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I’ve Moved!

Thank you for visiting this blog – but I have been keeping up a new and *improved* blog Simple Things, Fine Moments – please join me there!


A New Thought for Composting…and Life?

I was so taken a-back last month when a bag of leaves was placed next to our compost box by an anonymous neighbor. I was also ashamed at myself for immediately jumping to conclusions that a neighbor was stashing trash in our lawn. I am angry that I immediately thought the worst, and then become even more guilt-ridden that I have come to a point where I would be angry about a bag of trash. It’s a bag… of trash… not worth any anger.

Once I discovered it was a fellow compost friend, I was over joyed that someone wanted to contribute and in fact, took the time to bag up their leaves and walk them over to our lawn.

So, fellow humans… come join our compost! And, thank you for the reminder that it is so important not to jump to conclusions and immediately think the worst in people, especially neighbors. That is a lesson worth keeping in mind and so powerful in that moment, that I needed to share.

Oh, and if you don’t know about composting, it’s super awesome. Learn how.

Post Zero.

My blogging adventures begin, again. This time, instead of a focus, just the random musings about life, being a new mom, seasoned partner, and full-time professional. Posts will center on my semi-crafty trials from pinterest, things I find funny, and my pursuits in keeping balance, finding humor and seeking financial freedom. I may also share occasionally things I am passionate about like the awesome power of social media, writing from the heart, and volunteering/community.


That’s all for now. It’s all quiet in the house, sleeping baby, and time for a sweet cup of tea. You can also find me at @katiemang… let’s chat!

W8,9: Eating Right on the Road and at Home

During Week 8 of #challenge26, I asked, is it possible to eat right on the roadI challenged myself to make healthy food choices during a week long trip in an unfamiliar state. Overall, I would consider it a success. I chose far more healthy meals, sought out restaurants that offered a variety of fresh and sustainable choices. I also focused on alternatives, such as grocery shopping and fresh food stands. I had a mindset for healthy eating, so even when comfort and convience were easier, I took more time or went out of my way to make the challenge a success.

However, I did find myself falling towards the end of the week. During a stressful day, faced with a long drive ahead and sitting in traffic. I failed. I splurged and chose a drive through fried chicken, gravy and french fries. This was not a small splurge, this was an all out comfort, fattening feast. And, I did feel comforted. After my indulgence, with 3 hours of car time, I got to thinking. How often do I turn to food when stressed? To me, food has always been equated with comfort. Taking a family member a casserole during a time in need (the worse the situation the more cheese and sourcream gets added), taking a girlriend to get icecream ove tears, or sharing beers at the end of a busy week. This “treat” has often felt earned, by whatever situation I seemed to get through. So, last week when I successfully completed a stressful, busy day – I felt as if I earned that chicken dinner and I didn’t have the time to seek healthy options. In fact, according to Whole Living we often find ourselves making the most impulsive food choices in times of great stress.

So, overall this was a great week of successes in finding new food options and making smart choices. I also learned about myself and my habits in seeking comfort in food during stressful times. I will certainly keep this in mind on the road and at home, to make smart choices at stressful times when I actually need it the most.

Speaking of keeping healthy habits in mind at home… Week 9 of #challenge26 focused on food, as well. This time, my husband and I decided to see if we could stretch our food dollar, while still making healthy choices. After some major budgeting recently (new car, new lease!) we got to thinking about how our money is spent on food. We found a recent receipt at a local restaurant where we spent $80 on a meal and some wine. The meal was okay, the wine was good… but this was an indulgent night (after a stessful week, go figure!). During my Week 9 Challenge, we thought we could better use $80 at the local grocery store and eat in, pack lunch and make dinner on $80.

We did it… and in good taste, too! We made smart choices to make our meals stretch. Coupons were cut and sales were utilized. We both packed lunches, with very different tastes and did not eat out. We ended the week on a high note with a split piece of chocolate cake and cappacinos. We are going to carry this activity over into week 10 and beyond, as well.

So the answer is YES, you can eat healthy on the road and eat well on a budget at home. I have learned to be more mindful of my stress and comfort food habits. It’s all about your mindset and focus… if you make choosing healthy and budget friendly choices a priority, and be a little creative… you will not sacrafice taste or experience.

W8: Is it possible to travel and eat right?

