Sunday, December 08, 2013


I've been in the process, the past few months, of simplifying my life. Or at least as much as possible. When you live in a small house and own lots of belongings, they have a way of beginning to wear on you. After all, there's not a lot of space to store (i.e. hide) items, so it ends up in piles here and there, which ends up driving me a little crazy.

I took advantage of the snow days to go through my yarn stash, sorting and reminding myself of what I have. I've actually avoided buying yarn (or fabric!) for the past year, attempting to make things from what I already own in an attempt to pare down some of my craft collection (don't get me started on my paper/bookmaking stuff...I really, really need to love fewer hobbies).  While I didn't get rid of anything, I did reduce the space it took up and felt motivated to finish up a few oddball projects lurking around.

Then, as kitten has developed a taste for technical fabrics (she has chewed on running short strings, sports bra straps, and ruined a pair of my running socks), I rearranged some of my clothes to put all of my workout gear in a closed box. In this process, I decided to weed out items I don't wear or no longer fit (this game, while fun, is growing a tiny bit old--several pairs of capris were deemed too large to wear because I can pull them off without unbuttoning them, which is my general rule for getting rid of something), adding to the already large pile of clothes I'm giving away either to friends who need them or charity.

You see, I have a thing for buying clothes: I love clothes, and when I feel good about my body, I love putting clothes on it.  Lately, however, I've been trying to think in terms of simplifying my wardrobe, investing only in quality pieces and not in the cheap crap that falls apart after a season of wear. It's hard because TRENDS, but I think it's somewhat forcing me to reconsider how I view my wardrobe.  I want to own clothes that I love, that make me feel good, and that also are well-made and will wear well for a long time.

Which leads me to my other point: repair. Since I have sewing skillzzzz, I already am in the habit of repairing clothes.  However, shoes are another matter. There's a cobbler about a 15 minute walk from my house, so in one of my cleaning/purging moods a few weeks back, I rounded up several pairs of shoes I love (but needed repaired) and took them to him.  For the low price of less than $20, he repaired three pairs of shoes: putting a new heel on my black pair of boots, reattaching heels to a nice pair of Mary Janes that are comfortable to walk in but teaching-appropriate, and repairing the soles/lining of a cute pair of wedges that are super comfy AND stylish.

And as I was picking these up, I noticed some beautiful Hobo wallets, and asked if they repaired those, and they do--so I left my tired/worn Hobo wallet to get refinished, restoring it back to its former glory and further protecting the leather to extend its use-value. I had been thinking of getting a new wallet, but I love the Hobo I already own and didn't want to buy a brand new one (I bought this one used on ebay for cheap), so I'm excited that I can repair mine instead for a reasonable price.

It can be difficult to get out of the mindset of owning more and more stuff, and I don't think I'm to the point yet where I carefully choose what new items enter my house and work to live with less and more simply. But I'm trying, and I think I'm making some progress. I am beginning to understand the freedom, however, that comes with a simpler life.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

post-fall challenge

Maybe it's because L is out of town. Maybe it's because I'm loving the strength I've gained and the feeling of healthfulness. Either way, it seems even though the barre3 fall challenge is officially over, I've been sticking with it, eating really well and exercising regularly, which is especially good since I run a half-marathon in over a week!

With my building core strength, I've realized that I'm poised to become a different kind of runner, one who is balanced and strong, perhaps one who can run a bit faster than I have before.  I understand better the ways my core drives the motion of my limbs, and that connection is something I can return to as I grow tired during a run to maintain my form and continue moving efficiently.

I'm looking forward to seeing how my racing performance has changed--and continuing to incorporate the healthy habits and exercise into my day as I pursue my degree and work with my students.

Psst! I got a shout out on the official barre3 blog! Neat!

Sunday, November 10, 2013

The last day!

It is the end of the barre3 fall challenge, and I want to keep it going because it's been so transformative for me, in ways unexpected and amazing.  I mean, I didn't have a hard time adapting to the gluten-free recipes because, well, that's how I eat anyway, but the striving to incorporate a bit more strength training in made a huge difference.

Things that have changed:

  • I lost a pants size. What!
  • I have abs. Really, seriously. Like, I can see ab muscles. Also crazy-awesome arm muscles.
  • All-or-nothing is dumb. If I can't get a workout in, then don't stress--but try.  I realized the mornings that I started off with a short workout, I had a bit more energy and felt more focused, so it's something I want to keep up with.
  • Feeling stronger overall is awesome.
  • As is running more efficiently.
  • I feel more connected with my physical self, understanding better how muscles connect and work together.  Which means when I run, I'm conscious of how my core drives my arms and legs, and how I need to keep my form active to run well.
This is all pretty fabulous.  So, while I didn't go "all in" with eating and avoiding caffeine and alcohol, I still gained a lot from this experience.  And I can't wait to continue strengthening and improving and having fun, bringing what I learned in the challenge into my everyday life. :)

Saturday, October 26, 2013

pick yourself back up

A dearth of posting this week meant that I was overwhelmed. Oh-so-overwhelmed.  Despite having two days off for fall break at the beginning of the week, I found myself unable to fully catch up on my student's work and my own work.

It wasn't like I slacked off either--I was plenty busy working on this stuff, including starting my dissertation research--yet, a giant pile.  It made me a bit cranky on Wednesday, though by the end of the week I'd made some headway.

It also meant that while I was still getting my fall challenge workouts in (mostly), I stopped eating as healthfully and mindfully as I was trying to last week.  I didn't go gobble down a bunch of sweets or even anything that unhealthy, but I did eat out of boredom, frustration, and unhappiness.

The beauty of this whole fall challenge thing is that the barre3 philosophy isn't to be super restrictive or go overkill--you are supposed to make it your own, and not worry if you don't quite meet your own goals.  So, happily, I'm getting back to it and not beating myself up about it.  I'm also going to point out that my normal pattern would have been to just give up, then go out and get a pint of ice cream or a bunch of candy and eat it all, but I didn't do that--so, progress!

I have to say, I love feeling not stressed out about all this. Sure, it's hard to make sure to fit exercise in and cook meals that are healthy and tasty (all while trying to keep the house respectable and keep up with my own academic/scholarly work), but I'm starting to see a glimmer of balance in all this craziness.  I love it.  Onward and upward!

Friday, October 18, 2013

the missing butter

"Where's that stick of butter?" L asked me one morning as he prepared to cook breakfast.

I looked up from my reading, puzzled. "What butter?" "I had a partial stick right here, and now it's gone."  We hunted around, yet, no butter.  I queried the cats, but they revealed nothing.  We figured, however, if they'd stolen the butter (and they would if they could, greedy little monsters), that there would have been butter EVERYWHERE.  This was the good, organic butter, so we were certainly not willing to just give up.

We looked around a bit more, and with no sign of the butter, we were left scratching our heads and slightly sad that the pricey butter had vanished so thoroughly with no sign.  I thought about it, thought about a poem, and then dropped the subject.

Fast forward a few days later.  I'm working from home, L has left from a camping trip. During my work breaks, I'm cleaning as I tend to do when he goes out of town. After I finish work, I begin taking out the recycling piled high in the kitchen; I pick up a box to break it down, and LO! the butter has reemerged!

It appears only slightly scarred by the maw of whichever little furry beast knocked it off the cutting board in the first place. It must have fallen in where they could not reach, and thus it remained until I discovered it as I tried to recover from my household neglecting ways.

