think, learn, grow…

Virtual Assistant Cookbook: Recipes for Cooking Up Success

I finished my ebook.  I’ve been working on it for years. And for such a short book, it’s hard to imagine it taking so long. I think it has something to do with fear.

Fear of putting it out there, putting myself out there… Who am I to impart this advice…

Ok, I finally got out of my own way and finished it.  You can’t imagine the racing heart, sweating palms, and the wanting to scream with relief when I hit ‘post’ and announced it to the world.

But, its out there now. for good or evil, its out there. And I’m proud of it.  Its available on Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats. If you would like a signed copy, please contact me. (Signed copies are $15.00 USD plus shipping if needed.)

Grab your copy at Amazon.com or on the Hilltop-Arts store (In PDF format)

Developing a Pain Relief Tea

Yes, I’m still in pain. I’m frustrated and admittedly depressed by the fact that I still have pain after having the surgery to correct the pain. I don’t know if its new, or if it’s just that its pain that was masked by the stronger pain that is now numb. But, it’s still there.

As you’ll recall from my post on September 7th, I am a casualty of the war on opioids. According to the powers that be, opioid pain medication shouldn’t be prescribed for cases like mine.

They, of course, don’t talk to the patients, they only make up these ‘guidelines’ (read: rules) and expect that everyone will fit into those tiny little boxes.  So, my pain doctors have reduced my opioid pain medication and will not prescribe more (suggested that if I want more I should doctor shop for a clinic that still prescribes opiate pain meds).

Unfortunately, I don’t fit into those boxes. Its important with people who have multiple conditions, to not rock the boat so to speak. I have Meniere’s disease (incurable), migraine with aura (incurable), chronic pain (not cured so far), hypothyroidism (on medication), and polycystic kidney disease (incurable). All these conditions – especially Meniere’s disease, I have to be careful to not take or eat anything that triggers a flare. The medications specifically for nerve pain that I tried last year put me into a tailspin and confined me to bed for a very long time. Yet these are the medication that have been ordered for me – or I will not be treated.

I didn’t choose to be a statistic. No one does. But I also didn’t choose to have a government agency (state or federal it doesn’t matter) tell my pain doctor how to treat me.  I’m tired of being likened to a criminal just because I’m a chronic pain patient.

So, I am experimenting with different tea blends to bring about pain relief. So far, my results have been moderately successful. Now, if I had been searching for a nice ‘go to sleep’ tea, I’d have found that several times over!

I’m trying:

Chamomile – in all the blends I’m using dried organic chamomile. Not only is it wonderfully relaxing, but it is also a great anti-inflammatory.

Wild Lettuce – organic wild lettuce has natural opiate “like” properties, without containing opiates. Which I really like because my ultimate goal was to be off pain medication anyway. However, it does have sedative properties that make it not really ideal for daytime use. But it puts me into a good restful sleep.

California Poppy – organic California poppy, the California State Flower, is a cousin to the opiate containing poppy but does not contain opiates. California poppy is analgesic, antispasmodic and can provide relief of nerve pain – which is what I have. So far, other than making me very sleepy, it does help with moderate pain relief.

Rose Hips – Surprisingly, rose hips – which I already loved due to their blast of vitamin C and immunity boosting powers – also helps relieve pain. I have been happily adding them to each version of the teas I make.

Valerian – although Michael hates the smell and generally walks right back out the door as soon as he smells it, Valerian is good for pain and is better known for its sedative properties. Although it doesn’t taste that good to me so I’ll probably add it to capsules instead of tea.

Lavender – Another surprise, lavender is a really good pain reliever because of its calming effects on the nervous system. (and it tastes good).

Rosemary – Which is a good anti-inflammatory.

I’m busy developing teas using these herbs and many more at this time to find an effective blend to relieve pain. But ultimately, I want this to be as convenient to me as taking the prescriptions are, so I also want to create capsules.  I’m also very aware that this might be an ongoing odyssey to find the right fit. Bodies change and needs change, maybe I’ll have to have a daytime version and a nighttime version – that seems realistic.

Today’s not a good day pain wise. I woke up with some pain, then got up and took a shower and by the time I was out the pain was excruciating – and because showers always destroy my equilibrium so it’s generally baths for me – I’m also dizzy. But in the morning, when I need to get upstairs to work, feed the puppies and take them out, there’s not enough time for a bath.

The Mankoski Pain Scale

I found a pain scale that really is the best one I’ve seen, and believe me, I’ve seen tons of them over the last few years.

Today, I’m in bed, trying to work through the pain.

Today, I’m a 7.

