Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Reconnecting to the Present Moment

I wasn't really on board with Smartphones when they first came out several years ago. It seemed like way more computing power than I would ever need, some kind of gimmick to get me to spend more money on devices and data plans. When I received an iPhone as a Christmas gift, I reluctantly accepted and began switching over. Crumpled lists, pens, cameras, notebooks, receipts and folders slowly disappeared from my life. Everything was perfectly organized, categorized and saved to databases. I hacked my phone and adjusted apps and coding to be able to use a more affordable plan on a different network. I fiddled with the satellite tracking system to find friends, places to go and let people know where I was. I keep my grocery list, my daily reminders, and my workout plans in one place. I get news alerts when important world events are happening. I play Sudoku when I'm waiting in line or for a friend. It checks me in at the airport and gets me to a place I recognize when I'm lost.

Last night, I made the unfortunate mistake of submerging my phone in water. It slid right out of my pocket and plunked straight into the toilet. When I saw huge bubbles of air releasing from it as it filled with water, I knew it was doomed.

Weirdly enough, I don't talk on the phone much. I'm not even much for texting. But my phone is my staple. More of a staple than my wallet or keys. I feel naked without it in my pocket. It's my alarm that wakes me in the morning and my news source as I wind down to go to bed at night. It hasn't even been 24 hours and I keep finding myself reaching for it.

It's socially acceptable now, and even a social necessity to have a smartphone and be connected to it at all times. In any given public place, you'll see at least half of the people playing with their phones. But noticing how panicked I feel without it, how disconnected, how disorganized, just in the span of a few hours, I realize that my reliance on it is bordering on ludicrous. There was a time in my life when I owned an alarm clock, sat quietly and people-watched when waiting, where I ate my food instead of taking pictures of it. Some data is obviously very useful. I would be reading a newspaper, have a calculator on my desk and a notebook to write down to-do lists. It's nice to have all of the basic stuff in one place.

What's most eye-opening, though, is realizing how much time I spend thinking about other things. And even with the smartphone, I don't think I'm necessarily getting more done. Most of the data I had can be recovered. It's on a database or backed up on my computer. But my list of bands to check out is numbering several hundred long. As many hours as I spent reading the news, an equal amount of time was wasted looking at funny pictures of cats. And I'm certainly guilty of using my phone to escape awkward conversations or chase some piece of information down the rabbit hole of the internet, like "What was the name of that one actor in that one movie I sort of liked 2 years ago?", as though it's of dire importance.

Many people complain of phones preventing people from connecting face to face. I am actually in the camp that believes it helps people connect more and in new creative ways. The problem I find myself facing is never being alone with myself. That type of cerebral silence is difficult to train yourself into. With constant instant gratification, I can't help but wonder what skills my brain has gone soft in because the task was usurped by my phone. I have a feeling that being rushed and stressed is something I've constructed for myself with technology instead of something I actually have to abide by.

So today, I present a challenge. Resist the urge to use your phone. Instead of playing a game, talk to someone or play tic tac toe on a napkin with a friend. Instead of looking up what's-his-name, test your memory. Instead of tracking yourself on GPS, try to memorize the streets in your neighborhood and find your way. If you eat lunch by yourself, bring an actual novel to read or sit quietly with your thoughts. Instead of sending an email, get up and walk over to your coworker's desk to ask a question.

Enjoy some time with yourself, you may teach yourself something. And until next time, keep it clean!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

The Incredible Healing Power of the Mushroom

You may already know that mushrooms come in all sorts of edible shapes and flavors. But did you know that they're an incredibly powerful weapon in nature's arsenal to heal you and itself? Here are a few amazing things that mushrooms can do.

Cancer Prevention
A recent study has shown that as little as one mushroom per day can cut the chances of getting breast cancer by two-thirds. When combined with regular consumption of green tea, it cuts your chances by 90%! Those are unbelievably high numbers.

Creating livable, farmable land
Polluted and irradiated soil would be considered unusable until the radiation and pollution dissipate enough to make it usable again. This can take decades, and even then, once farmed again the pollution can rise up and contaminate your crops later, as evidenced by our recent problem with arsenic-contaminated rice. Mushrooms can remove pollutants and radiation in a surprisingly short period of time. In eight weeks, this mycologist turned a pile of land saturated with oil and diesel into an oasis teeming with life, all by just leaving mushrooms to do their business!

Recovery after radiation exposure
Mushrooms are regularly recommended as holistic medicine in assisting treatment for radiation exposure and cancer treatment. Mushrooms contain enzymes that break down chemicals that would otherwise be harmful to the body, helping to slow down and even arrest tumor growth.

Not used to adding mushrooms to your diet? You can slice them up raw over a salad, saute with vegetables or even eat them as your main course. Here's a quick and easy recipe to try. These are great served as a meal over noodles, over brussels sprouts or even as a dressing for a heartier veggie burger.

Glazed Mushrooms
2 portabella mushrooms
1 cup shiitake mushrooms
1/2 large sweet onion
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
coconut oil
1/4 cup vegetarian "beef" broth

Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet. Slice the onion into thin half-rings so they're long strands. Toss in the onions and coat with the melted oil, then allow them to sit for 5 minutes to caramelize. Stir them around and let sit for another 2-3 minutes. Cut the mushrooms into thin slices and throw them in the pan with the onions. Add balsamic vinegar and broth. Loosely cover the pan for 5 more minutes to allow mushrooms to get soft and most of the liquid to evaporate. Mushrooms should have a nice thick, dark, salty-sweet glaze.

Until next time, keep it clean!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Brighter Whites and Colors

Over time, everyone's laundry gets a bit dingy. Colors fade or run together, whites start to yellow, darks turn grey. Here are a few great tips on getting your laundry back to peak performance!

Make your whites whiter
You don't have to use bleach to get your whites bright again. In fact, for some stains, like sweat and yellowing on white sheets, bleach will make it worse!

  • Soak a load with a hot water and a cup of baking soda, either for a few hours or overnight, before washing as usual.
  • Vinegar is amazing for removing colors that have run together, removing extra detergent from your clothing and restoring fabric softness to new. Add a cup to the rinse cycle.
  • Hydrogen peroxide can be found in liquid (first aid aisle) or in a powder (OxyClean). Add a 1/2 cup of liquid or follow directions for powdered and soak overnight before washing like normal.
  • Bluing agent is a non-toxic alternative to bleach. It's an old trick but a good one. Adding a small amount of blue to your wash makes yellowed colors appear white again.
  • Run an extra rinse cycle to make sure any dirty wash water is completely rinsed out. You don't need to do this every time, but once in a while it helps to keep your whites looking extra clean.
Preserve your colors
  • Add 2 cups of coffee or strong tea to the rinse cycle for dark laundry. This will help restore the rich color back to black.
  • Soak new clothes in salt water or vinegar when you first get them to lock in the dye. Vinegar during the wash cycle can also keep colors from running, just add to the wash cycle.
  • Wash in cold water. Heat damages dye, and your clothes will get just as clean in cold water.
  • Line dry your clothes. Again, heat damages dye! If you can line dry or lay your clothes flat to dry, you can avoid your clothes wearing out too quickly.
  • Turn your clothes inside-out. Dye on the inside will stay more intact than the side exposed directly to the wash. This is especially helpful for jeans.
Until next time, keep it clean!