Ration your Opinion

One of the most valuable passages I read this year is this: “I don’t need to provide my opinion on every subject.”

It’s OK to simply listen. Most times, my opinion isn’t going to change minds. In fact, it seldom does.

Next time you read something on social media that makes you angry, ask yourself, “Do I need to engage? or “What do I hope to accomplish by engaging with this person?”

Not everyone has earned the right to hear your opinion. Share it with those who will respect you, no matter where you come down on a subject.

The Backstop is Gone

The backstop area behind home plate separates the spectators from the baseball players. It also helps corral baseballs that get past the catcher or are fouled off by the batters. In a sense, it’s a safety net.

Losing my mom and dad within the span of three years has me feeling like I’ve lost the backstop to life. No matter how my relationship was with my parents (sometimes rocky) I could count on them to be there to provide a helpful word of advice or simply listen as I talked through a concern that was on my mind at the time.

My mom was my primary backstop during my teenage years. I could go to her with any issue. Usually she just listened. Sometimes she would share a similar experience she had while growing up. As my mother’s health worsened, my dad took over the role until he passed away earlier this year. My father is more of a problem solver, so his approach was different than that of my mom’s. But I learned a lot from both of them.

Losing my parents has encouraged me to intentionally engage more with my sisters and seek out a deeper relationship with them. A lot of time has passed since we were close, and honestly, we weren’t all that close growing up due to divergent interests and age differences. But it doesn’t have to remain that way.

Last month I met my youngest sister in Las Vegas for lunch. I enjoyed catching up with her and hearing what is happening in her life. Listening to her I realized we have a lot more in common than I imaged. She listened to my concerns about my health and attempts to get in shape and provided encouragement. I left lunch in Vegas with a closer relationship with my sister.

I still have work to do with my siblings. But I’m hopeful.

My parents are gone, but maybe amongst siblings we can provide support and compassion and be a backstop for each other. Seems like that’s what my parents would want.

Getting in Shape

I had my big toe fused in November. For the next few months I went back to the doctor who performed the surgery, and he would take x-rays to determine if my body was healing properly. This went on for about four months before he determined I could resume most physical activity.

The only activities I can’t do at this time are running, jogging and jumping. Sports like tennis and racquetball are out because I risk jamming my toe into the end of my shoe. But I can walk. I can ride my exercise bike. I can do floor exercises and work out with resistance bands.

I focus on what I can do instead of what I can’t.

At one of my last visits to the foot doctor I asked what I could do to accelerate my recovery. He said, “Drop some weight.” So I bought an Apple Watch for Christmas, but didn’t do much with it until the end of March. I almost returned the watch, but I’m glad I didn’t.

From around the first of April till today I’ve dropped just over 45 lbs. I thought I would share how I’ve done that and what I’ve learned about myself over the past few months. I’ll start with my least favorite part of the process: tracking calories.

I’ve tried to count calories in the past, but after a few days I’d give up. It’s just too hard to remember. But I knew monitoring what I was putting into my body would be as important as any new exercise routine. So I downloaded the Lose It! app on my iPhone and started. I still don’t enjoy it, but I’ve made a habit of tracking each item I eat. This one change has brought about big changes in how much I eat. I decided I wouldn’t deny myself most foods, but that I would monitor the amount of food and calories I was consuming each day. I quickly realized how many sweets I was eating each day, and began replacing them with fruits I enjoy like blueberries, strawberries and cantaloupe.

Selfies help track my progress – Nov 2020 till Aug 2021

The other big change I made was set a daily exercise goal on my Apple Watch. I started with 10 minutes and added another five minutes every other week until I’m now up to 50 minutes a day. I don’t stress about what type of exercise I will do, but I have a couple of favorites which include my exercise bike and walking around my neighborhood. One tip I have is to set small goals you can reach. It’s easy to get discouraged when you don’t see instant progress, so I decided to focus on tracking my calories and exercising a few minutes each day. I didn’t make drastic changes to my daily schedule, diet or daily routine. It was also important that I be able to put on my shorts and tennis shoes and start working out quickly instead of driving to the gym, and then figuring out what to do.

About 14 years ago I dropped 65 lbs on the Atkins Diet. But I found it really hard to keep the weight off because the diet wasn’t sustainable for me. I removed entire food groups, banned sugar and most carbs, and the weight came off fast. I was a miserable person to be around though.

But I’ve learned that losing weight fast isn’t the most sustainable method. I’m learning to cook healthy foods at home. I’m drinking a lot of water instead of fruit juices. I’m one of those dorks who carries around a 40 ounce Hydro Flask! I keep a drawer of healthy snacks like nuts and protein bars and string cheese so I’m not tempted to down a Snickers and bag of gummy bears. If I have a day where I go over my daily calorie allotment, I’ll try to spend extra time on my bike or walking the next day, but I don’t get down on myself. I also found inspiration for losing a lot of weight by watching Chris Terrell on TikTok.

