Friday, December 10, 2010

Hard Cider

Yesterday because our patient census is low, I only worked 1/2 shift.  When I got home I lay down for a nap but the phone rang after about an hour and I couldn't go back to sleep.  I guess an hour is the right amount for a nap anyway. 

There are changes going on in my life.  Good changes.  Not long ago I would have been content to spend a quiet evening at home watching what ever T.V. show I had recorded or maybe check out the movies on my cable.  This is especially true during the winter when it is dark and cold outside.  Yesterday, however, I was feeling restless so I bundled up and walked to my favorite neighborhood bar and grill, Rockwell's.  The waitress is from Missouri and she remembered me, even what I order (the chopped chicken salad) and what dressing I like.  I love going to places where they know me. 

 Recently, I have been trying to find a drink to call my own.  I don't like beer and I can't drink it anyway because of the gluten.  I use to order Amaretto Sours but I find that they are inconsistent.  Besides I tend to drink them very fast and  have several which can get expensive. 

If you read my last blog, you know I bought my roommate some hard cider for taking care of my cats while I was away on vacation, though I think I ended up drinking more of it than she did.  Most of the package places around here and the grocery store carry Wood Chuck which comes from Vermont.  I didn't realize that there were other brands of hard cider until the other night when I was out with a friend  and got a cider called Crispin. Very dry and very, very good.  Much different than Wood Chuck.  So I decided to do some research both on the Internet and of coarse, do some personal taste tests.


Hard cider results from the fermentation of apple juice. Making hard cider is similar to wine making in many respects and easier to make than beer according to one article.  While Cider was once the most popular alcoholic drink in the nation, it all but but died out during Prohibition.  Wood Chuck is one of the earliest modern domestic ciders, appearing on the scene in the 1990's. Wikapedia lists about 35 different brands, domestic and imported.  With in those brands there are often several varieties.

Crispin is made in California from west coast apples.  It is a new company, started in 2008 founded by Joe Heron. “I started looking around around at domestic cider, and it was of really poor quality. Really sweet. You had these traditional sweet brands like Woodchuck or Hornsby’s that weren’t very good. People knew about cider, but nobody was really doing anything to get people to reconsider cider.”  Crispin is trying to raise the bar for cider, fermenting fresh apples juice rather than apple juice from concentrate. 

At Rockwell's when I ordered a hard cider, I received Original Sin from New York.  The alcohol content was a little higher than the Wood Chuck at 6%.  Original Sin has been around since 1997 and has won several awards.  I didn't like it.  I drank it, but I didn't  like it.

I was telling my friend, Carrie, at work about my research.and she, being Irish said she liked an Irish cider, Magners.  So after I got through with my supper and my cider at Rockwell's, I walked down a ways to an Irish Pub and sure enough they had bottled Magners  (Apparently some places have it on tap.) 

Magners, only Irish Cider distributed in the United States has been in production since 1935.  The website says that they use over 17 varieties of apples and after fermenting lets their cider mature for up to 2 years.  I liked the Magner much better than the Original Sin.

Just before I got to the pub, my brother, Bill, called so while I was sitting at the bar, sipping my cider, we had a long conversation about life and memories and religion.  It made my evening.

After the pub, I walked about mile in the other direction to a package liquor store to replenish our supply of Wood Chuck.  The temperature was only 13 degrees but it really didn't seem that cold while I was out and about.  Maybe the alcohol helped, maybe talking to Bill, maybe just walking, getting rid of my restlessness.  I will continue to do my research.  So far my favorite is Crispin.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Vacation

I went on vacation. For me vacations are not about the places we go but the people we see.  I think I get this from my mother.  Although we went to a lot of places as kids, it was almost always on the way to see family and it was about our family spending time together away from the everyday life that pulled us apart.  As a child I did not always appreciate being separated form my friends for extended periods during the summer but now, I wouldn't trade the memories for anything in the world.

So on my vacation, I drove to Kansas City, Springfield, MO, Bentonville AK, and St. Louis to see daughters, sisters, nieces, brother-in-law and a couple of long time friends.  Because I don't own a car and drive much it is always fun to rent a car and get on the road.  For two weeks I could pretend I owned the red Jeep I've always wanted.  I find driving for the most part to be relaxing though Judy and Rachel might now agree riding as passengers.

But what I have noticed over the years when I go on vacation and then return to my normal everyday life is that I am ready for change.  I think the relaxation spurs me to reexamine my life and I find things I need to improve.  I have made a lot of changes over the last year and coming back to real life I began to feel overwhelmed by all the things I was trying to do:  make new friends, date, work more, and of coarse the usual, write, lose weight, and keep my house clean.  I felt I was needing a new way to keep it all in perspective.  I have also over the years complained that although I feel I have made enormous internal changes, my behavior really hasn't changed much.

The Buddha said "When the student is ready, the teacher will come."  I have found this to be absolutely true over my life.  And I believe it is true now.

A prevalent movement in psychology has been Cognitive Therapy.  When I started as a psychiatric nurse over 30 years ago I studied it and I am still teaching it to my patients today.  Cognitive therapy is the idea that our thoughts control our emotions and not the other way around.  If you can change your thinking then you can change your emotions.  For instance if you are in school and you flunk a test, how you feel about that is dependent on how you think about it.  If you say to your self, "I knew I was never going to make it in college.  I knew I was dumb and stupid," you are going to feel much different than if you say to yourself "this is just one test.  Now I know what the instructor is looking for and I will buckle down and work really hard for the next test."  I have used this technique frequently over the years and it has helped me dismiss much depressive thinking.

A newer model to western psychology comes from eastern philosophy:  Mindfulness.  In a nut shell, this idea says that thoughts are not good or bad.  They are just thoughts.  You don't need to change them, you just need to observe them, and then let them float away with out letting them effect you.  I find Mindfulness to be a much more difficult practice.  The idea is to live in the moment and not the past or the future.  In both models the important thing is to be aware of your thoughts.  Cognitive focuses on them, Mindfulness wants you not to focus on them.  Mindfulness would really like to to think less and just enjoy the moment.  Hard, hard to do.

But as I was doing research into mindfulness on Sunday when the unit was very quiet and I had down time, I came across a link to another idea that I think falls somewhere in between and makes sense to me.

A woman named Byron Katie had been depressed for a long time, sometimes to the extent of not being able to get out of bed for long periods of time.  One day she had a thought that changed her life.  "The only time we suffer is when we believe a thought that argues with what is."  Its not that the thought is bad it is just that we hang on to them and believe them to be true.  As usual I am way behind.  Her book was published in 2002.  She says that there are only 3 kinds of business.  Your business, other people's business and God's business which she defines as reality.  And we only need to deal with our business and at some point we don't have to deal with that either because it takes care of itself.  At work on Sunday, I had printed out an excerpt from her book and read it on my train ride home. 

