Ideas for spending time at home...a few thoughts and suggestions

I'm following the CDC/etc. guidelines and staying home and, as I do so, trying to be creative in the use of my time [note I said Creative not Productive].  I gather we can go outside to catch the air/sun, but keep our distance and be sensitive to others.  The 'social distancing' idea is, after all, to help others and is unselfish in concept.  So, did a little thinking and research [which is a good way to continue to put off that ToDo List even further. . . ]

In addition to the ToDo list there's always household chores:  Clean out shelves, cabinets, closets and drawers [so called "deep cleaning"] and other worthy things, but for sanity's sake I was looking for ideas to keep the mind active [might be particularly relevant for kids etc., in a more kid-like format certainly].  The following are a few suggestions - 

Review and Clean out and Unsubscribe from emails, newsletters and other things which just multiply over time [I do this at year's end but it probably should be done twice a year given how many new offerings come in.  

There are books:  the paper ones you have, the audio books you have or can get [the Overdrive app, and others, can access your library account], the iPad/tablet ones you have, going through all your magazines and reading or recycling what you can.

There is, of course, a plethora of choices of streaming TV [we've exhausted Vera and Brunetti among others but are finding quite a few more offerings]

For your audio enjoyment as you tackle the ToDo list or household chores, there's radio, your music library [mine needs some culling anyway]

And for more visual entertainment - virtual tours of places you want to go to/see:

 

    [My search was ‘Virtual Tours’ and I’m sure others can do something more detailed or relevant]

Hope this is helpful... In the meantime, enjoy a view of nature far away:

Sintra-Cascais Natural Park  Portugal
     Sintra-Cascais Natural Park Portugal

 


Taking back your life, Part II. De/Un-cluttering in a way.

As I recently wrote, at the end of the year I go through emails, newsletters, subscriptions etc. and jettison that which I can.  It is now 1-2 months since I started that process:  so far, I have not re-subscribed and I have continued to de-subscribe.  So far so good, still too many emails [particularly in a political year] but fewer than in the past.

Another process I have started - especially since the snows/ice/fog tend to keep one quietly in doors - has been to go through and organize my various 'digital assets' and delete whatever I can.  I have now used some larger [2-3TB] hard drives as storage for [1] music [iTunes, downloads, CDs saved from disk, etc.], [2] Client items [no longer needed currently but securely saved for the required time], [3] Financial info, [4] general reading, etc.  Actually I'm focusing on getting the music onto a drive so it's saved somewhere and I can delete items if I don't really need them currently.

I did have an epiphany the other day, though - I have PDFs from various articles, readings, etc. dating back at least 10 years and, if I wanted to really search for them, perhaps farther back.  There is no way in heck I am going to EVER be able to read those PDFs!  So, I'm also in the process of [1] getting rid of duplicates [I do tend to duplicate items 'just in case', and don't regret doing that] and [2] re-saving the most interesting, pertinent, useful ones and trashing all the rest.  If I haven't had cause to read an article since 2013, saved in pdf to disk, it's obviously not needed now == it's rather freeing to be getting rid of things I will never read, much less find time to read them = and which are findable on the Internet anyway.

So, another suggestion - don't let these things pile up so you have to do what I've been doing and clean things out.  And for your pleasure on a grey, snowy day = sunset in the fall, Urbandale, IA.

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Taking back your life....a good way to end the year, each year.

This is something I have done each January but now I'm starting in December and hoping there will be positive results in the new year.

Basically, I go through all the emails I receive as they come in [and then work back through those which have piled up] and if they are from non-personal/friend&family sources, decide which I want to still receive in the new year.  I then unsubscribe to as many as possible.  After all, if I miss the newsletter I can always sign up again.

I have an app which is part of Mail [MailButler] which does much of the unsubscribing for me, but I also have used Unroll.me - a website that will do much the same thing.  There are no doubt other ways of handling unsubscriptions, but this is what I do at the end of the year.

As for snail mail, that's a different thing to tackle, and a separate post.  In the meantime, a little hint of spring to keep people smiling.


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Blocking phone crap and feeling great about it!!!

