Considering Legacies

What is a legacy?

Some people take up the mantle of the family business when they come of age. Many families have a certain field of practice that the members gravitate towards like medicine, education, or law. A parent with an entrepreneurial spirit might pass that same drive and motivation onto their children to start businesses of their own.

Beyond work and careers, families have other kinds of legacies that are passed down. A rich faith tradition that spans back decades or even centuries. A fighting spirit of perseverance amid a history of enslavement, exploitation and segregation. An allegiance to a favorite sporting team or athlete. A deep passion for philanthropy and giving. Even something as trivial as a favorite beverage or meal.

Legacies can also be a source of pain and hardship. Alcoholism. Drug addiction. Gambling addiction. Obesity. Abuse. Poverty. Lack of education. Smoking. They might be avoided in conversation due to the emotional burden they carry.

What legacies do you come from?

All long-lasting family legacies come from a more personal legacy, whether started by a single person or a family unit. A tradition of going to a certain university does not begin until the first member of that family attends it. A farming family doesn’t exist until the land is bought and the work begins.

What legacies will you start?

Legacies are like family trees. The foundational member of the tree is the person or unit who began the tradition. At each branch and leaf of the tree is a member who comes from that legacy. They face a choice: to continue that legacy, or to end it. They embrace it, or reject it.

Which legacies will you continue? 

Each branch of a family tree may make different choices about a shared legacy. A family legacy starts with one person or family unit. It ends in the same way.

Which legacies will you end?

Legacies are neither good nor bad. They are remembered for better or worse. Likewise, legacies can be forgotten. They prompt a choice: to be continued or ended. A choice will always be made. For some, it is an active decision. For others, it is subconscious.

What legacies do you come from?

From my mind to yours,

Quinn

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Hindsight 2018

For this post, I’m going to look back on the awesome things that happened this year. My inspiration behind all of it was reading one person’s blog. My hope is that, not to my own credit, you will find inspiration to have a more meaningful and intentional life.

I started a Blog

Here we are, experiencing a shared thought via the power of the internet. I started this blog because I was tired of keeping views to myself or trying to concisely express them on Twitter. Writing has been a cool challenge for me. It’s harder than it looks! It’s also more fun (and time consuming) that I expected.

You can see all of my posts on the Archive page. Here are my favorite posts from this year:

Looking ahead, I definitely intend to keep my blog going. Counting this post, I have written 19 blog posts in 2018. I averaged two posts a month starting in April. I’d like to at least maintain my two-per-month average. I’m also considering posting more frequently with more concise writing. I have a habit of making >1000 word posts that I enjoy writing, but don’t read as well.

One of the reasons I started and want to continue the blog is that it’s a creative outlet. It’s satisfying to express myself and have a finished product of my labor. On a related note, I plan to spend more time making music also. Having creative expression is one of the markers of a good day for me.

Career and Money

I’m a programmer in my day job. This year an opportunity arose to move from a programming position in our implementation department into a software development (automation) position in our product team. I wasn’t looking for a new job/role, but I was ready for a change of pace. The new role has been great: I’m learning a lot and being challenged more. I’m very thankful and satisfied with my new position.

In the personal finance world, my wife and I started scrutinizing our monthly fixed expenses. By making some sacrifices and optimizations we’ve been able to shave off over $300 of our fixed monthly bills. A few examples of how we did this: switched phone plans and got cheaper phones; eliminated one car (see next section); reduced utility bills by keeping A/C and heat less active; reduced grocery spending (see below); started buying food and household consumables in bulk from Costco.

My wife, Kelsee, entered her last year of grad school this fall. She’s always worked part time throughout her program. This semester she had an opportunity to fill an extended leave and has been working full time hours. The unexpected increase in household income has allowed us to aggressively pay down our car loan. Our Christmas present to ourselves was paying off the car completely!

Bike Commuting

Speaking of cars, we only have one! I sold my car after it needed some expensive repairs and have been completely bike dependent since July. I also purchased a new bike to prepare for the winter as I ride through the cold season. Bike commuting is super fun in the good weather. In the harsh, it’s a challenge that is extremely satisfying to overcome. It’s a small way I can reduce my environmental impact as well.