While I was on vacation, my roommate, Kim, was kind enough to take care of the cats.  I wanted to get her something for her efforts and I remembered that she likes hard cider.   So on Sunday I got off the train at a stop after mine to go to the liquor store to get the cider.  When I walked in, there were two men standing and talking to each other.  They appeared to work there but ignored me when I walked in.  I wanted someone to come up to me and ask to help me.  It didn't happen.  It is a large store. I looked around but started to become frustrated and angry because I didn't have a clue where to start.  What were the thoughts going through my head?  Maybe that I am stupid because I can't find what I'm looking for.  I'm not important enough for someone to help me.  If those guys were at all helpful they would sell more stuff, what dummies.  Probably something along those lines.  But then I stopped and remembered what I had just been reading.  The reality was that I was in a liquor store looking for some hard cider.  Nothing more nothing less.  My mind cleared and I simply went over to the gentlemen asked them if they worked there and if they had hard cider.  They did and they did, and one of them took me over to where it was.  My suffering was ended and I accomplished my goal.  Very simple. 

I don't know yet how this is going to translate to all areas of my life.  I am going to buy her book today.  My belief is that if I can get away from all the distorted thinking that I have and embrace reality maybe the behavior changes I want to make (writing more, eating less, cleaning my house, enjoying my new friends, managing my money better will all fall into place.   I will keep you posted.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pumpkin Custard

For those of you that read my blog on a regular basis, you know that I am gluten free and that I am not crazy about process foods though I don't follow my convictions 100% of the time.  (Maybe 50%)  I haven't been in a cooking mood lately so I was at the store yesterday looking for gluten free packaged food I could take to work, so I wouldn't be temped to buy cafeteria food, or overpriced food from Au Bon Pain.  I found some lentils in a tomato cream sauce  in a microwaveable pouch.  The package doesn't say it is gluten free, but the ingredients all look good and wheat is not listed as an allergen.  Two ingredients that I didn't recognize, asafetida and fenugreek leaves.  Wikipedia says that asafetida is a spice that is suppose to decrease flatulence.  Fenugreek is an herb in the leaf form and a spice seed form.  Often used in curries.  No preservatives. 

Much of the packaged foods either use noodles or pastas of some sort or use wheat in the processing. Then I saw the Hamburger Helper.  I haven't bought Hamburger Helper since the girls were small, or not so small but anyway not for a long time.  On two of the packages in bold letters were the words GLUTEN FREE.  I strongly believe I should support manufacturers who are making an effort to help me with my dietary needs.  The one I bought was beef fried rice.  They simply took ingredients that are naturally gluten free (beef, rice, vegetables) and did not add any wheat or gluten in the processing.

I made the Hamburger Helper for lunch today thinking I would take the left overs to work tomorrow.  Gluten free or not, it was terrible.  I use to eat this stuff on a regular basis.  I don't think I liked it then either, but it was quick, easy and cheep.  I remember when Rachel first became a vegetarian, I would feed her hamburger helper without the hamburger.  She would also order McDonald's cheeseburgers with out the meat.  She has since graduated to Capuchino Brownies (from Women of Great Taste) laced with cannabis.  (The cannabis is an add in.)  I didn't realize there is a whole process to doing that.  I thought you just tore up the leaves and threw them in.  At least someone is cooking from the book.  But I digress.

So I will nix the Hamburger Helper on the next trip to the store and instead op for my mother's goulash using gluten free pasta.  Right now I am baking a pumpkin pie sans crust.  Let's call it a pumpkin custard.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Friendship

Yesterday I met an interesting woman named Beatrice.  We met for coffee at Panera with a new friend of mine, Toby.  Beatrice was born in Germany and then immigrated to the United States as a young adult.  She was talking about the differences between the two countries and one thing especially struck me.  She said that in America a great deal of emphasis is placed on family.  In Germany she said, after you grow up you replace your family with friends.  Friends become your primary focus.  I thought that was interesting.  I don't think it is a universal rule here because not everyone is close to their families usually due to dysfunctions, but for the most part I think yes.  I certainly know that is the case for me, both my family of origin and my children.  I have put much less importance on friendship.  The unfortunate part is that my family is scattered across the country and cannot meet my everyday needs of connection.

My father once told me that his biggest regret was not keeping the friends that had come into his life.  When I think about the people who have passed though my life, the ones I remember and the ones I don't, I know exactly what he meant.  Of all the thousands of people I have know, and the many I have counted as friends there are only 3 that I still have contact with and only one on a regular basis.  The problem with not hanging on to friends is that you have to keep making new ones (if you want to have friends.) 

In grade school, middle school and high school, making friends was easy.  College was a little harder for me but still easier than real life.  It turns out that there is a reason for that.  You saw the same people every day and being in consistent close proximity fosters friendships.  It is the same for the work place.  When I think about it, I have had very few friends over my life time that were not in school with me or worked with me.

Part of my problem as and adult with making and keeping friends has been that I was looking for that same connection that I had had in grade school and high school.  The intensity.  The best friend.  As a child and adolescent I talked to my friends on the phone at least once every day and usually more often.  We spent the night together.  We hung out at least several times a week and saw each other everyday at school.  But when you get out of school, life is different.  You have work and family and other obligations and it is easy for things to get in the way.  You may see work friends every day but it is not the same.  They have families and obligations of their own. 

The first time I went to therapy, I was a young woman with young children.  What I discovered rather early on in the therapy was that I was extremely lonely.  My therapist asked me what I had to offer other people and I could not come up with the answer.  She finally had to tell me that in friendships the only thing you have to offer is yourself.  But that, that is enough.  I think I understood that as a child, as an adult I forgot.  As with most of life, remembering what we instinctively knew as children is important  But we also have to make adult changes.  I have had to learn how to accept friendships in what ever form or frequency they take. 

It turns out that when you get older (and I am really talking about women here) you need to replace that one or two best friends with many friends.  One person can no long satisfy all your needs.  There isn't enough time.  Some experts say you need five close friends and some say seven.  But you need more than one.

I have been very lucky this past year in finding a girl friend, Charlotte, that I feel closer to than I have felt to anyone in a very long time.  And because of that friendship I find myself wanting more.  So I went looking.

First, I posted an ad on Craig's list.  I got several responses, met a couple of women but didn't make a connection with either.  And then I found a website called Girlfriendcircles.com.  Shasta, the founder understands how hard it is for women to make quality friendships and she has done something about it.

 Next blog:  Girlfriendcircles and the science behind women friendships.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Ravenswood Artwalk

Ravenswood is both a street in Chicago and a neighborhood.  Officially Ravenswood (according to the realestate chatter) is part of the Lincoln Square area of Chicago.  Mostly residential, there is a corridor along  Ravenswood street that is home to art galleries and studios as well as small industry. The art walk is a yearly event and this year launched the 15th annual Chicago art month.  Unlike the art ffestival I attended earlier in the summer this one is strictly limited to the local artists that have studios in the area.  There were demonstrations and free classes in everything from silk screening to pottery and puppetry.  Because I am not a planner I was never quite in the right place at the right time.  But I enjoy seeing the individual work and talking with the artists.

A friend of mine at work is taking a pottery class and I think it would be fun to do.  One of the artists showed me the different looks of the pottery she makes as it dries and before it is fired and after it is fired before it is glazed and then of coarse the final product.  I especially loved the ceramic tiles and wall decorations. 

