Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Wrapped up 2012. Refocus on 2013.

I stopped playing World of Warcraft in 2011 and I found myself with a lot more time available. I tried to figure out how I was going to spend that time; do I play other games? Pick up a sport? Go back to school? There were just so many options and I honestly had no idea what I was capable of.

I decided to make my 2012 resolution to be a better person. I know it seems like a broad goal and it was. What exactly is being a better person anyway? It's no secret that I wasn't the most considerate or generous person, so I wanted to address that. So instead of having a specific goal, I decided to approach every decision as "What would a 'good person' do?".

With that approach, I have accomplished a lot in 2012.
- Read three books : Game of Thrones and the first two books of The Hunger Games.
- Volunteered to feed the homeless : Dinner service for Shelter House in Fairfax.
- Participated in Ronald McDonald's 5K Walk/Run
- Joined my company's committee that was focused on company events
- Started this blog
- Lost 30 lbs
- Started home brewing
- Had more focus at work

I am very happy how 2012 went, I really learned a lot about myself and others. Looking back I realized that a "better person" was an impossible goal. Impossible because a better person is too subjective. How do I really measure "better"? Better than who?

2013 will be different. I will narrow my goal to focus on specific avenues in my life.
- Even though I have a great marriage, I will do more to make it even better.
- I will try to make work more pleasant and easier to manage.
- Read the last book of The Hunger Games (and never read another book before watching the move, haha).
- Make my home brewing hobby more efficient; to keep it as a once a week hobby.
- Continue blogging.
- Lose the 30 lbs again and work out.

If there is one thing that 2012 has shown me it is that I am fully capable of achieving these goals.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Brewing : My First Beer!!

Last Saturday (4/21) I brewed my very first beer with Lee Rogan (@L_Row). We made a American Farm House Ale style beer. I am super excited to find out how it will taste.

Lee and I started with this American Ale kit and modified it a bit with a French Saison yeast.

First Step is to fill our pot with 3 gallons of water, add our specialty grains, and steeped it until it reached 170 degrees.

We used local spring water and the grains that were provided in the kit were placed in a mesh sock before going into the pot.

Lee said that the color we were seeing then would be very similar to the color our beer will end up looking like. Initially it looked like a very pale ale but slowly worked its way to a "goldish" color.

(Bravo Lee for having a metal stirrer.)

After the pot reached 170 degrees (~30mins) we removed the grains and added in 7 lbs of liquid malt extract. Lee stirred the pot as I added the malt. We then cranked up the heat to a boil and added the first set of hops; 1oz of Magnum hops. These hops were also placed in a mesh sock prior to going into the pot.

Shortly after we added a few drops of a foam controlling solution. I believe it was just two drops.

The first group of hops that went in were our bittering hops. Yes... it is the hops that is responsible for the bitterness. Later we will add the flavor hops and aroma hops.

These bittering hops will stay in for 60mins to release the hop oils. I have to admit that I was shocked to learn that the bitter hops stayed in the longest. I assumed it would be the flavor hops... I was wrong :)

The total time boiling will be based on the bitter hops; this recipe called for 60mins. Since the flavor hops only needs 10mins of boiling time, then we added it 50mins after we added the bitter hops. Pretty simple. The aroma hops were added with just 2mins remaining of the boil.

This whole timing thing with the hops is very interesting, because I am learning there are so many ways to make a beer your own. Extending or shortening the times of the hops is a easy way.

Oh, almost forgot, we added a pill (whirlfloc tablet) that helps settle the beer when there was ~5mins left of the boil.

Once the boiling timer is down we shut off the gas.

Cleanliness is always important, especially when making beer, but it is super important after the boiling process is done.

Lee carefully moved the pot from the burner to the sink.

The next step is to cool the beer down to 70 degrees. We did so by putting the pot into a sink with cold water and ice.

We also carefully removed the mesh socks with the hops at this time.

This did take a little bit of time... but I brought an assortment of tasting beers to pass the time. Lee also had a few beers to share.

Not to veer too far off... I have to say that expanding my beer pallet is f#&king awesome!!

Once it reaches 70 degrees it's cool enough to prep for fermentation. What that means is that we transfer the beer to our fermenting container.

After pouring the beer into the container we shook it up to add more oxygen. We also take this time to measure the sugars for yeast; this is called measuring the original gravity.

Now I know I have been referring to our creation as "beer" this whole time but the truth is that it isn't beer. Actually what we have created is called "wort". It is not until you add yeast that it becomes "beer". So now we add our yeast to make our beer.

What's the best thing to do once you add yeast to make beer? We corked it with a rubber bung and made it do another happy dance!! That's right... we shook it up again.

Lee said the more oxygen the better... so we took turns to shake it up.

When all the shaking was done we placed the air lock into the bung and carried it to the basement. The air lock will allow the gases that will be released by the yeast during fermentation to escape without allowing any air to enter.

