#85 Investigate New Restaurants

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#85

Investigate New Restaurants

For years, our Friday Night Date Night was routine. We took off a little early and then headed to our favorite Mexican restaurant for margaritas and dinner. It was so much of a routine that when the bartender saw us sit down she automatically ordered our appetizers and placed the margaritas in front of us. People nearby would often ask one of us if we had ‘ordered ahead’. While that routine was kind of nice and predictable it prevented us from discovering new restaurants. Since Harlan’s death, I’ve made an effort to discover new Friday night jaunts.

Recommendations

One of the first places I turned to were friends and family. I wanted to know what their favorite eatery was and why. I started my list. It’s always nice to have a personal recommendation when visiting someplace – especially by someone who knows you and is considerate of your time and budget. Most people are candid if they believe you won’t enjoy a certain experience.

Yelp

This is a great ‘recommendation’ app for smartphones. Generally, you can access the menu there and see photographs that have been taken by other people who’ve eaten there. Of course you can read their ‘reviews’ and determine if it’s a place you want to try. I’ve found that its necessary to read through a number of review in order to get a balanced perspective. Sometimes, people are having a bad day and leave solid derogatory review for a small infraction.

OpenTable

This is another smartphone app that is mostly for reservations; you won’t find every restaurant here but those who are will typically leave a table or two specifically for people who request tables through the app. Case in point: on a beautiful spring day in Baltimore, we strolled along the waterfront and decided to have lunch at a waterfront restaurant. When we approached the maitre d’, he told us it would be a 90 minute wait. We knew we didn’t want to wait that long so we found a bench and I checked Open Table to see what was available in our location. That very restaurant had a table for 4 available in 15 minutes. We thoroughly enjoyed our lunch overlooking the Baltimore harbor that day and I spent just a few minutes being just a little smug about the work-around.

Dinner Club

If you really need inspiration, start a dinner club with a couple of friends or family members. Plan to meet once a month at a different restaurant each time. There’s a certain sense of adventure that you’ll experience in doing so and even if there’s a less-than-great meal now and then – you’ll at least have had fun with people you care about.

Be brave, trash the routine, and give your taste buds an adventure by…

Investigating new restaurants.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#186 Sleep on the Beach

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#186

Sleep on the beach

In the spirit of Labor Day weekend, I thought it best to remind you how amazing it is to fall asleep on the beach. Maybe not on a hot sunny day when the beach is crowded as you may expose your skin too long and/or awake with each passerby kicking sand across your back. It is amazing however, to sleep on the beach overnight – allowing the thunder of consistent wave action to lull you into a deep slumber.

These days isn’t almost impossible to pitch a tent in the dunes as they are protected along almost every coastline in the USA but… there are dozens if not hundreds of public and private campgrounds that border ocean beaches. If you’re planning well enough in advance and with a little research, you can pick a spot as close to the wave action as possible. In some areas, tying a hammock between a couple of trees may even give you a sunrise view over the top of any dunes. As an avid camper, the only drawback I’ve ever noticed about beach side camping is the amount of sand that I end up bringing home.

Perhaps the best spot in the Mid-Atlantic is Assateague State Park. It’s a bit of a pain to get to and the flies can be atrocious at times but you just can’t beat the location!  California has tons of locations as well as Florida. (I guess the more coastline you have, the better the opportunities!) The Travel Channel did a piece and after seeing the options, my bucket list just got a bit longer.

Now, this suggestion is to actually get down in the sand… form it to your body and sleep there – preferably under the stars but I’m aware that might be simply too much to ask of some people. So… with a bigger budget you can go all fancied out and rent a beachside bungalow in almost any beach community. Certainly, around the globe there are thousands of options and perhaps the only reason that people go to places like the Seychelles islands where the beach and luxury go hand and hand; where almost every sleeping option is either over sand or surf.

No matter how you do it or when, there’s a magical element of being able to drift off to the sound of ocean currents embracing the beach. Treat yourself with the experience as often as you can…

Sleep on a beach.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

#193 Be Curious

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#193

Be Curious

Have you heard the phrase “curiosity killed the cat?” I actually grew up hearing that quite often and never paid much heed to it but I find that many people are hesitant to be curious. The  phrase is credited to an English comedy play from 1598 and I can’t help but wonder if it propagated with the simple intent of keeping wandering children or nosy neighbors in line.

New Things

What we know today is that curiosity is one of the fundamental attributes of happy people in part, because when we wonder, we are apt to try new things and when we try new things, there is more novelty in our lives. Novelty keeps things  new and fresh – boredom is rare in curios people. People who are curious are constantly learning, exploring, or trying new things; expanding knowledge and boundaries.

