Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Don't forget your MITTENs!

Sweet companies, yeah Michigan has some of the coolest cats you could find! We have Michigan Awesome, Bell's Brewing, Cherry Republic, M22 and Great Lakes Proud. But there is a new group to the scene: The Awesome Mitten, a great company that is focusing on their 365 Days of Awesome campaign where they feature one super dooper cool thing about the land shaped like a hand each day! We are not talking about a little blurb, we are looking at solid copy on something new and awesome each day, how sweet it is!



Through correspondence with Alex Beaton, Business Development & Marketing Director for The Awesome Mitten, over the past week I have gotten the goods on what makes The Awesome Mitten so sweet:

1.       Where did the idea for the Awesome Mitten come from?
Well, this is the long-short version of it. I moved back to Michigan in September 2010 after living in Nashville, TN. When I decided to move back, my Tennessee friends didn’t understand why, which I understood, because most of them had never been north of Kentucky. What I didn’t understand, was why my Michigan friends were asking me why I was moving back. Since I had left, I had heard about all these cool things happening in Michigan; incubators were popping up all over the place, as were co-working spaces. There seemed to be tech movement of some kind going on in Detroit, TEDx events were happening all over the state, Grand Rapids now had Art Prize and seemed to position itself as this progressive hub -all of this stuff plus so many others I thought was incredible! So in a frustrated fury, I wrote a letter to the editor voicing my confusion: why weren’t Michiganders proud of all these things going on? How did we expect the rest of the nation to speak positively of us, if we couldn’t even muster up anything good to say? It’s kinda like the self help bullshit that I scoff at: “You have to first believe in yourself before you can expect anyone else to believe in you” - but its true. So one sleepless night in late September I bought the domain AwesomeMitten.com, started up a Facebook & a Twitter and went from there.

2.       What kind of products are you currently offering?
Just t-shirt and pins. We really aren’t aiming to make retail our primary business, but  instead focus on the content. Retail is merely a way to fund our adventures!

3.       Do you support any local projects or groups? 
We support anybody who supports MI!
Lilac Festival (Photo by Mel Libby)

4.       Favorite piece of Michigan lore?
The story about the Sleeping Bear Dunes! About the mama bear and her cubs! This just made me realize I don’t know that many Michigan tales. Hmmmm, I feel a new section of the website being born...

5.       Best Beach:
Empire. North of Traverse City. Hands down my favorite! Though I am also partial to an awesome beach along Highway 2 in the UP!

6.       Best Meal:
How can I choose?! I can’t, I just can’t. It literally changes every month! And depending on the city. I travel so much! Right now: In Traverse City, I’m a huge fan of the bruschetta at Stella. In Lansing, the pesto chicken club at Tavern of the Square. In Grand Rapids, the grilled cheese The Electric Cheetah. In Detroit, the mac n’ cheese at Cliff Bells.

7.       Best MI Beer:
I’m such a girl, I don’t drink beer....but my favorite Michigan wine (so far!) is Chateau Grand Traverse Late Harvest Riesling.
Founders Fest in GR (Photo by Chad Cramblet)

8.       Favorite Great Lake:
I’m very biased on this one. Lake Michigan. I grew up in Traverse City!

9.       Favorite outdoor activity in Michigan:
Are campfires an outdoor activity? Because I’m a big fan. I’m outside all summer long (as much as my schedule allows), usually on a lake!
Balloonfest in Howell (Photo by Brittany Green)



10.    Favorite Michigan based product:
This one is so hard!! My current obsessions are Great Lakes Potato Chip Company’s Sea Salt & Vinegar chips and Michigan Ice Cube Trays. The ice cube trays are so ridiculously cool! (no pun intended)

11.    Best advice you have been given about your company:
Have journalistic integrity. Anyone can pay to be listed on a site, but what we’re offering is free promotion of thing we genuinely enjoy doing! That same person told me, don’t try to do it all right off the bat - don’t be afraid to launch sections/features/products after your initial launch. That I really appreciated because I am such a type A personality, that until that point, in my mind I had to have this SUPER product at launch. And it was going to be perfect. But as a user of a great many websites and web apps, I enjoy the upgrades! They make me feel like the company is listening to my feedback, and cares about creating a better, more useful product for me. 

