Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Snow Day!

This was Daddy Cat's view off the back stoop this morning. He insisted I open the back door, but was puzzled about what to do next. Over a foot of snow greeted him, and he's maybe a foot tall. So he came back in and we watched the morning news and the closings list. Butler University (where I work) was listed as having a 2 hour delay. I decided to sit tight (in my pj's) and let them come to their senses. They did! Classes were cancelled! So Daddy Cat and I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and I played around on Facebook while watching the local news snow coverage. It was a good day to stay off the roads!

I eventually put my jeans on over my pj's and ventured out to see if I'd remembered to fill the gas can for the snow blower. Yes! It started on about the 20th pull. (It's been idle for two years.) I cleared the driveway and carved a path to the back door. Daddy Cat had to inspect my work. He looked longingly at the spot where his catnip grows. The nip was buried and I'd neglected to shovel it out.

While watching tv (all day!) I was struck by the fast food ads. Mostly, my brain just skips over all the foods I can't eat. But today it really hit me how drastically my eating habits have changed . . . and why obesity is an epidemic in the U.S.

Arby's is running a new special - Texas Toast meals. They feature a grilled sandwich made with two slices of Texas toast (which is four servings of starch right there,) large fries (probably two more starches and several servings of fat,) and a jumbo soft drink (gobs of empty calories.) I don't eat ANY of these things anymore. I guess lots of folks still do. Before going gf, I was a mostly healthy eater, with a few indulgences. What I miss most is the camaraderie of food. I wish I could enjoy dinner out with my friends. But I don't really miss the junk. My mind and my taste buds have changed.

I fixed pork loin with baked apples and green beans with potatoes. It was a great snow day lunch. Daddy Cat really liked his bite of pork.

BTW, I'm still thinking about Spring. I spent last weekend researching how to construct an indoor worm farm. (Gross note: kitchen scraps turn into compost faster when they are digested.) I'm ready to start farming, but it's too cold to ship Red Wigglers (the Cadillac of worms!) from PA to IN. I'm ready! As soon as it warms up!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Deader yet!

The arctic blast hit Indy night before last. It's cccccold! The waterfall between my upper pond and my lower pond has become an ice sculpture. Sorry gang, I'm not going out to take a photo. But here's one of ice on the inside of my picture window.

And here's my footwear of choice. Those are wool felt Birkenstocks and the socks feel like little ski sweaters. Not much snow, so I haven't resorted to boots yet. I've been cooking to to keep warm. I've studied my seed catalogs. I've read the small space gardening book I found in the basement. Figured out I can add coffee grounds to my compost. I don't drink coffee, but I've been collecting used grounds at work.

My automatic thermostat keeps the house at 60 degrees overnight, so I've piled on the blankets.

I made some raisins in the dehydrator because a site I googled described the process as "stupid easy." And it was! Wash grapes. Put them in the dehydrator. Turn it off when they look like raisins. The raisin googling started after a trip to my practitioner last Friday. Among the suspicious items he tested me for, store-bought raisins did not pass the test. But grapes did. Hmmm. So I thought I'd make my own.

I needed a recipe to use my tasty treats. So I started with a granola bar recipe I found on Gluten Free Gallery.

Granola Bars

1 C gluten free oats
1/4 C peanuts (I used salted)
1/4 C brown sugar

Stir together and add:

2 T melted butter
1/4 C goat milk (or whatever milk you like)
vanilla bean scrapings (or 1/2 t vanilla)
1 medium egg
1/2 C raisins

Spread in a greased 8 x 8 pan and bake at 350 for 15 minutes. Let stand for a few minutes before cutting.

These bars are kind of spongy, but good. I think I'll try adding coconut, a dab of molasses, and a little more sugar next time. I could definitely live on these for 39 days if I was on The Amazing Race and competing for a million dollar prize!

Daddy Cat says, "I'm bored with oatmeal. Why don't you get that pot roast going?"

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Dead of Winter

The Colts lost to the Chargers. Again. Deja vu! When the Colts are out of the playoffs, the dead of Winter begins in Indianapolis. That's when I start building my plans for Spring. I've already received a lot of seed catalogs in the mail. They're like wish books for me!

I was pleasantly surprised to find racks of fresh Burpee seeds next to the Christmas clearance items at KMart. So I bought packs of green onion, spinach, Swiss chard, snow peas and bibb lettuce. Those are the early crops. They can stand cold nights, even a light frost. So I like to have my bedding plants ready to go outside the minute the weather cooperates. I'll probably start these seeds in my makeshift basement greenhouse in February. According to the old time gardeners, potatoes should be planted on Good Friday, April 10 this year. I might try one of the gold varieties this year, so I'll be checking my seed catalogs.

I finally found the garden book I wanted to loan to a friend last spring. Now I want to read it again myself. It's called Small Space, Big Harvest by Duane Newcomb. Newcomb says you can grow over 200 pounds of produce in a 5' x 5' plot - naturally. I've utilized his space-saving techniques for years. Maybe this year I'll try a bona fide test garden and weigh all the produce.

(Note: Melissa - this would be a great book for you! Cheap used copies are available on Amazon! He has a chapter on trash can composting.)

