Favorite Free Thing: 10 Mindful Minutes

When was the last time you took time to do absolutely nothing?

I just watched this TED talk by Andy Puddicombe and it reminded me that one of the most refreshing, healthy things I can do is to just sit and be present for 10 minutes.

Just 10 minutes a day.

It will help me to calm my mind, to relax and to destress. And it’s totally free.

But how many of us actually take the time to do this?

Watch the video–it will take less than 10 minutes–and think about it. Is this something that you can do for yourself?

I’m going to do it. 10 minutes a day. It’s a gift that I can give myself every day–for free.

ps. Thanks to my friend Alisa who treated me to a fab lunch at Revel and the conversation we had there that helped me think again about the value of being in the present.

Change your light bulbs to save money

lightbulbsA couple of years ago, Marcus and I were analyzing our utility bills, trying to think of ways to reduce them. Then we happened to go on a self-guided solar panel tour of our neighborhood and we met a homeowner/professional contractor who told us about his solar panels but also told us about the Cree LED light bulbs he was putting into his house and other buildings. He told us that the light bulbs he was putting in would last for 20 years.

20 years?!

We were shocked. “You mean you don’t have to change the bulb again for 20 years?”

“Yes,” he said.

I’m always looking for ways to do something once and end up saving money for years, so when I heard that, a light bulb (pun intended) went off in my head!

Marcus looked at me. “I won’t have to change the bulb again until I’m retired.”

That day we went right to Home Depot and shopped around for light bulbs to replace a few that had burned out in our stairwell and kitchen.

We had no idea that there were such good LED (light-emitting diodes) bulbs on the market! The new energy-efficient LED light bulbs give off light that’s much more pleasing and warm than those nasty, bluish compact fluorescent (CFL) bulbs. Yes, they cost more than a CFL or incandescent light bulb–quite a bit more–but they also last way longer and they use very little energy–up to 80% less energy than a traditional incandescent.

But, how much do they save?

According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s FAQs on lighting choices, here’s how much it costs to operate a 60 watt light bulb for 2 hours per day for a whole year.

Traditional incandescent = $4.80
Halogen incandescent = $3.50
Energy Star CFL = $1.20
Energy Star LED = $1.00

Not only does the Energy Star LED bulb cost only about one fifth the cost using an incandescent, it also lasts about 25 times longer.

Can you imagine if your lighting bill was cut down to one-fifth of its cost?

Ponder that for a moment and then read this interesting article on MSN.com about how much you can really save using energy-efficient light bulbs.

Because we’re Super Frug, we didn’t change all of our light bulbs. We’re waiting for them to burn out first. As they do, we’ll replace each of them with an Energy Star LED. Then we’ll watch our lighting bill go down every month from now until we’re retired…and beyond!

Lightbulbs photo by Petr Kratochvil.

Favorite Free Thing: Outdoor Trek

Outdoor_Trek_1_7.2013You’ve probably figured out by now that Outdoor Trek is not about hiking in the woods.

No, sir.

As you can see from the photo above of me, Marcus and Mr. Spock (portrayed with authentic stoicism by Helen Parson), Outdoor Trek is the live reenactment of classic Star Trek TV episodes in a park.

Awesome, huh?

And to top it off, it’s free. That’s right, free.

Now, truth be told, Hello Earth, the non-profit theater company that puts on Outdoor Trek, does give you the option of donating money at the end of the show. But it’s optional. If you can’t afford it, you don’t have to donate.

But after watching these fine actors put on a great show with their live band, cool costumes, and tongue-in-cheek props, you will feel inclined to reach into your wallet. Plus, you get to vote with your dollars by putting them into the water jug labeled with the Star Trek episode you most want to see them produce next!

This year’s episode was “The Devil in the Dark” (William Shatner’s favorite episode). The year before last was “This Side of Paradise.” And next year in 2014, the episode will be “Mirror, Mirror.” Yes!

Outdoor Trek usually happens in Seattle during the last week of July and/or the first week of August. For evening shows, I recommend showing up an hour early to picnic in the park–it seems to be a tradition for many audience members. For exact dates, check out Hello Earth’s site, follow them on Twitter, or like them on Facebook.

Outdoor Trek is absolutely one of my favorite free things. Hope to see you there next summer!

Some more pics for your viewing pleasure…

Captain Kirk examines eggs 8.2013Captain Kirk (portrayed with stern panache by Kris Hambrick) examines some strange-looking spheres…or could they be eggs????!!

Outdoor_Trek_2_8.2013Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and Dr. McCoy (played with the utmost aplomb by Shaina Ward Siegel) deal with the mysterious and frightening Horta.

Note the live band, The Redshirts, in the background.

Peg & The Horta 8.2013As you can see, I’m thrilled to high-five the multi-talented Stevie VanBronkhorst who played The Horta and drew the killer cover art for the program.

Me & Mr. Spock 8.2013Live long and prosper!

All photos (except for the first one) are by Marcus Donner.

My Perfect Day

sunset-parkI give advice for a living. To pre-lawyers. That’s right–people who want to be lawyers.

I’m not a lawyer. Never have been. Never will be.

