My Homestead - Blog

Contact Page – Goodbye!

So I used to have a contact page on my website. I thought it would be a simple way for people to contact me instead of needing to rely on having my resume or social media channels (Twitter or LinkedIn) to reach out.  You may be asking yourself why I decided to remove the Contact Page from my site. I hope after reading this post, you will agree that it was something that needed to happen.

Why I got rid of my Contact Page

A few months ago, okay about a year ago really, I decided to update my website to run on this slick new theme. I wanted to showcase my photography and work experience. In addition, I wanted to have a place to blog when the need to write even more got under my skin. When I built this site, I decided to have a contact page so that people interested in one or the other could drop me a message. So, I installed a contact form and had it send those messages to my email. I was pretty happy with the way the site turned out and I still find myself tinkering with various pages when the bug hits.

What I got instead

After installing the Contact Page plugin and activating the page, I started getting about one message every few months. When I got the first message, I was excited that someone other than me was looking at my site. I opened the email to find it was spam  from a company offering to help with SEO on the site. What a let down and a waste or resources for that company, randomly finding personal websites and offering SEO fixes through the contact page. I totally understand this type of selling and why it may seem important but really? It is not like I am a trying to sell anything so was it really worth the effort? I mean, if someone happened to see my photography and wanted to buy it I would probably sell it provided I knew what it would be used for but that is not the intent of this site; after all, there is a shopping cart feature which I have turned off. Lately, these messages have been more frequent about one a day. Really? One a day, you must be getting desperate for business!

I do know about SEO, quite a bit really and I know all of the pages on my site are not optimized for SEO purposes. It gives me something to do when I just want to tinker with my site; update old pages and posts for SEO. When I add new pages and posts, they are all search engine optimized.

As you can see, I needed to remove my Contact Page because I hate to get spam email. Oh and by the way, this blog is SEO ready!

5 Nutrition Tips from a Semi-beginner

5 Nutrition Tips from a Semi-beginner

Coleslaw

Coleslaw for a day.

I keep getting asked, “How do you do it?” and by that people at work mean set up my daily lunch so I am staying up on my nutrition requirements as I work out. I mentioned this statement to Sam, my trainer, who suggested I write a blog about my experience. For many years, I have always prepared my breakfast and lunches for the week on Sunday. Today I am going to share with you some of my tips for meeting your fitness goals through nutrition. Be warned, I am not going to give you diet tips but more about planning your meals.

My Top 5 Nutrition Tips

  1. Plan your menu
  2. Shop smart
  3. Prepare in advance
  4. Portion control
  5. Pack your lunch

Plan Your Menu

When getting my nutritional requirements for the week ready, I start on Saturday. The first thing I do to get ready for the week is pull out my cookbooks. Some cookbooks I reference most are The American Heart Association’s Low-Fat, Low-Cholesterol and The New American Heart Association Cookbook. I find the recipes in both of these cookbooks to be easy to prepare and fulfilling at the same time.  Other times, I just think about what I want to eat and come up with some form of “recipe”; for example, the image here is of a coleslaw I made. It is half a head of cabbage, one red pepper, one green pepper, and shredded carrots. I then made a vinaigrette dressing I found in another cookbook.

The next step is to take those recipes (usually no more than four) and put them into an Excel Spreadsheet along with the rest of the meals for the week. After this, I check the coupons in my grocers mobile app and go to the store.

Shop Smart

The grocery store can be a bit overwhelming for anyone trying to stay on a diet. Your first instinct may be to buy those “low-fat” frozen meals to help meet your nutrition needs. Let me tell you, those things are full of salt; don’t believe me read this article “Should you defrost your diet?” from NBC. Over processed foods have been shown to hurt your diet rather than help your diet, but there are exceptions. For example, the coleslaw I made can be made with pre-shredded cabbage and carrots instead of having to shred them yourself. Take about a time saver! Next, if you are buying any meet, check the label. Chicken, for example, can have a lot of sodium added in the processing so read the labels carefully. When you get home you need to prepare your meals.

Prepare in Advance

On Sunday, I start my day off by preparing many dishes like vegetable sides that will reheat well and making things like the coleslaw. This process takes some getting used to as if you are over eager, you will spend the entire day cooking. Instead, prepare what you must for the next day. As an example, yesterday I knew I only needed the coleslaw for lunch today so I made that and the dressing. Tonight, as I prepare dinner I will make a vegetable casserole that will get me through the rest of my nutrition needs for the week. Next comes portion control which is key to meeting your goals.

Portion Control

Controlling portions is probably the easiest way to help you meet your nutrition needs when trying to slim down. My typical breakfast is cereal, cottage cheese, yogurt, and fruit. I measure out both my cereal and cottage cheese using the recommended serving size from the container and put it into individual containers that I can reuse each week. For lunch, I made the coleslaw so I measure out the  serving and the dressing for the week into another set of containers along with some carrots in a different container. This way, when I get ready to leave my house in the wee hours I don’t have to think I just have to pack my meals.

Pack Your Lunch

So I am sure you are asking yourself, is all I eat for lunch the slaw and carrots. The answer is no. I have a serving of protein and some cheese. Each night as I am cooking dinner, I take a few seconds to make a sandwich. In the morning before I leave for work, I pull out my breakfast and eat that before I leave for work. Then I pull out my planned lunch and daily snacks and put them into my lunch bag. Remember that Excel Spreadsheet I talked about? That document is printed and hangs on my refrigerator so that as I pack my lunch and snacks I can reference it to make sure I am putting the right things in my bag. I have already portioned out everything for the week so it is pretty easy to stay on my nutrition plan for the week.

