Monday, March 31, 2008

Preparation Part Two

Still in the grips of the mind-numbing prescription drugs (and dragging Andy along with me), the garden plots now have dirt
and what we think will work for a cold frame.

Sunday we got a few sprinklings of snow, so obviously this year isn't going to be a straight shot into spring, so an unprotected garden before May might be tempting Mother Nature a bit too far.

We have no intention of trying to grow all our own food--being adventurous but stopping just short of stupid--but we are hoping for large harvests of tomatoes and peppers to roast/dry/freeze/can as we head into 2009. Andy is also hoping for large amounts of pea pods and cucumbers--mostly so he'll get some of them. If he can steal covers every night, I feel no remorse at all over eating all the pea pods. Sharing can only go so far.

And in a very surrealistic turn--or maybe it's that decongestant again--I actually bought this

tonight. Corn syrup--that bane of my existence all of February. This weekend after making more Rice Krispie treats for our Appalachian Trail hiker, "Bananas," I just couldn't stand it any longer and decided to invent a healthy trail snack using the theory behind Rice Krispie treats. Believe me, the pictures would have been SERIOUSLY blog-worthy, but sometimes disasters happen a little too quickly for pictures. Let's just say, Sunday was very educational. I now know

* Even if you have successfully melted them in the past, marshmallows may decide to toast in the pan instead of melting

* Butter and peanut butter are NOT interchangeable

* There is a limit to how much wheat bran you can add to something before altering the taste

* Boiling a pan with a little soapy water can remove scorch marks

* Add enough peanut butter, and almost anything will taste good

* If I'm ever going to publish a cookbook, I'll have to start coming up with better names than "Toni's Peanut Butter Blobs"
* I am not above saving the more questionable foods for the times when Bananas will be on the trail for longer periods between breaks.

* Corn syrup really does help keep foods stable & stuck together, though it still doesn't explain what it is doing in diced tomatoes.

* It really is okay if someone ELSE eats Pop Tarts and candy bars every day--let it go.

Sunday, March 30, 2008


Chalk it up to the really powerful drugs, or perhaps my overwhelming optimism, but we have decided to try the "no-processed-foods" experiment for an entire year. Heaven help us.

I do at least have the sense to modify it slightly--we'll each be allowed 1 or 2 "forbidden" foods each week (probably 2 since the idea is to improve over-all health and not just to suffer for good blog fodder), and we will be starting this little brush with insanity in January of 2009, so we have some time to prepare (aka warn our friends).

Also in preparation, we need a larger garden as the existing garden is both small & in a spot too shady for most plantsnot to mention needing better soil & some more spring cleanup. I was a bit shocked to find how much of the garden survived the winter, The chives haven't even slowed down,

only part of the sage froze

same for the thyme

and the parsley.

Obviously, they enjoyed our snowy winter more than the rest of us did. I even found one of the most pathetic carrots I have ever seen.

Whether it didn't have enough water, sunlight, or room to grow (there being only a few inches of dirt in the garden plot), carrots were a colossal failure last year--you've just seen half the carrot crop.

When we bought our house 18 months ago, we bought the builder's own house, and some parts of the house were extremely well thought-out, but the landscaping, lawn, and garden were obviously themed after the "we're-going-to-sell-the-house-anyway-so-doing-a-really-bad-job
-won't-matter" motif. The backyard is uneven and occupied by large patches of weeds, so rather than try to fix the yard, Andy built more garden boxes

Eventually, we will redo the landscaping entirely, but for the next 2 years we need garden more than we need yard, and this

looks far better than the lawn ever did anyway.

Yesterday we started the dirt process

("we" meaning mostly Andy)

And started germinating some seeds using one of these peat moss trays.

Very bizarre affairs. When you add warm water to the tray of peat moss disks, they immediately swell into what looks like sea anemones made of dirt, into which we smashed seeds.

My fingernails are still filthy, but our little "nursery" is incubating in the back room, and with any luck should show signs of life in a few days.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Now if this isn't the oddest thing...

I know Bananas is excited about the pudding rollups, and I know that variety is the spice of life, but tonight I am trying to dehydrate cookies & cream pudding.

The toffee chips were bad enough, but I have no idea what the cookies will do. Would it be possible for Oreos to get any harder???

Friday, March 28, 2008

The text-message updates

There hasn't been much in the way of internet access for our AT hiker, Bananas, but we had a brief text-message exchange last night:

Bananas: Those rice crisy treats made my day! And that beef jerky is SO good!
Natasha: Yay! More beef jerky waiting in Gatlinburg, and I'll send more rice krispie treats. The package in Gatlinburg has pudding rollups as well!
Bananas: PUDDING ROLLUPS?!? Must hike faster!