But sometimes I work like one…and give myself ulcers. Well, not really, thank God. But I do work so hard sometimes that I cause myself lots of anxiety and painful IBS episodes.

You see, even though I tell my prelaw students all the time, balance yourself, I often forget (or avoid) doing that for myself.

And what’s even more ironic is that I often recommend to my clients and others an exercise called My Perfect Day, but it’s been a long time since I’ve done it myself.

My Perfect Day is an exercise that helps you pinpoint what you love, enjoy and desire.

You simply write down what your perfect day looks like from the time you wake up to the time you go to bed. It helps to be detailed. Write down what you want to eat for breakfast on your perfect day. What you would do in the morning, what you would eat for lunch, what you would do in the afternoon, etc., and on and on.

I ask that you not put in anything that needs lots of money or prestige or connections to make the perfect day happen. Include only things that you can readily get or make happen.

Why do I put that parameter in there?

Because I find that people often think “perfect” needs to be crazy, wild or fantastical. It doesn’t have to be. In fact, when most of my clients do this exercise, they include simple pleasures that cost next to nothing. Then they wonder why they don’t do these things more often.

Today, I woke up and realized that I had been working too much, too long and putting way too much pressure on myself. I realized this because I woke up this morning and my stomach and bowels were once again in pain. I needed to take my own advice and remember what’s important to me and to my well-being.

So, here goes.

My Perfect Day by Peg Cheng

8:00 AM:  Wake up without an alarm clock

8:15 AM: Eat a savory breakfast that is actually leftovers from last night’s dinner. Chicken and zucchini stir fry with carmelized onions sounds good. Read the newspaper while I have breakfast.

9:00 AM: Take a shower that’s not too long and not rushed. One that only takes ten minutes but makes me feel refreshed and renewed. Sing in the shower! Get dressed in my super comfortable yoga pants, a hoody and a t-shirt.

9:30 AM: Sit down at my desk and work on my latest creative writing project. Could be a short story or a novel or a screenplay. *

10:45 AM: Get up and take a break.

11:00 AM: Check and respond to emails.

11:40 AM: Leave for qigong class.

12:00-1:10 PM: Qigong class at Embrace the Moon.

1:30 PM: Back at home. Heat up a tasty homemade frozen meal and have that for lunch. I don’t like to cook breakfast or lunch on weekdays and so I make big dinners and freeze smaller portions to have for lunch at a later time.

2:00 PM: Read for pleasure. I love, love, love to read for pleasure. When I go a day without doing it, I feel off. Funny how many times I don’t even give myself this simple pleasure.

3:00 PM: Facebook post, tweet, read twitter feed, etc.

3:30 PM: Meet with a client over the phone/Skype and/or edit clients’ essays. Get up from desk and take a break at about 4:30pm.

5:00 PM: Check and respond to emails.

5:30 PM: Cook dinner. Let’s see…I think today I will make cod baked in foil with thyme, green onions and white wine, roasted bell peppers with garlic, and jasmine rice.

6:30 PM: Eat dinner with Marcus and talk about our day.

7:00 PM: Watch one of our favorite TV shows on Netflix. (If only every show was as good as Life on Mars, I’d be happy.)

8:00 PM: Go for a walk with Marcus around our neighborhood. Look at the flowers and trees and breathe in the slightly salty air. During the summer, watch the sun set over the Puget Sound.

9:00 PM: Rest and relax at home.

10:30 PM: Go to bed and have deep, wonderful sleep.

This is my perfect weekday. Weekends would be different. Notice how my perfect weekday only includes two hours and 40 minutes of work. I know this won’t work for every weekday, especially not during my busy season, but it’s a much healthier mix for those days when I don’t need to do client calls or essay edits around the clock. It’s a good reminder to me of what’s important to me and what “perfect day” things I can include in my daily life.

Does your daily life give you energy and pleasure? Or has it been depleting you?

What does your perfect day look like?

I hope you will try this exercise. Take just 20 or 30 minutes and write down your perfect day. I hope it will inspire and motivate you to include something from your perfect day into every day of your life.

*  Special thanks to the Kick Ass Critiquers Brenda Olson and Mary Bell for always encouraging me to keep writing. The KAC rules!

Sunset photo taken by Marcus Donner on the evening of our wedding engagement.

Super Frug Hero: Macklemore

A rapper promoting frugality?

Telling people to buy used instead of new?


Yes, this is Macklemore, aka. Ben Haggerty, a homegrown, self-made rapper from my beloved city of Seattle, who sings about shopping at the Goodwill in his chart-busting single, “Thrift Shop.” Not only that but he and his producer Ryan Lewis made it big without a record label, a contract or an agent.

As the song goes, “This is f**cking awesome.”

Macklemore, I hope you’re able to hold onto your frugal, down-to-earth ways as you ride the waves of stardom.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll see you at the next Goodwill Glitter Sale.

NOTE: If you’re offended by swearing, do not watch this video.

JAN 2014 UPDATE: Macklemore and Ryan Lewis win 4 Grammys including Best New Artist, Best Rap Album, Best Rap Song (with Michael “Wanz” Wansley) and Best Rap Performance for “Thrift Shop.” Congrats to two of Seattle’s best!