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!

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Working out with AT&T, David Barton Gym and Jawbone UP24

Disclaimer: In trade for a pool of sweat, I received a Jawbone UP24 for review and one for a giveaway. Other than that, I was not compensated for this post and I'm sharing my opinions of the UP24 band.



At the beginning of June, AT&T invited a few bloggers to work out at the David Barton Gym in Bellevue and try out the Jawbone UP24 activity tracking band.  I was in... I like working out and I'm a big data nerd. Being able to easily collect information on my sleep and activity seems pretty cool.  And after almost a month of using it, I'm pretty impressed.

After a quick check-in at David Barton Gym in Bellevue, Noelle took us through a work out. A little warm up and BOOM, she hit us: squats, lunges, planks and more. It was an intense work out and I sweated for this band. She even had us do one legged burpees, which for the record, I never quite got. If you need your butt kicked, Noelle can do it for you.



The UP24 is a wearable, bluetooth enabled activity tracker. Using Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), it automatically syncs with your phone without noticable impact on battery life.  Between the UP24 and the Jawbone MINI Jambox, I've started to leave bluetooth turned on on my phone all the time. It tracks your activity, in steps as well as your sleep, measuring light and deep sleep.  With subtle vibrating reminders, it will let you know if you've been inactive or even wake you up at the optimal time in your sleep patterns.

The band is discreet and, as a guy, I don't mind they way it looks on my wrist.  The band itself is very simple, with only a single button for changing modes and a small indicator light to let you know what mode it is in. The band gets about a week of battery life and charging is handled by small plug, hidden under a cover, that plugs into a USB adapter. All the magic happens on the app on your phone.

And a lot of magic there is. First of all, you get a visualization of how you are tracking to your goals for sleep and steps for the day. But you also get motivational messages and activity updates from others on your "team," kind of like people you follow on Twitter. You can track your meals through the app, though I find the interface a little cumbersome.

But the magic doesn't end there.  There are a whole slew of connected apps that can provide information to your UP24 and with IFTTT.com you can connect even more.  When I weigh myself on our Fitbit Aria scale, my UP Feed is automatically updated with my weight. When I check in my CrossFit box, it posts to my UP Feed. I don't closely track my meals, but MyFitnessPal can connect with UP24 both ways, so you can see how your activity levels impact your net calories for the day.

Having all this information is great. The best features I've found so far are sleep tracking and the inactivity reminder. I do CrossFit every morning and eat clean, so I'm not concerned about the number of steps I take in a day. I really like being reminded to get up off my butt during the day, even if just to take a call standing up. Tracking my sleep patterns helps me commit to a consistent 10PM sleep time, something that Tim Howard does too.

Recall from earlier in this post that Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) was required. Its a fairly new technology and not all phones have the hardware or software to support it. BLE is available on the iPhone 4 and 5 and on some Android phones that are running KitKat. Luckily for me, AT&T and LG released the upgrade to KitKat for my phone around the time I got the band and I got it all up and running before the Seattle Rock N Roll marathon.  I ran the half-marathon and used the stopwatch function to track my run.

You see it calculated a distance of 17.17 miles, but a half marathon is only 13.1. I think that there is a little inaccuracy stemming from being on the wrist to track steps and it does have trouble tracking my CrossFit work outs. Just the other day, the inactivity alert vibrated as I was lifting my last set of power cleans, at my personal best weight.  But its still useful in comparing activity levels from day to day and as I sit at my computer coding and blogging, the inactivity alert is a nice reminder to get up and do something.

Just this week I started using the Smart Alarms, which wake you up close (but not later than) to the time you want, but do it when you have been in a lighter sleep state for some amount of time.  The idea behind this is that you wake up when you are ready to wake up, resulting in less grogginess and being more refreshed.  I'm still deciding if I want to maximize every minute of sleep or trade off some sleep minutes and get up at a better time. I'm having a little trouble coming to grip with getting up earlier might be better for me - I already get up at 5:22 AM on weekdays and I "sleep in" until 6AM on the weekends.

All in all, its a pretty neat device. It seamlessly tracks my activity and sleep with little fuss. As a data nerd, I like what I get from it and even though I'm still figuring it out, it is driving better fitness decisions from me. In fact, I learned yesterday that even a short walk, 13 minutes long, is worth just over 1,000 steps which is 10% of the daily recommended goal.

