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.

December – Nike Fuelband Month

The most beautiful, brilliant, and thoughtful woman in the world happens to be my best friend.  She also happens to give very good birthday gifts, like the Nike Fuelband she gave me last month for my 31st.  So I decided to take on the challenge – meet a goal of 2500 fuelpoints each day of December.  This seemed pretty easy, considering 2500 is an average goal for women my age and I have a fairly active job.

So what is a Fuelband?  The Nike Fuelband is a motivational tool to inspire activity.  It uses an accelerometer to track movement, and converts it, based on your height and weight, into a fitness currency called FuelPoints.  It also tracks approximate steps and calories burned and displays the time!

For my challenge, I decided to go with the goal Nike recommended – 2500 points per day. The first couple of days were easy peazy.  Forty-five minutes on the treadmill earns about 1800 points.  An eight hour workday is 700-1500 points depending on the busyness.  Walking casually around town earns about 250 points every half hour.  House cleaning is about the same.  Unfortunately, activity that doesn’t involve quick arm movements, like the Pilates class I took only earned 200 points in an hour.

Week 1 – 18,387 total FuelPoints. 57% Goals Hit. 8,772 Steps per Day.  Best Day of the Week – 3,935 FuelPoints on Thursday.

Then, on Tuesday of Week 2, my Fuelband broke.  The additional piece that customizes the fit of the Band broke off and I couldn’t find it.  It took me a couple days to get it into the Nike Store for repair.  Once I brought it in, they hooked me up with a new piece and I was ready to go – again.

Week 2 – 14,088 total FuelPoints. 29% Goals Hit.  6,694 Steps per Day. Best Day of the Week – 3,728 FuelPoints on Thursday.

Mondays are usually days spent completely in an office with little work activity.  If I don’t go to the gym afterwards, it results in a day like Week 3 Monday – 1,209 FuelPoints.  Then, I forgot to put it on Thursday morning before I left the house for the day.

Week 3 – 18,147 total FuelPoints. 71% Goals Hit. 8,988 Steps per Day.  Best Day of the Week – 4,308 FuelPoints on Tuesday.

Then I started to get a cold.  The last week of December in retail is pretty brutal and I was done.  Then, on December 29th, I got an error message to plug it into a computer and sync.  Who uses a computer anymore?

Week 4 – 8,688 total FuelPoints. 0% Goals Hit. 3,117 Steps per Day.  Best Day of the Week – 2,077 FuelPoints on Friday.

Breakdown for December
61,150 FuelPoints
35% of Goals Hit
6,380 Steps Per Day
463 Calories Burned Per Day
2,264 Average FuelPoints per day

So here’s the bottom line.  The FuelBand is is a great motivational tool, and that’s exactly it.  You shouldn’t expect it to track all your activity accurately.  You can get more points clapping at a seated concert than you would riding a bike across town.  Some friends have trouble syncing and can’t retrieve the previous days activity.  It’s got some problems.  Some bugs.  Some kinks.  There are definitely ways to improve.  But when the words at the bottom of the NikeFuel app say “1800 points behind vs Women 30-39,” it’s pretty motivating.  How the heck are these old ass women beating me?  I’ll show them!

Cider Month

There is a crisp, coolness in the air that I finally realize I’ve been missing.  It’s fall.  It’s the season of scarves and boots, soups and tea, warm beds and cool rooms, squash and apples, orange, yellow, and red leaves crunching under your feet.  If the seasons were kids, fall would be my favorite and all the other seasons would know it.  If fall had a smell, it would be nutmeg.  If fall had a flavor, it would be cider.  What better month is there to taste a bunch of different cider?  September is all about hanging out with new and old friends and grabbing a drink.

Here are some ciders I tasted this month:

Ace – Apple Cider (California)
Ace – Pear
2Towns – Rhubarbarian (Corvallis, OR)
2Towns – Made Marion
Angry Orchard – Apple (Cincinnati, OH)
Angry Orchard – Apple Ginger
Fox Barrel – Blackberry Pear (Colfax, CA)
Fox Barrel – Pacific Pear
Possman – Pure Cider (Germany)
Portland Cider Company – Sorta Sweet (Oregon City, OR?!)
Crispin – Hard Apple (Colfax, CA)
Bushwhacker – Lemongrass Ginger (Portland, OR)
Woodchuck – Pumpkin (Middlebury, VT)
Woodchuck – Fall
Woodchuck – Amber
Fox Tail – Raspberry (Hood River, OR)
Fox Tail Tasting Room samples of 6 ciders

I would love to tell you that the Oregon cider scene is where it’s at.  Oregon does pretty much everything better than anyone else.  We have the best food, and people, and craft beer, and art, and activities blah blah blah.  We do not, unfortunately, have the best cider.  Not yet, at least.  The craft cider game has just begun to thrive in the Pacific NW.  We cannot even compete with a company like Woodchuck, whose been pumping out incredible and innovative flavors for 23 years.  My first Woodchuck flavor was Pumpkin.  Buttery and sweet with just the right amount of savory pumpkin aftertaste.  I could drink this as a meal, and then have another for dessert.  Then I cracked open a bottle of Fall.  It smells and tastes just like how you imagine it would.  Nutmeg, cinnamon, oak, and apples.  It is truly fall in a bottle… that gets you drunk.

I also got the opportunity to visit a few local Oregon bottlers that are doing it right.  Bushwackers is a small cider bar.  They held a 3 year anniversary party marked with Ciderfest, a free event in the bar with tastings and music and food.  They make their own, selling it by the pint or bottle, and they sell pretty much anything else you can imagine.  Cold cases line the walls with bottled apples and fruit with brightly colored labels.  Imports, exports, ridiculous ABV, super affordable to super fancy… how is a girl to choose?  I also went to Hood River, to visit another local cidery called Fox Tail.  They have a tasting room attached to their bottling plant, adjacent to a farm stand.  The drive there was indescribably beautiful.  The whole town of Hood River is like the best parts of small town downtowns.   The picturesque views from the orchards and wineries, and mountains was breathtaking.  The whole thing was freaking adorable, is what I’m saying.

So, in closing out cider month, I’m thinking back at all the bottles consumed.  What was my favorite might not be yours.  If I like something sweeter like the Fox Barrel Blackberry Pear, you might like something a little more tart, like the Rhubarbarian.  So, here’s my advice to you:  Drink lots of cider.  And if there is Woodchuck Fall or Pumpkin around, send it to me. Immediately.