STEP AWAY FROM THE PHOTOSHOP!

I’ve never been a fan of social media, but entered the madness anyway when I wrote the book to promote it.  It was then that I was confronted with the massive misuse of Photoshop in postings and for that matter, entire Facebook pages.   I’m wondering when it became ok to change photos and present them as authentic?  Oh, we all know about the major PS fails  on magazine covers, where models lost entire arms or look freakishly thin, or where a Kardashian goes on a Photoshop Diet and poorly alters her own body.  Narcissism in our society is out of control!

However, I’m also seeing this disturbing trend in photos that photographers present as ‘nature’.   Any way you look at it, it is misrepresentation of the subject a well as the skill level of the photographer.  What’s even more upsetting to me is that people are so gullible and naive as to believe these photos are real and ‘share’ over and over again!

Here are a few recent examples that caught my attention.  The first one is a pair of Hyacinth Macaws.  These are the largest of the Macaw family and are truly stunning birds in their own right, without photographic manipulation.  What is even more alarming is that whomever digitally altered these photos and presented them as ‘real’ didn’t even bother to check to see if the ORIGINAL photo is online, as was the case in this one:

Hyacinth Macaws Bad PhotoshopThe correct photo was actually probably manipulated as well, based on the smooth texture of the entire photo, but it was done without creating a garish, fake subject.

Here is another photo that has been not only Photoshopped but was further enhanced by adding something that was, I suspect,  never in the original photo.  Note the swans – they were clearly never there to begin with.  And even in the most ideal conditions, when trees turn color, BadPhotoshopthey don’t turn purple or pink. In this particular one, the shadows are off as well.  Note the crisp shadows under the swans yet the shadows along the tree line are soft.  AND The sand on the shore is pink.  No, not in New Hampshire.

Almost every single day, I see similar illustrations of lack of integrity by artists, photographers and those who steal the work of artists and photographers and manipulate in truly alarming ways.  It may seem like something small to most of you but to me, as a graphic artist and designer who does indeed use Photoshop as a tool to create designs from scratch, I find it to be yet one more example of the inability of humans to do anything authentic on their own.

And one final example.  This one is yet another of ‘fall color’ supposedly in New Hampshire. AnotherBadPhotoshopYes, this one is poorly manipulated as well.  BUT you can see where they added color tones in blue and purple.  And what about that neon green grass? It seems that folks are determined to try to make nature look fake when nature is simply beautiful all on her own.

 

Yesterday’s project

It was a rainy day so I thought it was perfect for a new project.  Our home is two stories and until recently, the only litter box in it’s ‘litter box hider’ has been upstairs.  We decided that sometimes the girls are playing hard and have a bit of a problem getting to the litter box upstairs in time when they’ve been distracted, so we bought another piece of furniture for the downstairs.  We’d tried putting a box in the half-bath downstairs but it was way too messy – and it really upset Sophie, the bird, to have the bathroom door open by her cage. So we decided we needed the additional hider.  Oh, my, what a project!

I’ve put together a lot of this type of furniture in the past.  It’s fiberboard underneath it all so it weighs a ton.  NewLitterHiderWe just have to hope there are no Wilma-style floods in our future.  I bought this on Amazon for under $200 and it actually looks quite nice.  It did, however, take a sweaty hour and a half to put it together by myself.  The photo to the left is from the listing.    It came in a big, flat, rectangular box.  The UPS guy kindly brought it in the door for me.  That’s when the fun started!

Of course, no project in our home happens without a LOT Of help, as you can see in the photo to the right.  Inspection  They had to inspect the packaging, inspect the pieces and every screw and hardware item.   While it is heavy and bulky, the parts did eventually go together – but not without wrenching my already – mangled back.  A few things didn’t work such as the plastic ‘caps’ to go over the holes where the screws are on the inside.  They just fell off.  Still and yet, it wasn’t that big a deal until I got to the seemingly simple job of attaching the doors.

The instructions stated that there were pre-drilled holes for the screws.  There were actually little dents.  It was difficult to screw the screws into the uber-hard particleboard furniture base, and the first one, predictably, ended up stripped.  :::sigh::: It took as long to do those four hinges as it did to put the rest of it together.

Anyway, the finished product looks great!  The girls have inspected and seem to like it. InteriorInspection It actually looks far nicer that it did in the photo in the listing.

I had purchased a new high-side litter box for this as well and also am using the the new “blue-sand litter”  (See previous post here: http://www.sukismiller.com/cats/danger-to-your-cat-corn-again/ ) Yes, it’s a lot for our girls to take in.  Too many new things at once especially when you consider that their world is very small and very controlled and of course, limited to our home.