We'll be dehydrating more rollups this weekend. :)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Germs 1, Toni 0

I finally had to admit defeat today and went to see a doctor for this bug. I really hate going to doctors, and they can't do anything for colds, but mine has actually been getting worse instead of better. The good news (I guess) is that the doctor didn't just say that it was a really bad cold and send me on my way with $100 less in my wallet. I am $100 lighter, but I am in possession of some insane drugs that I can only take every 12 hours and that I cannot drive while taking. These cheery little pills make one both dizzy and drowsy, so I feel like the 8th dwarf who didn't make Disney's cut. Thankfully, this little drug-induced stupor will only last for 4 more days and has either already cleared up my cough or I am too dizzy and drowsy to notice. I will be staying away from any lace knitting for the next 4 days--if I can't operate a vehicle I'm pretty sure I won't be able to operate small pointy sticks.

4 more days.....

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Brief Updates

1. "Bananas" loved the Rice Krispie treats, which sort of helps with the guilt. She also received an award at the last mail drop for most packages ever received.

2. The backpacking book failed to mentioned that adding pureed vegetables to spaghetti sauce will irreversibly change the flavor of the sauce in a way that no amount of Italian seasoning can cover.

3. A crock pot is a good way to turn a 2-hour cooking project into one that ends at midnight.

4. If your health scores are straight-across-the-board better than your spouse's, it's hard not to be just a little bit smug.

5. It might be hard to explain to a retired couple why calling you "T & A" is perhaps not the best choice for nicknames.

6. Last week marked the 3 year anniversary of our first date, and we're the kind of nauseatingly romantic couple that celebrates such a thing.

And a little more obsessed ex wife repellent:

Coping With a Hostile Ex-Wife, Part Two

Again, let me reiterate, I am not a legal professional nor a counselor of any kind. These suggestions are from my own experience and that of my friends.

1. If your ex wife is not following the visitation schedule laid out in the divorce decree, she is violating a court order, is in contempt of court, and can be sent to jail. If you do not have an attorney or cannot afford one, you may fill out the forms yourself. Visit this website for more details.

2. Accept what you cannot change. While I firmly believe that an argument could certainly be made that custodial parents should be required to use child support ONLY for the benefit of the child, this is not how the law works and there is nothing you can do about it. Not paying child support as specified is a violation of a court order. That your ex-wife chooses to spend the child's money on herself--college, a new car, a boat, furniture, clothes--is not something you can do anything about. If your ex-wife starts telling your children that they can't do things because you refuse to pay for it, you do have the right to tell them that you send her a check every month and to tell them how much it is. It is frustrating to write a check every month to someone who is absolutely horrible to you, but try thinking of it as the price you pay to not have to be married to her any longer--it will be worth it.

3. Even if your ex chooses not to work, she is obligated to claim the income she should be making for figuring child support. While a child is under a certain age (check your state rules for this one), a custodial parent may not be obligated to work. After that age, even if your ex chooses to not work, for child support calculations she is required to use the figure she should be earning. If she tries to claim a lower figure, it is voluntary underemployment and is not allowed.

4. Have your own rules in your home and be firm and consistent. Even a very young child will tell you that "Mom lets me...." Be clear that there are different rules at each house, and you can even tell the child that you think that an 8-year-old still sleeping with his mother, going to arcades every night, or eating junk food is harmful, but stay away from saying that the mother is wrong. Don't make the child choose between you or put him or her in the position of defending the bad parent. We found it helpful to arrange playdates with other children & parents who had similar rules. Children learn by example and will be able to figure out for themselves what is "normal" and what isn't.

To be continued....

Monday, March 24, 2008

It's Still Hanging On

Even after a night of sleep uninterrupted by clingy cats, my cold is worse today and I worked from home today smothered in Vicks and gargling salt water. Nice way to celebrate spring, dang it.

The next box was shipped to Bananas today and coincidentally, she picked up the last one today. It's a little like being in a time warp--our packages are about a week ahead of her, and her letters back with what worked/what doesn't/what she'd like more of are about 3 weeks behind, so the fourth package made adjustments from the first package--all very confusing if you think about it too long, or while drinking a white chocolate martini.

And in token of our honorary trail names, Boris & Natasha, a line from season 3 of Rocky & Bullwinkle that made me laugh out loud:

"Now there's something you don't see everyday, Edgar."
"What's that, Chauncey?"
"A squirrel in Congress."
"Oh I don't know, Chauncey. It was just a matter of time."
"How's that?"
"They've had so many nuts in Congress, a squirrel was bound to show up some day."