12.    What music do you guys jam to when you are packing boxes?
I wish I could rattle off some awesome Michigan artists, but I’m currently working on discovering them (with the help of our Music Director, Jon Miller)! So right now its the Black Keys.
(Photo by Jon Miller)

13.    Largest order filled to date:
This depresses me. I feel like it should be some outrageous number! We’ve only been selling for three weeks! 10 - a person bought them for all of their visiting family.

14.    Where is the farthest that you have shipped an order?
            Denver, CO

15.    If you were a pizza topping what would you be?
Feta, cuz feta makes it betta!

16.    Advice you would give others in starting your own business:
I think you can’t be afraid to talk about your business, no matter what it is or where it is in the development process! I have made so many truly valuable connections and met some awesome people, all because I reached out to talk to them. I might not have even known exactly why I needed to talk to them when I first reached out, but it yielded some great results! Also, find someone to do it with you. Ask for suggestions! Two of our most important things were suggestions - the t-shirt logo, and the “365 Days of Awesome” campaign. The campaign was such an incredible suggestion because it really helped us articulate a clear, concise goal for year one. Also, starting a company by yourself sucks - I’ve done it (not the Mitten), and its hard. Its so important to have someone who shares your vision and is there to collaborate with!

17.    Have you considered making Awesome Mitten Patches?
YES! We have so many ideas of the type of products we’d like to do! Retail is a icky business though, and requires cash to maintain inventory. Therefore we’re taking baby steps and testing the demand.

18.    Future plans for Awesome Mitten?
Too many to count! We’ve got an events calendar launching early next week, and a “Little Mittens” (stuff to do with kids) section coming in July. We’ll be hosting a launch party in September. Events are going to be a pretty regular thing for us starting in late 2011/early 2012. Obviously we would like to expand our merchandise offerings. We are also hoping for an optimized mobile site. I could go on and on with our plans, but we’ll leave it at that for now.

19.    Do you guys have a website, Facebook or Twitter account where people can check you out?
            www.awesomemitten.com, 


            www.facebook.com/awesomemitten,  


            www.twitter.com/awesomemitten

I would like to thank Alex for taking the time for this pseudo interview. We cannot wait to see what the next campaign is. (while thoroughly enjoying this one of course)

Please check out their daily blog: www.awesomemitten.com, it is chock full of great stories from all across this great state. You will be hooked in no time.

-J

Monday, June 27, 2011

2 Mile Challenge Update:

Just me here, wanted to stop by and update you all on my mileage for the Clif Bar 2 Mile challenge!

I have currently evaded using my car for 59.45 miles!

I think that all that fresh air is starting to lift my spirits!

Good luck with all of your endeavors

-J

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Southeast Mitten is getting some good rain!

Thought I would share a little video of the water falling from the sky, it is pretty sweet, finally some good rain.

Enjoy.

video
video

-J

2 Mile Challenge Update:

As of this morning I am at 18.5 commuting miles saved by biking!

Hope your day rocks!

-J

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Topeak Model DXP Trunkbag Review

Face it; biking to work, school or running errands straight up rocks! But you know what does not, arriving at your destination with a soggy spot on your back from a poorly ventilated backpack.

Wearing a loaded backpack also tends to cause a lot of unneeded stress on my lower back. This is where I started the search for an alternative to carrying my stuff on my back. The one that most suited my needs was a type of pannier system. After a solid month of internet searches, and posting questions on forum walls I chose a model by Topeak: the DXP Trunkbag.

This heavy duty constructed bag has two side zippers that open to unveil panniers on each side, a true bonus for when you are out and find yourself picking up more than you planned, or when you just need to bring a lot of stuff to wherever you are going.

The capacity is 22.6 liters. This size has proven to be more than enough for me, even on days when I am hauling my laptop, power cord, coffee, school book, pad of paper and a snack. In fact, with such a load I can still make my way to the library and pick up a few of my reserved items as well. The size is great.

