Gotten Licensed to Help Lovebirds Take the Leap (60/366)


“Love is but the discovery of ourselves in others, and the delight in the recognition.”
~
Alexander Smith


When Nick and I got married, we thought about having our best man, our friend Will, also be our officiant, but ended up deciding against it because we knew being the best man was already a tall order, and didn’t want to have to add the stress of the ceremony to his to-do list. A good friend and pastor at our church was able to officiate our wedding, and that was important to us. Will is not a pastor, but he’s been ordained to officiate weddings, and has performed several. Our cousin Mark has also been ordained to officiate weddings, and has performed several as well, including those of some of our other family members. So cool.

While it’s kind of a joke on TV, like the Friends episode where Joey is the officiant for Monica and Chandler’s wedding while wearing an army uniform, or Barney on How I Met Your Mother (the hugest womanizer on the planet in the show) performing Lily and Marshall’s ceremony, in real life it is a fantastically beautiful thing to have the person who officiates your wedding ceremony to be someone you know, love, and respect. While for many people that person is their pastor or a reverend at their church, for many others who aren’t affiliated with an organized spiritual group, the idea of hiring an officiant (who neither person knows) is a formality that can feel strange. Why should someone who you have no history with be the one who facilitates the ceremony in which you and your partner in life celebrate your love and union?

So today being Leap Day, I thought what better way to celebrate this special extra day than to get my officiant’s license, to be able to help people in love take the leap into life together?

I went online and looked at the various choices there were for officiant certification. Universal Life Church was one of the sponsored results, and I when I visited their page, I could see why – they had tons of merchandise for sale. I mean, a LOT. It was actually kinda creepy – they had robes, stoles, ceremonial communion cups, and even “Sanctified Mountain Spring Holy Water”. You could buy a “Dr. of Divinity” Certificate, or a “Dr. of Metaphysics” Certificate, or for just $13.99, you could even make up your OWN clerical title. Everything you need to start your own cult. Some of the more amusing items for sale were the “Minister’s Car Kit” complete with license plate frames, a bumper sticker, window clings, and a “Ministerial” parking hanger and placard, but the crowning glory was this, a “Jedi Knight Certificate”:


As I was writhing this post, I found that talk show host
Conan O’Brien was even ordained through ULC:
http://i.cdn.turner.com/v5cache/TBS/cvp/teamcoco_drupal_embed.swf?context=teamcoco_embed_offsite&videoId=19313

While of course, I was tempted by the calling to be certified as an ordained Jedi Knight (for only $10.99), American Marriage Ministries seemed like the best choice – they weren’t all about selling crazy stuff, they had a lot of good information on performing ceremonies, and even had tailored instructions on what you need to provide to the local government offices depending on what state you’re in.


In some states, you need a Certificate of Ordination to show the local government offices when your name appears on the marriage license as the officiant. If you need this, you can buy one from AMM, but I appreciated that they make it clear that you don’t need to buy anything from them unless your local offices need this documentation from you. Some states also require a Letter of Good Standing from the organization that ordained you, so they have those available as well.

I liked that if you needed them, you could purchase these items individually according to what your situation is, and that the AMM site didn’t seem to be about merchandising as much as it was providing information about performing weddings. They do also have special packages that include all the documentation you might need, plus marriage certificates for the couple to keep; until Nick and I got married, I never realized that unless you have your own special marriage certificate to fill out along with the legal form on the wedding day, you have nothing “official” to take home with you (the marriage license gets sent in to be processed). Unless you request (and pay for) a copy of your legal marriage certificate, the only one that exists is the one on file at your County Recorder’s Office (how romantic).


After filling out their short information form and clicking the “Ordain Me!” button, I became ordained to officiate weddings. I am now on the registry as such on the American Marriage Ministries website. Crazy! But really cool.


Happy Leap Day! May the Force be with you.

