Tuesday, December 31, 2013

A Whirlwind End to a Great 2013!

Wow! The last two months of 2013 just flew by...luckily, I was out exploiting life!

(Or at least trying to...)


Thanksgiving was spent with friends in San Francisco - love us some travel.

We enjoyed great company and explored a new city!

The weather held up pretty well, as we journeyed around town.

Berkeley, San Francisco, rides on BART, a ferry ride, a bus ride over the Golden Gate Bridge, a walk from Golden Gate Bridge to the Ferry Terminal (a very, very long walk), a walk through Chinatown, and new restaurants!


December brought more delicious restaurants in the Portland area - Andina and Biwa (one of our favorites)! - and lots of time with friends and family.

We ate at Andina for our Christmas Eve dinner (we were very lucky to get right in with no reservations, the next 40 people were not as lucky!).

Christmas Day was originally a breakfast with good friends, but gradually turned into an all day event - again, lucky us!

Family arrived shortly after Christmas and they're here through the holidays. We excited to show them our favorite Portland sites and foods.  (Hot springs, zoo, and Biwa have already been included.)


Who knows what 2014 will bring...okay, I have some ideas...but to everyone else...

Have an amazing new year of adventure, laughter, and exploiting life!!!

Yours in exploiting life!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

A Portland Weekend of Food

Portland has too many amazing chefs!

I know this will taint my taste buds for the rest of my life.

Whether is was celebrating our recent financial goal being met, or the five bags of clothes (and other 'stuff') we took to Goodwill after cleaning out our closets, my wife and I needed some good food!


On Saturday we started with Gravy and ended with Ava Gene's.


If you haven't been to Gravy yet, go early! By 9 a.m., there is a line down the street.

It's conveniently located down the street from us (lucky us!) on N. Mississippi Avenue.

Everything we've had on the breakfast menu has been delicious! (Just a personal preference warning, we cannot say the same for the lunch menu.)

This time we had the half-order of french toast and an omelet. This was more than enough to share, as the plates are gigantic!

If the food can't get you in, then the coffee will! I definitely broke my 'one cup of coffee a day' rule on Saturday.

A regular stop for us...Gravy is perfect if you're looking for comfort breakfast food and good coffee.

Price = $
Food = Thumbs Up

Ava Gene's

We have a list of Portland restaurants that we're working our stomachs through and, with Saturday's dinner at Ava Gene's, we can cross another location off the list!

Whenever we go to a new restaurant, it's hard not to try everything on the menu! I just want to taste it all!

Luckily we went with friends, so we were able to order several more dishes than usual.

Since the menu included a 'few' words that we did not understand, we made the 'mistake' of asking the waitress a few questions about the menu.

I say mistake, because everything she told us about sounded like heaven! With each explanation came another tug on our stomachs and hearts. The food sounded...beautiful...

And it was!

We ordered all over the menu - appetizers, salads, first course, second course, sides, desserts!
  • Formaggi - Rush Creek Reserve (from the waitress' explanation, we'd really appreciate it if we were cheese nerds)
  • Fritti - Beet Arancini, Humboldt Fog (fried ball of beets and cheese)
  • Giardini - Brussels Sprouts, Chanterelles, Frikeh, Pumpkin Seeds, Anchovy, Chiles (I seriously need the recipe for this salad. Raw brussels sprouts with a kick!)
  • Primi - Fusilloni, Pork Sausage, Kale Pesto, Ricotta
  • Primi - Tagliatelle, Duck Ragu, Escarole
  • Secondi - Beef Short Ribs, Carrots, Apple, Horseradish, Hairbender (melts in your mouth)
  • Secondi - Barramundi, Mushrooms, Prosciutto, Mussel Maionese (fish)
  • Contorni - "Misticanza" Sauteed Greens, Olives, Chiles
  • Dolci - Panna Cotta, Saba (I'm not usually a fan of desserts and I couldn't stop myself from eating half of this.)
The perfect combination for our 'next time' meal would be a formaggi, the brussels sprout giardini, the fusilloni primi, and the beef short ribs. Of course, followed by the panna cotta!

Being wine novices, but knowing we definitely needed a bottle of wine to fully embrace the ambiance, we asked the waitress for a recommendation. This definitely worked in our favor, as we ended up with a red that complemented all of the dishes! Silky, smooth...now if I would have only taken a picture of the bottle or written the name down!!

The waitstaff were spot on. Offering and filling up our (sparkling) water glasses, refilling our wine glasses, offering help with any questions on the menu, and being very knowledgeable about the food and wine selections.

I definitely understand why Ave Gene's has received such praise!

I recommend a visit, though watch out for the line. Highly recommend reviewing the watering-holes close by for a pre-meal drink while you wait.

Price = $$$
Food = Thumbs Up


We continued our culinary experience on Sunday.

We were in Downtown Portland taking photos (specifically Chinatown) and decided we needed dim sum for lunch.

It's been almost five years since I last had dim sum, in Hawaii...ahh, Hawaii, I will see you again soon!

House of Louie

I'm not sure if Hawaii spoiled me, or if we did a terrible job of picking out the restaurant (what?! Walking around looking for the busiest spot usually works!). In either case, this was not the place for dim sum.

Enough said.

Well, not quite. My wife picked up a fortune cookie while we were running for the checkout counter. Fortune read "you will demonstrate poor judgment today."

Well, that was spot on!

Price = $
Food = Thumbs Down 


We decided that the only thing that could make up for the lunch experience was french macarons!

And there is nowhere better for french macarons in Portland than Nuvrei! Literally, they are better than in Marseille.