See how easily the shoulder strap can be put so that it does not have to be removed


As mentioned earlier it is a bummer carrying a large load on your back, and you are often limited to how much you can carry based on the weight. Never fear with this item, the only limiting factor to how much it can carry is the rack strength!

Attaching the DXP to a rack is so easy and convenient that anyone could do it without worrying about the ability of your lashing skills:
The attached rail on the bottom of the bag simply slides into the corresponding slot on the Topeak rack, and;

Then clips securely into place, making attachment pretty worry free.

I have been using this combo for three solid weeks of daily commuting and I have yet to notice any wobble at all. Once you clip this in it is there to stay, what a great idea.

The bag comes with a shoulder strap (which I leave attached to the unit for ease of use) as well as a movable internal dividing wall (mine is placed in the left of the image). The divider is great to keep items from moving around inside the bag. 

I bought the additional rain cover, which I have not had to use yet, but when I do I will update this.


The DXP on my Schwinn Trailway Commuter

I have nothing bad to say about this unit as of three weeks in. I am very happy with my purchase. Some reviewers say that they hit their feet on the panniers when they are extended, but I have not had this problem yet, if you have such a problem there is a good chance that a slight adjustment in the position of the the rack will remedy the situation.

Before using this system I used the Osprey Momentum backpack, but my load for school was getting heavier and heavier, I sweat too much and there was no room to pick anything extra after class. This trunk/ pannier set-up is definitely the way to go, now I can take supplier for class, extras to study and still have room for after/ pre class errands.

If you have any questions please ask, I will happily answer them as quick as I can.

Burn carbs not oil!
-J

Hot weather is great and all but...

I am done with it. I would much rather hike with the sound of crisp leaves underfoot and the faint wisp of wood smoke in the air that to constantly clomp through soggy humid trails with the thick smell of vehicle exhaust lingering for what seems like ever.

Michigan's Summer month's have two distinct characteristics: they are intense, but short-lived. While in recent years the warm weather has persisted until late September, the nighttime temps still dip to a tolerable range.

Everyone says that they love Summer, however you cannot deny that you equally love seeing that first turned leaf, or the first time you put on a jacket and actually need it, and how about those chilly rainy Sundays that seem to go for days; you cannot help but curl up, grab a book or movie and just enjoy those days.

I have been thinking of cooler times lately as I feel that they bring out the true scholar in me. Maybe it is just that I am programmed to associate school with the Fall, and thus my internal workings can feel the need to absorb knowledge that is coming around the corner. Lets hope that I can harness this scholarly feeling earlier than usual this year as I am now engaged in a year-round program.

Despite not enjoying this heavy weather, I am making the most of it; I am studying outside, leaving the windows open, smelling the fresh-cut grass, taking walks with Chelsea Marie, and enjoying seeing the exponential growth of my beloved plants. So the summer is not all bad :)

I will continue to look for the extraordinary in the everyday!

In other news the 2 mile challenge continues today; gonna rack up another 9 miles with my trip to school and back. If I am feeling ambitious I will also post a review of my new bike bag later on!

Chills me right out!


Stay cool friends.

-J

Monday, June 20, 2011

A little something to start the week


I have answered the call, I have accepted the challenge! The http://2milechallenge.com/ that is!

Clif bar (makers of delicious and nutritious snacks) will be awarding $100,000 in grants to non-profits that focus on educating and keeping people safe during smart commutes.

The challenge centers on the data that most of our trips are in the range of two miles or less, and by making these by bike we will not only reduce the amount of toxic material that we release onto the Earth, but we will also become healthier.

This is a great cause, and if you you have been biking for your short trips you should sign up and start logging your miles! If you have not been biking, but you have been thinking about it, this is a great reason to take that next step. Your actions will make a difference in so many ways. Please take the time to sign up.

And if your commute is simply too long or dangerous to make it by bike, then follow me at my profile: http://2milechallenge.com/profile/randomstream 

Give this a shot!

Have a great week.

-J

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Practice Video Post: a quick trip.

