Euro jumps to 10-month high against pound on data, Mario Draghi’s comments

Euro jumps to 10-month high against pound on data, Mario Draghi’s commentsReuters
The euro spiked to a 10-month high versus the pound on Wednesday (23 August), after European Central Bank President Mario Draghi defended quantitative easing in a speech, and survey data continued to point to a eurozone recovery.

Ahead of the central bankers’ meeting at Jackson Hole, US, on Friday, Draghi told an audience in Germany that: “Actions undertaken in the last 10 years in monetary policy and in regulation and supervision have made the world more resilient. But we should continue preparing for new challenges.”

“A large body of empirical research has substantiated the success of these policies in supporting the economy and inflation, both in the euro area and in the US,” he added.

Alongside Draghi’s comments, IHS Markit’s flash eurozone Composite Purchasing Managers’ Index for manufacturing showed a rise in activity in August to 55.8 from 55.7 in July. However, the services PMI slowed to 54.9 from 55.4, in tandem with a slowdown in new orders growth.

At 11:08am BST, the pound was changing hands at €1.0863, down 0.37%, having breached the psychological €1.09 barrier to slump to its lowest level since October 2016 when a short-lived and erroneous “flash crash” clobbered the British currency.

It has meant that travellers to the eurozone have continued to lose out since the summer. For instance on 23 May, £1,000 changed hands at €1,159.43 minus commission. However, the same sterling amount changed hands at €1,134.92 on 23 June, €1,113.88 on 23 July and €1,090 on Wednesday (23 August).

Oanda’s senior market analyst and IBTimes UK columnist Craig Erlam said Draghi steered well clear of upcoming monetary policy decisions and if recent reports are to be believed, he may well do so again on Friday.

“The ECB is clearly very concerned about the recent appreciation in the euro – despite an insistence that it does not concern itself with such matters – and recent “misinterpretations” by traders to Draghi’s comments will likely mean he steers clear once again.

“The euro is trading higher this morning after some more strong survey data from the region. Manufacturing and services PMIs from the eurozone, Germany and France were all very strong and well above the level that separates growth from contraction, suggesting that the recovery is continuing to gain traction.”

When a machine is the customer – designing for machines

In Texas, a child asks an Amazon Echo to “play dollhouse with me and get me a dollhouse?” and it orders a physical dollhouse for her.

In England, the words “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?” in a Burger King advertisement trigger Google Home smart speakers to start spouting descriptions of the burgers.

And sometime soon, your car may choose the best price for maintenance or an electric charge, as well as driving itself to the appointment.

Welcome to the new world where intelligent machines, rather than people, make more and more decisions about what to buy, at what price, and complete the transactions without a middleman over a blockchain distributed ledger. This will mean massive new markets for everything from home supplies ordered via “smart speakers” such as Amazon Echo to electricity ordered by smart thermostats to replacement parts and raw materials purchased by manufacturing robots or optimisation algorithms for cyber physical systems of machines.

These developments will also create “algorithmic profits” through transaction fees charged by the software that matches buyers and sellers or aggregates the needs of machines.

For instance, in a renewable powered electricity grid “volatility of energy supply” is a key issue. The grid control system needs to match feed-in and consumption of electric power in real time. In other words the grid control system has an urgent “physiological machine need” to get access to flexibilities such as batteries to store excess energy or request delivery of energy. Algorithms aggregating flexibilities can sell their customer – the grid control system – access to and control of an aggregated and validated portfolio of flexibilities. This service to optimise a reliable use of flexibilities via algorithms might be charged and create revenue streams for the (self-owned) algorithms – or aggregation bots – including a small algorithmic profit.

Machine-Centered Design for Non-Human Customers

Today companies focus on Design Thinking or similar forms of Human-Centered Design [1]. They combine these methods with lean and agile development for fast prototyping and user testing, but with a clear focus on human customers.

They seek to understand human needs through insights, and develop ideas to meet those needs. They use fast prototyping, minimum viable products (MVP) and user testing to speed new products and services to market.

Designing for smart intelligent machines requires new approaches to everything from understanding their needs to managing the life cycles of software code rather than physical products, as well as to legal, regulatory and even ethical issues.

But failing to start the journey to “machine-centered design” means standing on the sidelines as competitors tap the needs and capabilities of an estimated tens of billions of devices on the Internet of Things by 2020.

Satisfying Alexa – Designing for Machine Needs

Machine “customers” come in an endless variety of needs, capabilities and stages of maturity. So do people. That’s why the machine equivalent of Abraham Maslow’s pyramid of human needs (see chart) can help you understand what a machine customer needs and how to sell to it.

For people, the pyramid moves up from physiological needs such as air, water and food to safety and security to social belonging, self-esteem, and then fulfillment, purpose, morality and creativity.

For machines, the needs range from the basic (electricity, computing power and network connectivity) through safety and security (such as firewalls) to “social belonging and cooperation” and self-esteem. Such needs are met by software that lets autonomous systems find and identify each other, and reputation mechanisms that track how machines rank the quality of each other’s goods and services.

Just like people, “self-actualization” will vary among machines. For a VPA it might mean detecting even the most subtle stress notes in its owner’s voice and automatically suggesting music that has calmed them in the past. For an autonomous nano-satellite it might mean choosing the best surveillance targets that mean the highest profits for its commodity-trading or agri-business (machine) customers.

