Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Exploring Galicia: Finisterre on Spain's Death Coast

The Spaniards thought this was the end of the world. And who could blame them?



Cape Finisterre, or Cabo Fisterra in Galician, meaning the end of the earth, was once thought to be the westernmost point of the Iberian Peninsula. We now know that Portugal's Cabo da Roca, 16.5 kilometers west, is farther west, making it the westernmost point in continental Europe. 

But the Spaniards weren't far off the mark. 

It does look like the end of the world. 

And until the discovery of the Americas, it was. 


According to legend, this area was known for Celtic pagan rituals involving Ara Solis, an altar used for sun worship, until St. James, the Christian Apostle, worked to rid the site of pagan activity. He even built a church nearby, but this chapel no longer exists.

The lighthouse, or faro, that sits atop Monte Facho, on Finisterre, was built in 1853, and it is one of the most recognizable landmarks in all of Galicia, mainly due to the popularity of the Camino de Santiago over time.


The lighthouse sits 238 meters (almost 781 ft.) above sea level and has a torch that reaches 30 nautical miles. The octagonal tower is made of stone. A siren was added in 1888 because of the constant winter (and sometimes summer) fog.


Finisterre, in the province of La Coruña, is located on Spain's Costa de Morte, or Death Coast, so named because of the treacherous coast line that has taken more than its share of ships to their watery graves on the bottom of the Atlantic. 

At the pilgrim monument heading up to the lighthouse

Today, it is a popular final stop for pilgrims who have walked the Camino de Santiago. 

A Camino de Santiago marker, with the sign of St. James...a scallop shell.

Following the completion of their Camino and arrival in Santiago de Compostela, pilgrims walk (or ride) the final 85-90 kilometers (about 50 miles) to Finisterre. Many pilgrims burn their old clothes or their boots, signifying a fresh start following their spiritual journey.
The bronzed boot monument of the Pilgrim

Ashes of journeys passed

At the cruceiro near the water's edge, pilgrims place stones, photos, notes, clothing patches, and other mementos from their journey. It may be left in memory of someone special, in penance for a past transgression, in honor of the experience of the Camino or lessons learned along the way. 


The cruceiro takes on an altar-like persona....sacred ground that speaks to the power of the Way. 







The scallop shell...the symbol of Saint James and the Camino de Santiago



There are many rocky perches for contemplation, dolphin watching, or watching the sun set.


Other pilgrims continue on to Muxia, another 30 kilometers (about 18 miles), as seen in the film, The Way



Finisterre is a crowd pleaser and well worth the trip.

Walk around and enjoy the views. When you consider your own journey, think about what you might leave at the end of the world. 









Monday, January 26, 2015

Saving money to travel


Saving isn't easy. 

Emergencies happen. Date nights happen. Cute shoes happen.

And they should....well, not emergencies...

Despite the occasional need for spending, there are ways to save for big ticket items and experiences without compromising the things you love. 

But you have to change things up a bit. 


Define what it is that you want. It's easy to say that you want more money. Why are you saving? How much do you need? 

For example, are you saving to travel? How long will you be on the road? What is your cost per day? 

On the other hand, if you want an income property that costs $150,000, you probably will need $30K for a down payment. How will you save that? 

Are you saving for an emergency fund? Figure out your three-six month expenses and start saving. 

Define you goal. From there, you can figure out your saving plan and your monthly or weekly steps to achieving that goal. 

Here are some ideas. 

  • Track your spending for a week or a month and then analyze it with a critical eye. Look at it as it were a work project. Where can you save? Where is there evidence of wasteful or unnecessary spending? Are you paying interest on your credit card?
  • If you haven't already, set up an automatic savings plan with your bank. You can have a set amount withdrawn every week or every month or twice a month...whatever works for you. Saving $25 a week will give you $1300 in a year. It's a start. 
  • Speaking of banks, Bank of America offers a "Keep the Change" option for debit card users. They will round up your purchase and put the difference into your savings. Everything counts. 
  • If you pay off your credit card every month, consider a card that gives you points or cash back. This is only worth it for people who carry a zero balance.
  • Do you need cable? For about $100 a year, the benefits of Netflix streaming is better than the fees charged by cable and satellite providers. We have a Roku device, and with Netflix and the content provided through my Amazon Prime membership, we're all set. Our tv gets local channels without cable. It depends on your needs. How much are you spending now? 
  • Avoid the 300% markup on booze and entertain at home. 
  • Clean out your closet and sell your stuff on Instagram. Take clear, unfiltered photos, use concise hashtags to market your things, and link to a PayPal account for easy transactions.
And then...