Empathy

When we are curious about people or perspectives, we ask more questions. People who are curious tend to have more friends and deeper relationships because they have – in their curiosity – developed an ability to delve deeper into the conversations that build emotional intimacy even in platonic relationships. As their perspective expands, they are able to have more empathy; a trait that also leads to more consistent reports of well-being.

Personal Growth

Your talent for and desire for curiosity may determine your capacity for personal growth. Researchers have identified a correlation between the two. It seems like a no-brainer because if we don’t ever wonder who we are, why we are, or how to change – then growth simply won’t happen.

Many of the ideas I’ve written about to make your life happier and more productive have been identified as a result of people being curious… “I wonder what would happen if I….” and then a sense of satisfaction, comfort, and/or peace sets in and you feel happy. Trial and error… not everything we are curious about will be something that we really wanted to know. I knew some friends in high school that were curious about their ability to ignite the gas they personally produced. Yes… they tried to light their farts … it didn’t go well.

Other than that… maybe you don’t need to know that… in most other things, your life will be enriched if you find the energy to …

Be Curious.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below

#219 Drive a Road You’ve Never Driven

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#219

Drive a road you’ve never driven

Untapped curiosity

How many times have you wondered where a road leads? Perhaps it’s a road you pass every day on your way to work, or one close by home that you’ve never had the need to drive. If you’ve lived in the same place for a very long time it’s plausible that you know all the local routes and yet personally, there are still spots I’ve not discovered after 25 years of living in the same location.

Wander

It seems as if we rarely take time to wander. We are so often in a hurry to get from point A to point B that we fail to discover variations in our routes. We develop habits that apply to our driving so much that even that becomes a rote behavior. Consequently, we deny ourselves opportunities to experience our home regions completely.

Great finds

I recently found a great little farm stand that is new to me after driving a ‘new’ road that was always a ‘wonder where that leads’ street. There are times I ‘think’ I know where a road leads but discovered other things there that I didn’t know existed. There’s a road by my home that is one way to get to a nearby town but I typically go there a different way. Recently I took the ‘near my home’ route and found two trailheads to a walking trail that I’ve always been curious about.

There’s an experience of delight with each resounding “oh… that’s where that is…” sentiment when you…

Drive a road you’ve never driven.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#246 Do Something Unexpected

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#246

Do something unexpected

Are you predictable?

Is there someone in your life that finishes your sentences? Do people make decisions for you based on historical data? Are you in a stagnant place; doing the same thing day in and day out? When life becomes too certain or too predictable, it can become boring. While we all need certainty to some extent, too much of it is not a good thing. Stability is a great thing but it needs to occasionally be sprinkled with variety with the understanding that tolerance for the unexpected is totally personal.

Take Control

For those of us who covet certainty, it’s a good idea to take some control of the variety we need and the best way to do this is to get up and do something unexpected. Make sure you’re in the driver’s seat when it comes to experiencing any change up in routine. I’m not suggesting any wild or crazy things necessarily although if you’ve always been skittish about heights and suddenly express an urge to go bungee jumping, that may make sense. However, leaving a job that sustains your livelihood without another way to meet your obligations probably won’t be in your best interest overall.

Take a Risk

In order to step out of your comfort zone and do the unexpected – you must assume some amount of risk. For this reason, it is suggested that you start small – especially if you are just now stepping out. The term ‘go big or go home’ is novel and sounds brave but could be financially or emotionally expensive and perhaps not a good way to get your feet wet with the experience of variety. Be responsible and take calculated risks or the whole ‘certainty’ issue becomes more cemented.

Benefits

Doing the unexpected builds confidence both in yourself and in you for those around you. It requires courage and bravery to step out into the unknown. Even if you are certain of the results, doing something that no one would anticipate can be a recipe for surprise and entertainment; both of which contribute significantly to feelings of happiness.

Do yourself a favor and keep life interesting by making a commitment to …

Do something unexpected.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#350 Go to an Auction

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#250

Go to an Auction

Have you ever been to an auction? You’ve probably at least seen a dramatic version on television. Someone unintentionally raises a hand and winds up having purchased an expensive, unwanted item. In reality, that doesn’t happen – at least not in an average auction. It may be that way at Christie’s in New York with items that cost tens of thousands of dollars but not at your typical local auction house.

An auction can be great fun. It’s bargain shopping at it finest. Generally speaking you get there a little early and browse through the items to see if there is anything that you want. Once you decide you’ll bid on something, check it out. Usually, when you buy something at auction – you buy it ‘as is’. Consider a top range budget for your item but always, always start as low as possible. In a lot of local auctions that means $1.00. I can’t tell you how many chairs I’ve bought over time for a single dollar because they were basically ugly and no one else wanted them. They were great additions to my basement teen den and a simple slipcover handled the ugly.