Would you like to win a Jawbone UP24, large size only? Register on the Rafflecopter form below and let me know in the comments what activity your fitness goals are and how the UP24 would help you achieve them.  I'll randomly select a winner on July 17th at 9AM Pacific time. If you don't win or are impatient, you can get one for $149 from AT&T, online or in your local store. AT&T has more than just mobile phones! If you've already got an UP and want to add me to your team, just look for Beau Raines.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, June 28, 2014

See's Candies in Woodinville

Woodinville now has a See's Candies! While wine tasting, you can now pop in and get one of the always free samples of their delicious candies. I was invited a media pre-opening event Thursday night, with candy samples, candy box packing races and more candy samples.

The evening started with sampling. Yes, anything we wanted from the display case. And not just the usual one free sample. This was the kind of sampling that required pacing. I had 4 samples within 10 minutes of walking in the door and that was more candy that I've eaten in a month.  It was also over the number of candies that Leanne from Rave and Review decided was the limit for her kids - good thing those kids aren't reading my blog.

See's Candies gives away 1 million pounds in free samples. After a brief break, I was back at the candies, trying things I'd never tried before and making sure that they get to that 1 million pounds this year.  I didn't get to try all of their one hundred different varieties because I was actually candied out. It was a great treat, but with all my clean eating, that was an incredible amount of sugar for me.

Look at that nicely filled candy box.
After a brief information session about the company, we were paired up for candy box filling races. We had to work for the chocolates they were going to give us to take home!  The local management team taught us how to snap out a single paper cup with one hand, while the other, tissue wielding hand would grab the chocolate and place it in the candy box.

I was hoping that it would be a "one for me, one for the box" situation, but we were too closely supervised. But with candy being so seasonal, they need workers at Christmas time and their employees can eat all they want (or can handle). I packed a box of Scotch Mallows, which unfortunately do not have any scotch in them (there is an idea, Mary See and its free)

My favorite candy from See's is the Dark Chocolate Bordeau, which happens to be the number one seller. What is your favorite candy?



See's Candies in Woodinville [store website] is located at 14013 Woodinville Duvall Rd, Woodinville, WA and opened to the public Friday, June 27th. At the time of writing, the shop hours are Mon-Thurs 10am - 6pm, Fri-Sat 10am - 7pm and Sun 12pm - 5pm.

Disclaimer: I was not compensated for this post, but I was plied with chocolates. I liked See's Candies before coming to visit and could name all my favorites when I walked in the door. This is my honest opinion plus a few facts I learned about the company along the way.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Northwest Region Grilling Gurus Semi-Finals

Saturday, Macy's in Alderwood Mall hosted the Culinary Council's Grilling Guru's semi-finals. Three west coast home cooks brought their grilling best and were judged by local chef Tom Douglas.  I had front row seats to watch the grilling, taste the dishes and even get samples cooked by Tom Douglas himself!



The Culinary Council is comprised of some of the nations culinary masters. Tom Douglas represents Seattle and the Northwest, with the aim of teaching Macy's customers to cook and shop like master chefs. I like this way of thinking and I try to embody that in all of my cooking endeavors.

The Northwest Region was represented by three grilling gurus, Jack Scalfani from California, Margee Berry from Washington and Edwina Gadsby from Idaho. Jack hosts a popular YouTube channel, Cooking With Jack. His rib recipe and techniques were passed down from his Mom.  Margee has been competing in food cook offs for over thirty years and her shrimp taco recipe was her own invention. Edwina has gone head to head with Margee several times over the years and taste tests her recipes on her husband and the bad ones end up on the dog's plate. Good recipe or not, they're both lucky guys.  The winning recipe is posted at the end...

The competitors had 1 hour to grill their dishes for Tom Douglas and with a '3, 2, 1 Go!' they were off. The grills were hot, the sun was hot, but none of the cooks showed any nervousness. To keep the audience entertained while the grilling was going on, KOMO 4's Seth Wayne hosted giveaways of The Dahila Bakery Cookbook and Q&A's with Tom Douglas.



While watching the competitors cooking, Tom and his crew whetted our appetites with some of his grilling. A big gulf shrimp with a kalamata olive and some beautiful planked salmon kept the audience at bay when the wind shifted just a bit and we could smell the deliciousness from the grills.

Tom didn't fail to entertain either. In his usual funny fashion, he joked about how far north he was from his South Lake Union restaurant domain saying, "I'm so far North, I might as well be in Canada!"  In addition to his funny commentary, he shared some valuable and interesting cooking tips.
  1. Too much oil when grilling can lead to soot. Grill marks are good, but soot is not.
  2. Grilled avocado is a hot thing in restaurants these days.
I've made milk shakes from avocados, but I'd never thought of grilling them. The soft texture doesn't seem like it would take to grilling well. It even got a rise from my Twitter followers.



It's worth giving it a try, especially since many of the avocados we buy need some additional time to ripen.

