Stepping Up Our Coffee Game

The French Press

There is no time like the present, stuck in the house, highly discouraged to travel from within the confines of our humble abode.  Forced to take time and pleasure in the small daily activities that we more often than not take for granted.

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As I stand in my kitchen listening to the drip coffee maker grumble and groan about its one responsibility, I am in no hurry to fill up my bamboo travel mug and run out the door.  I am instead, deep in thought contemplating the status of my coffee brewing situation.

“You know what, I’ve had enough, I’m doing it.”  I say out loud. “I’m doing it!” I yell up the stairs to my wife.

“Doing what?” she yells back.

I don’t answer, how is it possible that she is not in the same train of thought that I am in?  Confounding.

I am a thorough researcher when it comes to purchases.  This is in part because I don’t really like to buy things…ever.  So when I do decide to purchase something, I want it to be the right thing.  I had previously debated our coffee brewing situation in the past, and had previously researched the perfect combination of french press, hand grinder and decanter.  So my decision to finally go for it and upgrade the quality of my morning cup of Joe is not without precedence.

Decanter not pictured.

When looking into a french press, I kept coming back to the classic, the original, Bodum 1.5L Chambord Coffee Press.  It’s hard to beat the original, it has kept the same design since birth over a hundred years ago. How can you even compare with that?  Plus, it is glass and metal for the most part, I was a little disappointed that plastic was integrated into the design, and this did dissuade me a little, but not enough to ignore the clearly unrivaled reputation of the device.  It is the boss of the french press coffee mafia, no doubt about it.

Next was the grinder.  I had a couple stipulations for this, for one, I get up earlier than everyone else on work days, and if I have to grind some fresh coffee beans I don’t want it to sound like a cave full of bears are growling at each other in the kitchen inducing nightmares for the rest of the family.  Second, glass and metal are the materials that I am more comfortable bringing into my household. I don’t want a big plastic obstrocity judging me every time I pick it up. Third, research convinced me that an adjustable, ceramic, conical shaped grinder results in the highest quality coffee.  So now I have my Triple Tree Manual Ceramic Hand Grinder. It unfortunately has a small amount of plastic on the end of the handle, and a rubberized lid, but it’ll do.

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Lastly, once again thorough research led me to understand the need for an insulated decanter.  Even after the coffee is “pressed”, letting the brew sit with the coffee beans will lead to a bitter taste after a little time.  One option is to scoop out the beans as well as you can, not ideal. The other option is to pour out the brew into a decanter, bonus, an insulated one will allow you to have hot coffee for hours past initial brewing.  Hey, all of a sudden I have plenty of time to enjoy another cup of coffee halfway to lunch. The decanter is also a place where you can dare bask in the aesthetic as well. So, a visually pleasing accessory is on the checklist alongside the usual, metal/glass only prerequisite.  Large enough to hold an entire freshly brewed 1.5 liters of coffee is the only other requirement. Decision made, Upkoch Insulated Stainless Steel Coffee Carafe, it is.

Supplies in hand, a test run or two is required to attain the perfect cup of coffee.  Everyone’s tastes are different. Experimenting with coffee bean intensity, grind consistency, amount of grounds per brew and brewing time are all to be carefully considered. We have fine tuned our mix to our version of perfection.  We will continue to experiment with brands of coffee bean, but the basics are ironed out.  

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There is just something incredibly relaxing about that first steaming cup of coffee in the morning, mug in hand, looking out the sliding glass door into the world.  Even better yet, once the weather warms and the world returns to whatever its new version of normal is, sitting outside on the patio sipping a cup and listening to the birds chirp as the rest of the world wakes up before your eyes.

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A Convenient Inconvenience

A “Flirting With Zero Waste” Tip

Zero waste is an achievable lifestyle, though sometimes it feels as if it is unattainable.  Sometimes a little tip or trick will help to urge yourself further in that direction. Here is one such tip that may be worth trying out.

Make Wasteful Items Inconvenient 

A lot of our most wasteful habits are born from convenience.  By making things slightly inconvenient you will gently nudge yourself in the right direction.  

