Tuesday, January 29, 2013

"What's a Grit?"

Today is co-op day with my homeschool group, which means I get to drive up to a church, drop off my kids for someone else to teach for a couple of hours, and I get to drive away.  I have already gone to library and to buy some groceries, put some beans on for supper, and get to type and read emails uninterrupted for a little while.

Even before I loaded them all up after lunch, I knew that there was a possibility that it was going to be an extra good couple of hours, thanks to actually fixing the boys lunch today instead of letting them fend for themselves.  They each agreed on grits and peaches (in separate bowls, not mixed together).  There was a mini moment of panic until I located a box of grits on the top shelf that my husband had stashed them in when he had a couple of weeks off and was 'helping' me get organized.

Yay!  Found them!

I reached up to get them from the top shelf, and was greeted by the most amazing of sights---

Healthy, organic-ish 'M&Ms'!

Now, I couldn't tell if it was an empty bag or not, but I wasn't about to bring it down for the boys to find and devour.  So, I waited until after drop off, got the bag down, and found this---

YES!  Not too, too many, but enough to satisfy a chocolate craving.  And they are mine.  All mine.  Or, rather, they WERE mine, and they were mighty yummy.  And the best thing is that there is no wheat in them, unless carnauba wax contains wheat, and I am not about to google it to find out.  I guess my thumb will tell me soon enough.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Good Jelly Can Cover a Multitude of Yucky

It turns out that not eating wheat is more difficult than I had thought.

No, not the bagel and donuts and cookie kind of wheat.  It is the hidden wheat that is getting me.  A friend showed up out of the blue last week with an hour to spare and a huge pot of potato/corn chowder to share.  It was unexpected, and it was great--both bowls worth.  I have never made that recipe before, but the creamy white yummy goodness that surrounded those pieces of corn and potato should have been a clue.  It turns out that the recipe had 5 teaspoons of flour, and I had about 1-2 teaspoons worth alone.

I felt it the next morning.  The ear fluid and the thumb pain that I had thought were improving somewhat came back with a vengeance when I woke up.  GRRRR!

The same thing happened this past weekend when I cooked some tater tots for the boys and ate about 10 of them--much, much less than I usually eat.  Tater tots are my favorite.  The next morning--more pain.  It is finally subsiding a bit, but a quick look at the ingredient list of the bag showed wheat as one of the ingredients at the end.

I have been stalking the Wheat Belly Facebook page, and people have all kinds of good stories of weight lost and pain gone.  Another biggie is mood/depression/anger issues are improved after removing wheat from the diet--even schizophrenia.

One of the things that is VERY important is having other food options available at a moment's notice.  I am not so good with that, but I am trying.  I don't grab the first thing available, but I tend to just not eat, which isn't good for the metabolism, either.  Finding good substitutes can be difficult and expensive, so I wanted to pass on some of the things I have found and a few recipes I have tried from The Wheat Belly Cookbook.

First, I found a box with a mix to make a loaf of gluten free bread in the oven.  It used a few strange ingredients (like apple cider vinegar), but I was able to find them in my local grocery store.  This is the box--notice how nice and normal the bread looks?

This is how my loaf looked.  It was pretty enough for the first couple of minutes, but was SO HEAVY that top of the bread crushed into the lower part.  I promise, it felt like it weighed about 10 pounds.  Plus, it didn't taste good to us.  At all.

Next, I tried a pizza crust recipe from the cookbook.  It contained almond flour and garbanzo bean flour, which I found at Kroger, but they are mighty proud of it.  I ended up dividing the dough into 6 parts and having each person create their own pizza.  We couldn't really pick it up like regular pizza (it was too thin and crumbly), but it was eaten with a fork, and tasted quite good.

They look like flatbread, but actually had a little thickness.

The finished product--with deer sausage, bell peppers and feta cheese.

I also made 'basic biscuits', which unfortunately is nothing like my momma's biscuits.  They worked well enough, though.  These were made of almond flour and flaxseed flour (Kroger again).  They did not look like biscuits.  They were brown and bumpy, but actually had SOME flavor.  That might be because the recipe called for 4 eggs, and I only had two so I had to substitute some applesauce.  Mango applesauce.  It worked, and slathering them with honey or jelly helped tremendously.

Not very biscuity looking, huh?

Tonight I tried the Cinnamon-Cranberry scones, because I happened to have all of the ingredients already.  This one had almond, coconut, and flaxseed flours.  This has been the most successful recipe yet.  They cooked up well and were not too crumbly.  They were not very sweet, but apparently scones are really supposed to be sweet, and I haven't really figured out how to cook with stevia yet instead of sugar.  It'll come, I guess.

