Thursday, October 09, 2014

If your shower is longer than two songs...

I've recently come up with a small productivity trick. I guess it can even be called a lifehack. I keep my showers short and sweet in the morning listening to music. Yes, listening to music.

I enjoy music. It really brightens my mood or helps pull me out of a funk. My family can tell when I've had a rough day if they come home and some dark industrial is playing. When I stay up way too late coding, dirty dubstep helps keep me going for the long run. I have a playlist (listen to it on Spotify its loud and probably NSFW) that fires me up on the way to CrossFit. A day doesn't go by without music. With smart phones and streaming audio services it makes it that much easier to get your music where ever you are.

I go to CrossFit first thing in the morning and return home to shower, get breakfast and get ready for my day. It's so easy to step into a hot shower and let the water massage my sore muscles and warm me back up again, as we start to get into cooler weather. I could just stand there (okay, sometimes lean against the wall) and let the hot water course down my back. I could do it until the hot water runs out.

I've started playing music (you might recall this post) while I'm in the shower and found that a shower takes less than 2 songs. So, I use that as my benchmark for shower length. Instead of falling into a blissful state of relaxation in the hot water, it reminds to keep moving.

I've been unable to get any of my kids to take on this practice and I've got kids who can just stand in the shower well after the hot water has run out (or at least that's how long they seem to me). But I think it would be a great tip to keep them on task.

Now, before any of you go out and have your kids start this, I've also figured out how to game my own system. Most of the time, I listen to punk songs, which are on the order of 90 seconds to 2 minutes long. But if I want to take a longer, relaxing shower, most dubstep songs are 4 to 5 minutes long.  So, if they start listening to Iron Butterfly's In A Gadda Da Vida (bewtween 8 and 30 minutes, depending upon the version) or Weezer's Only in Dreams (7:59) as their two songs, you'll know they're playing you.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Paleo Chicken and Waffles

Last weekend was the 2014 International Food Bloggers Conference, where brands and bloggers got together in Seattle to network, learn and enjoy good food.  With breakouts on Food, Writing and Technology, there was something for every food blogger. I had an enjoyable time and actually got to meet some bloggers in real life. Ironically, some of those I met live in my same neighborhood.

What was great about this year's conference was that there were many brands represented in the healthy space, and for me, that means acceptably paleo.  Dinner last night was brought to us by the swag from these brands.

  • The local sausage company, Isernio's, which makes clean chicken and pork (didn't know this before the conference) sausage.
  • Nutiva, which makes coconut products, like coconut oil and flour
  • NestFresh, a cage free, organic egg producer
Almost mis en place!


I had a hole in my tummy that was looking to be filled with waffles, so that's what I decided to make.  After going through my paleo waffle recipes (thank you PaleOMG), I found that they all required coconut milk, of which we had none.

It was almost 8pm and we were getting hungry. I knew that its only an 8 minute trip, one way, to the grocery store. So, yes, I did make a grocery store run for coconut milk and a few add-ons as I dashed out the door.
Paleo chicken and waffles.

 I made PaleOMG's Savory Waffles and topped them with browned Isernio's Chicken Breakfast sausage and some of Heather's spicy (homegrown) ketchup. While the savory herbs in the waffles complimented the sausage, the waffles were dry. Her recipe actually tops them with a gravy and they needed the moisture from a gravy, for sure.

What was neat about IFBC was that these were all products I already enjoyed in my clean eating and I got to meet brand representatives and see some new products (more on that later).

Disclaimer: The chicken and eggs used in this post were some swag from the conference.  I ate this stuff already, so I already thought it was great before I got some free coupons! While I wasn't compensated for this post, I did receive a blogger's discount for attending the conference and this post is meeting a part of what I had to do in return for the discount.

Monday, September 08, 2014

How to Poach Eggs [Video]

I've always enjoyed Poached Eggs. They've always had a special cachet to them - most restaurants don't have them on the menu, unless you get Eggs Benedict, another favorite of mine. And it takes a certain caliber of restaurant to have Eggs Benedict. I used to only make poached eggs when I was making a special brunch, New Years, Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day or having friends over for brunch. I have several gadgets and even a special pan with inserts to make poached eggs, which I would leverage quite frequently.
My go to breakfast: poached eggs, mashed sweet potato and bacon. Photo by Heather.

But after some research, I learned how easy it is to make Poached Eggs in just a pot of water. And now, sadly, Poached Eggs have lost a bit of their cachet, because I eat them just about everyday (which makes me happy - a net increase in happiness).  Heather had posted several photos of the breakfasts I make for her with poached eggs, and one of her friends asked how to make poached eggs.  I decided to make a video of the method.

Without further ado, here is my first ever cooking video! Enjoy.


If you give it a try, let me know how it works out for you in the comments, either here or on YouTube. As a teaser for a future post, you can also make poached eggs in the microwave! Think how awesome your breakfast in the office could be!

