Eating whole foods – all or nothing?

Today is the day!

Two weeks ago a dear, dear woman loaded down her carryon luggage to bring me two mangos from her front yard. I know, you’re thinking – go to the store and buy a mango, you cheapskate! Trust me when I tell you that even the most amazing mango that one can buy in the San Francisco Bay Area pales in comparison to the ones that I grew up with… hence the smuggling.

And today one of them was finally ripe enough to eat. I could barely cut it open fast enough. Okay enough about mangos – you don’t have to feign excitement over my gustatory happiness.





For new vegans and some not-so-new vegans it can be a challenge to consistently integrate enough unprocessed whole foods into what we eat on a daily basis. For that matter it can be challenging for vegetarians, pescatarians, and people with omnivorous diets of various types. Convenience foods are becoming a huge market. There are myriad other reasons that one might have a limited daily relationship with fresh fruits and veggies but I won’t go into it at length here. (Incidentally, food access issues unfortunately exist all over the place. I won’t be taking up this particular barrier & social justice issue here.)

If revamping your dietary habits to include more whole food based stuff (technical term) is a goal, there’s an app that I’ve been trying out that may be of interest to you. It’s been available for a couple of years and is called Pact (formerly GymPact); it is based on an economic idea that individuals are more motivated by retaining money than by earning money.

One of the new ‘pacts’ that’s available is a nutritional one. If, say, you’d like to try to eat an additional  fruit/vegetable a day or five more per week you can make a two-part commitment for 7 days.

1. Set a target number of fruits/veggies to eat (incidentally the system won’t track more than 5/day).

2. Agree to a fine if you don’t reach the goal you’ve set (you can set a range is $5-50, and $5 is the default) for every fruit/veggie of the goal that is missed.

In order to get credit & track what you’ve eaten, launch the app and take a pic of what you’re eating (tough break if you finished it already); it gets approved or voted down by other Pact users based on whether you took a pic of your companion animal and tried to pass them off as kimchi or an apple.

At the end of the week, those who reach their goal are paid out by the users who didn’t do so. Don’t expect a monetary windfall. Last week by meeting my veggie pact, I made $.63. (Payout occurs once you accrue $10 or more. It can be withdrawn using Paypal.) However, I stood to pay out $10 for each missed veggie or fruit. There are additional pacts that you can take part in if so inclined – a gym pact and a food log pact. Each wee one can choose to set a new pact or or set your account to take a break.

If you like the idea of an accountability partner when trying to change habits but don’t want to go it on your own or involve your friends and/or you’re a bit of an app-o-phile like me, you may like Pact. What I enjoy about this option is that it’s possible to make gradual changes in eating habits. As a trainer, a more stepwise approach is what I tend to suggest particuarly when folks are already trying to build new habit with regard to being active. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing and though we may wish it were otherwise, sometimes the ‘best new thing in the world’ doesn’t happen overnight.

For anyone who has used Pact or starts to use it, I’d love to hear about your experience with it.


Running a Fall Marathon? Strength Training May Make You Faster!

Twin Cities, Bank of America, and Marine Corps. If you’re a distance runner, like me, you probably recognize these as a well-known trio among a pantheon of fall marathon offerings. Perhaps some of you are gearing up for a fall race and you’re getting into the high-mileage heart of your training schedule.

A great many runners whom I’ve met and some for whom I’ve provided training advice share something in common. They overlook or eschew lower body strength training because they want to save their legs and not fatigue them with activities other than running. I have been there.

“I’m gonna run a 4-miler today, that’s all the leg work that I need.” Or “I don’t wanna max out my legs, I have a long run on Sunday!”

Sound familiar?

The most important line that I’ll share with you today: Strength training helps you run more efficiently. (So do mobility exercises and core work, but I’ll save these topics for a later date.)