One very real fear is that “self-actualizing” machines will put their needs over those of humans, enslaving or even exterminating us. Players from non-profit ethics groups to industry giants are tackling this question [2][3]. For now, be aware of the importance of the issue and address it in your product design, ethical principles built in software and your communications with your human customers.

The Machine Life Cycle

Just like physical products, machines (whether physical or virtual) go through a life cycle from design through use and recycling. When designing for them, you must take into account which stage(s) your product or service will address.

With the rapid-fire pace of technical change, don’t try for perfect answers to such questions. Just keep asking them and refine your strategy as your understanding grows.

The Machine Customer Journey

The human customer journey typically progresses from awareness of a product or service to consideration, acquisition, getting service or support for it moving (hopefully) to loyalty and recommendations to others.

Machine customers will go through a similar journey over peer to peer networks, executed by algorithms that learn and refine their selections over time, and augmented by attention and reputation systems such as on-line rankings.

For an electric vehicle, “awareness” begins when it realises it needs a recharge, a new tire or a cleaning and advertises its needs. Consideration begins with providers offer pricing, availability and delivery terms. The acquisition is executed via peer to peer smart contracts over a blockchain.

In the “awareness” stage designers can ensure their offering is listed on the appropriate on-line exchanges, described completely and in the proper machine-friendly format. In the purchase stage, they can assure transactions are accurate and complete, and in the service stage “meter” the consuming machine to offer the right maintenance or replenishment services at the right time.

Designing for Machines: What’s Different

In the human centered world requirements are often designed through market research, focus groups, customer interviews and ethnographic research. Target markets are often described as “personas” with characteristics such as gender, age, education, occupation, roles, responsibilities and even hobbies.

For machines, needs and opportunities are identified primarily by mining and analysing data on machine to machine transactions, as well as “state” information such as their location and performance. Target markets are described as different classes of machines with different ranges of abilities.
In the human-centered world the effectiveness of a design is judged by observing human subjects, with a heavy emphasis on the user interface. In the machine-centered world, effectiveness is measured by how well a service meets the technical needs of the device or software for which it is designed. Think efficiency of the code, compliance with required APIs or protocols and the speed or reliability of transactions.
In the human-centered world, rapid delivery of products and services is accomplished through agile development methods including SCRUM, rapid prototyping, MVPs (minimum viable products), and DevOps. Similar techniques are used in the machine-centered world, but rely far more on data analytics, machine learning and bot forensics.
Designing for machines requires new infrastructure, processes and capabilities. These includes expertise in machine logic, the types and volumes of data machines use, and the algorithms and deep learning mechanisms needed to generate insights. Other technical needs include understanding of the underlying APIs (application programming interfaces), authentication and blockchain technologies, as well as the business context to focus their efforts on the “sweet spots” of maximum opportunity.
On the legal and governance front, machine to machine commerce will require common standards for smart contracts that ensure both sides understand what the other is offering, the ability to make counteroffers and to signal acceptance or rejection of them. It will also require laws and regulations that allow for, standardize and govern transactions including a “taxation at the machine” regime, and provide meditation and conflict resolution comparable to those in the person to person world.

Show Me the Money

Perhaps most importantly, recognise that designing for machines is not just about tweaking existing product marketing (such as for shampoo or electricity) for non-human customers. The real revolutionary benefits will come from exploiting and creating new business models around the needs and capabilities of increasingly intelligent and autonomous machines while aligning these models with the needs of the human society.

Consider, for example, how machine to machine transactions are monetized. Blockchain reduces transaction costs to nearly zero, which is good for buyers and sellers but bad for banks, credit card processors or other middlemen. When the customer is human, the service can create value (and charge a fee for) greater convenience, flexibility, or ease in ordering or consuming a service. Even if the basic service (transportation) becomes a commodity and falls in price, a human might still pay more to go by the shortest route or, conversely, a longer route to pick up a friend or do a chore.

When machines serve other machines, the opportunity to create and charge for value arises not from optimising the transaction for a single human consumer but for an aggregation of machines across the network. When an electric vehicle sells extra electricity to the grid, it can charge a premium by, say, waiting for a peak demand period when prices are highest, or even “stabilise” the gird by selling its battery capacity to a flexibility aggregation and grid stabilisation algorithm.

Another emerging opportunity for machine to machine sales is data. Imagine a smart sensor in a roadway offering to trade data on pavement wear and tear to a paving supplier in return for a discount on repaving services, or trading traffic flow data to a retailer or home developer to help assess demand for a planned project.

That is why tools such as the pyramid of machine needs, the machine life cycle and the machine customer “journey” are so useful to envision the machine to machine economy and how to benefit from it [4]. They prod the “ground up” rethinking of products, services and markets required to lead in, and not be displaced by, the emerging machine to machine economy.

Synereo launches WildSpark to reward content creation with cryptocurrency

Blockchain builder Synereo has launched WildSpark, a shared ledger-based content curation and discovery platform. Opening in beta August 9, the WildSpark platform will allow anyone to reward content creators with cryptocurrency, fostering and incentivising online communities around quality content.

WildSpark currently runs as a Google Chrome browser extension; the introduction of a platform will further expand social reach for both content creators and curators and establish new discovery mechanisms for curated content. Incentives on WildSpark are facilitated by AMP, the cryptocurrency token issued by Synereo in 2015. Each time a video is referred to and viewed, users have the option to contribute by sending cryptocurrency directly to the video’s creator.