Otherwise, things were good. Day 5 of the challenge grows a bit easier, and I'm getting into the swing of things.  And I gave the new 40 minute interval strength workout online a go, and liked it! Downside: I ate way too many barre3 bars. Next week: snacks will be veggie based.

day 5
Breakfast: GF banana pancakes with yogurt and a plum
Lunch: leftover beet, chickpea, and arugula bowl
Snacks: apple, barre3 bars, dates
Dinner: Spicy Moroccan Stew (YUM)
Workout: 40 minute barre3 interval strength

Thursday, October 17, 2013

day 4. what's that??

mmm, tea
I ate the granola I made last week again, and again I noticed that my stomach hurt. Too many occurrences for it not to be coincidental--yep, I'm reacting to whatever gluten contamination is in my oats. Drat!  No fair.  However, I will obtain GF certified oats, and make more granola--this time PUMPKIN. Watch for it.

But, when I finally woke up enough this morning and felt a bit better, I decided to do a barre3 video for 30 minutes, which was pretty nice--L even came out and did part of it with me (since I disrupted his sleep and all).  Anyway, after finishing my shower, I poked my abs a bit, and I saw it: my oblique muscles, showing through. Whaaaat?  Never in my life have I had definition in my abs, and there was a bit of something starting. Amazing!

The other thing that popped into my head, however, when I was looking in the mirror was that I was happy with my body. Since I've often bashed myself in my own head and generally wished I was different (oh, my pear shape! my long arms and legs that fail to fit clothes properly!), this is a pleasant change.  In fact, I have to say that I have very rarely thought negatively about my body in the past couple of months, mostly since I started doing more yoga and began barre3. A regular yoga practice in addition to regular strength training has made me feel strong and confident and proud of my body and what it can do.  Sure, I don't have a totally flat stomach (and probably won't ever, or at least not anytime soon), but I like how my body looks and how even when it's changing, it's still me. And better than those ab muscles: being able to hold boat pose LIKE A BOSS.

Tonight, I'm ending my day with a bit of turmeric tea.  Turmeric has been attributed with a bunch of potential health benefits (some seem a bit overstated, but some seem reasonable), one of which is calming inflammation. With all this work I'm asking my body to do, I figured I'd best take care of it, and if drinking a delightful turmeric tea helps my muscles repair themselves and calms my digestive tract, then I'll give it a go.  Plus, it's pretty delicious.  

stir up the honey, add some hot water, squeeze in the lemon.
I made this batch according to Heidi's recipe (from 101 Cookbooks), but I think the next time, I'll add a bit of ginger, or maybe start grating some fresh ginger into the brew--ginger also has anti-inflammatory properties, and it happens to pair nicely with the flavors of turmeric, honey, and lemon.

day 3
Breakfast: yogurt and the cursed granola, then leftover veggies and an egg
Lunch: spring rolls with veggies and tempeh and delicious spicy almond sauce, raw banana oat bars
Dinner: A riff on this barre3 recipe, except instead of spinach, I used arugula, and I threw it all over a bed of lettuce and put a bit of sriracha on it.
Snacks: an apple, celery with sunflower butter, barre3 bar, dates + sunflower butter (still a little snack heavy, but I felt more conscious of my foods today)

exercise: 30 minute barre3 workout, 3 mi run, yoga

PS: I saw that there's a new 40 minute video posted that looks really, really fun, so I'll give it a try tomorrow!

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

day 3: hungry, hungry

I was hungry ALL DAY TODAY.  It probably had something to do with beginning my day with a 5-mile run at 5:30am.  I found myself digging into my lunch  (turkey and kale quinoa over lettuce) at 9:30a when my delightful breakfast of eggs and veggies was no longer cutting it.  Then, hungry again at 1:30, I grabbed a cup of coffee and some nuts from Starbucks, then ate an apple and a small amount of almond butter a bit later, followed by a huge snack when I returned home at 4:30 of anything I could readily shove into my mouth. (rice cakes with hummus, dates, and 1/2 a Barre3 Bar).

This afternoon hunger thing is often a problem with me. I think, perhaps, it's that I don't eat a large enough lunch.  When I don't eat enough for lunch, I get hungry early in the afternoon, then I just eat everything partially because I'm really hungry, and partially because I'm tired and don't eat mindfully.

Since mindfulness was one of my goals, I plan to break the cycle: I'll set out one thing for my snack, wait a bit, and if I'm still hungry, opt for an earlier dinner, perhaps.

Day 2:
Breakfast: eggs with dill, sauteed veggies (squash, onion, kale)
Lunch: leftover quinoa chili with avocado
Snacks: too many donut holes, dates and sunflower butter
Dinner: turkey and kale quinoa
Exercise: 5 mile run, 1-hour vinyasa yoga class

Day 3:
Breakfast: eggs with tomato/basil, sauteed veggies (mustard greens, onion, squash)
Lunch: turkey and kale quinoa and lettuce
Snacks: nuts, apple with almond butter, 1/2 barre3 bar, 2 rice cakes with hummus, dates
Dinner: Watermelon! (since I had a huge snack, I didn't need much dinner)
Exercise: 5 mile run (with my lady running group--always a nice mid-week event!), 60 min barre3 Shape online video (challenging, but fun!)

I was pretty tired when I got home from work and didn't feel much better after just sitting and chilling; however, after the video I felt more energized (though ready for bed!).

These first few days have been a bit rough, and though not totally successful, I feel like I'm hitting the stride of the challenge.  I am coming back to my goals (by talking about all this here, I'm moving outside my comfort zone AND thinking about mindfulness!) and am happy that I'm taking care of my self with rest, delicious watermelon, and good exercise.

Monday, October 14, 2013

day 1

What I ate (mostly): steel cut oats, apple + tea, salad with veggies, quinoa chili
Day 1 of the Barre3 Fall Challenge passed mostly normally: I ate roughly what I already eat (but made with some fancy recipes!), I worked all day long, went to a Barre3 class for my first workout of the challenge, then came home. I'm eating my dinner as I type this, thinking of the other work I need to accomplish before bed.

Random thoughts: I ate some candy because I neglected to bring my snack (not that candy is bad, but I didn't really want the candy nor did I enjoy it, so...yeah). I came home and ate a bunch of snacks because I was so hungry.  So, lesson learned, take your snack with you places.

Also, I made this miso tahini sauce from Smitten Kitchen and dumped some on top of roasted delicata squash, tofu, and broccoli, which I piled on a huge heap of lettuce I forgot to wash and subsequently realized was pretty gritty (Lesson 2: wash your lettuce). I ate it all happily, gladly, hungrily for lunch and skipped my normal coffee, which I didn't really need but wanted because I usually get afternoon coffee.

Also, rain. I like rain, though I didn't like forgetting all of my rain gear and being unable to get myself home. Oops.

The first day of challenges are ordinarily full of magic and excitement and delight, but maybe I wore myself out with all the weekend's cooking and the hype leading up to it.  Ah, well.  There's a whole month to be excited.

I will say, however, that prepping the food is super NICE--no cooking to satisfy the hungers!  The steel cut oats I ate were cooked and frozen, so I popped 2 "oat bricks" into a saucepan this morning to heat up and feed L and I. And the quinoa chili was heated up on the stove easily and efficiently, and my lunch was pre-assembled the night before. Easy!

Now that my dinner's gone, it's time to get back to work...

