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How to Get the Most Juice Out of a Lime

countertop lime juicers

Today I actually got into a conversation with my neighbor about how to get the most juice out of a lime. Yeah, I never saw it coming. She was very firm in her belief that a lime juicer is an essential item in any proper kitchen though. I’m kind of bored today, so I’m going to share what she had to say about the proper method of collecting lime juice… Something I never even considered previously. I seriously think I might start a category on here

countertop lime juicers

Some people really like limes!

called “Things other people care about that I never even considered.” Apparently, juicing lemons and limes can be very easy if you have the correct kind of citrus juicer. Although it is possible to simply squash these fruits using the heel of your hand (my preferred method), this can be hard work and also painful if you have small hands or are not very strong (like my neighbor). A much better alternative is to buy a proper lemon or lime juicer.

She tells me that by far the cheapest way to juice is to buy a simple hand-held juice press. These are similar in design to a nutcracker, and simply use two levers to effectively crush the little citrus fruit. You can expect to buy one of these for as little as $10, and for a little bit more, you will get a really good quality stainless steel juicer which will last you a lot longer. These kinds of hand-held juicers are reliable, and should cover most applications fairly well.

You may, however, want to juice larger quantities of limes or lemons. Although there is rarely a need for such a large lime juicer, you may want to consider the upright Metrokane juice presses. These provide an easy and effective (although expensive) means to juice a lot of different kinds of citrus fruit.

These juice presses stand about 18 inches tall, and are designed to be used on a countertop or bench. By using a long pull down lever, it is easily possible to crush 10 or more oranges or any other citrus fruit per minute, and using minimal effort.

These upright citrus presses make fantastic lemon or lime juicers, and can be used by absolutely anyone. They also look fantastic, finished in stainless steel and are a real compliment to any kitchen. You can expect to pay between $100 and $200 for one of these presses, and although this sounds like a lot of money, consider that you will be able to make all of your own juices at home and thus be able to save significantly on your grocery bills.

Buying an upright juicer press such as this is a long-term investment. I personally don’t consume enough limes to make it worth my while, so I think I’ll just stick with the cheaper alternative. I might even just stick with rolling the lime around on the kitchen counter and squishing it by hand.

How to Get the Most Juice Out of a Lime

OK, now for those people who absolutely don’t want to add to their kitchen gadget collection, I offer you the following video.  I would also add that you should roll the lime on the countertop under the heel of your hand before making the cuts suggested in this video.

If someone wants to do an actual comparison of juice quantities by various methods, please leave a comment and share your findings with us!

A Couponing Hobby Can Save You Money

Getting Serious About Using Coupons

There are a lot of people who think that hobbies are little more than an expensive diversion. The truth is, there is at least one hobby that can actually save you a ton of money. Of course I’m talking about couponing. For those who may have never heard the term before, it is simply learning and applying the skills involved in making the most of the coupons that are made available both in Sunday newspapers, and online, in printable form.

When some folks think of clipping coupons, they imagine that it is a silly waste of time. Many people spend hours clipping away, just to let their coupons expire in a disorganized, messy pile. The key to being a successful couponer is to actually get out and put the savings to use. The best couponers are serious about this. Just like a collector of stamps might know every item in their collection, a hard core clipper will have his or her cents off offers well organized and ready to use in conjunction with all of the best weekly specials in their area.

People interested in the hobby of coupon collecting understand that organization is the key to their success. Some of them use computer software to keep track of their current coupon collection. Others prefer a more “old school” approach. They will sometimes rely on a zip up style binder for keeping things organized. The coupons held within are usually organized by category as well as expiration date. Some of the most serious “extreme couponers” are able to walk out of the store with hundreds of dollars worth of savings. Here is a helpful video that serves as a good introduction to this money saving hobby.

Office Etiquette and Manners at Work

Common Courtesy at Work

Office etiquette and good manners are an afterthought to some people. Sometimes it seems like people have forgotten how to treat each other in a professional setting. When people don’t act appropriately, it can make going to work a very uncomfortable experience. My hope is that this post will make things a little bit better.