Veganism

Did you know that the biggest way to reduce your environmental impact is to eat a vegan diet? I was shocked to find out that the change in diet makes an even larger dent in environmental impact than driving an electric vehicle. This isn’t the main reason why I made this change, however. It’s just a nice segue!

Many of the exciting things I did this year were related to spending less money and being more frugal. Imagine my surprise when I realized we were spending over $800 for food between the two of us per month! When we discovered this was drastically more than we could justify, we started looking at the obvious areas we could cut costs.

That search led us to two areas: eating out and meat consumption. We had a meat-free month and stopped eating out. It forced us to learn how to cook more efficiently and how to make better tasting meals. One thing led to another and we realized that there were countless reasons to go vegan. After five months, we’re down to <$500/month food costs eating a whole foods, plant-based diet with a lot of organically grown produce. We feel great, love cooking even more, and find peace knowing we don’t harm animals to feed ourselves.

And yes, we do still eat out from time to time. There are some great vegan restaurants in town. Many of the restaurants we have always liked also have options for us now.

Climbing

We started climbing in the summer of 2017. After about six months of gym climbing we set our sights on the real thing. In May of this year we took a trip to Red River Gorge and had a blast climbing in one of the best sport climbing crags in the world. One month later we returned and had a less than satisfying trip due to a health scare and bad weather (a story for another time).

A perfect storm of burn out, the sour trip to RRG, Kelsee’s school schedule ramping up, getting rid of my car, wanting to save money, and the summer heat left us with no psych to climb. We cancelled our memberships to the gym and have a peace about taking a break from rock climbing. It was an amazing adventure and the first hobby Kelsee and I have ever started together in the seven years of our relationship. We know we’ll climb again in the future.

Minimalism

I’ll preface this section by saying neither my wife or I consider ourselves minimalists by name. If you haven’t, watch the documentary with the same name (it’s on Netflix). After watching it, I realized I aligned with many of the concepts they share in the film: I keep a narrow and functional wardrobe; I don’t desire many material things; I care about adding value to my life both through the things I own and the experiences and relationships I have.

The way this has played out in our lives is pretty funny. For at least ten weekends this year (I am not exaggerating) we began every Saturday morning by eating a pancake breakfast followed by hours spent going through our large collection of stuff and sorting it to be sold, given away, or trashed. We’ve downsized our material possessions enough that we are looking at downsizing our apartment because we simply can’t justify paying for the unused space.

Marriage

Kelsee and I celebrated two years of marriage this year. We also celebrated seven years since our dating relationship began. Above everything else listed thus far, the growth and joy that has come in our marriage has been the richest part of my life. We’ve experienced so much of this wild year together that I have to ask myself what in the world we were doing together all the years prior. I’m so blessed to have a wife that hears my harebrained schemes and encourages and supports (or even joins) me for the ride. She also keeps me grounded to reality, which I highly value.

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Faith

At the beginning of this year I realized I hadn’t fully read every book of the Bible. I decided I would do a Bible-in-a-year plan. I read it chronologically as the events took place. I’m wrapping it up in the next two days. It’s been especially cool to learn about the pieces of the overarching story from the Old Testament that I hadn’t read or previously understood.

Ultimately I don’t know that I can recommend this plan to anyone. It was a bit slow and hard to stay motivated in. I found myself doing the readings just to check off a box. It was also tough being in the Old Testament for the large majority of the year. The underlying problem was that I let this plan be my primary source of Bible reading in my daily routine. I’m planning to address the issue by making more short term, targeted reading plans for the coming year. Time in the Word is still a greatly important thing, and I’ve seen the fruit from this year’s daily reading. Onward and upward!

I also had the humbling opportunity on two occasions to lead worship at my church for our Sunday morning services. I can see God’s provision in mentoring me with other worship leaders throughout my faith life and giving me the joy of leading worship for two years in my college ministry. Those parts of my past helped prepare me well for leading. It was a wonderful feeling to use the gifts and skills I’ve been blessed with to lead God’s people in worship to Him.