Here our new creation will stay for two weeks to ferment. After that we will bottle our awesome new beer... add carbonation... and wait another two weeks before we can enjoy the new brew.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Beer... and... well... Beer...

So yesterday I was at Ashburn Wine Shop with a few buddies for a beer tasting and it was awesome. The Ashburn Wine Shop does beer tastings every Thursday hosted by the master mind of Divine Brew, Brett A. Robison. He blogs about beer among other topics, has videos, and even short comics.

Many of my friends are strict Miller Lite/Bud Light drinkers... and that has to change. That doesn't mean you need to jump into a Guinness or an IPA... what it means is that there are other beers out there that have more flavor, more alcohol, and are reasonably priced you just need to learn about them.

If you are a fan of Miller Lite and Bud Light... try a Stiegl Pils. It is light, not hoppy at all, and I think it is a great way to show people that you can actually have a great taste in a pilsner. Before you label me a snob, which I am sure you have already done... just try it.

Also... if you feel adventurous but not willing to get up from your chair... check out Brett's website: Divine Brew

DivineBrew

You can learn a lot with a beer in your hand... and some of you actually play better after a few beers, haha.

Drink responsibly and expand your beer knowledge.

Monday, March 12, 2012

My New Years Resolution : 2012

I know it's a little late into the year to talk about my New Years resolution... but I wanted to share it in more detail.

Most people's resolution is to lose weight, quit a bad habit, pick up a new hobby, etc. My resolution is broader than that... this year I am going to try and be a "better person".

But how do I do that? How do I measure "better"? Well I started off with a few ideas. I divided these ideas into a few categories:

Health
- Maintain my recent weight lose / exercise.
- Eat healthier.

Work
- Work towards getting a 100% bonus for 2012.
- Resolve large issues (backups, wireless, and printers).
- Try and be more positive.
- Attend a charity event.

Personal
- Start a blog.
- Start a website.
- Try and be more positive.

So far I have been chipping away at my list at a good pace. Bobbi and I purchased bikes to ride, she's been cooking healthy food, I've been working on projects at work, Bobbi and I volunteered at a homeless shelter, we attended a company happy hour, I've started this blog along with another blog about gaming, and I have recently resurrected FunnyRico.com.

I know it's hard to determine what "better" is... all I know is that I am not as "good" of a person as I can be... and I want to see how much better I can be.

When my wife and I got married I told everyone that we balanced each other when it came to charity... she taught me to give more... I taught her to give less. I see this year as a year I am trying to be more like my wonderful wife and give more. It's hard.

Friday, February 10, 2012

San Diego 2012 : Grandparents 60th Wedding Anniversary

60 years ago my grandparents got married in Peru.


And here they are today...

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Weight Lost Wednesday : Healthier Side of McDonalds

We live in a crazy busy world so there is a very good chance that you will be in a situation when the easiest choice for food will be a fast food restaurant.

So if you find yourself picking McDonalds as a solution here are some healthier choices.

Breakfast Items 300 calories or Less

Fruit & Maple Oatmeal without Brown Sugar = 260 Calories
Fruit & Maple Oatmeal = 290 Calories
Egg McMuffin = 300 Calories
Sausage Burrito = 300 Calories
English Muffin (160) + Hash Brown (150) = 300 Calories

**Remember that Hash Browns are 150 calories... be careful when adding it to a meal.

Lunch/Dinner Items 550 Calories or Less.

Burgers

Kids Meal : Hamburger (250) + Kids Fries (100) + Apple Slices (15) = 365 Calories
Hamburger (250) + Small Fries (230) = 480 Calories
Quarter Pounder with Cheese (no fries) = 510 Calories
Big N' Tasty with Cheese (no fries) = 510 Calories
Cheeseburger (300) + Small Fries (230) = 530 Calories
Big Mac (no fries) = 540 Calories

Chicken Sandwiches

Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich (no fries) = 350 Calories
Premium Grilled Chicken Ranch BLT Sandwich (no fries) = 380 Calories
Premium Grilled Chicken Club Sandwich (no fries) = 460 Calories
Grilled Honey Mustard Snack Wrap (250) + Small Fries (230) = 480 Calories
Grilled Chipotle BBQ Snack Wrap (250) + Small Fries (230) = 480 Calories
Grilled Ranch Snack Wrap (270) + Small Fries (230) = 500 Calories


Nuggets

4 Piece McNuggets (190) + Small Fries (230) = 420 Calories
10 Piece McNuggets (no fries) = 470 Calories
6 Piece McNuggets (280) + Small Fries (230) = 510 Calories


Salads 500 Calories or Less WITHOUT dressing.