  • I love Starbucks as much as anyone. But I refuse to pay $4 or more for a latte. Consider drip coffee and add your own milk. Or make it a once a month treat if it's worth the nearly $50 cost. Everyone has their non-negotiables..define yours.
  • Cook at home. And cook with what's fresh, in season, and on sale.
  • Pay your debts. Pay off the smallest one first and then continue to "pay," applying that payment and another to the next smallest debt. Work your way up. 
  • Paying a mortgage? Doubling up on a payment, even once a year, may save you in interest over time. Use a windfall, like a tax refund, to make it happen.
  • Pay off your car early, if you can. Keep it in good condition and hang on to it. When it needs repairs, consider the local voc-tech school. You will pay for parts only (not labor) and you will help out the kids being hired in the local garages when they graduate. Most voc-tech schools are ASE-certified. This is a win-win. Take the money you saved and add it to your savings. 
  • When you want to go out, look at what free events your city is offering. Many libraries offer free museum passes and Bank of America card holders can get into many museums for free on the first weekend of ever month. Take the money you would have spent and add it to your savings. 
  • Go back to your tracking...transfer money saved to your savings.

The law of checks and balances dictate that what we spend is always in exchange for something else. 

Nomadic Matt claims that you can travel the world for $50 a day. Is that dinner out worth a day on the road? 

Sometimes yes. But if your goal is bigger than that dinner out, it might be worth a dinner in. 

What was the most valuable tip you read here? How do you save for big ticket items or experiences? 














Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Inspiration

We are bracing for the snowpocolypse (or snowmaggedon, depending on your source) around here this week. 




And so, I am forcing myself to be mindful of the potential for good things that winter can bring. 


If you are not a fan of winter, how do you cope with the long, cold, snowy months that winter brings?

Friday, January 23, 2015

Easy Veggie Side: Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Onion, and Thyme

The other night, I made a really good dinner. 

I roasted a pork tenderloin and it came out great. I roasted sweet potato too, but I wanted a green veggie. 

I love Brussels sprouts. I had a bag of frozen baby sprouts, but I didn't have the oven space to roast them. I could have steamed them and tossed them with a bit of lemon and salt, but my husband isn't a fan of that, so I needed to style them up. 

And I did. 



It couldn't have been easier. And they were a hit. Here's what I did. 

Sauteed Brussels Sprouts with Bacon, Onion, and Thyme

1 bag of frozen baby Brussels sprouts, cooked for about 5 minutes
1 medium onion, julienned
2 cloves of garlic, minced
3 slices of pre-cooked bacon, julienned
2-3 stems of fresh thyme. I took the leaves off the stems.
1/2 lemon, juiced
1-2 tbs. butter
1 tbs. olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

  • Start by heating the olive oil in the saute pan. 
  • Add the bacon, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, and thyme. 
  • Cook until everything starts to caramelize. 
  • Drain the Brussels sprouts and add to the sauteed mixture.
  • Add the butter and allow to melt and coat everything. 
  • Squeeze the lemon juice and toss. 
That's it. They smell amazing and taste even better. 

Buen provecho!

What's your favorite veggie side dish?




Monday, January 19, 2015

Ahora 8: January and an announcement



Is it still okay to say Happy New Year? Happy New Year anyway!


Announcing...
  • I have joined the Beach Body family as a new coach and I couldn't be more excited. As someone who is continually working on my own health, fitness and wellness, I am thrilled for the opportunity to share my journey with others and help them along their journey. Through monthly challenges and personal coaching, I will try to inspire others to achieve their own personal bests. 
  • If you have ever thought about a similar path and are interested in becoming a coach yourself, or, if you just want someone to walk the walk with you, get in touch with me at krod0519@gmail.com or connect with me through my coaching page and find out more about coaching and the benefits of helping others achieve more. I would love to build my team and give you the opportunity to build yours as well. 

Reading...
  • Since I am embarking on new adventures, I am working on some professional development, starting with The Compound Effect, by Darren Hardy. 


  • In the introduction, life coach, Anthony Robbins, cites his mentor, Jim Rohn, "If you want greater success, help others achieve more." It's true...it's all about community and lifting up others. 