You never can tell.  We could end up having a chat with the ‘cat whisperer’ if the girls are not comfortable with it all in a few days.

Results

 

 

 

Free e-Book download today

I’m running a free promotion for my book today, October 16th.  Amazon only allows me to do this very few days each quarter and this is the last day for this period. This allows you to download and own the e-Book for free. Of course, the printed copy is available for purchase on Amazon as well, and you can find it in three different local outlets – Book proof front

Date & Thyme

1130 Duval St, Key West, FL 33040
Phone:(305) 587-7475

Key West Island Bookstore

Address: 513 Fleming St, Key West, FL 33040
Phone:(305) 294-2904
917 Simonton St, Key West, FL 33040
Phone:(305) 292-0043

I’d really appreciate reviews!

It’s not a long difficult slog.  It’s about a two hour read.  You can download here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B012E7M2VG  .  I hope you pick up a few tips that will help you with your wellness, weight loss and life goals.

I’m happy to answer any questions you might have, here in the comment sections below my posts, and of course, I invite you to share your experiences, recipes and ideas as well.

Danger to your cat – CORN AGAIN!

We had DRAMA today at our house!   I have decided to test a new litter.  The girls don’t care for change of any sort, thus changing to a different litter has been rather interesting.

A little background:  We’ve used a product called Nature’s Miracle “Just for Cats” corn cob litter.  Recently, I had read a number of articles about aflatoxin contamination with this and other corn-based litters.  In an article here, it appears the company really never would take responsibility, declaring the litter to be fine as long as it doesn’t come in contact with moisture.  Seriously?  What do these people think happens in a litter box?   So it was time to do some research.

We’re trying something called UltraPet Litter Pearls Micro Crystals. Litter It looks like blue sand thus with our girls blue eyes, they look GOOD in it!  🙂  It is promoted as “low tracking, fragrance free, superior odor control, cat safe & cat preferred, inhibits bacterial growth, non-allergenic and low dust*, less to dispose. Change monthly, and 70% less landfill contribution”.  It is made with ‘all natural materials: sand, oxygen and water. No minerals, no chemicals and no crystalline silicate’. SO, we’ll see how it goes.

We use a piece of furniture that was made for the actual litter box – a litter box hider. It looks like an old-fashioned cedar chest but not cedar.  I vacuumed it well, got rid of all of the corn dust, sprayed with vinegar and water, wiped it down and air dried.   Then I took the litter box to the shower and totally disinfected, dried, then put in the new litter.  I have to say, it was dusty!!! But the girls seem to love it.  Well, I should clarify:  They seem to think it’s a new place to hang out. They’ve been lounging in the ‘foyer’ of the hider.  There has been some usage though. In the box

The way this works:  the sand totally absorbs the urine thus there’s nothing to scoop. I swear, it just disappears!  The poop is all you scoop. You need to gradually add more periodically to refresh, then eventually you need to do a total litter change.  Demonstration Video

I’d like to hear about everyone’s experiences with various litters.  Please feel free to post below.

Free e-Book download one day only.

I’m running a free promotion for my book Friday, October 16th.  Amazon only allows me to do this very few days each quarter and this is the last day for this period so mark your calendar. This allows you to download and own the e-Book for free. Of course, the printed copy is available for purchase on Amazon as well, and you can find it in three different local outlets – Book proof front

Date & Thyme

1130 Duval St, Key West, FL 33040
Phone:(305) 587-7475

Key West Island Bookstore

Address: 513 Fleming St, Key West, FL 33040
Phone:(305) 294-2904
917 Simonton St, Key West, FL 33040
Phone:(305) 292-0043

I’d really appreciate reviews!

It’s not a long difficult slog.  It’s about a two hour read.  You can download here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B012E7M2VG  .  I hope you pick up a few tips that will help you with your wellness, weight loss and life goals.

I’m happy to answer any questions you might have, here in the comment sections below my posts, and of course, I invite you to share your experiences, recipes and ideas as well.

Challenges

There are day-to-day challenges that make me question the order of the universe sometime.  Today was a classic example.   It seems no matter how hard I try to allow people to do the right thing in their lives, their businesses and their jobs, they continue to disappoint.  I often wonder if I have just come to expect too much of humans.

