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    An Energy Bar Adventure

    What remains of my adventureI rarely crave energy bars. As a matter of fact, it had been close to a year since I had eaten one. Over the last couple weeks, however, I was practically addicted to them—devouring at least two a day. What happened, you’re wondering. Was it the latest and greatest new bar on the market or a friend’s recommendation of an old favorite?

    Neither. It started with a trip to Fred Meyer to pick up a couple non-related items. I’m a known store wanderer. You’ve seen them—strolling slowly as if waiting for someone to join them with a glazed look indicative of a low blood sugar episode.

    It had been a few hours since I had eaten—I could feel my blood sugar dropping. Seeing the wall of bulk food tubes raised a dormant desire to eat chocolate along with my pulse. Instead, I seized the moment and starting emptying the contents of random tubes into the provided plastic bags—three types of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, cashew pieces, walnuts, peanuts, plain granola with a few raisins and carob chips.

    I headed to the cashier. My bulk items came to just over $6. Energy bars, made my way, were only a mixing bowl away.

    Surprisingly, I managed to keep from tearing into the bags on the way home. Needing to eat in short order, I opted for lunch instead. The energy bar experiment would have to wait a day.

    The next morning, anxious to get started, I preheated the oven to 350°.  My purchases were dumped into a big mixing bowl. From the cupboard, I added sliced almonds, buckwheat flour, almond flour, protein powder, unsweetened coconut, xanthan gum, almond butter, unrefined coconut oil and a few squirts of honey. From the fridge, I pulled and added an egg white and ground flax seed. I was filled growing anticipation. Would they crumble into bite size pieces like my last attempt at energy bars?

    After mixing thoroughly, the bowl, now filled to the brim, was turned over on a piece of parchment paper laid on a large cookie sheet. The stiff mix was tamed and rolled with coconut oil covered hands and rolling pin. Reaching just the edge of the sheet and ½” thick, I used a knife to cut bars and separate them slightly. Into the oven they went.

    Ten minutes later they were cooling on the cupboard. A week and a half later, you’re seeing a photo of the last bar standing. It will be gone soon.

    For about $8, I had an entire large re-sealable bag filled with healthy, high protein bars with very little sugar and lots of nutty, chewy goodness. Fred Meyer, here I come! Another batch of Vicki’s Very Nutty Bars will be in the bag and calling to me by this weekend.

     

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    Be the Dog—3 steps to take control

    Don't push the button yet!

    I opened my laptop and panic struck. I had 23% power remaining on my battery. Only minutes earlier had I recovered from noticing my iphone battery was at 50%. It dawned on me that, daily; I am plagued with this new stressor—technology.

    I had several appointments today with the first scheduled for late morning. It is just past noon now.

    My first stop was to pick up a package for a client. It was on the way of my second appointment. You know—do unto others… I was taking a new route and it was raining. I plugged in my phone GPS to make sure I didn’t miss the exit.

    The second appointment was for my daughter. Although at a medical center we’ve been to numerous times, it was a new route. Again, I used my GPS to make sure I chose the right path. Her appointment would last a couple hours. Instead of waiting there, as I typically do, I decided to run a couple errands and then visit a little park I had seen, only blocks away. The rain was now only a drizzle and what I saved in parking fees could be invested in a latte.

    I could write, enjoy the brisk winter day and savor my latte. And there, my story begins. I parked. Upon discovering that GPS use had drained my battery, I plugged into the car charger. I should’ve brought the auxiliary charger on my desk—should’ve, would’ve, could’ve.

    As I open my laptop, I say out loud, “What a great little park”! I glance at the menu bar—23% battery remains. My thoughts start racing. How did I let this happen? I could go back to the coffee shop and plug in. I wonder how much time I’ll really have?  Did I even pack my charger? Wait, maybe I could finish an article before the 23% runs out! What a dunce! Anyway, you can picture the play by play.

    After a few deep breathes, I decide to write about the experience instead of the article I had planned to work on. I think they call it…writing therapy.

    It dawned on me that these tools that are supposed to make us so much more efficient often times only add to the too busy days we tend to carve out for ourselves. For years, though, I have been a firm believer that things happen for a reason.

    The moral of my story is this—minds are easily influenced by the moment. One of the greatest gifts we can give ourselves is to find balance and train our minds to be part Boy Scout, part Zen master and lastly, the dog. Let me elaborate.