Dor Konforty, founder and CEO of Synereo, said: “In today’s information economy, value is created by those who construct desirable, relevant information that is meticulously organised and delivered to the right audience. Synereo’s mission is to deliver and drive the adoption of products that enable a frictionless flow of value towards those who create it.”

The new WildSpark website features a content dashboard compiled entirely of videos curated and amplified by WildSpark users, introducing a new method of discovering viral content. The platform currently supports YouTube and plans to implement Medium in the near future.

“Cryptocurrency solutions should always look to solve non-cryptocurrency problems, and this is a major step for Synereo and decentralised ecosystems as a whole,” said Anderson McCutcheon, co-founder and CMO of Synereo. “We believe human attention is a scarce commodity, and WildSpark has the ability to help pioneer the attention economy benefiting millions of

Neudata releases version 2 of its ‘Scout’ alternative data platform

London headquartered big data specialist Neudata has released the much-anticipated version 2 of its online Neudata Scout digital data intelligence platform. Neudata provides hedge funds and other institutional investment managers with metadata about the vast array of alternative datasets available for selecting and back testing the most appropriate sources for alpha generation.

It takes a lot of resources to back test some datasets and a lot of them are quite dirty and need a lot of work to be tagged and structured. There are only a few well-funded data-centric funds that have those in-house capabilities; many are now realising the importance and playing catch-up.

The flip side is that many companies, which are not established data providers, are looking to monetise their data and do not yet have a network of clients. This is where Neudata can come in to assist them.

Appraising version 2 of the platform, Rado Lipuš, founder and chief executive officer of Neudata said: “We listened carefully to feedback from our audience of quantitative investment managers and greatly enhanced the functionality and new features available on the Neudata Scout platform.

“We expanded the navigation and filtering components so that managers can more easily pinpoint relevant data sources for a specific investment universe, or search for specific stocks, products or even brands.

“Also among the new features is a robust content management capability for users to add relevant and useful notes. All of this makes it easier for investment professionals to perform critical functions such as discovering, assessing and selecting the best sources of data sets for their particular investment research needs.”

Many of Neudata’s clients log in to the Neudata Scout platform on a daily basis in order to identify the latest alternative datasets and source providers that are continuously being added, he said.

Data providers span the universe from early-stage, still below-radar data providers compiling unique data, to established data providers assembling novel datasets for a limited number of investment management clients, to larger “exhaust-data” providers who often incidentally collect and aggregate less mainstream data that can be incredibly useful to investors.

Neudata recently hired Stephen Morse, former head of global financial data partnerships at Twitter, as an advisor based in New York City, bringing Neudata’s alternative data intelligence platform to US hedge fund managers and other institutional investors.

‘Hello World’: Blockstream Satellite to broadcast Bitcoin to the entire planet

Blockchain technology company Blockstream has unveiled a satellite system that will bring Bitcoin connectivity to almost everyone on the planet.

Billions of people all over the world struggle to connect to the internet; in many cases the cost of bandwidth relative to their income makes it prohibitive to do so. In addition to poor infrastructure and poverty, there are also places with lots of political instability, censorship and state control.

Blockstream CEO Dr Adam Back said: “There are lots of places with internet problems, and sometimes whole countries get cut off due to wars or political instability and at those times the only kinds of connectivity that leak out of these countries are satellite communications and sat-phone and things like that.

“And there is also an interesting coincidence between countries with infrastructure challenges and unstable currencies – so there is also a demand for access to global internet money.”

Blockstream Satellite allows anyone to operate and maintain Bitcoin nodes across two thirds of the Earth’s landmass, with additional coverage areas soon to come online to reach almost every person on the planet by the end of the year.

Adam Back said: “A high level way to look at it is, you’ve got the global GPS system for navigation; this is a global Bitcoin system so people can use Bitcoin everywhere.”

The Blockstream Satellite network currently consists of three geosynchronous satellites that cover four continents – Africa, Europe, South America, and North America. Ground stations called teleports uplink the public Bitcoin blockchain data to the satellites in the network, which then broadcast the data across the globe.

Setup costs are low, less than $100, which can be reduced further by using a recycled satellite dish – a regular TV satellite dish will do. There is no ongoing bandwidth cost once you’ve got it up and running. Blockstream Satellite brings the costs down by using GNU Radio, an open source software development toolkit which eliminates the need for specialised hardware. Performance is enhanced with Fast Internet Bitcoin Relay Engine (FIBRE).

Chris Cook, head of satellite at Blockstream explained that rather than launching new satellites which is expensive and time consuming, the company is leasing time on existing commercial satellites.

Cook said: “We had a look at the feasibility of launching satellites but were thinking, why launch our own satellite when there are plenty of interesting communication satellites up there that have capacity.”

He pointed out that typically satellite equipment costs many thousands of dollars, but that using GNU Radio is major cost saving innovation. This involves a USB connection to the computer, and then it’s a programmable radio, like analogue to digital radio processing equipment, which can be used to process all kinds of different signals.

He added: “One of the other cost-saving advantages is that existing TV dishes can be re-used and the system of designs use very small dishes, particularly the ones that are 46 cm or 18 inches in diameter – so they are very common and very unobtrusive.”

Dr Back added: “A user or a local business can run a full node, receive all the data and then when they go to send a transaction, they can pay the bandwidth cost for that. A Bitcoin transaction is pretty small, like 250 bytes.”

