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#6wordsmiami

NPR Miami, WLRN, has a current project going, entitled #6wordsmiami.  They have asked listeners to write a story about South Florida in six words.  They will be selecting some of those stories to be published, and they will be inviting some individuals who submit stories to attend the 2014 Miami Book Fair.  According to WLRN’s website, writers are encouraged to consider “the humidity here, our mango season, and how you’re so South Florida.”  So I decided to give it a shot and wrote a handful of six word stories:

 

SoFlo summer heat. Winter’s warmth reconciles.

[This is what it's all about - the winters in Florida!]

 
 

Beach house pastels. Tropical living reigns.

[Our beachy little house!]

 
 

Heat, traffic, rain. Beach cures all.

 
 

Mariscos y cervezas. La cultura vibrante.

[Can't do South Florida without a little Latino flavor!]

 
 

Newlywedded bliss. Lake Worth, beachside paradise. 

[Our life.]

 
 

Speedos, thongs, tans. Implants. Beachlife exposed.

[Yes, you see plenty of this in South Florida...]

 

 

Em wrote a few as well, taking a slightly sillier approach:

Gator snatched my puppy, in Florida. :(  

[Do not worry, this is NOT a true story...Wendy is ok!]

 
 

Bleached blonde hair. On a man.

[#truth]

 
 

Newlyweds making out on the beach.

[This is also not a true story...maybe one of these days! ;) ]

 
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Posted by on September 21, 2014 in Media/Movies/TV, Projects/Activities

 

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Holy Matrimony

It’s now official!  We got hitched!  After nearly 7 years of dating and two years of living together, Em and I are finally married.  The event was absolutely lovely, with the ceremony in Em’s hometown church and the reception at her house.  I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: We could not have asked for our special day to have been any better.  Many thanks to all those who helped make it that way – whether it was helping with planning/preparation, being in the wedding (reading, singing, bridal party), photographers/DJ/food for the day, coming to celebrate with us, or anything else wedding related.  A huge thank you to all – parents, friends, and family for making it a success.

For now, enjoy just a handful of pictures from the day.  (Official pictures still to come.)

kiss

my family

my family

the church - how regal

the church – how regal

bridal party fun

bridal party fun

first dance

first dance

wendy leads us to the reception

wendy leads us to the reception

depauw guys

depauw guys

depauw crew

depauw crew

me with flowers

Again, such a lovely event that Mrs. Metroka and I will remember forever as being absolutely perfect!

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2014 in Projects/Activities, Puppy

 

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Those who know, know.

Yes, for those who know, you know.  This is, indeed, the final countdown.  I am excited.

 

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2014 in Advice, Projects/Activities

 

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ALS: Ice bucket challenge

If you’re on the internet much or have any access to social media, you’ve probably seen dozens of videos of people dumping buckets of icy water over themselves.  This has all been a part of a campaign to raise awareness and generate donations for the ALS Association.  The campaign to generate money to the cause has gone viral and has been quite successful, reportedly over $70million has been donated in just over a month’s time.

ALS is commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, as he was one of the first big-name individuals in the US to bring attention to it.  Here is the blurb from the ALS website describing the condition: Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons  die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed.

The rules of the ice bucket challenge are fairly simple.  You are challenged or nominated by a friend (usually through social media), and you have 24 hours to either donate money to the cause or record yourself dumping a bucket of ice water over yourself. [Many people, including us, have elected to do both - dump the ice water over yourself and donate to the cause.]  You then are responsible for nominating/challenging a few of your friends to participate.  This strategy of nominating others was obviously very successful in having the challenge spread rapidly.

It has actually been an interesting illustration of the “six degrees of separation” idea (sometimes referred to as the six degrees of Kevin Bacon).  This is the idea that you can connect any two random people in the world with 6 connections or fewer (i.e. friend of a friend of a friend…6 times).  This comes from experiments done by Stanley Milgram in the 1950s who sent letters to random people in the midwest asking them to get a packet to a named individual somewhere on the east coast. (See: “small world problem“) The packet contained rules that they were not to look up the individual and they were to pass the packet along to one individual who they thought would be able to get it to that person, or at least in a better position to get it to that person (e.g. “I know someone in New York, maybe they will be able to get it to that person” or “I know someone in Indianapolis who has family in Boston, maybe that will work”).  They found the average number of stops for the packets that made it was between 5-6.  Thus, they concluded that everyone was, on average, connected through six connections or fewer (though Milgram never referred to it at “six degrees of separation”).

Experement_Small_World_(possible_option)

In the Kevin Bacon example, it’s the idea that you can connect any random actor to Kevin Bacon using 6 or fewer films that people have worked in together.  There is even a web site that will give you the shortest path possible to Kevin Bacon.  Updated network theory will tell you that the magic number of connections in the US are closer to 3, in order to connect any two random people.