The competitors all finished before the allotted time and plated their food for Tom.  It seemed like the Jack's ribs were going to win, but the perfectly cooked salmon for the noodle salad was the ultimate winner. I'll agree, grilling salmon is a little bit on the challenging side, getting it to that just cooked all the way through, still slightly translucent in the center, Edwina nailed it.


There were five other semi-final events like this taking place across the United States. As the Northwest's winner, Edwina is on her way to New York City, to compete in the Culinary Council's Sizzle Showdown on June 28th. She'll be judged by Chefs Johnny Iuzzuni and Todd English, competing for a $10,000 Grand Prize.  Wish her luck!

The Winning Recipe
Grilled Sweet Chili Salmon Noodle Salad
Recipe compliments of Edwina G of Hayden, Idaho


Disclaimer: I am a member of the Everywhere Society and Everywhere has provided me with compensation for this post about Macy’s Culinary Council. However, all thoughts and opinions expressed herein are my own.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

My Experiences with Bulletproof Coffee

People are putting butter and coconut oil in their coffee. And they say its the greatest thing - more focused, more energy, feeling satiated. I read it on the internet and like many things, I took it with a grain of salt.  Then, a few weeks back, I decided to give it a try. I'm a morning person. I like to get up, work out and then eat breakfast.  My regular wake up time is 5:20 AM, so, usually within 2 or 3 hours of getting up I'm eating breakfast.


My daughter has an early morning swim practice which starts at 5AM on Wednesdays, which means we're both up at 4:20AM. I can still go to my 6AM CrossFit, but that really messes with the eat breakfast within 2 or 3 hours. The same week that inspired me to try Bulletproof Coffee (aka butter coffee), I had some changes to my morning schedule and I was going to go to CrossFit at 8AM. But I still got up at 5:20, which didn't quite leave enough time for breakfast to digest - and no one wants to go to CrossFit with a full stomach.  So I decided to try Bulletproofing my coffee, and see if it was worth it.

Bulletproof coffee is simply your morning coffee with a tablespoon of coconut oil and a tablespoon of (grass-fed) butter.  The clean fats provide calories (energy) and really make the coffee creamy. Drinking something is easier and quicker to get down than eating something, so its a way to kickstart your day. You can read more about it and get a recipe here.

My first day trying out Bulletproof coffee was an early morning swim practice day. I made my coffee with my Caffe Vita Theo Blend beans after dropping her off at practice. I used the blender to mix it all in, some people just let the hot coffee melt the fats. The coffee had a nice frothy top and boy was it creamy tasting.

Now here is a little something about me, I like coffee for its taste. I drink my coffee black, my drink of choice is an espresso. But no cream, no sugar. If I drink an espresso, its so dry the foam just stays on top. Its all about the flavor of the coffee.  And so much fat in the drink covered up the coffee flavor. It was like a super-creamy latte. So, it loses a few points for covering the taste of my coffee.

I drank it on my way to CrossFit and was feeling quite energized. My workout went well and I wasn't really that hungry when I came home, but I ate a small breakfast because... Well because you're supposed to eat breakfast, aren't you?  I felt pretty good all day long, but I was also wearing my Captain America t-shirt - he's almost bullet proof.

But that day, I was so thirsty. I couldn't drink enough water. I even emailed some of my friends who've bulletproofed their coffee and they drink 32 ounces of water before drinking their coffee. Lesson learned.

The next day, I got up at my usual 5:20, but wasn't planning on CrossFit until 8AM. So I drank 32 ounces of water and made my butter coffee.  I then sat down and worked on an edX.org class I was taking.  And I felt really focused, considering I was studying big data analytics at 6 in the morning.  CrossFit at 8AM was alright, my energy levels great considering that I hadn't eaten anything and I wasn't all that hungry when I got home and then didn't eat anything until lunch time.

Those two days were a pretty successful test and I've continued to bullet proof my coffee when I have early mornings or planning on going to the later CrossFit sessions. Its been working out well for me. Its almost like a meal replacement - it has enough calories for a meal.  I'm energized, focused and satiated.  My two big lessons are:

  1. Don't use your great tasting, special beans or single origin beans. The nuances will be lost under the uber-creaminess.
  2. Drink lots (32 ounces) of water before your coffee. I guess it has to do with how the fats are processed by our bodies.

So, what do you put in your coffee and would you put butter in it?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Review: Jawbone MINI JAMBOX - These go up to 11

AT&T provided a Jawbone MINI JAMBOX  for Heather to review, but I'm the big music listener in our house. So, I've been using it quite a bit and AT&T will get two reviews out of it!