Sunday, October 13, 2013

the preparation

Kitten doesn't prepare to do anything except sleep and murder

Preparation is key to success--and with this challenge, preparation will make success easy.  The big thing is preparing all of the recipes (or most), so that all I have to do next week is heat dishes up and perhaps add something to it.  I took a look at the Barre3 Fall Challenge Menu last week, and over the course of the week, I procured groceries, cooked beans, and planned.
The week's menu (my printer was out)
Yesterday, I made my snacks: hummus, chocolate "donut" holes, and the Barre3 bars (like a larabar); today, I made the main dishes.  As I was making recipes, however, I realized that there is WAY more food than one girl and her husband can eat in a week. So, I cut out one soup and didn't make a few dishes later in the week in case there were too many leftovers; we might even get to invite someone over for food one night.  All this is good because there might even be stuff for next week, so I don't have to cook as much!

The preparation was heavy, but I think it'll save on time overall, and make it so that I don't eat random stuff because I'm tired and starving after a long day, and L will be happy too because there are delicious things to eat after a day of work (and for lunch!).

The recipes so far are great--full of flavor, satisfying, and chock full of veggies.  Delightful.

Here's to the next 28 days of to get  back to writing and teaching (without having to worry about cooking next week).

Friday, October 11, 2013

setting my intentions

At the beginning of yoga class, the instructor asks us to take a deep breath and set an intention. All throughout the hour, we are to return to this intention, to hold it in our minds as we move through the poses.  Initially, I sort of shrugged and thought of something (or nothing), but when I realized that setting this intention really did affect my mental state as I moved my body (and focused me), I realized how valuable setting an intention is. Usually I think of a word: joy, truth, trust, play, exploration, etc, and these words help me to focus on some element of my yoga practice.

With this in mind, I've been thinking about my intentions and my goals for the Barre3 Fall Challenge. Having an intention (or goals) to return to throughout the 28 days will structure my approach to the challenge, help carry me through the difficult spots, and keep me focused on building toward something.

The easy intention would be something purely physical: I'd like to be more toned, thinner, etc.  However, that intention is too simplistic, and would not enable me to get the most out of the challenge. Also, it's boring, and it's increasingly something I don't care about (I'm a healthy weight, and I'm strong--who cares if I'm not as thin as that person over there?). So while I might find myself physically different after these four weeks, it'll be a side-effect, not a primary goal.

Instead, I have two intentions, one relating to my body and one relating to the food I put into my body.  My first intention, thus, is challenge myself to move outside my comfort zone.  I don't want to just do the same things over and over again because growth and change don't happen there. So, I'll be trying different workouts and talking about them here--exploring my own weaknesses a bit more publicly will definitely be a challenge, as will committing to regular workouts that are often frustrating because of my lack of flexibility or strength.

My second intention is to eat mindfully. I'm really bad, sometimes, about eating not because I'm hungry but because I'm bored, scared, unhappy, stressed, etc.  So while I eat pretty well, I sometimes eat too much and not for the right reasons.  My goal is to eat food that is delicious, nourishes my body, and for me to take the time to enjoy and experience the food I'll be making. Some of that will mean sharing a meal with someone else (not eating alone), and eating food that is exciting and enjoyable and satisfying, not just a means to relieve boredom or stress.

These intentions are pretty broad, but I think they'll help me keep the focus on the more emotional/mental side of health and wellness. I'm looking forward to discussing this challenge and participating with a great group of people.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

A Fall Challenge! + granola

I love a good challenge.  So when Megan announced that the Fayetteville Barre3 would be hosting a Barre3 Fall Challenge, I signed up right away. After all, what's more fun than finding a way to incorporate more delicious food and fun exercise into my day?
I love granola with some plain yogurt for breakfast or a snack.

I also promised her that I would post a bit about my experience with this challenge, as well as sharing some recipes and cooking tips.  I'll be posting more about my preparations for the food I'll be eating, but suffice it to say that I'm really excited about the menus that the challenge uses.  They are all gluten free (which rocks, since I have this whole gluten intolerance thing), and they incorporate lots of delicious veggies and seasonal recipes.  In fact, the Barre3 nutritional approach is pretty awesome--it's not about restricting or counting calories or labeling foods good/bad, but about working to incorporate healthier choices and eating food that is flavorful and delightful.

With that in mind, I looked at the meal plan for next week and the associated recipes.  When I saw this peanut butter granola recipe on one of my favorite websites, Food in Jars, I knew I wanted to make it, but bring it more in line with a lower-sugar nutritional profile, since lately I've found anything sweeter than fruit to be almost unbearable (including a banana).

So, using the Favorite Granola Recipe from the Barre3 site and the Food in Jars' recipe, I created my own take that is delicious, not too sweet, but should be satisfying with the amount of nuts and other nutritionally dense elements, which'll keep you from feeling hungry one hour later.  I'm already thinking of trying a pumpkin version for the next batch.

Jenn's Almond Butter and Banana Granola
Serves 8 (~1/2 c servings)

Note: I forgot that dried fruit should be stirred in AFTER baking to prevent it from being too hard to chew.  However, if you forget to read all the directions, you'll be all right.  If you'd rather have it a bit sweeter, up the honey a bit--for me, it has a lot of good flavor without being very sweet, and the dried fruit adds enough for me.

  • 1/3 c. almond butter
  • 1 Tbsp. coconut oil
  • 1-2 Tbsp honey (the end product isn't very sweet with just 1, but I like it).
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 4 c. rolled oats
  • 1/2 c. shredded coconut or coconut flakes, unsweetened
  • 1/4 c. sesame seeds
  • 1/2 c. pepitas/pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 c. sunflower seeds (or really, any nuts you have on hand)
  • 1/2 c. raisins
  • 1/2 c. dried cranberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a saucepan, heat the almond butter, coconut oil, and honey until melted and liquid.  Add mashed bananas, stir.  Toss in the cinnamon and pinch of salt.

In a large bowl, mix oats, coconut, sesame seeds, pepitas, and sunflower seeds.  Pour the liquid over the oat mixture and stir.  Spread on a cookie sheet.

Bake for about 30 minutes, stirring regularly, until it begins to brown (watch carefully or it will burn). Cool.  Stir in dried fruit and place in an airtight container and NOMNOMNOM.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

passing along the wisdom

I'm a pretty good cook. I mean, I can bake like a crazy person, and the food I make is consistently delicious.  However, I seem to fail at what might be one of the easiest desserts ever: rice pudding.
What's so hard about rice pudding? I have no idea. Essentially, I follow a recipe, but I end up with some not-awful-tasting-yet-not-creamy rice pudding stuff that just isn't appetizing. DAMN IT.

I'm not certain how many failed attempts at rice pudding occurred, but then I made rice pudding for L's mom...and it was another tasty-yet-crunchy rice dish. DAMN IT. She kindly gave me a recipe, however, that she said would solve all my woes.

So I made it. And it turned out deliciously, as she promised it would. It was easy and involved dumping things into a dish and baking until set. Success!

The secret it turns out is beginning with cooked rice. I made sure that rice was COOKED, like maybe a little overcooked, before proceeding. Then, creamy rice pudding appeared!