As a real life example, our house commonly used paper towels regularly.  It is very wasteful, but quick and easy, to tear off an entire paper towel to wipe up the smallest of spills and then just throw it away.  We have plenty of kitchen towels, but paper towels were just easier and they were right there on the counter. So we moved them. By putting the paper towel rack into the cabinet under the sink we took it out of our sightline and made it inconvenient to bend down, open the cabinet, reach awkwardly under the sink and tear a sheet off.

Make Non-wasteful Items Convenient

In respect to the previous tip, zero waste habits can in turn be born from convenience.

At the same time as us moving the paper towels to an inconvenient location, we also made sure that the kitchen towels were placed in a more convenient location, and we make sure to always have one hanging from the oven handle.  People like water will always default to the path of least resistance. Snatching the towel off of the oven handle is a whole lot quicker than digging around under the sink for a paper towel.

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Since we made this change, we have noticed a drastic difference.  Rather than changing out the paper towel roll once or twice a week, shamefully.  We now have to put a new roll on the dispenser once every month or two. Still not perfect, but what a difference.  

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The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck

A Hygge-lism Audio Book Review

**Caution** This review pays no mind to “spoilers”.

“The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A counter intuitive approach to living a good life” written by Mark Manson was released in September of 2016.  It is a direct, not so subtle approach to living your best life.

In this book, Mark talks about how life is not all rainbows and fairy tales, and walking around pretending that it is, is not going to make it so.  Don’t be misled by the title though, this book is not about not caring about anything either. It is really a balance of figuring out what to care about and what is important to you.  In other words, what to and what not to give a f*ck about.

It is a refreshing, honest look at life and people in general, almost an anti-self help, self help book.  Delving into our most controversial personality traits, with entertaining metaphors like the disappointment panda, and the self-awareness onion.

Beyond the crudeness and “slap you in the face” honesty, he delves into deeper issues such as where fault and responsibility lie, they are not the same.  He touches on anxiety, indecision, rejection and failure, not painting them in a negative light, but in turn as positive experiences that shape how we are.  He points out how some of our worst experiences growing up, turn out to have the most positive impacts on our life and that we just can’t see it at the time.  He goes into the intricacies of how our values largely determine our outlook on life and how we feel about how successful we are. Eye opening perspectives delivered in a witty, honest, fast paced way than can be nothing but appreciated. He supports his points with well placed references to philosophers, historical facts, stories and quotes.

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This was the first audio book that I have listened to solely in my car while commuting to and from work, and I would absolutely start it over from the beginning and listen to it all over again.  It forced me to digest the book in small portions and really think about each part by itself before listening to the next. I am not typically a self help book kind of guy, but the title and the recommendations could not be denied, so I gave it a listen and I don’t regret it.  In fact, I recommend it to anyone else to give it a listen, whether you are a self help kind of person or not.

I plan on trying to switch from driving my car to work, to a combination of a bicycle and train for my commute this spring.  I think that I just may make this my first headphone commute audio book for those rides.  

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Our Many Addictions

Recognize and Remedy

When the word addiction enters a sentence, it is most commonly in reference to a drug or alcohol.  Addiction can be attributed to so many more facets of our lives though, and recognizing this is the first step towards combating it.

Too much of just about anything is not healthy, and if you are doing anything to such an excess that it begins to be detrimental, you are addicted to it.  By the same token, if you are avoiding doing something to the point of it being detrimental, you are an addict. Perhaps a few examples are in order.

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Harmful things that are done to excess are easier to recognize.  Besides the obvious drugs and alcohol, addictions to things such as eating, shopping, exercising and working can all be harmful.  All of these things can be addictions and a lot of these things don’t even carry a bad connotation depending on the phasing of the sentence.  

Some would tout a hard worker as having a good work ethic, while others point out that a workaholic virtually abandons his family and is irrevocably harming his health with the added stress and not so restful sleep. 