One woman had some very unique and pricey jewelry that I would love to have.  Lots of painters and photographers.  The main reason I went to the art walk in the first place was I received an invitation from a woman that I had taken photography classes from.  I get invitations from time to time from her but  have never made an event until today.  To my surprise I was more than just a email address.  She remembered me and even my name.  Lejean teaches art in the school system during the day, teaches photography in the evenings, works for Bella Babies (the company I worked for for a short time) on the weekends, and some how finds time to do her own work.

What I found most compelling about the day was seeing people's need to be express them selves in what every medium they choose.  For many of these people this is their full time jobs, supplemented it with teaching others to express them selves as well.  I don't know if anyone was buying today but it is nice to know that arts continue to flourish even in a terrible economy. 

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Hibiscus tea

I have been pretty much addicted to soda (pop, coke) since my early college days.  I was working at a small diner and we could have all the fountain drinks we wanted.  An endless fountain of sweet liquid to drown out how much I hated the job.  I finally quit the job but not the addiction.  There have been times in my life where I would finish a 2 liter of Pepsi in an afternoon.  And start another one for the evening.

From time to time I have switched to diet soda but have always felt that aspartame is probably worse for me than sugar.  I also notice that when I drink diet soda (or regular soda) my water consumption goes down and my craving for sweets goes up.  The longest I've ever gone with out soda was about 6 months.  For some reason I decided (like an alcoholic) I could have just one and I was right back on the addiction wagon.

Part of the problem is that while I actually like water, I get tired of it.  I want something else to drink.  I can drink juice which at least has some vitamins but the calorie count is the same as soda and whole fruit is better.  At least with juice I don't drink two liters but still 16 oz is really too much. 

I have never learned to drink coffee.  I have never liked tea.  As a kid when dad would barbecue outside in the summer time and mom would fix iced tea, I would sneak into the liquor cabinet and get a coke to pour into my glass.  The color was a little darker but I guess no one noticed.  Half ice tea and half lemonade was a pretty good drink I found later on but still too high in calories.  Part of the problem when you are over weight is that you aren't eating or drinking for the taste of something.  If you were, you would be satisfied with just a glass of what ever and that would be fine.

My writers group meets every week at Argo Tea.  You can't just sit there and not order something (you could but that isn't very polite) so I tried the green tea and the black tea with out much success.  I don't even like tea with honey or sugar.  And then I tried the hibiscus tea in their signature drink Tea Sangria.  I know it has fruit and hibiscus tea but I'm not sure what else.  111 calories or 2 points for a 16oz drink and part of that may be the fruit.  It tastes like it might be sweetened.  But it is very yummy.  I also like their hibiscus steamer which is hibiscus and apple cider.

So I bought some tea to bring home.  It is a mixture of hibiscus and dried apple.  I make it every morning at home or work, drink it hot or cold.  I was sweetening it with a little fruit juice and then a little honey.  This morning I drank it with out sweetener and it tasted great. 
It turns out that hibiscus tea is reportedly very healthy.  It supposedly lowers blood pressure and may help with weight loss. For me, it is a nice naturally low calorie drink that makes me feel good.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Judy and Gail's Excellent Adventure

My sister, Judy came to see me over the Labor Day Weekend. The weather was wonderful and the company even better.


The great thing about my sister, Judy (my other sisters as well) is that we don't have to have definite plans. If you know anything about the Meyers/Briggs personality profile we are all J's. Non planners, go by the seat of your pants kind of people. What is important is just getting together and hanging out.

Judy got in late on Thursday night because she was caught in construction traffic for an hour and a half coming in to Chicago. Yup that can happen. I had made the white chili from Women of Great Taste with some modifications to make it gluten free. (It never occurred to me before that you can make your own cream of chicken soup.) We enjoyed our soup and conversation and a couple of episodes of Criminal Minds. Judy has been with out TV for a while though says she hasn't really missed it.

Friday morning we got up and decided to take a road trip to Galina, IL. I had heard it was a nice, pretty town about 3 hours away. Judy didn't object to more driving after her 12 hour drive the day before. Somehow driving is more fun when you have someone to talk to. (though sometimes its nice just to be with your thoughts. She had enough of that the day before.) While I took a shower, Judy got on the Internet and found us a relatively inexpensive bed and breakfast for the night.

The bed and breakfast is called the Snoop Sister's Inn. It is for sale by the way. if anyone is interested in purchasing a bed and breakfast. The owners were nice and it is a beautiful building. The economy has hurt their business just as it is impacting much of the country.


Snoop Sister's Inn







We spent the afternoon shopping and then had dinner at a place recommended by out Inn Keeper. Unfortunately they only sold Sangria by the pitcher and for some reason I thought that meant we should drink it all.









Saturday we both had massages (thank you Judy for the treat) and then did more shopping. More looking than buying. On the way home we listened to Judy's John Denver tapes. Exhausted, but happy, we had dinner with Kate and Charlie at my new favorite neighborhood pub, Rockwell's.



On Sunday we planned a bike ride but that was thwarted when it turned out we only had one working bike. Instead we headed to the Jazz festival, stopping at "The Bean."


self portrait reflection in the Bean

At the Jazz festival we met up with my friend Charlotte and several friends of hers. It was quite the interesting and diverse bunch of people. A psychiatrist, a geneticist, an owner of a massage school, a financial consultant, a psychologist, a director of a nonprofit and a nurse. Interesting conversation and the music was O.K. too.



Charlotte
Judy Resting


Judy and I left the group and had dinner at PF Chang's because they have a gluten free menu. At home we watched a great little movie call City Island. I highly recommend it.


 On Monday, sadly, Judy parted and I tried to sleep so I could work my night shift.

Judy

Monday, September 6, 2010

A Good Hair Cut

When I lived in St. Charles, I had found a hair dresser not far from where I lived who was wonderful.  I went to her for several years.  She always gave me a great hair cut and did a great job with color. And then she left town.  I was devastated.  You really only need two things in life.  A good hair dresser and a good mechanic.  Since I no longer own a car, I really only need the hair dresser.

Since moving to Chicago I have been moving from salon to salon looking for someone to connect with.  I had found a place near my first apartment in Rosco Village.  I think Kate had steered me there and her roommate had steered her.  But then the hair dresser I liked left, and I didn't like the next person and then when I decided to go back the place was closed.  For a while, I was going to a shop just off the Brown Line.  The hair cuts are 12 dollars.  No shampoo, sometimes a blow dry but really always a good cut.  The women in the shop I think are Russian though I'm not sure of their nationality.  I didn't always get the same one but it didn't really seem to matter.  For some reason when I decided to get my bangs cut (it was probably a Sunday and my shop was closed) I went to another shop in Rosco Village where some of the hair dressers from my old shop had ended up.  The man that cut my hair did a good job but something just wasn't quite right.  Then when my bangs started growing out I made the terrible mistake of going to a Hair Cuttery (a chain for those who aren't familiar).  Why do I not remember that I never get good cuts from those places.  I told the girl (she was young) that I wanted my bangs above my eye brows not half way up my forehead. 
I was trying to let my hair grow out.  Now my bangs looked hideous, someone call them my baby bangs and that is what they looked like, or a little kid's.  My hair was driving me crazy and impulsively (I always get my hair cut impulsively) decided to whack it off.  Again unfortunately it was a Sunday.  My shop was closed.  So I went to another one around the corner that was open.

