Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Taking a Break from the Internet

People are busy. I get that. I know people who are dealing with illness, children, aging parents, money problems, work problems and are just plain overwhelmed with how much there is to do and how little time there is to do it. I’m there with them; I get it. I drag myself to the end of the day and wonder how I only managed to do ten things rather than the fifteen I intended.

But here’s the thing. It pains me when I don’t hear from people. Maybe it pains other people when they don’t hear from me, I don’t know, they don’t tell me. I mean, I think I manage to return all phone calls and emails, but who knows? Maybe I read the email on my phone and forgot to mark it unread and it languished away, and you are sitting there waiting for my reply, even now.

I have the curse of Thinking Too Much. My imagination is often in overdrive, churning out scenarios. I think: Are these people failing to contact me because they are just busy? Or would they rather not have me in their lives? Either way, it hurts. Because I know it is all about priorities. You might not “have time” to contact me, but you “have time” to watch a movie or check Facebook. Right. I’ve been there. I’ve done that. And I sometimes avoid contacting people “for fear of rejection,” which I know is silly. And I certainly hope you are not thinking I will reject you. I often have extra homemade dinner food just lying around waiting for someone to eat it. I am here. You are there. Let’s bridge the distance, mkay?

I have blogs. Lots of ‘em. So many I am embarrassed to share them all. No one I know “has time” to peruse all of them. Which means no one knows all the sides of myself I choose to share with the world at large. And for some stupid reason, this makes me sad, because people who have decided I am not a priority don’t even really know me. We might have things in common that you never even knew about.

I love modern technology, but I hate it, too. I hate how it has brought us closer together yet farther apart. I can wish fervently that I could sit down and talk more about the things my friends have dropped hints about in social media, but I don’t “have time” to, because I have five other social media sites I “must check” before I go to bed. Ugh. Can you see why this is ridiculous?

I am not writing the post to try to make anyone feel guilty. I love you people. I can’t wait to hang out with you in the afterlife. It just saddens me that we may have to wait till we’re dead to have time for each other.

So with that said, I have every intention to take a break from social media for a while. You have my email address, or phone number, or you know where I live.



Four Nice Things That Come From Finland

Finland. You’ve probably heard of it, suspect it is up north somewhere and cold. You may associate the Finns with saunas, or Lapland or reindeer or something. But what else?

1. Angry Birds. You may not realize that the popular game is from Rovio in Finland. Put that your slingshot and fly, little birdie!

2. Xylitol. “Its dental significance was researched in Finland in the early 1970s, when scientists at Turku University showed it had significant dental benefits” (Thanks, Wikipedia). Not only does xylitol help kill the bacteria that cause tooth decay, if my theory is correct, it could also prevent colon cancer. My theory is based on the information that Fusobacterium has been found in colon tumors. Since Xylitol inhibits Fusobacterium, perhaps it could inhibit it help prevent colon cancer. Who can research that now, ah?

3. Paavoharju. That’s the name of a band of sorts. Now there’s lots of Finnish music, but this group is my favorite. I blather about them over here.

4. A kick ass educational system.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Gluten-free Baking (and Pancake recipe!)

I admit I’m a little cynical about gluten-free baking. Since a lot of the reason I continue the gluten-free diet is to be free of so many blood sugar ups and downs, it seems ill-advised to simply replace a wheat product with one that makes me just as jittery. Tapioca starch, potato starch, corn starch…all these starches are bad news, at least for a person like me who does better on a more caveman-like diet.

But then I got sucked into contributing to the school bake sale, and didn’t really want to bake something I’m not going to eat. I’ve offered to contribute some gluten-free goodies, so the next thing I know, I’m buying things like rice flour and xanthan gum. I will be a gluten-free baker, even if I have to be dragged into it via such methods.

On that note, I will share with you my gluten-free pancake recipe:

Gluten-free pancakes

We love the texture and taste of this. It makes the best pancake ever! This is a very forgiving recipe. You can vary it quite a bit and still get a decent pancake. The main things to leave constant though: a 2 to 1 ratio on the rice flour and corn meal, the baking powder (you can use a little less though, than the recipe calls for), and using the egg in the final mix.