It was the longest six block drive ever, as we picked out the flavors in our heads.

Alas, they were out!

Deflated but not willing to give up, we went with plan B. Plan B was made up on the spot, but it worked!

Papa Haydn

Papa Haydn is great for desserts.

Huge portions, fancy atmosphere...and for those on the move, a counter where you can order and go.

The day was salvaged!

We were able to get our french macarons - pistachio, salted caramel, and (the family favorite) espresso.

We even bought a few extra and ate them again that evening!

Price = $$
Dessert = Thumbs Up

I cannot wait to have more to celebrate! I still have a long list of restaurants to try!

Any suggestions for Dim Sum in Portland? We're still looking!

Yours in exploiting life!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Wear a Bow Tie! (New Skills - Check, Conversations - Check)

Sometimes it's the small experiences that can make the day.

Today I tied and wore my first bow tie. (Yes, it was not a clip-on.)

What a pain!

But at least I know I can do it...with a little YouTube guidance.

Talk about a conversation starter. Everyone at work has commented on it, even though I wear a regular tie to work (almost) every day.

If you're ever sitting around, wanting to learn something new, but you just can't think of what to do...learn to tie a bow tie!

Here is the link to a great YouTube video for instructions - [tie my bow tie]. This guy does a great job of walking you through the steps (with an accent that helps you feel fancy). Plus, he uses a mirror, so you can look back and forth from the computer to your mirror and know exactly what it should look like.

For me, it worked on the first try!! (Though for full disclosure, it took me more than 20 minutes to get it straight - my arms were exhausted and I had to shake them out at least once!)

In addition to just learning something new...if you ever need a way to start a conversation with a stranger, wear a bow tie!

Comments will be made, ice will be broken, conversations will be had.


Yours in exploiting life!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

November Is a Hairy, Bendy Month

November is flying by!

It's already the holiday season and only 34 shopping days left until Christmas!

My house has been busy! Not only have we been making our Christmas shopping lists, purchasing holiday cards, and paying off debt...but we've also been participating in a 30-day yoga challenge!

We signed up for (free) daily yoga videos by email. You can just click and go whenever you have time!

We've been stretching, bending, and groaning for most of November!  It's day 21 and we've only missed two exercises so far - though we plan to make them up! (When we missed the first day, after 15 consecutive workouts, I nearly quit altogether. I've since calmed down and decided the challenge didn't have to be all or nothing...I think!)

In addition to the yoga, I'm still going strong in my Movember participation!

My mustache is getting long (and surprisingly full)!

This is definitely the longest I've gone without shaving my upper lip.

Every time I look in the mirror, I see my father in the 1980s! What a hipster he was!

Have you been participating in holiday challenges? Any suggestions?

Yours in exploiting life!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Over $70,000 of Debt - GONE!

We're debt free!!!!!

I'm shouting this as if I'm on Dave Ramsey's radio show - as loud as possible!

It's true though. After two years of focus, my wife and I are debt free!

This has been a long road (we started with over $70,000 of debt). A road that, just six months ago, we thought would lead us into 2014.

But with a new job, a renewed focus, and a shared goal, we made it!

We no longer have monthly payments for items purchased in the past!

The car loan? Paid off!
Credit card debt? Paid off!
School loans? Paid off!

We can now look toward the future!

If this doesn't fit my definition of exploiting life, what does?!

What's next?

I'm not sure yet...but I see travel on the horizon...

Do you have debt? How do you feel about it? Is it a priority to pay it off?

Yours in exploiting life!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Yes, We Found Plenty To Do In Astoria

A couple weekends ago, my wife and I went with friends to Astoria, Or. for the weekend. Once again, heading off to exploit life!

There were too many items on our to-do list for the trip, but here's what we were able to squeeze in...in two days!

Lunch at Fort George Brewery
Godfather's Books - New and used bookstore
Downtown Antique Shops
Astoria Column - amazing views of the river, ocean, and bay from the top!
Astoria KOA - stayed the night is a great (clean, huge) cabin
Dinner at BridgeWater Bistro
Walked along the coast, viewing an old ship wreck at Fort Stevens State Park
Amazing coffee with amazing prices at Rusty Cup - you have to try the Shot-N-Dark!!
More Antique Shops - I'm lucky we made it out of these without a purchase or two!
Lunch and sea lion gazing at Rogue Brewery
Up close and personal Sea Lion Gazing on the dock

So much! Plus the great drive along the Columbia River, to and from Astoria.

Here's an additional source to build your own trip to Astoria.

Enjoy! We did!

Have you been anywhere fun lately? Have you ever been to Astoria?

Yours in exploiting life!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Movember - Time to Grow the Stache for Cash!

Movember is here!

I watched Movember pass me by last year.

I followed several Movember participants on Facebook and online - watching as they post their hairy results throughout the month.

Well this year, I'm going to join them!

If you don't know what Movember is, then there is always Wikipedia...but I'll also give you a quick summary of what it is and why I'm participating.

Movember is a movement that started several years ago in Australia to raise awareness (and money) for prostate, testicular, and other male cancers, as well as depression.

It has since grown to include participants from around the world!

Participants grow a mustache the entire month of November - mustache/November = Movember.

The largest organization to run Movember events is the Movember Foundation. They have a participant registration website and competition, that I signed up for!!

This will be pretty big for me, as I've never had a mustache. The longest I've ever gone without shaving is a week and a half - and this was on vacation, where I didn't have to come into the office every Monday!

A month is a long time...