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Shoppers could be called collectors or bargain hunters, while chronic shoppers are throwing money away on unnecessary, frivolous items and stacking up debt.

Someone who likes to exercise his health conscience, or an exercise addict is permanently scarring their body and destroying their joints.

Someone who eats too much may have a sophisticated palate or likes to explore the flavors of life, while over-eaters are killing themselves, risking diabetes and heart disease and causing undue strain on their bodies.

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Excess is one side of the addiction coin, and deprivation is the other side.  This is most commonly recognized with eating disorders such as Anorexia. In this example the addiction is not associated with the act of doing something, but rather the result you get from not doing something.  You are not addicted to not eating, you are addicted to the result of not eating, of weighing less.  

Someone who is tight with their money can be described as thrifty and money conscious, or they can be described as a scrooge, a tightwad or cheap.  They are not addicted to spending money, but rather saving it. Even minimalism can be taken too far, when the refusal to purchase an item in the name of being a minimalist begins to affect you and those around you causing undue strain, it is time to reevaluate your lifestyle and the possibility that you have an addiction.

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In both of these scenarios; excess and deprivation, the common thread is that the act is being taken to the extreme. Modern day types of addiction have been extended to the world of social media and technological devices.  Cell phones and video games are real addictions that can lead to serious issues. The unending pursuit of internet fame by any means necessary can have massive detrimental effects on a person and their families.  The fear of missing out can stop someone from living a “normal” life, an addiction to information of sorts. 

In order to combat addiction, one must begin to live in the realm of moderation.  With the exception of drugs and alcohol, these acts are not inherently bad. They are only detrimental when taken to an extreme in either direction.  Moderation is the antidote to addiction.

Similar to those fad diets that never seem to stick, extreme restriction is the precursor to failure in a diet.  A diet that is all inclusive with a wide variety of foods but stresses serving size moderation is the key to well balanced, healthy food intake and is easier to maintain.  Shopping is not bad, eating is not bad, social media, working, dieting, video games, exercise. None of these are bad…in moderation.

The hardest part is recognizing the addiction.  It is hard to look in the mirror sometimes and evaluate all of the decisions that you make in your life, but sometimes this is necessary.  Sometimes all it takes is to really start listening to those closest to you. Unfortunately, often the only way you are really able to come to realization of an addiction is through tragedy, disappointment, let downs, struggles and broken relationships.   

Once you realize the problem, the answer is combating that addiction with moderation. A swing to the extreme opposite is just as harmful as the addiction itself.

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Burg Eltz, Germany

A Hygge-lism Day tripper

So where do you go when all the borders are closed and large gatherings are frowned upon due to a spreading virus pandemic?

A beautiful castle in the German countryside on the off-season of course.  I present to you Burg Eltz (under construction).

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Spring has sprung and the last thing that we want to be is shuttered up inside our house because of a flu running rampant.  We want to be outside, enjoying nature and getting some fresh virus free air. Burg Eltz is just under a 2 hour drive from our house and a lazy Sunday combined with mass hysteria leads to light traffic on an unrestricted roadway.  This combination allows us to cut about 20 minutes off the estimated arrival time both to and from our trip.

Just before arriving, we leave the highway and enjoy some beautiful country side back roads driving as we head up to the parking area for Burg Eltz.  The lot is at the end of a nice forest walk about one and a half kilometers from the actual castle. Winding through the woods, you never even have a hint as to how close you are to the castle.  Suddenly after rounding one last bend it reveals itself. A massive structure surrounded on all sides by a winding river, only accessible by a single stone bridge…amazing.

You approach the castle from an elevated vantage point and can enjoy the panoramic views for a good while as you descend to the bridge.  Being the off-season we are not able to enter and tour the grounds, but we new that ahead of time and are not disappointed.

We circled around the castle and explored just a few of the many nature trails all around Burg Eltz, each giving you a different unique view.  Stopping at one of the river banks we sit and have some of the lunch we brought with us. Just imagine, hundreds of years ago there was a very possibility that the residents of Burg Eltz sat by this river, ate and enjoyed the Spring weather just as we were doing today.

