are both cheap, and healthy, but often seen as boring or gross.  See the “Boring” section for ideas on adding interest to cheap ingredients.  If you always buy in season, and also buy larger containers, you will save money.  You will also save a lot if you do all the processing yourself.  Cut up your own celery sticks and carrot sticks, slice your own bell peppers.

Generally, the old fashioned version of a food is cheaper than the newer variety.  For example, ready to eat sweet peppers cost a lot more than plain bell peppers, which are easy to cut up.  If you crave nuts, peanuts and sunflower seeds can be bought in bulk, usually at low prices.  Hard boiled eggs are weight loss champions and cheap at the same time!  If cheap fruit is boring, jazz it up with home made dips and by sprinkling them with spices.  Or take a few kinds of cheap fruit and mix them for a salad.  Same with vegetables – several kinds of cheap vegetables can be a lot more exciting as a salad.

grocery-store-2119701_640

I love junk food

So do I!  The best thing to do to help control cravings is to figure out what your cravings actually are.  Sure, potato chips are fatty, salty, crunchy and often irresistible.  But what is it that’s the greatest thing about them?  What do you miss the most if you don’t have them?  If it’s the crunchy, salty aspect, you might try lower fat crackers with bold flavor, pretzels, or some smoked almonds.  Watch your portions, of course, but this can help you make healthier choices.  If it’s the fat you crave, thin slices of hard cheese might do the trick.  Then you are getting calcium and protein too, as well as curbing your hunger.  If you yearn for ice cream, try Greek yogurt with fruit, frozen yogurt, or a fruit shake, perhaps even with a scoop of protein powder added.  If you just want to be able to nibble for as long as you want, air popped popcorn with spices can be a great thing.  Try popcorn with cinnamon, paprika, cayenne, nutritional yeast, parmesan powder, or dried oregano.  A little salt is fine too depending on your own needs.  In general, changing to healthier options isn’t hard if you are creative.  Swap out milk chocolate for dark, candy for berries, Ramen for bean thread noodles, and so on.  Healthier food will start tasting better, too.

I hate water

That’s pretty common.  Luckily, there are plenty of ways to jazz plain water up.  Here are some ideas:

Lime – squeezed into plain water, it’s pretty good.  You can also use lemon.

0 calorie drinks – be aware of what kinds of sweeteners are being used and how your body reacts to them.

Green Tea – it also comes in powder packets that you can stir in, giving you a host of benefits.

Iced Tea Mix – you can buy it in jars, unsweetened, and add your own flavors.

Juice – thin it out to give water flavor.

Seltzer – have seltzer instead of tonic water to help with that soda craving.

Cocoa powder – you can make a great cocoa with this, along with non fat milk and your favorite low calorie sweetener.  Add cinnamon.

Herbal Teas – experiment with different strengths.  Or, throw some oregano or mint leaves into plain water.

Get a Brita – if your water is cold and clean, you might like it better.

Infuse with Fruit – some water bottles have little baskets in them where you can put fruit to flavor your water.

Recipe for DIY energy drink:

Thin orange juice with water, half and half.  Sprinkle with salt.  Mix well.  This has much more potassium than the name brand sports drinks, tastes fine (especially when cold) and works well on hot days.

Snack Ideas

Cubes of hard cheese

Cubes of hard sausage, but watch your portions

Cut up lean chicken breast, baked or dry-fried

Nuts (sunflower seeds, almonds, or pumpkin seeds are lower in calories)

Hard boiled Egg (eat with mustard or turkey pepperoni)

Carrots – baby carrots, carrot sticks, raw or lightly steamed carrot coins, with or without spices

Cut up sweet potato – bake or microwave, flavoring optional

cauliflower – lightly steamed or raw

Bell peppers – get the colored ones for interest

Sweet Peppers – a nice, lightly flavored snack

Tomatoes – grape, cherry, or cut up tomatoes

Cherries – eat with dark chocolate if you’re craving candy

Tofu – cubes of Tofu are great with either soy sauce or mustard – or roll them in sesame seeds!

Celery – chunks or sticks, nut butter and raisins optional

Pickles – dill or garden pickles are great as a snack and have probiotic benefits too!

Dried Apricots – A good source of nutrients

Berries – any kind of berry, eaten fresh

Popcorn – air popped, sprinkled with your favorite kitchen spices

Fries – cut red potatoes or sweet potatoes into fry shapes, season, and bake.

