30 Workouts 30 Days

Okay – so the title of this month might be a little misleading… as I only completed 25 workouts in 40 days… but sometimes life gets in the way.  Or sometimes loss and grief get in the way.  It’s important to pause when important events occur and take a moment to reflect.  I’ve always been an advocate to feeling your feelings; if you’re sad, be sad and don’t try to push passed it.  But you should also remember to take time for yourself.  As someone who works in retail, I spend most of my day making sure other people are happy.  As someone who manages a large group of people, I also spend most of my day making sure other people are happy.  And I am very good at my job.  Customer service is phenomenal and employee turnover is minimal.  But when things happen in my personal life, I often forget how to make time for me.  I took several days off from this 30 day challenge, but in the end realized the importance of personal health and making time to pursue it.

The month started off strong!  Week One included at 7 mile hike around Ramona Falls, several runs totaling 10.87 miles, yoga, and Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred and I burned 1,570 calories!

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Week Two was also pretty fun.  I took a yoga class at a new studio called Yoga Refuge, hiked 5.29 miles with steep elevation gains at Multnomah Falls, watched a Daily Burn video for MMA, took 2 Crossfit classes with Jade, ran 2 miles, and did some outdoor cross training with my sister.  I burned 1,781 calories.

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Week 3 consisted of a few less workouts, but still very enjoyable.  I went to the gym with my dad and ran 2.8 miles alongside him while he began training to run a half marathon with me next year.  That was very inspirational and motivational for me.  I played some golf at McMenamins Edgefield, but mainly just drank.  And then I took an introductory Crossfit class at a local gym.  Only 3 workouts this week, but I’ve been traveling.

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Week 4 was a little better.  I went to Yoga Refuge twice this week. There was one class where I was the only student and it was completely personalized for me and I loved it!  Got to do a lot of shoulder strengthening and hip openers.  Bought a new bike and went on a 3.2 mile loop around the waterfront.  I ran one mile under 9 minutes, which is my fastest mile yet.  I also got to attend Grit Fitness – which is a weekly workout session a friend of mine hosts.  He piles up all types of workout gear in his car and unloads on the side of the street under the Steel Bridge.  Friends and strangers on the street can do strength training with bands, sledgehammers, ropes, kettle bells, or run up and down stairs, in a fun but seriously demanding environment.  It is highly enjoyable but I am definitely the least fit person there.

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Week 5 included at 5.2 mile hike around Silver Falls, a 15 mile bike ride, and a 2.45 mile run.

Silver Falls boots

So here are the stats – I traversed 52 miles.  I took 4 yoga classes, 3 Crossfit classes, 1 Grit Fitness session, several strength training workouts, and set a new personal record for fastest mile.  I got to spend time with my favorite people in the world.  I took a moment to reflect at the top of Mount Tabor and at the beautiful waterfalls at Multnomah, Silver, and Ramona Falls.  I pushed myself to get out there when I didn’t want to, but also knew when to take a break.  Of course I didn’t hit my goal.  I almost never do.  But I still keep making goals and shooting higher and higher.

May – No TV Month

Sometimes this blog is about learning or doing something new.  Sometimes it’s about challenging yourself to change your behavior and learn a new habit.  When I realized last month that I watch television for at least 30 minutes each and every day, I knew it was time to try something new.  I don’t have cable TV, or even bunny ears to get regular channels.  I have Hulu and Netflix on a Roku devices that streams instantly.  This means I can watch The Daily Show or stream the entire series of 30 Rock anytime I want.  So that’s what I was doing.  And “anytime I want” turned out to be a lot.  I know I don’t sit in front of the television as much as some Americans, but for me, it was a lot.

Nielsen reported in 2009 that Americans watch television for an average of 5 hours per day?!?  Now, the results are a little harder to track because of the newest ways to watch.  The older generation is watching a lot of broadcast TV and the younger folks are watching on the internet, whether it be TV shows, webisodes, or silly cat videos on YouTube.  The newest approximations average 39 hours of your average week are spent watching something.  That’s another full time job! What can you do with an extra 39 hours per week?