Case in point:  2 1/2 weeks ago, the ‘check system’ light came on in our car.  The next day I phoned the local Lincoln dealership where we had purchased our Premium Extended Warranty.  I talked to the head of the service department, since I’d found his employee (the guy over Lincoln maintenance) was rude, late, confrontational and a misogynist.  The head of service is a very nice guy.  However I think perhaps he has very little control over the long-term trouble-making employees.  Anyway, he was to call me back to set up an appointment.  He never called.  I sent an email.  No response.  I left two messages on his cell phone.  No reply.  I left message on his company phone.  No reply.  I finally got in touch with him last week (1 1/2 weeks into this effort to set up an appointment) and he couldn’t set anything up until this morning.  However, he said it would just take a minute to run a diagnostic on the computer that was giving the error, to see what the problem might be.  I arrived on time for the appointment.  Was told it would take a while.  I protested, saying “You said it wouldn’t take but a few minutes.”  Of course there was the story about their being busy. Duncan I waited in the customer ‘lounge’ with non-working air conditioning for an hour and 15 minutes.  Finally, I was told that they’d order a new part and that it would be covered under my warranty, and they’d call me when it’s in.   However, the problem is that this should have been handled 2 1/2 weeks ago.  I honestly can’t understand why even the good employee can’t return phone calls or respond to emails, and for that matter, why ineffective, rude, abrasive employees who choose NOT to do their jobs remain in the employ of the dealership.    And it’s not like the owner of the dealership doesn’t know.  I’ve complained about this Lincoln service employee to her AND to Lincoln corporate. It is a system designed to fail.

Another issue:  Problems with AT&T.  If there’s ever an issue with ATTAT&T’s service, you can count on being in a circular ‘hold’ pattern for hours.  It’s virtually impossible to get a human that knows what’s going on, that knows how to repair a problem or that can even comprehend what the problem might be.  For my business land line problems, I’m constantly pushed into Uverse customer service and they are clueless about a hard-wired telephone repair issue.  Meanwhile, my business is now unable to receive calls for 4 days now.  Eventually, I was forced to enter a repair ticket with their digital system, but I was left with no way to let them know that they need to contact me in advance if they need access to the property, which is nowhere near where I live.  It seems this is yet another system that is designed to fail.

Issue:  Apple updates  Rarely does an Apple update ever go well and yesterday, we had a problem that has  spilled over to today.  They required an AppleiTunes update when trying to simply sync and backup the calendar and contacts from the iPhone.  Predictably, the update wouldn’t install, the process had already blown away the existing iTunes and now we have nothing.   Many calls to Apple later, the problem isn’t solved.  Back to the word predictably – they blamed it on Windows.  They always do.  The problem is Apple techs don’t know REAL computer technology.  They know only the limited info they’re allowed to impart.  They set up calls to return to the issue but never phoned. I’m dealing with that issue right this moment and am on hold yet again.

Another issue: I’d previously written about a vet who made amistake on my adored kitten’s spay and left some ovarian material in her.  We need to wait for her to be in heat yet again to draw blood, to assure that it is there before we put her through another surgery.  Today, I continue to struggle with the issues.  While waiting at the dealership, I was also dealing with this problem.  The vet who did the surgery seems horribly egotistical and declares he couldn’t have possibly made a mistake – and yet it is well-known nationwide that this is a very common mistake.  Obviously he’ll repair it but the process leading up to this is going to be complicated and meanwhile my little sweetheart is suffering needlessly because of a careless mistake.

So, you can see why my frustration is bubbling over into my post today.  Oh, I can go on and on about similar issues.  But what it all boils down to is that companies, even on the local level, have no desire to actually provide service or value to their customers.  I am at a loss as to how this has happened in our society.

I do my best not to be angry with them, and to give these people every opportunity to surprise me and help me and to bowl me over with their humanity and service.  However, as I was sitting in the coolest area I could find at the dealership today, on hold with AT&T while waiting for the auto diagnosis, I realized that perhaps I’m expecting far too much of humans these days. Perhaps having a hopeful, positive demeanor and attitude doesn’t translate to those who are simply incapable of doing their jobs or of having pride in themselves, their companies or their own work.  And those who truly want to help are often hog-tied by bad employees and management or owners who either do not care or are too lazy to do what it takes to require excellence in their businesses.

I am very loyal to companies who treat me with respect, who take the trouble to stock their stores properly, who train their employees to do their jobs and who make it easy for me to spend money with them.  I find these days, sadly, that there are fewer and fewer companies that I feel I can be loyal to.

 

 

The key to meditation: START

How many of you read my posts and think “I should meditate” yet, you never take the first step?   Like any practice or habit, meditation is a commitment on your part.  You only have to commit 15 minutes to start.  Once you become accustomed to it, you can expand as you wish or as time permits.