Moustache vs. Mustache - well, since I'm American, and we've changed our language to be different in almost all ways (because, yes, we're that self-absorbed), I'll use 'mustache'...but I do know that it's Moustache everywhere else! (It's funny, my spell check doesn't like Moustache.  Guess it doesn't read Wikipedia as much as I do.)

I did go back and forth on whether to participate.

I really liked the idea. I jumped on the bandwagon. Then stopped.

I had forgotten about some important upcoming professional meetings. Did I want to have a (potentially creepy) mustache while in these meetings? Would they think differently of me?

Luckily I had some time to think (and a wonderful wife who understands where I'm coming from, and going...).

Reasons to not worry about what others will think about my mustache -

  1. Per my wife, once you explain why you have the mustache, they should understand. Who wouldn't understand someone performing certain actions to raise awareness and donations for a good cause?
  2. Per me, why do I care what others think about me? I don't - for the most part...at least, I shouldn't care. I've been actively building the life I want to live, regardless of what others think of it. Why should it change when I grow a mustache? Or participate in causes that I support? The answer...it shouldn't change!

So here we go. On my way to 30 days!

I shared my cause and Mo Space page to my Facebook friends. I've written this post. I'm growing the mustache.

I plan to post pictures at Day 6, Day 12, Day 18, Day 24, and Day 30 on Facebook - let my friends follow along!

I'm pretty curious what it will look like - nothing like capturing a moment in time.

Are you doing what you want? Are you actively building the life you want?

Yours in exploiting life!

Friday, November 1, 2013

Weekly Update - It's Already November!!

A few exploitation notes from this week -

More fun this past weekend - as well as plenty to come!

Last Sunday we met friends at Broder for brunch.  This is a small Swedish influenced restaurant, serving breakfast and lunch. We tried several dishes and drinks...and most were delicious! I would say the atmosphere was the main draw - get there early though, as there is always a wait for the few tables available!

Afterwards we drove out to the Sandy River Delta Park - this is a gigantic off-leash dog park, amazing! It was pouring rain but that didn't stop us from exploiting the fresh air, good times, and great company! (If we let the rain stop us, then we'd have nothing to do all winter long in Portland! Bring it on!)

November is also kicking off Yovember! This is a month of practicing yoga every day! This should be...bendy... We plan to do 20-30 minutes a day, which should be just enough to get a great workout, but not take up all of our free time - though this probably means less Hulu time! Yay for us!

We continue taking advantage of our weekends, and this weekend is no different. We're heading over to Astoria, OR for a fun filled weekend - there's so much exploiting to be done!

As a follow-up to our water intake challenge - we did pretty well. We drank our intended ounces until the final couple of days - that is a lot of water!! I've since tried to drink at least 80 oz., but I'm pretty consistent at 64 oz.  If nothing else, the challenge week definitely made me more aware of how little water I drank before.  That's what it's all about, awareness!!

Hope you've been exploiting your time and life! Been anywhere fun and exciting? Any new challenges?

Yours in exploiting life!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Busy Fall in Portland, Oregon

Been Busy...Exploiting Life!

Even while working my day job!

Where Did the Time Go?

The past couple of weeks have flown by! We've had some exceptional weather here in Portland and we're trying to take complete advantage of it.

Last weekend we went hiking in Forest Park - part of a new mini-goal of walking (see more below).

The weekend before my wife and I did some life and financial planning.  Dreaming of what the next few years will bring (hint - lots of trips).  Afterwards we met some friends at a great oyster bar.

Another night we cooked homemade chili - enjoying the warmth on a cool Fall evening.

Speaking of Fall - we also went on a 'Fall Day'. We went to a pizzeria and had their pumpkin ale, then headed out to a pumpkin patch - picking out two pumpkins! Afterwards we drove around town taking pictures of the amazing, colorful leaves. (The leaves in Portland are unlike any I've ever seen - from burnt red and orange, to neon purple and pink!)

More recently we (my wife and I) gave ourselves two new mini-goals.

Another Round of Mini-Goals

For the next week (we're already almost four days in), we plan to walk AT LEAST 15 minutes a day and ALSO drink 96 ounces of water!

The walking just makes sense - we currently don't exercise enough, plus the other day we watched a documentary on the affects of walking - a-ma-zing! (Do it, go out right now and walk - it matters.)

The water goal is from a list of mini-goals that we thought up a few weeks ago.

We know we need more water - I'm definitely dehydrated on a daily basis - so we thought we'd challenge ourselves to drinking the recommended amount.

The recommended amount of H2O was a little hard to define. Every website we reviewed had different amounts or various calculators to determine the right amount of water to drink daily.

After a bit of discussion, we picked one in the middle and made it both of our goal.

We also found a fun, free phone app to track our daily progress...so far so good!! (Though this is a LOT of water! We're always full by the end of the day.)

Socialize! But not too much...

On top of all this we've also managed to meet friends for dinner during the week, coffee and lunch with friends/future friends, and spent a lot of time together (with dog) which is always cherished.

I hope everyone finds new ways to exploit life!

Yours in exploiting life!


Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Surprise! It's Rockaway Beach!

I had an unexpected and amazing weekend!

My wife conspired to surprise me for my birthday.

She did such a good job of keeping the secret, and even lying to continue the surprise, that I'm now unsure I can believe anything she says!! (Kidding...sort of.)

The plan had been in the works for weeks.

Little did I know that during every shopping trip for the last two weeks, she was buying items for the weekend. This took a lot of planning on her part, as we only have one car, and I'm the one that takes it to work each day!

