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Posts Tagged ‘creativity’

My journey to a healthier lifestyle has taken several twists and turns over the last year. The first changes came with diet. First to go were soft drinks. Next I tackled processed foods. My philosophy now is to prepare meals with fresh, whole foods with lots of veggies. Along the way, I lost a stubborn 8 pounds and re-discovered the enjoyment of creativity with food.

When I talk to friends and colleagues, I hear the same lament. “I want to eat more healthy foods, I just don’t have time to cook.” It seems that we are all looking for fast, easy, and delicious recipes. With that in mind, I’ve decided to post a fast and delicious recipe every Saturday.

Today’s simple supper is Cheddar Melt with Smoked Salmon. I’ve served this for lunch, dinner, and brunch. It’s one of my favorite breakfasts too. Since it is made with full fat dairy, this recipe is not appropriate for anyone on a low-fat diet, but low or no-fat dairy can be substituted – it just won’t be as delicious. I usually serve this cheese fondue in individual ramekins, but it is fun in a fondue pot for a party. By adding lots of fresh veggies for dipping, the dish is actually quite healthy and oh so yummy.

Cheddar Melt with Smoked Salmon

1 (3 oz. package) cream cheese, room temperature

1-1/4 cup sour cream

10 oz. extra sharp white cheddar, shredded

½ tsp. snipped chives

1 tsp. Whole grain or deli mustard

1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

4 oz. smoked salmon

 Dipping Foods

Whole grain toast points

Steamed green beans

Steamed cauliflower

Steamed broccoli

Steamed asparagus

Small roasted potatoes

Blend the cream cheese and sour cream in a saucepan over medium-low heat. When melted together, stir in the shredded cheddar one handful at a time and stir until melted and smooth. Don’t let it boil or simmer or it will curdle and separate. Stir in the chives, mustard, and Worcestershire. Mix in the smoked salmon. Serve warm in individual ramekins or a warmed, ceramic fondue pot with dipping foods.

Cooks Notes:

Extra sharp white cheddar gives the best flavor, texture, and color. Other types of cheddar are perfectly acceptable. I prefer the smoked salmon filets rather than the thinly sliced lox style, but both types work well. If using the filet, just shred it into the fondue. If using the thin-sliced, chop it with a knife before adding.

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Although I was into the flow of a good story and oblivious to my husband’s channel surfing, snippets of commentary began to invade my sanctuary and pique my interest. Within a few minutes, I found myself watching the Best Damn World Yoyo Contest (suffer through the advertising and then scroll through to about the 3 minute mark to see the winning performance). I had no idea a yoyo could be trained to do such tricks.

 Back in third grade, yo-yoing was play and a fun way to occasionally impress your friends. Simple tricks with dime store yo-yos were all the rage. I still remember my blue Duncan butterfly. If you could get your yo-yo to sleep, you were pretty darn good. And if you could manage a ‘round the world… well let’s just call you a guru. And now, forty years later, I find that there is a whole industry around yo-yos, from performers to judges to commentators. If so inclined, you can even rise to the level of National Grand Master. As with other sports, if you’re good enough, sponsors pay you to practice and compete full time. Who knew there was a career in yo-yo?

 And this got me thinking yet again about how to connect work, passions, and fun. Seems to be a recurring theme – maybe I should pay close attention…

 If people can really earn a living having fun, then what’s holding the rest of us back?

 And so I began to think of other examples of businesses that are fun and creative. The guys over at Magic Hat Brewery in Vermont have it figured out. If you’ve ever taken a tour of the Artifactory you know firsthand their passion for beer and fun. And why not? Is there some rule somewhere that says we must be serious and somber while working?

Really, though. Why don’t more of us turn our passions into work and have great fun doing so? The number one answer is fear.

 We fear failure.

We fear ridicule.

We fear hard work.

We fear actually having to make our own decisions.

We fear taking responsibility for our decisions.

We fear uncertainty.

We fear bankruptcy.

We fear isolation.

We fear loss of a predictable routine (and paycheck).

We fear success.