I’m at the half-way point of my weight loss. I have just over 50 lbs to go to get to my weight goal, and I figure I’ll be able to meet that goal sometime in the first few months of 2022. Slow and steady.

Fragility

2020 has been quite the year.

About three months ago my father had a heart valve replaced which put him in the hospital for almost two weeks.

A couple of weeks after returning home to begin the long recovery routine, his closest friend caught COVID-19. Each day his son posted updates on his condition, and things went from bad to worse until he passed away two weeks ago.

Another friend’s mother tested positive for COVID-19 the day after Thanksgiving. I spoke with another friend today who tested positive. It feels like every day we learn someone close to us has tested positive.

Last week it was my brother-in-law who was admitted to ICU with the virus. One day he’s making progress and the next he’s in bad shape. It’s one big terrifying roller-coaster ride of emotions.

On a much smaller less critical scale, I had my big toe fused to my foot with two screws last week during out-patient surgery. The recovery is a long 8-10 weeks, but I’ve already noticed a substantial decrease in pain so I’ll deal with the recovery just fine.

2020 has taught me how fragile life is. One day everything is fine, but the next can bring heartbreak. I’m so glad my father made it through his heart procedure, and I hope my brother-in-law makes it out of ICU soon and is able to recover at home.

Before this year I was more likely to text my dad or maybe call him if I had something important to share with him. But not this year. This year I like to FaceTime so I can see his face. He has lost over 100 lbs. this year and I barely recognized him when we started to FaceTime. Like, is that really my dad? I always see a bit of myself when I look at my dad, and that brings a lot of joy.

Man, am I glad to still have him around.

I hope in 2021 I can replace those FaceTime calls with in-person visits.

Roll of Quarters

Fresh off a divorce, I moved into a one bedroom apartment near downtown Seattle in the Capitol Hill neighborhood in the spring of 1995. My possessions included an aging computer, an old Aztec patterned couch, and a calico cat with a bad attitude.

My post-college life wasn’t on the trajectory I had anticipated.

Finances were tight, and I was beginning to understand the cost of living in Seattle was a lot higher than Rock Springs, Wyoming, where I’d moved from a year earlier. I’d recently taken a job with an internet service provider, and I was learning skills that would pay dividends much later. But I didn’t make a lot of money, and those last few days before payday were rough.

My apartment was small. It wasn’t particularly modern, but it was clean and well maintained. And best of all, it was free because each month I took deposited checks from the 19 other tenants and occasionally showed apartments to potential renters on the weekends.

Near the end of each month, a maintenance man would show up and make sure the two washers and two dryers in the tiny laundry room were working properly. He also dropped two rolls of quarters through my office letter box. The first time he did this, he included a note detailing how the quarters could be used for refunds if a tenant had a problem with a machine. Otherwise, I could keep them.

What the maintenance man probably didn’t realize was that $20 worth of quarters often was enough to cover food for a week or more until my next paycheck arrived. When I’d open my office door to retrieve the rent checks at the end of each month, it felt like Christmas seeing two rolls on the dingy orange carpet. That $20 felt like $200.

Even today, when I hold a stack or roll of quarters I’m reminded of that incredibly kind gesture from a man I might have seen three times in the four years I lived in that apartment.

Heihox Manual Coffee Grinder

Back in 2015 when I was first getting into making coffee at home, I purchased a small Hario grinder. For under $50, it worked well for over five years. I dropped it a few years back, and cracked the outer shell, but it still worked just fine.

As I began to experiment making larger batches of coffee, the Hario became more time-consuming that I felt it should. I considered an electric grinder, such as the high-rated Baratza Encore or Virtuoso+. But I decided I like the manual coffee making process too much to go that route, so I began to look for a higher quality manual grinder.

In my search, I came across the YouTube channel by James Hoffman where he compared a number of high-end hand grinders. This introduced me to a few features I hadn’t considered such as burr material, hopper capacity, and grinder size. I really wanted the Comandante grinder, but I didn’t want to pay $250.

I eventually found the Heihox grinder on Amazon for about $100. The review were mostly positive, but I had a hard time finding any review outside of Amazon. I decided to buy it and try it and then return it if it didn’t perform like I wanted. It arrived in a good quality box which was a good first impression. I’ve been using it almost daily for about two months, and it’s a big improvement over the Hario. The grinding motion is much smoother, the grinds are more consistent and the steel burrs make quick work on the coffee beans.

I haven’t come across many downsides. I wish the hopper capacity was a little more than 30 grams of beans, but that’s not a deal breaker. It feels really substantial and balanced in my hand while grinding. The picture above doesn’t show this, but it comes with a textured grip made of rubber which helps you keep a firm grip on the grinder. This grip slides down the grinder, but it’s easy to pull back up before I begin grinding.

