Monday, December 31, 2012

2013 Goals

With the new year a day away, it's time to talk goals for 2013 and I need your assistance! 

I have a number of goals that I'll mention here to hold myself accountable:

1)  Stocks: Achieve 12 performance bonuses on my account this year.  Keep better records/analysis of each trade in my personal account.  Achieve at least a 10% return in my personal account.  Continue to network with other active traders to continue to fine tune my trading skills.

2)  Fitness/Health: Gain 10 lbs over the course of this year, preferably through gaining muscle by increasing weight training.  Also planning to take the stairs up the 6 flights at our condo whenever I'm not carrying a heavy load and continue increased cardio as well.

Wifey also shares a fitness goal to lose a certain amount of weight and get toned through additional cardio and trips to Planet Fitness.  

Make better choices with meals.  For example, choose a vegetable side vs fries, brown rice instead of white, wheat instead of white bread, etc.  Also utilize good tasting low carb/wheat pasta. This one the wifey also shares as well. 

It may be tough for me adding more cardio and making healthier food choices at times, while trying to gain weight.  I'm thinking some sort of shake/supplement may be needed, if you have any suggestions let me know.  Only issue is that whatever it is, can't be high in cholesterol. 

3)  Travel:  We definitely need to get away this year, most likely in between semesters for the wife's college courses at the beginning of May.  Only issue is we need someone to stay here to watch our kitties.  Our last trip away was far too traumatic upon return with two sick kitties and rather than have a pet sitter just stop to feed our boys twice a day we really need someone to be here to give them more attention and Poker needs pills twice a day.  So if you're a cat lover, trustworthy and a close friend or relative looking for a free oceanfront condo to stay in for a week at a perfect time of year, let me know!

Also hoping to see Max and Hadley and crew a bunch as well.  First trip to see Max and family in 2013 is coming up this week, yay!

4)  Job:  I start with an indian based outsourcing company on 1/2, continuing to work as a contractor with the same company I've been at for the last 5 years and 8 months.  Depending on how things unfold, I will most likely be keeping my options open for new opportunities.  Since it's worked before, I'll wish for a job with less work, more pay and more freedom!

5)  Dream/Vision Board:  I'm also going to work on creating a vision board for this year and recommend everyone do the same.  I forgot about that until I just read this post on when searching for info.  It doesn't have to be difficult or time consuming, just grab a few magazines or search for pictures online and start printing/cutting them out and put them on your board and post it somewhere you'll see every day.  You might just be amazed at the results, dream big!  Here is an example I found online to get you started:

In the immortal words of Monty Python....And now, for something completely different! 

So, with those goals out of the way, I wanted to take things in a different route for 2013.  Many of you saw my post last week Support For Fallen West Webster Fire Fighters.  I put forth a donation challenge to my readers and family/friends on Facebook and they came through.  It felt really good to be able to help out in some small way with total donations between myself/family/friends of over $400 to the Michael "Chip" Chiapperini Memorial Fund.  

I was motivated to take action due to the emotion of the terrible tragedy in my hometown in addition to the massive outpouring of support from the community and folks all across the nation on the Prayers and Support for Webster Firefighters Facebook page, which is still continuing in a huge way.

Hundreds or possibly thousands of firefighters from all across the state and country came in for the viewing and funerals for the two fallen firefighters Tomasz Kaczowk and Michael "Chip" Chiapperini.  The creators of the Facebook page put forth a challenge to local businesses and followers to pay for rooms at local area hotels.  The response was amazing.  Lots of individuals were paying for rooms, lots also bought food gift cards to provide to first responders checking in, companies put up large blocks of rooms, one contributed $10,000, restaurant owners provided food, people volunteered, basically everything that anyone mentioned a need for was quickly taken care of.

And lots of reports from out of town firefighters are coming in giving thanks for similar acts of kindness.  Many went out to local restaurants after the services and strangers had taken care of their meals already.  Employees at Wegman's Supermarket said they saw similar acts all day long where grocery bills were taken care of, employees would buy them coffee, etc.  People were going out of their way to do anything they could to show their support.  

It was and still is so impressive and inspiring to see the huge outpouring of emotion and support for everyone during such a terrible time.  As a result of everything I've seen over these last few days, in addition to the 26 Acts of Caring that Ann Curry kicked off in response to the terrible tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, I'm motivated to make 2013 the Year of Caring and keep that going forward.