Opioid Crisis Hits Home

We’ve all heard of the opioid crisis here in America. We’ve known that government mandates are forcing doctors to cut back on the opioid prescriptions they write – or face consequences apparently.

We’ve heard that some pharmacies are even limiting the number of tablets/capsules one can take home – even with legitimate prescriptions for a full month.

We all believed these were for the Schedule 2 and up types of narcotics. We were wrong. Even Tylenol #3, a schedule 3 pain medication is being limited.

My pain clinic will no longer write prescriptions for narcotics for my type of pain. They don’t care – no one cares – that the protocols that many of us have been on for years, that are working, and that we are working well within, are now suddenly being changed. We have to suddenly change our medications to something that could potentially damage us, or our quality of life.

Last year about this time I was on two such medications and suffered horrific side effects. I was bedridden for months, and when Michael had to go out-of-town, I had to stay with my sister – so she could watch over me. Did you hear that? The medications I was on made it imperative that I not be left alone. But this is what I’ll be forced to go back to now that the government has stepped in and told my doctor how to treat me.

It’s not fair, and I’m really angry about it. But, there is only one thing I can do, and that is to stop taking the medications. I shouldn’t be forced to, but I’m very tired of being pigeon-holed into the drug addict category and having to justify why I should be on them.

Researching Tea

 

I’m an herbalist!  I can and WILL find an alternative that is better for me and has no harsh side effects. I’ve already started researching and experimenting.

And please, before you start talking to me about using marijuana, just don’t. I don’t want to be rude, but, I’m not about to start using something the federal government considers illegal. I’m not about to lose my 2nd Amendment Rights just for using an illegal substance. It’s a whole argument I’m not going into here, just understand that it’s my choice and this is how I feel.  I am currently looking at the CBD oils and salves though.

The first round of testing is underway and showing promising results! Already, after a cup of tea, my pain level is drastically reduced. So, I’m really hoping I’ll be able to find effective pain relief and kiss prescription pain meds goodbye.

Tea Trials

Digital Camera 101

Planning to get your hands on a digital camera but not sure if you can make the transition from your old camera that uses film to one that utilizes a memory card? If you are afraid of things that are complicated, then don’t worry. Although digital cameras may be advanced, that doesn’t necessarily mean that they are not user friendly. Here are some tips that can help you in taking pictures with a digital camera.

Enhance the color tones of your picture

There are times when you think that your shots have a cold or clammy aura. This is because digital cameras have default settings for white balance at auto. This is ok for most shots but if you want to increase the reds and the yellows of your shots, adjust the auto setting to cloudy. This makes your pictures appear warmer as well as richer.

Macro Mode

Activating the close up mode on your camera, usually called the macro mode, will make your shots have sharper details. This is very easy to use in digital cameras unlike in the conventional ones. To use your camera’s macro mode, look for the icon that depicts the macro mode or “close up”. Normally, the icon is that of a flower. Go as close to the object as your camera will allow. It is important to remember that you have a rather shallow field depth, thus it is important to focus on the subject’s part that you consider to be the most significant.

Invest on file storage

Digital CamerasHaving a memory card that is capable of storing a large amount of picture files is important. This gives you the freedom to take more pictures. The higher the resolution of your camera which normally ranges from 2 mega pixels to up to 6 or more mega pixels, the higher the memory size of you card should be. With an ample sized memory card, you don’t have to pass the opportunity to take a shot. No more worries of having a full memory card whenever that perfect shot appears.

Always use high resolution

Your digital camera has many resolution settings. Always take pictures using the highest possible setting. Although higher resolution means more memory used up, it isn’t a problem if you have already acquired a good sized memory card. You will never know when the best shot you’ll ever take in your whole life may pop up, why take it in poor resolution?

These tips will help you with your new digital camera. Never hesitate to take as many pictures as you can! Remember you have enough memory, why worry?

Start your digital camera search now!

Effortless Collaboration with Shared Folders

Effortless Collaboration with Shared Folders

Managing a project that requires a lot of back and forth of files is a harrowing experience. Email works for the first round or maybe two, but after that, it quickly gets out of control. You’re working on version “c” while your client is already on version “e” and soon important revisions and notes are lost.

A better way to work from a single document is to simply add files to a shared folder. This way, as you or your client make changes, they’ll appear in real time, leaving no doubt about which version anyone has, or what changes were made when.

There are several players in the folder sharing market, making it easy to find one that will work not only for you but for your clients as well.

Dropbox

A favorite in the shared folder race is Dropbox. The simple setup and generous amount of free storage space (2GB) make this a top choice for many people even if sharing files isn’t on their minds. If you work from multiple computers, need access to files on your mobile phone or iPad, or just want the extra security of knowing your important documents are backed up in “the cloud” then Dropbox is a good option.

