Friday, August 26, 2016

How to Make Cold Brew (Not Iced) Coffee at Home: A Healthy, Aromatic Brew Recipe

Is there anything as comforting as an iced coffee on a sweltering summer day? Or any day, if you enjoy your coffee chilled. Cold brew coffee isn't coffee brewed in hot water and iced or chilled afterwards, cold brew is stepped in cold or room temperature water for 12 to 16 hours. The result a superior confection that's more aromatic and sweet with more nuanced flavors than coffee brewed with heat. The best part, it's beyond easy to create your own flavor rich cold brew coffee at home. You can even make a large batch you can sip from throughout the week.

Why It's Better: Brewing your coffee (or tea) via heat releases acidic and bitter tanin constituents and can destroy a percentage of the delicate, aromatic essential oils that form the bean's distinctive flavor. When you cold brew you bypass the release of bitter compounds while preserving delicate notes, resulting in a sweet, mellow, smooth brew with layered flavor. A good cold brew is akin to an artisan craft beer or mixologist's cocktail.

Fun Fact: Cold brew coffee is known at Kyoto Coffee in Japan and has been popular there since the 1600s. In Japan the coffee is made with striking glass drippers, but it's easy to make cold brew at home with a simple mason jar.

How to Make Cold Brew Coffee:

1) Combine one part grounds to three parts water in a jar.
2) Shake or stir thoroughly to combine the water and the grounds, then refrigerate. You can store your coffee on the counter but it's hot as hell in Florida and I prefer mine ice-cold from the fridge.
3) Agitate your brew by shaking it a couple of times within the 12-16 hour brew time. (It'll still turn out fine if you forget, though. This makes the coffee more even and concentrated.)
4) The next day filter the grounds from the coffee two to three times. You can use coffee filters over a fine mesh strainer, run it through a french press a couple of times or a combination theroff. I've read that some professionals start with a nylon strainer then switch to a paper one to remove all trace of grounds.

The resulting concentrate will last around a week in your fridge in a well-sealed jar. The delicious brew is strong, you may want to dilute to your taste. I've heard of people who like their coffee warm re-heating the mix, too! Starting your day with your coffee pre-made and ready to mix to your tastes takes another hassle away from your morning routine. It only takes a little prep the afternoon before. Try cold brewing at home for a mellow, flavorful start to the day!
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Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Massive Productivity Improvement #4: Handwrite Before You Type Blog Posts- Or Anything Else

I was spending a $10.00 Office Depot gift certificate when I noticed a sad sight, notebooks on sale for 1 cent each! True, it was a back-to-school promotion, but the price being that low seems indicative of having more in stock than they could sell. There's less writing by hand now. It's good for paper waste, but bad for learning, writing skill, preserving brain function and what I'll focus on here- productivity.

When you write on the computer it's incredibly easy to give in the siren's call of social media or YouTube. Before you know it you may have spent hours checking up on Facebook, Instagram, or your favorite blogs. And that's fine and fun to do in those designated time slots but it can be the death of a piece of writing.

Meanwhile, writing by hand with all electronics turned off stimulates different creative areas of the brain. You guessed it, it's that creative group of cells in the brain that keep coming up in my studies, the Reticular Activating System. The RAS "filters" distractions and helps you focus intently on your writing while you're handwriting on paper. (Versus typing while looking at a computer screen.)

Some physicians claim the act of handwriting engages your motor skills to keep your brain and body limber and active as you age. Many writers, like Susan Sotang and Truman Capote wrote their manuscripts by hand first, Sotang saying it relaxed her and helped the creative process. Studies conducted on children have shown their writing is consistently better when it's on paper. The study illuminated one reason why my "writing voice" changed for the worst after years of copywriting in a cubicle, it was all typing on the computer and no handwriting.

Typing on the computer can be like skimming the surface of a body of water; handwriting is like diving to the deep depths and taking in all of the details. It can be like the difference between reading a buzzfeed article on any given topic and reading a 300 page medical journal or thesis paper on the subject. It increases retention of the information, too. I've been handwriting with my computer off for three days straight and feel like I could possibly hit me goal of being a year ahead on posts in a month of writing, it's a productivity game-changer!

If you're stuck, or have trouble focusing while trying to write on a computer, consider switching it off and breaking out a fresh notebook and a favorite pen and getting lost in the art of blissful, productive, distraction-free writing. Convert it to your computer later (which will help you edit since you'll be reading it again, or you can be like Capote who would re-write a second draft by hand on paper again). There's a place for both, but that's the key, we need both in our writing going forward.