Related Links:
TheAMM.org

Tried Pei Dan (Chinese "Thousand-Year" Egg) (59/366)


“The present was an egg laid by the past that had the future inside its shell.”
~
Zora Neale Hurston


Pei Dan (pay-DAHN) is the Chinese name for preserved eggs (also called “Thousand-Year Eggs“) made with a centuries-old technique by curing them in clay, ash, lime, salt, and rice hulls for several months. The curing turns the egg “white” into a transparent, purple or brown springy gelatinous protein (think between “jello jiggler” and calamari), and turns the yolk a grayish color with a creamy texture. The process was of course developed to preserve eggs during prosperous times so they could be eaten when fresh eggs were not plentiful. Today, like many foods created centuries ago out of necessity, they are eaten as a delicacy.

My great-grandparents and grandparents ate pei dan and my parents do too – and Nick likes it in jook (rice porridge). When I was little, my grandma would make me “bahk jook” or “white (plain) porridge” with nothing in it, and come on, look at that stuff! Of course if I wasn’t introduced to alien eggs when I was very young, I wasn’t going to be super enthused to try them as an adult. But today at lunch, my mom saw them on the menu and said, “Ooh, pei dan and tofu!” and I didn’t want her to miss out just because I didn’t eat them. I thought I should finally try this.

The dish she ordered is a Shanghainese style one, serving the pei dan over chilled tofu, and I believe dried, shredded pork.


One more closeup – mmmmmm:


After psyching myself up a bit and several deep breaths, I ate a piece. The first thing I noticed was that the yolk part was indeed creamy, and kind of similar to miso paste. Salty, but not overly so, with that same pasty texture. Very nice, actually. The “white” was chewy and had no flavor, which was fine, but I was surprised at how rubbery it was since it just looked like brownish purplish gelatin. Overall, it really wasn’t bad. But there is an aftertaste that’s a bit sulphury. If you like hard-boiled eggs, this aftertaste won’t bother you at all, but I since don’t care for hard-boiled eggs I did notice that flavor. After the sulphury taste, actually comes a bit of a metallic taste – kind of when you drink tap water from a city you’re not used to and taste the difference in the minerals. Again, it’s not a big deal, but I’m sensitive to those flavors as well. Since I actually don’t like eggs that much, I probably won’t be ordering pei dan for myself, but this was a pretty neat taste test for me because it’s an example of how something that looks really strange can taste very different from what you’d expect. Is there anything your friends or family love that you’ve been putting off trying? Give it a chance!

Related Links:
Regional Cooking of China (Recipe for Thousand Year Eggs)

Watched the Documentary "Dive!" (58/366)


“I don’t know if dumpster-diving and eating food from the dumpster has made me value food more, or value food less because it’s easier now to throw food away because we have so much of it and so part of me, I think that I’m valuing the food even less”
~
Jeremy Seifert


A while ago, I saw a trailer for a fascinating-looking documentary called “Dive!” about a group of friends who routinely went dumpster diving for food at big chain grocery stores, and were eating perfectly good, many times super high-quality food that had simply met it’s “pull date” so it was thrown into the trash.

Here’s the trailer:

The film begins with the voice of filmmaker Jeremy Seifert: “Every year in America, we throw away 96 billion pounds of food. $136 billion annually. That’s 263 million pounds a day, 11 million pounds an hour, 3,000 pounds a second. Nearly a billion people in the world are going hungry every day. In The United States, even our trash cans are filled with food. You just have to go get it.”

Jeremy and a group of friends outline their dumpster-diving practices:
1. Never take more than you need, unless you find it a good home
2. First one to the dumpster gets dibs, but you always have to share
3. Leave the area cleaner than you found it

They proceed to show pounds and pounds of food they’ve rescued from the dumpster, most of it still in pristine condition, a lot of it premium quality (read: free-range, organic, etc.), and most with the same basic “flaw” – the “sell-by” date on the package is the next day. His friends note that they are: “Living off the waste of the consumerism of America” and “Eat[ing] much better out of the dumpster than I ever had before.”