I had a bad feeling from the start.  The girl was young.  No one else was in the shop.  I had a picture with me.  Kate said the picture looked like a mullet so maybe it was a good thing the cut didn't come out like the picture.  (I think I just want to look like the person in the picture and think the hair cut will do that for me.)  The young woman (probably just out of school) took an hour and a half to cut my hair.  I could tell as she was cutting it it was a bad cut.  But what are you going to do while she has the scissors in her hands?  She actually teased my hair when she was styling it.  I haven't had anyone tease my hair since the 60's or was it the 70's.  Even though the end product didn't look too terrible, it was just not a good cut.  A good hair cut falls naturally and continues to look good even when it grows out.  I had been struggling with this cut since day one.

So last week, (it was Monday and I thought my old shop would be open) I decided to cut my hair once again.  But I was over in a part of town nowhere near my shop, I had gone to my Weigh Watchers meeting, had lunch with Kate because she works in the area and decided I just didn't want to go way over to Kimble to get my hair cut.  I walked by a Hair Cuttery and almost went in when the little voice in my head said YOU ARE NEVER HAPPY WHEN YOU GET YOUR HAIR CUT AT ONE OF THOSE PLACES.  So I thankfully walked on.  The next two salons I walked past were closed because normal salons are closed on Mondays..

I walked for a while looking for an open salon and finally found one.  The stylist was busy cutting a guy's hair but said I could wait.  Normally that salon is also closed on Monday's but Jeffery (the stylist) just started working at that shop and he likes to work on Mondays so it was open.  And they had a 15 dollar walk in special.  Later I found out that hair cuts are normally $45.  I liked Jeffery from the start.  He agreed that I had gotten a very bad hair cut.  He didn't agree with exactly what I wanted to do (he also said it would look too much like a mullet)  and we compromised.  Oh and when he was washing my hair he massaged my head for a few minutes.  That in it self would keep me coming back for more.  Jeffery has been cutting hair for along time.  He is from Seattle and owned his own salon there before deciding to move to Chicago a few years ago.  He was easy to talk to.  Interesting.  And I got a good hair cut.  I think as it grows out it will continue to look great.

So now living in Chicago, I have many choices when it comes to getting my hair cut.  I will go back to see Jeffery even though his hair cuts are 45 dollars and my old shop only charges 12.  Why?  Because as with a good mechanic the relationship is almost as important as the work being done.  The beauticians in my old shop were nice enough but there wasn't a lot of communication or connection going on. 

After about 2 years of having my hair in it's natural state color wise, I have an appointment to have Jeffery color it.  He says he can highlight it without coloring it first and it will look great.  I believe him.  My bangs are still growing out.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Going Gluten Free

In June of this year, I started back to Weight Watchers in a life long effort to get thin.  Technically, it has only been half my life.  I realized this year that Kate was turning thirty and next year I would turn 60.  I got fat when I got pregnant with Kate and except for a few brief moments I have been grossly overweight ever since.  Half my life.  I decided that was long enough. 

At the same time, I decided that I would give up wheat and gluten.  It has not been as difficult as I imagined.  At first I simply got rid of the obvious stuff, breads, donuts, cakes, cookies, etc.  But the problem with gluten is that it is in everything.  At least in an awful lot of processed foods.  So now I am being very careful.  OK, yesterday I had a breakfast meeting and they served muffins, a breakfast burrito and a little bit of fruit.  I ate the fruit.  Dumped the muffin and unrolled the burrito.  I'm sure my eggs were contaminated but I was hungry.

So why am I going wheat and gluten free you ask.  Well for one thing it knocks out a lot of tempting foods right off the bat, making it easier to stay on my weight watcher's plan.  I can still eat a chocolate chip cookie, but I have to plan for it.  I can't just eat it because it is there.  And yes there are some pretty tasty gluten free cookies out there.  Giving up gluten also makes me stick to more basic foods that are naturally gluten free such as fruits, vegetables, legumes and meats and nuts.  They are making more and more gluten free packaged foods but I'm trying to stay away from those. 

The main reason I'm giving up wheat and gluten, however, is for health reasons.  Ever since getting pregnant the first time, I have had difficulty with swelling in my feet and legs.  My lymphatic system just doesn't work well.  A Naprapath once suggested I might have an allergy to wheat.  Every time I've eliminated it from my diet my swelling gets better.  There is also some evidence that wheat can cause inflammation and lead to autoimmune diseases. 

Celiac's disease is an intolerance to gluten.  Although the main symptoms are gastrointestinal it can manifest itself in lots of different ways.  I never had the test done to see if I have the disease.  I never had the typical symptoms.  I did have awful acid reflux which I could never quite attribute to anything specific.  I had finally decided it was caused by a high fat diet and simply overeating.  Now I am wondering if it was gluten or  wheat.  (By the way gluten is also found in rye and barley.  Some people have difficulty with oats but that may be due to cross contamination with wheat.)  My acid reflux  has completely disappeared and I am still eating fat, though not nearly as much and occasionally I over eat.  I had a touch acid reflux the other morning after the breakfast burrito incident.  Hum?

So otherwise how do I feel now that I've given up wheat and gluten in various amounts for 3 months?  Well, I use to have terrible feet pain brought on by standing too long or walking long distances.  It was the top of my feet not the bottom.  Lying in bed I would feel them get tighter and tighter and then the pain would start.  Some mornings trying to get out of bed was an adventure.  Some days walking to the train was torture.   My feet still have some swelling and stiffness but the pain is almost completely gone.  Because I believe the pain is due to arthritis and because arthritis has a habit of waxing and waning I am not 100% convinced it is the diet.  I'm going to wait and see.  But the other morning I was running for a train having to go down a flight of steps and then up another and I almost flew down the steps.  That hasn't happened in a long time.  My knees seem to be getting better as well.  Oh and you know how sometimes when something goes away you kind of forget you ever had it.  Neck and upper back pain gone.  Stay tuned to see if it is just all in my head or if there really is something to giving up gluten.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Art in the City


The great thing about living in Chicago is that there is always something to do no matter the season, though summer especially is filled with outdoor festivals and activities. I sadly have not taken advantage of all that Chicago has to offer. My roommate, Kim, on the other hand always seems to know what is going on. She suggested the Gold Coast Art Fair at Grant's Park this past weekend.
The fair is a "juried" event which means not just anyone can set up a booth. You have to meet certain standards. In all there were 578 booths of quality paintings, sculptures, photography, furniture and glass and of course, jewelry.


Kim and I headed down town via the brown line. We took our time meandering over to the art fair taking in the new Chinese Sculptures in Millennium Park and watching the kids (and adults) play in the Crown Fountain.




















