Signs you’re addicted to technology [how-to unplug]

Think you have a problem?

What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning? Check your messages, app notifications and social media? We live in a technology-saturated society that can do us harm if we don’t keep it in check.

Tech overuse permeates our society

Tech use has gotten so concerning that Congress has a $95 million proposal to study the effects of it on our children. To varying degrees, we’re all guilty of overextending ourselves with continual distractions related to smartphone use, social media, gaming and apps. Not to mention macular degeneration (leading to blindness), which can be exacerbated by blue light emitted from smartphones, laptops and tablet devices.

Unless we voluntarily unplug metaphorically and physically from time to time, we become overridden by around-the-clock angst and anxiety.

Teens and their parents admit it

The Pew Research Center just released a report this month, in which teens and their parents admit they have a problem with their own smartphone usage. 54% of US teens self-reported they spend too much time on their smartphones, and 36% of parents admitted that they themselves overuse devices. The top emotions that teens feel when without a cell phone tops the list with anxiety (42%) followed by loneliness (25%) and being upset (24%).

It’s becoming crystal clear that tech use often leads to constant distraction and lower quality interactions with people around us – family and friends.

Open-plan work myth busters

An Inc.com article published this past July summarized takeaways from a Harvard Study. In an open-plan workplace, people wear headphones and use productivity apps (Slack, Skype, Hangouts) in lieu of talking F2F. People choose to withdraw.

“Rather than prompting increasingly vibrant face-to-face collaboration, open architecture appeared to trigger a natural human response to socially withdraw from officemates and interact instead over email and IM.”

What the research also relays to me is the growing interdependence of technology. When given the choice, it’s easier to default to tech use as the medium for communication.

Stuff of science fiction & dark comedies

Why do we get creeped out watching Black Mirror? Because it plays out dystopian scenarios that can feel, well, uncomfortably real.  When one of the happiest episodes is the Emmy-winning San Junipero [*spoiler alert*], perhaps that is because it reaches into the happiness imbued when two people authentically connect, transcending technology.

Then you have Nosedive from Black Mirror’s season 3, in which Bryce Dallas Howard’s character becomes obsessed with her social media ratings to the detriment of her social standing and sanity. A similar plot theme is taken up in the dark comedy Ingrid Goes West, starring Parks & Rec alum Aubrey Plaza. While these are exaggerations at best, they serve as cautionary tales of overexposure that can impact people’s psyche.

Take a break

Of the Western countries, France is considerably ahead in their stance on work-life balance. France’s government has made it a right for employees to unplug after work — the right to disconnect.

There are many compelling reasons to create a regular habit of unplugging and detoxing. It also encourages you to really connect with people and your loved ones.

Put away the iPhones and Android smartphones, turn off Netflix, power down your PS4 / Xbox, stop checking your Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat accounts, and put your Kindle to sleep.

How-to unplug

Make it a healthy habit to unplug from time to time. Weekends are the best times to do so, especially when you have family. I make it a point to “do things” in my own way.

  • Put away your phone – temporarily put it aside and find your happy place.
  • Enjoy DIY projects (solo, or with the kids) – baking, cooking, craft projects
  • Explore the local scene – farmer’s market, events, nextdoor organized groups
  • Meditate and read books – solo or with friends. Enjoy that cup of coffee or tea
  • Spend time outdoors – walk, hike, or take a run.
  • Join a club or activity – book club, renew that gym membership, and explore group activities
  • Learn something new – Because you’ve been itching to try something new
  • Slow down – don’t always rush out the door. Take pleasure in doing things slowing.

Goat Cheese on Toast. Recipe x Five Ways

Chèvre 

If you haven’t had chèvre, you’re missing out. Chèvre is the French word for goat, and it’s the spreadable kind of tart cheese that tastes wonderful on toasted bread, baguette or bagel. Drizzle a little honey over it, and now we’re talking.

The versatile goat cheese can be eaten for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or as an hors d’oeuvres. It’s a great alternative to cream cheese if you want to add a bit more earthy depth to your morning bagel.

A little goat story

Since I always like to understand what I’m eating, I researched this French staple. The artisanal cheese making process has been around for thousands of years. France is the #1 producer of (pure) goat cheese with over 3,000 goat cheese producers.

Billy goat
Happy goat grazing and not minding a pat on the back

Did you know goats produce cheese 7-8 months in a year? This is different from cows, which can be milked year-round. Goat’s milk is therefore in season during the months of March through July. Goat cheese has a short aging process of a few days to a few weeks.

If aged for a few days to one-week, the milky goat cheese is similar in character to that of cream cheese. If the cheese is aged 2 weeks or longer, then you’ve unlocked a more intense taste with a crumbly texture and a yellower color. You’ll often find chèvre in a cylindrical form.

The process of making chèvre involves the coagulation of milk, solid cheese curds are drained through a cloth, the curds are poured into molds, later drained and dried, salted, and then left at a controlled temperature to age the cheese.