Ha! It could be the election year, or the cold medicine. Either way--I found it hysterical. And now I'm off to take a large dose of Nyquil & go to bed.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Happy Easter!

And in observation of the religious holiday, I will refrain from discussing the bean/crock pot episode/fiasco until another day.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Natasha hard at work

Andy is away for the weekend, so I am getting things done. I don't know what it is about having the house to myself, but it is not yet noon on Saturday and I have gotten more done than I generally do all weekend. I love him dearly, but obviously, I need to send him away for a weekend once in a while--at this rate I could even get caught up on "dem fischer sin fru!"

Our next food drop for Bananas will be in Gatlinburg, Tennessee, somewhere around April 2. We send the packages to general delivery with an ETA, and I usually let her know ahead of time where we are sending packages. Since I have a little extra time on this, I have branched out a little. I still have the taco-flavored black beans to package up

To be fair, they didn't look much more appetizing before they were dehydrated. Still, starving+wilderness = EDIBLE!

I have red beans soaking right now

which tonight will be thrown into a crock pot with spaghetti sauce and pureed mixed vegetables. ( And for those of you wondering if I've finally mastered the crock pot, not at all--I'm just really optimistic.)

I read somewhere that you could make "leather" (ala fruit rollups) from pudding, so I have this

in the dehydrator now, along with 3 trays of bananas. I'm slightly bothered that I can't find where I read about pudding rollups, but I'm always the optimist!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Spring? Maybe

But it's still cold and flu season. For the last several days, I've been dragging around with some invading bug that has given me a cough, sore throat, and the voice of a 1-900 "entertainment hostess." While it has made it easier to set up appointments with prospective clients at work, I'm not sure I really enjoy the "telephone system BABE" approach to business. Still, always a pragmatist, I did call on the biggest companies I'm pursuing. An edge is an edge.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The first results are in!

The third package to "Bananas" went out yesterday--the two week mark for her through-hike of the Appalachian trail. If she makes it all the way, it will take roughly 6 months & she'll travel over 2000 miles. Not exactly my idea of a good time, but then again, if you want to experiment with food dehydration, there's no one better to practice on than someone stuck in the wilderness!

We received a letter today with the first "results" of our packages. Andy's "calorie bars" (known as breakfast bars in the backpacking cookbook but sporting 170 calories per 1-inch square!) are really messy and crumble everywhere, Andy's Jambalaya is fabulous--we're going to have to try it ourselves now--and backpacking stoves aren't hot enough for pancakes but produce a slow-cooked gluey mess pretty nicely. The bean-cooking experiments started with the second or third packages, so we'll see how my first attempts at beans as food turn out. It's not that there's anything inherently wrong with beans--it's just that I don't like how people generally cook them. Just the smell of ham hocks & beans used to send me fleeing from the house when I was a kid--still would, but it's my house now and they are strictly forbidden--and the three-bean salad my mother used to make was only short of liver as a culinary experience designed to curtail my appetite. And whether it is the taste of cumin or the fact that it's generally fiery enough to leave my taste buds gasping on the floor, I have never liked chili. So, I am cheerfully fixing large pots of food I know nothing about, dehydrating them, and sending them off to a friend stuck in the wilderness. And I'll be she thought the indoor plumbing thing would be the REAL deprivation......

Monday, March 17, 2008

Happy Saint Patrick's Day!

And me with a great-grandfather from Ireland, I forgot to wear green today. Luckily, adults don't pinch. Well, some men still do, but they tend to get arrested for it.

Happy Saint Patrick's Day to all!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sunday - Various Updates

Today we learned:

* You can dehydrate cheese, but it needs to be on lower temperature setting:

* Cheese stalactites are REALLY difficult to peel off dehydrating trays:

* It may be the oils from the cheese, or the nonstick cooking spray, but spending 39 minutes peeling hardened melted cheese off a dehydrating tray leaves your skin really soft and smelling faintly of cheddar.

* After a month of no-processed foods, making Rice Krispie treats for a care package feels like a criminal offense.

* A cinnamon bear is worth waiting for.

* Sharing keeps you from eating all the cinnamon bears yourself.

* Dried curried chickpeas make a pretty decent snack.

* If you're making up a recipe for curried chickpeas, it would be a good idea to write things down, just in case it turns out well.

* Ziploc must make a fortune off the friends of Appalachian Trail hikers.

* It's hard to keep your kitchen clean and be supplying regular shipments of backpacking food.