I mostly grind my beans for pour over using a Chemex. Sometimes I’ll grind them a bit finer for AeroPress. And lately, I’ve been using the course grind setting to make cold brew coffee using a Frieling French Press. If you’re looking for a grinder for Espresso, I don’t know if this model allows for that fine of grind setting.

Maybe one day I’ll have a Comandante, but until then, this $100 grinder from Heihox punches above its weight class. I’m keeping it.

My Coffee Subscription

As I improved my coffee-making skills in the French Press, AeroPress, and Chemex, I began to consume more coffee. Coffee I purchased at the grocery store was fine. Here in Southern Utah, we have a few local coffee roasters that sell beans I can grind at home. But over the past year, I got bored with my limited choices. So I began to search for a coffee subscription service.

trade-coffee-new

I decided to give Trade Coffee a try, mostly because I like the design of their website. I signed up, and my first bag of beans arrived about a week later. Besides offering coffee beans from dozens of roasters around the US, they have some features that keep me with the service. Among them:

  • Ability to change order date (earlier or later)
  • Coffee rating system
  • Gift service (sending my favorite coffee to friends!)
  • Tips on different brewing techniques

I didn’t expect to be so satisfied with my first foray into a coffee subscription, but Trade has been fantastic in exposing me to coffees I wouldn’t have otherwise tasted. When I signed up, Trade asked me to answer a few questions to determine the type of coffee I might like along with my preferred brew method. Of the dozen or so bags of coffee, Trade has sent, only one bag wasn’t that memorable.

A couple of my favorite coffees so far: Colombia San Roque and Guatemala Finca Nuevo Vinas.

Interview with Jim Fosina of Amora Coffee

I had the opportunity to interview Jim Fosina, CEO of Amora Coffee. Amora is a premium coffee roaster and coffee subscription service that was founded by Jim and spouse in 2011. By 2015 they added tea to their offering and have served tens of thousands of coffee enthusiasts like myself.

Tell me how you got involved with Amora Coffee. DiJim_Fosinad you work in the coffee industry before Amora?

I started my career 30 years ago working for Kraft General Foods within their Direct to Consumer Home Delivery Coffee Subscription called Gevalia Kaffe, a part of Maxwell House Coffee. Years later, I founded a Direct to Consumer Subscription Advertising Agency called Fosina Marketing Group which I grew over a period of 15 years before selling it but during that time, we Founded Amora Coffee in 2011 as our own Direct to Consumer Coffee Subscription Service.

How would you describe what sets Amora apart from other coffee roasters?

The meaning of Amora is LOVE and the configuration of the Amora name is the reverse spelling of Aroma. You have to LOVE the AROMA of your Coffee as that is your first impression and to have great Aroma, you have to have really FRESH coffee. Amora prides itself on LOVING Coffee and getting it to our customers just as fresh as we possibly can…..Fresh Coffee delivered right to your doorstep, the way you want it when you want it, the coffee subscription service you completely control…..That’s Amora!!

What is the process for selecting the coffees to offer?

Our Master Roaster is always looking and selecting beans from crops and origins all around the world that bring the most balanced blends to your cup based on coffee growing region seasons. The blends are selected for the best delivery of flavor and aroma based on the level of roast intensity

How do you feel about the health of the coffee industry given the state of the country under quarantine right now?

Very healthy. People are not drinking less coffee, they are just getting it differently during quarantine time. More coffee is being consumed at home rather than bistro’s, offices, and schools. So delivery has changed but the needs, wants, and desires of coffee is very healthy.

What does your coffee routine look like? Do you have a favorite brew method? Bean origin or blend?

My personal routine starts first thing in the morning just as the day starts. I like a darker roast so I drink either Vigorosi or Intenso. I prefer to use already ground beans rather than grinding myself as the grinders we use at the roaster are much gentler on a bean than most at home grinders that shatter or overheat versus truly grind the bean to the Roastmaster specification. I use a pour-over for the most optimized extraction and I don’t add anything to my coffee…..straight black.

What is the most challenging aspect of running a coffee roaster?

Amora roasts only in small batches in a highly monitored 9 stage roasting process for optimal quality and then hand packs into small 8 ounce bags to avoid mass production and deliver a product to consumers in smaller bags to minimize prolonged oxygen exposure. Our process is very labor-intensive and not mass-produced.

What trends do you see in coffee right now?

Coffee continues to become the new basis of beverage concoctions that appeal to younger Gen Z and Millennial populations as consumers shift from fizzy sweet sugary drinks to coffee-based beverages.

What are a few items one should look for in selecting a coffee subscription service?