Dry Mix (2 servings):
2/3 cup rice flour
1/3 cup corn flour or corn meal
1 Tbsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. cinnamon

When ready to make pancakes, take 1 cup of the dry mix and add:

1 Tbsp. canola oil (or your favorite oil)
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1 egg
Enough milk or water to make a batter

Cook in a nonstick frying pan with a little oil. Flip over when bubbles form and cook the other side.

If you like this recipe and want to make it often:
I make a large quantity and store it in a big glass mason jar. Then when I want to make pancakes, I just take a cup full of the dry mix and add the wet ingredients to make pancakes.

Dry Mix (large quantity):
1000g rice flour (4 1/3 cups)
500g corn flour or corn meal (2 1/8 cups)
5 Tbsp. baking powder
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. cinnamon

Friday, January 13, 2012

I love me some annoying music

“Alyssa always tortures me with her music,” my friend M said one time. I’ll side step the fact that years later, she learned to love the music of the very same band (Sigur Rós) whose music I was “torturing” her with.

The truth is, I enjoy some musical expressions that others would find irritating. The goal of this post is to share some of them with you. Provided you do not currently have a headache, please proceed to listen to each sound clip below, as much as you can tolerate. I love you.

First, I’ll tell you about Natural Snow Buildings’ 22 minute long composition, “Loki’s Trick.” (Available for free download here) One day I was overhauling the litter in the cat boxes and had this on in the kitchen. My husband came and switched it off, probably because any music that sounds like a wall of noise to him is not generally welcome in his aural landscape.

“Hey!” I protested. “I was listening to that!”

“You…were?” He gave me that look which says, “I question your sanity.”

“Yeah, I was waiting for the good part…the part where he screams.”


So since 22 minutes is a lot to listen to, I’ll tell you that the song starts off as noise, then gets all pretty around 1:30. It builds and builds, till the screaming commences at around 20:20 or so. Enjoy!

The first time I heard Björk’s “Pluto” I thought it was pretty much unlistenable. Then I heard it a second time and it clicked for me. Now I think it’s great! Especially the screaming part, which comes it around 1:45.

Holy Fuck’s “Korock.” I adore this song, but it has this funky, discordant beat that prolly annoys those who are used to more standard fare. Then around 1:20 the beat dissembles into a different form and the fun really begins. They start taking the sounds and running them through some kind of fuzz grinder. This one almost doesn’t belong here in my opinion.

Next, a song that even I would call irritating, Drop the Lime’s “Doomsday Device.” It has this repetitive beat going, and that is fine, until you’ve heard it 200 times too many, and they start conveying it with the keyboard equivalent of a police siren on LSD. It creeps in at around 1:15 and intensifies till the guy intones the title of the track. There’s a blessed brief moment of calm…and then the demonic riff comes back! If you want to induce a headache, this is the song for you. Note: Dancing or hula hooping while listening to the track reduces its Irritation Factor considerably.

Now keep in mind this list is irritating songs that I actually like. There are plenty of annoying songs out there that I don’t like, for example, Willow Smith’s “Whip My Hair.” But who cares about them, ah?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I Love Tea. But Not ALL Tea.

My friend Amber Strocel is encouraging blog posts about tea. So here’s mine.

As you can see, my tea shelf is so crammed full of stuff I can’t even see half of it. It can be roughly divided into thirds:

1. Tea I Drink Happily
For the most part, this category of appreciated tea includes unflavored black tea, green tea, white tea and jasmine green tea. Because I like tea, a lot of people assume I like flavored teas, but generally, I do not. I rather appreciate George Carlin’s take on the matter.

2. Tea I Drink When I’m Sick or Something
There are several boxes of weedwater, I mean, herbal tea, in my collection. Many are for healing some ailment or another. Whether it be low immune function, sore throat, unhappy tummy, or grumpy girl parts, there’s a weedwater available for it.