My beautiful wife found a place on Airbnb (three blocks from the beach!) in Rockaway Beach, Oregon.

She had researched the town and decided the meals for the two days - again, shopping without my knowledge.

When I got home from work on Friday night, she asked if we could get food out and just relax for the evening - she had already told me that the celery I needed for the planned home-cooked meal had gone bad (a lie!).

I agreed and then took the dog on a walk before leaving.

While I was out, she sneakily loaded up the car with the weekend supplies (food, drinks, clothes, cooler).

We grabbed some fast food (I still don't know how I easily agreed to this, since we've been recently eating healthier) and she told me to drive out of town.

Outside Beaverton, she had me pull over. She took over driving and drove the rest of the way to the coast (still not telling me where we were going).

Once in Rockaway, she pulled up next to a house and said this was our rental for the weekend. (A great house called the Retro Ranch.)

I was ecstatic! What an awesome surprise - I seriously didn't suspect a thing!

We toured the house, put our supplies away, and broke open a bottle of wine. Time to relax.

My wife casually mentions that the owner of the house likes to meet the renters, and that she would be stopping by in 30 minutes or so.

A little while later a car pulls up, the dog starts barking, and we open the door to say 'hi'.


It was our friends! They were joining us for the weekend. And he was as surprised as I was!!

Turns out, the wives had conspired together to surprise us both for our birthdays.

The weekend turned out to be a blast. Great weather, great beach time, great food, and great company! Birthday celebrations!

Now the guys will need to figure out how to get them back!

Did you have a great weekend exploiting life?

Yours in exploiting life!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Observe and Eliminate Time (Life) Wasters

I'm more conscience of the time wasters in my life lately.

I'm not sure if it started with this Unexploited Life blog, or from reading through Mr. Money Mustache's blog (and being a bit envious), but I've definitely become more observant.

I noticed the dishes piling up (one of my house tasks), the floors getting dirty (joys of a shedding dog! and another one of my house tasks), my to-do list growing, my belly expanding, and my t.v./movie intake increasing!!

Celebrate the small wins!

I woke up!!

I'm starting small but I'm breaking free from my t.v./movie addiction!!

I haven't watched my evening television shows (damn free Hulu and cheap Netflix!) for almost two weeks - and you know what, a huge difference!

I now have plenty of time to keep the dishes clean.  I now have plenty of time to sweep the floors. I have plenty of time...to make my to-do list longer (OK, so I need to focus on my to-do list next). I have plenty of time to workout!

Continue observing!

I still see areas for improvement.

Since my wife wakes up at 4:55 a.m., I should have about two hours of 'at home working' time every morning (except Toastmaster Thursdays)!

So...I started focusing on this in the past few days.

Where do my mornings go?

After countless hours of study and research (ha!), I realized most of my morning time is going to sleeping in (at least laying in bed) and reading online news articles, articles which I again read during lunch and in the evening.

So I cut the news crap out!! (Most of it is B.S. or fear reporting anyways...in my opinion.)

I haven't read any news articles in seven days - again, small wins!

I still check my Facebook and Twitter accounts - which give me all of the big updates, though I have to filter for my contacts that I have similar beliefs with, since most of the posts appear a little bias.

I still catch myself reaching for my phone or wanting to jump online during lunch - this will be a tough habit to break! I did jump on a weather station to see the forecast for this past weekend - not sure if I'm counting that as 'news' or not, but it was definitely needed as plans changed!

I'm still having a hard time getting out of bed.  Yesterday I got up and worked out - crazy!! But then today I lounged around...wasting this valuable time...

Keep the small wins coming!

I'm looking forward to being even more productive with my found time (after observing and eliminating my time wasters)! I'm laser focusing on that to-do list next!

What are your biggest time wasters? How did you (or are you trying to) break the habits?

Yours in exploiting life!

Monday, September 30, 2013

Mini Goal - Caffeine Free for Fourteen Days - COMPLETE!

I made it!

Fourteen days without caffeine!

It was pretty difficult at first, but by the end I didn't even miss my daily fix.

I absently reached for my wife's coffee and Bailey's yesterday, but I caught myself - as I noticed her face of disbelief - remembering that it had caffeine in it!!

I had my customary cup of fresh French press coffee this morning - mmmm...

It was delicious!

But I didn't have my 'gotta have it before I wake up' feeling as before.

I may try to limit myself to my one cup a day going forward...which means, I need to give away these chocolate covered espresso beans that have been teasing me for the past two weeks!

Yours in exploiting life!

Thursday, September 26, 2013

How My Short-Term Goals Are Going

An update on my goals!

I've really been slacking...yep, that's the update.

Even sharing them with the world did little to encourage me to meet (or exceed) my short term goals.

I do feel like I've replaced some of this time with exploiting activities - not just time wasters!

But, alas, that would just be an excuse...

I started working out Monday night - three days now, 30 minutes a day.  I'm breaking back into P90X (if you want to work hard, this is the workout!). As soon as I started on Monday, I knew why I like working out - I had the "I've done something" sore muscles the next day, and it motivated me to workout again.  Let's see if I can make it four in a row!!

Meditation and Spanish are big on my list too - maybe I'll start these tonight!

Yours in exploiting life!

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Mini Goal - Caffeine Free for Fourteen Days - UPDATE


My name is Quinn and I'm a caffeine-a-holic.

Its been eight days since my last fix.

I still catch myself wanting to grab the pot of coffee and start guzzling it.

I wake up in the middle of the night with the sweats - the espresso sweats.


If I can do this, then you can too.