Tomorrow I will kick things off with a new post entitled 2013 - Year of Caring.  I think 26 acts is a great starting point, that would be one act every 2 weeks and it seems very doable.  My hope is that once we kick things off and get started, that it will be contagious and we'll want to do more and it will spread and we'll all help counteract all the negativity and make the world a better place!  In addition, it will make you feel good and who doesn't want to feel good right?!  LET'S DO THIS, 2013 is going to be great!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Support For Fallen West Webster Firefighters

By now I'm sure you've heard of the terrible tragedy that happened in my hometown of Webster, NY on Christmas eve morning.  Two volunteer firefighters, 19-year-old Tomasz Kaczowk and 43-year-old Mike Chiapperini were shot and killed and two others, Theodore Scardino and Joseph Hofstetter were seriously wounded, all when responding to what they thought was a routine house/car fire.   An off duty police officer John Ritter, just passing by, heading to work in a neighboring town, sustained minor injuries and is credited with keeping others from entering the area, possibly saving many more lives. 

Rather than focus on the events of that terrible day, I would like to focus on the amazing outpouring of support I've seen from the community and from everyone all across the nation and even from across the globe!  I also wanted to provide ways that you can help out. 

Main Facebook Page:

There you will currently find a pay it forward type event going on where they are encouraging individuals and businesses alike to pay for rooms for firefighters coming into town to attend funeral events scheduled for tomorrow and this coming weekend.

Most of the hotels in the area are providing highly discounted bereavement rates to help out as well.

Here are the details:  "If you wish to donate a room(s) for visiting fire departments or participate in our corporate challenge simply contact a local Webster/Rochester hotel, make all necessary arrangements and we will recognize your gift on our page."

Bereavement Rates for Webster/Rochester area hotels:
Hampton Inn Webster: $76
Holiday Inn Express: $ 79
Fairfield Inn: $89
Hampton Inn Greece: $79
Rochester Plaza: $69
Quality Inn Airport: $64
Towpath Hotel: $60/$65
Hyatt Regency: $92
Doubletree Hilton Henrietta: $85
RIT Inn & Conference Center: $60
Radisson Airport: $60
Hampton Inn Irondequoit: $75
Homewood Suites Greece: $96
Doubletree Strathallan: $119
Radisson Riverside: $60
Holiday Inn Express Irondequoit: $68
Homewood Suites Henrietta: $79
Comfort Inn Suites Henrietta: $69
Best Western Marketplace Inn: $59
Woodcliff Hotel & Spa: $108
Fairfied Inn by Marriott East (Webster) - $79
Fairfied Inn by Marriott South (Henrietta) - $79
Fairfied Inn by Marriott Rochester Airport - $79
The Rochester Marriott Airport Hotel - $89
Courtyard by Marriott Rochester West - $79
Residence Inn by Marriott Rochester West- $89
Courtyard by Marriott Penfield - $79
Courtyard by Marriott Brighton - $79
The Renaissance Del Monte Lodge Hotel & Spa - $129

It is great to see that the number of rooms donated by businesses and individuals is really picking up the pace this morning!  That includes a two room donation from our friends and former WNers that own Ann O'Malley's pub in St Augustine. 

Mike Chiapperini Memorial Fund

Additionally, a memorial fund to benefit Officer Chiapperini's surviving children has been established at his family's request at ESL Federal Credit Union.  Individuals (whether ESL members or non-members) who wish to contribute to this fund may do so by cash or check. Checks must be payable to "Chiapperini Memorial Fund." Deposits can be accepted at all ESL locations, or may be mailed to:

Michael Chiapperini Memorial Fund
ESL Federal Credit Union
P.O. Box 92714
Rochester, NY 14692-8814

I asked them if you could transfer funds directly into the memorial account, but they said no.  So the best way is to send in a check. 

IndieGoGo Donation Page
You can also make an online donation on this page as well.   

Webster Community Chest Support For Fire Victims That Lost Their Homes
Webster Community Chest donation page 

Other ways to help
If you happen to be in town and wanted to help in person, I've seen several offers from individuals and local businesses offering to provide food/support during any of the various events scheduled around town as well as new ways to assist popping up on that Facebook page by the minute. 

Giving Pledge
Thanks for stopping by and thanks ahead of time for your generosity!  As a way to encourage giving, I pledge to give at least $100 to the Michael Chiapperini Memorial fund.  I will also match, up to an additional $100, for anyone that makes a donation to the fund or any of the other causes under way.

Just either drop me a comment or send an email to chris "@" and I will up my contribution amount!  I would also love to see others pay it forward and encourage giving and matching contributions of $ or time as well.  Let's show the world that there is a whole lot more good than bad out there! 

12/28 Update:  As of this morning, thanks to the generosity of everyone that accepted the donation challenge yesterday, individual checks totaling over $400 are on the way to the Michael Chiapperini Memorial Fund.  Thank you so much and please, continue to pay it forward to support the fallen firefighters or whatever cause is near and dear to your heart as well! 