I hope this helps you plan your meals better. As always, if you have any questions, feel free to ask either in the comments below or send my a message using my contact form. Please feel free to share this post with anyone you feel would benefit.

 

Month One of My Fitness Plan

Month One of My Fitness Plan

If you have been following along, last month (June 2014) I decided to start on a path of fitness to get into better shape. It has been an interesting month and I have had some break through moments.  Over the last month I have learned somethings about myself, changed my diet, and had some successes.

Things Learned in Month One of my Fitness Plan

Some of the things I have learned about myself during the first month of my new fitness plan are eating out is not hard, listen to my body, and you have to feed the fire within.  Eating out has always been a challenge and is most likely a challenge for anyone trying to improve themselves. You just have to make better decisions. For example, ask for grilled chicken and steamed veggies with no oil. At times when working out in the past, I have ignored the simple things like over extending my arms on some exercises. Over extending your joints during working out will hurt your recovery time and get you out of sync. Instead, make note to change your form. If you have a trainer, tell them! Your trainer should be able to change up the work out to help you still meet your goals. Finally, you have to eat. When trying to loose weight you have to keep the flame inside you burning during the day. Eating smaller meals five times a day will help you get into the groove of things. I did notice in the beginning that I could not eat as much but over the last few weeks I have noticed I am getting hungry between meals. To combat this issue, I added more veggies to my meals.

Diet Changes

I have touched on my diet changes but I want to explain more of what I have learned. Sam uses a nutrition plan he calls Zig-Zag. It has various levels of low-carb and high-carb days. He explained to me that the reason his plan works is that it keeps your body guessing and your metabolism going through out the day. Six days a week, I alternate a low-carb day with a high-carb day and it has surprisingly worked out very well. I start everyday eating a high-carb breakfast, within 30 minutes of waking, to get the body going. At first, eating this soon after getting up was extremely difficult as I used teat about an hour after I got up.

Successes so Far

The biggest success so far has been that I have lost 13 pounds to date and I have noticed my clothes fit a little better. A few weeks ago, before I started the fitness program for the first time in my life I started having body issues. It was a strange feeling as I have pretty much been the same size since high school. I hated looking in the mirror and seeing myself after I got out of the shower. A week ago, I got out of the shower and instead of seeing my current situation, I saw the future me looking back. Another success was today for the first time ever, while working on my chest I actually felt my chest. Before when I was working out, I think I used my arms more when doing chest exercises. Having proper form when working out makes a world of difference. These are not the only two moments but they are the two I wanted to share because they are the most important.

Steven at Solstice Canyon

Steven at Solstice Canyon, Malibu, CA.

For the 2014 Summer Solstice I went on a hike in Malibu at Solstice Canyon;  Mark was with me as well as a group of eight people I had mostly never met. The one person I had met is Sam. Over the last few months, I have been thinking about hiring a trainer to get me back on the fitness track and to teach me how to accomplish my goals. More on the hike in just a bit but first let me explain this blog post. Since I have committed to getting into shape, I have decided that part of that will be a fitness post. I have not decided how often I am going to write this post but it will be at least once per month.

My Trainer

Two days before the hike, I went in to meet Sam Page for my initial consultation; I was a bit nervous meeting a trainer as the only one I had ever used was a trainer from the gym. I felt the gym trainer did not get me and was only interested in getting a pay check. So after three sessions, I opted out of more. When I went into meet Sam, I was immediately at ease as he was laid back but seemed like he could be intense. Sam was interested in what I wanted to get out of training and what my goals were.  We talked for a bit and then went into the gym to do the initial fitness assessment. Again, I was impressed as Sam was encouraging and pushed me when he felt I needed a little nudge. After the assessment, Sam explained that he sometimes led groups on hikes and invited me to go with him and the group on the hike the following Saturday. After a few texts, I agreed and Mark would also attend the hike with me.

The Hike

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Twitter Auto Reply: Why bother!

Twitter Auto Reply: Why bother!

I am all for automation when it comes to social media and posting your updates; but what about the Twitter auto reply feature? I find it interesting when you follow someone and within a couple of seconds you get a direct message from that person with a canned message. The message can range from the generic, “Thank you for following me” to something like “We invite you to submit a blog to our website.”

In an informal poll around my office I found that in general, most people feel like that is the same as sending a spam email message: just not worth it. I would have to agree. As someone who manages social media for several different brands I find it odd when I get a message from someone and it has nothing to do with my brand or product offerings.

I decided to see what other thought about the auto reply on Twitter and here are some interesting points:

  • Check out their profile and re-tweet something you find interesting. (Sponsored Tweets)
  • Twitter frowns on people using this feature to send messages:
    • “Including an automated “thanks for following” message to your new followers might be annoying to some users. We do not recommend this behavior; if you receive a DM you don’t like, you can unfollow that user and they will no longer be able to send you messages.” Twitter Help Center
  • Reply to a tweet you find interesting. (Blog Clarity)

I must say, I hate getting these messages and often find myself not paying attention to that user. After all, they did not  research who I am or what company I represent so obviously they don’t want my attention.

What do you think? Should people use the Twitter auto reply feature?