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Monday, January 25, 2010

I have failed to #GetHealthy

Well, time for an update to my experience thus far in the John P. Health Challenge , and to put it lightly...so far I've failed in almost every way possible.

Basically, I haven't changed my eating habits, I was still drinking Pop, still finishing my plate at restaurants....*sigh*. I could blame the fact that it's hard to start a new way of doing things when you are out of town, I could say that it's hard to not eat yourself silly when you're wife is such a good cook, I could even say that I just am not feeling like I'm connecting with my fellow #GetHealthy tweeps. But those are excuses, plain and simple. The truth is I needed to make the decision again to #GetHealthy and really want to achieve my goals.

So I'm starting this new stage of the Health Challenge the way I've started other changes in my eating habits...a long hard fast. I'm aware that not eating is not a good way to lose weight, but the truth is I needed a way to shrink my stomach, start fresh, and test my willpower a little so that the rest of the Health Challenge will seem like child's play. I even bought some coffee to have at home...which will probably be the hardest part of this Health Challenge is the giving up of Pop and Beer.

Though one thing I have been doing that's been reasonable is keeping up with my excercising. I have my co-workers and my employer to thank for that. My employer, TURCK Inc. actually pays for me to have a membership at a fitness club across the street. This allows my coworkers and I to stop over there during lunch for some Wallyball, Raquetball, Basketball, Swimming and of course the core excercises. So let's see where I'm at so far with at least my physical goals:

Wallyball - Goal 6hrs - Actual 2.5hrs - 42%
Raquetball - Goal 30hrs - Actual 2.5hrs - 8.3%
Core Excercises - Goal 25 Excercises - Actual 1 Excercise - 4%
Swimming - Goal 50 laps - Actual 0 Laps - 0%
Pushups - Goal 1000 - Actual 10 - 1%
Basketball - Goal 10 hrs - Actual 0.75 = 7.5%

59 days in Health Challenge - 25 days completed - 42%

Well, it's obvious I'm a bit behind, but I don't think that I'm too bad off. I wasn't around for the first 2 weeks for excercising at the gym, so I took that into account with the goals. But I do need to ramp a few of them up...pushups for one and swimming for another. Well, I guess there's no time like the present...so I'll sign off of here and throw myself on the ground for some pushups. Wish me luck!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Review: The Spice House and our journey to fresh spices

As many people know, my wife and I are somewhat cooking amateurs. We love to play around with this dish and that dish, and do dinner parties. Recently, we've found that we'd like to take our fascination of the kitchen to a new level and actually started trying to learn the techniques that make up the recipes instead of just following a pre-defined set of instructions. This has led us recently to re-examine our uses of spices. Specifically, Alton Brown from the show "Good Eats" recommended that we start using whole spices whenever possible, as the flavor will be much better, and they will keep longer in the pantry. Much to our surprise, almost all pre-ground spices will expire after about 6 months, as opposed to whole spices which could last up to 2 years. Imagine our surprise when we realized that almost all of our spices in our cabinet were expired! Of course, this doesn't mean they go bad like most foods, rather they just lose potency or flavor, so it was kind of a waste of effort to spice our foods at all.

Enter "The Spice House". This fantastic destination is a specialty shop in, you guessed it, spices and their uses. I was continuuing my journey through the second season of "Good Eats" when Alton introduced us to Patty Erd, owner/operator/blogger of the The Spice House. I immediately looked it up, and realized that when we drove back from Michigan to Minnesota, we'd be passing right past it. So it made perfect sense to stop in and see what all the fuss was about.

When we first walked in, we were immediately greeted by the "heady" aroma and a very welcoming greeting from one of the workers. We immediately began working our way around the spacious shop trying to figure out what the hell we were doing. We decided that since they are a bulk spice shop, we would just start out by buying most of our well used spices in small quantities so we can try and see if these "fresh spices" make any real difference. Almost every spice we looked at, we were encouraged to open the jar and sniff, or pour some out of the taster jar to inspect it. My wife thought it was very nice also that any spice/blend/mixture was clearly marked as "Salt Free" as this is a very important health fact for many people. It was a very nice experience overall.

