Recently my wife and I used a coupon to try out HelloFresh which, if you aren't familiar with it, is one of those pre portioned meal services that seem to be the new hotness. While the experience was mostly positive, I found it way too expensive to keep using. A bit wasteful too - I had no idea what to do with all that refrigerated packaging.

But there was something I did really value about the experience. My wife and weren't required to figure out what meals we were going to eat every week.

I don't really like spending any large amount of time deciding what we should eat and what ingredients we will need. So we frequently just end up recycling the same meals, picking out something fast and unhealthy, or... ordering pizza. Or my wife spends hours finding recipes and planning meals because she's awesome like that. But those are hours we just don't have with a toddler.

So I set out to find something like HelloFresh that gave us that provided us with a healthy and adventurous meal plan, but allowed us to get ingredients from our local stores on our own schedule. And I found it in Cook Smarts.

Cook Smarts comes up with a four dinner meal plan every week for you. And if you don't like the options or need to add another, you can choose from their archive of previous meals. You can customize how many people you're prepping for, and whether you want a gluten free, paleo, or vegetarian version of the meal.

I just can't gush enough about how awesome an experience this has been. We don't have to have the dance the What are we going to eat this week dance anymore. Charlie and I get to the grocery store on mondays (Cook Smarts provides a nicely organized shopping list) and we're set for the week. And most of the meals have been baby friendly enough for us to share them with Charlie if we get it ready early enough. The next weeks menu is sent out on Friday so you can actually shop and prep things over the weekend to save time during the week.

Beyond the convenience, it has encouraged us to try new things. The fact that these recipes are delivered to my inbox has a strong psychological effect and I'm more willing to give them a shot, whereas normally I wouldn't have even sought them out. Through Cook Smarts, I've discovered the deliciousness of shallots. Coincidentally, baking a big cookie in a cast iron skillet frequently used to sautée shallots results in some weird flavors.

Cook Smarts is just $6/month if you pay yearly and $8/month if you pay monthly. You can try it out for a few weeks before you decide to sign up and pay.

Being a new parent has been a heck of an adventure. We're zeroing in on Charleston's first birthday and I kind of just wanted to share some of my favorite moments of the year and parenting.

The first few months had very few favorite memories. But Charleston's birth is something I will never forget. After a couple of days of infrequent to regular contractions, she decided it was time Saturday night after Tennessee had just finished off a dominating win over Western Carolina. Thanks for waiting Charlie. It's amazing to me just how fast it all went. We were in the hospital before midnight, and Charleston born around 5am the next morning. And those 5 hours just flew by... okay to be fair, it was a lot easier for me than it was for Lauren. I even got to take a brief nap. Without going into graphic detail, watching what was previously just a baby sized lump suddenly become a crying baby was the most surreal and moving moment of my life. It just cannot be described.

The first few months involved a lot of feeding and crying. For Charleston and us. When Lauren went back to work, Charleston and I started having Monday nights together and for a while it was not fun. It was survival. But there were some sweet moments amidst the chaos. We all slept all over the house. For a long while there was almost always one of us sleeping downstairs with her in a rocker for a couple of hours every night. Just to give the other uninterrupted and slightly stress free sleep in bed. Charlie loved to be held then. She slept so much better nestled in our arms, especially with her face buried in a chest. So sometimes we were just searching for creative ways to both hold her and get comfortable enough to sleep along with her. One super early morning, I managed to get some sleep by nestling Charlie between my legs and putting a pile of pillows behind me.

Leg Cradle

The whole parenting thing got a lot better when Charleston started smiling back at us and even laughing. Finally a little positive feedback! She's a human who actually enjoys things on occasion. And oh man does she love smiling. We have to insist to people that she does cry because she is so social and smiley when she sees new faces. That part of her personality has been such a joy and made all the late night cry sessions totally worth it.

Smiling Charlie

One of the weird things about Charleston is her love for tags. Whenever she picks up a stuffed animal, she immediately searches it for the tag so she can chew on it. She has two little stuffed things that can only be described as animal blankets. Every time she goes to sleep she's holding one of them. When she gets a hold of them, she doesn't reach for the head, she finds the tag and plays with it or holds it up to her face while she falls asleep. It's so adorably weird. She can frequently be seen crawling around just dragging them with the tag in her mouth.