I wanted to find out.  No television meant I might do the dishes as soon as they are used.  Or I might get around to putting the laundry away as soon as the dryer buzzes.  Or I might read more.  Who knows?

As it turns out, you can find a lot of ways to relax when you are avoiding television.  I was playing Sudoku on my phone or reading Wild before bed.  I read fashion magazines and news articles in the morning.  I listened to a lot of music on Spotify and discovered (or perhaps rediscovered) some new music including but not limited to Ivan and Alyosha, Nick Drake, The Last Bison, Thao & The Get Down Stay Down, and Caroline Smith & The Good Night Sleeps.  (Of which, I most definitely recommend watching the Thao video.)  I kept my house clean and even mowed the lawn.  I worked a lot too, staying late or taking work home.

I also gave in to my TV watching urges and cheated 5 times.  When Mr. Adventure came back from Asia, we watched TV all day (re: I watched TV all day while he slept.)  The day before a huge presentation at work when I needed to clear my head and I’d already visited the treadmill, I watched a whole weeks worth of The Daily Show.  Come to think of it, I don’t think I’ve ever hit a goal I’ve set for this little project and I think that’s the point.  The goal is to challenge yourself, but also do what you want in the moment.  Keep making lofty goals for yourself even when you know they might be unattainable.  Don’t punish yourself for not completing as planned and keep positive as you move forward into your new challenge.

In retrospect of No TV Month, I’d like to say it’s a challenge that everyone should do.  Maybe you need to take baby steps and limit TV first.  Watching TV can be relaxing and educational but it can also be disingenuous and has a tendency to glorify stupidity, violence, and conflict.  There are much better ways to spend your idle time.

February – Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred

For the month of February, I wanted to take Jillian Michaels 30 Day Shred Challenge.  Of course I love everything with “30 Days” in the title!  I know February only has 28 days, but who cares?!  Jillian Michaels is the ball busting trainer on Biggest Loser and she kicks some serious ass.  I bought her workout DVD at Target for $10 but you can also watch on her YouTube channel or purchase and play off iTunes.  It has three levels of varying workouts and intensities and each one is about 20 minutes.  My plan was to complete one workout 4 days a week.  Each workout has 3 intervals of – 3 minutes of strength, 2 minutes of cardio, and 1 minute of abs.

Day One was pretty tough.  The day after the workout, I could hardly lower myself to a seated position.  My hamstrings were annihilated.  I was zombie walking all over town.  I usually cross train and do different exercises and was concerned about having to do the exact same workout day after day.  After the first 3 days, it didn’t seem so bad.  I peppered in some level 2 and level 3 which weren’t that much harder than level 1.  

Jillian knows when you’re getting tired through the television!  When you want to go slower and take a break, she says “you can do this.  You got this.  You’re STRONG!”  It’s pretty motivating.

I only completed 12 of my planned 16 workouts this month.  I hardly ever reach my initial goal for the month, but I continue to have lofty aspirations.  I felt good.  Great, actually.  It’s a quick and powerful workout.  I enjoyed doing it and will definitely keep it in my workout arsenal. 

Coffee Shop Review

Eater.com publishes PDX’s Best Coffeeshops and Roasters each year with an ever-growing and changing list of the newest it places and the long-standing neighborhood fixtures.  I decided to try as many places as I could and judge them all on an arbitrary scale that I, of course, made up just now.

Here’s how it works:
Each category is scored 1-5.  Scores are added and divided by number of categories to give an overall ranking.  And the categories are…

Decor (tables, chairs, lighting, do-dads)
Ambience (is it a place you want to hang out in)
Location (parking, neighborhood)
Ease of ordering / seating (is there a crazy line, plenty of seating, is it hard to figure out who takes your order)
Price (1 being most expensive)
Innovation (stand apartedness)
Food offerings
Taste (double scored out of 10)
Pretentiousness (1 being highest)

The obvious ones on the list have also made top coffee shop lists when compared to others in the US.  These are Stumptown, Coava, Barista, and Water Avenue.  The not-so-obvious ones on the list are Extracto, Heart Coffee, Bipartisan, Case Study, Satellite (because I was in New Mexico,) Christopher David, Either/Or, Fresh Pot, and Sterling Roasters.