Anyway, all this got me thinking about the unlegitimated forms of knowledge that are frequently shared among women, either informally through conversation or, increasingly, via blog posts. Women are among the primary writers and readers of blogs, with the burst of mommy-blogs, cooking blogs, and other domesticity-related venues.  This knowledge goes unrecognized and is often dismissed, yet it demonstrates an interesting way that women continue to pass knowledge on to one another, and the gendered nature of communication and knowledge.  Suddenly recipe sharing and parenting advice can be elevated to something "more" when viewed through a different lens--these are powerful avenues of communication.

I often think that what is missing in our current approaches to parenting and the nuclear family is providing for networks of women (and men, I hope) to pass along experience, wisdom, and knowledge when it comes to more domestic matters, such as housekeeping and childraising. (I say men because men are increasingly stakeholders in domestic tasks, as I believe they ought to be).  When a family is reduced to just the parents and the kid, it moves parenting from a community-based, supported activity to one that is the sole--and often overwhelming--responsibility of one or two individuals.  It's part of what terrifies me about having children is the sense that I may not have a support network to help me navigate the exhausting and murky waters of pregnancy, childbirth, nursing, and raising a kid.

We need each other to make it all work, even if it's just getting a better recipe for rice pudding.

"It Finally Worked!" Rice Pudding

  • 2 cups fully cooked rice (white or brown--I used brown Jasmine)
  • 1/3 cup sugar (or less--I think I would have been happy with 1/4 cup. For this recipe, I used a mixture of white and brown sugar)
  • 2 cups milk (I used a can of coconut milk)
  • 2 eggs, whisked
  • 1/2 c. raisins, currants, or dried cranberries
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract (I used vanilla and almond extract)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • spices: I added cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, ginger, and cloves to taste (really, cinnamon is the only thing needed
  • other add ins, such as fruit (I baked it with some frozen peaches that needed used, or if you prefer simplicity, no fruit at all)
As you can see from all my addendums, rice pudding can be a blank slate for whatever you have around: all you really need is rice, milk, sugar, and eggs to make it work, though I feel that raisins or currants are a necessity. I might make a pumpkin version, which I'll share with you all when that happens. :)

Preheat oven to 350.

Take your cooked rice and mix it with the other ingredients in a 1.5 quart dish.  Place dish inside a larger pan with an inch or two of water.  Bake until the custard is set (i.e., the filling is solid).  Cool slightly, then enjoy the fact that you succeeded with a rice pudding.

Monday, August 05, 2013

birthday magic

Today is my 31st birthday. The day itself promises to be a little subdued, but only because we had a wild adventure over the weekend.  To wit:

  • sketchy-ass "winery" near Carthage that we said "no" to and drove away;
  • Osceola Cheese Factory, where I ate a LOT of cheese;
  • drinking champagne out of plastic cups while crammed in the backseat of a car;
  • crocheting a bottle holder while drinking champagne out of plastic cups;
  • using the empty bottle to test out the bottle holder (it works!);
  • stopping by Red Fox Winery on the way from cheese to KC;
  • asking the guy guiding our wine tasting to open a bottle of wine for the rest of the drive to KC;
  • meandering around KC, drinking coffee and visiting fancy grocery stores in the P&L district;
  • located new ciders for me to drink;
  • drinking free champagne in the lobby of the hotel after some drama getting in;
  • more wandering around, but with gelato!
  • going to eat at the fabulous Extra Virgin, which was incredible
  • going to the arcade at the Alamo Drafthouse, where I got my ass handed to me by all the retro games (all the iterations of PacMan, Paperboy, and this strange game where I was serving Budweiser to patrons.)
  • Some sleep!
  • Brunch at Succotash, which was incredible and amazing and had gluten-free pancakes
  • A bit of shopping at the Trader Joe's and World Market before we hit the road;
  • Locating some new GF things at Trader Joe's;
  • ...and, drinking wine/cider while crammed in the backseat of the car as I crocheted a new project on the way home
  • Stop at the White Oak station in Rogers (we had mentioned it on the way up)
(Lest you think we were being irresponsible, let me assure you that our driver was totally sober, and Missouri has no open container laws, so we were totally legal.)

I can't believe how much we did in two days, and it was a blast. Not only did my friends plan this incredible outing and shower me with love and affection, but I can't think of a better to celebrate my birthday than cramming five adults over 30 into a car and acting like we were barely 21.  I think it ranks in the top 5 birthdays, for sure, perhaps even one of the best in recent memory.

However, with all that fun, and because I'm 31 now, I have basically been recovering today, which means the actual day of my birthday will be much more low-key. And I'm okay with that. Balance!

Thank you, friends, for the marvelous birthday.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

stray observations (a post in bullets)

  • I have traveled a lot over the summer. And by a lot, I mean in the past two months, I have been to too many states to count (okay: Kentucky, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia--14 states, 15 if you count Arkansas. Some of which were just journeying through, others were the end goal of the travel).
  • When I went to Savannah, I saw so much cool art because of SCAD that I begun to feel inspired to work on creative stuff, including drawing, crafts, and photography.
  • Family is pretty great. Seeing family that I haven't seen in a while is even greater.
  • I am starting to see the value of regularly practicing yoga.
  • I got my IRB accepted and have begun work on a project I've been needing to do for some time now.
  • Kombucha is pretty delicious and seems to actually work on making my body happier!
  • Dark chocolate caramels with sea salt from Central Market, mmmmmm...
  • Pool time is awesome
  • Reading a lot of feminist science texts makes me a bit irritable with the MAN. Or the system that we (especially academics) operate within.
  • School is less than one month away *gulp*
  • I'm looking forward to a little bit of relaxation time (although I'm not sure when that will be...)
  • PROSPECTUS, in the works. I will begin writing and researching! :)

Monday, July 22, 2013

The better angels?

As I glanced through the NY Times headlines this morning, the title "Why Men Need Women" by Adam Grant popped up. Interesting, I thought, clicking through. What I would read there would so horrify me that it drove me to post about it here.

Grant begins somewhat innocuously: basically, research demonstrates that men surrounded by women are more kind and generous. There are several social explanations for this, and a social/cultural explanation seems to be one that needs exploring: the ways that we praise girls and women for cooperation and collaboration yet demean men as weak when they show the same qualities; the role of gender expectations, the fact that women could simply remind men to be a bit better because of all the cultural associations, not necessarily because of women's own inherent goodness and men's inherent depravity.

Grant's mistake, however, is reading these results not with an eye toward what they say about gender and the force of social expectations that govern male and female behavior, but instead as a perpetration of the Victorian myth of the "angel at the hearth." This idea that women gentled men, were the better angels, functioned to civilize and domesticate men, should have been tossed out as just another way of controlled female behavior and prevent women from moving outside the spheres of domesticity and Victorian femininity. Yet, here it remains under a new guise.

The first sign of trouble emerged when Grant argues
Daughters apparently soften fathers and evoke more caretaking tendencies. The speculation is that as we brush our daughters’ hair and take them to dance classes, we become gentler, more empathetic and more other-oriented.
Um, what? So, raising a son makes men less empathetic and other-oriented? There seems to be an logical gap here.  Is it the act of raising a daughter or the desire to demonstrate appropriate female behavior for one's daughter that leads to men to be "gentler, more empathetic, and more other-oriented"? My brow furrowed further as I continued reading:
SOCIAL scientists believe that the empathetic, nurturing behaviors of sisters rub off on their brothers.
Again, I felt a little bubble of frustration rise up.  Grant assumes that women are naturally nurturing and empathetic, not that our society pushes women to be as part of the package given to us called "gender expectations".  (Cordelia Fine examines these assumptions in her excellent book Delusions of Gender, where she shoots holes in the studies claiming to scientifically demonstrate that women are more empathetic--it turns out that women act more empathetic when they think that's what the researcher wants. In other words, they tailor their behavior to the context when they are made to believe that gendered behavior is being examined). Gender expectations are powerful concepts, which we're rarely even conscious of; they shape our behavior subtly and powerfully.  While it makes sense that men who grow up more around women might alter their behavior to match those around them, it's dangerous to phrase it in terms of essential human nature. After all, if men can change their "basic nature," then surely women's actions are also malleable? This would seem to thus imply that male and female behavior are both highly context-driven--our behavior is directly affected by our social and cultural context, not our essential natures.