In the meantime, I'll just have to rely on my jelly.

A slightly better view of the details.

Still no weight loss, but if this helps with the vertigo and arthritis, I am all in.

For now, anyway.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Hidden Cost of $1.99 Onion Rings

OK, so I wrote about Wheat Belly several weeks ago.  Good book, but I think I have found an even better one with the Wheat Belly Cookbook.  It is put out by the same person, and has basically the same information as the original book, but with many more recipes.  I have been wheat free/gluten free before, but these recipes seemed more do-able and user friendly than ones that I have used in the past.  If you are venturing into the idea of going wheat-less for a while, this would be a good resource to have.

One of the big draws of losing the wheat is that is supposed to translate into losing the weight.  I have not eaten any wheat products in almost a month (until a couple of days ago--more about that in a minute), but I don't think I have lost any weight.  I am not surprised by this, because I was only eating wheat products sporadically before--maybe a couple of times a week.  Probably a good deal of the weight loss that many people initially experience comes from not eating donuts and rolls and crackers and Little Debbies.  I guess most folks literally live off of these kinds of foods.  I don't--not anymore, anyway.  I haven't eaten refined sugar in over 15 years.  Not for any martyr reasons, but because after I totally eliminated it from my diet for several months, I discovered that even one bite of a bad sugar containing food would cause a nagging headache above my right eye about 20 minutes after eating it and last until I went to sleep, and then 3 days later I would develop hemorrhoids that would last for 2 days.  I know, TMI.  But, it was enough of a responses to make me weigh out the risks/benefits of a sugar binge, and I nipped it right in the bud.  It is interesting that I did not experience those same symptoms when I ate junk food every single day, and they only showed up when I had been off of the stuff for a while.  Anyway...

One of the more intriguing aspects of Wheat Belly for me was the multiple physical problems that can theoretically be reduced or eliminated when wheat is taken out of the equation.  Two issues in particular that I have been dealing with for the past few months are inner ear fluid/pain, and increasing swelling and pain in one of my thumbs, which I have suspected to be arthritis.  Isn't arthritis just supposed to be for old people?  GRRR!  So, I thought I would try this whole wheat thing for those two reasons alone, as a sort of experiment.

Unlike weight, which can be measured, these two things are a little more subjective.  I could tell that my ear had less fluid and that my thumb seemed a little more flexible and less swollen, but maybe it was just going to be doing that anyway.  Until I went through the drive-thru at Burger King.

It was innocent enough.  John and I had a little time to kill while waiting for Harrison to finish up with a therapy appointment, and we were hungry.  I drove up and ordered two large orders of onion rings.  We parked outside Harrison's building and started to eat.  I was a little over halfway through my container when it hit me that the crispy, oh so yummy coating on those onions was probably full of wheat (and all kind of other tasty chemicals).  So I stopped eating them.  (After I ate about 5 more very quickly, and then I reluctantly became rational again).  I mean, those suckers were good!

Several hours later, I had rumbly tummy issues.  These ended up lasting about 24 hours and involved extra time in the bathroom.  Enough said.  The next morning when I woke up, I had pretty bad thumb stiffness and pain, as well as an ear that sloshed every time I moved my head.  These two things have only decreased slightly in almost 48 hours.  So, I will return to my wheat free diligence and see what happens.  Anything that decreases pain without meds is worth a shot, even if it takes a while.

When I first started typing this, I had planned on posting a few recipes/pictures of some adapted recipes--some good, and some not so good.  Instead, it turned into this post.  That post will come soon.

Has anyone else reduced wheat intake?  What responses have you had?

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Must See TV

Yesterday, our TV service was disconnected.  We have just passed the one year promo rate with DISH (which I highly recommend never, ever using if you don't have to--their service and customer service are severely lacking).  You know the rate that was supposed to be only $29/month, but for some reason is actually $99/month if you want more than 4 channels?  The one that has 3 months of free premium movie channels that you told them you didn't want in the first place, but has never been turned off after multiple attempts to do so?  Not to mention that we were supposed to have one year of Blockbuster game rentals but the system never booted, so we got nothing.  So, when the new bill came in showing that now the rate is $134/month, that did it.  No more DISH, even though it means having to pay to break our contract.  Grr...

It is kind of a weird feeling.  I'm not sure why, because none of us watch regular TV very often, and we have figured out that the shows we do watch are readily available online or through Netflix, so it shouldn't be that big of a deal.  I hope not, anyway.  But the whole process has gotten me thinking about what shows I really like and want to continue investing in.  Most of them were discovered through Netflix during the hours and hours of mind numbing chemo duty at the hospital (pediatric patients all have chemo inpatient, often for a week at a time, so we had a lot of 'free' time to kill), and aren't shows I would watch with the kids in the room, or allow them to watch themselves.   In some strange way, though, they ministered to me and helped me cope with all of the craziness going on at the time.