Coava is the leader in presentation and innovation, being one of the only coffeshops in Portland to brew all coffee through the Chemex slow drip system.  They’ve perfected simplicity, not even bothering to offer additional accoutrements that might dull the flavor of their exceptional cup.  Water Ave Coffee is my pic for taste, presentation, and lack of pretentiousness, offering a beautifully roasted and brewed cup in the southeast industrial area steps from the waterfront.  A gleaming neon sign that reads “COFFEE” lures patrons in like moths to the flame.  Stumptown is a staple, winning almost every category everywhere and being one of the only local Portland Roasts to go mainstream.  The problem is, there are too many Stumptown coffeeshops and too many coffeeshops that serve Stumptown to award them as my pick for best coffeeshop, so I *politely* deny their application.  Bipartisan is my standard, go-to coffeeshop every time, always.  It’s delicious (Stumptown) coffee, they always have the latest Willamette Week, and I like their food.  Extracto and Heart Coffee were my lowest scores.  Heart because my mediocre 12 ounce Hazelnut Mocha was $6.50, making it the most expensive drink I tried.  Extracto because it seemed like it was trying too hard to be hipster and the taste didn’t outweigh the enormous sigh rom the baristas.  I tried the Fluer Noir vanilla latte at Case Study Coffee and was blown away by the rich depth of flavor and the eccentric decor.  Christopher David had similar scores in decor, for much different reasons.  They share their space with an amazing homegoods retailer, which translates into thinking you’re drinking delicious coffee in your cool (rich) friend’s living room.  But my pick, the winning overall score for best coffeeshop in Portland is …. STERLING ROASTERS.

I walked right past Sterling Roasters on my way to find it.  The tiny, 300 square foot space is the smallest coffee shop in Portland, and maybe the world.  There is room for about 10 people total outside of the employees who are dressed in bow ties and aprons.  They look like old-timey barkeeps who are perpetually wiping down the bar and slinging the towel over their shoulder.  You would think this would translate into higher than average pretentiousness, but you’d be wrong.  I asked a couple of questions about the offerings and was treated to a wealth of information about the operation, roasting capacity, bean origin, architectural details, and got to sample a couple different roasts for the day.  I decided to get a cappuccino, which was on the more expensive side, but it was definitely a treat.  If you’re in the mood for delicious coffee, but need more space, they also feature their micro blended roasts at Coffeehouse Northwest.


Coffee Month – Battle!

Obviously I know that this battle is not all encompassing of the best coffee each state has to offer. Obviously the odds are stacked in Portland’s favor to win. Obviously I don’t care about journalistic integrity. So here’s the line up!

Representing New York City (because NYC coffee rivals that of Portland and the pound of beans brought as souvenir from Mr. Adventure initiated this rivalry) – Ninth Street Espresso
Representing Albuquerque (because that’s my OG home turf and fills the ghetto hole in my heart) – Satellite Coffee Company. If you visit here, try the Turkish Latte with honey and tarragon or the Mocha En Fuego with ancho chile and cinnamon.
Representing Boise by way of Nampa (because Mr. Adventure visited there last month and for no other reason) – Flying M Coffee
Representing Portland (just because) – Water Avenue Coffee
Representing Portland (because we couldn’t pick just one) – Stumptown Coffee

Before a weekend getaway in a cabin near Mount Hood, I ground and packed up all the contestants offerings and my trusty French Press.




They were all brewed the same way, using the same measurements in the same machine. So it took a long time. One huge mug per roast. By the time they were all ready (about an hour later) we sampled the spread.

