Sunday, December 21, 2014

Take your Kindle on the road with you with a Mobile Wifi HotSpot

Last month, a group of bloggers got together at the Techlicious & TravelingMom Holiday Roadshow to share some technology and traveling tips.  We had a wonderful lunch and I walked away with a Kindle Fire HD and an AT&T Unite for GoPhone  by NetGear Wi-Fi mobile hotspot. While each of them is pretty cool in their own, they're like the Wonder Twins - combined they're pretty powerful.

The Kindle Fire HD 7" is a pretty nice starter tablet. It's got a beautiful screen and a fast responsive processor. Battery life is pretty nice, lasting a day off use, making it great for trips. Mashable rates the Kindle Fire (albeit a larger size) a good one to get this holiday season.  This is my first table and I'm excited to leverage the larger than a phone form factor.

I'm truly interested in using it like a tablet, leveraging the larger screen for taking notes, looking at pictures in beautiful HD, and reading recipes while cooking. It's great for those things that work on your phone, but work better on a larger screen. This post was even drafted on my Kindle.

There are plenty of apps available through Amazon's App Store. Many software makers even keep the Kindle version up to date with their Android versions!  Skype works nicely with the front facing camera to keep me connected, though I don't travel as much as I used to.  I miss Instagram and the Google apps, though older versions can be sideloaded.

But what the Kindle excels at is connecting you to Amazon library of movies, books, music and their store. With a Amazon Prime Account it's so easy to quickly find and start watching a movie. And they can even be downloaded to watch when you don't have Wi-Fi, like on an airplane (don't be that guy with the $1,171 Wi-Fi bill).

Coupled with a AT&T Unite for GoPhone  by NetGear Wi-Fi mobile hotspot, using AT&T's fast 4G LTE (where available) network, you can connect your Wi-Gi only Kindle (or up to 10 other devices) to the internet.

This is great when traveling on a road-trip or, in my case, when the public Wi-Fi at the pool
just doesn't cut it.  You can have your own trusted network anywhere you are and not have to worry about anybody snooping your connection or if there will be Wi-Fi where you're going.  You don't have to type long emails on your little phone keyboard, you can fire up your laptop and use the full size keyboard from anywhere!

And because its through GoPhone, you don't have to sign up for a new subscription. You buy the device from AT&T or other retailers and then add a pre-paid plan. I've been using the $25 for 1.5GB of data in a month and that's been getting me through the multi-day swim meets that end the short course swimming season.

The new Kindle also comes with a 2 year anything goes warranty, when coupled with a Nerf-like case make this the kind of device you can share with your kids. It's got multiple user accounts so you can share it with your family and everybody keeps their own place in their books. With the Free Time Unlimited, kids are provided kid appropriate books, games and videos and the parent has control of how long they can play games and how much reading must they do before hand.

Note: I was not compensated for this post, but I did receive some cool swag, including the Kindle and the Mobile Hotspot and a really awesome lunch. All the content is my own honest opinion.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Bourbon and Clove Cider Cocktail [Recipe]

Over the years, I've developed a taste for whisky.  I've figured out where my tastes lie in Scotch (The McCallan from the Scottish Highlands) but I've also had to more closely manage my budget.  There has been a re-birth of whiskey in the United States and I've begun to explore different bourbons.  Some of them are quite good and a great price point too.

This fall, I was at a social gathering sponsored by Farmstr, a local Seattle start up connecting farmers and consumers. You can buy a flat of brussels sprouts or an organic, free-range chicken directly from the farmer and pick it up at a convenient Seattle location.

At this gathering of food bloggers, there was a delightful cider punch. It wasn't cloyingly sweet and there was a delicate hint of cloves and you could feel the warmth of the alcohol trailing on your throat. It was a very nice, subtle way to enjoy the flavors of fall and winter.

I asked the chef for the recipe (cider, bourbon and homemade clove bitters) but didn't get the ratios. And on top of that, I'm not quite cool enough to have clove bitters nor have I gotten into making bitters, but my browser search history was full of "how to make bitters" searches.

While it doesn't seem too hard to make bitters, I decided to experiment and see if I could make a similar libation with ingredients around the house.

I started by infusing some apple cider with cloves and reduced it a bit, because I was side tracked by a family card game.  Then, I tried adding some bourbon until I found a nice balance of sweetness. While I made it as a drink for one, this could easily be served as a punch as it was at the Farmstr party.