Figuring out...
  • My FitBit
  • My Beach Body website
  • My upcoming pieces for this space here
  • How to migrate over to WordPress seamlessly
  • When I will get my media kit completed

Drinking...
  • Water...one of my goals is to get in 100 oz. of water every day. Some days I fall short, but overall, I'm drinking more water and that does my body good...especially in these dry, winter months. 

Eating...
  • Trying to eat cleaner, less processed food. Trying to eat my protein first. I'm not cutting anything out, but trying to eat less junk. One day at a time.

Smiling about
  • New opportunities for personal and professional growth. 
  • Working with my trainer again after a brief hiatus.
  • Seeing the progress my students have made as we give them their annual assessment.
  • Teaching my blogging class, which was picked up for the spring at the local continuing ed program.
  • A French macaron making class I am taking this spring. C'est magnifique!
  • My husband's push outside his own comfort zone and the opportunities he is creating for himself.
  • My Patriots are going to Super Bowl XLIX! Go Pats!

Well, that's about it. 

What's happening ahora in your world?


Friday, January 16, 2015

A Blogger's Guide to Social Media Management



Social media can be a scary domain. It takes a lot of time and effort to stay current and relevant, and keeping up can be overwhelming. 

If you're trying to build readership and eventually, sponsorship, then managing your social media profile can be just as much work as blogging...maybe more....especially if you're seeking engagement.



I do not have a formal social media plan. Nevertheless, here are some things that I consider when I use some of the more popular social media sites. 

Twitter

  • Twitter is the center of the social media universe. If you want to know anything that's happening in the world, check Twitter first. Hashtags make it easy to group tweets and find out what's trending in today's world, and you can make lists to help you stay organized.
  • Use a scheduler, like Hootsuite to post your tweets. You can batch and schedule tweets throughout the day. 
  • Who do you follow? Consider following leaders in your niche. Learn from those who have paved the way for you. 
  • NEVER participate in that follow for follow nonsense. If you're following people only because they followed you, then why bother? If they are within your niche or target demographic, by all means...follow. But do not send them a message about following; no one likes that. 
  • And don't follow up with a private message about following you Facebook page. If they're technically savvy enough to follow you on Twitter, they can find you on Facebook, especially if you have a link on your blog's main page. 
  • Tweet and retweet content from within your niche or in areas that interest your target demographic. 
  • Think about your hashtags. Look at what's trending within your niche and think about how your hashtags can generate traffic.
  • Tweet others' work and thank others for shares and retweets of your work. It's just nice. 
Facebook
  • There are so many rumors floating around about the Facebook algorithm and who sees what. Link your blog's page to Twitter and you get twice the exposure...in theory anyway. When you post something on Facebook, it will automatically post on Twitter. 
Instagram
  • Link your Instagram account to your Twitter account and your Facebook account. You increase your exposure potential. 
  • Have a clickable link to your blog in your profile, if you're using it for blog promotion as well. 
  • Post an image from your post with relevant hashtags so users can find your work.
  • Consider a re-gram type of app that will allow you to share others' work and link to the original poster's account. 
Pinterest
  • Follow boards and pinners within your niche.
  • Consider what content is relevant to your target demographic and create targeted topic boards. 
  • Create group boards where your audience can pin their work as well. 
  • If you can, get a Pinterest business account for the analytics and see what drives your traffic. 

Keeping up with the social media responsibility of blogging can be exhausting, but once you consider your reader and their wants and needs, you can tailor your ancillary media to meet those needs. 


How do you plan your social media presence? Do you have a formal plan? What tips can you share?


Thursday, January 15, 2015

You Published, Now What? A Blogger's Checklist

After yesterday's checklist on what to consider before you publish, I received some great feedback, and so I decided to follow up with what to consider after you publish. 

For some of us, blog promotion is intuitive; for others, promotion seems awkward and consequently, we leave readership to chance and word of mouth. 
And for some of us, our families and friends may not know that we blog, for fear of judgement or just not understanding what it is that we do.

However, if our goal is to build readership, and for some of us, sponsorship, then it behooves us to become social media savvy. 

If you have not connected your blog to social media accounts, then this a first step. You can find tutorials online that demonstrate step-by-step instructions for installing social media buttons onto your blog posts. Give your readers the opportunity to share your work. 

Once you are connected, then you can get started with promotion. 

Here are some places where you can post links and begin your journey in blog promotion.




Tomorrow, I will be featuring a piece on social media management and things to consider with each platform. 

Which social media platform drives the most traffic to your blog? Do you have favorites? 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Before You Publish...a Blogger's Checklist

As bloggers, we know that content is key. We write for ourselves and for our audience, and we take pride in what we write. 