However, we were actually a little dismayed at the overwhelming amount of "spice concoctions" that were trying to be offered to us. We did not expect to have to wade our way through all the mixes to find just the bare spices. Perhaps we are a strange exception, however we really weren't there to try out the "Taco Seasoning" or a "Salt Mixture".

The second thing that was rather dissapointing, was that it seems to us afterwards that a simple selection of basic spices, packaged in the sampler 1oz bags would have helped us out immensely. None of their gift boxes or sampler packs were the 1oz containers to be found. Most were large 4oz glass jars of 5-6 spices, some of which were the aforementioned "blends" that they really didn't do us much good. Here's my suggestion for a true "Noobie Sampler Pack" of which we plan to put together for a few gifts in the future:

1/2 oz Bay Leaves
Ground Cayenne Pepper
Crushed Red Peppers
Chili Powder
Whole Cumin
Hungarian Half-Sharp Paprika
Whole Rosemary
Rubbed Sage
True Ground Cinnamon
Coriander Seeds
5 Whole Nutmegs
Italian Herb Blend
Whole Cloves

I think that this encompasses the vast majority of standard home cooking. Yes, there will be things some people won't use, and there are things that people really ought to try, yet it would make the pack too expensive. (Ever try real Vanilla Extract from the bean? Hoo-boy....) If you were to buy all of these items at the smallest qty available (generally 1oz) you would end up paying $23.26 + tax according to the catalog we picked up in January of 2010...there was no date printed so I have no idea how up-to-date it is. I figure you could offer this for $19.99 and make the first experience slightly easier for many people.

As this blog matures I will probably throw together some other packs that I'd like to see made up as we find out more on our journey of spices. I will also probably highlight our search for good spices in the Minneapolis area and how it hasn't been very fruitful, and maybe I'll also highlight one of my favorite finds while at the spice house...the roasted cacao nibs. A slight cacao flavor with the texture of nuts, but without the pesky aniphilactic shock some people experience with nuts. But..."That's another post entirely."

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Discount Cards

For Christmas I was given a new wallet, and the tradition I've been having with my kids is that whenever we get something for Christmas we start playing with it. It's fun for the kids because they get to start playing with the stuff they get, fun for the grandparents because they actually get to see them play with what they bought them, and good for the kids because they are focused on the value of that gift rather than what they are going to get next.

Now as you all know, whenever you get a new wallet you get to go through all the things that are in your wallet and give it a good "Spring Cleaning". What I was most amazed by were the gaggle of Discount Cards I had been saving up! Speedway, PetSmart, AutoZone, Great Clips, car washes, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, REI.....even the local liquor store! Ridiculous! How can it be possibly be cost effective to handle the data that these programs create? Do they really suck people in? Most of the cards I had in my wallet I forgot I had, so even if I went to one of those places I wouldn't have remembered to use it anyways, so why bother! Perhaps I'm a special case and most people in the world really want to have yet another thing to stress over...how many points I've received, what can I buy to get more points, once I get 1 gajillion points I can trade it in for a teddy bear.

Here's an idea: If you truly are putting these programs together because you believe that if I buy more I should be able to spend less at your place of business, let's start using some other method shall we? Scan my driver's license maybe? Probably not because then we're fumbling around trying to get it out of the little sleeve, and that's not good for a busy business either. You could track my debit card, but I really don't want you keeping that information with my name around anywhere. Probably the easiest thing is just ask me for my cell phone number; simple, quick, easy to enter once the cashier gets used to keying them in.

My first blog rant.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

GPS Navigation for Blackberries

Well, I recently wrote about the GPS application - aMaze, which was the free GPS navigation app I was using for a while. I then heard about how aMaze had decided to start charging for their services if you upgraded to version 5.0. Well, unfortunately for me after finding 4.5 on the intraweb it worked for a few more days before they "fixed the glitch". Now you startup 4.5 and it prompts you to say that versions 4.5 and lower are no longer supported and you must download the new version. Just to see how ridiculous they decided to make their prices I went and checked...$3.99/month. That's a lot more than free, so I gave them the boot. I was off in search of a new free navigation app. Of course, it's tough right now because most information out there is a little old so all you read about is people saying that aMaze is a great free app, however there are still some options.