The free version includes 2GB of storage space, which is plenty to get you started, but you can earn more space by Tweeting about Dropbox, referring friends, and connecting other applications. You can also upgrade to 100GB for around $10 per month.

Google Drive

Not surprisingly, Google has its own document sharing system. Formerly Google Docs, Drive now operates similar to Dropbox in that you can view your files in a folder on your computer. However, opening a file requires a web browser and the use of Google Apps. If you want to edit a spreadsheet in Excel, you’ll have to download it first.

Google Drive offers more free space than Dropbox does, starting out with 5GB. Upgrades are less expensive as well, with 100GB available for just $5 per month, compared to Dropbox’s $10 fee.

One noteworthy difference between Dropbox and Google Drive is how files are stored. With Dropbox, files exist both on your computer and in the cloud, meaning you can work on them without an internet connection. As soon as Dropbox detects a change to a document, it synchs the new version with that on the Dropbox server. If you and your client are both working on a file at the same time, this can result in a “conflicted copy” showing up in your Dropbox.

Google Drive is different in that only one copy of each file exists. When you’re working on a file, you’re actually editing that file on Google’s server. You can see this in action if you have a file open that your client is working on – you’ll be able to watch as she makes changes.

There are a variety of other file sharing services available as well, and chances are your clients will have their own preferences, so you’ll likely use several in your business. But to start out, Dropbox and Google Drive offer a simple solution for collaborating with others, or just sharing files between computers.

The All-In-One Communication Tool Every VA Needs

The All-In-One Communication Tool Every VA Needs

The phone rings and you dash to grab it before your toddler – newly able to answer with a barely understandable “Hewo?” – can get to it. After all, it might be a client, or worse, a potential client.

Such is the peril of publishing your phone number on your website. Yet many virtual assistants find that offering a phone number increases the inquiries, and consequently, new clients, they receive. Having a separate office line would be a good solution to the toddler-as-receptionist problem, were it not for the cost.

The solution? Skype.

You’re likely used to using Skype day in and day out to chat with friends, IM with colleagues, and perhaps talk to online clients as well. But did you know you can use Skype as a phone replacement?

Skype offers two types of services: Incoming and outgoing phone calls, and you can purchase them together or separately, for maximum flexibility.

Make Phone Calls

If what you really need to do is call out to clients or others, and don’t want to eat up your cell minutes or reveal that number to the public, then Skype credit is just the answer. Purchase a monthly or annual subscription or a pay-as-you-go plan, depending on your needs.

With Skype credit you’ll have the ability to place a call to either cell phones or landlines right from your Skype app. And if you need to call internationally, options are available for a variety of countries starting as low as one cent per minute.

Accept Incoming Calls

Want to publish your number on your website and answer it at your desk? The answer is to get a Skype number. For as little as $30 per year, you get your own phone number that rings right to your Skype desktop or mobile app. You don’t have to reveal your home or cell number, and you don’t have to worry about anyone else answering your calls, taking messages, or tying up the line.

When you sign up, you’ll have your choice of available numbers, so you can choose one that’s easy to remember and that shares your area code.

Combine with Google Voice for ultimate flexibility.

Having an office number is nice, but what if you’re not in the office? A Google Voice number (available only in the United States) will allow you to control your incoming calls. You can forward your calls to your Skype number when you’re at your desk, or to your cell phone when you’re out of town. A Google Voice number also gives you the ability to block certain numbers, send others right to voice mail, or forward some to your home phone and everything else to your Skype number. You can even set a call schedule, so you only receive incoming calls during business hours.

Google Voice is free, and like Skype, you can choose your own number from the available pool. You can also use Google Voice as a stand-alone solution, and make outgoing calls right from your Gmail account.

Having a phone number on your website helps visitors feel more secure, but publishing your home phone isn’t always a good solution. With Skype and Google Voice, though, you can have the convenience of an office phone without the high costs.

Plan Your Time More Effectively With Shared Calendars

Plan Your Time More Effectively With Shared Calendars

We’ve all been there—stretched too thin, with more work than we have time, and suddenly an important deadline is missed. And if you’re a busy VA with lots of clients, that might happen more than you like, unless you have a trusted system for tracking due dates.

Google has the answer for you: Shared calendars.

All Your Important Appointments in One Place

Few things are a bigger time-suck than having to check and reconcile multiple calendars and apps just to see what’s on task for the day. When clients use different project management systems to record their deadlines, it can be challenging to remember to log in and check on your due dates.

