Since the end of 2013 I have had the concept of daily ritual on my mind. Call them habits, routine, or otherwise, the more fixed, the closer these get to what I would consider ritual. The internet provides a formal definition that works as well as any. A ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order. Choose the definition you prefer and follow along.

I have always thought myself their creature. Good and bad, routine provides definition and structure. They provide outline. Over the next few months I intend to share a series of posts on the topic of ritual. Specifically my own, focusing on those that are more or less fully defined. Some I am sure will seem banal. Others may surprise. In the end I hope they will persuade you to consider your own daily rituals in new light.

Here is the first.

In September 2011 I wrote about giving up coffee for the umpteenth time. In that post I wrote that I have an on again, off again, relationship with coffee. After our son Henrik was born Linda and I took a three month leave from work. We both went back to work afterwards, which left us with a childcare decision to make. Linda and I both work from home, which made what we now call “child care in three shifts” possible. I start work at 6:00 AM. Linda watches Henrik in the morning. Child care comes in mid morning and stays until 3:00 PM when I get off work. I watch Henrik. Linda gets off work at 5:00 PM. Rinse and repeat.

I wanted a way to drink one strong cup of coffee a day, but no more. I wanted that cup to be fantastic, but at the same time be too much work to even want to make a second cup. Here is what I came up with.

(1) Water. 16 ounces. Microwave 3 Minutes.

I heat the water in the microwave 180 degrees. I use a Pyrex 2 Cup. This dude is the a very handy utilititarian for lots of small jobs.

pyrex

(2) Beans. 32 grams. 5 Minutes.

I figured out real quick that the most important aspect of great coffee is great beans. I tried a few different grocery brands that were okay. Then I found a local source of freshly roasted beans at Crate Coffee. I dropped by the shop one afternoon, had a half hour conversation with the owner Jeff about my current process, and bought a pound of beans. I try to buy my beans every other Friday. Jeff buys his beans from a local Phoenix roaster who roasts the beans on Wednesdays. That is about as good as one can hope to get.

3152399890_8c35a17297 Photo by ed_needs_a_bicycle

Note: How do I get 32 grams? Weigh your beans with a food scale, mister.

Food Scale

A word on bean grinding. This is where the five minutes fits in. Linda gave me a ceramic hand grinder for Christmas. This adds a few extra minutes to the ritual but is well worth it. The ceramic burr takes only a few minutes but gives you mostly perfect “grounds symmetry”. Not sure that is an actual term or not.

(3) Steeping the Grounds. AeroPress. 4 Minutes.

This gets its own section a part from step two because there are so many methods. With this I have been experimenting. Started with the French Press and have now moved to the AeroPress. I have experimented with both at the same time. It took me a few weeks but this is my current process. I pour the water slowly over the grinds in the AeroPress chamber. I then stir the mixture with a spoon. I then put the stopper in the chamber to create a vacuum and let the mix steep four minutes. I then press into a coffee cup. Here is a video of Gwilym Davies showing you how he does it.

AeroPress

(4) 1/2 tsp Coconut Oil, 1/2 tsp Butter. ~1 Minute.

If you like cream, go for it. For my taste, this mixture of oils is better. I start with a refined coconut oil, not the unrefined stuff, which quite expectedly tastes a bit too much like coconut to me.

While my water is heating, I measure the oils into a Magic Bullet cup. When the water is ready, I pour a few ounces into the cup to start to melt the oils. When the coffee is done steeping I pour the coffee it the Magic Bullet cup and buzz it up for five seconds, pour the finished product back into the coffee mug, and enjoy.

magic bullet

Just one cup. Now you know how. Now you know why. Give it a try and let me know how things turn out won’t you?

Owen

Coffee and Me

September 8, 2011

I have had an on again, off again relationship with coffee for most of my life. I do not remember exactly when I started drinking coffee but it was somewhere between junior high and high school. What I remember more clearly are the times I quit.

I’ve given up on coffee exactly three times in my life. The first was my sophomore year in college. Though for the life of me I cannot at this moment recall why. It was just something I did. That was 1994 so it’s likely that my mom or my dad were trying to quit and mine was a show of support. The quitting didn’t come with any painful drawbacks but it also didn’t last but for a few months.

The second was early in 2000. This time the quitting was in fact to rid myself of caffine. Also, this time was painful.  That’s what I get for going cold turkey. I slogged thru four days of headaches, the worst of which was the second day into quitting. I came home, ate a very small dinner because of the massive nausia I felt, and went to bed before the sun went down. Rinse and repeat the next day and the next. By the end of the week I was feeling much better. That coffee fast lasted right about a year.