* The most surprising foods can be dehydrated. It doesn't necessarily mean that they will taste good, but they can be dehydrated.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Date Night

I married a saint.

Thursday we went to Menopause the Musical. If I was out of place being 37, you can imagine how Andy felt being one of about 10 men in the theater and by far the youngest one. There were a few jokes neither of us understood (and I really hope I never understand), but overall, it was a fun show that took well known songs and replaced the lyrics with witty takes on aging--"Puff, My God I'm Draggin', "If You Wanna Know Where the Fat Grams Go, It's on my Hips" (Shoop Shoop), "Good Vibrations"--very clever stuff.

Andy is off to kayak today to get back in touch with his testosterone. After that show, I'm guessing it will be an all-day affair.....

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Sin City - Without Technical Issues

Even a town built on greed & loss and offering prostitutes at every turn has some beauty. Vegas's is in the Bellagio. We saw the Chihuly glass display

which is quite lovely and incredibly expensive, and the Conservatory, which was sporting an Asian theme this time:

Can we guess which of us takes better pictures?

After all the snow & cold we've had this winter, it was wonderful to experience some 75-degree temperatures
which is what we told everyone about on Monday, conveniently forgetting that we were inside most of the time.

Vegas has gotten very expensive over the years--2 cups of black coffee set us back $7.00 and we're still not admitting to what lunch on Saturday cost us--which is sort of surprising. I thought the whole point of Vegas was to get people there to gamble away their money, but since everything cost so much, we could only afford to play the penny slots, which I had never seen before. Andy lost his $1.00, but held out long enough to get a diet soda from the cocktail waitress, and I managed to win a few "jackpots" on this bad boy

If you notice, this "penny" machine does not accept coins of any kind, and when I cashed out my $2.65, I received a ticket and some gratuitous sound-effects of coins landing in the pan. While I realize coins are noisy, heavy, and get really filthy, this
just isn't the same as a bucket of coins. Still, we netted a profit of 65 cents, an orange juice, and a diet soda in the deal, so we figure it was $20 by Vegas prices.

Later at FAO Schwartz, we found a children's game presumably designed by the Mansons. It's a bit hard to read, but it says "Boys are stupid. Throw rocks at them."

Obviously Vegas hasn't given up its roots in divorce, or is hoping to host the Bitter Ex-Wives Convention.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A Weekend in Sin City - Technical Difficulties

(Alright Google--do your best with that title)

I would be showing you pictures from the weekend in Vegas, but Blogger still isn't working, so we'll save that post for later.

Today is the 11th day of being able to eat whatever we want, but knowing how much of a difference it has made, we haven't gone back to "normal." Don't get me wrong, white chocolate martinis are SOOOOOO allowed again and today I had a southwestern chicken wrap without a second thought about the preservatives that might be in the flour tortilla, but tonight's trip to the grocery store still stuck to the perimeter of the supermarket. Last month was really a "test run" for us--we wanted to know if it would be possible to have no processed foods for an entire year. The short answer is a definite "no." If you were truly to let no processed food pass your lips you would A. starve to death if you work full time and B. have no friends (dinner guests have started checking in to see what the current "month of..." project is before agreeing to come over. Can you blame them?). However, allowing for one "grace" item per week......???

Don't you just feel sorry for Andy sometimes? :)

Monday, March 10, 2008

Google Enjoys Messing With Me

Even though I've used Google as a search engine for years, I don't fully understand how it works. I know it will randomly pick off words and include this blog in searches for Canadian female impersonators, knitting, stalkers, divorce, cats--and my personal favorite search, "knitting divorce stalker blog cats," which I just can't even figure out. Are they being stalked by divorced cats that knit? Are they stalking divorced cats who knit? In what scenario would you put those words together for a search??????

After yesterday's post, I was a bit concerned about what sorts of searches my blog would surface in, but I was unprepared for this one--if you search on "a little off the beaten path," (with or without the quotations), it obviously finds my blog, but instead of excerpting the first sentence as normal, Google, free-thinking as always, went this:

A Little Off The Beaten Path

Oh yeah--right after I strip off all my clothes, don a pirate hat, and run up & down the streets of Boise calling myself "Buccaneer Buck E. Naked." ... - 84k - Cached - Similar pages - Note this

I love Google--a search engine with a sense of humor.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Vegas, Baby!!!

