Thursday, November 20, 2014

Be a Tourist in Your Own Town

Have you ever just wandered your town?

Not looking for anything in particular, but just exploring. See the city with fresh eyes, a fresh perspective.

We get so busy with our lives, our routines, that we forget to explore. To learn new things, which come from making small changes in our static life.

When walking back from lunch, have you studied the buildings around you? Have you looked up and noticed that old water tower? Did you walk right by the orange cones and no parking signs, or did you notice that it says Grimm will be filming in that location? (Okay, this one is just for those of you in Portland.)

While wondering around with your eyes in the sky, you may bump into a few people. You may look lost or confused - like a typical tourist. Don't be ashamed! There is nothing to be embarrassed about. Yes, people may be staring, but who cares! They probably have no idea what's around them. They may be stuck in their bubble, like we were. Enjoy the moment, the education, the fun, of exploration!

You'll learn so much from being a tourist in your own town. Or be reminded of why you moved to (or stayed in) this particular city.

I had the recent privilege of being part of a group exploring the area around our building. I had a blast - though I frequently take walks around the office and always take different paths - and I really enjoyed watching others as they found out what was right next to them (and they'd been at the office for years!).

I was struck by how members of the group felt weird touring their own surroundings. People were watching our group as we stopped and took pictures, and this bothered these participants. Why? Why feel uncomfortable looking different? So I say, don't worry about it, and explore more!

On your morning walk, lunch walk, evening jog, or your drive home. Take a left, instead of a right. Go another route. Choose a new way home.

And then keep your eyes and mind open.

Are you acting like a tourist in your own town? Try it!

Yours in exploiting life!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Visiting My 2014 Goals - Where Does The Time Go?

I pulled the following from a post earlier this year - wow, where did the year go?!

2014 Goals:

1) Workout and a basic yoga, four times a week.  (Ultimately, I'd like to be performing the full P90X workout again.)
2) Spend quality time with my wife in the evenings and on the weekends.  (Snuggling on the couch and watching a movie counts.  Both of us watching separate shows, ones that are just filling our time and we're not gaining a benefit from, do not count.)  I need to find a way to measure this one...
3) Add six paying clients to PPF.  (Baby steps...but forward motion.)
4) Take a Spanish course and have a basic proficiency in the language.  I've always wanted to learn Spanish, but I haven't been able to get into Rosetta Stone.  We're planning a vacation this year to a location where Spanish would be very useful.

This is a great example of how life takes control and you forget about (or just don't complete) your personal goals.

Updates on the four goals:

1) WORKOUT - I had some great tries on this goal but as of today, I'm doing none.  The year included a full-body band workout, a basic morning yoga streak, 10 burpees a day for 100 days (turned into 140 days), and ended with a three-week stint of P90X.  Only the burpees lasted any significant period of time, though I was feeling much better when I started P90X after coming off of the burpee challenge. Hopefully I can get a few more weeks of exercise before the year ends!

2) QUALITY TIME WITH MY BEAUTIFUL WIFE - I still haven't figured out how to measure this goal. I think we both like spending all of our free time with each other, but we also like our own online t.v. shows and interests (I cannot put down books!). Lately we've been spending a lot of time cooking together for our Whole30 challenge, which I think counts!

3) SIX PAYING CLIENTS - I am still having a hard time charging clients. I haven't put as much time into the business as I would like - I need to be networking and promoting my services - though I really enjoy helping others with their finances. I did add ONE paying client though! So (very small) baby steps...

4) SPANISH - We took a community college Spanish course earlier this year and had a lot of fun! Though we haven't opened the books since... We need to get on this one, as we've booked a trip to Cuba in February! This was the trip we wanted to take in 2014 (and originally learn Spanish for) but February should be a much better time to visit. I'm not sure if we have time for another course, but with our books, basic understanding, and Rosetta Stone, we should have some skills to practice with in Cuba.

I'm disappointed but also energized after revisiting my 2014 goals! There is still some time left to feel accomplished!

How are you doing on your 2014 goals?

Yours in exploiting life!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Arctic Vortex Hits Portland, Oregon - Will There Be Snow?

Ah, Arctic Vortex, where is your fury?
Give me more than wind and chill.
Bring on the precipitation.

The news stations have reported a chance for substantial snow fall in Portland.
I'm curious if it will come. Will this be the first "cry of wolf" for the season?

Here in the actual city valley, we get very little snow, mostly rain. But we're surrounded by hills and a river gorge, which receive a lot of the white stuff in the winter.

Regardless, right this minute there is no snow in downtown Portland. Yet the roads are empty, the parking lots are empty, and the offices are empty.

Why? Are we waiting for the potential that may or may not happen?
I agree that it's better to be safe than sorry, but...are we just looking for an excuse?

We want something to happen.
Something to breakup the mediocrity of our daily lives.

Just a little of that frozen water...

Shut down the schools! So we can have an excuse from work and spend more time with our children.
Close the roads! Close the office! So we can explore the world we live in on a random weekday.

Is this what we're searching for?

Would we really use it to enjoy life? Or would we sit inside in front of the television?