So, in no particular order, here are some of my currently running favorite shows--

Parenthood--This is a show I didn't watch when it first came on, but became intrigued by after seeing some of the Facebook statuses that would pop up every Tuesday night when the show was on.  Stuff like, "Oh, my goodness!  Still crying!" and "They nailed how I feel again!".  So. I went back to the beginning, and was hooked.  Yes, they nail it almost every week, and I usually cry at some point in each episode.  The show centers around an extended family of 4 siblings, their spouses and kids.  What got me hooked was the way they dealt with one of the brothers finding out his elementary aged son had Asperger's.  Brilliantly handled.  This season has been blowing me away.  One of the characters has breast cancer, and it has been spot on at each stage of the game.  The episode where she got an infection after chemo and almost died because her immune system had been destroyed?  Yep, that happens.  AND, one of the main characters is Lauren Graham, who was one half of the Gilmore Girls, which is my favorite show ever, so that is a nice touch.

The Middle--This show just makes me laugh.  It is about an average family that has 3 quirky kids.  Both parents work at low paying jobs, all of their stuff is worn out and tacky, and they aren't Over Achieving Parents.  But, they do the best they can with what they have, and it is so representative of folks I know.  Funny, funny, funny.

Downton Abbey--OK, this one was a surprise for me, and I only started watching after reading another blogger I don't even know who recommended checking it out.  I don't really know how to describe it, other than to say you would either really like it from the get go, or you would not like it at all and wonder what the hype is all about.  It is set in England about 100 years ago, and focuses on a wealthy family and their large ensemble of servants in a large manor/castle.  That is really about it, but the acting and dialogue are excellent, and Maggie Smith (aka Harry Potter's Professor McGonagall) is a scene stealer with great one liners.  So snarky.

Doctor Who--This one surprised me even more than Downton Abbey.  I remember Doctor Who from the 70s.  Not because I ever watched it, but because he seemed like a weirdo, and the only folks I knew who watched it were quirky kids, and strange adults that probably also watched Nova when they could have been watching cool stuff like TJ Hooker and The Dukes of Hazzard.  My boys are surrounded by friends who LOVE this show, and they had been watching it themselves in spurts.  So, out of curiosity and because I had time to kill, I watched.  And liked.  I suppose it is all full of sciencey stuff and inside jokes that original Who watchers get and blog about, but I like it anyway, and I'm not really sure why.  I think it is because it seems to be built more on an idea than any actor or actress (the character of The Doctor can regenerate and come back to life with a new body when he is 'killed'--or when the actor playing him wants to leave the show.  I know, I know, beanhead stuff, but entertaining for me anyway).  I've learned a lot of history stuff, and the Tardis was our family ornament this year.  Guess I am just a strange adult who is a quirky kid at heart.

USA Network shows--I would list these separately, but this post has already taken over 3 days to write, and I feel like being done with it.  I love the character development and stories, which aren't cookie cutter.  However, several of them have quite a bit of gratuitous cussing, which is disappointing.  I have to watch them before giving the boys a heads-up that they can watch them.  Sadly, all of these series are gearing up to begin new seasons in the next few weeks, and are ones I will miss the most being able to DVR.

     --Psych--I love the 70s and 80s references that abound.
     --Burn Notice--good until this season, which has jumped the shark and left me disappointed.
     --Suits--great cast, but the writers seem to push the language envelope for no reason whatsoever
     --White Collar--I like this one a lot.  Mozzie makes me laugh, and it features one of the most functional married couples on TV right now.

OK, that is it for now.  What shows are on your list?

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Wheat Belly

I am in the process of reading a new book called Wheat Belly--not as a review or anything, but because I saw it at the bookstore and was intrigued.  It is currently on the New York Times Bestseller list, and is about losing weight.  Kind of.  It is really about how wheat is so altered from its original state (even if it is organic) that it is absolutely not meant for consumption.

The author, William Davis, explains in detail how eating wheat is one of the primary causes of weight gain in Americans, but that it also causes many other chronic problems, such as arthritis, diabetes, heart disease/high cholesterol and dementia.  He goes to great lengths to site studies that point to this, and even says that stopping wheat consumption will eliminate or drastically reduce these and other diseases.