For more photos visit – @vaca_with_katie on Instagram

After mulling around for a bit, we headed back towards the car, taking a different path than the one that we followed on the way in. 

Burg Pyrmont

On the way home, we drove by another Burg, Burg Pyrmont.  Castles are rampant in Germany, you can practically see the next one before you’re out of sight of the first one.

We stop down the hill from Burg Pyrmont at a little guest house that we notice is open and serving food and drinks…also somewhat rare on a Sunday.  We sit between a waterfall and a view of the castle and enjoy some coffee and beer while the boys have ice cream, relaxed and carefree.  

At this moment, it is hard to believe that the world is in the midst of losing its mind.

For more and better photos of Burg Eltz and everywhere else, visit my wife’s Instagram by clicking —–>@vaca_with_katie

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Walking Meditation

A Lesson Learned From Our Four Legged Friends

Never underestimate the power of fresh air, exercise and time with your thoughts.

Spending time with your pets is a major stress reliever.  Research has shown that being around a dog in particular lowers the level of the stress hormone cortisol and dampens other physiological stress responses.  This is very evident with veterans who rely on service dogs to help them cope with post traumatic stress disorder. But, there is more to stress relief than just hanging out with a canine compatriot.

You don’t have to run out and adopt a puppy in order to feel this level of stress relief, but I’m not discouraging that either.  An equally advantageous activity for stress relief is regular exercise. I’m not talking about high impact, sweat a bucket, no pain no gain, rip your shirt off, hardcore cross-fit iron pumping.  I am talking about a regular, light and easy walk around the block. The sort of walk that you would take a few times a day if you did in fact have a puppy at home.

Another factor of regular dog walking-like exercise that contributes to stress relief is nature.  Studies show that getting out into nature can help restore your sense of well being as you become attuned to the natural beauty around you and your own heartbeat. 

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A regular easy stroll through nature, without any distractions such as cell phones or music will, with practice, transport you into a somewhat hypnotic, meditative state.  This state is in fact referred to as; Walking Meditation. 

A walking meditation of as little as 10 minutes a day is an easy way to inflict a world of change to your health, both physically and mentally.

Here are a couple tips to help you get the most out of walking meditation:

  • First find a location.

Ideally, you are looking for a walking path that is well integrated with nature, someplace that you will not have to worry about vehicle traffic and the less crowded the better.  The goal is to eliminate as many distractions as possible. In a pinch though, any decent stretch of sidewalk or neighborhood loop will do just fine.

  • Start walking.

Simple right…find a place to walk and then walk in that place.  This alone will benefit your mind and body immensely.

Putting yourself in a meditative state will take a few more steps though:

  • Think deliberately

Meditation involves focus and attention on specific small tasks.  Conscientiously focus on the movement required to lift your foot, moving it forward, placing it down, shifting your weight, and repeating with the next foot.

  • Breathe
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Obviously, right?  Only now be sure to realize your breathing, feel your lungs fill and empty, in through the nose and out through the mouth.  Try not to lose focus or get distracted.

  • What to do with your hands.

When focusing this intently on your steps and breathing, it can become overly complicated and confusing on how you are supposed to be swinging your arms.  Sounds silly I know, but you will see. So, avoid that action altogether and clasp your hands together behind your back as you stroll.

  • Re-focus.

No matter how focused you are in the beginning, your mind will inevitably wander.  This is completely normal so don’t get discouraged. When you notice your mind wandering, re-focus on your movements and breath.  Feel all of the sensations that you would normally take for granted, your balance and the sensation of the ground beneath your feet.

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If you can integrate this short and easy activity into your daily routine, whether or not you have a dog to walk, it will start to become second nature and you will begin to be able to apply this meditative state to your other daily activities.

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Bamboo Bicycles

A Step Further in the Sustainability Direction

Bicycles are an incredible innovation, a health conscience, Eco friendly alternative to fossil fueled vehicles.  They are universally loved throughout the entire world, from children as young as two, to men and women of every age.