Once at the fair we were pretty overwhelmed with everything there was to see. Not that I had really intended to buy anything but the prices were a bit overwhelming too. But the art was great. It was a warm day with little shade and then to our unhappiness before we could see everything we wanted the fair closed early at 3 pm due to a stupid preseason Bear's Game. I am not sure what one had to do with the other unless it was about parking.

Before we left one artist caught my eye. His name is danilo cuevas. He paints primarily in oil and then scans the paintings to create digital images. From his bio: "an extremely versatile and prolific artist, cuevas is best known for his urban landscapes and still life botanical. when viewing his paintings, it is easy to see how they reflect his true knowledge of his subject paying meticulous attention to line, form, detail and color."

I bought a digital copy of his poppies on black. I am drawn to still life though many people find them boring. It is a direction I would like my own photography to take. He was a very nice and personable guy. Not all artist are. It helped that it was the end of the day and there was no one else at this booth. Because I was his last customer he gave me a notebook with one of his paintings on the front. A simple purple flower that I love as well. You can see his work at his website: http://www.printedcanvas.com/.

Because our time was cut short due to the Bear's game, I decided to return to the fair on Sunday by myself so that I could have more time to get inspired. Going on my own had certain advantages. Kim and I tend to worry about each other getting too tired and frequently rested. On my own I could go at my own pace. I have noticed in life that it is important for me to mix company with being by myself. Too much of one or the other isn't good for me.

I headed straight for the fair on the second day and spent about two hours taking my time at a lot of booths. I still did not see everything. Mostly I focused on photography. There were three that stood out for me. I did not get names but I will describe their work. The first gentleman was not a digital photographer. He says he does very little cropping when developing his film much preferring to capture what he wants as he takes the picture. He does his own developing with very little enhancement. I have always maintained that digital photography has come such a long way that film is no longer necessary. I changed my mind this weekend. There is a quality in film (at least in this photographer's work) that isn't captured in the best digital. I told him I might have to give up digital. He was a bit snobbish and said no you won't, this is way too difficult. And truly that is why I and most of the world have gone digital. It is easier, and much more versatile. Besides, setting up a dark room even for black and white film is expensive and problematic. Color chemicals are carcinogenic and hard to dispose of.

The second photographer has some great photographs mainly of South Carolina. He had a huge picture of an banyan tree. What was amazing was the absolute clarity of every detail from the pebbles on the ground to the leaves on the tree. I know how he must have taken the picture. He had an extremely high quality wide angle lens and goosed up the f stops as far as he could. At that point very little light is entering the camera so you have to use a tripod and a long exposure time and hope there is no wind. I wish I had gotten his website address.

The third was a gentleman who takes digital photographs but prints directly on to canvas with a specialized printer and ink. Wonderful end product. Good photographer as well. I didn't get his website either.

I ended up buying a pair of earrings from a really nice woman, Daniel Desjardins, from Lafayette, Louisiana. We talked for awhile. She told me a little bit about life on the festival circuit. She wasn't selling much. She says she really doesn't like the selling part. Says she does much better when a friend comes along that does like to sell. Being an artist she has little interest in the business end of her work, hates computers and thinks there might be a job for someone catering to the artist community.

I also bought a cool pen. When I told the young lady I was going to use it in my writing group she said it was a Zen Pen to provide all the inspiration I needed. I certainly hope so.


Buckingham Fountain in Grant's Park

Saturday, August 21, 2010


Summer is quickly coming to an end despite the last two days being the hottest of the season. I know this because it is dark now as I walk to the train on my way to work. The upside is that if I sit on the right side of the train, and don't have my noise stuck in the latest book I'm reading, I can watch the sun rise over the buildings. Technically we still have a month left of summer. My favorite time has always been summer's end, the warm September days when the kids have returned to school and the days are quieter again, a little cooler but still warm enough to enjoy the outdoors. For me fall has always been the anticipation of new things, new beginnings, excitement in the air.

The change of season is what makes the Midwest appealing to me. Except maybe fall to winter. The only benefit I see is that the dark days are at there peak and the light begins to return again. A guy I met in a writing class once told me that he liked winters. He said for him it was a good time to write because the good weather outside wasn't distracting him. He could hibernate, stay warm and write.

Winter to spring is a joyous time with all the new growth, the flowers, the baby bunnies and squirrels I see on my daily early morning walks to the train. I know I have said this before, but the great thing about Chicago's springs is that all the new blooms stay for so much longer and there is an overlapping of blooms we never had in Missouri. It is not at all unusual for tulips and daffodils to still be blooming when the lilacs and even the peonies begin to add their beauty to the world.

Spring to summer is a magical time when the mornings are still cool and your feet still get wet from dew when you walk in the grass. Everywhere there are neatly manicured lawns and flower beds. The days are at their longest. The festivals start. People are everywhere. Sidewalk cafes are full. You are finally free of cumbersome outer clothing.

Now as the days become shorter and the last days of summer are upon us the vegetation if not not tightly reined in is wild and untamed. The lovely flower beds of spring are outgrowing their borders. The hostas are huge. Black Eyed Susans are everywhere.


It will be five years since the Labor Day I came to visit Kate in Chicago and fell in love with the city and decided to make a big change in my life. It was the right move to make. I love living in the city, taking public transportation, working in a teaching hospital. I don't know if I will stay here forever. But it has been a good five years.

I am going to start blogging again. It will no longer be about Women of Great Taste (the cook book anyway). It will probably be mostly about my life in the city, certainly about food because that is where my passion lies and perhaps about the simplify I have found as I head towards the beginning of my sixth decade.

I am blogging because I enjoy reading my sister, Susan's, blog, 6 Sheep and a Llama (and others). I would sorely miss it if she quit and she says she misses my writing. So this is for her and the others out there that have the remotest interest in my internal and external life.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Sailing


For my birthday, my daughter, Kate, took me sailing on Lake Michigan. No she didn't sail the boat, she purchased a 2 1/2 hour cruise for the two of us. It is the first time I have sailed on Lake Michigan. The boat was a very loved 1986, 32 foot Hunter named Lost. The captain, Steve, spends his time sailing and playing the drums in a blues band. He truly does what he loves. The night was perfect. The captain was drinking Sailor Jerry's and Coke, Kate and I were drinking a Riesling. We started at 7 pm and left a warm, humid day for the cool breezes of Lake Michigan. The wind topped at about 15 knots and we reached full boat speed at 8 knots. It has been 5 years since my last sail but it will not be another 5 before my next.

Sailing dissolves the separation of man and nature. With his canvas sails, the sailor catches the wind offered by the heavens and together they propel the boat across water and time. This is why I love sailing and the reason my roommate told me I looked totally different returning from my sail. She couldn't describe it exactly, probably a combination of total relaxation and exhilaration.

I fell in love with sailing on Long Island Sound when my sisters visited Sag Harbor for our sister's retreat. There was a regatta and they needed extra people on the boats for balance because of the windy conditions The four of us graciously volunteered. Our job was to move side to side when instructed to and try not to fall off. My sister Judy almost did. It was the first time I felt the wind and spray in my hair and understood man's draw to the sea.