Would it be possible to develop/shape/live a life where a potential snow day doesn't have us wanting an excuse from school/work/the ordinary?

Could we (if we really wanted to) discover our surroundings on a weekday without feeling guilty? 

Instead of being excited for skipping work, we could be excited (just simply) for the enjoyment of a winter wonderland.
Which are we actually excited for?

Yours in exploiting life!

Monday, November 10, 2014

Whole7, Whole14...Eating Our Way to Whole30.

My wife and I started another challenge.  This one to jump-start some healthy living!

Whole30 Challenge

For this challenge, we're eating our way through Whole30, one week at a time.

There wasn't a particular reason why we selected Whole30. We're not trying to cut certain food completely out of our diet for the long-term, but since Whole30 does focus on a couple of our "pain" areas - grains and sugar - we thought this may be a good way to reduce these items from our normal diets.

Being somewhat reluctant to give up my daily popsicle (hey, they're natural fruit!) for more than a week, we approached this for seven days at a time.

Originally, we called it Whole7 (though I'm not trying to take or copyright any names here...).

That being said, we're already done with week one and have decided to continue for another week. Here comes Whole14!

I'm also happy to report that neither of us have cheated during the challenge! And this is with Halloween candy floating around both of our offices. We're now trying to figure out what to do for Thanksgiving (if we make it that long) - turkey and potatoes are in, stuffing and pie are out.

What to Eat?

So what is Whole30? In a nutshell - cut out grains (including rice), dairy, sugar, alcohol, and legumes.  Yep, I asked the same question...what's left???

Turns out there's a lot! You still have your vegetables (including potatoes), fruits, nuts, meat (though most bacon has sugar in it...), and drinks (coffee with no cream, oh yeah, and no alcohol).

The biggest three for us were grains, sugar, and creamer (for our coffee!!). We're still having a hard time with the coffee, but we've been experimenting with adding spices to the French Press...does wonders on the tongue.

Another part of Whole30 is getting out of the habit of eating just to eat. So even if we could make a healthy treat out of the approved foods list, we don't. This builds good eating habits once we're allowed to eat regularly again.

We have definitely not starved during this process, but we did learn just how much crap (as if we didn't know before) is in our food.


We did try to do some preparation before beginning this challenge, knowing that cutting out some of our favorite foods would not be easy!

Did you know spaghetti squash is a great replacement for your spaghetti noodles? You may have, but I had no idea! It's delicious! Cut it in half (no easy feat), bake it, scrap it with a fork. Voila! Spaghetti noodles with a slight nutty flavor.  (Again, we found this out before we started Whole30, but we've definitely used it as a meal - with homemade spaghetti sauce of course.)

Did you know that most of the canned beans you buy from the grocery store have sugar in them? It's almost impossible (and for some beans in the stores around me it is impossible) to find one without sugar! (We obviously learned this before we started Whole14, since legumes are not permitted in Whole30.)

In fact, sugar (in some form) is in so much it's ridiculous! Read what you eat...then buy as close to real food as possible and/or make your own dishes.

We're still learning a good technique for skinning a raw salmon filet - though the butcher was amazing and I'll probably just keep asking him to do it.

Our biggest lesson has been that planning, shopping for, and preparing a week of eating at home is no easy task! This has been a lot more work!

Completing the Whole30

Will we make it through a whole thirty days? We're not sure...and we don't care at this point.

We do plan to make it through fourteen days through and that would be considered successful.

With today's food, I'll keep eating this way forever - boiled eggs and a handful of walnuts for breakfast, awesome salad (with oil and vinegar) and baked chicken for lunch, an apple and banana for afternoon snack (yes, I still need some type of snack!), and salmon and arugula salad for dinner!

Whole14, here we come!

Yours in exploiting life!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Salishan Resort, Oregon

A birthday weekend, with lots of sunshine, food, and good company!

I am a spoiled man.

A birthday celebration away from home

It was another great summer (October!) weekend, with plenty of blue skies and sand. Surprisingly, almost no other people on the beach!  We had the waves to ourselves, and the dogs ran like crazed beasts through the crushed rock shoreline.

Plenty to do at the Salishan Resort during the day or night, plus, it's only a few minutes away from the amenities of Lincoln City.

Between watching whales breach (from the rocky shore), chasing our golf balls around an 18-hole putting course, and eating ourselves sick on seafood, this was a great way to welcome in the Fall!

Delicious meals were had at the Salishan restaurant (every dish we tried was amazing), Mo's On The Beach, and Cafe 101.

Good times were had visiting, laughing, and eating.

Last year's surprise coastal trip and this last weekend's coastal trip, have me wondering what next year's birthday will bring...more ocean waves?!

Yours in exploiting life!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Iceland - A Photographer's Journey

Iceland's wonder is to hard to capture in a photo, but here are a few tries.

Contributed graciously from Leigha Oaks.

Yours in Exploiting Life!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Top 5 List for Iceland

Our recent trip to Iceland was amazing!

The sites were beautiful, the food was delicious, and our drive around the country was surreal.

Though leaving out many worthwhile activities in Iceland, below is a list of my Top 5 for this trip.