OK, so it really wasn't that bad to go eight days without caffeine (only six more to go!).

I did have the standard headaches the first and second days - the first being a horribly debilitating afternoon pain! - but then it calmed down. (I was pretty cranky - my wife might not agree that it wasn't 'that bad' these eight days.)

I was also pretty tired the first week - in the past (yes, only 8 days ago!), I'd reach for the coffee or tea as soon as I started feeling lethargic - but at this point I'm able to roll out of bed (at a decent time).

I'm not sure about the extra energy though. I'm still pretty tired at night.

I'm curious if going for the second week will make a difference in the energy levels - maybe steady energy throughout the day, instead of crashing in the late afternoon.

I'm pretty happy with myself - not only for making it eight days, but making it eight days while making coffee for my wife each morning!! It was my 'extra' challenge, to tempt myself every day.

She's pretty excited though, she gets a full pot of coffee, and no sharing!

Yours in exploiting life!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Mini Goal - Caffeine Free for Fourteen Days

Time for another mini goal!

I have a feeling this one will be much more difficult!

Let me espresso myself.

As a lover of espresso, coffee, cafe, tea, and Starbucks...I drink way too much caffeine.

Instead of going down to one cup a day (yes, it's much, much, more than this), I'm going cold turkey...for two weeks!!

Fourteen days without my morning french pressed coffee.

Fourteen days without my five cups of coffee/tea at work.

Fourteen days without my Trader Joe's Dark Chocolate Covered Espresso Beans. (New favorite! If you haven't tried them, you'll be hooked!)

Fourteen days without my Thursday ritual Starbucks grande mocha (extra shot!).


I don't think this is too much of a stretch goal.

About two years ago I made it twelve days without caffeine.

On the other hand, my intake of caffeine since then has increased dramatically!!


I'm going to be watching to see if I notice any differences in my body.

Any headaches or mood swings in the first few days (my wife will be the judge of this one). Possibly cravings and withdrawals.

Any increase in energy and waking up in the morning (I hear this can actually happen...we'll see).

I know I'll be tested daily, because I told my wife she didn't have to join the challenge - and that I would continue to make her french press coffee in the morning (she'll actually get two cups now, instead of one!).

In replace of my coffee and tea, I plan on drinking a lot more water.  I'll also add in some caffeine-free tea for a little variety.

Decaf coffee? Hell no! That's an abomination to the word coffee!


My guess is good preparation would be key to this goal.

Start weening myself off during the week prior.

That would be the easy way...

Instead (and maybe because I know I'm going to be deprived of it) I've been ramping up!

My coffee in the morning, tea at work, and a handful of chocolate covered espresso beans! It's been a great week!

(I'm literally eating the espresso beans as I write this.)


Challenge set, challenge accepted.

I start Monday morning!

Do you drink coffee? Would you be able to go cold turkey for a week? How about two?

Yours in exploiting life!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

And I Cried

(Not related to the joys of exploiting life, but rather realizing that exploiting life comes with pain too.  This is a life event that has had a big impact on me.)

I don't cry at funerals.

I don't cry when my family is hurting or suffering.

I don't cry during movies.

I don't cry - or at least I don't cry very often.

I don't think I'm insensitive.

I sympathize, I empathize, I listen.

I care, I feel, I hurt, I support...everyone, including animals.

But for some reason, no tears normally flow.

The other day, I cried - a lot. I cried all evening. I cried with my wife. I even cried the next morning in front of co-workers.

The reason, my dog!

She recently had a tumor on her lip removed and a biopsy confirmed it was cancer.

An aggressive enough form of cancer to warrant x-rays and an additional surgery.

The second surgery required removing tissue around the original tumor spot, trying to catch the mutated cells before the spread.

We were warned that she would look different. Her canine tooth would show and it may appear that she is snarling.

I had no idea the impact on me.  Maybe I had no idea the amount that I cared for this dog?

When I picked her up and saw the result...I cried. And I cried.

I had no control.

She definitely looked different - but that wasn't why I cried.

No. I cried for two reasons -

I could finally, physically, see what was so intangible before. That she was fighting cancer. That this was impacting her. I hurt for her, as I imagined she was hurting inside.

I worried that this person-loving, can't-get-enough-of-new-people, animal would be shunned. Shunned, by something she had no control or understanding of. Something that she couldn't see, but the new come-snuggle-me stranger would see - and who would turn from her when she ran up for cuddles.

I knew she is better off now, even if she doesn't realize it.

And I knew there are others out there, who like me will see a happy, tail-wagging full-of-life puppy when she runs toward them.

But this didn't stop me from crying.

And crying.

This was part of exploiting life - part of experiencing all of the emotions of life.

Don't be afraid of crying. Most have been through similar situations.

We are not alone.

Is there a particular moment that you remember crying uncontrollably? Have you loved your pet and not known it until after?

Yours in exploiting life.

Monday, September 9, 2013

What is a Time (Life) Waster?

How do I define a time (life) waster?

Any activity that gives me that stomach sinking feeling that I should be doing something else with my time.

Excuses, or habits, that I revert to whenever I find myself bored and unmotivated. Activities that bring regret.

Starting new T.V. shows, when I have no interest in them. Reading multiple news sources (when they all say the same thing).

Sitting through useless meetings at work. Sleeping in to an unreasonable time. Eating unhealthy, tasteless fast food. Procrastinating.

Activities that I wouldn’t want to rave about to friends and colleagues.

What are activities that I don’t consider time (life) wasters?

Any activity that brings me joy and the feeling of wanting more time to continue. Activities that bring new stories.