3. Tea I Do Not Drink
These are the boxes I look at with some consternation, and then try to convince my six year old that yeah, she would love to drink some of the Raspberry Zinger or whatever icky stuff she talked me into buying. I heat up the water, dose it with the tea bag and a smattering of sweetener, then she drinks a few tablespoons of it and is done with it.

I look forward to my kid growing up and having a tea shelf of her own.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Which button are you?

If your life was a recording device, which button would you press most often?

Play: You’re happy living life in the present moment and wouldn’t change a thing.

Fast Forward: You often want to skip over the boring and unpleasant parts of life.

Rewind: You enjoy reliving the past.

Pause: You feel life is going by too fast, and are trying to catch up.

Stop: You are ready to be done with life entirely.

Record: You prefer recording each moment (perhaps via photography, video, audio or writing) to actually living it.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Gluten Free for Me

I’ve had some strange experiences with food. Once I ate a candy bar and felt like my brain was lifting out of my skull like a UFO. In my twenties, I used to regularly get this crazed, stressed expression on my face if I ate sugary food on an empty stomach. Those were interesting, unpleasant times. But as I’ve aged, the weird phenomenon shifted; the Crazy mellowed out and was replaced with an insatiable hunger. Until I became gluten-free.

As a teen, I could eat six cans of Campbell’s soup in one day. I was thin as a piece of asparagus, weighing no more than 110 lbs. on my 5’ 6” frame, until my late twenties. Then I started to gain weight, and that was okay. I gained enough to be able to get pregnant and nurse a child for four years. I was fine with weighing 140 lbs. instead of 110. But then a couple of years ago, something changed. I was eating all the freaking time. Even my parents noticed it when I visited over the summer. And I was gaining weight, and weighed up to 155 lbs at one point.

I tried a couple of methods of losing weight, which have been chronicled on this blog: South Beach Diet, and walking. They worked for the short term, but then the weight would come back. I didn’t really know what to do.

Then I was visiting my in-laws over Thanksgiving and was talking to my sister-in-law, who has been gluten-free for a couple of years. She noticed I got really tired after eating a bunch of wheat products. She got me to thinking about it…what if I just quit wheat? And then, all the gluten-y wheat family grains like rye, barley and spelt? What would happen?

In mid-December I quit wheat, thinking it would only be for a few days. I was astounded; the hunger went away. I no longer needed to snack every few hours. I could eat food and it didn’t make me hungrier.

I was doing alright wheat-free, but then two days into it I felt really out of it and wonky. Kind of how I felt a couple days into the South Beach diet (which coincidentally also has you quit wheat in the early phases). I stayed off the wheat, soon felt better, and merrily went to see the in-laws for Christmas break, where I was easily able to continue the gluten-free course, since my sister-in-law was already doing it and foods were readily available for me.

At one point during our trip, we went to a Chinese restaurant. I didn’t ask, but know that my appetizer must have been using a wheat-containing soy sauce. I knew because the hunger came back for the short term. Along with the hunger came a crazy, out-of-it feeling. My husband even noticed I didn’t seem right. I couldn’t really contribute to the conversation anymore and just sat there.

In past years at the Christmas family party, I would sit quietly and not really talk to anyone until they spoke to me. Now free of gluten, I could go around and have active conversations with people. It kind of blew my mind, really. Could part of the reason I’m an anti-social introvert be simply because I’ve spent my entire life up to now in some kind of zonked out food coma?

At one point I ate a wheat-free cookie that was not gluten-free. It contained barley malt as a first ingredient. I ate it rather innocently, not expecting any real problems. But it made me feel awful. I was so wiped out I had to take a nap.

I’m now about 3 weeks into the gluten-free diet and have lost 4 pounds. But better than that, I am no longer controlled the need to eat every couple of hours. I have more energy and I rarely get tired after I eat.

I’ll try to write more about gluten-free stuff in the weeks and months to come.