With widespread social media use by so many individuals, I’m not even a little surprised.  And this ALS challenge that has gone viral and been completed by so many people bears that out.  Here’s ours:

 

And how about one in slow motion just for fun:

 

While this movement has been wildly successful in garnering attention and raising lots of money, it has also not gone without critique.  The lines of criticism that I have noticed are things like “people don’t even know what ALS really is, they are just doing this because it’s popular”, “there are worse diseases and more worthy causes to donate to right now such as ebola or poverty, people shouldn’t just care about ALS”, “people are wasting good, clean drinking water for this campaign”.

To these critiques I would say this: ALS is a good cause.  It is a campaign that was fun and catchy and spread like wildfire; don’t be mad because it worked so well.  Yes, there are absolutely other pressing issues and causes that deserve money and attention as well, but that doesn’t mean that ALS should feel guilty about their successful campaign. Donations and causes are not a zero-sum game where if I donate to one thing or care about one thing, then I can’t donate or care about something else too.  It also should not be some sort of hierarchy where we rank causes and only the most important should receive our donations or attention. And the fact is that for many (myself included) if I wouldn’t have donated the money that I donated to ALS, I probably would not have put that money towards a different cause.  It was a bit of money that would’ve gone to paying a bill, putting in savings, or maybe getting a drink at a bar.  It’s better for ALS to get that money than no cause at all.  And even if I didn’t know a thing about ALS, the donation was still sent and will hopefully be used effectively to advance research and treatment options.  Plus, that ice cold water was actually kind of refreshing down here in South Florida after the initial shock!

 

 

 

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Breakfast Treat: Cook This, Not That!

I recently blogged aboutCook This, Not That!, a combination cook/health book which I’ve been reading.  I remarked how pleased I was with the amount of information and underlying philosophy with respect to cooking and eating.  I also said that I would try to post a few good meals that were inspired from this book.  So here’s a breakfast that I recently made, inspired by one of their “instant breakfast” ideas.

 

0810140922b

What I did:

~1/2 cup of salsa in the bottom of an oven safe bowl

2 eggs cracked on top

Sprinkle bit of shredded cheese on top, season with salt and pepper

Put in the oven ~12 mins, until the eggs are cooked

Top with a couple slices of avocado and a dollop of Greek yogurt (my additions to their recipe)

The Verdict: It was pretty delicious, and loaded with a good amount of protein.  It was also quite filling.  In fact, if I were to do it again, I would probably do it just about the same, except that Em and I would split it.  (She also requested a bit less salsa on the bottom, so I’d do slightly less if we were splitting.)  If I were to do it again for myself, I’d probably do everything in about the same proportion, but halve it (only one egg).  All in all, however, it was very easy, very tasty, and relatively quick (the prep time was very minimal, although it did take the egg ~12 minutes to cook).  I give it two thumbs up!

As Always: Eat. Be Happy.

 
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Posted by on August 12, 2014 in Budget/$$, Food, Uncategorized

 

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Wedding DIY: Name Tags

As loyal readers probably know, Em and I enjoy a good DIY project every now and then.  This has been no different with respect to our wedding celebration that we have been planning for months.  We’ve taken on several different wedding projects that we have decided to do ourselves.  When it comes to DIY projects, 1) we enjoy doing them together, 2) we develop a connection to whatever project/product we are working on and a good story to tell, and 3) it often ends up being more cost-effective than if we would purchase it.

Here is one particular project that we have done for the wedding – name tags (or “escort cards” as Em likes to say).  We decided to use wine corks as name tag holders for all of our guests.  Our centerpieces will have empty wine bottles that will hold the table number cards, surrounded by 2-3 glass jars with flowers in them.  Thus, the wine corks work well with the wine bottle theme.

Here’s what I did: 1) cut a slit lengthwise down the middle of a wine cork with a knife. This was actually kind of difficult, in part because our knives are getting a bit too dull, but also because the corks will roll on you.  You’ve got to get a good grip on the cork, and be very careful.  And 2) use a hot glue gun to attach a penny to the bottom of the cork.  This is to help stabilize and weight the corks so that they will stand up with the actual name tags in them.

shout out to indiana's finest!

shout out to indiana’s finest! oliver winery!

0727142100

There’s nothing too glamorous or tricky about this project, but it does require you to be very careful and pay attention to what you’re doing and it’s a bit time consuming.  It also ends up looking very nice, and adds a personal touch with some wine and good times that we’ve shared.  And again, on a budget.  The only money we spent on this was going to the bank and asking for $1 in pennies.  Hint: If you don’t have the wine corks yourself, try going to a winery or establishment and asking them if they have some corks to spare or if they would mind collecting some for you (it worked for us!).

amassing an army of name tags

amassing an army of name tags

 

We are excited to debut them at the wedding.  I imagine that they will look very nice overall, especially with our centerpieces.  I’m sure I will have more pictures to share with how these corks look, and the wedding in general, in the coming weeks.

 
 

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Cook This, Not That!