Nav4All - Claims that it's free, I tried it once before when trying something else out. Feels like I didn't like it for some reason, however can't say I gave it a fair shake. Will re-download.

Life In Pocket - Sounds like a good deal, however it appears at first glance it's trying to do too much. Just give me directions, I don't need to search facebook through you, I have a facebook app! However, this definately seems pretty snappy. This may just be my winner. Most of the reviews online were good, some bad ones just seemed too old to still be credible. I imagine a few things have changed since 2006. Though a few things I read said that it doesn't give you a map view...just the next set of vocal directions. I suppose if the voice can play while my Google Maps is displayed..that would be pretty damn good!

Poynt + Google Maps - Heard this combination mentioned, however looking on the Poynt site it doesn't appear to have much mapping available. A little more digging revealed that Poynt has turn by turn directions using your favorite navigation engine. Might need some sort of login for the navigation engine, so we'll see. Regardless looks like a nice app for things like Movie times or restaurants.

Google Navigator - Currently only available for Android 1.6 or newer phones. This is the hands-down winner, so once it's on Blackberry there will be no need for anything else. Long live Google!
I have downloaded each option into the phone now, and will report on the findings in a later post. If you have any ideas or apps that you think I should try, please let me know so that I have a few more in my list that I can try again.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

2010 John P. Health Challenge Goals

Happy 2010 Everyone!

As some of you are aware, one of my goals for 2010 was to get more involved with Web 2.0 in hopes that I could learn about how it could help in different sections of life. One of the ways I'm doing that is by following a few blogs. One of the blogs I started to follow was http://onemansblog.com. On there, he talked about embarking on a health challenge.

Reposted from John's Blog:

The Rules
Eliminate as much sugar from your diet as possible. No more candy, cake or cookies. You are allowed Two otherwise illegal candy bars per week IF you follow all of the other rules.

No sugary drinks like Coke (here’s why) or alcoholic drinks (huge calories)! In fact, nothing but water, unsweetened tea or coffee to drink! You are allowed Two otherwise illegal drinks per week IF you follow all of the other rules.

Decrease food portions by 30-50% for all meals. Instead of eating whatever portion you are given, slow down while eating and stop after you feel full.

Snack all you want, but only fruit, veggies or nuts are allowed!

Exercise at least 5 times a week. This doesn’t mean long exercise daily! It means frequent bursts of exercise. Pushups and situps a few times a day for example.

Publicly update the rest of us and encourage others to keep going! (Twitter, Facebook, etc.)

The Health Challenge ends on Feb. 28, 2010.

A few things changed from last time based on our experience:
This time you get TWO drinks and TWO candy bars per week. That’s double!
I dropped the exercise requirement from every day to 5 days per week.
The Health Challenge is TWO months long instead of three.

So here I am sitting down to let everybody know what my challenge goals are going to be. I'm not really changing much in my daily excercise routine, but I'm going to be changing the way and amount that I eat, along with starting a new core body routine. So between now and Feb 28th I want to achieve the following:

30 hours of Raquetball - Probably try to get a tournament going between now and then to help add a few hours
6 hours of Wallyball - As it's a team sport, it's not as easy to get a ton of hours in on this
50 laps in the pool - It sounds like a tiny amount for some, but I've never swam before aside from hanging out a the lake or with the kids in the pool
1000 pushups - One of the few things I plan to do outside of the health club
40 Medicine Ball Workouts - Quick 10 min workouts that will work out the core

As far as results, I hesitate to even quantify those because in the past I've had a really tough time actually getting much, however I really hope to drop 25 lbs so I can get back to high school football weight of 220lbs.

Wish me luck!