Side Salad = 20 Calories
Premium Caesar Salad without Chicken = 90 Calories
Premium Southwest Salad without Chicken = 140 Calories
Premium Bacon Ranch Salad without Chicken = 140 Calories
Premium Asian Salad without Chicken = 150 Calories
Premium Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken = 190 Calories
Snack Size Fruit 7 Walnut Salad = 210 Calories
Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Grilled Chicken = 230 Calories
Premium Asian Salad with Grilled Chicken = 270 Calories
Premium Southwest Salad with Grilled Chicken = 290 Calories
Premium Bacon Ranch Salad with Crispy Chicken = 390 Calories
Premium Caesar Salad with Crispy Chicken = 390 Calories
Premium Southwest Salad with Crispy Chicken = 450 Calories
Premium Asian Salad with Crispy Chicken = 420 Calories

Salad Dressing under 100 Calories

Newman's Own Low Fat Balsamic Vinaigrette = 35 Calories
Newman's Own Low Fat Family Recipe Italian Dressing = 50 Calories
Newman's Own Low Fat Sesame Ginger = 90 Calories


Fries Facts

Kids Fries = 100 Calories
Small Fries = 230 Calories
Medium Fries = 380 Calories!! Dangerous
Large Fries = 500 Calories!!!! Super Bad


Healthier Sides

Apple Slices = 15 Calories
Fruit 'n Yogurt Parfait = 160 Calories

**Please remember that these calorie counts don't include a beverage. Diet sodas and water don't have any calories and are safe to add. If you are thinking about adding a regular soda, juice, or other option then please use the link at the end of this post to look up its nutrition.

Is McDonalds my first thought when eating out... Hell No... but sometimes you find yourself traveling or running around and just don't have the time to know what's a good local choice. This list may be a little long, but what I suggest is go through it and find the items that you would normally pick and just save your healthier choices to your phone. That way if you find yourself at a McDonalds, you will already know which items are healthier to eat.

Know the enemy. For more information about McDonalds Nutrition go to : McDonald's Nutrition

I hope this helps you make healthier choices in the future :)

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Weight Lose Wednesday : How to not gain weight (without exercising)

As we all know your weight is based on calories in and calories out. If you take in more than you burn, as most of us do, then you will gain weight; take in less means you lose weight. But what if you are happy with where you are at? What if you just got done with your diet or are one of those lucky people who didn't need a diet to be healthy but are concerned about slowly gaining weight?

No matter your reason, knowing and monitoring your daily calories is important and not very hard. Here are some tips that may help you watch your calories to prevent weight gain.

Tip #1 : Get a calorie counting application.

There a plenty of websites (www.everydayhealth.com) that will help you find out how many calories you are eating and track them. What I find to be the most convenient are smart phone applications. Myfitnesspal.com and LostIt! are two applications that are great to try out. These apps will allow you to type in or even use a barcode scan feature to automatically input how many calories you will eat.

The reason I like smartphone apps over websites is because you will most likely have your phone with you when you eat.

Tip #2 : Know what your daily caloric intake should be to maintain your weight.

Apps like Myfitnesspal.com and LoseIt! both will be able to tell you. For me, it's 2080 calories a day. This is important to know because you will want to know your boundaries.

Tip #3 : Create your own Eat This/Not That list of places that you like to eat.

Create a spreadsheet of places that you like to eat at (even fast food). Look up their nutritional values online and find out what are acceptable calories that won't jeopardize your daily allowance. For example: A medium quarter pounder cheeseburger at McDonalds 510 calories; which is a lot. On the other hand a Premium Grilled Chicken Classic Sandwich is 350 calories; much more acceptable. (FYI... the Premium Crispy Chicken Classic Sandwich is 510 calories... 160 more than it's grilled version).

Once you learn this information, you will be able to plan your meals a little better. If you decide to not stay home and cook dinner... look at your app and find out how many calories are left for the day and then check out your list of Eat This/Not That and pick something that fits.

You will quickly find yourself knowing what to order before you even get to a restaurant.

Tip #4 : Control your drinks and snacks.

There are a lot of people who do very well with their meals, but nickel and dime themselves by making poor choices with beverages and snacks. When counting your calories don't forget to include all your drinks and snacks.

Healthier choices for drinks : Water and diet sodas
Healthier choices for snacks : There are a ton of 100 calorie snacks in stores; chips, crackers, pretzels, carrots, popcorn, cookies, apple slices. Sneaking in a candy bar can really throw your diet off.

Tip #5 : Reward good behavior :)

If your target is 2000 calories a day and you hit 1800 calories instead, go ahead and add 200 calories to the next day. This will give you a little more room to perhaps eat that extra treat. If you know you will be attending an event that you will most likely go over your allowance; counter some of that by going a little lower the day before.

Be careful not starve yourself just to have a great time the next day. Eating 500 calories one day doesn't mean you can 1500 to the next day... your body still needs nutrients.

I hope these tips help you maintain your weight. How knows... if you get use to maintaining your weight then perhaps you can find the motivation and self control to lose weight if needed.

Wish you all the best :)