About a week ago, I started reading a book – Cook This, Not That! by David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding, two editors of Men’s Health magazine.  As the title suggests, it is a cook book.  But it’s not just filled with a bunch of recipes; it’s a cookbook with lots of advice and suggestions regarding how to eat and cook healthy(er) and what kinds of things to eat more generally.

cook this

I’m generally fairly interested in health and fitness stuff, and I love to cook (and eat)!  What I have really really enjoyed about this book, is their underlying philosophy towards healthy eating and cooking, which is largely aligned with my own personal philosophy.  The main thrust of the philosophy is this (in my own words) – it’s nearly always both healthier and cheaper to cook your own food. (And with practice, you can probably learn to cook your own food pretty well!)  It’s also not the case that you have to limit yourself to only eating certain foods or wholesale dismiss others in order to be healthy*. A person can eat a wide variety of delicious foods and still maintain a quite healthy diet, as long as you are paying attention and using moderation and some common sense (not always so common, I guess!).  They also seek to help dispel some of the myths or “conventional wisdom” that we have come to believe when it comes to food.

 

"the carb scorecard"

“the carb scorecard” (click to enlarge)

So with that philosophy in mind, they set out to educate people how to eat great food reasonably healthy and on a budget.  The book is divided into 12 chapters covering different categories of foods (i.e. breakfast, appetizers, sandwiches and burgers, pasta, etc.).  Each chapter begins with a couple of pages of information on that category – usually a brief history and some reasons explaining why you should cook it yourself. They then usually give some “instant” recipes or ideas for quick meals within that particular category, followed by several pages of actual recipes.  Throughout the book, they compare homemade meals to actual restaurants and food chains in terms of price and calories – very interesting, but probably not surprising to those who are health (or budget!) conscious.  When you see these real comparisons, it becomes even more compelling to cook for yourself!

The book reads very conversationally, using a good mix of stories, humor, anecdotes, and interesting information to keep you engaged as a reader.  They also use lots of infographics throughout the book, which can help to visualize and digest the information for those who don’t want to sit down and read. (It’s also becoming one of the most common ways that we now consume information.)

Some interesting nuggets so far:

Never use margarine (if possible)!  The trans-fats are terrible for you; you’re much better off using a whipped butter.  (Fats are not bad for you, you just need to be aware and use them in moderation!)

According  to a 2002 study, the USDA found the following portion problem for average restaurant sized entrees:

  • Pasta: 480% oversized
  • Muffins: 333% oversized
  • Steak: 224% oversized
  • Bagels: 195% oversized
  • Hamburgers: 112% oversized

Best Food for surviving flu season: Red Bell Pepper.  They have twice as much vitamin C as an orange, and three times as much vitamin A as a tomato!

Best Food post workout: Greek Yogurt.  This has 2-3 times the amount of protein as regular yogurt and is also high in amino acids which are helpful to rebuild muscles after a workout.

Between 10-30% of the calories you burn every day get burned by the act of eating and digesting food.  As they say, that’s like making a third of your money by shopping!

The average veggie burger contains five times the amount of sodium as the average beef burger.

Frozen produce often has a higher nutrient density than fresh.

Coffee is by far the richest source of antioxidents in the American diet.  (But watch out for the amount of cream and sugar you add to your coffee!)

“Yoplait 99% Fat Free” strawberry yogurt has nearly as much sugar as a Snickers bar.

Every time you eat quinoa instead of brown rice, you are getting double the protein and eight times the fiber!

Do not store tomatoes, peaches, onions, potatoes, or garlic in the fridge!

Six of the seven salads on TGI Friday’s menu have over 900 calories (showing that you’re not always better off going for what appears to be the “healthy” option when it comes to eating out).

 

their quesadilla vs Chilis

their quesadilla vs Chilis

As you can tell, I am enjoying the book quite a bit.  We are fairly health (and budget!) conscious and do our own cooking almost all of the time, but it’s still fun to see a credible source pushing a similar philosophy, and stating that it really is much better for you and your wallet! Some of the information is new, some is not…but it’s all put together in an interesting and engaging way in this particular book.  I highly recommend it, and may try to post some more interesting tidbits of information or even particular foods that are inspired from some of the recipes.

 As Always: Eat. Be Happy!

 

*For example, it has always bugged me when people try to wholesale dismiss certain foods as unhealthy, such as pasta. (“You should cut pasta out of your diet completely, it’s loaded with carbs!”)  Sure, you shouldn’t eat pounds of pasta everyday, but to write it off entirely as a “bad food” is also a bit silly.  The story is a bit more complex than that…walk around Italy where there’s pasta galore and you probably won’t find a whole lot of morbidly obese or overweight people.  It’s not just “pasta’s fault” that people are overweight, and just cutting that out entirely isn’t a surefire solution either. Similar stories apply to other foods as well.

 
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Posted by on August 3, 2014 in Budget/$$, Food, Uncategorized

 

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