On my way into Ann Arbor yesterday I decided to tackle the hill on Geddes, below you can see the video of how quick I got going by the end of it. Aside from a passing ambulance it was not too bad!

Enjoy my first video post:

video

The video is a little shaky, I am currently working on a better way to work it with less vibration, maybe I will mount it to my helmet, or try to find a gorilla pod, something to dampen the vibrations.

If you have any suggestions on how to mount it or any settings to change as far a video capturing go that would be great. I have an Olympus Stylus tough 8010HD.

More videos to come, Chelsea is going to roll up her sleeves and make a compilation with music and all of that jazz! Look for it soon.

-J

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pier fishing with "little" success

As a wrap up to last weekend's fun Chels and I made a trip to our favorite Lake Michigan beach: Portage Point.

This place holds many special memories and offers, what I believe to be, one of the most beautiful spots to access the big lake.

It was a blustery day for early June, but in an effort to do all that we wanted to do, nature be damned, we cast our lines regardless of conditions.

I was unsuccessful on the North Pier (we should have opted for the deeper water offered from the South Pier, next time) however Chelsea managed to reel in this whopper:


Tech Sweatshirts in June, Love Michigan!

Onekama's North and South Piers







Cryptic Messages on the porta-pottie walls.

-J

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

New Vehicle: All Decked Out.

I just wanted to share a few shots with you of my new commuter in all of its glory.

The bike is a Schwinn Trailway. The rack/ mounting system are Topeak MTX Series, and the Trunk/ Panniers are Topeak MTX Series DXP model.






So far I am very happy with the set-up. I have a few adjustments and reinforcements that I will be making to the panniers, and then everything will be set. I am still looking for some canvas thread for those though.

Slacking off this weekend

Weekdays are for serious things, meetings, studies, 9-5 commitments and things of that matter. Weekends however, are for fun, and doing whatever you want, or nothing at all!

Last weekend I decided to finally put my haberdashery of a slack-lining kit to the test.

It is nothing more than 40' or so of 1" orange webbing. It's not one of the professional kits, but I didn't really want to dump to much money into a kit before I found out if I liked it.

After watching videos of some guys just hopping on the line and spinning around I thought I was ready for action!


Boy was I wrong. This is a skill that will require some dedicated practice, but it is definitely an activity that I could really get into. The nice thing about it is that it is simple, gives your core a nice workout, does not take up too much space and keeps you outdoors!

We had it out at our bonfire and it was a great time, both for those who tried it and for those who watched us wipe out!

More practice is required, but I welcome it!



After I play around a little more I would like to get a real set up with a 4:1 mechanical advantage, some carpeting for the tree and anchors, but I am taking this one step at a time.

-J

Monday, June 13, 2011

The rain never kills a quality hike.

As you all know you can plan the perfect trip with all of the right stops and scenic overlooks, however one thing that you have no control over is the mood of Mother Nature.

We had been hiding in the shade and sitting in front of fans for two weeks trying to beat the heat that South East Michigan was dishing out when we planned our three day getaway to our hometown of Onekama Michigan. With current trends in the weather we thought that we would have the perfect day at the beach followed by a family gathering round the perfect beach bonfire.

Mother Nature, however had other plans. When we got out of the car at my mother's house I noticed that the temp had already fallen significantly and I could feel the cool breeze the comes from the big lake before all Summer rains.

Sure enough when we awoke in the morning the dusty ground was pocked with dimples, evidence of a good morning soaking.

Regardless of the weather Chelsea still wanted to steal away to one of our new favorite hiking spots; Old Baldy.

The rain subsided and actually quit altogether until we were midway through the hike. However the thick canopy that shields the trail afforded us a dry path to the dune-top overlook.


Chelsea with a Rain be Damned smile!

The thick forest and the lush ferns dampen any outside noise, it is great.

We were lucky enough to find a tree that had been struck by lightening. One of the two trunks was completely destroyed. The charred splinters are said to bring good luck so we picked a few up.


A foggy afternoon, all alone.



At the end of the trail I decided to lose the shoes for the return trip, paying homage to one of my new heroes: Cody Lundin of Dual Survival. Barefoot hiking/ living is not at easy as it looks, but it didn't kill me either!