Cheese that doesn’t quite melt

An interesting fact. Chèvre will go soft, but it will not completely melt when heated. This is something you may notice when making flat bread pizza with goat cheese.

Better for lactose sensitivities

Goat cheese is easier to digest. Goat’s milk is lower in lactose compared to cow’s milk, and more importantly goat’s milk is naturally homogenized and has smaller fat globules vs. cow’s milk. This aids in easier digestion, especially if you have some sensitivity to lactose.

Fancy up Breakfast or Brunch

You can buy classic chèvre at most any grocery store, and you’ll find different variations of goat cheese like the offerings from Vermont Creamery, ranging from honey, blueberry lemon thyme, and pepper jelly to herb de provence, peppercorn, and cranberry orange cinnamon.

If you want to make a gorgeous little meal, it takes no time at all. You can accompany your cheese on toast with a mixed green salad. For brunch or lunch, pair it with a glass of sparkling wine or rosé.

Note: For gluten sensitivities, I highly recommend Vermont-based Against the Grain baguette, or the more readily available Udi’s Delicious Soft sliced bread.

Toast with cheese and raw honey
Spread goat cheese on toast, and take a tablespoon of raw honey and drizzle over the top.

Toast with tomatoes and fresh basil
Take sliced artisanal bread and toast. Spread a generous layer of goat cheese and layer on slices of tomato and chopped fresh basil.

Toast with fresh fruit
Chop up fresh fruit from your local farmer’s market. Layer on the goat cheese and top it all off with berries and tart apples.

Beets and orange with chèvre
Earthy beets and orange segments on goat cheese smeared toast at The Press Cafe

Toast with beets and oranges
Earthy beets and citrus orange segments pair well together when layered over goat cheese on toast.

Smashed avocado and cheese
Take a ripe avocado, and smash it up with a fork. Spread it first on the toast and then crumble some goat cheese over the top. Toss a handful of red pepper flakes, crack some sea salt, and drizzle extra virgin olive oil.

If you have other chèvre toast making suggestions, please share in comments.
Bon appétit!

Top 5 Wardrobe Finds

You’re going to love these

What’s blowing up on Instagram and on your friend’s feed? Here’s a round-up of fun wardrobe finds I’ve uncovered. I’ve done my research online, read through the reviews, and tried them out myself.

1) YSL Loulou Heart Sunglasses + Dupes

I love cute sunnies, but I don’t see myself wearing heart-shaped sunglasses on every given day. The Saint-Laurent Loulou sunnies are adorable, chic, and the wing tips create a cat eye effect. These heart-shaped sunglasses took off last year.  You’ll find the real deal on stylish moms like Instagrammer Hannah Strafford-Taylor.

YSL Loulou sunglasses
YSL Loulou sunglasses took off last year

At Neiman’s, the gorgeous pair will set you back $490. You can find a dupe on Amazon, and a child / toddler version here.  At the very least, you can go matchy-match with the kids.

2) Summersalt. Lunch in your bathing suit 

Going through my Instagram feed, I stumbled on the eye-catching colors of Missouri-based Summersalt. The bathing suit styles provide flattering silhouettes on different body types. Plus, the candy colors and styles evoke summer fun. Available at Summersalt.com

Summersalt model wearing Sidestroke
Summersalt model wearing Sidestroke in Seaweed + Seaglass + White Sand

The swimsuits are moderately priced, so you can add to your wardrobe (even in the waning days of summer). It’s also perfectly acceptable to go out to lunch wearing one of these numbers. You can throw on shorts or a skirt, and later hit the pool with a cocktail in hand.

3) Plae sneakers 

Living in California, you get exposed to all the local shoe brands and startups. Plae is a relative new kid in town, and they make drool-worthy cool shoes for toddlers and kids. Their newest line-up include adult shoes. The grownup shoes are just as comfy, and have a unique twist that sets it apart from major sneaker brands. I wrote up my recent experience in an earlier post here.

Kicks for Adults
Love the closure system that loops around the emblematic silver PLAE button.

4) Stance Statement Socks

We all need to wear socks, especially with the cooler months headed our way. I like to dress up feet with fun cartoony socks. Stance socks have been around for a while and come in cool graphics.

I may swing more Sanrio Hello Kitty, but you’re partner may lean towards more Storm Trooper. Whatever your style, Stance has a spectrum of options. Plus, you can find a bevy of cute cartoonish and animal socks on Amazon (for the less performance minded).

5) Anthropologie hair clips 

Anthropologie always comes out with elegant hair clips, pins and ties to suit everyday and special occasions. Hair clips are great staples to own, especially for those days you’re running around but still want to look relatively put together.

Tortoise intermixed with retro-inspired patterns and tints set these hair accessories apart from your basic Goody and Scunci staples.