Jerky – low in fat, high in protein.  Watch the salt and sugar.

Greek Yogurt – with fruit to sweeten

Rye crackers

Of course, this is just the beginning.  I hope you see a few on here that you haven’t tried before, and try them!  Or put a suggestion in the comments, and I’ll add it to the list.

 

Bonus Tip: DIY “weight loss surgery”

This trick works surprisingly well.  It’s pretty simple.  Keep your portions small and try to eat small meals as often as you can.  If you have to eat frequently, do that, but keep the portions at least dense.  So no huge bowls of pasta or Dagwood sized sandwiches.  Keep this up for a week or so.  Pretty soon your stomach will shrunk and you will feel uncomfortable when you eat larger portions.  You can stretch it back fairly quickly of course, but this can give you a valuable reminder that you’re eating more than you need, because you’ll feel full.  Combine this with drinking plenty of fluids, and eating more slowly so you notice your food, and it will help you tremendously!

Here’s a link to some thoughts I had about dieting and how we often fight against our inner selves. Don’t Lose Weight, Win Health!

Here’s my article about different forms of low cost, convenient exercise. Spice Up Your Workout

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/trance/

 

 

 

 

How to Respectfully Fire a Client

I don’t like to fire clients.

I really don’t.

Especially when I know they are going to have a hard time finding someone else to do what I do, or if it’s going to be a financial hardship for me.  Besides, it’s scary.  I hate being disapproved of or disappointing people.  I have trouble putting myself first.

However, sometimes it needs to happen, for a number of reasons.

Why fire a client anyway?

Each freelancer has their own “hard limits.”  That line they won’t cross.  It’s best if you decide that before you even start work, so when you encounter that situation, you already know how to react.

Here’s an example of what I mean. 

I had been working with a friend of the family for years.  This individual hadn’t been the easiest person to work with, yet I finished several projects.  The content of the books this person wrote had massive inaccuracies and they refused to correct anything.  I continued assisting this person because I figured “well, if they want to do this, it’s on their head” even though I really didn’t feel right about helping spread bad information. However, I knew they were not the richest person in the world and I wanted to help them achieve their dream of being published.  I was on the fence about it but not quite at the firing stage.

A few days ago, they came to me with another book proposal.  Because of past issues I had said I would no longer do any art or editing but would assist with preparing the books for publication.  When I actually read the manuscript I was appalled! Without going into detail, this “children’s book” actually had descriptions of animal abuse and torture and contained mentions of sexually transmitted diseases.  In a children’s book!  It was an odd hybrid of an alphabet book for toddlers and something aimed for sixth grade or older.  This book, by the way, was also wildly inaccurate with many of it’s “facts.”

They had crossed the line.

So, I wrote up a letter.  My spouse helped me make sure it was clear and professional, helped me chop out some clunky verbiage.  I was not rude, but I was direct.  It’s never easy to fire a client, and part of me regrets this because I know the author meant well.  They were trying to help people with learning disabilities.  However, I think their passion for the project overrode their good sense, and since they never were good about taking editing suggestions, the only option I was left with was to fire them.  If they had been better at working with an editor, we probably could have salvaged the book – which is too bad, the illustrations were gorgeous, and the intent was laudable.

Here are some tips I hope are helpful for other freelance authors and artists.

Tips for Firing Clients

Stay professional in all ways.  Never, ever, ever be rude.

Avoid blaming language.  Use “I statements” instead of “you statements.”

Avoid excessive explanation.  You don’t have to defend yourself, and defensiveness will make others think you were in the wrong.  You weren’t if you thought this through properly, so don’t explain too much.

Watch out if your client won’t accept feedback, no mater how gently put.

Don’t run your clients down.  Not then, not ever.  It makes you look bad to other potential clients.

Keep everything simple and clear in your last letter.

Maintain meticulous records and back them up.  Especially, keep records of your final email to the client.  This will help protect you if they decide to sue.

Don’t Panic.  If they decide to sue, or threaten you, keep your cool, seek help if you need it, and keep your towel handy.

Don’t compromise your principles.  Not once, because if you do it once, you will do it again.  Just make sure your principles are fair and reasonable first.

Fire clients only after serious thought, and never over anything minor.