Not All Fun And Games

A common problem with our interconnected, social-media-driven world is only seeing a polished version of other people. Seeing and perceiving others at their very best without spot or blemish. I’m no exception to this trend.

All of these awesome things happened in spite of the pains of my life. There have been some deep struggles this year for my personal life, marriage, family, and friendships. I want to acknowledge both the highs and lows in order to be grateful and transparent. Don’t let the presence of trials and tribulations prevent you from dreaming big and taking action.

I hope that my year of radical and experimental growth will embolden you to embark on a new challenge or finally get around to making a change you’ve been putting off. The 2018 year has been the most meaningful and intentional season of my life so far. I intend to say the same for 2019. Maybe you will, too.

From my mind to yours,

Quinn

 

 

Winter Weather on a Bike

In my last post, I talked about how I’m riding my electric bike to work every day through this Midwestern winter. I detail the cost of the bike and its accessories, and talk about the trade-offs of an ebike versus a car. For this post, I’d like to share how I bundle up to stay warm while on my commute. To put it simply: Layers!

But first, lets talk about the kind of weather I’m actually dealing with. So far this year I’ve experienced temperatures in the low teens. I’m riding at roughly 18mph on average. According to this calculator, at 10 degrees outside my body is experiencing -8 degree temperatures. Add in a strong headwind and drop the temperature another 15 degrees and you end up with a -25 Fahrenheit real feel!

Before I get a bunch of worried gasps, let’s remember that I’m riding a bike. I’m pumping blood, moving my body, and generating heat naturally. My bike might be electric, but I always have the ability to turn down the power assist in order to put more work onto my legs. If I get too chilly, I can always turn up the heat by pedaling harder.

Now that we know the temps, what about the precipitation? I’m wearing the same water-wicking outer layers that I’ve worn during the rainier warm months, so rain is covered. Snow is even easier to stay dry in since it doesn’t stick to my shell layers. Keeping the moisture out has been very manageable.

My commute is right at five miles one way. On average, this takes me under 18 minutes in good weather. I have yet to experience heavy snow, but I made it just fine through an ice advisory a few weeks ago. So far I’ve managed to stay warm from start to end of my commutes. If it took 30 minutes or more, I might need to get some more effective clothing.

The Gear

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My daily winter bike commuting garb

 

Above is the full clothing setup of my daily commutes through the winter.

  • Feet: Two pairs of socks and winter boots.
  • Legs: Underwear, thermal leggings, long underwear, jeans and a pair of rain pants.
  • Torso: Long sleeve tee, hoodie, jacket and a soft rain shell.
  • Hands: Knit gloves and the bar mitts attached to my handle bars.
  • Head and face: Buff, balaclava, ski goggles and rain shell hood (sometimes).

I already owned everything except the face gear, rain pants and thermal leggings. All together those extra items cost under $100 and are all staying in good shape a couple months in.

Things are going well so far with this amount of clothing. The nice thing is that I can always add more layers. I tentatively plan to get a scarf to add around my face for some added warmth and wind protection. My gloves are about the bare minimum for insulation currently, but I’m holding off on buying some more legit winter gloves as long as I can!

If you layer up enough you can handle the effects of weather just fine. It’s awesome being suited up and cruising to work in the wee hours of the morning feeling comfy. Plus, it’s kinda fun seeing the looks from my coworkers the first time they see me suited up.

The Calm Before The Storm

Today I completed my last bike commute of 2018. I’m looking forward to the time off of the bike (and work) for the holidays. It’s surreal to think back eight months ago when I first started riding a bike to work a few times a week. Bike commuting has been a fun adventure, but I know I’m in for a real challenge when winter is in full swing. I hope you’ve enjoyed following along as I share my experiences so far. Stay tuned for more!

From my mind to yours,

Quinn

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Ebike Commuting to Work

I’ve been riding my bike to work for the last seven months. Since starting, I’ve sold my car and committed to riding my bike to work every day. It’s been a great adventure filled with challenges and setbacks. As winter approaches, I’m faced with a constant question from my family, friends and coworkers: What are you going to do in the winter?

There are two distinct aspects to winter bike commuting: safely arriving to your destination and handling the weather. For this post, I’m going to discuss how I will get to my destinations every day. I present to you, my new electric bicycle!

