Eliminating Life's Artificial Ingredients

Stand Up!

I’m trying to stand as much as possible these days. I’m not linking to any studies, but there’s plenty out there, go find it.

So, going forward, I’m standing during the scenarios

  • Riding the train to and from work (30-50 Minutes each way)
  • Working from home. (laptop on dresser)
  • Socializing with friends.
  • Anytime it’s not awkward.

How about you? Trying to stand more, walk more, sleep more?


01/05/2015 Uncategorized

Declutter debt

I bought a house in January 2008. If you followed the news, you know that was a bad time to buy as house values plummeted shortly thereafter, even in Silicon Valley.
I decided to hold onto it, as I figured it was an investment (I feel less so these days), and kept it after my marriage ended in 2010.
The loan was both a 30 year fixed rate, which I refinanced twice, and a $60k home equity line of credit (heloc). The lender even sent me a debit card so I could draw money against the equity line. I never did that, and later I received a letter stating basically “Um yeah, you don’t have any equity so you can’t take any cash out.

Too funny. Sort of. That’s fine. I dislike debt and didn’t want to take on any more.

So I paid that heloc down as fast as possible, right?
Umm no. I chipped away at it here and there, but no serious progress, and in 2 years I paid down about $5,000.
In 5 years I paid down a total of $7,000.
I really tapered off paying for 3 years
I’m still sitting on $53k worth of debt as of last year.
I sorta kept the heloc out of mind. The payments were small, around $200-250 so I didn’t think much of it.
But that was just the interest that I was paying every month. I was barely cutting down the principal.
To my regret, I never ran the numbers on how much I would pay in interest over the years. I knew this stuff, because I pride myself in paying off my credit card every month because of the interest charges. But I was not looking the same way towards my heloc.
I ran the numbers on a site called (No affiliation)
Paying the minimum would cost me over $100,000.00 in interest. I just about flipped.
This big mountain of debt was weighing on me, taking up space in my brain, but i was also ignoring it.
I set a goal in March 2014, that I was going to get it from $53k to below $40k.
I hit $39,811.00 just this month(December 2014)!
How did I do it? I looked at recurring expenses I could eliminate and apply it to the loan. Even the $7.99 a month for Netflix wasn’t spared. I didn’t think “Oh, it’s only 8 bucks a month. No no deal.”
No, I thought how much interest would I save over time for those 8 bucks a month.
I don’t know that number, and don’t care.
I just want that debt gone ASAP. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay interest of $100,000!

How about you? Have you neglected a debt and made up for lost time? Or were you smart, unlike me and tackle it head on from the beginning?

12/26/2014 Money

New Focus – Less Stuff Equals More Awesome Life

I’m always going to focus on living as minimalist as possible, or at least how it works for me. Paleo, primal, or ancestral eating is a big component of who I am, and likely will be that way for the rest of my life.

At some point, I’ve gotten rid of as much material stuff as I can, what then? Do I go on a super minimalist adventure, limiting myself to 100 total items?

Nah, that’s not for me. One thing I’ve learned, is getting rid of the junk in your life, be it needless crap, toxic relationships, bodyfat, etc, it creates a vacuum. That vacuum is a perfect opportunity to fill it with awesome.

Awesome what?

In my case, I’ve taken up new interests such as improv, writing, making tons of new friends, educating myself on being a better, more confident person than ever before.

It’s been fun. I’m going to continue sharing and exploring minimalism, and sharing what gifts arise from living that minimalist lifestyle. Where desire for things is replaced with reaching personal goals that money can’t buy.

Stay tuned, and let me know how minimalism has changed your life.


09/03/2014 Habits, Minimalism, Primal Living

New life in a smaller, better place

I now live in a 350 square foot 1 bedroom apartment in San Francisco.

Nothing helps to reinforce my minimalist principles more than forcing myself into a place 1/4 the size of my previous home. The trade off in less space is paid with living in a vibrant and dynamic city.

I’ve rid myself of so much stuff over the past few years I actually need to buy more stuff to furnish this place.

  1. No Sofa
  2. No Dining table

I love it. It’s the perfect fresh start, and I don’t mind other than the hassle of buying and hauling it home.

Many folks out there hold on to their old stuff, imagining how they’re going to use it again. In my case, it was much better to get rid of it, and start anew. If you don’t need it now, make sure if you really need it again. Might as well as clear it out. Will the old stuff work in the new place? Likely not. Toss it!

A tiny new apartment also equals no dishwasher, hardly any cabinets, and next to no counter space. I love those things very much.

This is making my cooking technique even more minimalist, and keeping recipes as simple as possible. Today my braised pork is made with only seven ingredients.