 Once we confront our fears, we need to take action. We can research, plan, organize, and dream all we want, but nothing happens until we take that first step. Nike understands: “Just do it.” All of us have a dream job in our heads. Every time I watch Myth Busters, I think, “What a fun job.” Or when I watch Top Chef, I picture myself competing to the bitter end and taking home the title. Then again, when I read a great author, I envision myself a writer. So what’s the first step?

To be a myth-buster, you have to learn how to blow up things and not be afraid to fail. To be a chef, you have to cook. To be a writer, you have to write – a lot. Start a blog and write something every day. Once you take that first action and apply persistence to it, you begin to get really good at it. Do you think those guys with the yo-yo’s picked up a yo-yo one day and the tricks just happened?

The point is to do something. Anything that moves you toward what you want most. Try this. Write down one sentence about what you want. I find that when I do this, it is much more difficult to articulate what I really want when I commit it to writing. Most of the time, it is too broad. At first, narrow the desire to a specific action. Keep adding small actions and pretty soon you have a plan. Use the power of the present moment. I find I sometimes get overwhelmed if I think about the grand plan of what I want to accomplish. Keeping my focus on the present also keeps me grounded. And so for today, I choose to have fun writing.

Do you know people who have carved a business out of fun and creative interests? If so, share a link so we can all be inspired.

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Most people who visit my office for the first time do a double take. From the door my office seems normal. A table and chairs, bookshelf, filing cabinet, and whiteboard. Then a curious look forms as they realize that the traditional desk has been replaced by modular cubicle units to create my standing work station. “You mean you stand like this all day?” “No,” I tell them, “unfortunately, I spend a lot of time sitting in meetings.” So far, no one has taken me up on the challenge to try it for themselves. Perhaps it’s just too unconventional. But then, we’re not all suited to try out-of-the-box ideas.

cimg3262Let’s Get Physical

The transition to a standing desk began ten years ago and I’ve never looked back. At first, I wasn’t too concerned with middle-age spread, it was more an outlet for my fidget factor. Now that I’m barely on speaking terms with my body-in-transition, any extra movement is vital to keeping away those extra pounds that seems to go straight to my midsection. Standing provides more opportunity to move and change positions frequently. Standing also prevents the slumping posture I tend to melt into when sitting for long periods of time. Most of the articles I’ve read about ergonomics stress changing positions as the key to preventing repetitive motion injury. Standing all day without moving or changing positions is no better than sitting all day. The key is to keep moving. Standing naturally encourages me to move about. Propping a foot on a stool under the desk helps maintain good spine alignment and posture. For those times when I need to sit, the table and chairs do the trick.

The next progression is to adopt a walking workstation. Physician James Levine pioneered the concept of walking workstations with his visionary office of the future. Expensive pre-fab models such as these at Steelcase may be worth the investment for long term health and well-being, although most anyone with tools and creative ingenuity could transform their own treadmill with a few dollars and some time. Since I am constantly on the run in my job, I really don’t need a treadmill just yet, but it would be a great option if I find myself in front of a computer most of the workday.

Avoid Brain Drain

Over the years, there were times when I had no option but to sit. Some were short while I waited for maintenance to reposition the cubicle desk height and others took much longer to find a creative solution. At one company my employer was skeptical, but approved my request if I could do it without buying any new furniture. A found bookcase and unused cart of the right height were fashioned into a standing work area. What does this have to do with brain drain, you ask? Through an entirely un-scientific study comparing sitting periods versus standing periods, it became clear to me that productivity, logical thinking, decision-making, and creativity improved with standing work. I have two theories about this. First, the frequency of getting up to move about interrupted my thought process while sitting. Second, standing allows my body energy to flow freely. I just feel more clear-headed when I stand to work, especially during those afternoon slump periods we all have. Since standing work areas are not standard office furniture, I needed to engage my creativity several times to design a work area that fit. Getting the creative juices flowing stimulates other brain functions and I’ve found that ideas flow more freely when I’m standing. An added bonus of the standing office is that pop-in visitors don’t stay as long since conducting business while standing gets us to the point faster.

Standing to work has many benefits. Constant physical movement, better posture, and increased productivity top the list. Of greater value for me is that standing to work provides an environment of energy and clarity needed to reach a flow state. There are many paths to finding flow at work. A standing desk is just one avenue that works for me. What are your creative ideas to find flow at work?

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