Some people might argue that people behave differently at work than they do at home. That might be true, but I believe that there is probably a strong likelihood that anyone who acts in a crude manner at work, also acts that way in other areas of their life. Treating others correctly is an important step toward having a happier overall life.

What is expected of people at work

A brief history of the workplace
It used to be that working in an office setting meant a suit and tie for men, and a dress or business suit for ladies. There was also a certain level of proper social behavior that was expected. Some might say that these levels of formality were extreme, and to some extent, they might be correct. We have to consider though, that with an increasing informality in the workplace, a certain level of civility may have been lost. This isn’t to say that casual Fridays or regular dress down days are bad overall, but when such informality is the norm, problems sometimes arise.

Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, I think that most people feel a little bit differently about themselves when they are “dressed up”. It isn’t that they actually undergo any change really, they just feel a little bit better and, for lack of a better word, professional. It doesn’t feel appropriate to use cuss words or to act in an inappropriate manner. Think of when you go out to a fancy restaurant. Don’t you notice a certain feeling present that doesn’t exist when you pop into a McDonald’s restaurant? I think that the new level of informality in dress and behavior in the workplace might be contributing to an overall drop off of overall “good” behavior on the job.

When People Ignore Office Manners

Things I’ve seen
Some of the people reading this might wonder why someone would take the time to write such a thing. The truth is, I have seen far too many etiquette mess ups in my own work environment. I find that such behavior creates an uncomfortable situation. With that said, here are a few things that bother me.

When you are introduced to someone new, you should not instantly refer to them by their first name unless they have invited you to do so. Stick with using Mr., Ms. or Mrs. as appropriate.

Please don’t groom yourself in public while you’re at work. Don’t clip your nails, pick your teeth, etc. if it can be avoided. Do such things in the restroom.

Please don’t tell us every personal detail of your life. A little bit is fine if we’re friends, but please… think before you speak.

Don’t take other people’s personal belongings. If we could, we’d all have our own offices, but when we have to share a space, we shouldn’t have to stand guard over what we brought to work with us. Come on, you know better.

What is common courtesy?

People my age were taught about common courtesy by our parentswhen we were young. I suppose that we could get into a big discussion about it, but it pretty much boils down to treating others with some respect. Don’t take things that don’t belong to you. Do your best to make a good first impression when you meet people, then do your best to convince them that their first impression about you was right.

There is a famous book about living by the same rules you learned in kindergarten. I think that is a pretty good primer for people who have no clue what common courtesy is in the workplace and in life. You know these things. If you have a conscience at all, it should be shouting at you when you are going against these common sense principles. Just listen and follow your gut instincts. They’ll usually guide you in the right direction.
Video About Common Courtesy

30 Days from Today

What can you accomplish in 30 days?

30 days from today, you could be quite a different individual if you put your mind to it. You could learn a new skill, develop a talent, or just get a better understanding of yourself and your goals. Today more than ever, there are resources available that can help you to make significant progress toward your goals without having to spend a fortune. I love to learn new things, and I’ve found that one month is a pretty good amount of time for figuring out whether or not I find something interesting enough to pursue for the long term. Below you will find some helpful resources for making your own 30 day plan for self improvement.

Learn to Draw in 30 Days

I always liked drawing as a child, but I stopped doing it as much some time around middle school. I fell into the trap of believing that you either have “talent” for things like drawing, or you don’t. This past summer I decided to start challenging myself to learn new things. As part of this new approach to life, I picked up a book called You Can Draw in 30 Days: The Fun, Easy Way to Learn to Draw in One Month or Less. I LOVE this book. It got me feeling confident about my own ability from the very first day I started reading it and working along with the lessons. I’ve since gone on to buy some other, more advanced books, but I honestly don’t think I’d be getting as much out of them without this first book. If you have ever wished that you could draw something that would impress your family, friends, or yourself, get this book. Mark Kistler does an amazing job of teaching you how to see things and then put them on paper and he does it in a way that is very engaging for both adults and children.