Coffee cup

[photo by DOUG888]

The third was late last decade. I am not sure of the exact month but it’s been about two years at this point. This time it wasn’t for health reasons so much as it just irritated me that I had to have coffee or there was a vicious headache waiting  around the corner. Some mornings I would be busy with work and forget to have my coffee. It became a chore so I decided to end it. This time wasn’t as bad as the last. I drank a few diet cokes (with caffine) the first few days to transition.

In the past two years I can honestly say that I haven’t really missed real coffee. Not that much. When I get a craving I have a cup of decaf but even those are getting farther and farther few between. I do however enjoy waking up, especially when it’s in a hotel and I get to walk down to the lobby, and feel good about the fact that I don’t have to wait in the coffee shop line for a fix. It’s the little things I guess.

I’ve finally gone and done it. Yes, I had this on my to do list for 2010 but alas I never pulled the trigger. Two weeks ago I went ahead and did the only thing I know that will ensure I keep my resolution in 2011. I signed up. For what you ask?

Race: The 6th Annual Bartlett Lake Olympic Triathlon
Date: October 2, 2011
Distances: 1500 Meter Swim [Open Water], 24.8 Mile Bike, 6.2 Mile Run

Anybody want to go with?

The Low Information Diet

January 10, 2011

Thirty years ago I was eavesdropping and overheard one grownup explaining to another grownup something I’ll never forget.

He’d arrived at work one morning and realized he was in the most foul mood. He was downright angry! In fact, he said, this feeling wasn’t new! He arrived at work upset every single day. What’s worse is he realized that he had been “sharing” his anger with others; taking his bad mood out on those around him.

From that moment he started trying to figure out the cause of his bad mood. What was causing his nastiness? After much thought, the best he could come up with was the daily news. He listened to the news in the car on his ride into work every morning. Could that be it? He decided to test his theory.

Sure enough, after a week of no news he was a new man. He would arrive at the office in a great mood. Over time he even caught himself smiling at folks in the office as they passed in the hall.

This is a true story. One I look back on when my decision to go on a Low Information Diet is questioned. Won’t I miss something important? Well, define important. If it’s truly important folks will let you know. If it’s really important you can ask your friends (or the cashier at the grocery for that matter) what’s new in the world and they’ll gladly tell you.

Now, to be clear, we’re talking about a “Low” not “No” Information Diet here. Make no mistake, I keep myself informed on the big issues. Especially when it’s time to vote. In the meantime, I keep to my strict Low Information Diet and suggest that I am a happier, and probably healthier, person for so doing.

In conclusion, if you find yourself angry (or sad, depressed, worried) and you’re like that most (or some, any, all) of the time, especially if you find yourself taking it out on others, be it directly or indirectly, take stock and consider putting yourself on the Low Information Diet. Believe me, the world will keep on turning, and your friends and family may even thank you.

My list. Six straightforward items. Written down and time set. Primary goals for this coming year.

1. Put things back where they go when I’m done using them – I’m 36 so I should have had this dialed in at least a decade ago, right? Wrong. So, why now? I lost a few things in 2010 that were valuable to me. I can’t help feel that if I’d just had a specific place for them, I wouldn’t have lost them. Be that true or not, I’ve already saved a lot of time looking for stuff (or rather not having to look for stuff) just by virtue of knowing that the thing I’m looking for is where it is supposed to be.

2. Record all of My Workouts in 2011 – I failed at this last year only making it to the middle of March. I have a new simpler spreadsheet and a better plan for success this year. If you’d like a copy of my spreadsheet you can find it at the bottom of this post.

3. Complete an Olympic Distance Triathlon – The race is October 2nd in Scottsdale, AZ. It’s on!

4. Finish the Swedish Rosetta Stone Course Level 1 – This was another failure for 2010 but it’s getting pushed forward to 2011. I will get this done within the first six months of this year. Count on it!

5. Eliminate all White Foods from my Diet – This is my first dietary resolution. My doctor told me two years ago that I needed to eliminate all white foods from my diet. No, I’m not talking about cauliflower and yogurt. I’m talking about processed foods like bread, rice, and pasta. Making the decision to eliminate fast food, pizza (not made at home), and my weakness, chips and salsa, I have been able to comply 85%. However, this is the year I take that commitment to full compliance.

(Note: When I say diet, I mean “the foods eaten” not “a selection or a limitation on the amount a person eats for reducing weight”. However, I am doing a month-long experiment eliminating all foods that could be white. I view experiments like a trial; testing it out before it becomes a permanent part of my diet. More on that in subsequent posts.)

6. Run a Full Marathon – I am anticipating doing the Tucson Marathon December 12, 2011. We’ll see if this plays out but since the plan is only really half hatched, we’ll have to wait and see. Yet, it will certainly be a significant achievement, so it makes the list.

That’s it. Just six things. Keeping it simple in 2011. Happy New Year!