The mug that came out on top was the Stumptown roast. Delicious, smooth flavor. Very little bitterness. Rich and bold. This is why Stumptown is Portland’s favorite roaster.
Coming in a close second was New York’s Ninth Street Espresso. Slight bitterness. Sweet undertones. Okay, NYC is pretty good.
Coming in third was Albuquerque’s finest, Satellite Coffee’s darkest roast. These beans were so dark, they were oily in my fingers. The smell and the taste is unique and interesting. The coffee tastes dirty (in a good way) and leaves dark rings around the mug. Albuquerque also specializes in pinon roasted beans, which weren’t represented in the battle but are equally delicious and unique.
A begrudging fourth place award goes to Water Avenue Coffee. This is my absolute favorite everyday coffee. It is so rich with flavor and aroma that it becomes frothy in the French Press and the genuine coffee flavor is irresistible. It is how you imagine coffee tastes, but better. I was absolutely positive Water Avenue would come out on top. Unfortunately, the beans we used for the contest had been ground and then frozen for over two months. This is a method I have often used to make my beans last longer, but a side by side comparison proves that it’s not a good method for storing. The cup was lackluster and dull next to the others. If this were a fresh ground being compared to the others, it would most definitely be #1, and all the others would move down a slot.
I think you can imagine that Idahoan coffee is not was Idahoan’s are known for. This Christmas blend was spicy and herbal with notes of anise. It was good, but couldn’t stand up next to the others. But keep your head up, Idaho. You’ve still got potatoes.

Coffee Month – How to Make the Perfect Cup

There are several different ways to make a great cup at home.  The most popular types are a Keurig-type single serve, French Press,  drip, and the artisinal coffee drinker favorite, Chemex.

Easy-Peezy Award: Keurig
Keurigs boast the perfect cup every time.  With exacting measurements at the push of a button, it is the busy (read: lazy) man’s cup.  With the bare minimum of clean up required and one perfectly brewed cup in front of you, who would complain.  The only drawbacks would be the amount of plastic you’re throwing away each and every day, the limited options and mainly big-name coffee conglomerates.  Now, I know that Keurig makes a metal, reusable cup that you can add your own coffee grounds to.  But this metal cup does not perform as well as the plastic ones, making more of a mess, and making the easy machine a little less easy.  Perfect applications would be office or shared settings, or for a busy professional who likes Starbucks coffee at home.

Seriously.  Stop Award: Automatic Drip
Walk down the aisles of Goodwill and you’ll see how often people give up on this lost cause.  There are so many better ways to brew.  But I get it.  It’s so hard to say goodbye to yesterday.  I know they make a lot of really fancy, really expensive automatic drip coffee makers and they probably work just fine.  But the fact remains, you can easily burn your coffee, it’s harder to get the portions right, it requires a lot of electricity, and it doesn’t save you any time (unless you have the ones you can set on a timer, those are pretty cool.) Save yourself $200 and buy a French Press.

The Bill Nye Would Drink Coffee Like This Award: Chemex
I got a Chemex for Christmas from Mr. Adventure and had absolutely no idea what it was.  Thank you?  Upon further review, I realized it was pretty freaking cool.  It’s a large vessel designed for drip coffee, the precise, scientific kind.  Weighing the ingredients and adding them slowly and methodically, this is a process that takes time and patience, and practice.  So much practice, that I haven’t quite figured it out yet.  I’ve had a cup brewed in Chemex at places like Coava, who specialize in the method.  It’s amazing!  But I require a few more pieces of equipment to make it work as good at my house like a goose neck tea pot, a bigger flat-bottom scale, and a better coffee grinder. Watch this video and get inspired.

The This is My Favorite Award: French Press
Okay.  I’m bias.  Duh-doy.  This is my blog, of course.  I’ve been using a French Press and only a French Press for years.  I refuse to make coffee in an automatic drip machine and whenever I visit my mom, I look at her coffee maker like it’s an alien: scared, confused, and unsure how to initiate engagement.  I’m so pumped about my French Press that I will order a French Press coffee and restaurants if I see it on the menu.  It tastes better than other coffee.  It is easy to make, easy to clean, and it’s adorable.  Do you want a quaint little glass vessel on your kitchen counter or a bulky machine?  Man up and drink coffee like Dexter.

January – Coffee Month

It feels like I have a beverage related month about once a year… Wine, cider, and now coffee. It’s cold and rainy this January and I want to curl up with a warm cup of joe. Good thing I live in a town filled with some of the best local roasters – Stumptown and Water Ave are the current favorites, but there are so many more to try! I hope to use some new brewing techniques (Chemex and the trusty French press) to brew some amazing cups. Then, I’ll pin Portland’s best against other cities in a (completely biased) death match. May the best (Portland) win!