He said bidirectional satellite equipment which can be purchased quite cheaply on eBay could be added. Other communication channels people could use include local Wi-Fi, mesh networks, SMS gateways, dial up, or other kinds of low bandwidth, high distance radio equipment.

For example, a small business on the side of the road with a little petrol generator and a satellite dish on the roof, using a Rasberry Pi to receive the blockchain data and with a Wi-Fi hotspot, can manage to transact globally on the Bitcoin network.

As well as bringing more nodes and more decentralisation to the global Bitcoin network, Blockstream Satellite provides extra redundancy and an additional layer of reliability for blockchain data in the event of a network partition.

Back said from the perspective of miners and Bitcoin businesses generally, “if you’re doing high value Bitcoin things or doing mining, you really want to make sure that you’re on the Bitcoin network proper. Occasionally there will be internet disruptions where a transatlantic cable is cut or something like that and for a period of even hours you can have network splits. The satellite is a truly redundant link that protects against those kinds of issues for users and businesses.”

Using a sail-over connection is also interesting in regard to places where Bitcoin’s legal status is unclear, or a government wants to impose capital controls, filter the internet and so on. Back pointed out that the system leaves practically no footprint.

“If a government were looking at the internet connection or if it were going through a government-operated firewall or something, there would be no evidence of participating Bitcoin just coming down from the satellite. And the actual transactions will be very small so they leave a much smaller footprint and be much easier to lose in noise. So it’s certainly much more possible to use Bitcoin privately, anonymously, and robustly.”

The business of downloading full Bitcoin node software has also been made less onerous in recent times. One of the recent releases introduced pruned modes and there’s a no-relay option as well. “If you turn on all the bandwidth saving options and the disk storage options, your footprint is much smaller because it doesn’t have to store the historic data, only the current data which will fit in a gigabyte of local storage. So you basically need something like an SD card or something like that, even on a Rasberry Pi,” said Back.

Looking ahead, Blockstream intends to add more features and programmability, so that smart phone wallet authors and Bitcoin application developers can also broadcast data by the satellite. Back added: “If it was a particular application that needs to send a message to a recipient that can be broadcast by the satellite too for a small Bitcoin fee.”

R3 and Synechron collaborate on phase 2 of corporate KYC

Financial services consulting firm Synechron is collaborating with R3, the distributed ledger technology consortium, on next phase of its corporate KYC system.

The project, known as LEIA 2, includes 12 banks and follows on from the KYC work already carried out by R3 with its members.

Doing corporate KYC checks is a notoriously expensive and repetitive business. The actual costs can be quite hard to quantify due to a lack of standardisation across different banks, jurisdictions and client risk types.

Tim Coats, a managing consultant at Synechron said: “The problem size defined by one of our consortium banks was calculated at $18bn globally, with a per individual corporate entity cost of $10-30k for higher risk types.

“The most significant problem resides within large multinational corporations with multiple legal entities, each having multiple banking partners. This leads to massive duplication of KYC effort across banks, and also for the corporates themselves. The goal is to solve this with technology, rather than create sharing business models that have been known to fail compliance requirements.”

Corda, very sensibly, only shares data with those who need to see it, rather than broadcasting encrypted data to a range of participants on a blockchain, adding layers of privacy to the process.

Coats added: “Corda’s point-to-point transactions between nodes, combined with transaction tear-offs to hide data from oracles and other related entities, solves privacy in the cleanest way possible. I expect this will help overcome data protection and security regulatory hurdles in the nearer term.”

A press statement from Synechron said that as well as fitting within the existing framework of in-house and external data providers, it was looking at ways to build towards a more disruptive vision for bank processes and the customer experience.

Coats said the concept of self-sovereignty in the financial system pioneered by Bitcoin via public keys can be applied to KYC and identity. This presents an opportunity to address longstanding challenges around an individual’s right to access, control and distribute the data held about them by entities they interact and transact with.

“Blockchain’s application to KYC returns the power to individuals by allowing them to use their own private keys to distribute a live set of data held about them,” he said.

“That might be with their bank, university, retailers, etc. New regulations like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) make this a requirement, not a wish list.”

In the face of incipient disruption, banks should be closely engaging to quickly adapt their business models accordingly, he added.

The latest phase of the R3 KYC project kicked off in July with a three-month sprint to identify objectives and business requirements, define a roadmap, and develop a functional prototype on top of the Corda platform. At the end of the project, Synechron will demo the solution in its Financial Innovation Labs.

How to Stay Motivated

A question I often get from readers is “How do I stay motivated once I start this Wellness Lifestyle?” I used to say that if only I could figure out how to answer this question, I could solve all the dietary problems of the world.

Well, I’ve figured out how to answer the question, and it doesn’t solve all the worlds dietary problems, but it can be helpful.

Of course, staying motivated on the wrong type of diet or exercise plan can do more harm than good for your progress, so make sure you’ve got that part right first!

Progress itself, whether in weight loss or fitness or overall health, can be very motivating, so simply getting started can sometimes start the snowball effect and encourage motivation.

If you have recently made some lifestyle changes to improve your health and want to stay motivated, these seven steps can help you stay motivated:

1. Know Your Motivation and Have a Clear Vision of Your Goal

This seems very common sense but rarely is. Know the exact reason you are making changes to your life and have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish in the end.