No Dishwasher also makes me limit my dirty dishes. I could easily get a lot of take out, or convenience foods to keep dirty dishes to a minimum. But I’d rather keep my cooking approach to simple, whole, and of course paleo/primal meals, while not making a huge mess. Another challenge! I can’t wait to share more!

Limited kitchen space has forced, or rather, inspired me to revisit all my cooking appliances….  extra whisks, ladles, spatulas, cutlery, measuring spoons ,and mixing bowls… tossed!

Next steps are setting up a hanging pot rack and more hooks to keep what I need, where I need it.

Stay tuned!


02/18/2014 Minimalism, Primal Living

Minimalism is a Luxury

Minimalism is simple in concept, yet more difficult in execution.  It took me a while, but I realize now that minimalism is a luxury.

How so?



n. pl. lux·u·ries

1. Something inessential but conducive to pleasure and comfort.

2. Something expensive or hard to obtain.

3. Sumptuous living or surroundings: lives in luxury.

Well, I’d say the first two definitely apply to minimalism. As I mentioned before, it took me a while to realize that Minimalism is indeed a luxury.

The past year I’ve spent a lot of time and energy parting with unneeded possessions. I also rented out my house (The rental market in Silicon Valley is ridiculous) and have been living as a bit of a vagabond. I’m still employed of course, but have been working in New York, staying with friends there, and now house/dog sitting back home in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Now that I’m a minimalist, doesn’t mean anyone one else is, nor everywhere I go.

The last time I spent any time in a minimalist environment was before moving out of my house in May 2013.  I bring very little with me, but I find  I’m surrounded by material excess and hardly any breathing room no matter where I go. In New York and back here in CA, every place I’ve stayed has too much stuff in my opinion.

Minimalism, so far, has been “hard to obtain”.

Being a minimalist by choice, rather than lack of financial means, is more proof that it’s a luxury.  I have the luxury of getting rid of things by choice.  I don’t have to choose between buying a new pair of shoes or a jacket. Well , I bought them both, and then got rid of them both, eventually! So yes, maybe the pursuit of minimalism is an upper –middle class indulgence. So what? Eventually we all learn that things do make us happy.

How about you, have you achieved an optimal minimalist lifestyle, only to see it disappear the second you leave the house?  Have you stayed with friends or family and wonder why they have so much stuff you can’t even unpack your bags? Please share in the comments!




08/10/2013 Minimalism

Minimizing meal planning and cooking time.

I had not planned on this as a blog post, but I just signed up to a meal planning service to let someone else do a lot of the thinking and strategizing behind cooking effectively and healthfully for a week at a  time.

Ever since I got into cooking about twenty years ago, it was in fits and starts. I used 2-3 recipes multiple times a month, and while I enjoyed the food I cooked, I hated the planning and making lists. I loved looking up recipes, and getting all excited to make something new. But that excitement waned when I tried planning meals for the week ahead.

It’s a lot more fun trying an ambitious new recipe that is bound to be delicious, (I’m having flashbacks to the first time I braised beef cheeks), than putting together a meal plan for the week that minimizes cooking time, shopping, and reduces waste.

Basically, I did and still do what I think a lot of people do, buy a lot of basics, then “kinda wing it” during the week. That means the beef I bought, will likely be paired with the broccoli, or other vegetables, and then I’ll roast some parsnips too. Overall, that would be a nice meal. However, this easily locks me into a comfort zone where I keep making that dish 4-5  times a month.

I want to shake things up!

Last Sunday I was perusing recipe archives, and came across “5 Primal Meals in Just 35 Minutes.” I had not seen this before.

This called to me. I was so excited that I didn’t really care what the recipes were. I just wanted something simple, good (I knew it would be), and have ALL the thinking done for me. 

I wrote it all down the shopping list I was making, and raced down to Whole Foods.

Went to work the second I got home. Granted, it took me longer than 35 minutes as my wild caught King Salmon (previously frozen) was still thawing.

I was done in about an hour. I successfully made all five recipes, and what I’ve had so far has been tasty. 

Here’s a pic of tonight’s Salmon Salad.

Salmon Salad


I just signed up for Mark’s Daily Apple “Primal Meal Plan” (Not an affiliate link, at least yet) and want to try it for a couple of months.

How about you? Would you like to leave the planning to someone else? I love this idea. Do you?

03/26/2013 recipes

Sleep experiment week 1 results

Day One, March 11:

Arrived home at 7:06 pm.  Light five candles and placed them throughout the home. Several sources of artificial light I did not turn off were a few alarm clocks, the microwave, oven clock, and anytime I opened the refrigerator. I did spend about 30 minutes on my smart phone dealing with work emails, then shut it off.