This weekend we took a quick trip to Las Vegas to see Phantom of the Opera--the Vegas version. Being Vegas, the show had to be chopped to 90 minutes and a few special effects had to be added, but after 24 hours in Sin City, we were relieved that during the entire 90 minutes, no one offered us a prostitute, time share, nor mentioned the slogan "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas." Believe me, there was no other 90-minute period that could make such a boast. Every 20 feet on both sides of "The Strip," scary looking little men tried to hand cards and fliers offering every variety of "escort" conceivable. I can't decide which I find most offensive--the whole concept in general or that for some reason the little minimum-wage pimps seemed to think that even though we had just rebuffed the one 20 feet away, and the last 30 before that, that we might yet decide to take them up on their offer. Oh yeah--right after I strip off all my clothes, don a pirate hat, and run up & down the streets of Boise calling myself "Buccaneer Buck E. Naked."

I do have pictures (not of that one--I assure you. I meant the trip), but Blogger is having some issues, so I will save them for tomorrow's post.

Coping With a Hostile Ex-Wife, Part One

Note: I am not a psychologist, psychiatrist, or a counselor. Knowing what we have been through and talking with friends what have also been through this, these are my own personal suggestions for whatever they are worth.

1. Understand her motivation. Stop and think about what is driving your ex-wife's behavior. In the cases I have seen, the ex-wife is angry and bitter that the ex-husband stopped loving her and has, most likely, moved on with his life. NOTE: Understanding is not the same as excusing. There is no justification in the world for nasty behavior, no matter who hurt who. But if you can understand that her behavior is completely based on emotions and hurt, you will be better prepared to cope with it.

2. Deal with your own anger first. Your ex wife can no longer make you love her, but if she can still hurt you or make you angry, she is getting a little sense of victory over you. No matter what she has said, no matter what she has done, you have moved on with your life--why should anything she says about you matter? No matter what she says or does, do not react.

3. You will have to lose some battles to win the war. We've all been there--the ex is bad-mouthing you or your new spouse to the kid(s). It does hurt the kids, but a jealous & spiteful ex-wife generally cares more about hurting the ex-husband than about what she is truly doing to the children. (NOTE: This is not a generalization about ex-wives! Most are probably quite decent people who care a great deal about their children and their well-being. This is only about those who do not that we lucky people get to deal with). It can be really tempting to get angry, to badmouth the ex-wife in return, or to tell the child his/her mother is lying, but as our friend Dave says, you have to lose some battles to win the war. When his ex-wife told his daughters that his present wife , Sue, was horrible and mean, Dave asked them if they had ever known Sue to be anything but nice to them, they had to admit that she hadn't. He didn't tell them the ex-wife was lying to them, but eventually they were old enough to figure it out.

4. Document everything. A 9-1-1 call from a woman saying that her ex-husband is hitting her/kidnapping the kids/abusing the kids/whatever forces the police to respond--they do not have the choice. If that happens, make sure you are the one who is calm & rational. Keep copies of all correspondence with the ex-wife, as well as a log of her irrational behavior (making scenes during dropoffs, showing up at your house unexpectedly, calling you at work, contacting the children during your visitations, etc.) Judges aren't blind and if one of you shows a consistent, rational pattern that one is most likely to be believed in court.

5. Keep all communications brief & to the point. We have all received pages & pages & pages of letters & emails from the exes, everything from long drivel-filled love letters, to big long tirades about parenting choices, to bitter rants about the ex-husband's new "perfect life" and "perfect wife" (my personal favorite), to long tirades about what a terrible person the ex-husband is, to poetry. If it does not directly pertain to something specifically about medical issues, school, drop offs, or something else specifically about the kid(s), do not respond. In every case I've seen, the ex-wife makes a habit of being a martyr, and has learned that blaming others for everything gets sympathy for her and is often a way to control people. Stop responding. Even if you try to be nice, it will get you nowhere & is just acknowledging her behavior. Just stop responding.

6. Meet with the school separately. If you end up in a court battle with your ex-wife, your level of involvement with your child's education will matter. Do not rely on your ex to pass accurate information to you. Know what is happening in your child's life directly.

7. Let go of the past. No matter what happened in your marriage--good, bad, or otherwise--leave it in the past. If the divorce was more than one or two years ago and the ex-wife is still bitter and hostile, the odds are good that things are never going to get better. Our friend Mark has been dealing with this for 13 years, and Dave at least 12 and the hostility from the ex has never abated. Even if you have memories of a kind person, that person no longer exists and nothing you can do can change her--not even agreeing to her requests. She probably doesn't want you to have more time or less time with the children, or in our case one week you'll have too much time and the next week she'll be angry because you don't have enough time, so agreeing to change isn't going to make it better. She only wants to be angry with you. Let her.