Hair clips
Anthropologie’s Triple Play Hair Clip Set

So enjoy accenting your wardrobe, and take some calculated risks. Find pieces that are durable and that you can wear all the time. Quality over quantity.

Hope you enjoyed this week’s fiver!

Wellness from the Mind Up

Success + Happiness

“Seeking excellence and experiencing satisfaction are not mutually exclusive. Being satisfied, then, doesn’t mean “settling.” It simply means accepting and taking pleasure in what is. It’s allowing yourself to feel contentment whether or not a thing is complete or “perfect.” – Brendon Burchard

Burchard’s bestselling book shares great advice when it comes to unlocking our potential. He does it with great storytelling and research-driven insights.

Honor what’s important to you

One of the areas we (sometimes) chiefly neglect is the power of positive thinking. We have to practice and embody in our daily lives. We get pulled in so many directions. Pressures from work, school, family, friends, and even acquaintances. Everyone wants a piece, but it goes back to what you value as important. What’s most important to you? What makes you happy?

I value family. I value close relationships. Friends, true friends, will be evident as they will contribute to your state of well being, not try to hold you back, or diminish your dreams. Those who care about you will respect that you have priorities and aspirations that are unique to you.  More importantly — they will give you room to breathe and grow.

Becoming more self-aware

In a social media driven world, there’s the image that is perceived vs. the reality you live. Yes, we want to project a positive filtered image, one that is revealed through rose-tinted glasses. The reality is life has its ups and downs. We make mistakes. Through failure, we learn to get back up and dust ourselves off, ready to face even greater challenges.

Reading motivational books and articles provide a medium for self-reflection and introspection. As a bestselling author and motivational coach, Burchard reinforces important themes in High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Become That Way. 

His themes are not new concepts, but ones that require a shift in mindset and habits.

Summarizing (some) key themes

Success and happiness are not mutually exclusive. They go hand in hand.

  • Power of positive thinking. Never underestimate the power of positive thinking, as it can fortify you with courage and resilience.
  • Ask yourself core questions about you and what would make you happy.  Live with intention and purpose. He highlights the importance of “seeking clarity.”
  • Practice high performance habits. Focus on what matters, and not all the extraneous things that get in the way. Focus on the main thing.
  • Be courageous. To live life to the fullest, work on becoming the person you aspire to be, and don’t let others dictate how to live (for you).
  • Learn to be influential. Influence comes in many forms.
  • Spend less time with Debbie Downers. Steer away from negativity, and invite more positive people and experiences into your life.
  • Generate energy and be more productive. It’s not the hours spent slaving away. Wellness, balance, and sleep are critically important. Rather it’s the concept of generating energy and “increasing the outputs that matter.”

What do you feed your pet?

Shopping online the norm 

I’m trying to remember the last time I bought dog food at a physical store. It’s been a while, and much of that has to do with my own shift in buying. There’s comfort in knowing I don’t have to haul a 50-pound bag of kibble, and that I have options to try out products without being judged.

Don’t take it personally

All of us share strong opinions of what we should feed our families (pets included). As with all parents, we try our best for those we love.

Yes, sometimes I let my children enjoy unhealthy snacks, the occasional Capri Sun, and flavored apple sauce that come in drinkable pouches. I am that way with pet food as well.

And food is the most important area we invest in as pet parents. US pet owners will spend $29.88 Billion on food this year, according to the APPA.

Delivered to your doorstep

Buying is happening online with much of it taking place on Amazon, PetSmart’s Chewy.com, Walmart.com, and specialty pet retailers. There’s also a growing segment of owners drawn to human-grade dog food with delivery services like Ollie, NomNomNow, and The Farmer’s Dog.

The trend should not be surprising. Particularly in urban centers, people are used to delivery services like Instacart and Postmates. DIY convenience cooking is a thing with the unbelievable popularity of the Instant Pot (yes! I am one of them) — not to mention DIY meal-kit services like Hello Fresh, Blue Apron and Plated.

Ollie dog food
Ollie human-grade delivery service to your door

Curated food options

With the dizzying array of pet food options (brands, SKUs, sizes, life stages, grain-free options, freeze-dried, kibble, human-grade, frozen, etc.), shopping can be overwhelming.

I enjoy my trips to Trader Joe’s because of the limited, curated selections and consistent store layout. I know exactly what I want, so I end up saving time and money. Curation can provide a level of consistency and quality vs. an everything-and-the-kitchen-sink approach.

Petcube.com has rolled out pet food online with emphasis on curation, convenience, and additional savings for members. Highlighted in the news and blog post.

Petcube.com curates food
Petcube.com curates food with membership savings

Decision decisions….

Going back to the question, what do you feed your pet? Maybe it’s not that straightforward and clear cut. Each journey is personal, and tastes and life stages often dictate what you choose. Variety, nutrition, convenience, and price are general factors. Tack on the occasional cheat day and holidays, pampering from the friends and relatives, and those moments of inexplicable generosity.

And today, I’m feeling generous.