2012 Goals Re-Visited

Before I sit down and work on my goals and aspirations for the coming New Year, I always like to take a look back at my goals from the prior year and see how I did.  Last years goals are listed in bold and I will give an honest evaluation of how I did on each below.  

1)  Save $;

I'll give this goal an F.  The goal was to eat out less, eliminate sodas/coffees and save $ whenever possible.  We really didn't do any of that on a large scale last year.  We try and use coupons when dining out and things like that, but in general fell short on this one. 

2)  Continue with stock trading/learning/collaborating; triple my 2011 SpikeTrade results to receive 12 performance credits.

I give myself a B- on this one.  I subscribe to, which is a collaborative group in which we all do stock analysis and we each pick one stock per week for the weekly competition.  You lay out the case for why you expect the stock to go up or down and you compete against about 100 others in a friendly competition.  There are about 10 "Spikers" that have been with the group for a while and consistently do very well and if your pick beats the 3rd place Spiker pick for the week you get a performance bonus.

In 2011, I had 4 performance bonuses.  My goal for 2012 was to triple that and get 12.  With just one last week to go for the year, I have 8 performance bonuses.  It is a definite improvement and a doubling of last years results so I'm pretty happy about that.  I need to keep better records of past trades and I will carry over this one to next year for sure.  I will probably shoot for 12 for next year. 

3)  Along with the goal above, achieve similar successful trades in my online trading account, beating the overall market by at least 2%;

I give myself a C on this one.  In my last post I talked about returns of the stock market and our investment accounts for 2012.  The S&P 500 provided an 11.6% return from 1/1-12/24.  Unfortunately, my trading account returned 10.2% during that time, so I did not beat the overall market by 2%.  10.2% is still a very good return, but I did not meet the goal.  Similar to the last goal, I need to keep better records of my stock trades like I was towards the beginning of the year and need to stick with my regular plan to limit any losses on individual trades to a certain %.  I will probably carry this one over as well.

4)  Create several niche sites/blogs I'd like to obtain an email subscriber list of 10 people by June 30th and 50 by Dec 31st.  My revenue goal is to bring in $100 by June 30th and $250 by Dec 31st.

I give myself an A- on this one, mostly for the effort I put into it.  I definitely created several niche sites/blogs.  I created the following sites, in addition to the work on this blog:

I also created Facebook pages to go along with some of the sites.  The most activity I had was on the Alcatraz Series Facebook page, with 116 mostly unsolicited likes.  And most of those are from people outside the US.  That wasn't in my original goals, but I thought that was pretty cool and I still get a like or two a week on there. 

I hit my email subscriber target for June, based mostly on high traffic for the Alcatraz Series site around the time of the finale of the show, but as of right now I think I have only about 20 subscribers between all the sites.  I was close to the revenue target in June as well and as of today, I have the following totals sitting in my accounts from 2012:

Amazon Affiliate: $18.57
Google AdSense: $26.94
Market Samurai Affiliate: $129.12
Total:  $174.63

I also had an affiliate sale of the Opt-In Skin plugin of $21.24, but apparently if you don't have consistent affiliate sales each month, ClickBank will start to reduce your commission after you have several months of inactivity.  And since you can't cash out unless you have like $100 in the account, that account is now down to 0 unfortunately, so I can't count that amount.

So all in all, I had the ideas, started in on the work, created some good content and attempted to drive revenue from the sites, but fell a bit short of my targets.  I learned a ton in the process though.  

Over the last few weeks a lot of the inspirational / motivational self help type guys I follow on Facebook have been mentioning the same thing.  Take inventory of what worked and what didn't work for you in 2012 and focus on what produced the best results and eliminate the rest.

I really had so many different thoughts and ideas at the beginning of 2012 that I had a hard time focusing on any one idea/site and I was spread too thin.  And for the time and effort I put into things, it was not a good return on investment.  I was planning on it being mostly a learning experience in the first year and sites need time to generate traffic and build a following, so I will be working on narrowing down my focus and eliminating certain things. 

5)  Choose our vacation destination;

A+.  We went to San Francisco in May.   

6)  Health/wellness goal;Walk/jog 3 miles per week for a yearly total of roughly 150 miles.

I'll give myself a B+ on this one.  I am pretty sure that I hit 150+ miles of walking this year.   Also, we joined Planet Fitness about 2 months ago and I actually enjoy going.  I will be expanding on this one for the coming year.


Overall, I give myself a B-.  I did good on some of them and where I came up short, it wasn't generally due to lack of effort, except for the save $ part.