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The RadRover Electric Fat Bike

This monstrous vehicle is an Electric bicycle made by Rad Power Bikes, the RadRover. Being an electric bike means that it has a battery and integrated motor that engage when the user pedals. Think of it like a hybrid car, except using two legs instead of a combustion engine. The battery has a 20-45 mile range and can help boost the commuting speed to 20mph*. The street tires, rear cargo rack and milk crate are my own additions, but everything else pictured above are part of the 2018 base model.

If you decide to purchase your own Rad Power bike, be sure to use my name to score a $50 Amazon gift card. Just enter Quinn Keitel during the checkout process (I get a gift card too)!

The first thing people ask about when they see this bike is why the tires are so big. It is also a fat bike, a type of bicycle that features wider and larger tires and often has a solid fork and hard tail. As you can see, this model actually does have front suspension. Fat bikes are generally used in mountain biking settings.

The big tires are more cushy than small narrow tires you might see on a road bike. They add a bit of softness to the ride as well as providing more surface area for contact with the road. Fat bikes were originally intended for use on sand and snow–something I had in mind when preparing for winter commuting.

I ordered the bike from the manufacturer in Seattle and it arrived in a gigantic box. It was 50% assembled and required a couple hours to complete. There were a few issues in shipping that resulted in the derailleur and derailleur guard being bent out of position. Rad Power Bikes shipped me a new mounting plate and it was as good as new. It was three weeks between receiving the bike to being able to ride it with the new part attached. It was less than ideal, but their customer service provided the replacement for free. Pretty crazy that I assembled an electric… fat… bike… none of which I had done before!

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I feel bad for the delivery guy that had to handle this 65 pound box!

 

Tried and Tested

As of writing this post, I’ve accumulated over 500 miles on my ebike. I love the disc brakes and integrated headlight that come with the bike. Battery power really helps me get up the large hill I have to climb every day. As mentioned above, it weights over 65 pounds. This makes it more difficult to navigate through my office and front door of my apartment, but makes me feel like Batman riding the Batcycle which is a plus.

The RadRover comes with a set of basic off-road tires. Since I started riding it in the summer I bought a nice pair of street tires appropriate for the weather conditions for most of the year. It’s now late November and I’ve switched to the off-road tires to handle the snow and ice that is already blessing my early morning commutes.

Here’s a cost breakdown of the entire bike and accessories:

  • Rad Rover bike – $1499**
  • Street tires – $149.90
  • Fenders – $89
  • Rear cargo rack – $31.38
  • Two spare tubes – $30
  • Milk crate – $10

Which comes to a grand total of $1809.28. I’ve also migrated my rear and front lights from my old bike to this one, which is about $50 worth of accessories I already had.

Whoa now, isn’t that a bit much for a bike? Good question.

In terms of cost, I’m coming out ahead of my last vehicle. In my cost of car ownership article I discuss how owning my Civic came out to roughly $300 a month across it’s lifespan. This means that after only six months I’ll break even in terms of the monthly cost of ownership. Clearly a car provides benefits like being protected from the weather and the ability to move more cargo and people. Cars come with plenty of burdens, though…

No more car insurance, license plates or vehicle registrations to pay for with my RadRover. I also don’t have to pay for fuel because I charge it every day at work. Bikes are also much easier to maintain than a car, and I save money doing most of the maintenance myself. I can’t go quite as far with my ebike compared to a standard car, but I still get around town from time to time!

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I rode my ebike to a doctor’s appointment. Here it is kitted out with my winter handle bar mitts and fenders.

 

The extra benefit from having a hybrid bike is that I’m not wiped out from riding it 10 miles every day of the week. This allows me to still get in other physical activity after work without being too tired. I also get to work faster. There have been instances where my normal trails are closed and I’m forced to ride on more heavily trafficked main roads. With an electric motor helping me maintain 20mph, I’m more comfortable being among the big four-wheeled metal machines.

I like my ebike. It’s a happy medium between a standard bike and a car. So far I’ve commuted through rain, light snow and an ice advisory on it. As winter approaches, I’m excited to give it a whirl through a full snowfall. Bring it on!