Remember, sometimes firing a client is the wakeup call they need to moderate their behavior.  You could be doing them a favor.  For example, if I had published the book I mentioned above, the author might have encountered angry parents, internet scorn, and even death threats.  If the author went on to publish it elsewhere without considering the points I made in my termination notice, it’s on their head not mine.  I gave them the chance to improve whether they took it or not.

Also keep in mind, no matter how irritated you might be at a client, or no matter how sorry you might feel for them, there are lines that no one can make you cross.  Staying positive and professional in all your communications will help you in both cases.  Then if they are disappointed, angry, or hurt, you know you did the right thing – and you can prove it.

As a footnote, I don’t actually wish anything bad for that client.  I hope they learn from what I said in my final letter, and I hope they also learn to take in constructive criticism and advice.  That will allow them to grow and maximize their potential instead of circling around in a self created prison, shut off from the fresh air of feedback. 

 

“To err is human, to admit your mistakes and fix them is professional.”

 

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/glaring/

Best Workouts for a Limited Space

 

We all know why it’s important to exercise.  So why don’t we do it?

Often, it’s inconvenient, expensive, and boring.

Really, really BORING.

What’s a budget conscious person to do if they want to be fit, but don’t want to be bored to tears?

Change it up, give yourself a nice spicy menu of things to do, and make it easy for yourself.  Just like it’s easier to stay on a diet with colorful, flavorful foods, it’s easier to exercise when you aren’t crying tears of boredom.

Everything in this post is easy to do in odd places, can be varied to suit different needs, and is either free or costs less than $50.

(By the way, if there are links to products, they lead to the best priced items I could find that still had decent quality.  I expect things to be low cost but good, and I wouldn’t ask anyone to look at anything that wasn’t.  I am an Amazon affiliate, as mentioned on the support us link.)

 

At Your Desk

 

Exercise ball – some offices let you use them as chairs.  Strengthens your core, improves balance.  You could get a doctor’s note if they don’t allow it, or just use it anyway then pretend it’s not there.  Here’s an option that’s less than $30.

Pedlar – like a tiny exercise bike that fits under your desk.  I’ll be buying one of these soon, and it’s less than $30 also.

Stress Ball – squeeze one of these enough and you’ll improve forearm and hand strength.  Get a harder rubber ball for more challenge, or a hand exerciser.

Desk Calisthenics – there are quite a few seated exercise routines online.  You can also do a few squats, or press your palms together as hard as you can to exercise your arms.  Every bit helps.  Here’s a link to a great “chairborne” exercise program from an Army Manual printed in 1952.

 

Inside your Castle

 

Yoga – you can learn anything on YouTube.  All you need is clean floor space.

Tai Chi – again, YouTube.  It’s fun, relaxing, and good for balance.

Weight lifting – with creativity you can find all kinds of heavy things to lift.  Just be careful of form.  Dead lifts with two buckets of water and broom handle to hang on to?  Sure!  Arm curls with cans of beans or stew?  You bet!  Most of this can be done in the middle of other activities.

Basic calisthenics – less boring if you don’t do the same ones all the time, and better with music.  I know someone who did jumping jacks every time the Patriots scored a touchdown.

Dancing – sounds cheesy, but when the music is loud enough, anything is possible.

Stretching – make it a part of your day, just like your cat does.

Wall pushups – also good to do on a countertop.  Real pushups are even better if you can do them.

Exercise tubes/bands – a set of them is quite cheap, easy to store, and can be used for a variety of exercises. You can adjust them to suit many different strength levels, too. These are the ones I bought.

 

The (cozy) Outdoors

Jump Rope – A staple for boxers, a small backyard or patio is all your need.  Buy them in any sporting goods store, the toy section at nearly any grocery store, or your local dollar store.

Indian Clubs – Originating in Persia, Indian clubs once were how warriors trained.  They spread through many countries including India and were used by soldiers, average men, women, and children, weight lifters and wrestlers in the Victorian era.  Here’s where to buy some, here’s how to find out how to use them, and there are articles about how to make them online.

Exercise Mace – Great for your core.  Not expensive to buy, definitely possible to make, doesn’t need much space.  It’s also rather fun.  Here’s a good intro on how to use them, and here’s where to buy them if you don’t want to make one.  I chose the 7 lb size because that’s best to start with.