8. Don't give in to hate. Let's be honest, a hostile ex-wife can make your life miserable and that is generally what she's after. There is nothing you can do to change your ex-wife's behavior, but you can change your reaction to her behavior. Find other dads going through the same thing, get an attorney who can help protect your rights--including helping you file a restraining order if necessary, find a counselor who handles divorce, be honest with your extended family about what you are going through and create a support system for yourself. While it might feel good to do, don't make it an "I hate my ex wife club." It isn't worth it, it takes a lot of energy to hate someone, and it gives your ex-wife power over you.

To be continued....

Friday, March 7, 2008


1. So Far, So Good
Bananas has made it safely to the first mail drop and has updated her journal here. She has met a lot of other hikers on the trail, including one with the inexplicable trail name "Cannibal." I'm sure there's a story behind that one, but all the same, I think I'd be sleeping with one eye open.....

2. Dem Fischer Sin Fru
The final clue came out today. Good thing, too, because when I finally get past clue 1, I'm sure I'll just tear right through the next 6. It's a beautiful pattern (I will post pictures of the final project eventually--can you hang on until 2009?) based on/inspired by the old fairy story, The Fisherman and His Wife. That was my favorite Grimms Brothers story--the old man frees a flounder from his net & it grants him wish after wish, at his wife's request, and she's never satisfied & just gets more demanding. Finally the flounder takes everything away from them.

3. Ex-Wife Issues
I have no idea if the ex-wife repellent is working or not, but now a lot of people are hitting the blog looking for ways to cope with hostile ex-wives, and there has been a huge response. So, I will be adding some future posts about ideas, coping mechanism, advice we received, father's rights. This isn't going to turn into a site about divorce, but I don't think anyone should have to go through this type of thing alone. If anyone has ideas, tips, advice--anything to share, please let me know. One note: I know how frustrating and draining it can be to continually cope with someone who is totally consumed with hate, but only constructive ideas are going to be posted. This is about how to cope and finding options--not about bashing the ex. That which makes you angry controls you. A friend of ours stumbled across a blog by Andy's ex, and it's all about how awful he is & picks apart stuff on my blog, and while the obsessive fixation 4 years later is a bit worrying, what she actually says about Andy & about us is irrelevant--she can't send the venomous letters to us any longer, and obviously has no one who will listen to her, and she's just jealous & angry that Andy is happy & that no one cares what she thinks any longer. The opposite of love isn't hate--it's indifference. As a person, she just doesn't matter.

4. I Joined Another Knit-Along (KAL)
I will be seeking therapy--do you think they treat over-optimistic crafting???? And, in my best "enabler" spirit, it's this one. My theory is, if you take people with you, it's a little less insane. It closes on March 25, uses fingering yarn and size 7 needles (for non-knitters, this is a much bigger needle size than KALs usually use, so it will theoretically go faster--or would if you didn't have 58 other projects going at the same time).

5. Eating
I finally had one of my chocolate cinnamon bears (thanks Ellen!) and I thought they were pretty good. Andy didn't like them, but had two. (I didn't ask). Cinnamon and chocolate are such an unusual combination that it was a pretty unexpected taste, but it was REALLY good to have a cinnamon bear again.
When I eat things that are obviously pretty processed, my stomach hurts, I feel more sluggish, and I feel hungrier about 2 hours later than I should. To be honest, I did not expect that there would be much of a difference--either eliminating the processed foods or having them again--so if anything, I was biased the other way, but even at the risk of permanently giving up a lot of foods I really enjoy, I feel better when they're out of my life. *sigh*

Anyone have any thoughts on how to make oatmeal taste like cinnamon bears?

Thursday, March 6, 2008

The First Stop

Bananas, our intrepid Appalachian Trail hiker, should reach the first mail stop today & receive the first care package we sent her. The second package has been mailed already, and the food dehydrator is merrily humming away--this time with brown rice and a spicy tomato-bean mixture. Doing all of this, we have learned

* You can make your own Minute Rice by cooking rice, then dehydrating it. The end result takes far less time to cook. Finally!!! A way to work with brown rice that does not involve postponing dinner!

* Always, always, always spray the drying sheets with olive oil or cooking spray before putting anything on them.

* Measure the volume & weight of everything before AND after cooking & dehydrating. There is no other way to figure out how much dehydrated rice really makes 1 cup when rehydrated.

* Wash dryer trays often, especially after anything strongly flavored.

* It's easier to experiment when you're not eating the results yourself.