I can sense the furrowed brows and skeptical looks directed at the screen. Stay with me. I’m not going to suggest that you take up high volume, heavily weighted training and then go out and do a fartlek workout or tempo run. You needn’t know what a squat rack is or where to find one in your local gym. What I am suggesting is a reasonable, balance between your paramour, cardio, and strength work. My reasoning goes a little something like this:

The gluteus maximus commonly, your butt or glutes in regular people speak, is part of the biggest single muscle group and a prime mover in the body. We demand a lot of this muscle. We demand that though we sit for hours during work, school, or Netflix marathons and then be ready to immediately “switch on” automatically for a quick 3-miler or an 18 miler on a weekend. The glutes as a whole (the maximus, medius, minimus, & the TFL) move the hips forward, bring your foot down to the ground, and propel the body forward after each footstrike. Of course the hamstrings, calves, and hopefully the core musculature support this motion but the more efficiently the glutes do their job, the more seamlessly the rest follows.

Three key exercises (in my professional opinion) for glute strengthening:
1. Lunges
2. Deadlifts
3. Squats

Over the next week, I’ll be discussing each of these exercises in turn including technique & ways of approaching them as well as presenting i variations. The idea is not to have you spend hours in a gym. It’s even possible that you needn’t go to a gym at all… More on this later.

Happy running, and may the “bonk monster” stay at bay.


Custom Order Roundup

Here’s a look at some of our latest custom work.

Click on the photos to make them larger.

Laura wanted one of our coin pocket wallets in a custom color combination and with an added grommet hole. We loved the colors so much we’ve made several more of them. custom-wallet-Laura-ext custom-wallet-Laura-int
Mark wanted a keychain made of webbing. Here’s what we came up with.  webbing-keychain
Pete wanted a matching travel set all in black – a wallet with grommet hole, a passport case, and a pouch to hold computer cables, chargers, etc. Happy travels!  custom-wallet-set-Pete  pyramid pouch
Jessica wanted one of our ID wallets with an added elastic closure. Not surprisingly, we are especially fond of the orange pocket.  custom-id-wallet-jessica-ext  custom-id-wallet-jessica
Drey saw our new triple stripe seatbelt wallet on facebook and wanted one for herself in custom colors. We love the extra bit of color on the inside. custom-wallet-Drey custom-wallet-Drey-int
Bess wanted a new phone case and laptop case. The laptop case is one of our favorites.  bess-phone-case bess-laptop-case

That’s it for now. Keep those custom orders coming! 🙂

Happy Birthday to Me!

husqvarna-sewing-machineMeet the newest member of the .retool. sewing fleet – a vintage Viking Husqvarna Automatic 21 E home sewing machine.  It belonged to Will’s mother, Lois, who was an avid sewer.  She got it around 1964.

It came complete with a carrying case, an assortment of feet, bobbins, two cams for creating various decorative stitches, the manual, a booklet of sewing projects, and a few other accessories.

The booklet of sewing projects is especially fun and features a wide array of gift ideas, including eyeglass cases, baby clothes, a dog sweater, aprons for men and women, and my personal favorite, a loincloth!

Thanks Lois (and Will)!


How We Made 150 Wallets in 6 Days; or .retool. at the ESPYs

We recently received an email from someone responsible for co-ordinating the luxury gift bags for attendees of ESPN’s upcoming ESPY awards.

We were excited.

They asked if we could supply 150 items with a minimum retail value of $150 in about a week.  We explained that we are a two-man shop, make everything ourselves, and carry a relatively low level of inventory.  On top of that, most of our items come in at around the $40 mark. It wouldn’t make financial sense for us to offer a gift card for the remaining $100+ balance (did I mention the gift cards had to be valid for at least one year?).

We were less excited.

Then they said that they sometimes include items that don’t meet the minimum retail value, but that if accepted, we would not be eligible for any of the associated press (online features, celebrity posing, etc.). That was fine with us.

We were excited again.

We thought it would be a great opportunity for a production stress test.  We decided to offer our Double-Sided Micro Mini Credit Card Holder along with a small gift card valid only for attendees for a total retail value of $35.

Our challenge was set – make 150 wallets in under a week.

We mapped out our strategy.  We figured out which things needed to happen in what order, established a timeline, and figured out who would do what.  We ordered a few extra supplies, tried to figure out how best to avoid repetitive stress injuries, and had a tasty snack.

Here’s a look at the whole process. Click on photos for a larger view.