Stay tuned for my next post where I will outline how I stay warm riding at 20mph in single digit temperatures.

From my mind to yours,

Quinn

 

 

* The legal speed limit of a battery assisted bicycle in my state is 20mph, but it varies based on state and country. You can override the speed limiter in the firmware and raise it to 40kmph (roughly 25mph). I did this for one day and felt unsafe riding on trails with pedestrians. I keep it at the factory standard limit now.

** I bought this bike roughly a week before some new tariffs were imposed between China and the US, which immediately made the price of the bike rise by $200 due to the Chinese-made Bafang rear hub motor. The tariffs affected a majority of the ebike market, so it would be hard to avoid the price increase. I would have still bought at the increased price and recommend this bike at the current.

Three Months Vegan

A couple months ago I wrote about my wife and I’s decision to switch to a plant-based diet. We just crossed the three-month mark, so I figure it’s a good time to share an update on how we aren’t getting enough protein and why we miss cheese so much.

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Caribbean-inspired black beans and rice, habanero salsa, baked plantains and avocado

How I Feel

In short, I feel good. I don’t feel amazing, and I don’t feel like crap. That said, I have had a few things happen that have been pleasant improvements.

I’m way more consistent with my poops. The biggest difference is that since I’m getting significantly more amounts of fiber, they are more predictable and much… quicker? I feel like I pretty much never take more than 2 minutes to do my business and be done. On a similar note, I’m not really having any more gas even though I’m eating a lot of beans. Things are pretty “normal.”

Mentally, I feel a bit more focused. I haven’t ever had any issues with mental fatigue or sluggishness but I think that I have a lot more energy now which has helped me be a lot more steady throughout the day. I find myself a bit more stir crazy in a good way now. There are more urges to get up and move around, and to get physical more throughout the day by working out or even just walking on a treadmill.

Throughout these three months I’ve lost about 10 pounds and gained 5 back*. It took some getting used to for how much food I had to eat to maintain my weight since plant foods are so much more dense. I wasn’t really needing to lose weight and I hit a point where I thought, “okay, time to start pigging out.” Pigging out just means eating extra fruit and more smoothies. Smoothies have been the easy way to help regulate my weight because it’s easier to pack in more calories.

What I’m Eating

Here’s a breakdown of what I typically do on a work day:

Breakfast: 1/2 cup of steel cut oatmeal topped with frozen berries, nuts, seeds, and maybe fruit. With it, I’ll have some raw veggies and hummus. If I’m feeling extra hungry, I might make a loaded green smoothie instead of the veggies.

Lunch: Usually a dish containing grains, veggies and beans. Maybe leftover curry, a vegetable soup, or a loaded baked potato. Sides include an apple or a banana, maybe raw veggies and hummus, and a baked treat Kelsee made for the week.

Dinner: A meal that involves more cooking. If we aren’t in a cooking mood, I might whip up a big salad with spinach and other mixed greens, chick peas, and a dressing made on the spot. Other nights I’ll throw a bunch of veggies in our wok to make a stir fry. If I’m really lazy or short on time after a workout, a big fat smoothie with mixed greens and whatever else I need to round out my nutrition variety for the day.

Our newest routine for the weekends is to start Saturday morning with a pancake breakfast. We’ve done this for the past 4 weekends and it’s been something fun to look forward to. We make our pancakes with oat flour that we process ourselves from the oats we buy, and put all kinds of combinations of fruits and nuts to make our pancakes: blueberry, cocoa banana, pumpkin chocolate chip, chocolate walnut, apple cinnamon, etc.

In general we’ve been eating plenty of whole grains, beans and veggies that are packed with protein (and fiber!). We’ve also enjoyed our dairy-free life for the past few months as well. One small thing that helps is that Kelsee found a vegetable-based vegan nacho cheese recipe that has been a fun food to eat from time to time.

On the topic of vegan alternatives, that vegan nacho cheese has been one of the only substitute foods we’ve gone for. I think we’ve cooked with tofu once and had seitan at a restaurant once. Aside from those, we’re not really bothering with trying to emulate meat or dairy. The foods that we have been eating are satisfying and leave us without the desire to add cheese, milk or meat. I can think back to eating lasagna or fried chicken, but I don’t have as much memory of what they taste like.