See Also: Massive Productivity Improvement #1: 3 Goals Per Week. 3 Tasks Per Day
Massive Productivity Improvement #2: 80/20 Rule

Massive Productivity Improvement #3: Use Biorythms to be 200% More Productive

(  But if you guys refuse I'll just go blow my $1.00 and get 100 notebooks and do all the hand-writing myself! I'm rich, rich in all the notebooks, I say! Just kidding that sale is now defunct. :(  )
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Monday, August 22, 2016

My One Step For Arranging Gallery Walls: Less Holes, Less Time, More Fun


If you're reading this you might be a fellow weirdo that re-arranges gallery walls often. Maybe you're fickle, maybe you do it to refresh your space, maybe you're always just trying to find the right balance. Maybe you're all of the above like me! Hopefully, you work in an art gallery or something to justify the insane amount of wall art re-arrangement. I've done this too so much that I've decided to do something simple that will make this easier in the future...

I trace all the artwork I own on paper and keep those papers on hand so I can arrange these into pleasing compositions first before any nails go in the walls!

One day I'll have a balance I can leave alone in this space (ha, maybe!) but until then, these paper tracing of my pieces will really come in handy.

How do you hang you gallery walls or art collections? Any tips to share?  I'm still trying to figure out my living area combined "great space" now that I relieved myself of some more furniture. I both follow and break the eye-height formula depending on the function of an area or where I want the eye to go. I'll have more gallery wall hanging tips coming soon!
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Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Reassuring, Down to Earth Advice From a Very Successful Man On How to "Get Rich"

My recent trip to Virginia to visit with AJ's family was fun, and illuminating. We passed field after field of cornfields in Suffolk, Virginia, a novelty I've never seen.

One night I was taken to meet AJ's great uncle and aunt. This house, one of a few for them, was their modest "common" home, they joked. It had multiple bedrooms, a movie theatre, indoor exercise pool,  indoor bar, dock, outdoor kitchen and more dizzying amenities I didn't have time to take in. Over ample servings of sweet tea, roast beef (potatoes for me), green beans, and home grown tomatoes we discussed life and business. He owns 150,000 (I couldn't believe my ears) acres, ample real estate, businesses, other homes the size of hotels and much more, but his advice was humble and relatable. I wanted to share it for anyone who's struggling, it gives you hope!

1. You have to crawl before you can walk, you have to walk before you can run.

2. You're going to fall and pick yourself back-up, over and over and over again.

He talked about how he started his first business by a loan from his older sister, times of sleeping under bridges, going bankrupt and feeling like he'd never "make it". But he kept going. And then he did. I always admire that type of tenacity, his advice about crawling first and picking yourself up and keep going rings true. You're never going to "get rich" without failing first or making mistakes along the way.

It's how you learn from the mistakes, and more importantly, that you keep going despite the set-backs, that counts.
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Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Colorful Retro 1950s Signage and Vintage Cars at Old Town in Kissimmee, Florida


I've been meaning to share a peek at the rest of the area we explored the day I took a field trip down to Black Market Minerals in Kissimmee, Florida. Old Town coins itself as a mini amusement park, one of several in the touristy Kissimmee/Orlando area, which draws thousands of visitors to the Universal, Disney, and Sea World resorts and theme parks.

Opened in 1986, it's meant to evoke America's classic post-war 1950s era with lots of hand-painted signs, retro car shows, music, and a few themed rides and entertainment assortments. Mostly, it's a shopping mall with bells and whistles, but a fun one. Especially for lovers of all things retro!

If I was on my own it would have been tempting for my inner graphic design nerd to stop and photograph every single sign but I was with a group so I hummed right along past retro signs and vintage cars only stopping to snap a couple of shots here and there.

If I lived in the area I'd have to stop by this bar for a beer at night. Yep, just for the sign. Surely filled with the same regular boring patrons and not the 1950s retro dancing sort but who knows?!

There was also...

An anime shop! It bought me right back to youthful pilgrimages to Orlando with fellow nerdy friends to shop their anime/nerd shops which the city has in more abundance (and better quality) than we could ever dream of where we live in Jacksonville, Florida. They had exact replica gym badge enamel Pokemon pins and sets of realistic Dragon Balls that were really cute and day-brightening.

By the rides there were more cars.

I especially enjoyed the DeLorean, of course!