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There are more than 100 million bicycles manufactured every year and there are well over 1 billion bicycles currently present in the world already.  The largest accumulation of bikes is estimated to reside in China with nearly 500 million plus found there alone.

Those able to forego fossil fueled vehicles for a bicycle to complete their daily commute have an incredible positive impact on the environment and their own health.  It’s hard to look at a bicycle with anything but positivity in correlation with the economic impacts. But what are bicycles?

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Bicycles are hunks of metal, rubber, plastic, carbon fiber and grease.  Now, many of them are also equipped with batteries, but that’s another story for another post.  Bicycles don’t seem so enchanting when you think of them like that, but I’m not here to bash on bikes.  They are still a thousand times better than the alternative…automobiles. There is another, even more eco-friendly and sustainable option out there though – Bamboo Bicycles.

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Multiple companies have sprouted up with high quality, well made bamboo bicycles.  These companies are taking an already incredibly eco-friendly product and making it even more sustainable.  Bamboo is arguably the most sustainable material in the world. It’s regenerative qualities are unrivaled, when harvested it can regrow up to four feet in a single day.  It can absorb five times more carbon dioxide and create a third more oxygen than a similar sized grove of trees.

While most bamboo bikes still do typically contain some metal or carbon fiber at the joining joints, the longer stretches of material are replaced by bamboo stalks.  Not only does this decrease the carbon footprint of bicycle manufacturing, it also serves as a highly capable material. Bamboo is very lightweight and has a high tensile strength, it also has a higher shock absorbency than carbon fiber.  On top of that, it’s a cheaper building material than steel, aluminum and carbon fiber. A good company will pass that savings on to you!

If you are interested in a bamboo bicycle, there are quite a few established companies out there already, here is a handful:

BooomersYes, the three O’s is the correct spelling.  Booomers also uses there bike sales for additional socio-economic impact as well which you can read about by clicking on their company name. Additionally, the joints of a Booomers bicycle is created with a plant based fiber and epoxy which is somewhat unique in this industry.

My Boo – Is an impressive company based out of Ghana and Kiel, Germany, My Boo bamboo bikes offers handmade city, sport and electric bicycles.  The joints on these bikes are formed with glued and polished hemp rope adding to the sustainability of their product.

Ewabi – Established in 2016, Ewabi uses locally sourced bamboo from Bali, aluminum joints wrapped with natural fibers, resin and hardeners. Unique in its addition of bamboo mud guards.

Pedal Forward – These sustainable bikes are built with steel joints and Pedal Forward uses a portion of every sale to reinvest back into developing the transportation needs of developing communities.  They only have a few models at the moment, but offer them at a cheaper price point than most.

Bamboocycles – This company, based in Mexico manufactures bamboo bicycles with carbon fiber joints and offers a plethora of frame styles and designs.

In-Bo – A French company, specializing in bamboo products such as bicycles, skateboards and eyeglasses.

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The Stranger in the Woods

A Hygge-lism Book Review

**Caution** This review pays no mind to “spoilers”.

“The Stranger in the Woods; The Extraordinary Story of the Last True Hermit” written by Michael Finkel was released in 2017.  It tells the tale of Christopher Knight, also known as “The North Pond Hermit”. Chris Knight walked into the central Maine woods in 1986 at the age of 20 and stayed there for the next 27 years until his arrest in 2013.

During the time that Christopher Knight lived in the woods, he claimed to have only ever interacted with other people on two occasions.  Once while walking a trail he came upon someone walking the other direction and he merely said “Hello” to him. On one other occasion, three men were hunting and they saw him and he simply waved to them and displayed that he was unarmed.

In order to survive this time in the woods, Knight studies the community surrounding his camp site and learns the comings and goings of its residents.  He opportunistically breaks into the houses and campsites around him to attain the supplies that he needs to make it through the years. After repeatedly breaking into a summer camp for disabled children, law enforcement are able to catch up with him by installing sensors on the doors.  In 2013, they catch him red handed, and so begins the tale uncovering the extraordinary life of the “North Pond Hermit”.