I know several people who seem to have a problem getting past what I call ‘the monkey chatter’ in our heads.  Oh, believe me, I still deal with monkey chatter every day myself!  The key is to dismiss it.  And yes, that sounds far easier than it really is to do.

In my experience, the best way to start a meditation practice is with a simple guided meditation.  Guided meditations redirect your focus from your own chatter to the voice in the audio track. Once you become accustomed to that meditation, then you can begin to design your own meditations to achieve the goals you wish to achieve, and to expand into areas that are important to you  What was interesting to me as I began this practice, is that the basic meditations led me to identify areas that I wished to address with my practice.

I’m so convinced that your life will change for the better if you begin meditation in any form whatsoever, that I’ve done some of the research work for you.

I sampled a few mindfulness meditations on iTunes, as a starting point for those who wish to move forward using mindfulness and meditation to add peace to your lives.

The first one is a very simple mindfulness meditation from an album calledMindfulnessMeditationForBeginners “Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners” and offers short, guided meditations for 6 minute, 10 minute, 15 minute and 20 minute sessions.  I listened to this and it should be a comfortable, simple way to get into meditation. The voice is a very soothing female voice.  There are also a couple of musical tracks on this album that you can use as you move further into meditation.

ON Apple Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners $9.99

ON Amazon Mindfulness Meditation for Beginners $6.93

 

This album “Meditation Oasis” caught my attention simply because of the lotus, which I view as a symbol for Meditation Oasis Albummy own growth and regeneration.    This lovely album includes 4 simple meditations from 12 to 19 minutes long, with relaxing music and a female voice.  The tracks are:

Breath Awareness Meditation

Effortless Meditation

Emotional Ease Meditation

Letting Go Meditation.

ON iTunes: Meditation Oasis $9.99

On Amazon: Meditation Oasis $3.96

If you wish to move forward with your meditations, you can check out “Guided Meditations Guided Meditation Life Goalsfor Achieving Life Goals”.   This has a simple background consisting of ocean waves and piano. The voice is female.   I’m amazed at the difference in pricing on these!

ON iTunes: Guided Meditation for Achieving Goals $9.99

ON Amazon: Guided Meditation for Achieving Goals $2.67

 

Shop around for the right guided meditation album(s) to kick-start your meditation practice.  On iTunes, just use ‘Guided Mediation’ as your search word in the iTunes Store search box.   On Amazon, it is easiest if you navigate to the area for Digital Music and search within that area.

Please feel free to ask questions or ask for recommendations below in the comments sections!  I’m happy to help.  I want everyone to experience the growth that I’ve experienced through meditation.

 

 

I’m honored to be featured…

I’m honored to be featured in the first edition of the new Florida Keys health and wellness magazine, WELL.

Magazine CoverThis lovely, full-color publication is brought to us by Charlie Wilson owner of Date & Thyme, Tori Mata, General Manager and their helpful, friendly staff.    Their two locations in Key West are:

date & thyme Organic Cafe, Juice Bar and Market, 829 Fleming Street   305.296.7766

date & thyme Organic Coffee Shop, 1130 Duval Street.  305.587.7475

If you are out and about in Key West, please pick up a copy of this great new publication dedicated to the organic lifestyle.  Featured are articles on healthy eating, wellness, gardening, meditation, mindfulness, food, alternative therapies and recipes.

If you are not in Key West, you can download the PDF of the latest issue here for free:  Well Magazine, Fall, 2015 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Signs

In my journey into meditation and into mindfulness, I have come to be aware of signs in my life.  Daily little synchronicities, coincidences and signs are everywhere and I feel they are our guides’ way of pointing us in the right direction, or even simply letting us know that they’re there for us.

ButterfliesI have come to pay attention to a wayward butterfly crossing my path, or a dragonfly darting around me when there are no others.  I notice cloud formations that have meaning to me.  And I notice little things in my life that tell me those I love who are on the other side, are reminding me that they’re with me.

Humans become far too involved in day-to-day living, to the point of ignoring what is truly important on this planet.  We begin to base our lives, our hearts, our direction and our decisions on unimportant minutia.  I mean, seriously, do you really want to stay angry at the inane customer service agent on the phone to the point it stops you from experiencing something beautiful, or from experiencing messages and direction from your angels and guides.  You know, your anger or grief will do that.  dove cloudAnd our angels, guides and loved ones on the other side cannot help us unless we ask for their help and unless we listen for them.

Some of the best times to listen are when you surrender yourself totally to nature. Sitting in nature, breathing in fresh air and enjoying all that is around you is not only calming but it allows you to connect with the planet and thus, connect with the help and love that surrounds you.  When you’re angry, when you’re not in the moment, you miss a lot of the beauty that is your gift from earth.