Hammers – you can do many of the same Indian Club exercises with a pair of light hammers.  You may want to pad the heads to avoid injury, and go slow and light at first.

Kettlebell – Yes, you have to buy this one too, but it’s possible to find used ones at some sporting goods stores and they aren’t expensive.  You can do many exercises with one and not have to buy a lot of expensive equipment.  Here’s where to find them.

Plyometrics – all you need is a sturdy plywood box, and a decent pair of shoes.  You can buy the box or build one, or sweet talk a friendly wood worker.  Also, be careful and research plyometrics pretty well before starting, the exercises need to be done properly for safety.

Sand Bags – some people do quite varied exercises with nothing more than a sand bag.  They are good for training with odd loads and building functional strength.  Information here.

Hula Hoop – they’re back!  And they’re fun!  Great for working your core.

 

Bonus tips:

Add music to any of these for even less boredom.  Try new stuff.  Don’t let your playlist get stale.

If you want to exercise more, make it easy.  Leave your sneakers by the door, stash the exercise bands by the TV, put the hula hoop near your patio, yard, or large patch of floor.

Use the “do just one” rule.  Every day, make a commitment to yourself to do just one rep of an exercise.  It seems simple, and it is, but when you are already in the position to do just one, you often find yourself doing a few more.  It kicks you past your inertia.

 

A final note:  I am not affiliated with the Art of Manliness, though I wish I were.  I think it’s an awesome site.  The info there is solid and well researched.  Likewise, the other links are gave are to solid websites that don’t have a million ads or viruses.  I am an Amazon Affiliate however.

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/spicy/

Easy Tips to Prepare for Disaster

“When the Zombie Apocalypse comes, don’t forget your kitty…”

As if I ever would.  This fluffy girl is my best four footed friend, just as my wife is my two footed best friend.

However, by making a bed of an empty box, she’s also reminding me I need to restock!  When maintaining a good supply of food, whether for daily use or long term storage, it’s good to rotate your stocks periodically and also check for old or spoiled food.  I just had to get rid of about fifteen pounds of rice because there were weevils all through it.

Easy tips for long term food storage:

Plastic Buckets are your friends.  Sometimes grocery stores and fast food restaurants give them away, or you can buy them at the hardware store.  They are great for wheat, rice, beans, and smaller bags with other items.  They are stackable for storage in small closets and usually quite sturdy.

Dry Ice works well with your buckets for storing food.  Fill the bucket with dry goods, then place a piece of dry ice on top and tamp the lid shut.  The carbon dioxide will help repel bugs and keep things from spoiling.

Powdered cinnamon repels some insects.  I sprinkle some around the floor of the pantry to help keep bugs away from the cat food and other dry goods.  Diatomaceous Earth is also nontoxic and can be used for the same purpose.

Gallon water bottles are a fairly economical way to buy emergency water.  I buy the Glacier Springs bottles for a dollar or less apiece and then just never open them.  That way the water won’t go bad very quickly because it’s factory sealed in a sanitized bottle.

Don’t forget the spices.  If you have to live off your stockpiles of beans and rice, spices will be your best friend.  Get those pound and half pound giant containers when you see them on sale then store them unopened.

Rotate your stock.  If the cans or bags are getting too old, start using them and buy new ones to replace them.  That way everything is relatively fresh and you don’t have to buy a bunch of things at once.

Grab energy bars when they are on mark down.  They make great emergency food – highly portable, and usually with added vitamins.  I just found a bunch of Atkins bars for a cheap price so I put some in storage and others I’m using for my work lunches.

Watch for Sales.  When you see something that is being sold cheaply, such as cans of tuna, canned chicken, sardines, beans, or rice, buy a little extra and store it.  Even a few dollars spent here and there can really add up over time.

Check your medical supplies.  Make sure tape isn’t getting gummed together, there are no rips in gauze packages, and swap out your antibiotic ointment and other perishables every year or so.  Aspirin can easily last for five or ten years, and things like betadyne and rubbing alcohol will be fine too, but creams, lotions, gel caps, and other such things need to be replaced periodically.

Nezumi Prepper 1000.JPG

Everybody should be prepared for an emergency, whether it’s a kid getting a nasty bruise, a mis-routed pay check, or a natural disaster.  Having a pantry full of food and supplies will give you some much needed peace of mind.

via Daily Prompt: Casual

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/casual/