And finally, Grant places all women up on a pedestal as kind, generous, lovely ladies instead of socialized human beings (after all, bitchy, ambitious women are punished while ambitious men are rewarded--women avoid ambition or even sounding like they care about ambition).  He claims
We recognize the direct advantages that women as leaders bring to the table, which often include diverse perspectives, collaborative styles, dedication to mentoring and keen understanding of female employees and customers. But we’ve largely overlooked the beneficial effects that women have on the men around them. Is it possible that when women join top management teams, they encourage male colleagues to treat employees more generously and to share knowledge more freely? Increases in motivation, cooperation, and innovation in companies may be fueled not only by the direct actions of female leaders, but also by their influence on male leaders.
 This is the icing on the cake: women have moved from being the domestic angel to the work angels, reminding men not to be absolute dicks (woe unto the women who refuse to engage in this gender-appropriate behavior and dare to strive for goals and be ambitious like men). Victorian era redux.

To be fair, Grant thinks he is showing how women have an advantage. But what he fails to see is that by not contextualizing these findings within ideas of gender expectations, social and cultural influences, and how we construct women as the idealized human, he is simply perpetrating the myth that women are forces of good while men are damaging, ambitious brutes.

Instead, what I would have like to see is an argument taking these results and questioning how we can make it more acceptable for men to be generous and empathetic. Perhaps the presence of women gives me a way out of conforming to the male stereotypes of aggression and ambition--so how can we then enable men to be these things without that presence? Additionally, how can we move past the expectation that women should be--perhaps even must be--gentle, collaboration, and empathetic to enable them to succeed more fully? I want our society to be more generous and work together more often, but not at the price of essentializing women in a way that blocks them from advancement and success.

Monday, July 15, 2013

efff you, facebook

Don't get me wrong, I think Facebook can be dead useful for all kinds of things, like posting pictures of my cat, stalking friends I don't see, looking at pictures of babies, and organizing events.  Lately, however, I realize how much time I spend staring at FB instead of say, writing on this blog. Or talking to the friends whose posts I stalk. Or doing anything else besides staring at a damn computer screen.

But the straw that broke the camel's back was the onslaught of ridiculousness following the George Zimmerman verdict. I'd been staring at FB posts with unease for some time. After all, I'm friends with lots of people with varied opinions about the world (which is great), but sometimes those opinions are ill-informed, poorly argued, or simply posted out of fear and hatred. The recent posts amplified all that, and the aggregate was simply more than I could bear.

With disgust, I shut down the FB window and informed L of my intention to ignore FB for the next two weeks. I'll pop briefly every so often to make sure no one messaged me or posted to my wall, but for the most part, I won't post anything, I won't interact with folks there, and I won't read posts.

My point here is not to elicit any come back to facebook!! replies but to work out why I feel so down on FB lately. It may be that I need to dump people off my list, or perhaps I'm realizing that the often unhealthy constant checking of FB is not conducive to the more positive mental well-being I'm trying to cultivate.  Perhaps I'm seeing how much time I waste passively consuming information rather than directly communicating with friends or even actively writing on this blog.

It's an experiment I hope to document: how has my life improved without FB stealing my minutes. Or without the annoyance of wanting to scream at people I normally love interacting with. Or being bombarded by constant reminders about how horrible the world can be.

Whatever the reason driving me away, I depart with a stamp of my foot, a finger raised aggressively in the general direction of the world.  So long FB. You kinda suck right now.

Monday, July 01, 2013

the promises of the yoga mat

I eye my yoga mat, rolled out and waiting for me to step on it. Yet, I hesitate. So many talk about yoga as powerful, as a practice that transcends and moves outside simple physical fitness, but I'm not sure. There's something to yoga, I think, but I seem unable to access it.  Instead of walking onto the mat, I roll it up and clean the house. Tomorrow, perhaps, I'll give it a try.

As I traveled all over this past month, I've been reading books from the massive TO READ pile. (Now that my qualifying exams are done, I can justify reading something NOT for my doctorate. For a month, anyway).  I borrowed May I Be Happy by Cyndi Lee from my friend K (and yoga teacher/inspiration), and I had borrowed Poser by Claire Dederer from another friend who began yoga feeling skeptical but fell in love.  As I read both of these books, I began digging into why I was resistant to the idea of yoga, why I shied away from it when everything I encountered would indicate that it would be something worthwhile to practice.

Lately, I've been feeling like I need to work on other parts of my health, examining my emotional/mental well-being as well as my physical body. I have finally been running regularly and incorporating a bit more strength training in, but something felt a bit off. My reading of these two books about yoga might seem coincidental, but they got me thinking about what I might be missing.

As I worked through May I Be Happy, I realized that I'm a little afraid of opening myself up to yoga. I'm afraid my body isn't good enough and that yoga will expose it as weak and unworthy. That because I'm inflexible in certain parts of my body that yoga will always be a struggle, and I'd never be able to feel anything but frustration and discomfort. But something Lee says resonated with me: Yoga is what you do with the body you have today. It's something I've heard before, but there's no such thing as having the "right" body, or even the ability to do the "right" pose. It's beyond that--even if I can't make myself look like the twiggy Yoga Journal model, that doesn't mean that the pose is wrong or my body is wrong or that I should feel frustrated.

Viewing yoga as a chance to explore my body, to concentrate not on physical fitness but also awareness shifted my anxiety away. I began to feel a bit more eager, to see what I could discover about myself, to link physical movement to thought and emotion. That sounded pretty cool.

I borrowed the mat from my sister-in-law, since I left mine behind at home. Rolling it out next to the bed in the spare bedroom, I began making my way through the sun salutations and the standing sequence. As my body warmed up, I began to relax and enjoy the poses, linking breath to physical movement. By the time I finished, I felt a measure of calm. Perhaps this yoga stuff is worth pursuing a bit more.  Perhaps I will.

Monday, May 13, 2013

The beginning of the summer

It's basically the first day of summer. Even though graduate students are never supposed to take breaks, I love the feeling of having nothing scheduled, no obligations other than my own work, no one making demands of my time. If I want to take my work to the park with a fabulous friend, I can.

It's amazing the weight that is lifted off my shoulders by finishing the spring semester. I had a good one, by all accounts: incredibly busy, but I got to teach an excellent class, present at a top-notch conference, begin working toward publications, and nearing the end of my preparation for candidacy.  But despite all the good I experienced last semester, it feels great to sleep in, rearrange my schedule as I feel like, and pause to blog a bit.

At the end of this month, I'll begin the first half of my candidacy exams: qualifiers, comps, whatever you want to call them. Basically, I'll be locked in my carrel in the library for 72 hours, typing as much as I can in response to two questions. Until then, I'll be frantically reading. I've been reading about language, composition pedagogy, and rhetoric of science--theory, theory, and more theory. But I love it--there's so much knowledge in my head, and so many ideas of how to use that knowledge.

