If you’ve followed me for a while, you know that I love to cook (see my earlier Cooking as a Spiritual Experience post). I would not consider myself a foodie (though I do like good food) and I am not a health nut. What I do like is that I can save myself a lot of money and eat meals that typically have a lot fewer calories and less salt than a typical meal at a restaurant. Cooking also allows me to be a little creative and use ingredients and flavors that I like.

I likely developed my “cooking at home” diet when money became tight. I realized that for the price of a “value meal” at a typical fast food burger joint, I could buy a pound of beef and make enough burgers for four meals. It’s also worth noting that when I was a caregiver for my mother I needed to cook with healthier ingredients, and most importantly, a lot less salt. During this time, I grew to like my food with less salt. Thankfully, cooking for myself is probably one of my best habits right now. Sure I still eat out once in a while, but eating in is in with me.

With this in mind, I really enjoyed stumbling upon the above video by Michael Pollan. It sums up my eating philosophy at this point in my life. I have also made a conscious decision to eat less, which seems to be giving me more energy.

If you’re tired of trying every diet in order to lose weight and feel better, consider simplifying your life and starting the “cook at home” diet. I did and it has been one of my best decisions.

How about you…have you made the conscious decision to cook for yourself and your family most of the time in favor of eating out? Or is your refrigerator mostly empty because you’d prefer to just eat out? I’d love to hear your feedback and if you’re happy with your decision.

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Note: This is a guest post that I wrote which originally appeared on www.adailyshotofcoffee.com back in June, 2010. As far as I know, the site is no longer operational.

Coffee shops are well-known for being a community gathering place and a venue to meet friends and strangers. I typically go to a coffee shop to get work done, generate ideas and get out of the house. In other words, I’m often anti-social and immersed in reading and getting things done when I do go.

Last November, while running errands in downtown Chicago, I headed into my favorite coffee shop, Intelligentsia. It was cool and crisp outside and I needed to warm up and get energized.

As a coffee lover, I can appreciate the service and quality of coffee served at the chain coffee franchises. But there is something extra special about the coffee served at Intelligentsia. One look at the baristas behind the counter and you’ll notice how intense and serious they are – they don’t just care about their coffee, they obsess about it. I’m serious. Their barista’s are as passionate about their coffee much like a graphic designer is passionate about his or her Mac.

I get my medium latté served to me in a fairly large ceramic cup, complete with a very artistic swirl on top. Not only has Intelligentsia perfected the taste of their carefully-roasted beans, but they’ve perfected latté art.

As much as I love Intelligentsia’s coffee, dining space at their Monadnock Building location feels a little tight. I find a spot at the counter against the wall and sit down. I savor the taste of my latté and immerse myself in a notebook filled with ideas and notes.

As I work, I notice a slightly heavy-set middle-aged woman glancing toward me. After trading several glances, she steps toward me and asks with a noticeable accent, “where is the art museum from here?”

I tell her that it’s less than a mile from here. As a lifelong Chicagoan, I enjoy playing tour guide to visitors to the city. I love to direct tourists to places off the beaten path and places that are unique to the city. Had I been asked about the best coffee shop to visit, I would have said Intelligentsia.

We talk for 15 or 20 minutes about our home cities. It turns out she’s an artist from Amsterdam. We also talk about the current state of the economy in the United States, corrupt politicians, art and sports. I learn that she’s in the United States to visit her son who plays college basketball at a local university.

Both the conversation and the coffee are equally enjoyable. Even though I’ve only talked to the woman for 15 minutes, I feel like I’ve known her much longer. I admire her for her exploration of Chicago by bicycle in November and I give her ideas for places to visit while she’s in Chicago.

We finish our coffee and she realizes that its starting to get dark and that she should get going. She writes her name and email address on a small piece of paper and invites me to stay with her family if I ever decide to visit Amsterdam. I thank her profusely and we say goodbye. I’m awestruck by her generous offer.

While it was an ordinary fall day, my conversation with this woman was unforgettable. I head home feeling grateful – grateful for the feeling of community and for the taste of my favorite coffee. A great combination….ah, life is good.

Creative Commons photo courtesy of nathanborror.

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If you’re a big Downton Abbey fan like me, you might remember a scene from an episode in the first season. Carson, the Head Butler, sits down to make his first phone call on a “strange” device known as the telephone. As he sits down, he stares at the phone with a strong sense of dis-trust. In his mind, the telegraph has been a perfectly good means of communication. He begrudgingly makes an awkward first phone call and is suddenly ushered into a new technological era.

Today, there’s a group of people just like the Carson the Butler from Downton Abbey. They’re set in their ways, don’t like change and don’t know what to make of today’s new communications tools (such as Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn). Perhaps they’re overwhelmed or just don’t see the point in learning and spending time on them.

Like them or not, these communications tools are not a passing fad. They’ve revolutionized the way people communicate with each other and have changed the way businesses communicate with and attract new customers.

In the past few years, I’ve had the chance to sit down and talk with leaders of organizations (and ordinary citizens) about social media and, in some cases, guide them through the creation of their first Twitter account. After spending time with these Twitter newbies, I see the light bulbs go off in their head. Slowly, they begin to appreciate these tools and understand their potential.

Recently, I had the opportunity to watch Erik Qualman’s latest “Socialnomics 2014″ video (see below). What caught my attention was the statement that grandparents are the fastest growing demographic on Twitter. This gave me some satisfaction since I’ve always appreciated Twitter’s potential to connect people and build community. At the same time, Twitter will not and should not ever replace the face-to-face communication that takes place in bars, coffeehouses and at grandma’s kitchen table. But the growth of new users in older demographics on Twitter is an encouraging sign that a new group of users is willing to learn some of these social media tools.

How about you…have your parents or grandparents embraced any “new” social media tools? What has their experience been like?

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A Little Laughter…

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The Passing of a Social Media Friend

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In the world of social media, the word “friend” gets used quite a bit. Perhaps overused. Many of us get onto Facebook and Twitter to promote ourselves, our businesses, our causes, our points of view. If we’re lucky, we run into like-minded individuals who entertain, enlighten and make us laugh. In some cases, we get […]

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Weekend Musical Diversion: Collaboration

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Book Review: Ctrl Alt Delete

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As we celebrate the start of another year, many of us take time to reflect, create goals and make resolutions. The beginning of the year is a great time to do this and we feel like we have the opportunity for both a clean slate and a fresh start. While Mitch Joel’s book Ctrl Alt […]

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Public Speaking Excellence: Presiyan Vasilev

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Members of Toastmasters have the opportunity to compete in various speaking contests after completing six speeches from the Competent Communicators manual. This happens first at the club level, then at the area level, then division and finally at the district level. Contestants who compete in the International Speech contest, if they win at all levels […]

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Lessons From an Astronaut

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A couple weeks ago, while driving home from work, I tuned into the rebroadcast of Fresh Air on my local NPR station. I was pleasantly surprised to hear Terry Gross interview astronaut Chris Hadfield. Truthfully, I wasn’t too aware of Mr. Hadfield. I do remember viewing his version of David Bowie’s “Space Oddity” from the […]

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