Note, I didn’t say, “how you want to look in the end” because aesthetic goals alone rarely are enough to keep someone motivated. Eventually, the cheesecake, or pasta, or soda or whatever your weakness is will look really good and you’ll decide that you hate dieting more than you hate being fat and give in.

Figure out a health related goal, which may include aesthetic aspects, and write it down. Focus on long term health benefits and make a clear plan of how you will get there.

2. Make It Specific

Goals must be measurable and specific to be accomplished. Once you figure out the clear goal, you need a specific and measurable plan to get there. If you want to improve your diet for health reasons… start meal planning.

If you are trying to improve health and weight… measure yourself and take before pictures.

If you need to improve insulin sensitivity… monitor glucose.

The more specific and measurable your goal, the easier it will be to track your progress and stick to it. If you need to lower carbs or eat more vegggies, consider using a site like fitday.com to track your food intake and measure results.

No matter what your goal, consider meal planning. This will save time, money and mental energy in the long run and help stick to the goal.

3. Have Checkpoints

This is an idea that Martin at LeanGains suggest and I think it is a great one (he also recommends intermittent fasting, which is another great idea!).

The basic idea is that instead of having weekly weigh ins or daily monitoring of variables, which is likely to make you get hung up on details, you have “checkpoints” every 8 weeks or so with the goal of improving on the previous “checkpoint”.

This encourages a sense of internal competitiveness and keeps you from getting focused on details. It is also gives you a long enough time to see measurable results.

For instance, if you are trying to lose weight and improve physique or strength, your checkpoint could be weighing yourself and testing your ability in a few basic exercises (pushups, sprints, etc.).

If working on improving insulin sensitivity, it could be your fasting blood glucose levels.

If working on allergies or eczema, it could be your frequency of symptoms for each one.

The other advantage to checkpoints- it acknowledges that lasting health changes take time (like multiple increments of 8 weeks) and keeps you from becoming discouraged when you aren’t running triathlons or fitting into size 4 jeans after your first week of training.

4. Get Educated

To keep your motivation on a goal, it is often helpful to remember why you formed the goal in the first place. Continue your education on health, nutrition, and fitness and you will also help keep your motivation.

Some great resources I’d suggest for this are:

Books

Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It
Good Calories, Bad Calories
The Primal Blueprint
Protein Power
Blogs

Mark’s Daily Apple
Everyday Paleo
Dr. Michael Eades’ Blog
Fat Head Blog
Gnolls.org
Living la Vida Low Carb
Movies & Documentaries:

Fat Head
Food, Inc
King Corn
Farmageddon
5. Buddy Up

If possible, have your spouse or a friend make these changes with you. Not only will you have the benefit of some company along the way, but this has been shown to improve long-term compliance to a plan.

Make sure you and your partner are on the same page on what the goal is and how to get there so you don’t derail each other by debating the small details along the way!

6. Give Yourself Short Term Goals

This goes hand in hand with the idea of checkpoints. If you can’t jump in to a new diet, fitness plan, and natural living lifestyle all at once, figure out some smaller goals and put them on paper. Once you reach one goal, start on another.

To help, consider giving yourself non-food related rewards when you accomplish a goal. Looking forward to a new pair of pants in a smaller size, an evening out with your spouse or a relaxing day of some kind might help you focus on the long term benefits of your goal rather than the short term struggle.

7. Make a Habit

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit, and I’d say it takes less than that if you have a system and a routine in place. As with most aspects of life, healthy living is much easier if it is part of a normal and regular routine. Sometimes all it takes is a health challenge to get you started.

This will also help remove the mindset of “dieting” which implies an end point once a goal is reached” and encourage a mindset of a permanent and healthy lifestyle change. Sugar will not be healthy now or when you weigh your goal weight… neither will grains, or vegetable oils, or commercial deodorant… you get the idea.

My Daily Health Routine

I’ve gotten quite a few emails lately asking at what specific times I take supplements each day or do oil pulling, etc. While I have no illusions that a post about my basic daily routine would be interesting (hello diaper changes and reading books to kids all. day. long), the easiest way to answer these emails was a post about my daily health routine. Hopefully you won’t be permanently harmed by the boredom

I’ve written about my typical day before, but today I’ll be focusing less on the child-wrangling, poop-wiping details and more on just the health related aspects.

My Daily Health Routine

Early Morning: (6-8ish depending on kids): Wake up and drink a glass of warm water with lemon or salt. Take a swig of sesame oil or coconut oil for oil pulling. Dry brush skin and hop in to shower.

In shower: Still swishing for oil pulling. Oil cleansing on face, use homemade soap or homemade body wash on skin. Use homemade shampoo or clay shampoo on hair.

Get out of shower, spit out oil, rinse with salt water and brush teeth (with this toothpaste). If I have time, I also brush with charcoal, and spray my skin with sea spray and my hair with beach spray. IF needed, I also use a lotion bar on my skin.

If I don’t have time for a shower, I use homemade dry shampoo and DIY beach waves spray and throw on some homemade deodorant. Since everything is homemade, my bathroom counter is filled with glass jars filled with homemade products.. not fancy, but it works:

Succumb to kids’ demands for food and cook a protein rich breakfast (usually one of these recipes).

Make coffee or tea the only way I’ll drink it. While eating breakfast, figure out dinner if not already meal planned and defrost any necessary ingredients (usually from these recipes).