After I take the exams (and assuming I pass), I'll begin work on my dissertation prospectus, which I intend to defend before the start of the fall semester.  I'm moving right along, and beginning to really feel like a full-blown academic professional, a scholar. I love it.

This summer, though, I'm looking forward to having time to do my own work, explore my newfound drive for reading and writing, and getting publications out.  Without the burden of teaching and with the flexibility that summer enables.

Monday, February 25, 2013

new forms of exercise

10 years ago (this summer), I took up running. At first, it was a few laps, then it was a mile. Then a few miles. Then I ran 5ks, then a 10k, then a half-marathon. Then I was a running crazy person.  Finally, I ran a marathon (a year ago today), and sealed my identity as a runner.  I am a runner.

10 years is a long time, and it wasn't until like, last week that it struck me that I've been running for 10 years. Wow.

In all that time, though, I haven't ever stuck with any other exercise consistently. I dabbled in yoga (still try to), I took swim lessons (have been trying to swim a bit more lately). I ride my bike, but usually just to get me from A to B. Running is the only thing that really stuck, though, and it's what helped me maintain an over-50 lb weight loss for the past 10 years (yep!)  I know that I need to cross-train, to strength-train, to really be at peak fitness, but I've never found anything else like running. Something that really clicked.

Today, I have begun to take up a new form of exercise, and it's one I hope will stick.  I started my Foundations class for CrossFit. When LS took up CrossFit a year ago, I listened with awe, skepticism, and a smidgen of envy.  She was very fit and strong, and I...well, I could barely do push ups.  But listening to how much she loved it stuck with me.

At the beginning of January, I decided to do Jillian Michael's Ripped in 30 DVD.  At first it was hard.  I called her an evil bitch.  Then I started noticing definition not only on my arms, but on my abs, butt, and all other places. What? Better yet, I was stronger and felt stronger.  I was hooked.

Last week, then, I sent an email to LS asking if she'd take me with her to do CrossFit. Yes!!! she said, enthusiastically.  She was excited to share something she loved so much with someone new.

I went to gym, expecting to be surrounded by burly dudes flexing their beefy arms, but that wasn't the case. There were lots of women, all shapes and sizes (some super fit and muscular, some who looked more like me!). The atmosphere was relaxed. It was so much better than the school gym I had just been at earlier that day, where tons of coltish, waifish girls with long pony tails and baggy shirts bounced by, sweat-free after their turn on the elliptical, while I stank and sweated and dripped after my 4 miles on the treadmill. I slunk out, avoiding eye contact, feeling a little out of place.

This gym, it was a different place. No one was made up; everyone was there to work, and work hard. I felt bad because I was doing a baby workout, so I was barely sweating as the others collapsed to the floor, drenched.  Not only that, the workouts were lively and fun. No time to get bored when you're counting and trying to get as many reps out as possible in 8 minutes!

LS and her boyfriend came over for dinner afterwards, and I gushed. I really liked it, and I wanted to keep doing it.

That brings me to today: my first Foundations class. Before they turn you loose to do the regular workouts, because there's lots of complicated moves and form is so key to not getting hurt, they ask everyone to do a 2 week class. Since I'm risk-adverse by nature, this was right up my alley.  I gathered with other new CrossFitters and learned that today, we would be learning one of the most complicated moves in CrossFit: the power clean.  (Not my first day!) It's a move with a bar, where you pop the bar up and snap your wrists underneath...well, just check out the link (not as much squatting in CF).

We did them over and over again, and at first it was weird and awkward and I was too tentative and kept overthinking it all.  When we did our mini-workout at the end (power clean practice and jumping lunges or "nasties"), I started to get the feel for how to use the motion from popping my hips and kind of coming up on my toes to get the bar up, and then to snap my wrists into the final position.  I think I'll let it sink in a bit, and see what happens--it's probably something that takes a while to really fully get, but I think I'm starting to.

I hope it's not a crazy thing to get into. But after the class, I got to talking to one of my fellow newbies, and she was super cool. Everyone I've met seems really nice and encouraging. And I think that I'm going to really enjoy adding it to my running.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

snow crazy

Snow means lots of things in my book.

Today, it meant that I got to watch as the powdery stuff fell from the sky and covered the ground while I met with 12 11 students in a row without a break.  It meant that as I finished meeting with those students (happily and filled with coffee! Bottomless cups at Arsaga's are awesome!!), I got to hear others tell me that the university closed at 2, which meant that I didn't have to work my tutoring shift.

Which meant that I worked my tutoring shift remotely (online appointments) on my new sofa with the cat in my lap instead.

 This is an ideal arrangement, really. The new sofa is soft and comfortable, and both the cat and I are a little obsessed with sitting in it, even if it doesn't quite fit the best in our living room.

Snow also means doing fun things. Like cooking dinner and drinking wine/cocktails and having friends over.  Unfortunately, I no longer live within walking distance (as in, all my friends live in the same apartment complex--Duckpond FOREVER), so we all had to pretend like we were hanging out together, which meant making cocktails and texting each other about what we were eating and drinking.

 I don't know that we'll have school tomorrow, though it doesn't really matter to me--I plan to still go up to campus to meet a few students and do some school work.

All I know is that this Lillet cocktail is delicious, and I am sad that I could not share them with other people (besides L, who was happy to drink it).  But I can share them with you, here. And if you came over, I would mix you a Snow Cocktail and try to convince you to walk with us as snow swirls around our slightly inebriated selves.

Snow Cocktail

  • 4 oz. Lillet (Rose)
  • 4 oz. freshly squeezed grapefruit juice
  • 2 oz. gin
Put all ingredients into a cocktail shaker with ice and shake until well chilled. Pour into two glasses and sip while waiting for the snow to fall so that you can go on a snow walk, as is tradition when it snows at night.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

the allure, the possibilities, and the failure of gluten-free beers

Before I discovered that wheat/gluten made me ill, I drank beer often. It's just the right thing to have when you come home from working and want something refreshing. Or after a long hard run, to have a beer with dinner.

One of the signs that led to my figuring out that wheat/gluten were making me sick is that I would feel terrible if I had beer the night before, so clearly something was in it that was irritating my stomach.  So beer went out with the wheat, and I have been sad ever since.  Cider just isn't the same (although, there are some tasty ones).

So when our friend D (who also has discovered that gluten is a problem) let us know that he had purchased a plethora of gluten-free beers, I was excited, almost giddy. I had recently read this article discussing gluten-free beer possibilities, and I wanted to try them for myself.  We gathered together to try them.  What we discovered, however, is that most beers brewed without barley are not good, at least not in the way that we're used to thinking about good beer. Sad.

1.) Omission Lager
While we didn't get to try the Omission Pale Ale, D assured us it was as good as the lager.  As the first beer we tried, it ended up setting the bar high for the others, and they never attained the same level.  Upon the first sip, my brain said, "!" It was beer, crisp with a nice bite.  D pointed out that it tasted like a good homebrew lager, a decent middle-of-the-road brew.  It was thoroughly inoffensive, nothing remarkable--unless you haven't had a beer in a while. Then it tastes incredible.