One huge thing from this past year that was not on my radar was moving to the beach!  That has probably been my biggest lifelong goal/dream that I never really expected would be possible any time in the near future and surprisingly, here we are!  I attribute a lot of that to constant thought and passion/focus on that in the back of my mind at all times. 

It's funny, since living at the beach wasn't on my recent list of goals specifically, it is throwing my goal setting off a bit.  The majority of my goals in regards to bringing in more $ or saving $, were all in relation to becoming debt free and being financially independent and one day we would be able to live at the beach.  So now that we're here, what's next?

I guess the next logical step would be to dream bigger and set loftier goals, but at the same time I'm really enjoying where we're at and trying not to take anything for granted.  I'm trying to live in the moment more and be thankful for everything, which isn't always easy to do.

At any rate, since we still have several days left in 2012, I'm going to let this all percolate a bit and see what I come up with for 2013.

Did you set any goals for 2012?   What overall grade would you give yourself?  Any goals or aspirations for 2013?  Would love to hear from you, the more specifics the better, as I really need some inspiration/ideas for the coming year!  :o)

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

2012 Recap - Financial Edition

Now is the time I reflect back on the prior years goals/objectives as well as taking a look at our 401k/retirement accounts and see where we're at and see if things need adjusting.

Rather than go into all the details of how/when to re-balance your 401k, I'll refer back to one of the first posts I did on the blog two years ago.  It just basically says that if you started the year wanting to be in say 75% stocks and 25% bonds, check your account(s) and if the percentages are substantially different, you can use the re-balance tools which should be available to you in order to get things back in sync. 

My main account says that it is currently 69% US stocks, 24% Foreign stocks and 7% Short Term, which seems like an ok mix to me as long as the returns have been decent, which we will evaluate now.  I'll show you the process I go through, so that you might benefit from a similar process for your own account(s). 

Taking a look at the stock market between Jan 1st and Dec 24th, the S&P 500, which is the most widely used benchmark to compare against, went from 1277 to 1426.  That is an 11.6% return, which is an excellent year for the overall market!

If you watch all the doom and gloom in the news media over the past year and all the talk about the fiscal cliff recently, you would probably be hiding in the closet in the fetal position.  The market tells a more positive story.

While the market can swing greatly on any given day, week, or month, the trend over the year has been up and generally speaking the market is forward looking.  Which means that the outlook going into the new year is that things are getting better.  If you had been glued to the negativity and that fear kept you from investing, you would have missed out on a good year. 

The way I rate the performance of our retirement/investment accounts is to compare the rate of return against the rate of return of the S&P 500.  Since the return of the S&P is 11.6% as of 12/24, I am hoping that our return is equal to or preferably greater than that % by a few percentage points.

If your percentage rate of return is substantially lower than your benchmark, it is probably a good idea to re-evaluate your investment options in your account and compare the rates of returns of the available funds year to date and see if it might be time to move things around and/or change where your $ is allocated going forward.

Looking at our retirement accounts, here is how things stack up for 2012:

Benchmark/Target rate of return:  11.6%
My 401k: 14.8%
Wife 401k: 11.7%
Roth IRAs: 15.3%
Rollover 401k actively traded: 10.2%

I was pleasantly surprised at the results.  That tells me that we're in good shape, with no major adjustments needed this year to our retirement accounts.  However, that also tells me that my trading account is under-performing.  I know the reason for that though.  I had 1 bad trade in the last 30 days that brought the percentages down.  Without that one trade my return would have been 11.7%, so I just need to re-group and stick to my typical plan, which is to cut any loses much quicker than I did with that one.

I hope that evaluation was useful to you and I definitely recommend you evaluate your performance on a yearly basis.  I will be going over last years goals and will work on some new goals for 2013 in the next few posts.  I hope you had a great Christmas with family and friends and here is an early wish for a healthy, happy, prosperous 2013!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Avoid the 6.0.2 iOS Update

An update for iOS came out either Tuesday or Wednesday of this week that said it 'Fixed WiFi issues'...since I don't have any WiFi issues that I am aware of, I did not manually try to update mine.  I'm glad I didn't, apparently it is causing issues with battery life for some folks, so I wanted to get the word out that it is most likely best to avoid this one for now.

In addition to the post below, here is a post on the Apple Support forums about potential battery issues with iOS 6.0.2.  My sister updated hers and said below that she hasn't noticed any issues, but for me the potential risk isn't worth updating since the only issue the update fixes is a WiFi problem that I don't have.  So your mileage may vary.  Definitely let me know if you've had success with the update as well.  