The first task was to cut a bunch of webbing. Each wallet is made of up of four strips of webbing – 2 1″ strips and 2 2″ strips.  cut webbing
Next comes joining the 2″ strips to the 1″ strips.  joined webbing pile
Each wallet gets 2 of the new 3″ strips – 1 short divider piece and longer strip that wraps around the bottom of the divider forming a pocket on either side. joined and cut webbing
Then the pieces are sewn together and many threads must be trimmed.  untrimmed wallets
The finished wallets look like this.  finished stacks
Last step – stuff each wallet with a gift card and box them all up for mailing.  boxed wallets

Behind the Scenes

Here at .retool. headquarters, we love a good outdoor photo shoot. Here’s a behind the scenes look at our most recent one.

Location: Tank Hill (San Francisco)
We chose Tank Hill because it has great views, the rocks make a good background texture, and it’s a pleasant walk from the .retool. workshop.

Subject: Belts
We wanted to get some action shots of our seatbelt webbing belts.  We took five of them with us – black, dark blue, orange, lime green, and grey.

Models: Us
Yup, that’s us in front of the camera. Jacob is in the grey jeans and Jamye is in the dark blue jeans.

Photographers: Us again
We do it all ourselves – it’s more fun that way!

Weather Conditions: Windy!
At times, we were concerned we might actually be blown off the hill. Don’t be fooled by the bright, sunny June day – It was quite chilly here in San Francisco.

Here are a few photos we didn’t end up using.  Click on the photos for a closer view.  Enjoy!


One of the things we like about San Francisco is that no matter where you are, you’re almost always really close to nature and to a more urban environment.  Jamye captured that nicely in this photo with the city peeking out behind the rocks. black-seatbelt-belt
This photo gives you a hint of just how windy it was that day. No matter which side of the rocks we were on, the wind always found us. Jamye is pretty much plastered to the rock in this shot. gray seatbelt belt
If you look closely, you can see the goosebumps on my arms in this one.  We kind of like the idea of taking a series of photos throughout the city with our .retool. shirts visible. retool blue seatbelt belt
King of the Rock. This one is reminiscent of a scene from Godzilla.  Watch out city! king of the rock
This one has a bit of a ’70s vibe to it. We’re thinking of including it in our Pin Up Calendar. (Kidding.) orange seat belt belt
The belts take a well-deserved break from a hard day’s work in front of the camera to enjoy the view. seatbelt belts on a bench

Vegan Food in Kauai

Whenever I travel, I make sure to research vegan food options ahead of time.  So Will and I embarked for Kauai with a list full of places to try. Our first few stops were hit or miss. I found that a lot of food had too much sugar added for my taste.  Once I knew what to look out for, things went more smoothly.

Here are a few of the highlights:

Rambutans and star apples made a nice addition to breakfast.

Star apples (left) and rambutans made a nice addition to breakfast.

Farmers Markets – There is at least one farmers market per day from Monday through Saturday at various locations throughout the island.  They only last about a couple of hours and can get very busy.

It’s a good idea to get there early and scout out all the stands, though you won’t be able to actually buy anything until the whistle blows.  We made it to a couple different ones and left with a variety of tropical fruits including rambutans, star apples, mountain apples, and apple bananas (none of which are anything like apples, really).

East Shore – Kapa’a

Java Kai
We liked it here so much we came back a few times.  There are lots of juice and smoothie options as well as a few vegan desserts and sandwiches on the menu. The chocolate mint mousse square was delicious! The BBQ taro burgers were also quite tasty.

On our final trip to Java Kai, I ordered the Kauai Cress juice (watercress, cucumber, ginger, lemon, coconut water). They were all out of watercress, so they offered to substitute bok choy, which I thought sounded odd, but turned out to be really good.

Will and I came the day we left to get food for the plane trip home. We split a BBQ taro burger and the falafel wrap for one of the best all-time plane meals ever. The cafe staff was even nice enough to pack our food so that each box had half of the burger and half of the wrap in it.

Gopal’s Creperie is one of the many food trucks in Kapa’a. Gopal’s has a small menu of vegetarian and vegan sweet and savory crepes. The crepe batter is vegan and gluten-free. They are happy to make substitutions to their non-vegan crepes. Overall, we preferred the sweet crepes. Our favorite was the macadamia nut with chocolate and coffee syrup.