As the NPR article I linked above points out, Omission is not 100% gluten-free because they brew with barley, then remove much of the gluten using an enzyme.  For folks like me who aren't super-sensitive, you won't notice the effects of the bit of gluten that remains.  However, if you're very sensitive, I would avoid this one.  It will be one that I would happily purchase and drink.

2.) New Planet Off Grid Pale Ale
Pale ales are good (to me) because they have a nice bitterness to them.  From aroma to finish, however, this beer failed to be a pale ale.  We all took a whiff before sipping and were a little put off by the aroma, which was not beery at all and actually a little unpleasant.  The first sip hit my tongue with the bitter I wanted, but then the sweet flavor of sorghum overwhelmed and lingered in my mouth.  I kept sipping, hoping it would be okay, but especially after drinking the Omission, I didn't want to finish the small portion in my glass.  The comments: "Not right," "not worth it," and my favorite from L: "Its a beer you try to convince yourself is okay and keep drinking because you ordered it." Definitely not a beer I would willing purchase or drink.

3.) New Planet Tread Lightly
After the first New Planet was so horrible, we were nervous to try this one, but it was actually a bit better than the Off Grid Pale Ale.  My initial reaction was that it wasn't too bad. Light and refreshing, it seemed like the kind of beer you'd want to drink after being outside on a hot day.  D was a bit frustrated, however, by the sweet finish (the result of brewing with sorghum).  I noticed that as I drank, the aftertaste/finish worsens.  None of the three of us enjoy the sorghum flavor in beer, which is the flavor that I disliked in the Bard's Foxtail, and Redbridge sorghum/GF beers I've had in the past.  Ultimately, I wouldn't purchase either of these beers, though I might drink the Tread Lightly if it were offered as the only GF option at a party.

4.) Lakefront Brewery New Grist Beer
This beer was a surprise.  Expecting the same cloying, too sweet sorghum flavor to override any of the tasty beer flavors, sipping this one was actually nice.  On the bottle, it claims that it is "a crisp and refreshing session beer made from sorghum and rice extract," but the sorghum wasn't too overwhelming and the flavor was indeed refreshing.  It actually tasted the most like beer!  While it wasn't the deep, bitter, flavorful beer I miss, it was light and had a nice fruity finish.  While a little sweet, it was tasty.  I would drink this beer happily, though as L pointed out, I probably wouldn't order another. This is a beer I could definitely drink again.

5.) Green's Endeavor Dubbel Dark Ale
We had high hopes for this beer. Just look at the color and the head on the pour.  I was excited because all of the GF beers I'd encountered so far were on the lighter end of the spectrum, but my favorite beers are the dark ones: stouts and porters. This one (and the other two Green's I'll review below) is made with millet, buckwheat, rice, sorghum, hops and Belgium yeast, attempting to bring the same Belgium standard to the world of GF beers. We eagerly took up our glasses and...encountered the familiar sweet aroma (not beer!) of sorghum.  D declared that this was not a dubbel, and he hated it. I was okay with it, but I found it too sweet. (You may notice a theme throughout these reviews).  I wouldn't buy this one or drink this again--it was a disappointment.

D is angry and disappointed.
6.) Green's Tripel Blonde Ale
We had been crushed and disappointed by all the beers, so by this point, we weren't expecting much.  When we poured this one out, we noted the nice appearance, and when we lifted the beer to drink, the aroma that greeted us was better than the Endeavor, subtle.  It was definitely sweeter than a normal beer, but it wasn't horrible.  D pointed out that it had a cider flavor, and if you think of it in terms of cider, it definitely isn't too disappointing.  As I kept drinking it, it got better.  The finish was definitely that same sorghum sweet-flavor that doesn't belong in a beer.  I might drink it again, but I'm unlikely to seek it out.

7.) Green's Amber Ale

Wearied by our tasting efforts, we poured the final beer out.  Once again, we noticed how pretty it looked.  I sipped, and was delighted by the delicious bitter.  Yes? Maybe? Then...the sorghum sweet flavor crept in and destroyed it.  As D pointed out, "it's good...if you don't stop drinking."  As we continued to sip, I noticed that it definitely improved, and seemed to be a solid and passable beer.  Out of the three Green's beers we tried, it is probably the winner.  While I might not seek it out over the other beers that I preferred (the Omission and the New Grist), I would drink it again.

Overall, the beer tasting was interesting and educational.  I figured out that part of the problem is that D and I actively drank good, quality beers, and so we have that standard in mind, which simply cannot apply to GF beers.  They are a completely different beast.  So while most of the beers were a little disappointing, perhaps they were only disappointing if you are/were a beer enthusiast.  

We found much to critique about these beers, and I can only hope that as people experiment with recipes and brewing techniques that the beers will improve.  L, D, and I all decided that we wanted to take a stab at making our own to see if we could potentially find a way to attain a drinkable beer that didn't have the overwhelming sorghum taste.  Because sorghum does have a lot of sugars to brew with, it's obvious why it's a popular choice for brewers.  For us, however, the sorghum was the ingredient that left a bad taste in our mouths and a desire for something decidedly more beer-like.  Perhaps we can find a way to make that happen.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

in the land of gluten-free delights

I was eager to head to Little Rock this weekend, mostly to spend time with people we love to hang out with (and to meet a sharebro!), but also partly because I could check out the Dempsey Bakery. Specializing in gluten-free goodies (breads and baked goods of all kinds!), they also serve lunch.  We met up with some of the Dempseys while we were there, and we enjoyed sandwiches and samples of cookies and breads. We even got to take a little tour of the bakery.

It was fun. The sandwich I got (the Caprese) was delicious, and the bread was hearty and had a lovely texture. I've been avoiding most GF breads because a.) I feel uncomfortable eating something on a regular basis that's full of gums and starches and all other things, b.) I've found that tortillas are a good alternative, c.) it turns out that I do better eating fewer processed bread products, and d.) they are expensive.  And, oh yeah...picking up the loaves felt like picking up a stale hunk of stuff.

The Dempsey Bakery bread pretty well approximated a nice grainy wheat bread and had good flavor (disclosure: I haven't had a lot of GF bread, but the few times I've had it out, it's tasted a bit dry).  I brought a loaf home to keep in the freezer in case I get a hankering for some bread with some soup or something.

We tasted several flavors of cookies (lemon, snickerdoodle, chocolate, and chocolate chip) and cakes (chocolate chip pound cake, lemon blueberry, hot milk cake), and a bit of brownie and danish. All fabulous. We bought a chocolate espresso brownie to take home along with some cookies.  Yum.

At the end, though, I came to a realization: even though I delighted in the fact that I was freed from the horrible stomach ache and other reactions that come with eating wheat, I still can't have even gluten-free goodies in large doses. By the time we left the bakery, I'd had enough sweets and breads to leave me both groggy and flying high on sugar. I ended up taking a nap later that afternoon.

I've gotten used to eating relatively few processed carbs (tortillas here and there), and most of my carbohydrates have been from fruit and whole grains, so the starches and flours hit my system hard.  And I didn't enjoy the feeling too much.  As I continue to feel free from the cloud and various wheat reactions, I've been taking a lot of joy in a renewed ability to understand the way my body reacts to different things I eat, and it clearly does not appreciate being hit with all the sugar and starch and refined grains.