Our mini basecamp for an hour or so. We had some coffee and tea and enjoyed the view of the lake, the oncoming storm and the gulls as they flew well below.




Cheers to an awesome place! Note the Outpost mug! If you need any gear while in the Manistee area you should check them out.

If I could have a desk right here my production level would be through the roof along with my moral!

 
A little caterpillar that we noticed on our way back.


Until next time old friend.














Proof of my barefoot trek back!

This will go down in the books as yet another relaxing afternoon trip to that high bluff overlooking the big lake. Though it was rainy the hike did not suffer one bit.

Thank you Michigan for your endless bounty.

-J

Monday, June 6, 2011

My Time Unplugged.

Currently I am a law student, so I spend a lot of time reading books, online articles and listening to pod-casted lectures.

What I do not get is much time where I am without some sort of information in front of me that I have to cram into my head.


This is one of the reasons that I really cherish my daily bike commute. I refrain from listening to music or answering texts or phone calls and just unplug for 20 minutes. Sometimes this is just what I need in order to not become over-saturated with substantive laws, procedural issues and "reasonableness" issues that I find myself knee deep in on a daily basis. 

If you find yourself overwhelmed with your day to day drudge try getting away from it all, even if only for a half hour. Get on your bike, or just put on some shoes, and get to where you need to go in a simpler way, your head will clear up and your moral will improve greatly.

-J

New Vehicle

I have upgraded my whips! Gone are the days of commuting to school and town on my dual suspension mtn bike (it has served me well) and the days of a quick easy commute by way of hybrid have come.

The dual suspension will be put to pasture, reserved for days of ruckus and tight single track, never again to be forced to endure the mundane jaunts to and fro school.

Ha, what I am trying to say is that I picked up the Schwinn Trailway on Friday evening.

Though I have only put about 25 miles on it this weekend, they have all been pretty sweet.

Though this is not a review I do have a few high and low points already:


  • Highs: 
    • Hardtail: no more losing mechanical advantage due to the inevitable bobbing of rear suspension.
    • Shifting: ease in the Shimano rapid-fire shifters.
    • Speed: the hybrid tires are great, so far they have been great on the roads and have even performed pretty well on some hard-packed dirt trails.
  • Lows:
    • Saddle: the stock saddle must be replaced ASAP. This one feels like it is shifting left and right with my legs, and makes me feel unsteady.
    • Pedals: being a stock commuter the pedals are not as aggressive as I would like them. They are flat and do not offer much tread. I will replace them by the end of the summer.
All in all; a really nice bike so far. The best part is that the handlebars are positioned so that the rider does not have to hunch over, this gives my scoliosis a welcomed ride.

The rack and trunk are supposedly out for delivery as I write. So look for shots of them and a fully assembled blog in the coming week(s).

-J

PS- it is smart commute week, please tell me how you are commuting smartly! I would love to hear!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Pictures of Osprey Momentum 26

I have been receiving many requests for more pictures of the Osprey Momentum 26.

So readers I have not let your pleas fall on blind eyes. This morning I have taken a few pics of me with the bag loaded and on my back. I will also include some interior pics of my daily load (the weight of the daily load is about 24.6 pounds, and it does not feel like that much.)

Hopefully these clear up any questions that you all have had, and if they do not just let me know and I will take some more.

Loaded up like the medium-sized champ that it is!

The bag is comfortable when worn mid-back as well as when it is strung up higher on the shoulders. (I am 5'7" for a size reference)

A profile shot.

Contents: 1 property law book, 1 legal pad, some loose papers, 1 hp 13.1" laptop, charger, water bottle, lock/cable, and writing implements

If you would like some other angle or aspect showcased with this bag please let me know, I will try my hardest to get it for you.

In other news: I have ordered part of my new rig: the Topeak DXP trunk with expandable panniers! I am pretty pumped up about this. After I pick up my new bike (Schwinn Trailway) expect to see pictures of the entire set-up followed by some preliminary reviews, thoughts and then some full on reviews and follow-ups.

Happy Winds-day Eyeore!

-J