We all have posts of which we are proud; posts that may have required research or more intense effort and thinking to bring to publication. 

And we all make mistakes. 

Sometimes, we read it over so many times that our eyes water We miss errors because our brain knows what we want to say, and, as a result, our eyes may not recognize the mistake. 

It's nice to have a checklist of things we should do before we publish. True, we can go back and edit, and many of us do. 

But I am a list person, and a to-do list helps me stay focused and more efficient.

Here is an example of one I might use. 




  • It goes without saying that we must proofread for spelling, grammar and usage.  Proofreading is important because a word may be spelled correctly, but if it is used wrong, it's wrong.
  • Grammar issues, such as active/passive voice, verb tense and agreement, and parallel structure are important. Not everyone will notice errors, but you never know who the grammar geek will be, and if it is someone who works with a brand you are courting, you may lose out on a preferred account. 
  • Whenever possible, cite your sources, including where you cull you images. 
  • You may choose to watermark your own original images. In a world where images can be lifted easily, watermarking makes sense. It's your call. 
  • For better or for worse, long form journalism is out; lists and top 10s are in. Keep your message concise and present it in a way that is palatable to today's reader. 
  • Include at least one pinnable image in every post. 
  • Keep your title concise and include a keyword from your post.
  • Consider internal links to other posts you have written that may relate.
  • Tags and labels help your reader find other posts in similar topics. You may organize your posts by such tags and labels and display them in your sidebar. 
  • Joining a link party? Most of these parties require that you display a button or link to the party post. Make sure you include this piece or your post may be removed from the event. 
Are there other things that you consider before you post? Please share your own best practices in the comments below. 



Monday, January 12, 2015

Southwest Scramble: An Easy, Anytime Meal

Sometimes, my husband has after-work meetings and might not be home for dinner. Not interested in cooking a big meal for myself, and not wanting takeout, I often look at what we already have in the refrigerator. 

Almost always, we have eggs.

If you're looking for a quick, easy, balanced, go-to meal that you can eat for breakfast, lunch or dinner, then this is for you. 

Serve it with whatever you have in the house...fruit, a salad, or toast or English muffin. It hits the spot every time. 



Southwest Scramble

This is what I used. Everyone has different tastes and you need to add what you like. There are so many variations in protein and veggies...make it yours.

1 medium onion, diced or julienned
2-4 cloves of garlic, sliced or minced
Cooking spray or 1 teaspoon of olive oil
Any other veggies you have on hand. I have used a half pepper, shredded cabbage, and a handful of spinach. Sometimes, all three.
2-4 tablespoons of salsa. 
1 slice of cheese or 1/4 cup of shredded cheese
2 eggs, beaten or 1/2 cup egg substitute...your choice.
Salt and pepper to taste
2-4 tablespoons of salsa
1/2 avocado, scored in cubes


1. Preheat your skillet with olive oil. Add your onion (and pepper, if used) and saute until translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add the garlic and salt and pepper. Saute for another 5 minutes.

2. Add salsa and any other veggies you want and cook until the veggies are tender. 



3. Add the eggs. Place the cheese across the middle of the cooking eggs. 

4. Start to fold the edges up and over as you might with an omelet. 



5. When the eggs are cooked to your preferred degree of done, spoon the mixture into a bowl. 

6. Top with more salsa and scoop scored avocado onto the top. Salt and pepper to taste. 



Buen provecho! 

What is your go-to meal when you don't feel like cooking?

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Snow Day Shopping Haul

I am not a shopper. When I go to the mall with friends, I follow them around, but I never buy anything. Often when I go by myself, I walk around with stuff, only to put it back because I don't really need it. 

Today was different. 

Actually, it started yesterday. 

So much for a January, post-holiday spending freeze. 

On my way home last night, I decided that I needed more Quest bars. I have been eating Quest bars since they were only available online from Quest years ago. They're the only bars I eat. 

So, I stopped at GNC for a case of my favorite Raspberry White Chocolate flavor and a case of the Cravings Peanut Butter Cups. But then, I decided to try the Quest protein chips as well. 

Not bad, but a little impulsive. 

Since the wind chill was projected to be -25 to -30F below zero, area schools decided to delay classes or cancel altogether. Mine cancelled. It was a bright sunny day, so I decided to layer up, venture out, and go get the probiotics I was planning to start up again. 