Spending time with my wife. Spending time with family and friends. Spending time outside. Reading a good book.

Traveling and experiencing new places, cultures, and foods. Trying new restaurants (especially when ordering the chef’s choice).

Spending time on activities that are achieving my goals. Helping others. Trying new hobbies. Trying new drinks. People watching (not the creepy kind, but while enjoying some sunshine or a cup of coffee).

These activities let me experience life, live life, and exploit life.

What do you consider time (life) wasters? What do you consider exploited time?

Yours in exploiting life!

Friday, September 6, 2013

Financial Goal Time!

 UPDATE: We were able to pay off the last of our debt early! It was an amazing (and challenging) journey from over $70,000 of debt to ZERO!

Setting financial goals can be very difficult - especially when you sometimes just want to buy that (second) beer on Friday night!

Recently, my wife and I decided that if we buckled down, we could pay off our remaining student loans in 2013!

This would be awesome and it's our last debt. We'd be debt free at last!! (A goal we've been working toward for the past two years.)

Debt free...talk about exploiting life.  There won't be anything tying us down!  We can work jobs to make just what we immediately need, we won't be working to pay off past (sometimes bad) purchases and experiences!

It's definitely been a journey getting here - originally we had six student loans, a car loan, credit card debt, and a personal/family loan.

Slowly (but steadily) we've worked our way through them.

Just do it now!

If it was easy, it wouldn't be a goal.  We'd just do it and be done. But...

There's still $13,000+ owed on a total of four loans and only four months left!

How're we gonna do it?!

Time to 'pinch our pennies'...

Okay, so we don't have to quite live on ramen noodles every day for the next 116 days - though this is my default food choice when our weekly food budget is gone!

We just have to stick to our budget.

Which means - saying 'no' to some fun invites and activities, eating at home more, and finding reasonable entertainment.


I think we can do it...the challenge and satisfaction will be our fun.

Do you have a financial goal that you're trying to complete in 2013? How are you approaching it?

Yours in exploiting life!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

When Exploiting Life Gets in the Way of My Goals

This summer has been amazing - probably the best since moving to Portland. My wife and I have done so much exploring, traveling, and exploiting!

Between camping, day trips, trip to Morocco, and this last weekend's trip to San Diego, the summer has flown by.

Its been amazing, and I love that we're taking advantage of our time.

The draw back, something has been left behind...

My goals.

Since most of our exploiting takes up our weekend time, we've tried to fit our day-to-day lives into the five weekdays.

Working our traditional jobs, keeping up on the house, doing our budget, planning our next trip, taking care of the dog...

This doesn't leave much time for my goals.


Deciding to pick the priority of travel and exploration over my goals of health, meditation, and self-employment has been gnawing at my stomach lining.

What about reaching my goals from two months ago? The ones I wrote down and shared with the world...

I've spent the last day trying to determine what is the biggest priority to me - turns out, maybe the solution is to combine them.


Not that I haven't thought of this before, but I obviously haven't acted upon it. (Again, maybe writing my goal will help me stay motivated.)

I think with the next weekend outing, I'll try to multitask my goals.

While camping with friends (exploiting life), I'll take some time away from camp to meditate and exercise (at least stretching, push-ups, sit-ups).

Maybe I can ask them about their plans for the future, whether they believe their finances will take them there (self-employment).

Act! Action!

It all comes down to action, not planning.

I can think about this, plan it out, talk about it - but if I don't actually do any of it...it doesn't matter!!

Have you ever had to give up one high priority for another? How do you make the decision?

Yours in exploiting life!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Marseille & Marrakech - One Sentence

Our two week trip to Marseille and Marrakech in one sentence -

Great wine, nice beach, great espresso, delicious pastries, very hot, amazing bread and cheese, savory tajines, olives and pistachios, hills of sand dunes, wandering souks, crazy (yet expert) drivers, exceptional riad and service, lots of walking, an uncomfortable camel ride, and (did I already say) hot!

That about wraps it up.

(A more detailed daily trip journal will be coming - this way I can remember the trip in 10 years.)

Yours in exploiting life!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

It's That Time Again

It's that time again.

Time to pack up and see the world.

We're checking the final 'to-do' items off our list.

We're finalizing any outstanding work.

We've stopped the mail.

We've confirmed the dog's 'hotel' reservation.

We've confirmed our own hotel reservation(s) - as well as the flights.

We're emptying the fridge.

We're making our last phone calls, before we're off the grid.

It's that time.

Time for Morocco!

Yours in exploiting life!

Monday, July 29, 2013

How Did We End Up at Trask River?

My wife and I decided to take advantage of another nice weekend.

With our budget in mind, we grabbed our tents and sleeping bags and took off from Portland.

We headed out Friday night with friends to Saddle Mountain; a campground off of Highway 26 that we heard has great hikes. We planned on staying there for two nights to explore as much as possible.

Turns out fate had other plans - which we didn't know about.

Too Late

When we arrived at Saddle Mountain, all of the spots were already taken!

We knew this was a possibility (it was a first-come, first-serve campsite) but we thought that by coming up Friday night, we would beat the system.

We were wrong.

At 9 p.m., tired from our week and with no backup plan, we went through our options.

We could go home and try somewhere new tomorrow.

Or, we could continue heading west toward the coast and find another campground - maybe spend the weekend at the beach!

Let's go, Adventure!

Since it was already late and we wanted to relax, we decided to stop at every campground we came across on our drive west.

9 p.m. turned in to 10 p.m., which turned in to 11 p.m., then 12 a.m.