Take first round of vitamins, usually including these and give the kids their homemade vitamins and fermented cod liver oil. I take most supplements, including Vitamin C and FCLO in the morning and magnesium and gelatin at night.

Morning time includes exercise with the kids, school time, time outside for the Vitamin D/barefoot time, etc. Also includes morning chores for all of us. Often we drink kombucha or water kefir while doing school or playing outside.

Lunch time is usually some form of salad or leftovers from the night before.

Afternoon is work time (at my stand up desk, usually with baby napping in a sling), getting the house clean(ish), folding laundry, and playing with kids. I also usually make any needed household supplies during this time or do regular kitchen jobs like brewing kombucha or water kefir, making cleaning supplies, etc.

Here are a few of my reference recipes.

Natural Homemade Laundry Detergent
Natural All-Purpose Cleaner Recipe
Natural Homemade Glass Cleaner Recipe
Easy Homemade Scouring Powder Recipe
Natural Bathroom Cleaning
Natural Kitchen Cleaning

And here’s my checklist that I use to make sure everything gets done: Natural Cleaning and Organizing Checklist

Evening is dinner time/play time with the kids and prayer time as a family. We take magnesium and herbal tea with gelatin in the evening before bed (tip: mix the gelatin in to a small amount of cool water and then  add hot brewed tea and stir to incorporate the gelatin without any clumps).

I also rub magnesium oil on kids (and my own) feet before bed to help improve sleep and use these tips to help improve sleep quality. I also take a probiotic before bed most nights.

Occasionally at night I will take a natural detox bath for relaxation.

Of course, this day just includes the health aspects and doesn’t include the running kids to activities, extra chores that need to be done, appointments, etc, but it gives the very basics I try to stick to daily.

As I’ve said before, the book A Mother’s Rule of Life has been extremely helpful to me in finding balance and sticking to a routine in all aspects of my life. The author is Catholic and it is written from this perspective, but I really think the book could be beneficial to all mothers for the organization/routine suggestions.

The Benefits of Meal Planning

Meal planning is a vital part of eating a healthy diet and there are many benefits of meal planning. If you are new to the Wellness Lifestyle, I’d highly encourage you to take half an hour a week to meal plan healthy meals for your family that week. There are many benefits of meal planning, including:

1. Save Money

There are many times that money has been tight for us and I’ve had to stretch our food budget. One year, my husband lost/had to quit his job a month before the birth of our third child. That birth ended up being an (expensive) emergency c-section to save my life and my son’s life. Our son also had a stay in the NICU, which we found out costs more per day that we’d ever paid for a vacation. Needless to say, money was tight for a while as we worked to find a job and pay off bills. At the same time, I was recovering from surgery and blood loss and eventually, he was eating solid foods but we both needed to focus on really nourishing foods. Even during this time, our family ate a real food diet that we managed to afford by very careful budgeting and meal planning.

2. Eat Healthy

Consuming a nutrient dense real-food diet is vital for so many aspects of health, but it also takes some advance planning. Meal Planning lets you decide before you ever go to the grocery store what healthy meals your family is going to eat during a given week so that you can only purchase healthy foods and know that you will use them. If you’re switching to a healthier diet, meal planning is especially important to help you stick to it while you learn the ropes.

3. Don’t Waste Food

One of my biggest pet peeves is finding a container of food in the back of the fridge and realizing that the contents resemble a science experiment more than they do food. We focus on a healthy real-food lifestyle and part of that is being a good steward of the resources we have. With meal planning, I know how we are going to use all of the food for that week before I even go to the store to buy it. I have a weekly game plan that even takes leftovers in to account so that food is rarely wasted.

4. Less Stress

Stress is bad. I realized that a major source of stress for me was realizing at 4pm that the kids would be hungry soon and that nothing was planned or defrosted for dinner. Just the general “what am I going to cook tonight” that was always in the back of my mind was taking up mental energy that I needed to use in better ways (like parenting five children). Just as with anything, having a written plan takes the uncertainty and stress out of the situation and I was surprised how much it reduced my stress just to have a plan and know what and when I would be cooking. As I’ve written about before, I have a template to make this process even easier:

Rather than starting from scratch each week, I have a template of the general types of foods I cook each day of the week and the number of times I use each main food. In other words each week I cook: -1-2 stir frys -1 salad -1 slow cooker or soup meal -1 fish/seafood meal -1-2 meals from a different cuisine from around the world -1-2 prepare ahead oven meals

5. Save Time

Another great benefit of meal planning is the time it saves. Planning ahead allows me to cook things in bulk and freeze for a future meal or make extra of a protein to use in a quick meal later in the week. In the winter, I cook a lot of slow-cooker meals and pre-make many of these to keep in the freezer so that I can just stick one in the crock-pot and go in the morning on busy days.

6. Add Variety

It may seem that meal planning is rigid and boring, but statistically, families are more likely to eat the same meals over and over if they don’t meal plan. Meal planning allows you to ensure variety and avoid falling in to the trap of eating the same five meals over and over. As I talked about before, it is also easy use spices to mix up a recipe and make it unique:

“A basic easy recipe (like Chicken Squash Stir Fry or Pakistani Kima) can taste completely different just by changing the spices. Add some cumin and chili powder and you have a Mexican flavor, or some Curry for an Indian type flavor. Basil, Thyme, Oregano and Garlic give an Italian Flavor while Chinese 5 Spice gives an Asian Flair. I buy all my herbs from Mountain Rose Herbs in bulk since it saves money and I’ve found that they have extremely high quality herbs and spices.” You can also check out these ten money saving tips to eat healthy on a budget.