Between West Coast trips for my job and Midwest small extended weekends to see family, I travel a lot more than I ever have before. I really enjoy it, whether it is reconnecting with friends and family – or meeting new people and exploring new places on work visits. I enjoy the open road, as well as busy streets, taking it all in, snapping some pictures and sharing my stories.

The less exciting side of traveling is the routine – and I have now got it down to a (semi) science. Packing has become a compact, necessities-only piece of cake (even fitting in a few luxury items!). The security checks and pay tolls are now a breeze. Directions – I got it covered by checking out basic/alternate routes, parking details and meeting times. The routine is now a breeze.

If I had to give myself a report card for traveling, I would get an A for routine and efficiency and puncuality, but perhaps a C for healthy habits. During travels, convenience is everything – which includes food. Unfortunately, fast, convenient and cost-effective meals usually do not include “dressing on the side.” Not only that, but after a long day in an airplane, car or meetings a big juicy burger and french fries seems like the best idea…. just this once, right? Or, even worse… I’ll just skip a meal tonight.

We all know that “just this once” can be a slippery and dangerous slope. So, the #challenge26 this week is to make the best food choices while on the road… and I am jumping right into it. As a sit and sip on my small coffee and plain whole wheat bagel at BWI (Baltimore) Airport, I am pledging to make healthier choices during my week long trip to San Francisco.

This is a busy, full booked trip for work that takes me from San Francisco and through a loop of the surrounding communities (lots of flight and driving time, included). Not only will I prepare to seek out healthy options, but to be realistic enough to note that when fast food is only available, to make smarter choices. I plan to make one exception to indulge if a reasonable, sustainable, local meal presents itself (the benefits of travel!). Overall, I hope that holding myself accountable will lead to better decision making, even when I am famished or tired.

Do you have any healthy (food or not) tips to travelers, whether for work or pleasure? She your stories: do you indulge, skip, make good choices or maybe it always depends. What are your go-to restaurants and ones to avoid?

For more ideas on eating right on business trips, check out How to Eat Healthy by USAToday Travel.

W5: Taking out the E-Waste

We (the people, Americans, world citizens) produce alot of trash. 4.6 lbs a day per person in the United States, with an additional 1.5 lbs for recycling. Generally, we are all aware that recylcing is good. We see the blue bins, the funny triangle, papers are reused for scrap and bottles or cans are never tossed into the waste bin. Our communities even make it easy for us, designating various bins for our variety of waste, some apartments even provide nice documents to hang on the refrigerator reminding us what counts and how to recycle. Overall, it’s a great reminder and good system.

Now, here comes the dilemna. I have a slowly growing pile at my door of materials that I cannot throw away or sell. These materials are not listed on my neat recycle reminder sheet or have a space in the recycle center bins. They are all electronics. This week, my challenge is to properly dispose or e-cycle  this e-pile.  

My challenge:

  • To properly dispose of a television, cell phones, batteries and speakers 
  • To answer: what are the State of Maryland’s standards and operations for e-waste?
  • Research  the effects of e-waste/e-cycling and share my findings

Have you disposed of e-waste before? Are you a regular e-cycler? What electronic materials are you holding onto because you may be unsure how to properly dispose them? Comments below and send me your stories to be shared here!

W4: Creating a book club… or more?

This challenge began as a simple idea a few weeks ago: join a book club. I am an avid reader, but since grad school I have found little opportunity to discuss… and I mean really discuss and get into a good book with others. To share my thoughts, provide feedback and encourage ongoing discussion. So, I set out this year to make one of my first five challenges to join a book club.

However, a few weeks ago over coffee and a great coversation with @RanaAShirzadi we discovered that we were both eager to not only begin a book club discussion, but to also discuss and support the development of our personal blogging adventures. Thus, a “blog and book club” began to develop. Our intent was to create a community that discusses great books, supports and provides feedback to each other’s blogs and encourages each other to keep reading and writing.

Over the past few weeks we have worked on various elements of this project, names and discussed how this would work. However, this week I have made it my challenge and priority to make this come to fruition. I had to delay my Week 4 post (usually on Sunday or Monday), as we made our “big launch” today, Wednesday, March 2nd. And, so far it has been really well recieved!

Check out information about our club and online community here: http://blogsbooksbytes.wordpress.com/ I encourage you to check it out, give us your feedback and even join us!