To be fair, not all of them were completely full. But the ones that were not full, did not accept tent campers! (This one blows my mind but I won't digress...)

We had traveled the rest of the way to the coast and then went south on Highway 101.

We hit Tillamook at 12 a.m., out of our coffee (brought for the entire weekend) that we pulled out in Cannon Beach, and decided that we may need to call the trip off at this point.

Highway 6 goes from Tillamook back up to Highway 26 - and was an easy route back to Portland.

Having driven more than originally expected, we needed to stop for gas (and now some Red Bull).

Lucky us! The attendants at the gas station were curious about why we were up so late. We told them our story/curse and to our surprise...they knew of a place that is usually half empty!

It was back to the mountains!

About 20 miles east of Tillamook, and along the Trask River, is the Trask River County Campground.

We pulled in around 1 a.m. and found an empty campsite...finally...

We weighed the cost of staying in the campground to that of driving back to Portland, plus (if we went back to Portland) the cost of trying to go somewhere the next day (hey, this was still only Friday night!).

Stay it was.

We were exhausted but still not done, unless we wanted to sleep in the cars!

Tents went up, we mumbled our goodnights to our friends, and then crashed in our sleeping bags.

What a start to our weekend!

What did you do this last weekend to exploit life? Any adventures?

Yours in exploiting life!

Friday, July 26, 2013

Mini Goal - Vegan Challenge - COMPLETE!

What a challenge!

My wife and I went vegan for seven days this last week - I learned a lot about the pains of having a restricted diet and a lot about being vegan.

I could have made the challenge somewhat easier. We could have just eaten raw vegetables all week. We would have met the goal of my vegan challenge, but where's the fun in that!

Instead we took the opportunity to try some vegan dishes and see what options are available to the vegan eater.

We tried Tofurkey for sandwiches - probably won't make it to our regular weekly menu.

We tried meatless, ground beef - we used this in chili and it was actually good! I was a bit surprised and I wondered how my wife would like it. Turns out it was pretty tasty! (I messed this dish up all on my own - added way too much chili and cayenne pepper!)

Ate canned (actually boxed) vegan soups for lunch - eh...

Ate oatmeal and cereal with almond milk for breakfast - turned out pretty good with lots of berries and nuts!

Even had our coffee with soy creamer!

We definitely didn't starve! I was probably more full during the challenge week then normal.

For the challenge we planned three meals a day (plus snacks), normally I only eat two meals a day (plus snacks)...

Overall it was a pretty great week.

Taking the time to read labels (and look for vegan symbols) reminded us that we want to eat more natural foods. There are so many unreadable ingredients found in our food (which then enter our bodies)!

We definitely didn't miss too many of our staple foods (the treat area was a bit of a struggle about halfway through the week) and we're discussing if there are ways to bring some of our new found foods to our regular diet.

The challenge definitely met my goal of experiencing what it's like to be vegan!

If you're interested in going (or trying) vegan, then do it. I can only see it getting easier after the first week.

Yours in exploiting life!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Part Way Through My Vegan Week

Day 3, 4 and 5 have been a little more difficult!

We're still going strong, but it was touch and go there for a bit.

I don't think it was having to take twice as long to shop for groceries (having to read every label, looking for a 'vegan' word or sign), not having 'real' desserts, or the fact that I dropped my first homemade vegan lunch on the office floor.

No, the issue was that I can't cook!

I have some great recipes from my online research, and we can tell that they would be very tasty...if only I hadn't done something wrong...whatever that something was.

I did learn that with enough berries, apples, and nuts, oatmeal can (sort of) taste good.

I've also learned that some items which I thought would not be vegan are indeed vegan (Oreos), and items I wouldn't have thought twice about being vegan are not (a lot of wines)!

Did you know there is a vegan debate on whether honey is considered vegan? I didn't. Not until our first day of shopping, when reading a list of ingredients in a loaf of bread. I asked my wife her thoughts on honey being vegan and we couldn't decide. So we turned to Google!

Turns out that both of the arguments that we had discussed were the main arguments for and against honey being considered vegan! So instead of worrying about picking a side (hey, this is only for seven days!), we decided to not eat honey during our challenge.

Note Regarding Shopping:

I definitely know the pain that anyone with a restricted diet, allergies, or who chooses a restricted food habit (vegan, gluten-free) has to go through while shopping!

Half of the items are not marked and those that are marked range widely on where and how they're labeled.

For example, some products are definitely advertising to the vegan eater. They say right on the front of the packaging - "Vegan".

Others, not so obvious...

At Trader Joe's, (some of) the products are marked with a "V", symbolizing vegan. Whereas, at Wholefoods, a "V" means vegetarian - here you want to find the products with "V+" if you're shopping vegan.

Then there is the 'accidental vegan' category of goods. We stumbled upon this group when we nearly had a panic attack on day 3, from the lack of treats and sugar. Turns out Oreos, Sour Patch Kids, and Swedish Fish are all vegan! Yay!

Shopping was definitely an experience - a few more weeks of learning the correct brands and having a better idea of what to look for and it would be much easier. But I think I'll stop at seven days!

Any surprises when you went vegan?

Yours in exploiting life!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Set Your Goals

Set goals. Set tough goals.

Use tough goals to exploit life.

Push yourself and you will be amazed.

Don't sit back and let life fly by.

Exploit it!

Challenge yourself everyday, maybe it's seeing something new, maybe it's learning a new skill, maybe it's spending quality (and quiet - no TV) time with your loved ones.