So, I've noticed something else about drinking bourbon. I don't drink very much, maybe one alcoholic drink a week, but everytime I've had a bourbon drink with a particular brand of bourbon, I just cannot sleep. Its almost like when you have a strong coffee too late in the day and it keeps you awake. I've not noticed this with all bourbon brands and never with any other alcohol. Does this happen to anyone else?

Bourbon and Clove Cider Cocktail

  • Apple Cider, 1 cup  (I used filtered because that was all my son could find when he was on the grocery run)
  • 8 whole cloves
  • Bourbon

  1. Infuse the cider with the cloves. Break the cloves in half and add to the cider in a pot on medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and let it simmer for approximately 10 minutes or reduced to about 3/4 cup. More reducing will bring out the sweetness of the apples and the cloves.
  2. Filter the infused cider and cool. Or do it in the opposite order. Store it in a closed container in the fridge, maybe a mason jar for some extra hipster points.
  3. When you're ready for a drink, pour 3 shots of clove infused cider and 1 shot of bourbon in an old fashioned glass and enjoy.  I didn't add ice because the cider was cool from the fridge and I prefer my dark alcohol drinks neat.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails [Book Review]

From the Brooklyn based guys that brought you the Mason Shaker, Shake: A New Perspective on Cocktails is a beautifully photographed book of cocktail recipes, celebrating the seasons and seasonal ingredients in artisan cocktails.

I was given this book to review and if I have to test the recipes (read: drink cocktails) to do a little work, I'm game.  And these aren't fruity, sweet cocktails either; these are the savory cocktails, focusing on the flavors of seasonal ingredients. With the cover photograph having a sprig of rosemary, I knew this book was for me.

Unlike many other cocktail cookbooks, this book is organized by season. Each recipe uses seasonal ingredients: sage and grapefruit in winter, fresh berries in spring, watermelon and stone fruit in summer and apple cider in fall. Using the freshest ingredients makes for the best flavored cocktails and the recipes were driven by what they could find in their Brooklyn farmer's markets.

Each recipe is beautifully photographed, including the ingredients artfully displayed and the finished drink. After making the Rosemary Maple Bourbon Sour as my tester drink, I passed the book to my wife to choose our next cocktail. She was unable to choose a drink, because "this book is like Instagram for cocktails."

A photo posted by Heather Murphy-Raines/Scouts H (@unitedstatesofmotherhood) on

Something else I loved about this book was that each season included a non-alcoholic drink, still focusing on those seasonal ingredients. I enjoy a cocktail, but more than one or two and I stop enjoying them and just want to sleep.

The book excerpt has a few recipes, so you can check out the drinks and decide if this is the book for your cocktail library. I'm not sure if this book belongs on my cookbook shelf or on display on my coffee table. Its a beautiful book on its own, with wonderful recipes contained inside.

As stated in the review, I received a copy of this book for review from Blogging for Books. Other than the book, I was not compensated. The opinions in this review are my own and I wouldn't have shared it with you if it wasn't a great book.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Varied Musical Tastes

Lately, I've not been happy with the music on the radio here in Seattle. Sure, one station has started off a 2 Minute Promise (only two minutes of ads at a time), but that just gets them back to the mostly cruddy hipster music sooner. My daughter and I got burned a few nights ago: another station's DJ announced "great music right after we come back [from these ads]." It turns out we almost finished our drive home, more than five minutes, before they played some pop song that neither of us liked.

I'm always flipping through the presets in our cars, hoping that the next station will be playing a great song. And you know that the expression the grass is always greener isn't always true.  But every once in a while, I get lucky and find a good song. And I'll turn it up.  Loud.

I've realized that music I like falls into some pretty disparate categories. This dawned on me as I was driving back into my neighborhood with Verdi's Rigoletto playing loud enough that the ladies walking on the street could hear it.

The morning before that, as I was driving to CrossFit at 5:40AM in the dark, it was Simon and Garfunkel's Cecilia. It's got such a catchy beat and did a half-way decent job of firing me up. You've got to be awake for 6AM CrossFit.

Bend Ova by Lil Jon has gotten some radio play of late. The thumping bass, the rhythm of the lyrics, the call and response just makes it ripe for being played loud. Just about everything my Lil Jon makes me want to move and I don't have any moves. Warning, though this the non-explicit version, its pushes quite a few boundaries, so its probably still NSFW. Or when the kids are home. See, that's why I play it loud in the car.