Most of my sailing experience has been on Lake Carlyle, a large lake in southern Illinois, with my dear friend, Mark. He fell in love with sailing about the same time I did, built a boat and from June until October invited me to sail every other week. Many times in the summer months there would be little to no wind. But out on the boat everyone agreed that out on the water, even if we weren't moving it was better than working. It was better than almost anything I could think of. On the days we did have wind we could sometimes sail from one end of the large late to the other. Mark would let me "drive" and taught me a lot about sailing.

I sailed on a Windjammer ship once out of Granada. I was disappointed to learn that although the sails were fully extended they kept the motor running. It seems that that was the only way they could be assured of getting to the right place at the right time. Still it was fun to be on the water.

I sailed the Seattle Sound for my 50th birthday. That day there was unfortunately no wind and we just sat most of the three hours. But we were still on the water and the sun was shining (something unusual for Seattle.) Later that night when we were having dinner at the top of the Space Needle, we saw the same boat that we had taken go out of the harbor. The winds were much better then and they were cruising.

But of all my sailing experiences the one I remember the best is the day Susan took me out on her small boat in Chatham. It was a breezy day and we chose to stay within the safety of the bay, but what a ride it was. Because the area was relatively small we got to maneuver the boat frequently coming about, zig, zagging back and forth. I remember the boat leaning way over a time or two and leaning against the opposite rail. A sense freedom and sheer delight not experienced in any other endeavor.















































Friday, May 28, 2010

Duluth

I have two questions. 1) Why have I never heard of Duluth, Minnesota before before and 2) Why haven't my sisters and I been there on one of our sister's weekends?

After John and Lauryn's wedding in Ely, Minnesota Kate and I drove Rachel to the Duluth airport as it was the closest place for her to fly out of. Rachel had to get back to New Orleans and Kate and I had an extra day or so to explore Minnesota a state Kate had never been to before. Ordinarily Kate would have had something all planned but she had been busy with school and work. I'm not much of a planner, I feel if you over plan it destroys all the surprises. We had been impressed with the area on our way to Ely so decided to check out the city.

There are really two cities: Superior, Wisconsin, an industrial, working class city and then on the other side of the river Duluth, a college and tourist town. Someone at the wedding had described Duluth as Lawrence, Kansas meets San Francisco, California. I could understand the comparison.






Duluth is the western most city on the great lakes. It sits on the western edge of lake Superior the largest of the great lakes. We read somewhere that you can fit all the other great lakes in to Lake Superior plus a couple more Lake Eries. Duluth and the area around it is dedicated to the great out doors. "With rocky cliffs, pebble-strewn shores and miles of sandy beach, Duluth isn't what you'd expect in the heart of the country. Dozens of trout streams cut through the town's 100 parks and 105,000 acres of green space--more than any other U.S. city." From the Duluth brochure.


Duluth has a great water front with the Split Rock light house celebrating it's 100 year anniversary this year and the Aerial Lift Bridge, Duluth's most famous landmark. The bridge was originally built in 1910 and then upgraded to its present design in 1929. It takes two minutes to rise and goes up 25 to 30 times a day during the height of the shipping season. Because the bridge is so low to the water it has to be lifted for 1000 foot freighters as well as small sail boats. The bridge connects a 7 mile long strip of land to the mainland. About 6 of the miles is only accessible by foot. We unfortunately did not have to time to try a 12 mile trek.














Along the water is the lake trail that we did take. Because Duluth goes straight up form the water the trail is unmarred by commercial enterprises. But by walking up stairs at many points you can access shops and restaurants as well as the rose garden. The trail is 5.1 miles and is easy hiking. I'm not sure how much of it we walked that day but it was beautiful. There are a dozen other trails within the city to explore including the Superior Hiking Trail that is 29 miles long within the city with a total of 205 miles above the lake.











If you don't want to hike you can do as we did and drive the Skyline Parkway. We unfortunately were having trouble finding it and were running out of time so we only got to drive a small portion but the view was stunning. The whole drive is 25 miles.



Kate and I spent the greater part of two days in this wonderful town and only scratched a very small surface. I think it might take a month to see and do everything I wanted to. There are boat rides and train rides, and an aquarium. Although the town is active both in the winter and the summer I think I would prefer to stick to the summers. I'm definitely going back.


One more important fact. Duluth is the birthplace of Bob Dylan.





















Monday, May 24, 2010

Wedding



Last week I went to my nephew's wedding in Ely, Minnesota. Being a very small wedding I was the representative from the groom's mother's side of the family partly because I live the closest to Ely and partly because my daughter, Rachel was in the wedding party. She was a groom's man which tells you right away this was not a traditional wedding.



John and Lauryn exchanged vows and rings in the rain in a small clearing in the woods on the property of Lauryn's sister's house. The thirty guests stood in a semi-circle around the clearing. Lauryn's father performed the ceremony as well as catered the reception. The ceremony was beautiful, the light rain just adding to the magical atmosphere. The theme of the wedding was Alice in Wonderland complete with the white rabbit leading the way down the "aisle". The crochet match was rained out.


In thinking about weddings , I think about the importance of family. I feel sorry for those that don't have strong family bonds. Although I don't see my family (brothers and sisters, daughters) as often as I would like or even talk to them as often as I might, there is a bond so strong I can think of nothing that could break it.



I went to my writing group yesterday and we wrote about a sibling. I chose my oldest sister, Susan, to write about. In the fifteen minute timed writing I barely scratched the surface of our relationship. The thing I remember most about our childhood is the stories she would tell us at night, always leaving us with a cliff hanger. We would beg her to continue but she never would. Later I would find out that she needed the next day to work out the story for herself. A woman in my group said that while friends come and go family is always there. Susan seems to hang on to friends forever but I have not been so lucky, (though it probably has little to do with luck.) But I have my family.



Maintaining my new family seems to be a little harder. I find myself falling into the same pattern as with my brothers and sisters; not communicating with my kids as often as I would like. Kate is a little different because she lives close to me and we maintain a more frequent exchange of ideas. With Judy and Rachel it is hard not being in their everyday lives. I would love nothing more than if they would move to Chicago but alas, the winters (or maybe it's mom.) The key to raising happy children (and that is all we really want isn't it?) is to love them unconditionally (easier said than done) and remembering that they are not a reflection of ourselves. They are their own persons and what ever they decide to do (as long as it isn't becoming a serial killer) is O.K. As much as I complain about how critical my mother was, she never wrote us off when we took paths not to her liking.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Kefir

I was introduced to kefir by Karen of Holes in My Jeans, a great blog that I follow. I thought it would be fun to grow healthy stuff in my kitchen and drink it. You can check out Karen's blog on Kefir for the many health benefits.

Karen said that she had gotten a teaspoon of kefir grains for 15 dollars. I got two tablespoons for 20 (including shipping.) The woman I got the kefir from lives in Ohio and also raises goats. (Karen raises goats.) She is a little odd in that she only accepts cash (doesn't believe in banks) and sends the stuff before she receives payment. She says that people who want kefir are generally honest people.