Meal Planning Done for You?

While meal planning doesn’t have to be hard, it can be time consuming. With hundreds of fast, easy (and very unhealthy!) options available at each meal, it takes a valiant effort and a lot of planning to provide your family with nutritious meals.

That’s why I’ve decided to make my own personal meal planning system available to everyone. It’s called Wellness Mama Meals and it’s the tool I wish I’d had years ago when I first started my family.

Meal planning saves you hours of time and gives you a simple way to generate healthy, delicious meal plans and shopping lists in just minutes. At the heart of this easy-to-use system is an exclusive, new and improved Meal Plan Generator.

Whether you have specific dietary restrictions or picky eaters, the Wellness Mama Meal Plan Generator lets you easily choose the recipes your family enjoys and will eat. Plus it allows you to easily customize the recipes and shopping lists to your family size and preferences to make meal planning effortless. You can plan your meals in minutes and print your list with one-click!

The Dark Side of Blogging

This week something happened that doesn’t happen often. I got mad. Not to say I don’t have bad days, but I rarely get in a pissed-off, mad-at-the-world mood. But this week I did.

Don’t get me wrong- I have days where I wish I kept my cool with my kids, or wish I stayed calm or got more done, but I don’t get truly angry very often.

I also typically try to keep my emotions in check, but today they were most definitely not and my poor husband had to bear the blunt end of my rant/venting session.

What made me mad?

The Dark Side of Blogging

Not my blog specifically (I love you guys, my readers, and I love to write) but the idea of blogging, the profession of blogging and all the things that happen behind the scenes that readers never see or hear about. The things that bloggers get sucked into and are forced to deal & compete with.

To preface, I should explain that the part that made me most angry is the perceived “selling out” of bloggers in various ways. This made me upset because I pride myself in writing ALL my own content, doing all my own research, making sure each article is super high quality and everything I ever link to, suggest or promote are products I personally use and love.

It makes me mad when I see other bloggers not extending their readers the same courtesy.

Here’s the thing…

From the outside, health bloggers often appear to be perfect human beings who cook gourmet meals three times a day, have impeccable style, washboard abs, and an incredible personality. We aren’t (at least not all of those things all the time).

Think about the pictures posted on facebook or instragram. You put your best foot forward. So do bloggers, but many of us are even more “filtered” since we are potentially exposed to and judged by thousands of people each day.

I sincerely hope that no mom ever comes to my blog and feels like she isn’t good enough because it seems like I “do it all” or “am a great mom all the time.” I assure you I’m not. I have laundry baskets full of clothes in my bedroom right now and yesterday’s clothes are still on the floor. We’ve eaten organic hotdogs three times this week because the Wellness Mama Cookbook (and dealing with Amazon) has taken over my life.

I don’t always cook three meals a day. Occasionally, I order Pete’s Paleo or from a local Japanese restaurant out of sheer convenience.

I don’t always make my own detergent and cleaning supplies. Sometimes it’s just easier (and saves time) to buy (natural) laundry detergent at the store.

Sometimes I cry because of comments I receive on my blog or facebook (sometimes happy tears, but usually tears of sadness, hurt, or pain). I’m very much not a perfect mom. Nor a perfect human.

I blog to share things that have made my life easier or better and to hopefully help other moms, but I hope that everything I write encourages and uplifts and never makes another woman feel like she isn’t doing enough or isn’t good enough.

If you’ve ever felt that way- trust me…. you are good enough. You are doing enough. You are a great mom, and one lesson I’ve learned the hard way lately is that your children, your family, need you. Imperfect, wonderful, you.

Back to Blogging Though…

Certain things I’ve seen in the blogging world lately have really upset me because I felt like they crossed that line with their readers. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with bloggers making money. But I do have a problem with:

I have a problem with bloggers making money in a non-genuine way at the expense of their readers.
I have a problem with incestuous back-room affiliate deals. I have a problem with “I’ll promote your product if you promote mine.”
I have a problem when people duplicate my blog exactly for themselves, the design, every post and picture on the site, strip out my affiliate links and add their own, then claim everything as theirs.
I have a problem when other sites pull every post and picture of mine to use for themselves… to get more traffic so they can charge more for ads.
I have a problem with people copying content (both my content and that of others), stealing ideas and writing in an unauthentic voice solely for the goal of pushing more content out to the search engines. This annoys me because it isn’t about Google. It is about you. The readers. I don’t write for Google, I write for you!
I have a problem with the 100+ emails I get a day from people asking me to promote their stuff to my “list” (the people who subscribe to my email newsletter)
I don’t have a “list.” I have readers. I have friends. I have you. And you are the most important part of blogging to me.

And you know what? I’m not the only one who feels this way about the dark side of blogging.

I’m extremely aware, appreciative and grateful every single day for the amazing community that has grown through Wellness Mama. It is so much bigger than me. It is a group. A sisterhood. A family of moms who quite literally have the power to change the world. I don’t take that lightly. It annoys me when I see bloggers in the industry who do.

For me, blogging is really about creating a change for our kids. It isn’t about the money (though if that happens, it is great since we have six kids to feed, clothe and put through college one day) but that isn’t the goal. It is about making a healthier future for my children so they have decades and decades of health after college and so I get to live long enough to meet and enjoy my grandchildren.