I'd visit for Black Market Minerals alone (so huge, so many low priced gemstones) but there are so many more shops and bits to explore here. I'll definitely make my way back on another Orlando adventure. It looks like I lost the footage but I meant to share video I captured of a guy's old fashioned piano-and-micro-phone-on-wheels show and other fun little kistchy antics. Stop by Old Town if you're a retro lover visiting the area! While writing this a vague memory of a near-dead similar Pirate-themed mini theme park in Orlando came back to me. My favorite thing is being in cabins in rustic nature but there's something to the kitsch, obvious artifice of these types of attractions that light me up, too.

Speaking of wooded cabins and wilderness! I'm taking off on a vacation with AJ to visit his family in rural Virginia. We're trying to make a stop in Washington D.C for the Smithsonian before heading back down south to stay at The Hostel in the Forest for a couple of nights. It'll be nice to have an extended no PC / No Work break to read, write, explore, and get some fresh ideas. I'll be back Wednesday next with new content (I'll likely have content before Wednesday, you know me, workaholic). You can see peeks of the journey on Instagram.
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Monday, August 8, 2016

Massive Productivity Improvement #3: Use Bio Rhythms to Be 200% More Productive

Do you wish you could be extremely productive in less time? Do you want more time to spend on things you love rather than plugging away at work for extended hours to be productive? I keep reading a trend over and over in the lives in successful people. They say they identify their natural bio rhythms to find their peak productivity time and by optimizing that time, they're 100% to 200% more effective! This is the time you need to schedule your work day around, the time when you need to knock out the day's hardest tasks. Let's look at how you can find your bio rhythm's natural peak productivity times.

So what's your bio rhythm? It's your body's natural pattern of operation and includes your physical and mental cycles. You may already be able to ID your personal peak productivity time, the time where you're in that "mind like water" state and work quickly and effortlessly. For most people, that's in the morning when you first start working, when the day is fresh and distractions haven't worn you down yet.

But everyone's body is different. To ID your body's peak productivity times you should keep a journal of how you work throughout the day. Take note of your dips in energy or when you mind wanders off, this is your body's "rest" cycle and the best time to schedule a break.

Are we always going to have the luxury of carefully scheduling our days to our biorhythms? Nope. Things come up and deadlines happen. But identifying your peak productivity time and scheduling your hardest work to correspond with it is definitely a wonderful way to greatly improve your work productivity and get more free time. Definitely a win/win!

See Also: Massive Productivity Improvement #1: 3 Goals Per Week. 3 Tasks Per Day
Massive Productivity Improvement #2: 80/20 Rule

Have you tried organizing your day this way? What methods do you use to get things done and free up time?
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Tuesday, August 2, 2016

MODify: DIY Poster Board Artwork Mat for Customized Home Gallery Walls

I'll never forget taking a prized poster to the frame shop to ask what it would cost to get it professionally matted about a decade ago. The price was OUTRAGEOUS, like well over 100 what-the-hell outrageous. Ever since I've always been creative when hanging and framing art, tending to use what's on-hand or thrifted. It might look common sense to fellow crafters, but here's how I assembled a new matching gallery wall for my bedroom.

Supplies: Helix T-Square, Cutting Mat, Krylon Black/Matte Cover Maxx (optional, for frames to match), frame(s), poster board (I got mine at Dollar Tree, two for one dollar)

I measure the whole piece I'll be cutting out a "mat" for and cut that out.

And measure how much I want the mat to cover the art piece. I didn't want the mat to cover "moon" on my poster (it's from my first telescope) so it's a bit small and imbalanced for the frame, but at 50 cents for the "mat" I can change it later if it starts to drive my pedantic designer-brain crazy. (Not likely.) The mat ended up being about 1.5 to 2 inches.

After measuring the mat size I cut along the guidelines I cut out where the picture will show, running my x-acto knife along the t-square.

Then I see how it looks in the frame! To make all of my hodge-podge old frames match I gave them a coat of Krylon Black/Matte Cover Maxx Ultimate Coverage which has a nice satiny finish that makes it look like the frames were always black.

This DIY is also a good option for oddly-shaped pieces there are no pre-cut mats available for. The result is not as gorgeously polished as getting a piece professionally framed, but it's a nice way to get your favorite collection or art pieces looking nice on the wall. You can always get it professionally done later if you have the money and want to support the frame shop.

Do you have any hacks for getting collections on the walls? I've been playing around with ideas and have a few more to share soon!
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