Seifert begins to wonder why so much of this still perfectly safe, edible food is thrown away every day, and cannot get answers from the grocery store managers. He gets referred to corporate offices, but still cannot get information from them. He talks to Dr. Timothy Jones, former head of The Garbage Project at the University of Arizona, who tells him that at the commercial food level, there is no regulation or training on reducing food waste. He also says that 50% of the food that is produced in America never makes it to the table.

Jeremy visits the LA Regional Food Bank, where he learns that roughly just over 1 million people in LA County are at risk for hunger at some time in the year, meaning they don’t know where their next meal will come from. The Food Bank is short of meeting the needs of these people by about 11 million pounds of food every year, even though they work with over 900 charitable organizations and almost all of the major food chains are on the donor list. Jeremy does the math, and finds that in LA County alone, almost 3 billion pounds of food is wasted annually, and that if people were able to save even 1% of that figure, it would be almost triple what the food bank is short every year.

One side note: While the message the documentary presents is of the utmost importance, and it is one that many people wouldn’t be able to fully grasp without seeing the numbers and stories, I did feel the voices of the people in it (Seifert in particular) were a bit self-important and self-righteous. They talk about American food waste and how ridiculous it is, then proudly show off their dumpster hauls, use salvaged food to write words in their stop-motion animations through the film, and yet only gloss over the fact that they are also guilty of wasting food, just like the rest of “us”.

I’m not discrediting any of the great information they put forth in the documentary – again, there is definitely is a problem in our food system that people need to know about. I just feel that the tone is a bit cynical and idealistic at the same time – with an almost affected simplicity – and that grated on me a bit. Like his quote above, when Seifert found that he had an overabundance of food, it was easier for him to devalue it, and that’s unfortunately the situation most of America, in our wealthy, capitalist, consumer society, is in – I’m not sure if he was being honest in that scene of the film and it had not occurred to him that that’s exactly what is happening here, or if he was just acting to make it appear that he was realizing it for the first time. I don’t know if that was Seifert’s true voice, or if he thought he needed to take that tack to make his presentation more easily understood to a broader audience (he does have three young children). In any case, the film is definitely a worthy watch, despite my feelings on the tone.

At the end of the film, Seifert and his friends set out to start a grassroots campaign to rescue the food designated for the dumpster and redirect it to local food banks. They’ve broadened their “Eat Trash” campaign and you can read more about it and get involved at their website. I highly recommend watching the film, but you don’t have to stop there. Visit their website and see what you can do to help end hunger where you are, and hopefully someday, around the world!

Related Links:
Dive!: Living off America’s Waste (DVD) (The documentary is also on Netflix Streaming)
DiveTheFilm.com

Posted a Public Video of Myself on the Internet (57/366)


“Take things as they are. Punch when you have to punch. Kick when you have to kick.”
~ Bruce Lee


Alright alright, let’s not get excited. If you’ve been reading the blog, you’ve probably seen a video or two of me already. They’re nothing special. But the main differences between those and what I’m writing about today are: 1. Those videos are edited, just parts of the longer footage. I can cut out whatever I want and put it together how I’d like to. 2. The fact that this blog has a small readership. We only have 133 “likes” on Facebook, and for the most part, we know all of the readers personally (thanks for your support! Tell your friends!).

Today was the deadline for people participating in the CrossFit Open who weren’t getting their performances validated by an affiliate to post their scores for WOD 12.1 … and post their VIDEO SUBMISSION documenting their performance. This means I had to take video of me doing the WOD, uncut and unedited, and post it for the world to see. Over 55,000 athletes are registered for the CrossFit Open, and they’re not the only ones with access to the site. Millions of people all over the world now have access to a video of me schlogging through 7 minutes of burpees.



When I
registered for the CrossFit Open, I didn’t realize we’d have to validate our scores with video. I mean, sure they’ve had the video submissions since last year, but I always thought there was some sort of category where you may not be getting scores validated at an affiliate, but instead of having to post a video, that maybe you could submit your score basically just as “unvalidated” so you could see how you’ve done against all the other athletes competing. You know, just for fun. Although I thought it would be embarrassing to put my scores out there for the world to see, I hadn’t bargained for having to present 5 different, lovely videos of me struggling through these Open WODs. But video of 12.1 is now up for everyone’s viewing amusement. And I just need to get over it, because there are four more.