Kefir is basically fermented milk similar to yogurt but with more probiotic bacteria. Per Wikipedia kefir "originated with shepherds of the Caucasus region, who discovered that fresh milk carried in leather pouches would occasionally ferment into an effervescent beverage. It is prepared by inoculating cow, goat, or sheep's milk with kefir grains. Traditional kefir was made in skin bags that were hung near a doorway; the bag would be knocked by anyone passing through the doorway to help keep the milk and kefir grains well mixed"

The kefir grains look a bit like cauliflower. As the milk ferments it feeds the grains and they multiply. You reuse the grains over and over and give the extra to friends. If you use the real grains and not the commercial starter kits you never have to buy them again. Ever.

My instructions sounded a little different from Karen's perhaps due to a smaller amount of grains that she had received. She had to wait a few days for her Kefir. I put all of my grains in a glass jar and added 2 cups of milk. I covered the jar with a paper towel and left it at room temperature. By the end of 24 hours I was drinking kefir. The instructions say you go by taste and not by consistency. I strained the kefir milk after 24 hours and then put my kefir grains and more milk to a clean jar and started again. The problem is that the kefir grains multiply and I have yet to find anyone who wants to share in my good health or they would rather just buy the flavored drinks at the health food stores. (Here in Chicago ethnic stores also carry Kefir.) My Kefir is getting thicker and thicker. When I asked my supplier how I make just enough for me and not keep multiplying she said to simply eat the extra grains. I haven't done that yet.

The taste of the Kefir is somewhere between buttermilk and unflavored yogurt. The amount of grains and how long the milk ferments will determine whether the drink is mild or strong in flavor. Since I am not crazy about the taste I put mine in a blender with frozen fruit. I was using maple syrup, honey, or agave to sweeten in but have recently found that by just adding additional fresh or dried fruits such as apples, grapes or figs the drink is really sweet enough. I am getting use to the taste and actually drank 1/2 glass plain today. Not bad.

I like to make the kefir and then put it in the refrigerator for a day. It becomes cold and a little thicker. Great for the smoothies. What have I noticed so far health wise? Maybe its all in my head but I think I'm sleeping better. Or maybe it's the fermentation. I seem to be craving less sweets. I'm hoping it helps me live to be 100. Karen wants 125 but I will settle for 100. Oh and below you can see my before and after pictures. This is after just one week of Kefir.

The one on the left is the before, the one on the right is after. Pretty amazing huh?


Friday, April 23, 2010

Back to Women of Great Taste Sort Of


On Wednesday Kate and Charlie came over for dinner and I made Enchiladas Con Pollo from Women of Great Taste. It is not a new recipe but one of our favorites. A very mild Mexican dish. In the past I remember it taking much longer to put it together. Perhaps because I had bought a rotisserie chicken and cut it up earlier in the day so all I had to do was chop green onions and grate cheese for the filling it didn't seem so labor intensive. The enchiladas are baked in a basic white sauce with canned green chili's added and more cheese on top. Delicious as usual and every one must have been hungry because there were very few leftovers.

A friend recently pointed out that I am obsessed with food. He didn't actually say that. He said that I have a relationship with food and that I always mention food or cooking in my emails. My daughter, Kate, said that my blogs while about cooking and food really are about my relationship with food. I guess it is true.

Sometimes I feel like a throw back to our very distant ancestors; the ones who spent their days foraging for food. Take the day I was cooking for Kate and Charlie for instance. First I had to go to my favorite rotisserie chicken place a little ways up the street. That was after I went to my favorite breakfast place for breakfast. Then I walked the other direction to gather the guacamole and salsa (best guacamole in Chicago) to serve with the enchiladas. I took those home, cut up the chicken and then after a short nap took the bus to the grocery store for the rest of the ingredients and rushed home to cook. A whole day centered around food. And when I am not gathering, cooking or eating it, I'm blogging or talking about it. Maybe I need to try refocusing. I did go to a hypnotist once. I asked him if he could give me the suggestion that I stop thinking about food all the time. He said the problem is that when you try not to think about something that is all you think about. So what's the answer? I have no idea.

There is a side benefit to gathering food, however. Besides the exercises, I get to enjoy the fruits of other people's labor. I think I have mentioned in the past how in Chicago spring seems to last much longer than it did in St. Louis. I was often depressed at how fleeting the beauty was in Missouri. This year though, Chicago has been a bit atypical. We had a very warm snap that caused acceleration in blooming and fading. The tulip trees lasted only about a week and a half. On my walk I found lilacs and even peonies already blooming. But the daffodils are still there and the tulips as well as other flowering trees. It is so nice of people to work hard (or pay others to work hard) for my enjoyment.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ham and Bean Soup

I am not a big fan of ham. I like to eat it at Christmas and Easter but mostly even at the holidays I buy ham so that I can make bean soup. Sometimes I make bean soup with out getting a ham first, using ham hocks or just bacon, but I prefer to make it from a ham bone that has been enjoyed during the holidays.


I remember liking ham more as a child until Grandmother died when we were inundated with hams from thoughtful neighbors and friends. If my memory is correct none of us wanted ham for a very long time after that. I'm not sure if it was because it reminded us of Grandma's death or we were just sick of ham.


When I was living in St. Charles I started buying Honey Baked Hams from the Honey Baked Ham store. We had a store in St. Charles so it was close and convenient. Their claim to fame is their spiral cut and special honey glaze. I always thought they were better than the hams at the grocery store although certainly pricier. Not everyone agreed with me but the crowds at the store around the holidays did. Since living in Chicago it has been a little more difficult to obtain a honey baked ham. The closet store to me is in Morton Grove about 9 mines away and not easily gotten to by public transportation. So I borrowed Kate's car on the Saturday before Easter.

Kate was working on Easter so we planned the Easter meal for Saturday evening. The other great thing about the Honey Baked Ham store is that they have prepared sides that are very tasty. And I was being lazy. There was a line as usual when you wait until the last minute. I waited in line for about 30 minutes but the day was beautiful and the crowd was friendly. I got the ham and 3 sides. I did make deviled eggs and a birthday cake for Kim.


Finally about a week after Easter I made the bean soup. It was cold and dreary outside so it was a good day for it. I still remember the first time I had bean soup. I was probably a teenager though might have been younger. The family was invited to a house of one of Dad's colleagues. . I know I didn't want to go. I hated that kind of thing, expected to mingle and talk at least to the other kids. I remember telling Mom I didn't want to eat the bean soup (I had never even heard of it before.) Mother told me I would eat the bean soup and I did. It was delicious.


For some unknown reason I decided to not make my usual bean soup and looked for a recipe at AllRecipes.com. The first recipe that popped up when I put in ham and bean soup was titled The Best Bean and Ham Soup. Posted in 2008 it had 188 reviews and 41/2 stars out of 5. Most of the reviews I read hadn't changed anything except to add more beans or vegetables. They thought the soup was a little too bothy. So when I made the soup I resisted putting in a second bag of beans but did add more onion, carrot and celery.