The title of this book is a little misleading, typically hermits are described as someone living in solitude for religious reasons, or someone living a solitary life away from society.  While Chris Knight lived alone, he never left society. He holed up in the woods of a seasonal lake community and he depended completely on that community for his survival.

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Michael Finkel learns of and reaches out to the “North Pond Hermit”, after his arrest and is successful in befriending him during his stay in prison while the court system figures out what to do with him.  Finkel throughout the book, refers to Knight in somewhat of a reverential tone, he admires what he did and seems to look to him for some great insight into life that Knight is simply not able to provide. Rather than the spiritual guide that he is seeking, he is instead greeted with what turns out to be an extreme introvert, possibly on the Asperger spectrum with a social anxiety disorder.  Despite the authors many visits and conversations with Knight, he never seems to realize this. He touches on this possibility slightly at the end of the book, but only in reference to the courts and some of the community residences opinion of Knight.

I enjoyed reading this book, but did not feel the same reverence towards Knight as the author did.  Knight was able to survive for 27 years in the cold Maine woods, but purely off of stolen goods. He did not hunt, he did not fish, he could not start a fire on his own, he was never even out of earshot of regular society.  He simply wanted to be alone because he was uncomfortable with human interaction. He stole food, books, propane tanks, clothing, radio’s, batteries, a television, flashlights…you name it. He struck fear into the hearts of families of the community that suffered through multiple break-ins and thefts, not knowing who he was or when he would strike.

“The Stranger in the Woods” was an interesting read, but does not make my recommended reading list.

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Our Side Hustle

A Hygge-lism How To; Applied

Previously I wrote about how to establish a side hustle, which you can read by clicking on THIS LINK.

Since then, we have established a lucrative, opportunistic side hustle.  I am going to spell out how we did it, using the step by step guide that I wrote about previously.  

*Disclaimer – I say “we” throughout this article, but really I mean “she, Katie and my wife”*

The first step was to take an honest look at how much money we were looking to earn.

We were lucky enough to be able to live off of just my income, but we would like to try and save/invest as much as possible, so any extra income at all would be a bonus.  Any income from the side hustle would go towards groceries, any money in excess of groceries would go into a vacation fund. So our goal was anything above nothing per month.

What are the needs in our area?

We took a good look at our area, my wife joined Facebook groups that covered our town and the nearby communities.  We paid attention to the common discussions and requests that popped up on there. We started to put together common conversation threads between people that we met and talked to regularly and we started to see a need.  

Sophie & Uncas

We live in a military-centric community, lots of families moving in and out regularly with their pets.  With lots of travel opportunities and both parents commonly having full time jobs, there was a great need for dog walkers and pet sitters that was largely untapped.

How much time did we have to invest?

Both of our little ones are in school now, which leaves my wife’s weekday mornings free.  Most people didn’t need a dog walker for weekends because they were home. We didn’t plan on traveling too often on weekends during the winter, so if pet sitting was required we could jump on that as well.  So during the school year we have plenty of time, during the summer months could be a different story though.

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What do we want to do?

My wife previously worked in customer service and she made it very clear that she would like to avoid dealing with people if at all possible, so dog walking…check.  My wife and I both love animals…another check. We like to stay active and get outdoors…yet another check.

So, dog walking and pet sitting checked all of the boxes, it was time to pursue it.

Put ourselves out there.

Finnegan & Brooklyn

My wife started to respond to the dog walking and sitting requests on Facebook.  This was a little nerve racking, we didn’t know any of these people and they didn’t know us.  Quite often as expected they would request a meet up first, we would get to meet their pet and have an impromptu interview of sorts.  This was expected.

What we didn’t expect was the immediate acceptance of us as hired and the nonchalance of them sending us their home address and giving us a copy of their front door key, but it happened, and quite a bit.

Gauge the going rate.

We have a couple friends that have a dog and have hired a dog sitter/walker before.  We tapped them for a common rate. We also left the door open during conversations to let the customer suggest a rate.  As we talked to potential clients we were able to establish an average cost that was being asked for this service in the area.