I'm not sure what to think, but what he writes makes sense.  I'm willing to give it a shot.  I have had a steady weight gain in the past few years that can't be explained by calorie intake, although having my physical activity level come to a screeching halt does factor in to that as well.  I am mostly vegetarian (formerly vegan), NO refined sugar/soda/caffeine/white flour except for the occasional pizza in the past 15 years, kind of girl.  All snacks and desserts have been organic for that long as well, except for Lays potato chips.  I just can't seem to resist them, but I only eat them at parties or when I go visit my parents.  Davis says that even the gluten free options don't assist with weight loss, because they have about the same insulin producing reaction (which apparently has a lot to do with weight retention).  GF products don't cause the bad wheat problems, though, so they are a much, much better option for attacking all of the other body problems that wheat causes.

So, I am 5 days into this no wheat thing.  I don't think I have lost any weight, but I don't have a scale, so I can't be sure.  My clothes aren't fitting any differently, though.  I am just as anxious to see if this makes any difference in my pain levels in my knees and hand, which seem to be steadily getting worse and worse.  According to Davis, it should.  We shall see.

What about you all?  Have you heard of anything like this?  Have you had any success with no wheat diets?

You can read the first pages from Wheat Belly here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Post from my Son

Harrison posted this on Facebook last night.  Just thought I would share some of his awesomeness with you all---

Well, 2012 is over, and boy, what a year it was. The world didn't end, Honey Boo Boo got her own show, and Gangnam Style becomes the most viewed video of time. So it's definitely had its ups and downs. And while those were some really big/catastrophic events, they won't be what I really remember about this year. Nope, not even close.

A year ago to this day, I was at universal studios. It was a new year, everyone was excited, fireworks were everywhere, and many people partied WAY harder than what they should have. While this should have been an amazing trip for me and my family, we could not deny the real reason why we were there. While everyone else was there to party till they passed out, we were there for different reasons.

About a week before that, I had gone to the hospital. My leg had been hurting for months, and was only getting worse. It got to the point were I would wake up in the middle of the night screaming in pain, so that I was scared to go to sleep. So we thought maybe I had pulled something, or maybe it was growing pains. If only. So they took some x-rays, and a doctor came to speak to us. He didn't sugarcoat it. I either had a bone infection, or a tumor. A few days later, it was confirmed. I had cancer.

So after a quick trip to Orlando, to be able to do one last thing before the unavoidable happened, we came back to where we called home. And while I knew all the people here, I really didn't in a way. (For the most part) I wasn't treated, looked at, or spoken to the same way again. I had cancer. I was sick, I was wounded, and I was a pain to look at. Although people wanted to comfort me, looking at me just served as a reminder that I was not the young, lively person that I was before, and that (let's be honest) I might not make it through the year. For the first time in my life, I was truly scared that I might die.

And honestly, there were times that I wanted to. Now hear me out: I'm not saying that I don't love living, because I do. But are you really "living" when you're going through harsh chemotherapy, constantly sick, and too weak to even make it from one side of the house to the other without nearly passing out? At that point, It was a fight just to make it through each day. Not even each day, but really each hour. I won't go into great detail of everything they did, because I don't want to gross out the weak at heart, because it would take too long, and because that's not really the point of this post. (But if you ever do want to talk about it or hear more of what it was like, I'll be happy to talk to you in person. Just don't expect all the details to be perfect, or for me to not make the occasional joke to brighten the mood.)

Basically, after 12 weeks of chemo, they performed surgery on my leg. They removed my femur, and replaced it with a cadaver bone. So their plan was to give me a month to recover from surgery, and then put me back on chemo. But after some research, we found out that the chemo hadn't killed any of the cancer, and that it wasn't going to prevent it. So after much thought, prayer, and and basically begging multiple doctors, we were able to convince them to not make me do anymore chemo, but to give me plenty of periodic scans to make sure that it didn't return. Technically, if we had gone by their plans, I'd still be taking chemo, and MIGHT just be halfway done. Yeah, glad we didn't take that path.

So even though I am clear of cancer, I'm still living with the scars of survival. I have fear that it might come back, trouble trusting people and knowing if they really care about me as a person, or just feel bad for me having the disease, and depression that comes from realizing that I'll never really be able to reclaim what I once called "Normal", because let's face it, after something like this, there is no such thing as normal. But I'm also thankful for all the good that's come out of this year, all the good friends, me growing closer to some people, and really seeing the love of God shine through many people in ways I didn't know were possible. So yes, I'm glad this year is over, but I don't feel like it was wasted. If anything, I feel that it has helped me grow as a person, as a man, and as a warrior after Christ.

So Bring it on 2013, I'm ready!

That's my boy!