The rest of this post is about making the video, so if you just wanted to learn about poaching eggs, that's all I've got for you today. If you want to see what I learned about making a YouTube video, read on.

It's not the greatest video around, but it was my first go. In making this video, I learned how easy it is to make videos for YouTube. The YouTube editor is pretty nice for working with multiple clips and provides some reasonable editing capabilities. I shot all this video with my phone, and in fact, the last half was inverted because I held my phone with my left hand, upside down so I could reach the buttons. Little did I know that the display would be right side up, but the video wouldn't be. However, YouTube came to my rescue and I was able to invert part of the clip!

Almost a year ago, I attended the International Food Blogger's Conference and a blogging chef recommended I try out food videos. IFBC 2014 is less than two weeks away, and I've finally done it. Here are a few things I learned while making this video - its probably the quality of what would be turned in for a high school project, but the lessons are still a good foundation.

  1. Shoot in multiple clips. The editor can help you put them in sequence, even if you need to re-shoot a portion, and trim the starting and ending points. You'll notice that the video hadn't started when I was talking about bringing the water to a full boil.
  2. I recorded my audio at the same time as my video. I didn't script it or prepare too much for it. You'll notice I was repetitive at times and stumbled over the words and simultaneous actions. With the editor I can turn off the volume on the video clip and lay an audio track down. That audio track could even be a new video, but it will only play the audio portion. This way you can go sequence everything and even talk through the transitions. I'd plan on redoing this video with a better audio track, with some introduction speech and some voice over the "what you need" picture.
  3. Its easier if you have a helper to actually hold the camera. When it comes to food preparation, there is only so much you can do with one hand. Talk through the shot with them before hand. I didn't tell my son that I'd want to show the eggs right after plopping them in the water, hence the finger pointing.
I thought that this was a fun medium to work with and I plan on making more of these in the future. if there are any things you'd like me show you how to make, just leave a comment!



Tuesday, August 26, 2014

This weekend's fresh eats

This weekend I enjoyed some good food at the hands of my family. As we reduce the amount of junky food in our house, the kids have started to make the things we no longer buy or make for them. They make pancakes and muffins and cookies and sometimes, they even clean up after themselves.

Recently, my daughter has gotten into an ice cream making kick. Her go to flavor has been vanilla ice cream. She has also started exploring coffee and is trying to figure out what she likes, which borders on the super-sweet caramel lattes. Her tastes are still developing. I had a few servings of cold brew coffee in the fridge, which I surrendered to her and she made coffee ice cream!


 It was good ice cream too, coming from a former ice cream man and coffee lover.  I did make sure that I got a few scoops because usually the ice cream she makes is consumed shortly after it is made. Though the kids all make good food, they don't defer any enjoyment.

Heather's green thumb has provided some good things, too.  The tomatoes are finally ripening and I made a delicious tomato salad, with the bright flavors of the cherry tomatoes and the basil that she grew on our counters. With some coarse sea salt and a splash or two of olive oil, it makes for a quick, fresh salad. I used Oregon Olive Mill's Arbequina for its peppery taste.



What did you eat this weekend, that you still relish two days into the week?

Thanks again to Oregon Olive Mill for the olive oil samples and to Heather and Chase for making good food and ingredients available to me!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Acaia Pearl - Art and Science of Making Coffee

To the true aficionado, making coffee is both an art and a science.  Different beans have different taste profiles, based upon their origin, elevation, drying and processing methods and how they were roasted. Different brew methods will bring out different characteristics of the same beans based upon the extraction time, the flow rate and water temperature. Those are the artful components of enjoying coffee. The science is in making it repeatable, once you've found the bean, roast and method that you love (or find appropriate for the moment you are in).

The Acaia Pearl Coffee Scale helps make it repeatable. The scale is Bluetooth enabled giving you full control and all the display on a smart phone application, for both Android and iPhone. The high precision scale is combined with a stopwatch time to ensure you get just the right extraction time, measuring your water and beans to .1 grams.  Combined, it also reports the flow rate, so you can have a consistent extraction during a pour over.  It is also beautifully minimalist, fitting in at any cafe or your own home coffee making station.  Your smartphone does need to support Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) which is available on iPhone 4 and 5 and recent Android devices running Kit Kat.
Minimalist device, minimalist packaging

The team behind the Acaia Pearl are all coffee lovers and sought to connect design and and technology in their coffee.  In fact, I would love to be on their team, because their Instagram feed shows them always trying out new coffees.  The project was successfully funded on Kickstarter and earlier this year, they started shipping product.
Getting my pour over technique right.

I first saw the scale when I was at the Specialty Coffee Association of America (SCAA) symposium. As you entered the conference, there was a display case of new and innovative products and I knew I had to find out more about this scale. Their booth was unfortunately in a hard to find back corner, but I persevered until I found them.