West Shore – Hanapepe

One of our best food experiences was at the Friday Night Art Walk. There were a bunch of food trucks gathered for the occasion and several of them had at least one vegan option.

We cobbled together a delicious meal that included a vegetarian sushi roll from Yanagi Sushi (they take a handful of orders, then make the rolls while you wait), an amazingly good spicy tempeh banh mi from Kickshaws, and cacao coconut vegan ice cream from Powerhouse Creamery. Yum!

Oh, and we also picked up a few bags of chips from the Taro Ko factory.  We ended up with sweet potato chips (my favorite), li hing mui sweet potato chips (a bit too sweet for me), and taro chips.  Light, crisp, and well worth it.


Duffle Bags!

This week’s post features a couple of duffle bags I made over the past few weeks.

The first was a modification of a custom bag I made a while back.  Here’s the original version:

joe-bag joe3 joe-2

It’s difficult to tell from these photos, but the bag has a sort of teardrop cross-section.  The bottom is rounded and the sides taper as they go up. The top of the bag folds down and clips to the sides to create a more typical duffle bag shape.  This version had one external side pocket and one interior zipper pocket.

After several months of use, the owner asked for a wider mouth to make it easier to pack and unpack the bag.  In order to make the mouth wider, I had to make a bunch of other changes as well. I ended up changing the profile completely.  I replaced the sides and the lining, added a second zipper to the top of the bag and a second external  pocket. Here are some photos of the modified bag:

 DSC_0012joe-duffle-v2-opening joe-duffle-v2-lining-pocket joe-duffle-v2-top-b
 joe-duffle-v2-front  joe-duffle-v2-side-a joe-duffle-v2-side-b

I was pleased with how the bag turned out and wanted to make another one. Fortunately, my vacation trip to Kauai was rapidly approaching – the perfect excuse to try my hand at making a carry-on sized version.  Here are a few photos:

 carry-on-top carry-on-side  carry-on-open

This bag has a zippered pocket on each end and two interior zippered pockets in the lining.  The outside is made of 1000D CORDURA® nylon and the lining is 4 oz. pack cloth.

I scavenged the shoulder strap from an old laptop bag – it’s way too long for me and needs to be replaced.  I just haven’t had a chance to make a new one yet.

The bag performed well on its inaugural trip. It held all of my stuff with room to spare. It was comfortable to carry and fit easily in the overhead compartment.  I used one of the outside pockets for a pair of water shoes and the other for snacks. The inside pockets worked well for small stuff like my camera battery charger and more snacks.

The new bag will get its second test this Sunday, hauling wallets to and from the 16th Annual Glen Park Festival in San Francisco.  If you are in the area, stop by and see it (and us!) in person. Here are the details:

Date: Sunday, April 27, 2014
Time: 10am – 4:30pm
Location: Diamond St b/t Chenery and Bosworth; also extending down Wilder St

Note – Our booth will be on Wilder St.

Hope to see you there!

Vacation photos!

So… Will and I were supposed to go to Hawaii last year, but couldn’t sort out our schedules. We finally made it to Kauai earlier this month.  We stayed in Lihue (south east part of the island) which made it pretty easy for us to get anywhere we wanted to go on the island. While Will and I were out exploring, Jamye was back at .retool. headquarters keeping the shop running smoothly.

Click the photos below for a better view. Enjoy!

North Shore

We made it up to the north shore a couple of times during our stay. Some highlights were a self-guided tour of the Limahuli Garden & Preserve, Maniniholo dry cave, Waikanaloa wet cave, Secret Beach (and secret lava pools).

East Shore

We hung out in Kapa’a a fair bit. There are several vegan friendly places to eat (more on that in a later post!) which made it quite appealing. We also enjoyed checking out the ‘Opaeka’a Falls and Wailua Falls. We did some kayaking on the Wailua River as well. The return trip was quite windy!

South Shore

Highlights included the Makauwahi Cave,  lithified cliffs in Po’ipu and the lava arch near the southern point of the island.

West Shore

We made it to Hanapepe twice during the trip, including Friday night for the Art Walk, which featured a bunch of food trucks (again, more on that later). We also enjoyed the amazing views of Waimea Canyon.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for posts on tasty vegan food and the gear I made for the trip – a carry on bag and a camera case.