Perhaps the most important note about bidding on items at an auction is to honor your top price limit. From time to time you may find yourself in a bidding war with someone else who has decided to take home the one thing you wanted. Since you don’t know their limit – honor yours. It’s super frustrating to get home and realize you completely overpaid for something just because you wanted to ‘win’. A little internet research prior to the bidding for your item is helpful.

Sometimes, time is an drawback at auctions. You may get there in time to browse the offering but then wait all morning for the item you want to come up for bid. Take a book and settle in. Most of the time there are dining areas or at least coffee and donuts so that you’ve not starve.

My favorite auctions are estate sales on premises. An auctioneer moves around the property selling boxes of items collected from the home. You bid on the entire box of ‘smalls’ even though you may only want one thing in the box. You take it all if you win. Many of my yard sales were for the ‘other things’ that I inadvertently obtained by bidding on a box lot. It may be everything that came out from under the kitchen sink – a box filled with cleaning supplies and I start the bidding at $1. Most people are not there for the cleaning supplies and so I win the box… grab a bargain… and end up with random items that may or may not end up in the trash.

Auction house also sell box lots. They tend to be more organized and related, meaning that there are less ‘random’ elements. If you are bidding on a box because there is a vase you like… chances are the whole box is related to flowers or decorating. Prices may go higher at auction houses as well because resale dealers ten to get merchandise there. If there are antiques, you can be sure people with retail space are there supplying their inventory.

It’s an experience though and can be an adventure that reaps rewards. Hop online and find out when and where an estate sale is being conducted to you and…

Go to an auction.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

#252 Be Adventurous

Sharing 365 life lessons, tips, or hacks; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#252

Be adventurous

Are you willing to take risks? Try new things? Test new ideas?  Enjoy new experiences? If so… congrats, you are adventurous and I suspect your happiness level reflects as much.

Adventure is about curiosity. Happiness research indicates that when we are curious in our daily life, it may elevate our happy base line. This is great news for people who tend to be glass half empty type of people. Many of us operate from a state of fear and it keeps us locked into familiar positions. When we are curious… i.e., adventurous… we step out of that comfort zone and – in many cases – are pleasantly surprised.

Adventure is personal. For some, it may be bungee jumping. For others, it may be getting on an airplane. It’s the unknown, the uncertain, maybe even the mysterious which, of course is different for us all based on experience.

Taking risks is difficult for some. Start close to your comfort level. Increase by degrees and pay attention to your body which, is uniquely designed to warn you when you are approaching the boundary of risk tolerance. Push lightly – a little at a time – and before you know it, the benefits of being adventurous will be felt.

Adventure helps us grow. When we experiment a little (or a lot), we will have successes and successes grow confidence. Yes, some of those trials will not be as successful as we hope but trying again is being adventurous and each time we try, we open the door to success and the elation that comes with it. There’s a great surge of dopamine that travels with the words “I did it!”.

Stop for a minute and think of something that would feel just a little outside of your comfort zone, or a place you’ve never gone, or a thing you’ve always wanted to do and make plans to…

Be adventurous.

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

#325 of 365 Ways to live Easier, Happier, & More Productive

Sharing a daily life lesson, tip, or hack; the things that make life easier, happier, and more productive. I hope you’ll follow along and find them helpful too.

#325

Try Za’atar

I mean… we all have to eat – so why not make eating adventurous and tasty all at the same time? While some of my readers may already know and love za’atar – I’m rather new to this lovely concoction and I thought it necessary to encourage ya’ll to try it.

Za’atar is a blend of spices with a middle eastern origin, popular throughout the Mediterranean. As a spice blend, it is a mixture of dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, toasted sesame seed, salt, and sumac – some or all in various percentages depending on which part of that region you come from. In fact, families often had their own recipes and handed them down through generations; keeping it a secret. I didn’t have any trouble finding a recipe for it on the internet and a bottle was quickly found in the Mediterranean section of my local specialty grocer.

It’s often served with olive oil and pita, which is the middle eastern equivalent of garlic and spice with hot Italian rolls – really anything that you can dip in flavorful olive oil has me sitting quickly down at the table. My ah-ha yum yum moment came with za’atar smothered all over a roasted chicken. Just thinking about it now – my mouth is watering.

I would be ever-so-happy to hear of your special recipe or standard inclusions for this lovely new addition to my flavor cabinet; or even a quick story of how and when you decided to…

Try Za’atar

I love hearing your thoughts and ideas. Please share in the comments below.

