Things I Love: The Circle, Spirit Junkie and the Mindy Project on Hulu Plus.

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We all have different forms of escapism. Back in college, I’d come home from a long day and immediately turn the TV to The Disney Channel. I needed some feel-good and funny programming to help me shake off the stress of the day. I needed to slip away from work and into some That’s so Raven.

Over the years, my forms of escapism have change subtly, but I still enjoy things that make me laugh, make me think or just give me a warm fuzzy feeling inside.

Here are three forms of “entertainment” I’m currently enjoying this week.

1. The Circle on Audiobook

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I’m a semi-geek when it comes to techie, internet things. While watching The Social Network, I was intrigued by the hack-a-thons and the progression of Facebook from one campus to many. Reading a book like The Circle by Dave Eggers seemed like a no-brainer for me. Despite my love of social media, the technology of convenience and transparency, I’m enjoying this book for the way it highlights the issues of privacy, knowledge, etc. in a suspenseful, girl-don’t-open-that-door way.

The audiobook narrated by Dion Graham {the voice of The First 48} is crazy entertaining.

Here’s a summary of the book:

“When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency.

As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO.

Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in the world – even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.”

I also recently downloaded Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon and plan to listen to that once I’m done with The Circle.

Other audiobooks I recently enjoyed:

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card.

Frost Burned by Patricia Briggs.

2. Spirit Junkie by Gabrielle Bernstein

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Spirit Junkie: A Radical Road to Self-Love and Miracles by Gabrielle Bernstein is the book I read in the morning after my morning Bible reading. It’s fabulous. I recommend it to anyone who has every struggled with addiction, self-confidence, forgiveness or negativity.

Gabrielle’s story is inspiring and her teachings are powerful.

I’m also currently reading MONEY Master the Game: 7 Simple Steps to Financial Freedom by Tony Robbins in Hardcover. I mentioned this book in my “Don’t Feed The Fears” post, but I’m still reading it. The book is almost 700 pages long and it’s about finance, so I expect I’ll be reading it for a while.

3. The Mindy Project on Hulu Plus

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While I don’t watch a lot of TV and I thoroughly enjoyed my week of being TV-free, I do occasionally enjoy Hulu Plus or Netflix. Not only can I watch episodes of ABC, NBC & Fox shows the day after they air with Hulu Plus, I can watch movies and Netflix originals whenever I want. House of Cards with Kevin Spacey, anyone? {Instant gratification, much?}

Right now the show I’m most enjoying on Hulu Plus is the Mindy Project.

I’d previously abandoned the series after halfway through the first episode. I’m a pilot episode snob. {Yes, that’s a real thing} If I don’t like the pilot. I give up on the show. But a dear friend assured me I would love this show and she was right.

Currently caught up to season 3, I absolutely love The Mindy Project. It has me cracking up one minute and cringing with empathetic embarrassment the next. I’m always drawn to shows with strong, but awkward female characters. {Shedding a tear for Ugly Betty} I instinctively get them. And, besides that, Mindy Kaling is a freakin’ comedy genius.

If you’ve never tried Hulu Plus, you can sign up for 2-weeks free to try it out.

So that’s what I’m currently enjoying. How about you? What things are currently engaging and entertaining you?

Haven’t found the right thing yet? Well, keep experimenting.

Xo,

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Three Ways Technology Has Changed My Brain

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I was born in the wrong era. While I love technology and modern conveniences, I sometimes wonder what it would be like to live in an era before these enhancements.

It’s not my desire for primitive plumbing practices that drives this curiosity, but the desire to understand how the era would affect the way I think and behave. Plus: how awesome and healthy would food be before faster-is-cooler and bigger-is-better became common place in our food industries?

Whenever I hear about prominent historical figures who spoke three languages, explored “new worlds” and also had the time to learn how to play three instruments, I’m amazed. Did they have more hours in the day, than us? No. And I also imagine they had more inconveniences because of the lack of modern technology.

Is our modern technology both a blessing and a curse? I can pinpoint three ways modern technology has negatively affected me.

Three Ways Technology Has Changed My Brain

1. Limited Attention Span

Is my undiagnosed ADD really just caused by my brain being trained to crave constant movement and change? High speed internet, faster computer, flashing hand-held video games. My attention span is not what it used to be. I could be waxing poetically about how I love Ben Franklin’s schedule and then suddenly — SQUIRREL.

2. Poor Memory

In the past couple years, I’ve noticed I don’t have the memory that I used to. For a long time, I thought something was wrong with me or that it was caused by my poor diet, but I recently discovered that I’m just not as engaged as I used to be. I find myself zoning out of conversations, thinking about my to-do list or just fully “living in my head” with what I like to call Netflix Brain.