But Google calendars synchs with any app that creates an iCal feed, so you can easily “subscribe” to your task lists and have them appear all in one place.

Not only that, but by sharing a calendar with clients, you can see what projects and appointments they have in the works as well, so you can plan accordingly. If your client is presenting at a telesummit, for example, you’ll know ahead of time and can keep that in mind when scheduling her social media or creating blog posts.

Time Blocking Ensures Critical Work is Completed On Time

Aside from knowing what’s on everyone’s schedule for the coming days and weeks, a calendar is a fantastic tool to help ensure all your important work is done. By setting aside time in your day to actually complete projects using a system known as time blocking, you’ll know exactly when you can get to that next project. No more guesswork or late nights trying to catch up when you overbook yourself.

Time blocking works by actually setting appointments with yourself. If you have a project to complete, and you know it will take you two hours to do, you make an appointment. The key though, is that these appointments are sacred. You cannot use time blocking as a suggestion, you have to treat it as an unbreakable appointment, otherwise it becomes just background noise that you’ll ignore.

Set your “appointments” with a reminder (either a pop-up or an email) and you will never have to ask yourself “What’s next?” You will always know, and you’ll find that you’re much more productive and efficient, too.

Access Anywhere for On-the-Go Productivity

Not in your office? No problem. Google calendars are available at any time from any of your devices, so you’ll always know what’s happening. Unlike printed planners, you won’t have to remember to take it with you, you can’t lose it, and you can check appointments and tasks not only for yourself but your clients as well, no matter where you are.

A calendar is a basic tool that every productive virtual assistant should master. Sharing calendars with your clients will make your job easier (and make you a superstar in their eyes), but you have to make use of it. Getting in the habit of using a calendar can be a challenge. If you’re not accustomed to it, then make it a point to check your calendar first thing in the morning and last thing at night. Set reminders for yourself if necessary, until it becomes a habit. You’ll soon find that you truly cannot live (or work) without your calendar.

Modern Medicine Rollercoaster

Modern Medicine Rollercoaster

When you get sick, you go to the doctor. And the doctor will, of course, prescribe medicines. You will go and buy medicines. You take them, and hopefully, you get well.

This is how the health profession goes on nowadays – a rollercoaster of diagnosis and prescription.

If anyone were to give you herbs for medicine, you would probably say that that person was a quack.

Natural medicine is the use of natural methods, herbal medicines, and traditional practices to heal ailments. Every culture has a form of natural medicine. In ancient cultures, village medicine men served as the doctors of the community, passing on medical knowledge to the apprentices that followed them.

Many categories of the healing methods fall under natural medicine. Among these are traditional medicine, complementary medicine, and alternative medicine.

Usually, natural medicine refers to medical practices that were in place before the advent of modern medicine.

This includes herbal medicine, or phytotherapy, which is prevalent in Chinese, Ayurvedic (or Indian), and Greek medicine.

Upon the advent of modern medicine, many professionals discarded the use of herbs in favor of man-made medicine. The fact that these treatments are based on the healing properties of some herbs was forgotten.

For example, opium, digitalis, quinine, and aspirin all have their roots in traditional medicine.

Natural medicine can be considered as a lost art. This does not mean that it has lost efficacy over time. In some cases, natural therapy is actually better than modern medicine. This leads some doctors to seriously consider and study the possible uses of natural medicine

Before we continue, it is important to stress that not all the natural remedies are legitimate. It would help to only try those remedies which have been thoroughly studied and are relatively risk free.

Take herbal medicine for example. There are many well-documented and studied herbal remedies available. However, only those that deal with minor ailments such as cough, colds, fever, skin rashes, and its ilk are likely to be recommended by health professionals. These remedies are sometimes superior to synthetic medicine. This is because herbal medicines are less likely to cause negative side effects.

Currently there are numerous organizations that study the effects and advocacy of natural medicine – among which is herbal medicine. Some governments and health agencies openly advocate the use of natural methods since they are inexpensive and relatively risk-free.

As their studies compile, more herbs and treatments are added to the list of accepted medicines. However, many herbs and treatments have been proven to be bogus medicine. This represents a challenge for both the user and the agencies because they have to ascertain that the treatments they either use or advocate are legitimate.

There exist today many alternative medical treatments that fall under natural medicine. However, not all of them have been proven to be effective. You could mention homeopathy, aromatherapy, acupuncture, and other alternative medical treatments. It would pay to consult the experts as to the legitimacy of these treatments.