If you get a chance, visit my athlete page, and click on the TV icon next to my score total under the Leaderboard near the bottom of the page:


to see a page like this with the video, and give my video a “thumbs up!” Thanks!


Related Links:
CrossFit.com
Games.CrossFit.com

Made Chia Pudding (56/366)


“Your face makes my soul want to eat chocolate pudding!”
~
Andy Milonakis


A little while ago, I tried Iskiate, the Mayan and Tarahumara superfood drink, for the first time. The superfood in the drink is chia seeds and they’re rich in nutrients. When mixed with water and left to sit, the seeds form a jelly-like substance around them and act as thickeners. This quality presents a neat use for chia seeds – to use them in a pudding application and not have to use traditional thickeners or have to cook the pudding. The result is similar to tapioca pudding!

I found this super simple recipe online, and decided to base my pudding on it. Basically, all you need for this version of chia pudding is coconut milk, chia seeds, and a sweetener. I thought I might try to make mine with another “superfood”, cacao powder.


The recipe calls for you to add 4 Tbsp. of chia seeds to every 3/4 cup of coconut milk you’re using, and stir (looks like you’re adding pepper or dirt!):


Then you’re supposed to let the seeds sit in the coconut milk for 30 minutes, with a stir every 5-10 minutes. After the first 10 minutes had passed, I realized I had either mis-measured the chia seeds, or the recipe was off. The mixture was like paste already! Another 20 minutes of setting, and I’d have to cut the pudding into chia jigglers.


I decided to skip the cocoa powder and honey, and add some more liquid that had both cocoa and sweetener in it.
Zico Chocolate Coconut Water is the BOMB. I added that and tried to incorporate it into the quickly congealing pudding.


After a few more stirs and 20 more minutes (and a little taste-testing and readjusting ingredients), voila:


The chocolate flavor and sweetness from the Zico wasn’t really enough to flavor the whole batch of pudding, so I ended up adding some leftover chocolate
Torani syrup I had lying around – which made the mix not really Paleo, but it was an easy way to add some sweetness and chocolate flavor. Also, if you notice in the picture on the left, there are little white bits in the pudding – those are actually coconut oil globules, a side effect from either me adding the coconut water after the chia seeds had started to congeal, or because I put the mix in the fridge between stirs. I don’t think that was the best thing to do, since coconut oil does solidify in colder temps, so I think it wasn’t incorporated properly into the mix with the chia seeds. It was still delicious, the main ingredients are totally healthy and good for you, and I’ll definitely be making this again.

Related Links:
Nutiva Chia Seed — 14 oz
Native Forest Organic Classic Coconut Milk, 13.5-Ounce Cans (Pack of 12)
ZICO Pure Premium Coconut Water, Chocolate, 14-Ounce Bottles (Pack of 12)
Navitas Naturals – Certified Organic Kosher Raw Vegan Healthy Cacao Chocolate Powder – 16 Oz.
Torani Sugar Free Chocolate Syrup with Splenda, 750mL
Wholesome Sweeteners Organic Fair Trade Raw Honey, 16 Ounce Jars (Pack of 3)

Tasted All the Flavors of San Francisco’s Iconic It’s-It (55/366)


“It is the sweet, simple things of life which are the real ones after all.”
~
Laura Ingalls Wilder


If you’ve never had an It’s-It, go get one now. No seriously. Stop reading this, go to the store, and get one. Don’t worry. I’ll wait ….

Okay, had one? Unless you’re lactose intolerant or have celiac disease, or suffer from some other horrible affliction that prevents you from enjoying the insane goodness of an It’s-It, you just simply have to have at least one in your lifetime. But really, you should have more. Because as a wise man once said, “What could be better for you than eating the foods you love?”