    1. The Boy Scout is always prepared. I have decided to always carry auxiliary chargers. I always have a pen, a credit card, cash and my lip liner (what can I say, this boy scout looks better with defined lips). Bottom line; don’t set yourself up for failure.
    2. The Zen Master demonstrates control in all types of situations. Many years ago, I discovered the irreplaceable value of a breath. Whenever I am feeling stressed and take note, my breathing is shallow. Several long deep breaths can move your mind to a better place.
    3. Lastly, let’s look at the Dog. I did not say, a dog, but the Dog. A friend of mine often tells his employs to ask themselves if they are letting the tail wag the dog. The desired answer, of course, is a resounding no. So be the Dog and take control of your tail. In other words, don’t let outside influences control your mind.

    By the way, I finished my writing therapy session with battery power to spare. I also discovered a lovely new sanctuary I will visit again and found the time to converse with you. It’s been far too long. I’ll see you again soon!

    Seeing Past Stress—A Powerful Incantation

    Four words that can conquer stress

    Earlier today, I was visiting with a friend and business associate. “I’ve run out of tricks”, she said, “I used to think I always had the answer but I just don’t know what to do”. The economy and wh

    at can feel like a chaotic spiral into the abyss is taking its toll on even the leaders of the pack—the strong, the confident and the creative.

    We’ve all had those days. You know the ones. You wake up and don’t feel as wise as you thought you were. Or, the times when your once perceived valuable experiences seem trivial and ineffective for transcending from the boom days of yesteryear to the wallet challenged days of tomorrow.

    What can you do to shift your position? Start by telling yourself that it will be ok. Sound too simple?

    I once had a dear friend who came to me battling overwhelming feelings of doubt and hopelessness. My analytical, take care of it nature had me jumping to find a solution. “Here’s what I’d do…” was rolling off my tongue faster than honey on hot pancakes. The look of distress on his face told me this wasn’t the right tactic. “Well, what if…” quickly followed yet still, there was no response. It was clear—I was compounding the problem.

    Feeling powerless, I asked if there was anything I could do. “Just tell me it’ll be ok,” he said. And so, I said, “It’ll be ok”. His face relaxed. I could feel the power of this simple affirmation. I said it again, “It’ll be ok—really”.

    Try the magic of positive self-talk the next time your day heads in the wrong direction, you’re plagued with anxiety or it feels like fear is winning the game. Close your eyes, take a deep breath and exhale. Say to your self, “It will be ok”. It works.

    When I was barely twenty, I read The Power of Positive Thinking, which was first published in 1952. The message is timeless—positive thoughts create a positive reality. I still have the tattered copy on my bookshelves.

    I’d also like to recommend The Law of Attraction in Action: A Down-to-Earth Guide to Transforming Your Life. Deanna Davis, a friend and the book’s author, will help you take the steps to transform your intentions into positive reality. The book will feel like a visit with a friend—a friend with action oriented chat and a sense of humor.

    Once you’ve experienced the power of positive self-talk, use it everyday. “I can do it!” and “I am so smart!” are two of my favorite conversation starters. And, yes, you were here when I made the public announcement—I talk to myself.

    Is Running A Business Like Bathing A Cat?

    Obviously enjoying the experience

    Obviously enjoying the experience

    An important business lesson can be gleaned from the correlation between running a business and bathing a cat.

    A Twitter friend, @alohabruce, recently tweeted that he was going to give their cat a bath. I immediately conjured up images of him donning armor as if preparing for battle with the wife close behind with a 2′ fishing net. I saw a wet figure with shredded gloves and sweat on the brow.

    The next day I inquired how it went. He said the cat loves bathing and they both enjoy what amounts to a precious bonding experience. Hmmm, I still have my doubts but I can see the possibility in my mind now. It dawned on me that many people perceive running a business the same way I did bathing a cat.

    I used to believe that everything fell on a side—right or wrong, good or bad, easy or hard. It took me a long time to realize that our perception creates our realities. It’s why two people can look at the very same situation and see two completely different things.

    My point is—perception is powerful. Don’t let your perceptions undermine your success.

    As we grapple through a challenging recession and try to redefine ourselves many people are starting new businesses. Others are playing the “who will survive” game with existing businesses.  Here are five ways to stay on the winning side of perceptions:

    Address your doubts

    Do you wonder if your business idea is good enough to warrant the risk of starting or expanding a business? Talk to business people, potential clients and, for that matter, complete strangers. Ask what they think about your idea.  Would they use it? Do they need it? What would they pay for it? You get the idea.

    You may still wake in the middle of the night wondering. The key is to move the scale to a favorable point in your mind. If you can’t move it there, don’t fight it—move on. I’ve discarded tons of ideas that I initially perceived to be brilliant.

    Know it’s better to be smart than right

    Research your ideas and the industry. When you’re done, research it more. The more you know the less you have to fear. You’re also less likely to base your decisions on your perceptions alone.

    Don’t wait, do something

    Friends and associates have heard me say far too many times—“I had that idea! If only…” These are not ideas that ended up in the discard pile mind you. These, I’m sorry to say, can be found in the, Vicki took no action, pile.