Signs generally have meaning only to you. The image in this post of the clouds is an example.  I’ve recently lost someone who I loved dearly, who was like a second mother to me.  My heart has been hurting since her passing in May.  In two visits to her home in SW Florida, I have seen a few signs that tell me she’s with  me in spirit.  On the trip home the first time, I was feeling particularly lost and then I saw this cloud which to me, is an amazing bird. I knew that I was not alone in my feelings.

On another trip, I realized that she was sending me iris!  I came upon a cup that I was compelled to buy and now I know why.  Iris cupShe loved Iris!

And then I saw iris in many other places (note the bedspread below).

So, my message today is to not ever let these special moments go unnoticed.  They are there for your benefit and to help you with whatever you’re struggling with, be it grief, loss, love or any of the myriad of other of life’s struggles.

And then there are numbers.  But that’s for another post another day.

Iris

 

Almost Dairy-Free Augratin Potatoes

If you’ve been reading my blog for any amount of time, you know that we’re pretty much dairy-free EXCEPT for cheese.  So this recipe is essentially dairy free until you add the cheese.  This is a recipe that was born of my Mom’s potatoes augratin recipe, except I’ve eliminated glutens and most all dairy.  And it’s what I call a ‘warm fuzzy’ dish.  My husband loves this kind of thing. Potatoes Augratin Baked

While this isn’t my usual uber-healthy style of dish, it’s more healthy using coconut milk and olive oil instead of cow’s milk and butter.  The good thing about this is that this recipe does indeed give you some fiber.  I’m a huge fan of fiber!   Most people don’t get nearly enough every day.  Women should have 21 grams a day and men should have at least 32 grams a day.  Without fiber, your digestive system (and colon) simply don’t work properly.  Fiber also helps offset any damaging sugars that you might take in, and along with protein, gives you the energy to stay active all day.

This recipe uses my own version of a bechamel sauce, detailed below.   You can use any type of potato you have on hand, but be aware your results might vary depending on the potato you choose. Today I used Russet potatoes simply because they were the only organic potatoes available here in the store today. Potatoes and Onions wholeThey aren’t the most preferred for this type of recipe.  Your potatoes will hold up better in the dish if you use red or white potatoes.

Some of the ingredients and instructions are approximations.   I go by how things are moving along and by how the sauce looks as I’m building it, so some of this will be up to you as to how much you use when it comes to oil (or butter), corn starch and the coconut milk.

Also, I pealed my potatoes, but to be honest, they’d be far healthier if you leave the skin on after scrubbing, to give you yet even more fiber. PLUS for me, the less time with a knife in my hand, the better.  I’m prone to cutting myself when cooking, and also to burning myself.  Recently, I cut my hand, then when removing something from the oven, I burned the exact place where the cut was!  No kidding!

So, here we go:

Almost Dairy-Free Potatoes Augratin

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Augratin ingredientsIngredients:

  • 4 or 5 medium to large size organic potatoes, pealed & cut in 1/4″ slices or thinner
  • 1/2 cup organic onions, sliced
  • 5 TBS (+/-) organic olive oil (or you can use butter if you wish)
  • 5 TBS (+/-) organic corn starch
  • 4 cups (or less) unsweetened organic coconut milk
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste
  • 5 cups grated organic sharp cheddar cheese.

Place the sliced potatoes and sliced onions in a pan.  Fill pan about 3/4 full of water.  Potatoes and ONionsCook on medium heat approx 20 minutes or until potatoes are tender and onions are transparent.   Drain.

Place the potatoes and onions in an 8″ x 8″ baking dish.   Add about 2 cups grated cheese and very gently stir into the hot potatoes to mix.

For the bechamel sauce, start with approx 5 TBS olive oil (or butter if you choose) in a sauce pan.  Allow to heat but not bubble.   Gradually stir in the corn starch until you have a thick roux.  Cook a minute or two until all is well incorporated.

Add coconut milk slowly, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly, allowing the milk to incorporate with the oil / butter and corn starch mix.   Continue to add until you have a good sauce consistency.    You may not need this much coconut milk or you might need more.  I play it by ear.

Add 1 cup grated cheese and stir into the sauce.   Add salt and pepper to taste.

When thickened, pour the sauce over the potatoes in the baking dish, and gently stir or ‘nudge’ it into the potatoes.   PotatoesAugratin Pre-bakeAdd the remaining cheese to the top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or more.  If you want it a bit dryer and more browned on top, you can certainly cook longer.

 

ENJOY!

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