This truly has been a great weekly challenge to get this up and moving, and in essense of my year long #challenege26 project to make my ideas become actions. It is also important to note that this challenge is only half done for me this week. To complete W4 challenge for the rest of the week, I will also need to do the following:

  • Research book club, blog encouragement best practices
  • Finalize the details of our first Blog Books Byes Meeting
  • Edit and finalize the details of our website
  • Incorporate details of my new project into my existing blog for added exposure
  •  Get the word out and connect with others!

It’s no coincedence that we chose Unmarketing as our first book, as it has great information for working on new projects. I also hope this week to utilize other resources and finalize some of these plans so that we are starting our project on the right foot. I am optimistic that I will have a substantial reflection at the end of this week, along with some ideas set in place on how I will move forward in the future.

I would love to hear from you… are you looking for blogging support? a book club? If you could create a community like this, how would it look to you? Or, have you created a club from scratch? Tell us what worked and did not work for you! 

W3: Tech and Connect Follow Up

I would consider week 3 challenge a success. It was not very glamorous or exciting, but productive nonetheless. This week I spent alot of time getting to know the mechanics of the tools that I use everyday; much of this time spent on updating my preferences, information and organizing. I found that with just some extra work this week to get my “social media and technology” tools in order, it will save me much more time in the future with the end goal to increase productivity.

The steps I took to get organized:

  1. Achieved Inbox Zero: I deleted and unsubscribed to unnecessary emails, acted/replied on important emails, created a folder system to encourage action on items (To Read, Important, To Do, To Save) as well as interests and lifestyle (Recipes, Articles, Personal, Events). I am now at a place to move forward with a system that saves time and motivates me to act much sooner, rather building up.
  2. Google Reader Zero: I love Google Reader, but lately have been falling behind on articles. I sifted through my past documents, “starred” those that needed another glance and created folders to organize and filter my various intersts (Higher Education, Style/Art, Career, Service, Leadership, Green/Eco). Instead of sifting through and becoming overwheled, it’s much easier to read through each morning.
  3. Twitter Flitter: Awesome tool – Flitter calculated that I had 208 contacts that did not follow me back, were inactive or were not irrelevant to my interests – highly recommend if you need to clean out your feed and focus on contacts and content that matter.
  4. Hootsuite: A social media dashboard that I already used for twitter, but I also created streams for facebook and LinkedIn. This definetly saves time for when I just want to glance at my various SM feeds.

The second part of this challenge was to move my social networking to the next level. I succeeded in attending my first Social Media Club DC meeting, as well as signing up for my first TweetUp, upcoming in March. Additionally, I have moved to meet with/work with three different people with whom I have connected with on social media for career and personal interests. This encouragement has me excited to expand my network and build relationships/opportunities with some great people. This simple step has shifted my focus from “think” to “act”.

The challenge to tech and connect has lead me to wonder – why haven’t I done this already? Like the challenges from the first two weeks, I found that pushing myself to get over my own hangups, excuses and reservations has led to some really great conversations, time savers and development of positive habits. Sure, it is certainly not excited to delete emails and unsubscribe from 35 email communications – but it forced me to prioritize, organize and communicate – and even more importantly, act!

W3: Teching and Connecting

Why do people tweet? What do you blog about? I don’t care your friend’s cousin said…

I have been asked this often and had to defend my social media use from my less-than-eager social media friends and family. For me it all began with a facebook page, a brief stint with myspace and then… I entered the world of twitter in November 2009. At first my social media use revolved around maintaining connections and reconnecting with old classmates, but now it has evolved into so much more. My social media presence has evolved from passive reading >> to marketing >> searching >> connecting >> and now includes a variety of these uses. It’s a relationship that includes give and take, sharing, lurking, branding and connecting. Most recently, I have even been using it as a catalyst for iniatives, volunteering and community building.

I believe that this evolution has been for the best – but with a public presence and social networking comes so much more to consider:

Building a Personal Brand by Careerrealism

Practicing Proper Social Media Etiquette via Forbes.com

Mixing Work and Personal on Social Media via Social Media Today

Privacy Setting from The Social Media Examiner

With so much to consider in the social media world and as I continue to develop and grow my social networks, this week I challenge myself to focus on putting my social media world in order. With all of the tools, resources and strategies out there, I feel that it is time for me to stop passively “liking” and “bookmarking” and DO. My challenge is to put all of these wonderful resources in order, use tech to connect and set myself up for social media success in the future.