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Once we became confident that we could request a certain fee, we locked it in and we were able to state our fees with confidence.

Schedule, schedule, schedule.

We were very surprised to find how fast we were able to establish a large client base.  Scheduling became of the utmost importance. My wife started to fill in our dry erase monthly calendar with the dog walking schedule; color coded of course.  

Each family that was requesting a dog walker, would be allotted roughly an hour per day, which would include a little bit of travel time between houses, we would have to limit ourselves to 4 to 5 families per day.

I cannot stress enough the importance of a solid schedule, the last thing that you want is to forget somebody.  Which leads right into the next step.

Build a reputation.

Tracking Shea’s walk

We were lucky enough to be able to get clients right off the bat without previous experience or references to fall back on.  So because we got those first clients we had to make them count. A solid, reliable schedule kept us in the right place at the right time.  Walking and exercise apps enabled us to track how far and how long each walk was and we were even able to add a picture of the dog that took part in the walk to it.

Tracking Uncas’s walk

The combination of these two things did wonders to build a solid reputation.  So by the time that someone did ask for a reference, we had them.

Check out some awesome pics of our paw walking friends on my wife’s Instagram by clicking this link —> @paw_walking

Side hustle established!  So far this has turned out to be incredibly lucrative for us, and even has an opportunity for growth if we were to pursue it.  We have more than covered all of our food shopping expenses and even took our first overnight/weekend vacation solely off of our dog walking and pet sitting funds.

By removing these expenses from my income, we have in turn been able to increase our savings significantly.  The additional savings has begun to be invested, and will have the opportunity to grow exponentially!

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Intelligent Blends

Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail

A Hygge-lism Book Review

**Caution** This review pays no mind to “spoilers” and a book that was released 8 years ago should be exempt from spoilers by now anyway.

“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed, was released in 2012, and adapted into a movie starring Reese Witherspoon in 2014.

“Wild” is a memoir of Cheryl Strayed’s journey of self-discovery as she hiked 1,100 miles along the Pacific Crest Trail from Sierra City in California, to the “Bridge of the Gods”, which spans the Columbia River between Cascade Locks Oregon and Washington State, after the death of her mother.

Cheryl was only 22 when her mother died, her abusive father had long ago disappeared and her mother was the glue that held her siblings and step-father together.  When she died, Cheryl went into a marriage ending tailspin that involved numerous men and escalating drug use, which she referred to as “Planet Heroin”.  

While everything around her was falling apart, she happened upon a book the described hiking the California stretch of the Pacific Crest Trail, while standing in a check-out counter line.  She flipped through it and put it back, but could not shake it from her mind. Desperate to “find herself” and get her life back together she imagined hiking the PCT as a way to do just that and she returned to the store to buy the book.

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With no hiking experience and very little camping experience she set out using the guidebook to acquire everything that she could possibly need to undergo this journey.  Her lack of experience and underestimation of what was ahead proved to be no match for her sheer determination and guts.

This story reads like two stories in one, the tale of her trek along all those miles of the PCT and the tale of the events in her past life that lead to this moment.  Both of those stories are gripping by themselves and together they create an epic story that is thoroughly enjoyable.

Her transformation while she travels is incredible, from her shoulders and hips callusing over due to her abnormally heavy pack rubbing them raw, to her endless fight to keep more toenails intact than she lost.

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Battling injury, heat, cold, rain, wild animals, exhaustion, dehydration, starvation and questionable intentions, she is able to strip back all of her masks to reveal and discover who she truly is.  Driven forward sometimes solely by the prospect of her next $20 and the idea of a real meal. Along the way she comes into contact with a community of people that instantly become like family to her.

This is a tale of great accomplishment and the power of perseverance.  It is an incredible read and I highly recommend anyone and everyone to give it a read.  I also watched the film that was adapted from this novel, but it pales in comparison.

I could really go for a Snapple Lemonade right about now!

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