Potential Fix if You Do Have Battery Issues After Updating to iOS 6
Here is a potential "fix" that I saw in that Apple Support forum post mentioned above:
  1. Close all of my apps (using the app switcher; double tap home, press and hold an icon, click the red close button)
  2. Go to Settings -> General -> Reset -> Reset All Settings. (Does NOT delete apps or any data; just resets network/iOS settings)
  3. Wait for phone to restart.
  4. Charge it up to 100% and monitor.
Here is a post from cultofmac about it:

"Apple released its iOS 6.0.2 update over-the-air to select devices earlier this week, promising a fix for a frustrating bug that could impact Wi-Fi performance. However, the update comes with a nasty problem of its own. There are reports that it has greatly reduced battery life on the iPhone 5 and the iPad mini — even when the devices go unused for long periods of time.
Adam Engst of TidBITS first noticed “unusual battery drains” with his iPhone 5 and iPad mini, and he notes that several of his colleagues have been experiencing the same thing.
In my case, when Michael Cohen raised the issue on our staff list at 12:30 PM, my iPhone 5 was at 73 percent. That’s a bit low, given that I’d barely used the iPhone, but I don’t know that I started the day with a full charge. However, 90 minutes later, at 2 PM, I was down to 55 percent – an 18 percent drop – without having used the iPhone at all.
Engst suggests that in Apple’s attempt to fix the Wi-Fi bug, it may have made Wi-Fi a little too active, having devices work so hard to connect to Wi-Fi access points that it’s draining their batteries.

Engst and his colleagues aren’t the only ones experiencing this issue, either — search for “iOS 6.0.2 battery” on Twitter and you’ll find a whole host of users reporting the same thing. With that being the case, it might be worth holding off on upgrading to iOS 6.0.2 for the time being if you’re not experiencing the Wi-Fi issues it’s supposed to fix.

Personally, I haven’t noticed this issue on either my iPhone 5 or my iPad mini, but to be honest, I haven’t been looking out for it. Although they don’t seem to be draining any faster than they did prior to upgrading, they’re often plugged into my Mac for different things anyway.

Hopefully, Apple will issue an update to fix this update — or a patch to patch the patch — in due course."

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wordless Wednesday

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Blogger Day of Silence

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Latest iOS 6 / iPhone 5 Jailbreak Info

Before I get into the main post, wanted to point out some breaking iOS 6 / iPhone 5 news pointed out by my sister Michelle this morning.  Google Maps is now available in the app store at long last.  Get it while it's hot!  Now back to your regularly scheduled post...

Heh, well two days ago when I created this post I had come across a post online mentioning that there is a site giving a date of Dec 22nd, 2012 for a release of an untethered iPhone 5 / IOS6 jailbreak.  That was from a group called Dream JB and they are not affiliated with the guys that usually release the IOS jailbreaks, the Chronic Dev Team.

A lot of folks, including myself, were quite skeptical.  Especially since they had given a specific date when the jailbreak would be released.  Turns out we were skeptical for good reason.  If you check out that site today it says that it was a social experiment to see how many followers they could get and how many people would latch onto the idea.  Got me. 

So, the bottom line is that we'll have to stay tuned to the Chronic Dev Team site for the latest jailbreak details and definitely do NOT purchase any apps that claim to jailbreak your phone, since once the jailbreaks are released you never have to pay for them. 

iOS6 Jailbreak Explained

You may be asking yourself, just what exactly is an untethered iOS6 jailbreak and if so, let me explain.  Apple has a strict approval process for all apps allowed on iOS devices and you must go through the Apple Store to download those apps.  For most folks, that is a good thing.

However, jailbreaking allows you to get around those restrictions/controls and allows you to install 3rd party apps not necessarily approved by Apple and you can get them outside of the Apple Store. Basically, you follow the jailbreaking process and then install an application called Cydia.  Cydia is  an alternative app store for downloading/installing 3rd party apps.

There are a ton of 3rd party apps available through Cydia that allow you to customize and tweak your device in really cool ways, that wouldn't normally be available.

What cool stuff can I do with a jailbroken iOS device?

You may be thinking, why do I need to jailbreak my iOS device?  It is fine the way it is!  Well, let me highlight the top 5 free apps/tweaks that I found for iOS 5 devices that can enhance your iOS experience and may even change your mind...

When you receive text messages when your phone is locked, you normally see a preview of the message when you wake your phone back up.  However, if the message is lengthy, you'll have to unlock your phone and go to the message and scroll through it from there.  With an app called reveal, you can scroll through the message right there on your locked home screen.