Here is what this challenege looks like:

  • First, to get all of my existing resources in order: get back to inbox zero (and google reader zero), clean out faves/bookmarks, and sync/edit my current networks (Facebook Accounts, Twitter, LinkedIn, Delicous, WordPress, Google Reader).
  • Step out from behind the screen/phone and take advantage of TweetUps and MeetUps: Attending the DC Social Media Meeting this Wednesday – to network and learn tricks from the most engaged in my community. Set up future meetings, too.
  • Explore new social media tools: What do you use that I should consider? What Tech and Social Media resources do you recommend that helps you be efficient and effective?
  • Share my findings on my blog! To chat about them via social networks and F2F with my colleagues.

What I hope to gain from this #challenge26 is to make my own social communication more effecient, effecitve and meaningful. It is important to me that I “do as I say.” I am always preaching to my non-twitter friends and peers that social media is not about spamming, nor posting mindless chatter about what my friend’s cousin said. For me, it is about making meaningful personal/professional connections, learning, reflecting and contributing to multiple communities. It’s not about living online, but using resources and connections of a global world to make things happen for yourself and others online and offline. This week 3 challenge for me is about living this philosophy and using the right tools/resources to make the most of it.

This challenge is about me… but it’s also about social media – so, it’s about you, too! Contribute share, disagree/agree and participate with me this week and beyond!

W2: Finding (one) More (hour of) Time Reflection

It was not enough for me to satisfy my Challenge: Finding More Time by just waking up one hour earlier each day, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was going to gain by this challenge but I feel that I met my expectations and exceeded them in many aspects, as well.

Yes, I met the physical challenge of this activity- I woke up one hour earlier than usual (6am weekdays, 8am Saturday) and used that time to be productive. I also set out this week to pay attention to my sleep schedule, as to ensure that I was getting the recommended quality and quanity of sleep.

Throughout the week I woke up at 6am and I was productive! I got much more exercise, laundry was finshed, emails were answered, blogs were read, dishes were cleaned and the dog was walked. All things that I do on a average week day, but were complete by 7am, when I am usually just hitting the alarm and rationalizing “5 more minutes.” I am not saying it was easy, if I wasn’t holding myself accountable here, I am unsure if this would have been so successful.

By accomplishing so much in the early moments of my day – I found that this started to have a unexpected, yet very welcome ripple effect in other areas of my life. Having more time to get necessary tasks done, freed up my time to do other, in some cases more necessary things. I consistently ate a complete breakfast for maybe the first time in my adult life. I had time to pack much healthier lunch items, instead of buying take out or throwing an instant processed lunch in my purse. It freed up evening chores time, so that I could spend it relaxing from my day and talking about other things with my husband.

I feel that those around me also  benefitted from my motivation and momentum from starting the day early. I became uber productive and creative at work, had more time to touch base with friends and family in the afternoon and the pup certainly enjoyed the much longer jogs in the park in the morning.

This “found” hour of the day had a much longer lasting impact on my week – this hour to myself, all by myself provided some much needed me-space and self-reflection. I feel myself simply becoming happier, movitated and slowly, possibly healthier. I was more intuned with feeling my body’s needs for more sleep at the end of the day or hunger for a complete breakfast. I also enjoyed things that I sometimes avoid or dread, because I knew of the benefits of getting it done early and not feeling rushed to just get it done. I know now that short on time, is nearly just an excuse. If you really need to and want to accomplish your goals… if it is important you can really find the time.

I hope to keep this momentum going and will regularly check in from time to time on my progress… I would love to hear from others who have found this simple change successful/unscuccessful, too. 

Now, it’s just past noon on Saturday and with everything done, the dryer humming, my hubby lending a hand with things that seem to “slip down the honey-do list” and my pup tired from a long sunny walk… I am excited for the full weekend ahead of me for rest, relaxation and whatever else we please.  

Time is no longer an excuse! Next time I am faced with a task, challenge or goal.. I will no longer say “I didn’t have the time”. I will really think about what is at the root of my excuse… is it something that I didn’t want to do, unsure how or possibly afraid to fail. No matter the excuse, time can be found and it can have a wonderful ripple effect.