How to Draw 3D with Mark Kistler

Here is a video of Mark Kistler teaching a simple drawing lesson. The book is written a lot like the video. It also includes a lot of essential information about how and why you should do certain things when you draw. The book (see above) is one of my favorite “how to” books of all time. Really!

Simplify Your Life

30 Days to a Simpler Life
There are a lot of people today who are making a switch to a simpler lifestyle. Some people are doing it out of necessity. They find that they simply cannot afford all of the modern “conveniences” like cell phone and cable bills that cost a couple of hundred dollars. Others have just grown tired of the rat race and want to get back in touch with what is truly important in their lives. I suppose the reasons for simplifying are different for every person.

I’m certainly not a hard core “simplifier”, but I was amazed at how much “stuff” I could get rid of without missing. I had a realization one day that my cluttered desk and cluttered garage were a pretty good representation of how my mind felt a lot of the time. Taking some steps to simplify doesn’t take very long, and you might find that you’ve taken some unwanted pressure off of yourself. 30 Days to a Simpler Life is a good guide for starting to simplify your life.

Constant Self Improvement

Getting better every day!
30 days from today Sometime during my thirties it hit me that if I wanted anything to change in my life, it was going to be entirely up to me. Looking around, I saw so many people (including myself at the time) who were doing the same things over and over again, and then constantly complaining about their lot in life. If you want things to be different, you’ve got to get clear about where you want to be and then start taking some steps in that direction. They might be baby steps at first, but even those little things you do can add up over time.

Even if you are perfectly happy with your current life situation, it can benefit you to push yourself a little bit every now and then. Make yourself grow. Try something new. Look for places where you can make a positive change in yourself or your world. It gives each day a little spark. Moving forward toward a goal prevents stagnation. For me, personally, the thought of not learning or trying something new is quite depressing. It doesn’t have to be a chore. Look for something fun. Sit quietly and try to recall something that you dreamed of doing at some point in your life. It isn’t a race. Take some small steps for just one month and then take stock of where you are. Keep going on that path or try something new. It’s entirely up to you. It’s your life. Start doing something to make it a life you enjoy and truly love.

Differentiated Instruction Lesson Plans Made Easy!

Resources for Creating a Differentiated Classroom

If you teach today, differentiated instruction lesson plans are a part of your weekly routine. If they aren’t yet, they are probably coming. The fact is, today’s classrooms are much different than what most adults remember from the days of their youth. Laws related to inclusion, standardized testing, educational budget cuts… they’ve led us to a new world in education. The times are changing and teachers find themselves in a position where they must accommodate an extremely diverse group of learners. Differentiation strategies are meant to address this issue. This post, along with this recommended list of resources, will help you to make an easy transition to a differentiated style of teaching.

Top Books on Differentiating Instruction

…and why you should get one
When teachers are confronted with the challenge of differentiating their lessons, panic often sets in. They believe that they will need to come up with hundreds of different lessons as a way to meet the needs of their students. It’s quite likely that you found this lens by searching for specific differentiated instruction lesson plans. Perhaps your administrator told you that you need to have differentiated lessons in place by a certain date and you’re scrambling to make changes. If that’s the case, take a deep breath and relax. It doesn’t have to be like that.

I’m going to suggest that you take a slightly different approach as you transition to a differentiated teaching style. Rather than spending every night searching for lessons that someone else “differentiated”, you can easily learn how to make tweaks to what you are already doing in your classroom. It’s like the old saying about giving a man a fish versus teaching him how to fish. The resources shown here will teach you “how to fish” and will save you a LOT of searching. If you’ve been paying for individual differentiated lesson plans to match up to each new thing that you teach, these resources could save you some serious money too.

The three books shown below are great for teachers who have some classroom experience. You know the basics of running a classroom. These books will help you to address the needs of every student without writing twenty versions of every lesson. The ideas inside can serve as templates and guides. Look at what you are already doing, and then apply what the books suggest. Nice and easy!