WinterBoard allows you to change the icons, modify the look and feel of status bar, dock, lock screen, change the font and lots more. You can also customize all kinds of system sounds. Another great feature of WinterBoard is that there is no limit on the themes you can install and you can also mix & match several themes together.

SBSettings allows you to add widgets such as Airplane mode, Bluetooth, Brightness and WiFi to your screens for easy on/off access.

The last two are part of the top 5 video above and I really think you need to see them to appreciate them.  They take two features, moving within/editing text & top of screen notifications and really fix something that I think needs fixing.  Can't wait to get these!

This one does a great job of enhancing the ability to move within a line of text or highlighting to copy and paste a selection of text.  This is one of those things that would make typing/editing so much easier. 

Have you ever been in your email and get a text or other notification along the top of the screen and you just want to go back to the last message or your inbox, but you really can't easily do that because the notification is blocking most of the buttons you want access to?  Happens to me every day and CoverMeNot fixes that.  It basically pushes the app or screen you are in down when you get a notification so that it won't cover the top of the app you are in.


I just wanted to bring to light some of the really cool things you can do with a jailbroken iOS device, that you might not otherwise have been aware of!

As to whether jailbreaking may void your warranty, I found this one answer in a forum post:

"I heard jailbreaking voids my Apple warranty, should I be concerned?
NO! But, If you take a jailbroken device into an Apple store they may refuse to service it on the grounds that you have modified it which breaks the license agreement between you and them. In that respect your warranty is void. However, you can easily remove a jailbreak from any device before you submit it for warranty repair.

Even if you have a hardware fault, there are some simple logical steps you can take to shield the jailbroken status of your device from Apple if you absolutely have to present it to them jailbroken. But the easiest thing to do is connect your device to iTunes, press "restore". Your device will be back to factory freshness and Apple will never know that it was previously jailbroken. The do not have any special "tools" which can detect if it was jailbroken despite what you may have heard! "

Are any of these tweaks something you would be interested in?  Considering a jailbreak for your older iOS device?  This guy has a lot of info and how-to videos to get you started. You can be sure I will be one of the first to let you know when an untethered jailbreak is released for iOS 6 and the iPhone 5!  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Secret to the Ultimate Life

I feel like I've been in a bit of a rut recently and while I was thinking of why that might be, I just started to write this post and we'll see if we can figure out why that is.  Hopefully this post will help us both realize why we get in a rut sometimes and how best to dig ourselves out.  At the end I will also share a great podcast that I just listened to that matches the subject of this article and I'll tie it all together. 

I think a lot of the reason I was in a rut had to do with a lot of uncertainty about my job situation as well as some other uncertainties regarding the short sale process on our prior home, but in a bigger picture aspect it has to do with Maslow's hierarchy of needs.

If you're not familiar, it is basically just a pyramid describing various stages that one goes through, with physiological needs such as food, water, air at the bottom and self-actualization at the top.  Self-actualization pretty much just means that you're achieving your full potential.  The thought is that your lower level needs must be met before you can function at your full potential.  

As I mentioned, I think the majority of why I was feeling "in a rut" and "off my game" so to speak is because for the past 3 months, the future of my job in the short term was in jeopardy.  I was second guessing some decisions and was also losing sleep quite often.  We also had the stress of going through the short sale process on our home and the uncertainty of all that. 

That brought me down from the top of the pyramid to the bottom pretty quickly, since sleep was a big factor, especially since I don't function real well on a lack of sleep for any extended period of time.  In the safety and security section, my employment was in jeopardy so I was stuck in the bottom two sections for a good portion of 2 months. 

As I mentioned last week, I got some more certainty that my job will continue in the intermediate term, so that was a big relief.  With the immediate uncertainty alleviated, the physiological and safety/security needs were met and I was suddenly much more interested in reaching out to friends and I found myself reaching out to help other friends that were/are going through a similar situation.  Giving and helping others to get out of the lower levels so that they can get to the top is one of the criteria of self-actualization, so I am getting back on track. 

Quick funny story, towards the end of last week our water was out due to scheduled plumbing work in our building that ran into unexpected issues.  Long story short, it's interesting how a lack of running water and an inability to flush a toilet and shower from Wednesday afternoon to Friday evening can quickly knock you back to the bottom of the pyramid, but I digress.

When my lower level needs are taken care of, I tend to seek out new things to learn and look for new motivation/inspiration to take things to the next level.  Along those lines, I just finished listening to the most recent podcast from The Kickass Life, entitled Secret to the Ultimate Life.  The author is living the life of his dreams and on this particular podcast he recorded the episode from his own personal island off of Belize.

He told a quick story of a particular student in his class this underwent an amazing transformation over the course of the prior week at the island, just by continuously stepping outside her comfort zone.