Alright, alright, for those of you with the above issues, an It’s-It is an unbelievably delicious, sinfully rich, jumbo ice cream sandwich made with dense, quality ice cream, two firm, but chewy oatmeal cookies, and the whole thing is dipped in a crispy dark chocolate shell. It’s-Its were created at San Francisco’s very own Playland at the Beach, and were sold there exclusively until Playland closed in 1972. They used to be hand-dipped, but since Playland’s closing their popularity has done nothing but grow, and today, they’re made in a factory in Burlingame, just 20 minutes south of SF. While the It’s-It has added a few more flavor variations (they now come in Vanilla, Chocolate, Mint, and Cappuccino), they’re just as wonderful as ever.


The original flavor was vanilla of course, but as a kid I was always partial to the mint ones. I was born before the time of Ben & Jerry’s and “premium” (read: wacky flavor) ice cream, so Mint was a novelty (as was Cookies & Cream ice cream when it first came out), and the chocolate (I believe) and cappuccino flavors were added later. While watching the
Playland at the Beach documentary (and going to Playland Not-At-The-Beach last year), I got nostalgic for my old friend the It’s-It and wanted one … and then I realized, I’d never actually tried all the different It’s-Its flavors! What an awesome excuse to get my It’s-It fix.

Here are my reactions:

Vanilla – while I normally love vanilla ice cream (you can turn it into anything!), this vanilla is somewhat nondescript, which initially a bit of a bummer for me, but the really, really nice thing about the original vanilla It’s-It is how it showcases the lovely cinnamon flavor of the oatmeal cookie. Very nice.

Chocolate – I’m not a chocoholic, but I do like chocolate when I have it, and this chocolate ice cream does not disappoint. Rich, full, chocolatey flavor.

Mint – My favorite from childhood. There’s still just something about this beautiful green ice cream. Like I said, I grew up before Ben & Jerry’s so mint chocolate was a big deal, and it continues to be in this fantabulous It’s-It.

Cappuccino – This is like the “grown up” It’s-It. Delicious. I think they used a great coffee ice cream. Paired with the chocolate shell and oatmeal cookie, you really can’t lose with this one.

The secret of It’s-Its is that they’re made with good quality ingredients. They don’t use ice cream that has had tons of air whipped into it, so it melts super quickly, or cookies that have no substance so they fall apart. None of the ice creams are overly sweet in my opinion (of course they’re sweet, they’re ice cream! But not sickeningly so), and though the combination of all the elements together is pretty sweet, that’s why you have to savor the whole thing slowly – just not too slowly. It will melt eventually … if you can manage not to inhale the whole thing in one swoop.

Though I am still partial to my Mint It’s-Its, after tasting them all, I really love each for their own characteristics. It’s-its are the best dessert ever, created in the best city in the world. I love SF!

Related Links:
ItsItIceCream.com

Registered for the CrossFit Open (54/366)


“The healthiest competition occurs when average people win by putting above average effort.”
~
Colin Powell


As I wrote about yesterday, the CrossFit Open has begun, and the first WOD is being performed all over the world today. The CrossFit Games site keeps a leader board with scores from all the athletes participating, and the Open WODs are posted each week on the Games site and on CrossFit.com. Usually, Nick and I perform the Open WODs, but we’d never actually signed up for the Open. We always just kind of try to compare our scores with whatever’s been posted. We always figured we’d only really want to register if we thought we ever had a shot at going to at least a Regional competition, much less the Games. The only problem with not registering is trying to figure out how your standing would change based on your varied scores throughout the Open, as a really crappy score on WOD 1 would be tempered by an awesome score in WOD 2 and so on. This year, I decided, “What the heck,” and thought I’d register for the Open.

The registration is pretty simple, you just input your information:


And enter your age, gender, and location, so they know what region to put you in for competition classification:


Pay the registration fee, and you’re all set! Now my embarrassing Open WOD scores will be posted for the world to see!


The neat thing about registering for the Open is that I’ll be more inclined to give each WOD my all, and maybe even repeat some if I’m not happy with my original score (each WOD is posted on Thursday, and scores must be in by that Sunday to be official). I’ve never done THAT, either. Yuck!

Related Links:
Games.CrossFit.com
CrossFit.com