The Bachelor Chronicles: Best Life! Level Up!

Today I woke up with another cervicogenic headache. It happens from time to time, though it’s been happening more frequently over the last couple of months. I think it has something to do with the way I sleep on my very deflated pillow.

Regardless, I still had a damn-near magical Sunday morning. I woke up 30 minutes before my alarm, started a playlist of Norse-Pagan-inspired folk music, opened my upstairs balcony door and did a 10-minute yoga flow while my coffee brewed downstairs. I spent a short amount of time in prayer with the gods while resting in Lotus Pose. I opened my eyes to the sun coming through the window, birds chirping all around, fresh coffee downstairs and a full heart in my chest.


An Australian trainer I follow sent out an email early this morning (my time) that hit pretty hard.

“There are some parts to this whole world lockdown I like.
For instance, FOMO doesn’t really exist right now, does it?
Hardly eyeing up someone else’s life in lockdown wishing you were there.
All year round people follow people on the gram wishing they had their physique and their lifestyle in lavish living, but it’s all stopped and we’re all just chilling.”

-James Smith

He goes on to try to sell his online training program because he’s an online trainer and that’s just how you do business but what a damn good observation.

It’s kind of a cool thing for me in this very strange time in my life. It’s killing me being newly single and not being able to go do any of the things I haven’t been able to or allowed to do for the last two years due to finance or relationship obligations … but it’s cool because nobody else seems to be doing those things either.

It’d be a different story if the concepts of social distancing and non-essential business closure weren’t our reality. If I were sitting at home looking at Instagram and seeing my friends going out, seeing shows, drinking beer or lazily passing the time at Target or Market Square while I sit at home doing nothing …

And I’m hesitant to think that very many people are obsessing over others who are quarantining better than they are … or trying to out-quarantine each other, though I’m sure it’s happening somewhere out there.

James would go on to say “Doesn’t matter if you’re a billionaire or a student, Netflix still has the same things to watch right now. YouTube is the same and a board game is the same. We’re all grounded to the same level …”

So even though I’m unable to take on all the projects and trips and social events I’d love to be taking on right now due to a worldwide pandemic, I’m also not being inundated with posts and stories about others who are going out and doing it. This allows me to focus entirely on my brand, if you will — what I want and why I want it. Where I’m going and how I’m going to get there. All with very little distraction or outside persuasion.

Years ago I discovered a site called NerdFitness that was started by a man named Steve Kamb. Steve developed a super unique concept that combines fitness and nutrition with nerd culture — particularly of the video game and RPG variety. His site details his concept of creating a Dungeons-and-Dragons-style character sheet for this fantastic version of yourself you envision.

For those who don’t know, when you create a character in Dungeons and Dragons, one of the first things you establish is your character’s class and race. Classes include Barbarians, Druids, Monks, Rangers, Paladins, Wizards and a variety of others; races include Tieflings, Elves, Dwarves, Dragonborns and more. Choosing your class and race will determine what baseline skills you have, what your ability modifiers will be and will greatly determine the storyline of your character as the game progresses.

A great thing about this is that these baseline characteristics are so dramatically different that each character is going to be unique — a Tiefling Druid and a Half-Orc Barbarian are going to have vastly different abilities, after all — very much like how your goals and abilities are drastically different from mine.

And so with Steve Kamb’s Level Up Your Life concept, our character sheets are all going to be vastly different from anyone else’s. He encourages everyone to create their own character sheet as well as a list of accomplishments we wish to pursue in our lives — specifically achievements that will raise our Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom and Charisma scores.

Did I lose anyone yet?

Cool.

In his book named after his program concept — Level Up Your Life — Steve encourages the reader to develop their list of achievements and name it something meaningful. He then goes on to suggest some possible headlines for various achievement lists such as Physical Goals, Mental Goals, Fun Goals, etc.

I named my list Donuts on Valhalla’s Table and my headlines are:

  • Physical Donuts (things I want to achieve with my physical fitness)
  • Mental Donuts (things I want to learn)
  • Fun Donuts (things I want to try for fun)
  • Work Donuts (related to my jobs, this was broken down into two categories today)
  • Adventure Donuts (getting out and going places, taking risks, etc.)
  • Courage Donuts (Stepping outside of my comfort zone)
  • Freedom Donuts (Breaking the metaphorical chains that are holding me down in a variety of ways)
  • Master Donuts (Seemingly impossible goals that are always worth visualizing)
  • Gratitude Donuts (Ways I want to give back)
  • Legacy Donuts (Ways I want to make a name for myself)
  • Concert Donuts (Bands I want to see in concert)
  • Completed Donuts (Goals I’ve already achieved from this list)

I find it really important to revisit this list with some regularity and this morning I decided it was my time again. I moved some items down to the Completed section, removed items that were no longer relevant or wanted, then added a few extras that have come up since my last edit. My list is highly personal but I figured I’d share a few highlights below:

  • Physical Donuts > Get down to 12% body fat
  • Mental Donuts > Take piano lessons and play someone a song
  • Fun Donuts > Go Kayaking
  • Work Donuts (Regarding JTF Strong) > Launch the Viking Army Online
  • Work Donuts (Regarding TITLE) > Organize TITLE’s first-ever running club
  • Adventure Donuts > Have my photo made with two peace-sign-throwing girls in Japan
  • Courage Donuts > Take 5 portraits of strangers on the street
  • Freedom Donuts > Buy a house
  • Master Donuts > Start and operate a food truck called The Number of the Feast selling “Hella Good Burgers and Donuts”
  • Gratitude Donuts > Leave 3 $100 tips this year
  • Legacy Donuts > Finish my Paps memoirs
  • Concert Donuts > The Specials
  • Completed Donuts > Buy a Motorcycle

There are around 50 donuts total on my list, not counting the ones I’ve already achieved. And the list is always growing. Right now my favorite thing about this list is it’s all things I want to accomplish because of genuine curiosity and passion — not because I’m envying others living their “best lives” on Instagram.

If you ask me, I’m kind of living my best life as we speak. Even if I am mostly locked down.

Anyway — you know how I do. If Cooking was a D&D ability, my score would be close to the top by now. Tonight I took out a venison roast I had thawed out and cooked this delightful Nordic-Braised Venison Roast with Bacon-and-Goat-Cheese Potatoes.

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Level Up: Achieved.

Ever onward, fellow heathens.

-JTF

 

The Bachelor Chronicles Returns! (aka: Go Fast, Don’t Die)

Wakey, wakey, little boggy woggy.

You read it right — the Bachelor Chronicles are back after a nearly two-year hiatus. And it couldn’t come at a more chaotic, yet creatively fertile time. The dreaded COVID-19 virus has had me working from home for two weeks now — an arrangement that will likely last until mid-summer at least. The virus has also temporarily closed down normal operations at my beautiful gym, forcing us to move to streamed classes and social-media-only engagement, which is breaking my heart. Oh, and then there’s the obvious implication that comes from using the title Bachelor Chronicles.

It’s confusing, heartbreaking and downright scary to not be able to go to the office, to see my TITLE members or be in a relationship anymore, yet I find it’s something else that’s difficult to get my head around: while nothing is under control presently, I feel somehow as though I have more control over the future than ever before.

I’m very fortunate to have a full-time job that lets us work from home and continue to get paid for that work. I hate that not going to the office every day has disrupted my routine so violently but it’s also a great time to create new habits and practice new disciplines that can then become part of my normal once homeostasis is restored.

Not being able to see my clients and TITLE Members is truly crushing to my soul but I’m really taking to this online presence we’re being forced to run with. We’re keeping our members engaged, staying relevant in our community and building a new, stronger foundation for both our social media presence as well as our overall reputation in the industry.

And not being in a relationship anymore can for sure be heartbreaking and lonely but anyone who knows me knows that I’m extremely independent and self-sufficient. I also love having alone time — and believe me, I’m getting plenty of it with this damned quasi-quarantine going on. This has allowed me to focus more of my time and efforts onto the above initiatives, however. I’m already saving a great amount of money in such a short time and this will allow me to make bigger moves in the near future.

There’s a motorcycle lifestyle brand out there that’s been following me around on social for months now called Go Fast, Don’t Die. After the breakup, I did what I usually do during that time and treated myself to some things I wouldn’t have been able to afford previously — this included a shirt and hat from that brand.

Go Fast, Don't Die

Go Fast, Don’t Die

Now I didn’t purchase these items with philosophy in mind and I swear I don’t think I’m trying to force this connection but the more I’ve thought about it, the more Go Fast, Don’t Die seems like a great metaphor for this new chapter in my life. While the brand is referring to potentially reckless behavior on motorcycles, I like to think of it as my way of saying that I’m going to start taking more chances, pursuing my passions with more fervor and trying a lot of new things (going fast) while refocusing my workout and nutrition practices to achieve the success I want, all while prolonging my life (not dying).

Is that cheesy? Kind of, I guess.

Anyway, expect to see / hear a lot more about what I’m working on, wanting to work on, wish I had worked on a lot more frequently here since I have a lot more time to do so now. There are so many cool things I want to do and I’m more motivated than ever to do them.

Until then, here’s a photo of what I cooked for myself (no shame) for dinner last night — homemade chicken-fried venison steak over homemade garlic-and-goat-cheese mashed potatoes and a simple black-pepper gravy.

Ever onward fellow Heathens,

-JTF

 

[FOOD POST] Venison Pizza, Two Ways

Trust Fall is an organization in Knoxville that has one of the coolest concepts I’ve ever heard of. It’s a secret dinner party. Top secret, even. Ultra exclusive.

But to get in, you needn’t be one of the Knoxville elite or have an in with the local foodies and hipsters (maybe these are the same people, I’m out of touch so I don’t know). No, to attend a Trust Fall event, one only needs to provide their email address on the website.

And you wait.