Make a plan and do your best to stick with it. Share your plan with others. Hold yourself accountable. You can do it!!

"A goal without a plan is but a daydream." - Author Unknown

Are you just daydreaming?

Yours in exploiting life!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Mini Goal - Vegan Challenge

Reading archived blog posts on ZenHabits, I came across Leo's 7-Day Vegan Challenge.

Not necessarily looking to go vegan full-time, I was curious what it would feel like to only be able to eat vegan dishes.

So I'm taking the challenge!! (Or my version of it anyways...)


My wife and I have kicked around the idea of going vegetarian (maybe 99% vegetarian, I still love a great steak!) but we haven't taken the leap yet. I'm not sure I could completely remove milk, cheese, and eggs from my diet (especially eggs), so trying vegan is definitely a temporary endeavor.

Our love for meat has dwindled in the past several years.

While growing up in Wyoming, the staple food was fresh meat (beef, pork, chicken, deer, elk, etc.) with a big side of potatoes and a small side of vegetables. Eating meat was like drinking water. You have it with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Snack on jerky. Yum!

When we moved to Hawaii, we started dropping the red meat (mostly for the cost and low quality) and adding seafood (an island, go figure). We also learned how to cook several Asian vegetarian dishes - we had no idea vegetables could taste so good.

Then came Portland, Oregon. The home of the rebellious. Where there are more vegetarian and vegan restaurants (and food carts) then in all of Wyoming and Hawaii combined (I'm making this up but I would still bet on it). Here we took cooking classes (learning even more veggie only dishes), met friends who are very diligent about knowing what they eat, and ate from vegetarian food carts.  We also took a trip to Thailand - eating only vegetarian dishes for three days straight at an elephant refuge.

Our phase out of meat has led to recent discussions about going (99%) vegetarian, since we practically already are!

The Challenge

I asked my wife if she was interested in doing the challenge with me and she said 'yes'. It would have been extremely difficult if she would have said 'no', so thank goodness!

We decided to try for six days (maybe seven?) in a row, kicking off on Saturday, July 20th.

Since this was my idea, and the fact that I'm still thankful my wife said 'yes', I planned the menu for the six days. Planning was a 'must do', this way there is no worry about what we can and cannot eat, not having the right food in the house, or whether a specific restaurant has a vegan option.  We can just cook and eat!

The menu building was easy - there are lots of great resources out there, starting with Leo's 7-Day Vegan Challenge site.

Next came the shopping list. Broken out in to two buying trips - so everything would stay fresh.

And lastly, preparing the house for the 'new' food. Since this was a limited time event, we just moved all of our 'bad' food into the corner of the pantry and refrigerator. The hope is 'out of sight, out of mind'. (I did the same today with all of my office snacks - stuck them in the bottom drawer.)

Two Days In

So far, so good...

Are you vegan or trying to be? What has been the hardest change?

Yours in exploiting life!

Friday, July 19, 2013

What is Unexploited Life?

Unexploited Life is the journey of my aspirations to live life to its fullest.

I waste time (life) and I need to hold myself accountable to change my habits. Unexploited Life is my means of doing so, a record of the voyage.

Defining what a time waster is and what is considered an exploited life will come with time. For now, I need a constant reminder – a reminder of what I’ve done, what I haven’t done, and what my goals are.

Gaining personal insight in to what drives me – what is my motivation and where does it come from?

Gaining personal insight of my bad habits – what are my time wasters and why? Can I eliminate them?

Apply this insight in to my daily life. Change my routines.

I want to love what I do!

Do you live life to its fullest?  What does that mean to you?

Yours in exploiting life!

Current Life Goals

Putting my goals in writing is difficult. Not because I have a lack of goals (I probably have too many), but this means that I will actually need to focus on them.

I’ll no longer be able to tell myself (or my wife) that I have a goal of doing [insert incomplete goal] and then not following through - with no repercussions.

With Unexploited Life, maybe I’ll at least feel guilty. Guilty – knowing I am accountable to myself and I’ve let myself down (and now the world knows it...whether they care or not in another story).

I realize my goals are only tools to help me exploit life – to push myself to experience more, seek enjoyment. Missing my goal or taking longer than expected to meet my goal will not stop everything. I may even change my goals (especially once they’re met). I hope to reflect and determine where I could have improved (or if I couldn’t have), then move on.

This is not a comprehensive list, just items to focus on.  I will periodically share other goals – ones meant to test myself and try new things (mini-goals such as eliminating coffee for two weeks, eating vegan for a week, and trying a new restaurant every night for a week).

Within 2 Months

1) Determine my time (life) wasters. Eliminate them.
2) Workout regularly. ½ hour, 5 days a week.
3) Meditate regularly. 5 minutes a day. Every day.

Within 6 Months

1) Gain a feeling of exploiting life.
2) Workout regularly. 1 hour, 6 days a week.
3) Meditate regularly. 15 minutes a day. Every day.
4) Practice Spanish regularly. 30 minutes every other day.
5) Complete 4 ‘mini-goals’ (more to come on this).
6) Bring Paper Plane Financial (my company) to a profit.
7) Volunteer with a non-profit.

Within 1-2 Years

1) All goals above, plus…
2) Proficient in Spanish.
3) Prepare for a year living abroad.
4) All loans paid off.

Within 3-5 Years

1) Fully self-employed by Paper Plane Financial.
2) Choice of how I structure my life (travel, life abroad, gap years).

I realize how broad some of these goals are.  As I practice defining my goals and putting them in writing, I will share more.

Yours in exploiting life!