I started at Target...mostly because they have a Starbucks. Although I thought about the Flat White, I opted for the skinny mocha. 

Fabulous!


Then, I decided to see what I could find on clearance....success...a long sleeved tee, compression shorts for the gym, a sports bra and a picture frame.


Then, I went to the Vitamin Shoppe in the same plaza. Kudos to the man working there today, because I asked, what seemed like, a million questions. 

I got my probiotics. 


Then, I thought I would explore Kohl's for work pants, since I had gift card. Apparently, Valentine's Day is in the air. 


And flip flops.


In January in New England...that's optimism.

Nevertheless, pants, I found...and a foot roller that will hopefully alleviate recurring plantar fasciitis.


Thinking I would grab lunch at Panera Bread, I stopped by the mall; however, the 60% off clearance sign at Old Navy was too much to resist. 


Long sleeved tees, a henley shirt, draw-string lounge pants, a button down shirt, a cami, a cowl neck pullover, pajama bottoms, and a package of Pop Rocks...because apparently, I am 5.

Next door to Old Navy is a Panera Bread, but there is also a brand new Burlington Coat Factory. Panera would have to wait. 


Here, I found I could not bear to leave without gym socks, a new gym bag, a cooling towel, a weighted jump rope, a workout tank, a workout long sleeved tee, a draping cardigan, a sports bra, cute underwear and a work blouse. 

I never made it to Panera Bread. I gulped down a Quest bar I had in my purse and decided to go home before I bought more stuff. 

But, I did end up replacing old, ratty staples that I held on to far too long. 

All in all, my snow-day turned shopping day turned out quite nice. 

If this is all I buy for clothes in the next six or more months, it's not bad. Most of what I bought was on clearance and replacing worn out items. 

Still, it gets my minimalist tendencies in a tizzy.

Are you a shopper? Do you have any non-shoppers in your life? 


Tuesday, January 6, 2015

15 Small Changes that Will Make a Big Difference in 2015

How do you eat an elephant? 

One bite at a time.

I have no interest in eating an elephant, but I understand the metaphor. 

If you're trying to accomplish a sizable goal, you need to chunk it into smaller, more palatable, achievable steps. 

Tis the season for goal making, and many of us are ambitious and have the best intentions, but the key to success, experts say, is in starting small. 


For example, you may have a 2015 goal of running a marathon, but you need to be able to run a 5K first.  

You may want to lose 50 pounds, but how about starting with 5 pounds, and then another... 

You have to make small changes, different from what you've already been doing, that advance you toward your goal. 



Regardless of your goal or intentions for 2015, there are simple changes you can make that can have huge payoffs in the coming year. 


Here are some ideas. 

1. Before your morning coffee, start with a tall glass of water. 
Experts recommend that we drink half of our body weight in water ounces every day. Starting the day with a glass of cold water may rehydrate your body after sleeping and fire up your metabolism for the day. With more water, your skin may look and feel better and you may have more clarity in your thinking, given that your brain is about 75% water. And who wants a dehydrated brain?

2. Wake up a half hour or an hour early. What could you do with that time that will get you closer to your goals?

3. Before going to sleep, read a chapter in a paper book. Avoid the e-screen health issues that are abuzz in the news today.

4. Before getting out of bed in the morning, stretch; and then again when you first rise.

5. Put your phone on "Do Not Disturb" after 7 or 8 at night and enjoy the peace and quiet of an unconnected life. 

6. Take the stairs.

7. Park farther away.

8. Start and end your day in a spirit of gratitude. Try a gratitude journal or jar.

9. Swap out a coffee or diet soda for a cold glass of water. 

10. Having a sweet craving? Chew a piece of gum. Some people like the dessert flavors; others prefer mint flavors. Whatever works for you becomes your craving buster. 

11. Tackle one drawer or chore you have been meaning to tackle. One drawer is less overwhelming than a total house overhaul. 

12. Organize your closet. 4 piles...save, sell, donate, discard. And then bring the donate pile to the car right away. And throw out the discard pile. Don't leave it in piles for another day.


13. Going through the Starbucks drive-through? Make someone's day; pay for the person behind you. 

14. Losing weight? Donate one food item or pound of food for every pound lost to a local food bank. 

15. Say thank you to someone for whom you are grateful to have in your life. 


Small changes can make a big difference. There will always be goal-related changes that will help you eat that elephant, but small changes, like these, can make a huge difference in how you feel and how you move onto bigger challenges. 

What small changes will you make in 2015?