At the end of the podcast he encourages you to do something outside your comfort zone on a daily basis to release the self-imposed shackles on your mind, which he says is the secret to the ultimate life.  It could be as simple as not sitting in your regular comfortable spot on the couch for starters, to taking a different way into work, to trying out a new meal item at your favorite restaurant.  Anything that gets you out of your normal routine and experiencing a different perspective.

It is something that I think I was really needing to hear today, just beginning to come out of the rut I was in and I really think it is a podcast you will enjoy.  You can either play it right here from the links at the bottom, or download it in your favorite podcast app and listen on the go.  I enjoy most of his podcasts as he is never really selling anything, he's just offering tips and stories on how you can have a Kickass Life. 

I'd be very interested to see what you think and I challenge you to listen to the podcast and come back and write at least one new thing you did today outside of your comfort zone and I will do the same in the comments below.  I'm going to set reminders to go off every few hours so that I don't forget.

One example I can think of right off the bat is trying a meal I wouldn't normally eat.  I am a very picky eater and I typically get the same thing at my favorite restaurants, or eat the same things at home.  This might not seem like a big deal to you, but it is definitely outside my normal comfort zone and I can already see how that could provide an added benefit for not only myself, but my more culinarily adventurous wifey as well. 

Kick Ass Life: Secret to the Ultimate Life (30 min)

Monday, December 10, 2012

$50 off Amazon Kindle Fire HD - Today Only!

I had another post set to publish today, but I just moved that to tomorrow to bring you this breaking news I received via email.  For today only, Amazon is offering $50 all the Kindle Fire HD devices.  Click the image below or this link for full details.  Enjoy, Happy Holidays!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Updates and Kitty Pics

Well, I haven't had a whole lot to say lately, but some things have been going on behind the scenes.  After about 2 months of heavy uncertainty, I have a bit more stability in my job.  Rather than my contract potentially ending on 12/31, as of Monday I was picked up to remain where I am through an Indian outsourcing company that is taking over the majority of the contractor positions where I work. That is what I've been hoping for. I had also interviewed for and was offered another position locally last Friday, but remaining where I am is a much better deal for now. 

What that means longer term isn't clear, but I'd say worst case that buys at least 6 months worth of time to either figure out if I want to stay where I'm at or if it might be better to move on.  Pay is good, job should remain pretty much the same as it is now, I still keep my 2 telecommute days per week, etc.  So yay for that!

I made the Fantasy Football playoffs in both my work league and the Bills Backers of Jax league, so I've been spending a bunch of my spare time trying to pick up players off the waiver wire and strategizing on who to play!  If you happen to play and have an opinion on who I should put in my flex spot between Marcel Reece,  Montell Owens, Brandon Lloyd, David Wilson, and Kendall Wright, please drop me a comment!  I'm having a very hard time deciding who to put in for that last spot on my roster!

My sisters Jen and Michelle both close on their new homes in the next week or two, which is great news!  Jen has been waiting months and months to complete their short sale purchase and the end is finally near.  I'm hoping their luck rubs off on us.  We had received a good offer on our house the day after it was listed and it was sent on to the bank about a month ago, so we're hoping for a positive outcome soon and expecting that to be complete within the next month or two.  Can't wait for that to be done!

Update: As of 1pm today, the offer was approved by the bank.  Now the buyer just has to do their inspection and we can set a closing date.  Woot!

The holidays are fast approaching and we've been enjoying a lot of time out with friends lately.  Holiday parties are about a week away and then it's almost Santa time!  Whew, I guess I better get shopping, this is coming up way too fast.  Unfortunately, this year I'm on-call for work the week of Xmas, so I won't be doing any traveling or pretty much anything at all Xmas week.  I would really like to see Max, Hadley and the rest of the family, but that will have to wait.  We'll be sure to do some video chat hangouts!

Other than that, we're happy to say our newest kitty is becoming a bit snuggly!  We were thinking he would be a great lap cat when he picked me over the summer, but that didn't happen initially.  Lately however, he has snuggled several times with both of us and we're hoping that will continue.

I'll leave you with a bunch of recent pictures of the boys.  We just got them a big kitty condo for Xmas, mostly so Monkey has a place to hide from Buddy the newest guy, but you'll see that didn't work so well.

Yes I'm one of those people that posts pictures of their pets as if they are our children, cause they are.  I love to see pictures of my niece and nephew and I like pictures of pets as well, so here they are!

Poker and Buddy ready for turkey time
Monkey and Buddy exploring the new kitty condo
Went in 15 mins later and Poker was sleeping in there!  They love it. 