My friend Paul asked me earlier this summer what my favorite moment of the summer had been so far. It took a second, but I settled on something kind of unexpected. One of our first mornings at the beach with family this summer, Charleston decided to wake up early. It was annoyingly early. Like 5:30 early. But she was wearing these freaking cute sailboat PJs and I got to spend some quality time playing around with her. I'm an introvert who generally enjoys quiet mornings alone, but there was something so special about a playful morning with her.

Beach morning

We had another adorable moment this past week when we we're on vacation visiting our friends in Tampa. They have an aquarium in their living room and she loved it. She just kept looking over at the fish. She was talking to them and pointing to them. And because of that we decided to take her to the aquarium that week, which was pretty fun.

If I'm totally honest, this year has been full of some brutal adjustments. The first few months was just trying to survive while still loving a little ball of skin that cried, ate, and slept. There were many moments during that period where we wanted out. But as she grew into a tiny human with her smiles and personality, that despair went away. The next stage was just trying to regain some small part of our lives before Charlie. Spending time with friends and family has changed forever. Either we force our friends to come to our house, or we have to find a way to split up or leave Charleston with someone else, and that's a tough place to be. We've managed to balance it as best we can, but I know it will continue to be a struggle as she grows.

I simply cannot imagine doing this without our parents around. I'm so incredibly thankful for all the support and time they've given us. There have been and will continue to be struggles and disagreements about how to raise Charleston, but I prefer that so much to the idea of doing this without them. If you're raising a child without your parents around, I commend you because you are already a better parent than me. The process has given me a whole new level of appreciation for everything my own parents have done for me throughout my life. I still can't imagine the day where Charleston is an adult with a child of her own. It does not compute.

Okay this is getting long and rambly. But basically, babies are cute and difficult and weird and humbling and amazing. 4.5 ⭐️. Would recommend.

Last month I made a major-ish change to my diet. I started eating a health sludge called Soylent. I know. But guys hear me out. I'm not eating (drinking? slurping?) Soylent because I don't have time to eat real food. I'm doing it as a defense against myself. You see, I'm a monster. Around lunchtime, I look something like this

Seriously, I'm pretty confident I could exist on a diet of cheese and carbs alone. Basically I want to eat shit (not literally of course) and my lazyness at lunch time makes it super easy.

Enter Soylent. For me it is simply an easy and affordable way to eat healthier lunch and breakfast. Instead of Captain crunch, grilled cheese, and barbecue chips, I'm eating a mostly balanced "meal".

The results so far have been mostly positive. I wouldn't say I feel better, but I definitely don't feel worse. Occasionally I feel a bit weak, but I think that's mostly because I'm not drinking enough.

Hopefully one day in the near future I'll be mature and patient enough to eat a balanced meal of fresh healthy product. Until then, I'll happily drink my health sludge with some blended fruit.

Interestingly, Lauren and I were talking about doing Whole30 sometime soon and I agreed to do it only if I could continue eating Soylent at lunch and breakfast. I'm super excited about this because I'll basically be combining two diets with completely different philosophies on nutrition. My body will either explode, become supercharged... or probably just keep puttering along and slowly breaking down.

Pinterest Acquires Instapaper

If your product has changed hands several times like Instapaper has, it's probably not particularly sustainable. Or at least nothing that any large company is interest in sustaining.

Luckily my "use" of Instapaper has dwindled. I still frequently send things there. But it's more or less /dev/null for me. I rarely read what I send there. I've always wanted a similar product that intentionally limited my queue to a smallish number. Force me to choose what I'm really interested in.

M.G. Siegler:

That’s a long-winded way of saying that recent discussions I’ve had with friends about Stranger Things always seem to lead back to the question of whether or not it would be better to release it in installments (be it weekly or something else). I know this sounds antithetical in the age of Netflix — and certainly for a Netflix show! — but again, because everyone binges through such shows in their own time and at their own pace, it makes real discourse about the shows much more complicated.

I've long been a believer that Netflix is getting it a bit wrong with their full season dumps. It seriously limits the conversation you can have about a show. It limits the amount of time the show stays relevant.

Also I'm not an MBA, but dragging shows out keeps subscribers with you for longer and gives them a better chance to find more content that keeps them with you. Seems like that would be good for business.