 

Roadtripping

“…you are my rainbow to keep. My eyes will always be watching you; never will I lose sight of you.” ― Vesna M. Bailey

I’m on a road trip. My middle daughter is moving to Los Angeles with a dream of becoming the next Shonda Rhymes. Consequently, we are driving from the east coast to the west so that she can wedge herself into the television industry as quickly as possible. It has been a dream of hers since she was fifteen and she’s worked extremely hard to make this happen. When she pushed the GO button we were all really excited for her but knew immediately that she would be really missed.

I kind of made the assumption that I would be driving with her as I knew her sister and boyfriend were less flexible with their work schedules, plus… I offered to pay for the hotels. And then – for a brief minute I thought that it may make more sense to ship her car out to LA and have her fly… less wear and tear, etc. I looked at all the options but quickly realized that it would be in exchange for an opportunity to spend a weeklong adventure with my daughter who may very well become a California gal. I hung up on the next auto transport person who called me.

Before long we had a roadmap outlined and I realized that almost exactly forty-three years ago (less a week) I made the same trip with my father, aunt, and siblings. I remember parts of that trip extremely well as it was the first time Dad let me drink coffee – and of course, I had to drink it black. It was the first time that I could remember that I had stayed in a motel and when everyone else was asleep, Dad let me sit up front and stay up late talking to him. We had lots of adventures on that trip and as I recall, they were predominately things going wrong so I’m hoping for less ‘adventure’ and more ‘memory making’ on this journey.

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Both Erin and I have made a couple of Facebook posts today about starting the trip – ok., maybe I made more than a couple – but there are people living vicariously through us!! One of the comments was so apropos to us from a woman who knows us well… “Be safe and remember that you still love each other at the end of this!” I had to laugh because out of all my children, she is the one most like me. People have been telling us this for years. It’s our demeanor that makes us the same… We are bossy, confident about what we want, assertive when we are going after it, and stubborn about what we know. We both like to be in control and we each get a certain kind of ‘hangry’ when we need food. Erin may be a little rough around the edges yet but I see my young self in her and know that she will mellow even if it is because the world beat her down a peg or two. Until then, she will fire up any pile of kindling that stands between her and her goals.  Would it be narcissistic at this point to say I admire those attributes? Even so… I am intensely proud of her and feel confident that dropping her into the center of Los Angeles and taking (literally) the next flight home – is an OK thing to do.

In the meantime, we are traveling across the United States in a little car that is the same color as the pavement and even though we have the headlights on, I’m a bit nervous that the thousands of semi-trucks on the highway may think we are nothing more than a reflection of a speed limit sign. It’s good to know that there are logistics systems continuously at work as I imagine that the trucks are mostly full of goods that need to get from one point to another (what else would they be?) but it’s a bit nerve-wracking.

We got through the first day without arguing about anything at all. Yesterday I practiced all day by repeating over and over… “ok Erin” and I used the technique successfully a couple of times today with great success. We have downloaded the audio version of the new Shonda Rhymes book to listen to when we run out of things to say to one another but we didn’t need it today. Actually, it was great to have her to myself for such a long stretch today. For the last year and a half, as she was living at home and working, I didn’t see her much. She worked in the restaurant business and as a bartender so we had vastly different schedules. Mostly, we saw each other in passing and communicated via text message. I got the chance to ‘catch up’ with her a bit today about the things we were ‘thinking’ and ‘feeling’… much deeper topics than ‘please replace the milk you drank’ and ‘can you put away the dishes’.

It’s a funny thing about my children being so independent and adventurous… Frank is living in France… Sara spent a year overseas… Emily is talking about going to Australia to work for a summer after college. It’s easy to think that they are running away, fleeing home and getting as far away as possible although I know- logically – that’s not true. I have to remind myself, though… it’s that I did a good job. They grew up with the confidence to fly and isn’t that what we are supposed to do as parents? Let our children fly? What a mixed bag of blessings it is really. Earlier this week I was reminded of what I always considered a ‘Hippie’ mantra… “If you love something set it free. If it comes back it’s yours. If not, it was never meant to be. (Richard Bach)” I guess there is nothing more fitting about that sentiment than motherhood.

I took the time to specifically be ‘in the moment’ today – I didn’t pull out my laptop or my phone other than to look at maps and ‘check in’ at the various places we stopped. I didn’t have any phone conversations and I can already feel a bit of relaxation starting to settle into my psyche. I may or may not post over the next couple of days as we explore a few places off the main highways (she has a bit of a bucket list) and we are stopping overnight twice to visit with extended family members.

Thanks for reading… thanks for following my journey and please keep letting me know when it is helpful… I love reading those comments!