These books do contain specific plans, but I have found that its very easy to adapt them to almost anything you are teaching. You can save yourself a lot of grief by taking advantage of these resources. Developing your own differentiated teaching materials from scratch can take a long time. These helpful materials will help you to make a smooth transition into a differentiated style of teaching without driving yourself crazy in the process.

The Best Differentiated Instruction Books

Teachers Love Carol Ann Tomlinson Books – Elementary differentiation

If you are looking for a one size fits all differentiated lesson plan, well, you’re a little bit off track. You see, you need something that will serve as a differentiated instruction template. Copying another teacher’s plans exactly won’t really work too well because you need to make adjustments for your own classroom.

Differentiating for the various core subjects and different age levels will be addressed later in this article. You’ll probably notice that two of the three books shown above are written by Carol Ann Tomlinson. That is because she is one of the “big dogs” when it comes to differentiating instruction. If you want to get a deep understanding of the subject, you read her stuff. That’s about it. If you didn’t check those books out, do yourself a favor, and scroll back up. They are worth a look and they can save you a lot of hassle. Really.

Carol Ann Tomlinson on Differentiation

A short differentiated instruction video

What is Differentiated Instruction?

I want to simplify things as much as possible for you. When you differentiate instruction, you address the needs of the many different types of students you are teaching every day. This might include learning support students, life skills students, gifted and talented (GATE) students, emotional support students, visual learners, hands-on learners… and so on. If you teach, you know what I’m talking about. Each student has their own strengths and weaknesses. Each one walks into your room with a different history and a different level of background knowledge. They’ve got different learning styles. Some have much longer attention spans than others. Some will have individualized education plans that require that they have special adaptations made. If you try to do this by creating 25 or 30 different plans for each lesson, you will make yourself crazy. Differentiated instruction is meant to allow you to meet the needs of each student without going crazy. As the name implies, in this style of teaching, you use different approaches with smaller groups of students so that you can best address their needs. I’ll cover some of these strategies as we go through this post.

Differentiating math for K-8

Depending on where you teach, you will have different approaches to math. Regardless of the math series you are using as a basis for your teaching, some new ideas about differentiating math instruction can help you to keep things fresh and discover new ways to reach students who are struggling or just not “getting it” with a traditional approach.

Differentiation for secondary math

Older kids respond differently to instruction. Of course you know that if you teach in a high school or middle school. Getting teenage students to participate can be a major battle at times. Get some great ideas for lessons and questions that can actually get a conversation going in your math class. Although this book says secondary, it includes middle school math ideas for grades 6 through 8. I’m just mentioning this because different districts consider different grades to be secondary.

More Differentiated Instruction Strategies for Math
Differentiating math instruction and keeping their attention
Teaching math is challenging enough. When your principal tells you that you need to have your lesson differentiated too, well, that can be downright scary! Here are some excellent resources that will help you to get your math knowledge across to the students in your class. Please note that these are aimed at different grade level groupings.

Helpful Resources for Teachers

Rolling with the changes in education
I’m going to assume that if you are reading this lens, you are probably a teacher who is looking for guidance because you have gotten word that your school district will be moving to a differentiated model of teaching. This can inspire panic and frustration. Believe me, I know. You might have also been given some type of in-service on the topic, but you are still confused. Once again, I know how you feel.

My advice is to learn to roll with the changes and just relax a bit. If you teach, you already know how important it is to be flexible. Although the idea of learning a new approach to teaching can be daunting, you can definitely handle it. I hope that your administrators are offering their support, but even if they aren’t the books I’m featuring here can give you more ideas than you’d ever actually need. Just take things one step at a time.

Guided Reading Example

A helpful video lesson on differentiating with guided reading

Differentiating Reading Lesson Plans

Guided Reading Group Activities and Leveled Readers
Like it or not, there is a major emphasis today on getting standardized test scores up to snuff. The biggies are math and reading. I’m not here to debate the merits of this approach. I want to help you find what you need so that you can do what your school wants (differentiating) while you help your students to learn more and to do well on those tests everyone is worried about. Guided reading is a great way to keep an eye on the progress of individual students, identify problem areas for specific children, and to get the kids working together with the teacher in small groups.