I’m sure I’m not the ONLY person who has experienced this. For example, when I’m in a meeting and a guy is using a bunch of 50 cent business words and I can’t help but be reminded of that 30 Rock episode when they’re talking about the “third kind of heat.” Next thing you know, I’m imagining Tina Fey shaking it at the “after, after, after party” — which might be a mash-up of multiple episodes, but I can’t really remember.

But that’s what binge Netflixing does. I can’t remember what happened when and if my “this reminds me of the time” stories actually happened to me or on The Mindy Project.

Research suggests that imagining you’re doing something repetitively can have the same physical effect on your brain as if you were actually doing it. What does that say about all the violent video games out there?

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3. Desire for Instant Gratification

Back in high school, I had dial-up internet service. I’d type my login information into AOL’s home screen then go to the kitchen and make a quick snack. By the time I got back to my computer, the system would say: “Welcome! You’ve Got Mail.”

I thought it was so convenient that I could login, go make a snack and by the time I got back I’d be logged in. Now-a-days, if my wifi internet isn’t instantly on and ready to go when I open my laptop, I’m going to throw an oh-hell-no-Time-Warner-Cable hissy fit and rage! Rage, I tell you!

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In the faster, faster, faster world of the internet and modern computing, is the idea of instant gratification a problem unique to technology?

Is this the reason why we spend beyond our means instead of saving for retirement? Is this why we crave diet pills and surgery instead of exercise?

Have our brains been rewired to crave “now!” too much?

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Despite the negative affects of technology, there are some positive effects. Research shows that certain types of technology actually improve our visual skills and cause us to be more creative.

And while sometimes my memory triggers can be totally random and not related to real-life at all, other times I’m able to connect things together from my digital life experiences that are extremely helpful to conversations or I can reference a particular website or article to help a friend in need.

For me, the key is balance. I spend a large part of my day in front of a computer screen and I find myself annoyed at the idea of spending my leisure time in front of a screen too.

I don’t have to go back to the times of Ragnar Lodbrok in order to use my brain to its maximum potential. Nor do I have to pull a Lucy to enhance my brain power. My brain is what it is and just like any other part of my body, I have to listen to it and be aware of what’s going be helpful and harmful to it.

If you’re interested in fun, technologically savvy ways to train your brain and keep it sharp, consider Lumosity. I’ve always been drawn to games like Sudoku and 2048 because they require me to think and strategize, but I like that Lumosity seems to be fully supported by brain scientists.

Be good to your mind — you only get one — and use it to experiment until you get to your best life ever.

Xo,

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Eating Vegan Daily. Experiment #3 Report

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Experiment #3 was a fun one, I will admit.

While I approached the experiment with trepidation, because I’d firmly declared I wasn’t good at cooking in my original experiment outline, I really enjoyed all the cooking and ended the week by making vegan appetizers for a group of women. And they all seemed to love the meal.

Here’s an account of how experiment #3: Adventures in Daily Vegan Cooking went for me.

My initial thoughts:

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Smashed potatoes!

When I went to my kitchen to cook on Sunday evening, I was actually excited. Ultimately, I felt like the cooking wasn’t the hard part, the sitting down to eat and not feeling guilty for relaxing at like 6 p.m., however, was really hard.

But that was part of the plan. After the first night I ditched my sit in silence and just enjoy my food plan and gave myself something to “do” while I ate. Most of the time I listened to an audio book.

My Greatest Moment During the Experiment:

On Friday night I made vegan appetizers for a group of women who came over to my apartment and they really seemed to like my Vegan Smashed Potatoes (link). That made me feel good. Also, my aunt — who I didn’t know read my blog — shared the recipe with my mom.

My Biggest Challenge During the Experiment:

A very non-vegan oyster roast.

A very non-vegan oyster roast.

Busy days and traveling were rough for me. I had previously agreed to attend an oyster roast on the Saturday of my vegan week, so let’s just say Saturday was NOT a vegan day. Nor did I cook.

But other than that — and besides the pile-up of dirty dishes last week — I didn’t really have any challenges. On a regular week I would definitely cook larger portions, because sticking to one-meal portions was just exhausting.

What I learned:

Vegan tacos!

Vegan tacos!

I learned that I really enjoy cooking.

I learned that vegan butter makes me quite happy.

I learned that I can pretty much make pasta with anything.

I learned that vegan tacos are AMAZING.

And I learned that veganism makes some people uncomfortable and they respond to it in interesting ways.

In all, I’m looking forward to more vegan dishes in my life and experimenting with longer-term veganism in 2015.

Want to experiment with vegan dishes in your life? Check out these resources:

Information about Veganism

Vegan Recipes from Chloe Coscarelli

Chocolate-Covered Katie – Vegan Dessert Blog

And watch below as Chloe Coscarelli {adorbs!} wins Cupcake Wars with vegan cupcakes.

Keep experimenting until you get to your best life ever.

Xo,

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