CRAP CALLS - I now spend a fair amount of time at home, not just doing nothing but doing loads of different things [loving it!].  Of course, since I’m here we do get phone calls thru the day.  I don’t mind, so much, human beings calling - whether fundraising or politicking or whatever.  I’m willing and able to be kind to them. BUT I hate those machine people calls = the ones for the back braces, car warranties, health insurance, you name it.  [I am on the DoNotCall list]. The ones which try to sound like a human, “Hello this is Jennifer”..pause to allow me to say something, then move right along and try to make me think this is a human. BUT I’m having a great time with my call-blocking phone = I’m sure other manufacturers make them, but the one we have is a Panasonic and when one of those machine calls come in [I answer on speakerphone] I hit the Call Block button and even if they’ve spoofed some innocent Iowa area code and number, they are blocked totally.  I’ve noticed in the past few days calls have come in and either died on the vine or show “Call Blocked” on the screen and I punch it off.  Not having to receive these calls has been great — I just thought I’d report this small success in fighting the machines.

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Going through old photographs. . .

I found one from a trip in 2006 when I spent about a week in Beijing, China [and two in Bhutan] and joined a small tour group bicycling through the hutongs of the old city.  I'm going to be having a show in late July at Artisan Gallery 218 with photos of bicycles from that and other trips over the years.  Details of the show will be on the website and in its Newsletter or you can contact me for further information.

Vicky in Beijing web


Turn on Two-Factor Authentication ASAP!

Sitting here quietly and my iPhone beeped and a text message came in - "841138 is your Amazon security code" --BUT I have not been on the Amazon site for any purpose today or over the past several days.  I immediately went there and changed my password then called Amazon customer service.  As the lady explained, someone may have obtained my email and password in some fashion [how I don't know and I had an excellent password, I thought] and tried to buy something or get into the account for some purpose.  Thus, since I had 2-factor authentication set up, they couldn't enter because the text came to me with the code, not to them.  I know I harp constantly about passwords, password managers and security, but this is additional proof of the need to prevent easy access to one's accounts.  


Final thoughts on the value of travel from Catherine Workman

Travel Creates Tighter Bonds

Whether travelling with a friend, relative or partner, experiencing a new place together can strengthen the relationship. So long as the challenging aspects of travelling are jointly overcome, such as planning the trip or compromising on what to see, you and travel partner will laugh and bond over the entire adventure, forming an enduring cache of memories you can talk about in the years to come.

Tip: Be sure to print out the photos you have taken of the trip and to put them in a scrapbook for you to look at from time to time. In this digital age, many people are guilty of snapping, but not printing, the photos so that they rarely look at them in the years ahead.

In heeding our tips, while learning about the mental benefits of travelling, you’re yielding even more benefits from your upcoming trip. Not going anywhere soon? Then, don’t wait any longer. Book a sitter for your pet, pack your bags, and escape to a relaxing destination today! 

 

Abstract Lily Pads
Abstract Lily Pads

Happiness is good!

The Pre-Trip Happiness is Good for YouThe benefits of travel don’t come to you just during and after your trip. The excitement and anticipation of going on vacation can considerably lift your spirits. According to a University of Surrey study, people are at their happiest when they have already booked a trip. Such people are also more positive about their finances, health, and overall quality of life.  

A Cornell University study found that people rate the happiness of anticipating a travel experience over that of purchasing a new acquisition.

Tip: Download a countdown clock app to help stoke your feelings of giddiness and excitement before the trip. The closer you get to the date, the happier you will be.

 

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Wild lines in Seattle

More from Catherine Workman, part 3

Travel Relieves Stress

Our day-to-day responsibilities may be time-consuming, and sometimes we totter under the burden of living hectic, busy days on repeat. Travel is a delightful way to escape the commitments and stresses of our daily life, introducing refreshing change and novelty in the form of new sights, experiences and acquaintances. The goal is to relax to the point where both the mind and body reboots, free from the strains of work projects and burdensome relationships, says Margaret King of the Center for Cultural Studies and Analysis.

For many, travel is not about discovering new places as much as escaping from old ones that are adversely affecting our spirits. Vacations sever the feeding channels of stress connected to the activities and places we dwell in for work.