We recently reorganized our recipe box to move all our old go-to dishes into the back and it was a walk down memory lane. We’ve taken a few of them and made them vegan-friendly.  Swap the chicken for more black beans in a tortilla soup and it still tastes pretty much the same (and is much cheaper). We’ve also added several new dishes to our meal rotation that have been really tasty. Making Indian curry has been one of our favorite additions. Here are some other favorite foods that I’ve been eating lately.

Other Thoughts

We really do feel like we’re in a completely new chapter in our eating. The old recipes we used to make seem so foreign to us even after three months of not making them. We’re making pretty much all of our food for ourselves from scratch at this point. It’s been fun to see tangible improvements in my cooking skills along the way, and it’s a fun thing for us to do together. Having Kelsee right there with me while we are making this lifestyle change has made it even more fun.

According to my tracking document we’ve eaten out five times since going vegan. We’ve tried some vegan restaurants and vegan-friendly options at places we already liked. It’s been a mixed bag. I feel like my cooking is improving to the point that I could make most of the foods I’d want to get at a restaurant for half the price and have more fun in the process. For socializing, eating out is still a special occasion for us.

We haven’t had much grief or trouble from other people at all. It’s been fun having coworkers notice or ask questions about what I’m eating. Friends and family have been pretty easy, too. I think it helps that we’re always proactive about our food options before we’re put in the situation. Simple things like looking at menus beforehand, talking to whoever is cooking about our restrictions, bringing our own food to supplement helps a ton.

It’s not breaking the bank, either. We are spending less than we did before the switch on food, but not by much. The reason it’s not cheaper is primarily because we are mostly buying organic foods now.

My biggest take away: It hasn’t been hard. I think it would be hard if you didn’t really want to do it or were dragged along by your partner, but for me it’s honestly been pretty easy. I’ve been motivated and built some good habits that have made it very natural to eat this way.

And in case you didn’t catch my sarcasm at the top of the post… I’m getting plenty of protein and more other nutrients than I was before. I also don’t miss cheese or dairy at all. The food documentaries helped me here, but beware you might get grossed out by it too!

So that’s my update. It’s been fun and rewarding to eat whole-food, plant-based. I never thought I’d be vegan even four months ago but here I am. I have a hard time seeing it change any time soon, if ever.

From my mind to yours,

Quinn

 

*I have to admit that I also stopped rock climbing/working out altogether at the start of our diet changes. In the past 4 weeks I’ve since started working out 3+ times a week again. It was coincidence that my physical activity dropped at the start of our diet, and it probably played into my weight changes on both ends.

 

 

New Favorite Spoon

Kelsee and I have been taking a closer look at our spending habits this year. We don’t have a lot of unnecessary spending, but there’s always room for improvement. Now, we’re doing our best to make sure we make each purchase count. It’s a simple strategy: buy less things, buy better things. My highlight purchase over the past two months has been a silicone spoon.

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As I think back across the entire year so far, my new spoon actually ranks pretty high across all my purchases as a favorite. Off the top of my head, the only other purchases that have been more valuable are my new bike and a new pair of shorts. This spoon must be pretty awesome!

It is. My new spoon is the vehicle by which I deliver my daily oatmeal into my mouth. Before my new spoon, in the utensil dark ages, I used a regular old spoon to eat my oatmeal. There was a glaring issue to using a regular spoon that could have lead to a health and frugality crisis!

Because I make oatmeal in the same pot every day, I stopped using bowls. Why dirty a bowl with my oatmeal when the pot has the same functionality? I now place the pot on a hot pad and eat my food straight from the cooking vessel. Less dishes to clean, and the oatmeal stays warmer while I prep the rest of my meal. Win/win.

But those metal spoons were hard on the protective coating of the pot. I’ve seen pots lose their non-stick coating and begin to rust. I don’t want to eat rust! I also don’t want to ruin a perfectly good pot. A silicone spoon was the solution.