If she makes it all the way to Maine (from the starting point in Georgia), she'll be done sometime in September and will have hiked 2174 miles. The trail, which was specifically created for hikers, was started in the early 1920s and the first documented "thru-hike" was in 1948 by a gent from Pennsylvania named Earl Shaffer. Admittedly, this would not be my idea of a fun undertaking, but I would support anyone who decided to do something they have always wanted to do. Life is short.

Go Bananas!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

At Least We're Not Alone

I just got back from having dinner with a friend who is preparing for a court battle with his ex-wife. So far our court system has allowed her to violate most, if not all, of the points in the custody agreement, and yet he as had to continue to pay FULL child support. While there are many decent exwives and divorced mothers who really do care about their child's best interests, child support and custody is too often used by a bitter ex-wife to take revenge on an ex-husband who has moved on and is happy in his new life. This is excerpted from an article from The British Second Wives Club. America doesn't seem to have a lock on the loonies.

Bitter Ex Wife Pattern
Some examples to help you identify the bitter Ex!
by a BSWC Member.

It is recognised and accepted that Divorce is a painful, emotional process and it takes time for both separated spouses to recover and get on with their new lives. The BSWC has found, and many health professions agree, it takes at least 12 months for parties to get over the divorce and focus on their new lives however many 2nd marriages are finding, sometimes years after the previous marriage had ended in divorce, they are having to deal with the a bitter ex-wife who refuses to get over it and get on with her life and accept children have a right to have a happy relationship with their father.

Whatever the decisions were to end the marriage there seems to a number of first wives who have unresolved issues, we have discovered a familiar pattern into which a bitter ex-wife's behaviour falls: BEP ~ Bitter Ex-wife Pattern.

Most of our members have experienced some or all of these problems:

Ex-wife seeks to control ex-husband's time with their children.

Ex-wife dictates who should/shouldn't be around the children, ex- wife may seek to have 2nd wife, girlfriend, grandparents excluded.

Ex-wife to make child contact as difficult as possible - offer the children up for contact when she knows the ex-husband is working then accuse him of being an uncaring father when he can't see them at short notice.

Ex-wife using the children to send messages to ex-husband and his family.

Ex-wife bad mouth ex-husband/wife/girlfriend/family and make children repeat it.

Ex-wife makes young children aware of court action, CSA etc.,

Ex-wife ridiculing ex-husband in front of the children and encouraging them to do the same.

Ex-wife tells the children they don't have to listen to their father.

Ex-wife enrols anyone who will listen to her into her hate ex-husband campaign.

Ex-wife refuses to abide by the court order and considers herself above it all, doesn’t matter how it affects the children.

Ex-wife lies to education authorities telling them her ex-husband is a bad person and that he should be excluded at all costs.

Ex-wife claims everything is the ex-husbands fault and she was totally blameless throughout the marriage.

Ex-wife lies about situations in the marriage and dates.

Ex-wife spying on ex-husband's new girlfriend/wife, hang around his home, and make nuisance phone calls.

Ex-wife obsessed with ex-husband's new life, wife and/or girlfriend.

Ex-wife engages the services of a Private Detective to spy on ex-husband and his new partner.

Ex-wife makes false accusations about ex-husband harassing her.

Ex-wife makes false accusations of ex-husband beating her although she can't back this up with any evidence and her friends have never heard her mention this.

Ex-wife writes long waffling letters using solicitor’s terminology because she believes she has legal training due to the fact she spends so much time in their company.

Ex-wife claims the ex-husband is bad father because he doesn't pay enough money.

Ex-wife thinks she is entitled to most of the ex-husbands money.

Ex-wife has 'playing the victim' down to a fine art.

Ex-wife destroys all ex-husbands personal belongings she can get her hands on.

Ex-wife destroys family photos in front of children.

Ex-wife never questioned ex-husband's ability to be a good father and to care for the children by himself until they were divorced when he became totally unreliable and couldn't be trusted with the children unless she gives him a complete list of dos and don'ts.

Ex-wife refuses to acknowledge she has a problem and seek professional treatment for her problems such as paranoia, poor self image, anger...

And finally.....

Ex-wife claims she is always reasonable and all the problems are caused by her ex-husband!

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

The Best Laid Plans

As you have probably noticed, the blog is public again. It turns out that Google will only allow up to 100 readers per "private" blog (believing that 350 or so people really qualifies as "public"), so I was either going to need to make duplicate copies of the blog & post to each of them, take bids for the 100 spots, or learn to hack into Google's software. So, until I think of something different, we're public again, but with a sprinkling of obsessed ex-wife repellent:

Our wedding was a year & a half ago, and the divorce was over 4 years ago, so yes, as one person put it, we are dealing with "a special brand of crazy here." I thought that summed it up nicely.