Natural medicine should also be thought of as an accompanying medicine. Right now, the current collective medical thought suggests that natural medicine be used only to supplement accepted modern medical practices. In that case of minor ailments your expert we actually advise you to take natural therapies instead.

The practice of modern medicine revolves around diagnosing an illness and prescribing treatments for such. Natural medicine is helpful because it suggests that treatment be not necessarily given only when sick. Natural medicine strives to make each patient practice good health habits. These habits include good diet, healthy living, and the regular natural treatment.

It is this same line of thought that leads our parents to tell us to eat our vegetables. Yes, a healthy lifestyle and will do no harm to our well-being. And this is the foundation of natural medicine – may it be massage, herbal medicine, aromatherapy or others.

It is funny but true that science, in its quest for excellence, is studying the knowledge of sages past. This, surprisingly, leads us back to the remedies nature offers. The possibilities of finding remedies to everyday illnesses in natural medicine are encouraging. So staying tuned to studying these remedies is worthwhile until we can verify that these therapies are truly helpful to our health and our society.

As an herbalist I’m more aware than most of the skepticism many people have for natural remedies, but I’m here to tell you that many of them are extremely beneficial.

Food Photography Tips for Newbies

Taking great pictures of different food dishes isn’t as easy as it appears to be in cook books and food advertisements. Great care should be exercised when taking these shots. Things that need to be considered include the dish’s angle, composition, lighting, as well as problems that may arise. Here are some guides to help you improve the quality of your pictures.

Lighting

Consider the lighting in the kitchen or venue where you will be shooting the dishes. It is a good idea to know this in advance so that you no longer have to make adjustments right there in the venue. Dark venues may be corrected by using a row of fluorescent lighting which possesses diffusers. The drawback of this method is that the image will have a subdued shade of green. Depending on the camera that you have, it may have a setting that neutralizes the effects of fluorescent lighting or a magenta filter may be used to compensate.

Stability of tripods

Since you are taking pictures of food, every shot is done at close range. Unlike shots taken at a distance, shots done in close up are sensitive to movement. Any sudden moves and the picture will be ruined. Focusing on the subject also becomes easier when using a tripod or even just a stack of magazines.

Food presentation

To get that professional look, cut the dish in geometric shapes. Proper arrangement of the food is also important so that you will be able to showcase the dish’s ingredients as well as its strengths. Garnishing the food that you will shoot will enhance its natural colors, making it more appealing to the eyes.

Focusing on the subject

A rather dull photo will become vibrant and dynamic if care is taken when focusing and adjusting the field depth of the camera. If your camera doesn’t have manual focus, depressing the camera’s shutter button halfway to lock the focus at that specific depth. Recomposing the focus can be done by changing the position of the camera while the shutter button is still depressed halfway. Automatic cameras usually lack aperture or depth of field. Some purposely adjust the aperture such that the background becomes a blur to heighten the subject’s features while others prefer that a wider depth of field is used to capture the whole scene.

These are some of the things that you should know regarding food photography. Constant practice will help you produce better shots. Follow your instincts. Sometimes this allows you to take better shots.

Lights! Camera! Action!

Have you ever thought you had what it takes to direct your own movies?  Maybe, you just love taking video of your kids.  And what’s the thrill of making a movie if you can’t share it with the world…or at least your immediate family and friends?

Grouper Networks has just taken photo-sharing to the next level.  With the creation of their free software called Grouper, people are now able to share their videos over the Web.  This unique service continues to grow in popularity. Since the launch of Grouper 2.0 in late 2005, over 50,000 videos and photos have been shared over the Web.

Now, you too can share your video with the world for—here’s the best part – FREE!  Grouper allows you to perform unlimited fast and easy batch uploading.  You can send links to your friends who can watch and download your videos.  Want to chat about your video with family and friends?   Well, you are in luck.  Grouper allows you and up to twenty-nine of your nearest and dearest family members and friends to gab in real time.

Have a MySpace, Friendster, or blog page?  You can even post your video and have it play right to your page, or download it to your iPod or PlaystationPortable.  You don’t have to worry about any size restrictions on your video uploads either because Grouper doesn’t have any.  Streaming previews of your movies are limited to three minutes, however if members have the bandwidth, they can download your full movies.

To ensure that its customers aren’t using the free software to share copyrighted materials or perform other unlawful activities, Grouper’s multimedia application prevents the distribution of protected music or video files and limits the number of people with whom users can share their content.

To use Grouper, you must download a small application from their website. Once you have installed the software, you can import video from your camcorder, create short movies (“Groovies”), and then choose to either share them with the public or keep them private.  Video sharing is easy and fun! Are you ready for your close-up?  Lights!  Camera!  Action!