I like to think/hope that I don’t have the amazing community that has developed here because I’ve written good articles about certain topics, but because I care about you. Because I want an actual (online) relationship with you. Because I care about the future for your kids as much as for my own.

I don’t want to be a “celebrity” from blogging (as some bloggers seem to want). In fact, this would utterly terrify me and get me so far out of my comfort zone I wouldn’t know who I was anymore. My goal isn’t to make millions, it is to HELP millions.

Someone else could copy my writing, copy my posts, copy all my ideas, but it wouldn’t be the same because the passion isn’t there. Because the world doesn’t need another blog post about how to make lip balm or magnesium body butter (which I did invent, btw), but the world needs more passion. It needs more people who care. If that is you- I am forever grateful for you… really! If you are passionate about your own goals, your own life, your own family and their health… you are changing the world more than the bloggers you see making tons of money and looking perfect on Instagram.

Because here is the deal… at the end of the day, it isn’t about me (and I’m super glad it isn’t!). I don’t use my last name. Not because I’m ashamed of it or have something to hide, but because it isn’t important (and because I value privacy for those six small children I mentioned). And because the movement, the “wellness mama idea”, is so much bigger than me.

I’m here because I want to make a change, not become famous.

My Blogging Struggle

It takes an incredible amount of time to make Wellness Mama what it is. Researching for posts. Taking photographs. Writing. Editing. Moderating comments. Social media promotion & communication. Etc.

It costs a lot of money to keep it running. Design & development costs. Hosting. Upgraded servers when traffic grows. Premium plugins. Email service. Etc. Etc. Etc.

The list goes on.

I’ve struggled with the fact that I could implement ads with the click of a button and make much more money that would help support my family and help fund a charity I’ve wanted to start for a long time (to provide sustainable food and clean water worldwide and to help distribute leftover food from farmers markets to soup kitchens, schools and food banks), but I’ve never made the jump because I personally hate ads and feel this would be “selling out.”

I want to make sure I’m always focused on you, but sometimes I don’t know the best way to do this. I make sure I don’t use spammy tactics to try to sell you things you don’t need. I don’t white label products that I didn’t create to make money. I moderate every comment so that the community is an uplifting and healthy environment for you to learn. I prominently display my affiliate policy so that readers are aware of my quality standards, practices, and promotion requirements.

I’ve struggled with the fact that I’m very much imperfect. WellnessMama.com has grown beyond my greatest goals and expectations. The blog gets a lot of traffic and in turn makes money through some of the products and resources I recommend.

I still feel like a failure because I’m not the perfect mom or the perfect wife. I think we all do. I’ve said it before, but I don’t think any mom goes to bed feeling like she has the whole wife/mother thing under control. I know I don’t. In fact, every day, I stress because of this incredible community that I love so much. Because I don’t always look, act and behave the way a “perfect” mom should. I think we all do.

So- long story short. Thank YOU so much for reading. For putting up with my rant. For caring about your family and the future of our children and our world.

At the end of the day, I don’t give a damn about just having your email address on my list. I want you to actually adopt the healthy changes I write and email about. To put in the time. To make a lasting change for your family. To say that your family’s life has improved because of changes youmade. That is what matters to me.

2014 has been a tough year in many ways. The blog has grown. A lot. But I’ve made mistakes. I promoted a course (against my intuition) for someone that wasn’t a good fit… because I was too competitive. I started promoting an essential oils company (against my better judgement) because I thought there was an opportunity to help some friends make money. I self published the original Wellness Mama Cookbook, even though I had numerous offers from traditional publishers for upfront advances. And it’s wreaked havoc on my thyroid condition.

At the same time, 2014 has been an incredibly wonderful and rewarding year and I am grateful for everything this year has brought. I’ve made awesome friends who started as online friends and are now real life friends, like Heather, Genevieve, Emily, and Kelly (go check them out- they are amazing!). People like Sean, Steve & Jordan, Mary, and Christa. I finally found an amazing doctor who has helped me find answers for my thyroid struggles. And I finally finished writing my book!

My Pledge to You and a Question

So here is my pledge to you: I’m going to stop trying to be the “perfect” mom on the blog and social media. I’m going to stop stressing about answering every comment and start deleting those that don’t meet my requirements. I’m going to spend more time with family, even if that means I don’t post quite as often. I’m going to only create the most valuable, most helpful things I can and share those. I’m going to stop deleting posts because I feel like they aren’t good enough or might be met with resistance. I’m going to stop censoring my writing to meet the “squeaky clean Wellness Mama image” and let the real me shine through.

Because at the end of the day, I rarely feel like I’m good enough.

I feel inferior because I don’t look like Jennifer Aniston with the patience of June Cleaver and the culinary skills of Julia Childs. I feel imperfect because I don’t have 28 hours a day to get everything done that I want to accomplish.

In the coming weeks:

I’m going to be moving away from most “JV promotions” because they just don’t seem genuine to me.
I’m going to start creating more ebooks, courses, and products. Things that I enjoy doing and things that I wish I’d had when I started out…
I’m going to focus on creating more helpful and useful content for you.
I’m going to focus on enjoying my family and having balance and enjoying things more and stressing less.
This crazy world of blogging has led me to wrestle with several internal struggles lately, and rather than try to face them on my own, I figured I’d ask for your advice (it has never failed me before, so no pressure!).