The three books shown here are being highlighted because they have all received so many outstanding reviews from teachers. Sometimes that’s enough for me.

Differentiating Language Arts

Trying something different
Some students just don’t respond well to traditional teaching methods. Here’s a “different” approach shown in the video below. I’m not suggesting that you have to do this. The kids might LOVE to come up with an interesting way to show what they’ve learned though. Writing and language arts can be some of the most challenging material that students face. It doesn’t have to be that way. Some children also do not test well. Finding a different way to assess their learning can benefit you and them. Spur their creativity!

An Example of Differentiated Instruction Lesson Plans

Resources for Differentiating Language Arts and Writing

Teaching language arts, especially writing, can be extraordinarily frustrating. You explain things, you demonstrate, you provide examples, and still, you want to pull your hair out as you read paper after paper filled with unbelievably bad writing! If you’ve managed to get your teaching degree, chances are good that you’ve reached a point in your own education where the basics of language are second nature. It’s all too easy to lose touch with how your low performers see things. Let these guides help you to get down to the proper level so that you can lift your students up.  Differentiated instruction lesson plans should be seen as a useful tool for reaching and teaching your students, not as a burden being handed down by administrators.

Make Reducing Stress a Priority

We all have a certain level of stress in our lives.   It is totally normal.  Most of us don’t give much thought to why we have these feelings though.  If you trace the history of stress back to our ancient ancestors, you’ll find that there is a very good reason for this feeling.  It used to keep us alive.  We lived in a flight or fight world when not being a little bit on edge could cost you your life.

Nowadays, instead of stressing about lions and tigers and bears, we worry about paying bills and making it on time to appointments.  Some of us pack our schedules full of so much stuff that we never really give our bodies a good rest.  We flood our systems with cortisol  in our stressful states and sometimes end up harming ourselves without even thinking about it.  We need to reduce stress and cortisol levels  by doing some relaxing.  We can’t continue to live in a constant state of anxiety.  Take some time to relax.  It’s good for you!

How to Learn Piano

how to learn piano

You may have noticed that the title of this post is how to learn piano.  That is because there are some things you can do to get more out of each lesson.

how to learn pianoSome teachers never address this very important issue of HOW to learn.  They simply demonstrate and expect the student to copy what they have seen for countless boring hours.  That is not the best way to learn anything.  If you are considering taking piano lessons, or you are learning how to play the piano already, there are some simple steps you can take to make the process go more smoothly and speed up your progress.  None of these things is particularly difficult or challenging, but done consistently, they can help you to become the best piano player that you can be in less time.  So, without further delay, here are some tips for playing the piano that you can start using right away!

  • We all know that practice is a key ingredient to getting better.  People take different approaches to practicing though.  Many people find that setting aside one specific time during the day for practicing, and then sticking to that schedule can really help.  The key here is consistency.  You are better off practicing for a shorter amount of time every day consistently, than you would be if you skip a few days between practicing and then force yourself to practice for several hours.  The consistency helps you to learn.
  • One of the advantages of learning to play today, rather than in years past, is the fact that there are many helpful software programs and other media available to help you to improve your skills.  People learn in different ways.  Some learn best by watching (videos), some by listening (CDs) and some by doing (Practice!!!).  Although practice should be part of every aspiring pianist’s plan, some people can get a lot out of adding the other approaches as well.
  • Use what you know already (if you have been taking lessons) and try to figure a song out on your own.  It might be something fun like a song you heard on a commercial, but put what you are learning into action.  Make it fun.
  • Although it may be tempting to take on really difficult pieces to impress your friends and family, starting with something easier is often a better idea.  The brain does better when it is fed smaller portions to learn and absorb.  In education, teachers often use what is called “chunking” as a way to present new material to students.  This means exposing students to relatively small “chunks” of information and then giving them a chance to learn and apply it until they are comfortable with it.  At that point, move on to the next “chunk” you would like to learn.
  • Give yourself goals for learning new piano skills.  Be specific about what you would like to be able to do, and give yourself a date by which you will achieve the goal.  Write it down and put it somewhere that you will see it every day.  As you achieve these goals, be sure to celebrate them, even if it is just something silly like putting a silly sticker on the paper with your accomplished goal.  Then, show someone what you learned.
  • Finally, don’t be afraid to be creative.  Try composing your own piece of music.  It doesn’t have to be anything complicated if you are just starting out.  This is another example of how you can apply what you are learning.  Thinking creatively puts your brain to work in a different way than simply trying to memorize those oh-so-important basic skills.