Top Accommodation

A small, wonderfully renovated room in Borgarfjörður. This guesthouse is in an old fish factory, right next to the water and pier.

The Blabjorg Guesthouse has a dozen rooms, with three bathrooms and a kitchen/living room to share. Decorated in Ikea simplicity, you feel like you've stepped into a clean oasis.

Rise and shine. (Taken by the lovely Leigha Oaks.)

Seemingly on the edge of the world (and it basically is), this quaint little enclave is 70 kilometers off of the Ring Road.  Charm and peace follow you here. With only a handful of buildings, one eatery, one store (which closes early), and lots of trails, it's easy to feel all alone!

The bottom floor of the building is a spa and wellness center, where you can enjoy a traditional barrel steam-room.

If possible, request an ocean view room.  I can't imagine any of the views are bad, but we woke up to the sun rising over the fjord mountains, with sun rays dancing in our room.

Top Edible

Crowded, stuffy, and so much charm - added bonus, delicious food!

Saegreifinn (Sea Baron) is the place for Lobster Soup in Iceland.

A happy belly. (Taken by the lovely Leigha Oaks.)
You will wait in line, you will wait for a seat, but you'll never regret the time as this lobster bisque (with added lobster chunks) slides down your throat.

Found on the pier in Old Town Reykjavik, this unpretentious hole-in-the-wall restaurant will surprise you.  When entering, your nose is instantly trying to figure out where you are - the scents of raw fish, grilled fish, and lobster soup all fight for attention.

The display counter is the menu. Lined with raw fish kabobs, scallop kabobs, and minke whale steaks, you get to see exactly what you'll be eating.  The have-to item is the Lobster Soup.  The large bowl of steaming heaven includes a half a loaf of bread - sliced and ready for mopping up any remnants.

Sitting inside (especially on a drizzling, overcast day) may be difficult, as there is only three long tables to share. Get over your fear of rubbing elbows with strangers and grab one of the converted buoy chairs, as everyone is nice and friendly - hey, you're all there for the delicious food!

Top Must Do

The Ring Road drive is a must and worth every minute of its 1,300 kilometers.

Watch out for sheep! (Taken by the lovely Leigha Oaks.)
You find yourself cruising through new terrains constantly, seeing countless waterfalls, and witnessing everything from steaming sand to frozen glaciers.  All of the extremes Iceland has to offer from the ease of your vehicle.

We recommend traveling clockwise (reason below), as well as buying your cappuccino and fuel at every stop available (especially if you like to take a lot of side trips off of the Ring Road).

Top Must See

Watching blue icebergs as they make their way from the edges of a glacier to the open sea - wonderland.

Jökulsárlón-Glacier Lagoon was probably the top attraction for us in Iceland.  I honestly felt I was in a dream.

Is this real? (Taken by the lovely Leigha Oaks.)
Hundreds of white and neon blue chunks of frozen water, captured and melting in a lake cage, until they are small enough to fit down a short stream and under a bridge, ending their journey in the vast ocean. Here they meet their fate, or delay fate if they are lucky enough to be washed up onto the black sand shores, sitting and waiting for a tourist picture or two before following their brethren into the next life.

Seals swimming among the titans of ice, the sight was mesmerizing and delighting.  We went back again the next morning to soak up a little more of our vacation with the behemoths.

I would suggest driving clockwise around the Ring Road (from Reykjavik) just to see the Glacier Lagoon as one of your last Iceland sites.

Top Transportation

Have you ever driven in a Lada Niva?

This Russian built, 4X4 car (?) made our trip epic!

The Lada. (Taken by the lovely Leigha Oaks.)
You feel right out of a backwoods travel movie. Exploring the unknown, able to conquer any obstacle in your path. With only the basic essentials, but able to withstand temperatures of -45*C to +45*C, the Lada Niva is a small beast!

No radio means that you need to keep yourself entertained on the vast stretches of lava rock covered terrain, this is also a great time to practice for "The Voice."

Described on the rental website as The Cheap Jeep and The Russian Hummer, you won't be disappointed! (Unless your looking for a radio, quiet, electronic windows and locks, and a working driver's seat.)

If you stay on the Ring Road you only hit a few patches of gravel track, but if you want to visit more of Iceland (such as Blabjorg Guesthouse above) I would recommend renting a vehicle that can handle some rocks. In addition, there are many roads in Iceland that actually require you to have a 4X4.

So Much More

It was hard to boil down our trip to only the Top 5.

With only seven days in Iceland, our only solid conclusion at the end of the trip was that we needed more time! There was so much more of Iceland to experience.

Good timing. (Taken by the lovely Leigha Oaks.)
The superb fish dishes, the geothermal springs (including the milky white/blue of the Blue Lagoon), the potential to see whales, puffin and reindeer, and the Icelandic wool sweaters.

The 10 year anniversary surprise from my beautiful wife only added to the memories!

Honorable mentions include: Hotel Egilsen, Hotel Budir, REY Apartments, and Blue Lagoon

Even the rubbish bin looked like art. (Taken by the lovely Leigha Oaks.)
Iceland will definitely draw us back again!

Yours in exploiting life!