As I mentioned, the main reason I got the kitty condo in the first place was because Buddy terrorizes Monkey real bad.  He hardly gets any time to relax.  If Buddy is awake, chances are he is cornering Monkey or trying to attack him.  So I wanted to give Monkey the ability to go up high and escape.  Well, in the picture above Buddy is above Monkey and repeatedly wacking him on the head.  We'll need to work on making that a little escape for Monkey and not just another place to get attacked.  :P

Buddy loves to snuggle anytime we lay on the spare bedroom bed
Evidence of Buddy snuggling again
Sage and Buddy hanging together by the Xmas tree

Monday, December 3, 2012

KC Crave Restaurant Review

I wanted to give a shout out to KC Crave, a new restaurant in Jacksonville Beach, Florida.  We have gone the past two weekends with different groups of friends and I have to say that everything is SOOOO good.  So far 10 of us wholeheartedly agree.  If you are in the area, you really need to go.

The initial draw for us was that they have an upstairs Tap Room with circular booths that have 2 self-service beer taps right at your table.  We had never been to a place like that, so we definitely wanted to try it out.  I made the reservation and invited 2 other couples to meet us there.  
KC Crave Tap Table

There are 4 tap tables upstairs.  Ours had Miller Lite and a local beer, Intuition Pale Ale.  The other tables had one local beer each, Dukes Brown Ale and Green Room IPA with a national brand and the last table had Sam Adams and Sam Adams Seasonal.  So if you have a particular preference, you might want to try and reserve a particular table. 

Those tables seat up to 6 and I'd say you definitely want to go with at least one other couple.  You will need to reserve the table and you can choose either 5, 7, 9, or 11pm and you get the table for 2 hours.  They require a credit card number to hold the reservation. 

For the regular dining room on the 1st floor, they do not take reservations.  Just get there by 6:30 and in our experience, you won't have a problem getting a table.  Arrive 7pm or later and you may have to wait. 

Tap Table Dispensing System

For the tap tables, the waitress will "check-in" each person that would like to drink beer from the tap, which unlocks 32oz or approx 2 pints for each person.  If you would like more, they can unlock more.  They charge 30 cents per ounce for the beer out of the tap, so you don't have to drink the full 32oz each, it's just a way to keep people from overindulging.  It was definitely cool, but having done the tap tables once, we decided next time we'd just get a regular table downstairs. 

The food is a combination of tapas style starters/small plates, sharing plates and sides.  As their webpage says, sharing is encouraged.  The sharing plates typically have 3 small portions of whichever item is ordered.  However, if you know what you want and don't want to share, you can also turn your plate into an entree that includes two sides for an additional $7. 

We've done it both ways.  The first time we went, we all ordered a bunch of different starter and sharing plates.  We shared the Tsunami Chips, Roasted Pork Corn Cakes, Filet Mignon Medallions, Hawaiian Style Poke, Beer Cheese Soup, Butternut Squash Raviolis and  Bourbon Chicken Stir Fry.  For dessert we all shared the Cinnamon Crusted Fried Cheese Cake, Peanut Butter Ice Cream/Flourless Brownies and Banana Cake/Ice Cream.  Everything we individually tried was amazing.

Bourbon Chicken Stir Fry
Roasted Pork Corn Cakes
Red Potatoes and Artichoke Side
The second time the wifey and I shared some Fried Green Tomatoes and because we loved the Bourbon Chicken Stir Fry so much the first time, we both had that as an entree this time and had a Crave salad and side for our meal.  Our friends and their two daughters shared the Beer Cheese Soup, Coconut Curry Chicken, Roasted Pork Corn Cakes and Filet Mignon Medallions.  We shared the Banana Cake/Ice Cream and our friends shared the Peanut Butter Ice Cream/Flourless Brownies and their kids had the White Chocolate Fondue for dessert.  We have yet to have anyone say anything bad.  All of the items are so well prepared and tasty and service has been outstanding and it is of course always a good time to get together with good friends for good eats/drinks!

Cinnamon Crusted Fried Cheese Cake
Banana Cake / Ice Cream
Peanut Butter Ice Cream Flourless Brownies
On top of that, they have Happy Hour prices on drinks every night until 7pm with $1 off drafts/well drinks and several other drink specials.  Their drink prices are pretty good to begin with, they have several $5 martinis on their drink menu

With all the food and drinks we had, we were pleasantly surprised at the final bill as well.  You can't go wrong with KC Crave and we will definitely be back after trying to implement a self-imposed 30 day waiting period on our next visit.  Everything is so good, we tend to over-do it a bit. :o)

Have you been?  Any favorite dishes?  If you have any plans to visit the area, be sure to check it out!

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