And none of these are my favorites or even fall in the same genre as my favorites. You've got to go pretty deep on the independent radio stations around here to hear any Ministry, KMFDM or NOFX.

What song(s) are you going to turn up when they come on the radio that might surprise even yourself?

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!

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 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 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.


  • 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.


  • 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  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.

Sunday, May 04, 2014

Book Review: The Carnivore's Manifesto: Eating Well, Eating Responsibly, and Eating Meat

I got my hands on an advanced readers copy of The Carnivore's Manifesto: Eating Well, Eating Responsibly, and Eating Meat by Patrick Martins and enjoyed the book. The book comes out on June 10th, 2014 and you can pre-order it on Amazon.

The Carnivore's Manifesto: Eating Well, Eating Responsibly, and Eating Meat
The Carnivore's Manifesto: Eating Well, Eating Responsibly, and Eating Meat really is a manifesto. The author, Patrick Martins, has been instrumental in founding the Slow Food movement and is passionate about clean, sustainable, eating and farming.  He uses words and phrases like 'complicit in their crimes' and talks about the extinction of heritage pigs and turkeys.  He wouldn't be out of place in Berkeley, yelling on Sproul Plaza about his cause.

The book is a series of short essays on a topic ranging from the food supply chain, breeding conditions, artisan producers and vignettes told from the perspective of a cow, pig and turkey.  I'd read a few at night before going to bed.

Like other books I've read, this book does not take the stance that being a meat eater is good and vegetarianism isn't. This isn't a foil to the vegetarians, but to the Concentrated Agriculture Feeding Organizations. His view is that if you're going to eat meat, give the animal the best life, rather than constrain it to some dark, fume filled barn. The activist in Patrick wants people to make decisions that get food production out of the big corporate, profit centric organizations and into the hands of sustainable, heritage producers and help them become profitable. These sustainable operations not only make great tasting food, but they help the whole life cycle as opposed to creating waste while producing genetically modified meat.

Something I found to be very interesting was his perspective on ground meat - we need to eat more of it. This allows the farmer to sell the fewer desirable cuts of meat from the cow/pig/turkey and get a good price for the rest of it. If we only buy filet or pork loins, the farmer won't have a good opportunity to sell the rest.

It's a good read, but every once in a while you have to push past the activist cries. This book won't change vegetarian's opinions, but I don't think it was meant to. It's really targeted to those that already eat meat, but don't yet understand the dark side of what happens to get meat into your grocery store.

As a note, this isn't a sponsored post, but an my own book review and like everything else, my own opinion. The post does contain affiliate links, so if you click it to Amazon, I'll get a little back. I was able to get my hands on the advanced readers copy at work. As I write my reviews on Goodreads, I think about the book reports that my kids have to write for school.  Now, if any publishers would like me to read and review books on clean living or the paleo lifestyle, I'd be happy to!

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Meeting Alan Adler - My Rockstar Moment at SCAA 2014

For the last two days, I've been wandering the Washington State Convention Center enjoying the sights, smells and tastes of the Specialty Coffee Association of America's 2014 Event.  The entire spectrum of specialty coffee is represented here, from growers to roasters, cafes to food processing and packaging companies, repair parts to purveyors of tea. But I ran into Alan Adler, the inventor and designer of the Aeropress coffee maker.

I was first introduced to Alan's products when I got an Aerobie for Christmas during my childhood. If you're not familiar with the Aerobie, it was a bright orange, unique ring shaped frisbee that could be easily thrown long distances.

Fast forward to a few years ago, and I got more and more into coffee. While I really love espresso, I've always been interested in how I can get excellent coffee while hiking, another one of my passions. While learning about different methods to make coffee, I read about the Aeropress in online forums.  I'll admit, I was a bit of a skeptic that something as simple as that could make great coffee.

Fast forward a few more years, when I had stopped telecommuting and worked in an office in downtown Seattle (read: no longer working at home with my espresso machine), I was getting fed up with the coffee provided in the work kitchen. Yeah, even though I work in the coffee mecca of the Northwest and have more than 5 excellent cafe's within blocks of my workplace, the coffee in the office just wasn't very good.