    They were perceived as too expensive to pursue or too far out of my realm of knowledge and ability. Tsk on me! I let perception get in the way of letting me make an informed decision.

    Filter information

    Although I previously told you to field your idea to lots of folks, you have to sift through their thoughts and see how they mesh with yours. How many times have you heard someone say—“If it were a good idea, someone would’ve done it already”?

    Just imagine how many great inventions would have never come to fruition if the inventors listened only to the naysayers and let their perceptions become their own.

    Broaden your experiences and viewpoints

    It’s said that you don’t know someone until you’ve walked a mile in their shoes. This old American proverb needn’t be taken literally but it makes a valid point. Keep in mind potential clients come from a variety of experiences. Never assume you know what they need or want.

    Make a practice of stepping out of your comfort zone. Strive to experience life from many points of view. Before you know it, the boundaries of your perceptions will grow exponentially.

    If you’re not following me on Twitter, chalk it up to a new experience and start following me @vickidar. I’ll be watching for you. Let me know you found me here!

    Only those who will risk going too far can possibly find out how far one can go. ~ T.S. Eliot

    The Art of Traveling Well

    Tips that will help whether you're travel one night or twenty

    Tips that will help whether you're travel one night or twenty

    Tips for carefree travel

    Over the years, I’ve spent more and more time traveling—frequent short trips back and forth across the state and other more distant jaunts spanning the globe. Whether you travel occasionally or frequently for business or pleasure, these tips should help you feel on top of your game.

    Wheels, wheels, wheels If your luggage doesn’t have wheels, give it away. This includes your computer/shoulder bag. This is especially critical, as airlines have made the switch to the one bag only rule. Get a computer bag with wheels and a little extra space. Many times it has saved the day when my too full suitcase was over the weight limit.

    Pack light  Be creative Think double duty. Don’t even attempt to cover every possible situation. You never have as much time to do everything you thought you would. Think layers and coordinating, interchangeable items. Accessorize up and down. The same camisole can work on the beach and dressed up for dinner later that evening. Choose shoes that transition well between casual and dressy.

    Even if you travel just a few times a year, keep a fully stocked ready to roll toiletry bag. It’s inevitable you will forget things if you try gather what you need just before departing. It’s worth the investment to buy a second set of the things you use daily. You can also pick up some small travel containers and fill those for your second set to save some money. Check and refill anything that needs attention when you return and you’ll be set for the next trip. Dhccare.com has Q10 Facial Film Soap (paper thin tiny sheets of face cleanser) that is oh so portable and feels great on your skin.

    On a side note, I’ve become a sunscreen fanatic. When you’re traveling, the sun is sure to find you. As I gain on the big 5-0, I admit, it’s sheer vanity as much as a concern for battling the health hazards of the sun that I am not without my protection. For both reasons, though, I encourage you to always use sunscreen. There are small handy dandy sunscreen sticks that look like giant lip balm and Peter Thomas Roth makes a great SPF 30 self-contained brush and mineral powder.

    A computer in your pocket The popularity of the iPhone, Blackberry and likes is not without reason. I can do many of the tasks on my iPhone that I usually do on my computer. I have access to my email, twitter and facebook accounts. I can check the weather, the tides and the status of my flight. I can look for a nearby restaurant. The list is endless. Good or bad—productivity need never stop.

    The virtual world Recently, I did a post about our virtual receptionist. Any of us can be anywhere and the phone system will find us (what’s that saying?…you can run but you can’t hide). I also recently switched to a virtual merchant account. No longer does anyone need to be in the office, at the terminal, to process credit cards. Bills are now paid online saving time, paper and stamps. Newspaper delivery can be stopped and started online. Look for ways to manage mundane tasks better.

    Entertainment at your fingertips Watching movies is in my top five to-dos. I tried Netflix when it first hit the market but quickly tired of the wait time between DVD deliveries (usually no fault of Netflix but more my failure to drop the DVD in the mail). The new and improved version of this convenient movie and more service fills the wait voids with unlimited use of its streaming video library. Yep, that’s right; picture Masterpiece Theatre on one side of your screen with a spreadsheet on the other.

    Amazon’s Kindle deserves a mention here, also. This wonderful, lightweight little gem lets you download books and magazines from any location. I have to admit, I didn’t think I’d like giving up the feeling of turning the pages of a book but I love my Kindle.

    You gotta eat Speaking of Amazon, I am a frequent visitor and customer. One of my favorite food items, and many others, are now available on a subscription basis. My case of GoGo Steamed Rice Bowls (scrumptious little containers that produce two servings of perfectly cooked organic brown rice in a mere 90 seconds ala microwave!) arrives on schedule every other month. Not only does it save me the trouble of remembering to reorder but it also lowers my cost and awards me with free shipping. And yes, my shelf safe (kind of a scary term but sometimes a girl has to do what a girl has to do when the rice cooker has to stay behind) rice often travels with me.