If you found these tips interesting and helpful, well, that’s great!  BUT, the fact remains that you will need to do some work and practice a lot if you want to become the very best that you can possibly be.

Things You Forgot You Owned

Question mark

Have you ever been doing a deep cleaning around your house and come across things that you forgot that you even owned? I look at those items as a bonus. You never know what they will be, but sometimes they turn out to be pretty cool.

Question markI have gone through a fair number of moves over the years (before I got married). It seems that each time, a couple of boxes have slipped through when I unpacked, only to turn up later. Sometimes it has been years later. Personally, I seem to misplace books a lot. These are always a great find for me, because I happen to love reading. Another big one for me is clothing. Sometimes the clothes I find packed away don’t fit anymore, but we won’t talk about that right now. A couple of times, I’ve found unusual old shirts (like concert T’s) that I put on eBay just for the heck of it. It turns out that some of those sell pretty well. I actually look for those now if I go out to garage sales or yard sales. Hey, why not turn a dollar item into a twenty dollar bill if you can, right?


How Can I Improve Myself?

personal development goals

How to Reach Your Personal Development Goals

I like to watch and listen to people who have built themselves into success stories. That’s one of the reasons why I love TED videos. Here is a good one to check out some evening when you can’t sleep, or some morning when you need some extra motivation.

Personal development success is very challenging, because most of us have a lot of things standing in our way. If you properly motivate yourself for personal development, however, you should be unstoppable. Use the following advice to get yourself fired up and achieve anything in personal development.

1. Clear up physical clutter in your environment. No matter how hard you try to focus on the task at hand, if you’re surrounded by clutter, your mind will have a hard time zeroing in on what you need to get done. Clean up the space you work and live in, leaving only the bare necessities behind. Throwing out things that are just gathering dust will be a clear signal that your life is ready for positive changes.

2. Clear up mental clutter. Most people daydream, and while that can fuel the creative thinking process, it can also hold you back. Stop thinking of what could have been or how you might have handled things differently, and focus on the here and now. Eliminating mental baggage is a big step toward being able to achieve in personal development. personal development goals

3. Have a peaceful place to think and operate. One small corner of the world is not too much to ask, and it will provide you with fertile ground for thinking of ways you can overcome obstacles and make strides in personal development. If there are noisy children in your life, have a space away from them. If your home sits next to a train station, use your personal music player to tune out the world and tune into your goals.

4. Keep your energy up with a healthy diet and lifestyle. Personal development takes stamina, and you won’t have that if you don’t take good care of your body. Stop filling up on foods that slow you down, and learn to recognize the signals that indicate you need something healthier. Avoid powering yourself with caffeine or other artificial stimulants, and discover the inner motivation that will bring you closer to personal development success.

5. Don’t let yourself get burned-out. Going all out for success may work temporarily, but personal development is more of a marathon than it is a sprint. Prepare yourself for meeting long-term goals and seeing the entire plan through. If you spend too much energy in the initial stages, you may tire and lose necessary motivation. Stay well rested, and pace yourself for that finish line.

6. Have a plan and stick to it every day. Meeting small goals each and every day is a fantastic way to keep your level of motivation sky-high. Make a list consisting of a few goals in the morning, and take care of everything on it before you go to bed at night. This gives you a feeling of accomplishment and really makes you want more.

When we let life happen to us, personal aspirations and dreams take a backseat. Start taking charge and keep your motivation to succeed high and your personal development plans should take shape, providing you many rewards along the way.