You wait until there’s an event scheduled at which point they’ll email you to let you know when the event is and when the tickets will go on sale. Frequently the on-sale time is something very specific — like 3:57pm or something — and tickets are frequently between $100-$200 each. Regardless of the price and the oddball sale times, tickets sell out every time, sometimes within seconds.

It’s at this point that I say that I’ve never secured tickets. My real-life knowledge of these events ends here but it’s my understanding that after you secure tickets, you then must figure out where the event is. They won’t tell you, but they’ll send you hints and riddles that indicate where the event will be held. The only concrete information you have is the date and who the chef is. The guest chef is usually from one of Knoxville’s many artisan eateries and for them, these Trust Fall events are a free-for-all. “Here’s your budget — go ham,” and the chef will then design a menu that’s way outside of their usual box and is frequently quite experimental.

On the evening of the event, the lucky diners who were able to secure tickets meet up for dinner and drinks at the secret location — usually the backroom of a restaurant, the courtyard of a local business or even a hidden underground meeting space. The menu is then revealed and it’s set — no substitutions, no special requests allowed. It’s a memorable event for everyone in attendance and definitely a gem among our Scruffy City’s many unique offerings.


A few years ago I had a brilliant plan to do something similar only the menu would be pizza and the location would be my house. No secrets there but the pizza menu would be highly experimental and my guests wouldn’t know the pizza styles until each pie was delivered to the table. I would design and develop as many as seven or eight pizzas and keep my oven hot the night of the event as I deliver each pie and briefly explain to my guests what they were about to eat, where I sourced each ingredient and what inspired me to combine them. I would introduce my guests to pizza toppings they’d never had before and even ingredients that they’d never considered putting on a pizza to begin with.

(After proofing that last paragraph I realize how much I sound like Bob Belcher. I’m not mad about it.)

In those early days, I designed about six unique pies, wrote out the full ingredient list and made each of them. I snapped photos of them and took extensive notes about what worked and what didn’t about each so I could adjust and try again — I needed these pies to be perfect before serving them to a group of friends. I was taking this WAY seriously.

Unfortunately, this party never materialized. I keep it in my back pocket, though, and each time I make a homemade pizza I keep notes about what I’ve made just in case the opportunity ever presents itself again. It won’t be in the near future or anything — I can’t host more than one or two extra people at my townhouse — but when I have the space to entertain, that’s going to be one of the first things I plan for.

With that in mind, let’s talk about this past weekend’s pizza experiment: Venison Pizza.

My dad has been a hunter for as long as I’ve known him. He’s secured a great place to hunt and regularly brings home a couple of deer whose horns get mounted and whose meat goes into the freezer. The problem with that, however, is that mom doesn’t like the gamey flavor of wild deer meat and usually won’t cook it. That’s great for me, though, because I LOVE wild game but I’m not a hunter, myself. So Chuck gets to hunt deer and I get fresh deer meat. Everybody wins!

Over the last year, especially, I’ve gone through pounds and pounds of venison steaks, ground, tenderloin, jerky, roast and chopped.

Last weekend I decided to take some of the steak out of the freezer and in doing so saw that I still had two homemade pizza doughs wrapped up and frozen — I had a brilliant idea.

I took an earthy approach to these pies, each one with nods to pies Cara and I both like but with a venison twist. First of all, there’s this guy:

  • Homemade crust
  • homemade sauce (also batched, portioned and frozen for future use)
  • seared venison steak
  • grilled onions
  • roasted sweet potatoes
  • mozzarella
  • fresh thyme

I didn’t do much to the venison — I sliced in thinly then seared it up in a skillet with a bit of fat. Garlic powder, salt, pepper, done. No marinades, no sauces. Ever. The onions were caramelized in a skillet with some butter and the sweet potatoes were diced and roasted with garlic powder. Thyme can sometimes be overpowering so I kept it light and I feel like I used just the right amount to come through without overpowering and it complimented the flavor of that venison perfectly.

So far I was on a roll. Next came pie two:

  • Homemade crust
  • Homemade sauce
  • seared venison steak
  • grilled wild mushrooms
  • roasted garlic cloves
  • mozzarella
  • shaved parmesan
  • truffle oil

One of mine and Cara’s favorite frozen pizzas is the mushroom-and-truffle flatbread sold by Trader Joe’s. Mushrooms are my favorite pizza topping so I wasn’t about to make two pizzas and not use them! These “wild” mushrooms were an assortment of mushrooms bought at my local Kroger that I fried up in some oil until they were nice and soft. Roasting garlic is somewhat of a new obsession of mine since it’s relatively easy to do and, I mean, who doesn’t love roasted garlic cloves? The shaved parmesan was the perfect consistency — sharp flavor and slightly melty. Finally, the drizzle of truffle oil was the flavor finisher that made this pie shine. It was unanimous, this pizza was the best one of the night.


Now that I’ve shared photos of these pizzas as well as the ingredient list, I don’t guess these will ever be included on my secret pizza party night but if you get an invite, don’t be surprised if I still serve up a venison pizza of some kind because these were so, so, so good!

Shoutout to anyone still reading despite this blog being so quiet lately.