When I'm in Little Rock, I'll probably swing by the bakery to pick up a few treats, but I'll probably refrain from eating quite so many samples.  And I'll remember: even if it's gluten-free, it doesn't mean that I can eat more than a nibble.  However, if you're in Little Rock, you should check them out! Their stuff is among the best I've had so far in my gluten-free wanderings.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

GF Cooking/baking Experiments

I've been slowly venturing into the world of gluten free baking. Part of the problem is that I feel uncomfortable swapping wheat flour for the long list of flours/gums/starches that you have to use to replicate flour. And since I've been eating so many fewer sweets since cutting wheat out, I feel that perhaps it's for the best anyway.  (I'm also reluctant to use mixes or buy pre-made versions--if I didn't eat a lot of processed stuff before, why would I start now?)  I've also given away all of my beloved baking books (except for one--it's a handy reference guide).

No real recipes (yet), but a bunch of handy links to recipes for my GF/curious readers.

The recipes I have been seeking out, then, have been simple ones with few ingredients.  The first recipe I stumbled on inadvertently was this one for Tapioca Parmesan Rolls, which was super easy and super delicious. Since I forgot to take a baked picture (because they disappeared so fast, here's the dough:

If you've ever made cream puffs (or pate a choux), it's very similar, and the resulting roll is bready, cheesy, and light. They are a little eggy, but I like them that way. I halved the recipe, because it was hard to give up a full cup of the delicious (but pricey) Parmesan that I get from our co-op.

The next experiment was with a similar dough but slightly different ingredients. It turns out that these Parmesan rolls are actually a variation on a Brazilian cheese bread. Ooh, neat! I found this recipe on the King Arthur Flour site, and L made them the other day. They are a bit more dense (and we baked them in a muffin tin because the dough was a bit too wet, as the blog entry discussing this recipe mentions they might, depending on the type of tapioca flour/starch you use. Here's a picture of the rolls with the lovely dinner we had the other night: (spatchcocked Cornish game hens with cabbage and braised radishes).

Delightful. These were a bit less eggy, but were also delicious (I won't tell you how many I ate, especially after a few glasses of wine). The recipe is a keeper, though I won't make them super often because they do take a lot of cheese, but they're a good roll recipe to have on hand for get togethers or holidays.

I tried to make a GF banana bread, which was acceptable, but I'm not happy with the recipe yet. Part of it might be that I'm not so used to the grainer/grittier taste of gluten-free baked goods, part of it was that I forgot to add in delicious things like nuts and raisins to the bread. I'll share the recipe once I figure it out a bit better.

Finally, today I made these crackers from Oh She Glows--seedy crackers are lovely, and now that I've made them, super easy. The one adjustment I might make to her recipe is to make them a bit thinner--I like them less thick, I guess. But they are fabulous, especially with the hummus I made using Deb's technique that she shared over at Smitten Kitchen--peeling your chickpeas.

That's been about it for my cooking adventures. It's actually been a lot of fun navigating the different ways of eating, trying to recipes and foods, and it's pretty easy to not look back and what I have had to give up (especially now that I feel SO much better).  It was a little sad to be at Little Bread Co. today as L partook of their delightful scones--I will miss all of their wonderful baked treats. But not as much as I love the healthier me.

Thursday, January 03, 2013

a month without wheat

It's been over a bit over month since I've eaten wheat regularly, but it's been almost a month to the day that I first learned that wheat/gluten is what's been making me feel so bad. So what has changed since then?  So, so much.

After the initial shock (and with the support of my awesome friends), life has been good. I find myself not worrying about if what I eat is going to make me sick. I can tell my body is healing from the prolonged irritation that wheat was causing (I'm guessing about a year--that was when I first began having big issues, but there were signs of a sensitivity long before that).

In fact, now that my system isn't irritated, I can have more than one drink without feeling like I was clubbed over the head the next day. I can now eat bacon.  My body feels better, lighter, more satisfied. A lot of the issues I had with overeating? Waaaaay diminished. I notice when my body feels full, and I stop eating. I don't get crazy hungry anymore. And, best of all, very infrequent reflux issues!

With all these positive changes, it's hard to feel depressed about not eating gluten ever again. Yes, I'll miss all those delightful beers (though I may have a sip here and there--GF beer just isn't nearly as good or varied).  I'll miss making cupcakes and cookies and desserts and sharing and eating them.  But, I've been exploring new forms of cooking, which is fun. I've even figured out a decent (and simple!) roll recipe that I'll share soon.

I feel that if this had to happen to anyone, I was the best candidate. When people ask me what I can eat now, I want to laugh a little--I feel like I didn't really have to change too much in how I ate normally. I cut out bread and pastries and baked goods, but I already ate rice and quinoa and other tasty GF grains. I drink cider now instead of beer (or wine/champagne/martinis).  I end up eating tons more vegetables. Eating out is a little tricky, but I end up making better, more satisfying food choices. I cook more. I eat less. I read labels like crazy, then end up not buying the processed thing because I'm forced to determine if there's wheat hidden...then decide that I'm better off without it and its dozens of ingredients.  I feel free, freed from all that has plagued me, even things I didn't know were problems until they weren't.

Weirdly, I've even gotten a little more flexible (maybe because the inflammation in my system is going down?).

All this change in just a month--crazy! I know that my body is still healing, and I've been taking steps to remove other bad stuff from my diet and environment in order to continue to heal and unearth this happy, contented person (who feels good about food!) that I've been seeing in the mirror lately.  It might have been a big shock and a little upsetting, but it's actually been a huge gift.

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

welcome to the new year

I love New Year's Resolutions. I know that everyone thinks you shouldn't really do them, they set you up for failure, blahblahblah...but the allure of being able to say, "this year, I have plans and goals" is pretty empowering. And usually, I don't pick anything too crazy or anything. I just enjoy having the ability to feel like I'm starting afresh, tackling a new challenge, and making my life a little bit more awesome than it already is.

My big goal for this year is to do something about my clothes buying habits. Despite my meager income, I love buying clothes I don't necessarily need. Maybe it's because I didn't get to buy pretty things or wear stylish clothes when I was a teenager, but since I've been out on my own, clothes are something I spend a lot of money on.

However, that's going to change. This year, I'm resolving to buy no new clothes. None at all. I did an inventory of my closet, and I have plenty of skirts, pants, tops, sweaters, and dresses, not to mention underthings and tights and socks. I'm good on running/workout clothes as well. So I can't imagine needing anything new for both casual or professional wear.

The few loopholes I'm allowing myself: I can make new clothes for myself (or refashion existing things in my wardrobe) if the materials I use are already in my possession. (Except for things like zippers...if I need small things to finish out a project, that's okay).  Basically, no new yarn or fabric buying either.

The other little loophole I'm allowing myself (to make this goal not unfeasible or impossible) involves thrift shops. If, once a month (or every other month), I start to get an itch to shop, I'll go to a thrift store with $10. And spend no more than that sum. Ideally, I'll take a friend and it'll be a time for bonding and fun times, not wanton consumerism.  I have so many lovely clothes that I can wear and my budget/pocketbook will thank me for saving the funds and putting it toward something else, like books or my savings account or a new kitten.

My other resolutions/goals are pretty mundane, really. Run another marathon this year, continue to run regularly, continue to eat healthfully, etc. (The eating has gotten a lot easier with the discovery that I can't eat wheat, which is pretty awesome. I'll post about how that's going soon).  They aren't really resolutions in that I've already been doing them.  The big one will be: take and pass my comps (written and oral) before the end of summer.  Duhduhduh!  Scary. But I can do it because if there's anything I'm good at, it's reading and writing about what I read.