We saw the silicone spoons hanging on the shelf at Meijer about two weeks before we purchased it. I knew it would be nice, but didn’t want to rush into things. After all, it was hopefully something I would use every single day. After sleeping on the idea and continuing to very cautiously use a metal spoon in my oatmeal pot for those two weeks, I pulled the trigger: new spoon acquired.

It’s working great so far. I don’t have to worry about scraping the coating of my pot while I eat. Another perk is it doesn’t get hot if I let it sit inside the freshly cooked oatmeal, so less chance for me to burn my mouth.

I now have a dependable tool for eating my morning meal every day. It’s helping make my cookware last longer, too. On top of it all, I have added consistency in my mornings. It’s therapeutic. Same pot. Same spoon. Partners in crime. Yin and Yang.

More Than a Spoon

No, it’s actually just a spoon.

But, this post is about more than a spoon. For me, this is an exercise in gratitude, intentionality and wise spending. I’m taking inventory of the things I might take for granted, like a spoon I use every day.

By paying attention to the small details, it helps me recognize the things that actually add value to my life. By making a small improvement like this to my morning routine, I make each of my mornings a little bit better. I’m challenging a simple thing to make sure that there’s not a better option in the long run. The decision to buy a better spoon now helps me avoid making a decision about what new pot to buy when my current one has been damaged by using metal utensils on it for too long.

I don’t have a spoon-craze. Hopefully this will be my last spoon purchase for a long time. It’s easy in our consumer-minded culture to think that there’s always a better option worth splurging on when you’ve got a bit of cash in your pocket or another paycheck in the bank account. I don’t have that urge with spoons, but I have with other things that I use throughout my day like a water bottle. Having this mindset now with a spoon helps me avoid falling to those impulses in the future.

I’ve found a lot of peace in decluttering my life and simplifying things. Even more satisfying is being able to make improvements along the way. It’s not hard to do, just take it one step, one task, one item at a time. It’s rewarding to enhance your quality of life. Even with something as simple as a spoon.

From my mind to yours,

Quinn

 

Top Ten Foods of a Recovering Picky Eater

I have been a picky eater for my entire life. My parents struggled to get me to eat most foods, and I consequently grew up with a very narrow palate. In my teens I would hesitantly eat mild Mexican dishes (but no tomatoes) and mild Italian dishes. I loved snack foods and several vegetables, but disliked all fruit. I would eat chicken, beef and some pork, but hated all seafood. Most surprising of all, I didn’t like virtually all dessert foods and sweets.

In college I began to venture out a bit more, but it wasn’t until starting my career that I began to really open up to new cuisines. I started liking takeout Chinese food, curry, Cajun-Creole and a select few new fruits and vegetables. I have my coworkers and wife, Kelsee, to thank for helping broaden my horizons during the beginning of that season of life. Even with new tasty options, I was still a very picky eater.

But now, Kelsee and I have embarked on a new dietary journey by eating a whole-foods, plant-based diet. There are some glaring issues with me eating a diet based on plants, especially when I’m categorically displeased by fruit! So how am I making things work?

To put it simply, I’m finally trying to expand my food palate. I’m conquering my own stubbornness. I’m giving new foods a shot, and finding ways to add new complimentary foods to things that I already like. After learning more about nutrition and seeing how much better good food makes me feel, I have some real motivation to explore new tastes and textures.

I’ve added a fair amount of things to my diet over the last two years, but for this post I’ve narrowed the list down to my top ten new foods that have radically improved my health and satisfied my taste buds. These are all very simple items, most of them are in their raw form. And if you can believe it, I wasn’t eating nine of them until two years ago (if not sooner). In no particular order, my top ten:

 

Sweet Potatoes

These were one of the first new foods that rocked my world. Honestly, you can make them sweet or savory (my preference). I routinely rinse mine with water, prod with a fork, and wrap it with a moist paper towel and toss them in the microwave for 5 minutes to get a baked sweet potato. Chop it in half and season it Indian curry-style, Tex-Mex, or just plain old salt, pepper and garlic. They go great in Buddha bowls (fancy way of saying bowls with tons of stuff in it) and Curry dishes as well.