I've been moving pretty slowly this past week. I cleaned the basement and stirred up dust. My particular dust allergy results in one very puffy, painful eyeball and a need for lots of extra sleep. I have bad reactions to prescription and OTC antihistamines, so I've just been sleeping and whining a lot. My practitioner recommended a homeopathic liquid and it seems to be working. I am pleasantly surprised!

I'll need some energy today! I'm going to drop my oldest computer off for recycling. Then I'm hitting the Winter Farmers Market. Tonight I'm volunteering at the Naptown Roller Girls first roller derby bout of the season. I'll be manning the merchandise table and selling those calendars with the GREAT photos. I'll get to sit in the stands with the loud crowd for the second half.

Back to garden stuff, I set a new record! About ten years ago, I managed to keep my garden tomatoes fresh long enough to eat my last red one on January 1. Well, it's January 10, and I'm still eating my own garden tomatoes! We had a luxuriously warm fall and a late first frost. The Romas have been the best keepers. The red onion is also from my garden.

I remember someone asking for a salad dressing recipe. Here's my default vinaigrette.

Kay's Vinaigrette

I use a clean salad dressing bottle. Fill it half full with apple cider vinegar. Add about 2 T honey, the juice of half a lime, and 1 1/2 t salt. Put the lid on and shake until the salt dissolves. Then fill the bottle with canola oil and shake some more. Grind some fresh black pepper over your salad after it's tossed.

I made a huge vat of chicken stock on Thursday. I let it simmer for hours while I was napping on the couch (and whining.) I froze some and made a small pan of chicken vegetable soup to comfort me and my puffy eyeball. I was, indeed, comforted.

Daddy Cat says, "Love dat chicken soup!"

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Deja vu

Okay, I wasn't going to post about the 1 year anniversary of my divorce with gluten. But the Colts vs Chargers playoff game (it's on tonight) brought back the memory of my epiphany day.

Synopsis: Sick for five years. Covered with rash doctors told me was psoriasis. I had to soak my ravaged skin in the bathtub every night for an hour just to be comfortable the next day. Hair falling out in clumps. Constant back and foot pain. Hard, painful knots on my knuckles. Swollen eyes, blurry vision. Bad at sleeping. Bad at staying awake. Ever-increasing girth. Forgot everyone's names. Googled "symptoms:" and the ever-growing list daily. I'd seen more doctors than I could count. They ran tests and told me I didn't have anything wrong with me. I was just getting old. I should lose some weight, use this $100/tube psoriasis medication and get steroid shots for my bald spots.

Prayed for a sign from God.

One year ago: It was the Saturday after New Years. The Colts were scheduled to play the San Diego Chargers in the wildcard playoff game. Wow! It's like deja vu all over again!

I decided to give my aching body a treat and scheduled a massage with Chandra. She came highly recommended. Upon meeting her, I found out she was studying acupuncture. She saw my rash and the knots on my knuckles and told me I might have gluten issues. I thought that would give me something new to research on Google.

Later that same day, I met DeAnne and Nicci at The Dugout to watch the Colts game. Ate pizza and drank beer. Their friend, Brian, was sitting with them. He noticed the rash on my hands (they looked like raw hamburger,) and said he'd seen a similar rash on a friend's hands. Turns out his friend had celiac disease. Gave up wheat and the rash went away. Hmmm. Okay, two unrelated acquaintances mention the same suspected ailment on the same day. How much of a sign do I need?

(BTW, the Colts lost and our season was over. I was wearing size 18 or 20 jeans that day, with a baggy sweatshirt.)

Even though I was fairly certain that wheat could not be poisoning me (after all, I'd been eating it daily my whole life,) I checked with my doctor about getting tested. Expensive test for the uninsured. So I decided to give up wheat for a couple of weeks, just to prove that wasn't the problem.

I did it wrong. I didn't know about cross contamination. I made lots of rookie mistakes.

And I got better anyway. Every day.

I found Gluten Free Girl and Ginger Lemon Girl and The Gluten Free Goddess. I read their new posts and their old posts. I asked questions in their comments sections. Bless their hearts, they guided me through the early, frustrating days. I still made lots of mistakes. I still got better.

So here I am, one year later. I'm a seasoned veteran at avoiding gluten. My hair has grown back. I have almost no rash for the first time in 30 years. No back pain. No foot pain. No pain anywhere. My brain works again. My vision is back to normal. I sleep like a baby. And I'm wearing size 12 jeans.

What a long, strange trip it's been! I'm almost comfortable with my lifestyle changes, though I still miss feeding my friends after-work treats and massive party foods. And I'm still looking for a career outside the food industry. My health and attitude continue to improve. I am sooooooo much healthier than I was year ago. And happier! It's great that optimism has replaced frustration.

Thankfully, The Dugout makes good pizza. It was the last wheat I knowingly consumed. And the last time I ate in a restaurant.

The Colt vs Chargers wildcard playoff game has just started. I hope the Colts are having a better year, too.

I'll have a New Grist beer with my gluten-free pizza while I watch the game. Go Colts!