The best part of cooking soup and especially bean soup is the aroma. I was in and out of the apartment doing laundry, running up to 7-11 and every time I came back the smell was intoxicating. This recipe said to cook the soup for 8 hours, remove the ham bone and simmer another 2 hours. I had mine on for about 7 hours total.

What I discovered in the end was that although the soup was hearty and delicious it wasn't the bean soup I wanted. I should have gotten a clue from the reviews as a lot of people said "I don't really like bean soup but I liked this". In reality it wasn't bean soup at all. I would consider it more of a vegetable soup (called for vegetable broth and V8 juice as well as chicken stock). The bean flavor was over shadowed by the broths and vegetables. The problem is I really like bean soup. So now I am going to have to find a ham bone and make some real bean soup. I found a recipe for navy bean soup. Water, ham bone, beans and onions. You can't get more basic than that.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Good Things Come in Threes

Today is Rachel's 24Th birthday. Happy birthday Rachel! She doesn't read my blogs but she is a good example that good things come in threes. She is the youngest of my three daughters. Other examples: breakfast, lunch and dinner; the mind, body and soul; morning, evening and night; primary colors; the three little pigs. You get the idea.

Psychologists tell us that we can only comprehend three things at a time. After that we get confused. That is why in desk top publishing a good practice is to use only three elements. On a business card for example, it is recommended that one group the information into three parts . A good business letter has only three paragraphs. English composition taught us introduction, body and conclusion. In writing it is good practice when listing things to list only three. 'The man, woman and dog raced up the hill' works well. 'The man, woman, child and dog raced up the hill' not so well. In photography we live and die by the rule of 3Rd's. (Not really but it is an important composition tool.)

And then there is cooking. Besides three meals a day and three course dinners many cuisines begin with three basic ingredients to flavor their dishes. Cajun chefs call it the holy trinity: Bell peppers, onions and celery. The French mirepiox on the other hand consists of onion, celery and carrots. According to Wikepedia here are some others:

Chinese: scallions, ginger and garlic.
Brazil: dente oil (palm oil), coconut milk and malaqueta pepper.
Cuban: garlic, bell peppers, and Spanish onion.
Filipino: garlic, onion and tomatoes.
Greek: lemon juice, olive oil and oregano.
Indian: garlic, ginger and onion.
Indonesia: fish, coconut and chili peppers.
Italian: tomato, garlic and basil.
Japanese: dashi, mirin, soy sauce.
Lebanese: garlic, lemon juice and olive oil.
Mexican: corn, beans and chillies
Native American: corn, beans and squash.
Spanish: garlic, onions and tomatoes.
Thai: galangal (related to ginger), kaffer lime and lemon grass.

Kind of interesting I think. What is specifically missing in this list is the German cuisine. I looked up German foods but did not find a triad of basic ingredients. I would contend, however that Mother was heavily influenced by the Germans as was I in my early cooking days. I used a lot of onions (still do), green peppers (still do) and tomatoes. What I didn't use was garlic. I'm sure Mom used garlic in her lasagna, but I don't think she used it in her every day cooking. Now I use garlic in almost every thing I cook. One thing my ex and I agreed on is that you can never have too much garlic.

So this is my blog for the week. The weather here in Chicago is beautiful today. Sixty-five degrees. I got canceled from work (a mixed blessing) and so Kate and I are going to get together later to celebrate Rachel's birthday even though Rachel is in New Orleans. I am in my fourth week of dieting which is significant because I usually quit after three weeks. (See how I brought this back around to the theme of three?) Maybe multiples of three will work. Six, 9, 12. I am trying to stick to breakfast lunch and dinner. That fourth element of snacking really messes things up.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

My Life

I didn't want to tell you what this blog is about in my title because I was afraid you wouldn't read it. I have been teasing about blogging about my love for my iPhone and I decided it is time. I can hear the groans out there. I know you are saying "come on, get a life." In a way, my iPhone is my life. (did I really just say that). Let's just say it enhances my life every day.

First, what I don't use my iPhone for: talking. I have AT&T's cheapest package and have more roll over minutes than I will ever use. I wonder if I can donate them to someone in need. I guess with unlimited minutes these days people don't need mine.

So if I don't use my iPhone to talk except to occasionally hear the voice of my siblings and daughters what do I use it for? Well, there is texting. Charlotte and I text back and forth to figure out what we are going to do on our outings. Often times I find I get a quicker response from my kids when I text them than if I leave them a voice mail. It's nice to know I can (and I don't do it often enough) text Judy or Rachel or Kate to tell them I'm thinking about them and know they see it immediately.

In a previous blog I talked about the GPS on my phone. That comes in very handy when I'm downtown and can't figure out which way is east, or if I am trying to get some place new and I want to figure out the easiest way to do it. My phone tells me which train or bus to take. And speaking of the bus, the CTA has a program call the Bus Tracker (kind of catchy name don't you think) that I can plug into and it tells me how long before the next bus comes.

I can click on the weather app and find out what the temperature is in Chicago, or Bentonville, or Tulsa or New Orleans, or Springfield, or Lexington or Eugene or Harwich or Salt Lake City or Kansas City, just to see how everyone is doing weather wise.

I have a clock app that has the world clock on it so I can find out what time it is anywhere in the world. I don't use that so much. But it also has a timer which I use every Sunday night to time our writings in my writing group. It also has a stop watch so I can see how long it takes me to walk to one place or another. And an alarm that comes in handy too. There is a calendar that tells me what day it is and I can set reminders for appointments.

I use iTunes to down load pod casts on cooking and photography. Since I have given up my car I don't listen to NPR so much but now I have an app called NPR addict and I am back in the know. Bill turned me on to Pandora which I downloaded to my phone and if I want to listen to music I have lots to choose from. I sometimes use the Spa Radio for my relaxation classes at work. Right now I'm listing to Romantic Piano Solos.

I down loaded a free dictionary app that comes in really handy because I can't spell. Most of the time I rely on spell check but when I'm commenting on other people's blogs I have to occasionally look up a word. And I can look up meanings and it even comes with a thesaurus.

There is a calculator of coarse. There is a program I've been using for the past 2 week is called Lose It. It calculates calories plus fats and fiber and even exercise. I have never been able to get myself to write down what I eat but I watched Jane while we were on vacation and she inspired me. Two weeks of actually tracking calories is a first for me. Very interesting to see how much I actually eat in a days time. A real eye opener and I can compare one week to another.

I've down loaded Fandango so I can get movie times at a moment's notice. I can check my email. I can surf the web. I can read the blogs that I follow on the bus or train or if I'm sitting by myself enjoying a nice lunch somewhere.

And then today I went out with friends to a garden show. The weather had turned really awful (dropped 30 degrees yesterday and snowing this morning). I thought I was going to go shopping after our little outing and didn't want to take my camera. I was really disappointed that I didn't have it when I got there and then I remembered I had my iPhone. Not the same, but it works pretty well in a pinch. And I can take funny pictures of me, cute pictures of my cat and even spade hands ("what would you bid with this?").