One thing that I hadn’t planned on was it being Daylight savings  time. So the clocks were moved forward an hour the day before this experiment started. That might affect the results, but I’m going ahead.

Bedtime: 9:00 PM. Was yawning a lot before. Read for 30 minutes, then out by 9:45. Up at 5:30 am, and woke up once at 4:30. Approximately 7 or 7.5 hours of sleep.

Day Two March 12th:

Ok, maybe I didn’t think this one through… not only is it daylight savings time, but it’s my birthday this week. That means celebrating and having fun. Being the day before my birthday on March 13th, I went out to dinner with a friend and stayed up late. When I did get home around 10:45, it was mostly candles, and I stayed up til midnight.  Approximately 4-5 hours of sleep.

Day Three, March 13th.

This is my actual birthday, and I go out to dinner again with family this time. Got home around 11:00 pm, and completely forgot about going by candle light only when home.


Day Four, March 14th

I get home from Crossfit around 6:30, and have dinner completed by 7:30. Luckily, with Daylight Savings Time, It’s light out until 7:30 and makes cooking dinner easier than by candlelight.

That has been the main challenge, completing chores and other household duties by candlelight. It also gets in the way of blog writing and research.

Thursday is typically the boys night out, and although I rarely drink nowadays, being my birthday week I made an exception and had a few beers after having a large cider.

Alcohol always disrupts my sleep, and Thursday was no exception.  I got home around 10:30, remembered the candles, and went to bed around 1am after chugging a log of coconut water.

3-4 hours of sleep.

Day Five, March 15th:

Home around 6:30. In bed by 9:00.  Read by candlelight until 9:45 .

9 hours of sleep.


This was more of a challenge than I realized. Granted, this was an unusual week to start(DST, and my birthday), but I’m an impulsive person and did it on a whim,

It’s harder to cook dinner in the dark, clean up after dinner, fold laundry, look for your keys. Damn the refrigerator light is BRIGHT when you open it. Makes you feel like all your effort was wasted when you reach for the butter and get a blast of light that sears your eyes.

Overall, I saw good results from when I was apply to apply the experiment.  I will probably try for a solid five days again, starting this Tuesday. If anything, I’ve learned to enjoy reading by candlelight, which I did on 3 of the 5 nights of this experiment.

How about you? Would you try this? What if you failed? Give it another go?


03/18/2013 Habits, Primal Living

How to fall asleep earlier and easier with candles.


You’re getting very sleepy…..



I’ve always had a problem falling asleep early enough to get a sufficient night’s rest. It’s been like this my whole life, and I wasn’t sure what it was that caused it.

Well, this is a problem that certainly can use some experimentation, and reporting on the results.

My first attempt to deal with this is to remove an artificial ingredient – In this case, light powered by electricity.

I’ve come across a lot of information that artificial light, such as from lamps, computers, TVs, and smart phones disrupt our natural sleep cycles, and delay the onset of our sleep hormone, melatonin. Now there are tons of resources that cover that subject thoroughly, so I’m not going to rehash it all in detail.

In case you want to find out more, in Mark Sisson’s latest book,  The Primal Connection: Follow Your Genetic Blueprint to Health and Happiness’>Primal Connection, he discusses many of the problems contributed to the lack of quality sleep. Problems such as weight gain,  ADHD, stress, hypertension, depression, irritability, sexual dysfunction, thyroid dysfunction, premature aging, the list goes on.

Well, how am I going to tackle the lack of sleep in my life?

First, I am going to remove as much artificial light at night as possible during next week.

I will operate by candle light at home, unless a lamp is absolutely necessary.

How will I monitor my success rate? I’ll report back to you on my average sleep time, bed time, and estimated “when I fell asleep” time for next week, and compare it to the following week when I don’t use the candle light.

How about you? Are you getting enough sleep? What have you tried? Would you do the “candle light only” experiment?

03/09/2013 Artificial Ingredients, Habits, Primal Living

Book Review – “Simplify”.

Simplify, by Joshua Becker

Simplify“, from Joshua Becker is a great read for any aspiring minimalists.

His blog, Becoming Minimalist was an important source for ideas and inspiration when I first realized that my excess stuff was affecting my well-being.

I spent a lot of time reading Becoming Minimalist for inspiration, getting ideas, and applying them to my own life. In fact, reading Becoming Minimalist inspired me to begin my own blog, and put my own primal twist on it.

Becker’s book, does a great job of describing the philosophy of minimalism, and how to apply it to your own life.

It is far from simply being a “how-to” book.  The tactics behind decluttering and getting rid of stuff have been written extensively in many books, web articles, and blogs (ahem…). He discusses how excess clutter affected his family’s life, and how removing it improved his family life and how it can for yours.