The Jawbone MINI JAMBOX is a rechargeable, portable speaker that connects to your smart phone via Bluetooth or mini-stereo plug. Its the smaller sibling to the BIG JAMBOX speaker, but it still has the good sound quality that Jawbone is known for.  The MINI JAMBOX also serves as a speaker phone and I've only used it for one call and my parents didn't even notice.

I primarily use the MINI JAMBOX in my bedroom and bathroom. Dropkick Murphys playing.  It's great listening to music as I read in bed and I love having music in the bathroom with me.  I'll bring the speaker into the bathroom while I shower, and its loud enough to be heard over the running water and the bathroom fan. I've recently switched to a double edged razor (more on that in another post) for shaving and I savor shaving with some

The speaker has an all aluminum construction and is small enough to fit in my back pocket. Its small enough to take it on trips or on a picnic lunch.  There are a few controls on the speaker itself, a multi-purpose play/stop/forward/backward button (depending on how many times you push it) and volume up and down buttons.

The battery lasts about 10 hours and its never a guessing game how much battery life you have left.  When paired with a phone running the Jawbone application, the remaining battery percentage shows up in the notification bar.  It charges through a mini-USB port.

I now keep my Bluetooth on my phone turned on all the time, so its just one button to turn on and my phone can make great sounding music. I just wish my Jawbone II headset was upgrade-able so it'll tell me the battery life through the app.

Likes


  • The MINI JAMBOX has excellent bass response, especially considering how small of a box it is.  You can feel the bass when it makes its startup sound. Enough to move the speaker if on uneven footing
  • The Jawbone app is awesome and is available from iTunes or Google Play.
  • The speaker will talk to you; alerting about low battery or no devices attached. You can even change the voice!
  • It goes up to 11.

Dislike


  • To change the voice, you need a Windows or Mac machine, unfortunately there isn't Linux support. Yes, I want  the MINI JAMBOX to speak to me in the sultry voice.
  • There is some audio lag when watching video. I think that this is just a function of Bluetooth and its only slightly noticeable when watching a documentary type video.
I was not monetarily compensated for this post. Heck, I might not even get unfettered usage of the MINI JAMBOX if Heather decides to take it back from me. But I still honestly think its an awesome speaker.

Monday, May 05, 2014

A snack that I can say YES too

A few week's ago, I got a package in the mail that made me jump up and say "Yes!" I got some YES Bars to snack on. If you haven't heard of YES Bars, they originated in a home kitchen in Southern California when a mom was trying to make a healthy snack for her food sensitive son. Her son loved them, her husband loved them and their friends loved them.  People wanted to buy them and then she was able to get local stores to carry them and it just grew from there.

On top of having such a positive name, YES Bars are clean - gluten free, paleo friendly (meaning no grains, dairy or soy) and no fake, chemically stuff.  The ingredient lists are long, but their made of almonds, macademia nuts, dried fruits, pumpkin and sunflower seeds and the ingredients that really get me going are coffee and cayenne pepper! I like spicy and I love coffee, but if you're not like me, the Macadamia Chocolate Chip is for you. That just means there are more of the Coffee Cayenne for me!

The two flavors each have 4g protein and 16g carbohydrates, making it a great snack. Combined with the healthy fats, 170mg of omega-3s, its a snack that I can feel good about eating any time. It's not quite the bar for after my CrossFit work outs, but in the afternoon when my stomach starts to rumble from when i didn't pack enough lunch, well, if I had more of these bars, they'd be in my messenger bag ready for snacking.

The YES Bars are more like cookies than your typical nut and granola bar, with a nice, chewy texture. They don't fall apart when you sink your teeth into them, as its a moist-chewy cookie. The Macadamia Chocolate Chip had a nice chocolate taste, but not too sweet, as its made with dark chocolate.  The Coffee Cayenne bar warmed my mouth with the subtle spice, like a Mexican chile infused chocolate, not an open assault on your tastebuds.  The coffee was there in the background, making the bar live up to its name.

If these sound like your kind of clean eating and yet delicious snack, get some from TheYESBar.com.  There is a long list of stores in California (and one lucky coffee shop in Denver) that carry the bars as does Amazon Fresh Los Angeles. UPDATE: YES Bars are in Seattle! You can pick them up at Tom Douglas' Assembly Hall and soon to be at Healeo on Capital Hill.

What kind of things do you like for clean snacks? Which one of these sounds good to you?

Note: I got a few bars in trade for an honest review. I wouldn't write about them if I didn't like them. I liked them. I wish that stores in the Pacific Northwest carried these bars. I wish I had more to carry around with me for when I needed a snack.