The SCAA event is neat in that all facets of specialty coffee are represented. Growers have booths along side industrial roaster manufacturers. Innovative packaging solutions are next to artisan cafes. SCAA brings together the art and science of specialty coffee. New products like the Pearl are introduced and renown baristas compete and wow with their creations.

After talking with Rex, their president and founder, they sent me a scale to review and geek out with. While its a really cool gadget, I had to figure out exactly how I liked my coffee. I had my method down pat for the Aeropress (inverted method, 1 minute extraction a la Stumptown), but it was years since I had made a pour over or French Press.

The scale is quite simple to use, you measure your beans, enter your bean to water ratio and it will calculate how much water you need.  Then, you reset your scale with your pour over cone or what ever your brew method is, start the timer and with a 3,2,1 countdown, start pouring.  You're provided feedback on your flow rates and a way to rate, record and share your brew.
Not very consistent with my pour, but I'm getting better.
If you don't know what you like, you're given starting points for French Press and Pour Over that you can customize and save and you can even create a custom recipe and set your own time check points.

It's a pretty cool scale and deservedly, it won the  Best New Product of SCAA 2014 and the People's Choice Winner of Coffee Accessories. Check out their website for more details or to pick one up for $129.00

Disclaimer: I was given one of these scales to review on my blog and share my opinion of it. I was not otherwise compensated and now my coffee is far more consistent and I get to geek out in the mornings!

Sunday, August 03, 2014

Get a good night's sleep with Evernote

Evernote, the note taking, help you remember everything app, can help you get a good night's sleep. I'm not talking about cuddling with a green elephant, though I did  have a stuffed elephant when I was a kid. Last night, I had the worst sleep in a long time, and I've got data to prove it.  It was hot, one of the dogs woke me up to let it outside and most importantly, I had all kinds of ideas bouncing through my head.

Over the last few weeks, I've been working on some coding projects and have made some significant progress. I've been learning OOP, MVC and the Laravel framework, writing APIs and using github [note: this post isn't that geeky, so don't worry about the alphabet soup, just know that I was satisfying my intellectual curiosity]. I also started working on a web application for my wife and last night, I got the core functionality working. But it was about 10 PM when I got it to that state.

As I lay in bed, tossing because I was hot, getting tangled in the sheet that was sometimes keeping me too warm, thoughts of what I would do next with the application kept me awake. I would write this function, move some process from the controller to the model... Once I did that, I'd be set up to learn about job queues, something I know nothing about. Then I realized that I needed to add a few fields for some better status tracking.

As you can see, my UP24 decided, rightly so, that I was no longer sleeping!  Finally, there was a enough of a break in my coding thoughts that made me realize, I need to get this out of my head!

It was a big DUH moment. Getting stuff out of your head is the big concept behind Getting Things Done, which drives my productivity. Allowing those thoughts to just flow by and not chase them helps you be in the moment, a mindful concept. And my particular moment was supposed to be about sleeping, not the code I was going to write tomorrow, if I could remember it all.

My smartphone was charging on my bedside stand, face down, so the indicator lights wouldn't disturb me. I rolled over, untangling my legs from the twisted sheet and opened up Evernote. And started taking notes. And let me tell you, they're good notes. They're detailed ideas, even using some of the correct PHP syntax! I might have even sequenced them in the right order, too!

What was even cooler than that, was as soon as I had written them all down, my mind was blank and I started to doze off. Only to be woken by the dog barking again. I'm not sure Evernote can help with that though.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Watching TV - its almost all sports now

I've recently realized something about me. I've undergone a large change.  Growing up, we would never watch sports on TV. We didn't really watch that much TV. Over the years, my TV watching has changed, I've stopped watching TV shows and this year, I have only watched sports on TV!

We were an early adopter of TiVo and I would leverage that technology to watch the TV shows I wanted to watch. I was pretty selective; it was shows like Alias, Nikita, and New Girl.  Another interesting thing, there are some common elements in those shows.

A few years ago, I got a Kindle and reading replaced watching TV, almost entirely. You can find me on Goodreads.

As my youngest kid started playing football, we started watching some football games on TV. It didn't hurt that the Seattle Seahawks kept getting better and better each season, either.

Then, we got into CrossFit and watched the CrossFit games on TV.

We've had awesome Super Bowl appetizers and I'm still not sure which the kids like more - the eating or the football.


The World Cup just finished up and I watched every US game and the quarter, semi and finals.

This year's CrossFit games are only 3 days away and going to be streamed on ESPN3. And with my Chromecast, I'll be watching them.

I still don't watch very much on the television screen, but my TV watching is now entirely sports.  Quite a change, from watching M*A*S*H (probably reruns) on a small black and white TV to televised sports in High Definition.

What is your can't miss show on TV? Do you even still watch broadcast television or is it all streaming?

Another small note: I realized that enablling Google+ comments on my blog required a Google account to make any comment, so I've disabled that feature.  Everyone should be able to comment on my blog posts now, so get commenting!