“Simplify” begins with a typical 3 day weekend for many Americans, that is a weekend spent “cleaning the garage”.  A random discussion with a neighbor sparked Joshua’s interest in becoming minimalist.

The book is a quick read, and contains 7 Guiding Principles he applied toward his journey of becoming minimalist.

Principle #1 “Be Convinced”. In case you weren’t convinced to apply minimalism, he adds 10 benefits, including #1 Spend Less, and #2, Less Stress.  Those two would convince me right away! Add #3 “Easier to Clean”, and what else do you need to convince you? The remaining 7 benefits are just icing on the gluten free cake.

Some other principles are #3 “Jump Right In”. That is, don’t let the daunting goal of decluttering your home overwhelm you. Start by small steps, and like a marathon, you gradually work your way to cross the finish line.  Here is where Becker provides solid tactics and strategies, which really helps if you don’t know where to begin.

Principle #7 “Simplify Everywhere” resonates with me, and could also be the name of my blog. One of my favorite quotes is “Complexity is the enemy of growth“. I believe it originally referred to business, but that can be applied to life.

Once you achieve simplicity and minimalism of your home, you can apply that to anywhere in life. Time Management, Finances, Food and cooking, media consumption (I decluttered cable a few years ago), and just LIFE ITSELF.

If you’re dipping your toes into minimalism, started and lost your way, or have been one for a long time, pick up a kindle copy of Simplify.  You will definitely learn something new.




02/16/2013 Uncategorized

Decluttering booze….

My latest foray into Removing Life’s Artificial Ingredients has been quitting drinking alcohol. So far, it’s been fairly easy to eliminate grains, processed foods, excess sugar, and anything non-Paleo.

The hardest, and biggest change so far has been quitting alcohol. Alcohol consumption , while fun in moderate doses,  and social gatherings, has been a bit of a problem for me. Simply put, when I do drink, too often it’s too much. Not every time, but enough times.

Ever since I came of drinking age in my late teens and early 20s. Alcohol was a constant factor in my life.
Special occasions were marked by its consumption:

  • Socializing, after work,
  • After finals in college, and all of college
  • Every Friday and Saturday,
  • Attending sporting events, restaurants
  • Weekday meetups with friends
  • Dates…

and at all these events, I would expend considerable effort making sure I had a drink, or was procuring my next one.


I’ll Pass

The list could go on forever of how alcohol fit into my life.

I was not a daily drinker, nor did I need it to survive the day.  This made it easier to say there wasn’t an issue. But there was!

What was the problem?

My aim was to get the perfect buzz.

What happens when I attain the perfect buzz? I keep doing what I’m doing, thinking the buzz would be perfectly maintained.

The Perfect Buzz rarely lasts.

What did happen is I would go from Perfect Buzz to visibly drunk, and worse. I could list many stories, ranging from harmless,  hilarious, shameful, hurtful, embarrassing, and lucky to have survived. Some of my relationships have ended while drinking.
Most of the time my actions were benign to my friends and myself. But not always, and there were times people weren’t spared my acting like a jerk or embarrassing them or myself.

Ultimately, alcohol will affect your heath and well-being.  It’s very hard to exercise and focus on what you need to do when you’re buzzed, drunk, or hung-over.

Most importantly, alcohol affects and impairs your self-control, judgment, and awareness.  These days, it’s not always necessary to be alert and on the lookout for our evolutionary  predators and other natural dangers that we had to avoid during our evolution.

A saber toothed tiger is not going to pounce as you stumble out of the local dive.  However, it is very likely that we did not evolve consuming alcohol to the point of impairment on a  regular basis. Say 1-3 times per week.
What impact does that have on our well-being when we do that?  For me, the impact was negative.
Alcohol is a neurotoxin. It can accelerate aging of the brain, and elevates the stress hormones in your body.

What is the point of developing a primal/paleo based lifestyle, if I am going to continue to excessively drink alcohol? It will negate many of the positive effects that going primal/paleo offers.

I quit drinking alcohol on September 1st, 2012, and it has been the best decision I’ve made in years. I didn’t join any organizations or programs. I did this on my own. I do occasionally have a glass of wine, about once a month.

So what happened?
The results are impressive;

  • Lost 15 lbs.
  • Wake up feeling great every day.
  • Active and motivated on Saturdays and Sundays (they’re not recovery days anymore)
  • Less stressed.
  • No urge to drink any more.
  • Spending less money. Obviously alcohol costs money. It also leads to more spending, such as greasy hangover breakfasts, buying drinks for your friends and random people in bars, and the impaired judgment causes you to spend a lot more than you planned to.

What about you? Can you keep to a glass or wine or two? Do you get the urge to keep drinking?  Do you want to stop?

02/09/2013 Artificial Ingredients, Uncategorized