Avocado

I discovered Chipotle in college but it wasn’t until a year after I graduated that I finally tried guacamole. Wow! We quickly began making our own (which is great) and started adding avocado to toast, Buddha bowls and wraps. They’re a great way to get a serving of fruit without really feeling like fruit, which was perfect for a fruit-averse picky eater like me.

Spinach

I started eating spinach on my deli sandwiches when I was in college, but since going plant-based I eat it pretty much every day. Right after we got married I tried my first salad (Chicken Caesar Spinach salad from Noodles & Co.) and I found a whole new world of food. All the salads I make now are entirely spinach-based. I also put spinach in most of my smoothies for an easy way to sneak in a serving of greens.

Apples

My mom’s best efforts to get me to eat fruit when I was a teenager were apples. I know I ate them from time to time, but not with any enjoyment. The turning point for me was seeing them cut up into small slivers to eat with your fingers (and occasionally dip with). I only like eating them sliced like this, so I either pre-cut or use a cutting board and knife that I leave at work to get fresh sliced apples with my lunches. I was only a fan of Fuji apples at first, but I’ve broadened my scope a bit (still don’t like the really sweet ones).

Bananas

Apparently when I was a very little I loved bananas, but somewhere along the way I changed my mind. I have no personal memories of eating bananas growing up. I started eating bananas again just two months ago and totally love them now. I put them in my smoothies, eat them raw and sometimes in banana bread when Kelsee is in a baking mood. Special mention to plantains which we love to bake in the oven and eat with our Caribbean-style dishes we make from time to time.

Lentils

This is where my frugality and efficiency trump my taste buds, or at least that’s how it started. I did not know what lentils were six months ago. While looking into cost-effective protein sources I learned they were a legume (and subsequently learned what legumes are) that was dirt-cheap and fiber-rich. We started going meat-free after we realized you could get equal amounts of protein from lentils compared to chicken for less than half the price. I’ll be honest, this is my least favorite item on the list, but they go well in spice-heavy dishes like Curry or meals that are dominated by many other vegetables.

Black and Garbanzo Beans

Lentils aren’t my favorite, but these beans are the bomb. I usually have either black beans or chick peas (garbanzo beans) every day, if not both. Black beans are great because they are cheap and go well in almost any Mexican-inspired dish. We make tortilla soups, Chipotle-style burrito bowls, and Caribbean-style baked beans routinely. Chick peas are also cheap and go well in most of the salads I make, as well as in Curry dishes. They are also the key ingredient in my next item…

Hummus

Hummus is awesome! We would occasionally buy this from the store when we were newly married but it was close to $5 a container and we would struggle to use it up. Now we make our own from scratch and it’s way better than the other kinds I’ve had. I break out hummus and dip it with carrots, broccoli, cucumbers and sliced peppers in any meal throughout the day. I occasionally put it on wraps with similar toppings. We’ve also ventured out into making chocolate hummus and even snicker doodle hummus which are also great. I’m serious!

Craisins

I had craisins for the first time on a salad at a local restaurant and was blown away. Then I learned what cranberries are (I still have never had a regular cranberry). These are a staple of my salads and occasional trail-mixes . I also love to put them in my daily breakfast oatmeal with pecans and maple syrup. They’re a good, cheap way to get a daily serving of berries. We buy these in bulk at Costco.

Blueberries

This was my breakout berry of choice over the last year or so. Like craisins, we buy these in bulk from Costco, but usually frozen. We leave a mason jar of thawed blueberries in the fridge for putting into morning oatmeals. More often than in my oatmeal, I use these to flavor my smoothies (opting for the ones straight from the freezer). They’re super tasty and good for you!

 

There you have it. These are the new foods that have rocked my taste buds and helped me eat better over the past two years. Especially for my whole-foods, plant-based diet, these are staples of the tasty and life-giving dishes that I eat daily. Notice nine of the ten items are unprocessed plant foods, and the exception is primarily based on one of the nine. Good food is out there, and its colorful packaging isn’t made of plastic.

Take it from this recovering picky eater: If you want to eat good food, go to the source–plants.

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Homemade hummus wraps with spinach, red peppers and cucumber and a side of cinnamon craisin granola trail mix.

From my mind to yours,

Quinn