    Eating out is always one of the delights of travel. It’s fun to try new places. Its also all too easy to skip meals or on the other end of the spectrum, eat too much of the wrong things at the wrong times. I used to feel a little vegetable deprived when I was on the road but have found that most restaurants will gladly substitute veggies for part of your dish—even at breakfast!

    Another good idea is to make your own trail mix packets. Keep these will you always and you’ll never get to the hunger point that will have you grabbing a candy bar to chug with your fifth cup of coffee. Much of the trail mix you find on the store shelves has a high percentage of dried fruit that often contains other preservatives. Nuts are a great source of protein and a satisfying snack. Opt for fresh fruit instead. And, lastly, stay hydrated. Use a water bottle for not only easy portability but to remind yourself that you need another twelve ounces.

    I could go on but this post has grown rather long and there’s always another day!  Happy travels. For my closing thought…

    No one realizes how beautiful it is to travel until he comes home and rests his head on his old, familiar pillow. ~Lin Yutang

    Let Your Passion Set You Free OR Help! I’m Scared!

    Put your passion to work

    Put your passion to work

    When you think about passion, does it conjure up visions of two people intertwined in a passionate embrace. Whether you’re romantically involved or not, seek to integrate passion into your everyday lives. Passion can fuel your energy better than a cup of coffee and help you navigate through resistance.
    A young friend and I have been discussing her desire to start a business. Sam, my friend, is brimming with questions. The big ones—How did you know what business to start? How do know the right things to do to compete? Did you need lots of money to start a business?
    Like many would be entrepreneurs, Sam would love to spend her days doing things she loves on her own terms. How do you know, though, which business is the “right” one? Sam struggles with the nagging doubt that she wouldn’t have anything “special” enough to offer.
    Although I believe the ideas I’ve based my businesses on were teetering on the edge of brilliance (ok…I admit it…I secretly always thought they were over the edge), they didn’t have the cultural impact of, say, the invention of the telephone or computers.
    What they did have was the benefit of a passion for invention and creativity that I have been nurturing all my life . Can passion alone make a business succeed? No. Can it be a critical factor in your success? Absolutely. I’ve often had people comment on how courageous I was starting my businesses. I love this quote by Ambrose Redmoon:

    “Courage is not the absence of fear, but rather the judgment that something else is more important than fear.”

    When it comes to starting a business, that something else would be you! It might also be the realization that you can make difference in the lives of others by making a difference in your own. Always remember that every thought you think and every action you take is creating your future. You are what you believe you are and your passion can set you free to focus and be all you can be—It’s like an “advance pass go” to success card.

    Passion resides within all of us. Find yours and you’re on your way.

    A Virtual Receptionist—Hire One Today

    A simple phone solution for small businesses

    A simple phone solution for small businesses

    There was a time when the hustle and bustle of my office hummed with conversation, interaction and phones ringing. Today, it purrs with the sound of sleeping cats, Twitter tweets and email notifications.

    If you haven’t noticed, our lives are on the brink of a virtual reality. Most dictionary definitions of virtual now include something along the lines of this one from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary:

    Being on or simulated on a computer or computer network—occurring or existing primarily online.

    For the past couple years, all the minds and masters of creativity that contribute in assorted ways to the continuing Eagle Publishing saga have moved home to work with my blessings. Their cats need them, too.

    In the beginning of our newly enlightened state, since I was the only one remaining in the office, I became the phone receptionist. Since I travel and am away from “the office” a good deal of the time and, admittedly, really did not want the job, we had a problem.

    Enter—the virtual world. A Google search rounded up several virtual receptionists. I chose Onebox. It was easy to set up and can be administered online. Viola! Problem solved. It’s just too cool!

    Here’s how it works…You call us on our office phone using the local or our 800 number. Onebox answers the call (I know it’s not a live person but this woman knows her stuff—trust me). You’re offered an assortment of extensions. You choose and your call is forwarded while you listen to soothing music. If your target is on another line or busy saving the world or getting coffee, you’re sent into voicemail and we’re notified via email so we can call you back.

    I’ll soon be eliminating our landlines all together and directing callers to use our new toll-free Onebox number, 866-638-1115 (which btw is included in the very affordable cost of the service). You can also fax to this number. Your fax is converted to a .pdf and sent to our email to be viewed anytime, anywhere. I love it!

    Save money, service our clients better and spend more time with our cats. Can it get any better? I’m still waiting for the clone service but until then, I grateful for my virtual receptionist. We’ll be talking to you soon, I hope.