One of my co-workers had an Aeropress and he made me a cup of coffee one day. He was deliberate about it, carefully measuring the water temperature, brew time and the amount of water. And the little plastic plunger coffee maker really did make excellent coffee.

I was hooked. A low price, easily portable coffee maker that makes great coffee.  Thoughts of fresh brewed coffee while backpacking were going through my head and I bought one. I make coffee almost every work day with my Aeropress and bring it home with me on the weekends. I've even found the cafe that will sell beans and grind them for me.

So, back to SCAA 2014. When I was walking through the Expo Hall, I was totally excited to see Alan Adler at the Aeropress booth. I even got my wife to snap our picture while I was having my geek out, meeting a rock star moment.

While chatting with Alan, he shared that his preferred Aeropress brew method was straight up, which is neat because all of the people of I know use the inverted method.  He also keeps the brew time to a minimum. I'm going to have to try the straight up technique next time.

He wouldn't share what his next big thing was, but he did assure me that there were ideas on the burners!

Who are the rock stars that you'd want to meet that reveal what kind of a geek you are?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Alone with a bunch of Strawberries

My wife is attending the Disney Social Media Mom's conference this week; she left on Wednesday. The youngest two kids are on spring break and at Disneyland too, and on Friday, their brother joined them.

Heather went to Costco on Monday and bought a big container of strawberries, so its just me and a bunch of strawberries that need to be eaten before they spoil. Usually, in our house of five, with snacks and school lunches, the strawberries would just disappear.  But with only two of us for half of the week, our consumption rate slowed significantly.

But I came up with a simple and quick way to make a strawberry smoothie!

I don't like watered down drinks and so a smoothie with ice just isn't as smooth, but sliced strawberries freeze quickly and provide that cold iciness and a banana provides the smoothness.

They don't look it from this picture, but those are frozen strawberries. I cored them and then sliced them, just before we sat down and they froze while we ate dinner.  The banana was in the freezer too, but they take a little longer to freeze - at least it was cold when I threw it in the blender.

I used some almond milk for liquid, but coconut milk would probably be a good choice too. Or if you're feeling really like clean eating, make your own almond milk.

Quick Strawberry Banana Smoothie
Makes about 2 16 ounce glasses

2 good handfuls of strawberries
1 banana
dash of vanilla extract
about 1 cup almond milk


  1. Wash, core and slice the strawberries. Arrange on a plate and put in the freezer.
  2. Put a banana in the freezer.
  3. Let them freeze for 15 - 30 minutes.
  4. Once you're ready, scrape the strawberries into your blender. 
  5. Peel and slice the banana in 1/2" slices into the blender.
  6. Add a dash of vanilla extract and about 1 cup of almond milk.
  7. Blend until smooth.
  8. Divide the smoothie among your glasses and enjoy!

Sunday, April 06, 2014

Leftover egg whites? Make meringues and coconut macaroons!

Earlier in the week, my wife made mayonnaise from scratch and we had leftover egg whites. A bunch of them.  When we had left over egg whites before, one of my friends on Facebook suggested that I make meringues.  So, some quick Google searches led me to Elana's Pantry where I found both a meringue recipe and a coconut macaroon recipe. Her website has lots of gluten free, grain free, dairy free and paleo recipes, so its a great resource for my cooking adventures.

Both recipes are easy to make only require a few ingredients. The macaroons were quick to make and quick to bake. I'm an early riser, so they were prepared and baked before everybody else was awake.  My idea was to make them for dessert tonight.

While they were cooling on the counter, the rest of my family started to wake up. "I only made 10 macaroons, that's two for each of us for dessert.  If you eat them before, then there are less for you for dessert."

It's 5pm as I write this and four macaroons have been eaten, one of them even for breakfast.

It was kind of awesome because I made new friends on the internet today and inspired me to make the meringues too.
We traded some tweets, shared the links to Elana's pantry and after CrossFit, I made meringues too.  They're easy to make, egg whites and maple syrup, but they take two hours to bake, and then an hour to cool.

They're in the oven and I've already been asked twice by the kids if they really take two hours to bake. Hopefully, this will turn out well and help teach the kids patience and that paleo desserts can be good. With the kids on spring break, they usually turn their idleness into cookie baking. Like octupling  the cookie recipe.  Maybe my treats can satisfy them for a bit.