It is important that the consumer is always in control of their subscription. Consumers need the ability to EASILY change the coffee types they receive, how many bags at what interval of time while also being able to skip shipments, suspend service, cancel their subscription or change any part of their account including payment, shipping, and contact information. Live Customer Representatives should be available 24 hours per day every day of the year and easy access to an online dashboard for customers to service their own accounts. Service is paramount in subscription, taking even more precedence than the product itself.

For someone just getting started with quality coffee, what tips would give them?

Coffee appeals to two of your primary senses…..smell and taste. Experiment, Experiment, and Experiment again until you find what suits your fancy. Besides, it’s fun!!

What is your beverage of choice when you can’t have a coffee?

Black Tea

My Coffee Routine

With the coronavirus running rampant through the world, I’ve been making a lot more coffee at home. The Starbucks, Perks and other local coffee shops are open, but only for take out or drive-thru. After several years of using mainly the French Press method, I switched to Chemex. Here is my routine for making coffee each morning for my spouse and myself.

Equipment

Preparation

I begin by measuring 1100 grams of filtered water into my kettle, and then set it on the stove to boil. I then measure 62 grams of coffee beans and hand-grind them at a medium to course setting. I set the ground beans aside and prepare my Chemex. I’ve found folding the Chemex filters down the middle helps keep it in place when I begin my pour-over.

Chemex, Coffee and Chris Botti

One reason I like the Pour Over gooseneck kettle is because it includes a thermometer on the lid. When the water reaches just past 200 degrees Fahrenheit, I pull it off the stove. I then put my Chemex with filter on my scale and tare it before I pour 100 grams of water over the filter. This rinses away any paper taste from the filter and helps warm the Chemex vessel.

Dump the water from the Chemex, and then carefully place your coffee grounds into the filter. Tare the scale again, and slowly pour about 120 grams (or twice the amount of coffee) over your beans, make sure to cover them all. The goal here is to allow the water to release the carbon dioxide from the beans and prepare them for the pour over. Let the coffee bloom for about 30-40 seconds.

Then take your kettle and slowly pour about another 400 grams worth of hot water over the beans. I’ve found making smallish circles with the gooseneck allows for a more even extraction of beans. Take a spoon or bamboo stick and gently stir the slurry to make sure there’s no clumping going on. Then pour the rest of the water using the same circular motions.

The entire pour-over, from start to finish, should take about 3:30 to 4:30 minutes, although don’t stress too much if you take a little longer. I’m probably taking closer to 5 minutes most mornings, but that could be because I’m barely awake before my first cup.

I allow the coffee to brew until I see it begin to drip from the filter before tossing it in the trash. I then give the fresh coffee a quick stir before enjoying it with a few ounces of half-and-half. If you’ve used good quality coffee, give it a taste test before adding a lot of sweeteners. You might find the flavors of the coffee are enough to please your palate.

The 2020 Election

My ballot for the Democratic primary arrived by postal carrier last week. I sat the large envelope next to my computer as a reminder to vote and send it back in time to be counted among the few blue voters in Utah.

The 2016 election feels like a decade ago. Each election season the candidates tell us this year is the most important election in the country’s history. I guess that’s how it goes, but was the 2000 race between Bush and Gore more historically significant than the 1980 race between Reagan and Carter? Who knows.

What I do know is that the 2020 election feels important for a number of reasons. Gas prices are low, as is unemployment. Economic indicators look pretty good, especially if you can afford to invest. We might at war in the Middle East, but it doesn’t feel like we are at war, and that’s important. The biggest threat to the country might be the coronavirus.

I’m not a Trump fan which should come as no surprise. I used to follow the nonsense in Washington D.C. a lot more than I do today, but it became exhausting and depressing. Tuning into Maddow used to be part of my nightly routine. While I still admire her work, I refuse to add more Trump news into my life than already sneaks into conversation.

So I finally opened my ballot and ran my finger down the list of candidates. I didn’t recognize some of the names. I just barely started spelling Klobuchar correctly. All summer, I was learning toward Warren, and she remain the only candidate I’ve supported with my wallet. I read up on Pete and liked what I found. Biden has never connected with me. And neither had Sanders until recently. Bloomberg? The former REPUBLICAN mayor of NY? No.

One of my favorite shows on TV is The Weekly on FX. I watched the episode where the NYT interviewed all the Democrat candidates in preparation for their sought after endorsement. Based solely on those interviews, I came away most impressed with Klobuchar and Warren. The NYT happened to endorse both candidates. And while both have shined in the debates, neither has a clear path to the nomination and little momentum heading into Super Tuesday.

I stared at my ballot for a few minutes. With whom do I align with the most? Which candidate annoys me the least? Which seems the most presidential? Which one will tell Moscow Mitch to go to hell every day? But it really came down to one question: Which candidate do I believe can beat Trump in November?

I voted accordingly.