Tip: Sometimes vacations to busy cities like London or New York, while exciting, may overwhelm your nerves a tad. During such big urban adventures, be sure to schedule some down time, like a calm picnic or massage.

 

 

Dorsoduro visit to Etta Lisa 115
Boat in Canal in Venice

More from Catherine Workman

With Travel.....

You Learn to Be Flexible

When travelling, especially in new countries, you step out of your comfort zone and are forced to adopt to new customs and societal differences. This challenge “opens” your personality more, noted a 2013 paper by Zimmerman and Neyer. New societal adaptation calms your emotional reactions to changes in the day-to-day and boosts emotional stability, their paper concludes. At the same time, you meet new people, expand the size of your existing social network, and fortify your sense of congeniality.

Tip: Charm the locals you meet by learning and expressing, from time to time, typical expressions and idioms of the culture. Punctuating your phrases with a word of curious note will endear you to them.

 

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Bhutanese Dancer at Festival

A guest post from Catherine Workman of Wellness Voyager

From time to time I become aware of other's writings on topics relating to travel, both encouraging it and providing helpful suggestions.  Catherine Workman of WellnessVoyager has written on this topic.  She has a great view of travel:  "Catherine believes we should all leave our comfort zones once in awhile. She uses travel to boost her physical and mental health and shares about her experiences on WellnessVoyager.

So, here is one of her discussions and I'll publish others in the near future. 

Here are a few reasons why springing for a pleasure trip is a terrific idea, coupled with trip-maximizing tips:    

It Sows Creativity

Experts on neuroplasticity (how our brain is connected) say our brains are tremendously influenced by changes in experiences and environments. Studies conducted at Columbia Business School have found that creativity is stoked when cultural immersion is deep. Open-mindedness blossoms when you shift your habits and newly tailor your life to the customs of the country you’re visiting.

Tip: Practice more than one creative outlet – such as journal writing, or craft learning – when traveling, to stir your creative synapses.

Woman walking in downtown Aix


Our Visit to Cuba, continued

There are basically four main Plazas in old Havanna which were within easy walking distance. The one we visited first, Plaza de La Catedral, had, as you might expect, a cathedral at one end and then a number of other museums and interesting buildings and loads of tourists wandering about.

Plaza de La Catedral

 

 


Our Visit to Cuba

In late December I, my husband and our daughter traveled to Cuba and over the next several days I'll hope to provide some descriptions and photographs from the journey. We started to plan back in June before the policy toward Cuba was changed.  We bought our flights to Miami and then to Havana and set off a few days after Christmas.

We categorized ourselves as a people-to-people mission, because it was true: My husband is a lawyer and we wanted to learn about the legal system, I am a photographer and wanted to take photographs and as soon as I can get them processed and reviewed hope to have several to show, and our daughter speaks fluent Spanish and frequently translated for us. We did ultimately make arrangements with a tour agency, Cuba Cultural Travel, to handle the details of the various requirements for our visit to Cuba. They did an excellent job of finding a good guide, a safe and good driver, a variety of experiences to enjoy. It is certainly much easier to travel with the help of a tour agency when you are not familiar with the country and need assistance with some of the paperwork and other requirements. 

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The Malecon & view of Havana
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Young Lovers on the Malecon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[We lucked out with our first Casa Particular, a 15th floor penthouse apartment with a delightful host.  And wonderful views of the Atlantic abutting the northern shore of Havana, Cuba.]


SkyTripping versus Do it Yourself - screensavers

My sister told me about an app on her office's conference room that showed lovely aerial views of wonderful places around the world with or without background music.  I found the app which can be downloaded and used on AppleTV.     Skytripping

It does cost about $4 a month, but on the other hand if you want something lovely to soothe your soul, it’s a great option.

On the other hand, I have now set up something in my home office - I got an open box Apple TV and using iTunes on my iMac selected a photo folder to use via home sharing, selected music to play on my iTunes, and as I sit here, it’s playing my music and showing my photos from the selected folder….not quite HD Aerial View but really pretty cool anyway = I love the music in my library and now I can see what my images look like on a TV screen.
 
Happy Thanksgiving to all.