Heather kept thinking I was making French macarons with all the egg white beating I was doing.  Those take a little more work, but I might try this recipe sometime when I'm feeling a little more ambitious in my cooking!

So there's still an hour to go on the meringues. I think I'm going to go drizzle chocolate on the coconut macaroons!  I hope you had a good weekend!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Using YouTube videos to send a message

My kids got me a Google Chromecast for Christmas and its been really cool. It makes it so easy to get music, movies and videos into my living room. But its also created a new family activity where we'll all sit and share interesting YouTube videos with each other.

Last night, there was a new development in how we use Chromecast and communicate. We were sucked into watching the Justin Bieber deposition (he's kind of a douchebag) and didn't notice that our oldest had disappeared.  Suddenly our video was interrupted by this video.

Yes, can you guess where he was. And what he had a shortage of. And his pleas for help unheard, as we watched how ridiculous Justin Bieber was.  We replenished him and all went back to watching videos.

Our daughter suggested we watch the Oculus preview. I'll link to it so you can watch it, it you want, but I don't recommend it.  It's creepy. Creepy like the back of my neck was all tingly and I was there, in my living room with the lights on. And it was just a 2 and a half minute preview.

Our oldest weighed in on his opinion about the movie with this clip. I am in wholehearted agreement. Not a movie that I'll be watching.

An interesting development in communication, wouldn't you say?  How do you use technology to communicate in your house?

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Home Made Almond Milk

A few weeks ago, I saw a picture on Instagram of cold brew coffee and homemade almond milk. I wish I remembered exactly which picture, but it was a beautiful picture and really made me want to drink it.  It was also in the middle of the Whole Life Challenge and I'd drank nothing water, coffee and the occasional tea for about 4 weeks, so that added to the temptation. And it must have been quite a good picture, because it was pretty cold here in Seattle.

So, for the next few days, my Google searches were about how to make almond milk.  It is surprisingly easy!  And aside from some inactive soaking time, it is really quick.

All you need is a nut milk bag, available on Amazon for $7-10 and something to soak the nuts in.  It's basically a really fine mesh filter bag.

There are lots of almond milk recipes on the internet; they seem to vary in how much water you add to the nut milk after soaking and what kind of sweetener if any.  My wife's aunt changes out the water while the nuts are soaking. Some people use a food processor and some use a blender. But basically, its the same.

I've only tried sweetening my almond milk with honey and stevia and though I'm not a fan of stevia, the stevia was a better choice. But most of it, I drank unsweetened. It was nice to bring a small container to work and have that with my breakfast.

But best of all, its clean - no fake stuff, no chemical additives. Just nuts and water. Because it doesn't have the additives, it needs to be shaken before drinking and might not be as thick as commercial almond milk.  On my next batch, I'm going to try to add some coconut milk. It might add some sweetness and give it a thicker mouth feel.

On the downside, its not cheaper than the commercial stuff, at least for me to make it. With my nut supply and water ratio, it costs me about double what I can pay in the grocery store.  I get just over a pint with 1 cup of nuts and I don't have a cheaper nut supply than Costco. My wife's aunt, she has almond trees in her yard. It'll be pretty low cost for her. This is the trade off for eating clean though. Having raw nuts does give you some flexibility though, I was roasting nuts with all kinds of different seasonings and making milk. You can't do that with your container of roasted nuts!

Homemade Almond Milk
makes about 2 cups

1 cup raw almonds
water to cover nuts while soaking
2 cups water for blending
Something to sweeten the milk, optional. This could be stevia, honey, maple syrup, vanilla extract or ...


  1. Put the nuts in a container, cover with water and let soak for 24 - 48 hours. Change the water occasionally. The nuts will swell some. The longer you soak, the creamier the milk will be.
  2. After soaking, drain the nuts and place the nuts in a blender with 2 cups of fresh water.
  3. Blend the heck out of the nuts on the blender's highest speed. You want everything to be a relatively homogeneous slurry. It'll take a few minutes.
  4. Filter the nut milk through the nut milk bag into a container.  Squeeze the bag and get as much of the milk out as you can.  This is your finished product.  Some bags are designed to hang and let gravity do the work, but this part only takes a few minutes of squeezing.
  5. Mix in your sweetener, if you choose to be a little sweeter.
  6. Store your milk, covered, in the refrigerator. I'm told it will keep for a week, but I've never had enough to last that long!