It's nice to be in a "normal" month, but except for a few exceptions (a white chocolate martini, Diet Pepsi, and each getting one stick of a Kit Kat bar), we've mostly stuck with the new eating habits. Sad confession--I still haven't finished reading In Defense of Food, but I guess since we've lived it, Mr. Pollan would understand. To be honest, since he is a journalist and not a nutritionist, his books do need to be taken with a grain of salt, but all books about eating need a "spin" of some sort, since we all REALLY know how we should eat--lots of green vegetables, fruits, whole grains, lean meats in moderation, and probably nothing at all with "Hostess" on the label. I do enjoy some of his maxims, however:

"Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants."

"Do All Your Eating at a Table. (No, a desk is not a table)"

And my personal favorite...

"Don't get your fuel from the same place your car does."

Love that one!

The one that would have surprised me had I not worked with nutritionists & dietitians for 3 years while working for the American Diabetes Association:

"Avoid food products that make health claims."

This one is surprisingly true. Next time you're in a grocery store, look at the commercially packaged breads and compare anything with the word "grain" in the name to regular whole wheat bread--especially the fiber. A dietitian told me years ago that the more claims a bread makes about "whole grains" the less likely it is to have them. I don't know if this is universally true, nor what advertising loophole allows this little paradox, but whenever I check breads in the supermarket, she has been consistently right.

We live in a very strange world.

Monday, March 3, 2008

How We Think We Did

Here it is, day 3 of eating like "regular" people, so it's time for a little reflection on our experiment:

1. The thing we missed most was diet soda--no contest. I am now drinking them only in moderation, but I'm noticing that they now make me really thirsty. We're thinking perhaps it's the level of sodium or maybe the carbonation? I'm still sticking mainly to water & coffee.

2. Being a human lab rat is a strange experience--made even stranger by the fact that it was totally voluntary.

3. The thing I am actually most thankful to be able to eat again--Grape Nuts. Since I hate eggs in any form & sweets for breakfast make me sick, I am pretty dependent on cold cereal for breakfast. Leftover roast beef was a very strange substitute.

4. I have been experiencing some headaches this month, which are generally caused by my allergic reaction to milk. The headaches were surprising because I have lived with the milk allergy for so long that I can generally gauge how much milk or dairy I can have before I have a reaction. Since I was looking for a milk trigger, it wasn't until the last headache that I started to wonder if it was tied to the few times this month I did have processed foods. The thought of another zinging headache has kept me a healthy distance from those cinnamon bears.

5. We have no idea if either of us lost weight on this little experiment. A year and a half later, we still can't find the bathroom scale.

6. I feel like I have way more energy now. Those of you who know me well realize how scary that concept is.

7. Some processing is okay, like washing. Washing is very good, as is cooking, canning, dehydrating, freezing, roasting, and pickling. I don't think anyone who works full time can eat only fresh foods all the time.

8. I'm a little sick of nuts & homemade peanut butter.

9. If there was an allowable food that could be obtained in a drive-thru that wouldn't upset my stomach immediately, I didn't find it.

10. If it wasn't for the butter chicken curry sauce packets available at Cost Plus and this book, we would have starved. Side note: The recipe for naan is fabulous and does NOT involve turning your oven up as high as it can go. Secondary side note: Olive oil burns at around 500 degrees.

11. Grocery shopping felt a little like being at war with corn syrup.

12. Even though they are now "allowed," neither of us have eaten many processed foods yet.

And the number one thing we learned - People start asking what your current "Month of" experiment is before accepting dinner invitations.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

You Can't Go Home Again

Today's lesson: You can't switch back to "eating as normal" without penalty.

We survived the pizza last night with no problems, but after reheating the leftovers for us for lunch, I ended up with a really upset stomach. I don't know if it was related to the whole processed-foods experiment, but I have not ventured into the cinnamon bears yet.

Our intrepid Appalachian Trail hiker, "Bananas," hopped on the train yesterday, and we put the first parcel in the mail today. Our kitchen has been turned into the Boris & Natasha Supply Depot:

and the food dehydrator has been going nonstop for the last couple weeks. We've made breakfast bars, several soup variations, jambalaya and Balti rice combinations, instant smoothies, several varieties of pancakes & bannock, several flavors of dried chicken, and variations on that ever-popular crowd pleaser oatmeal. Bananas will be the first AT hiker to be supplied by caterers!

And since the ban is over and we can enjoy them, anyone else who wants to experience white chocolate martinis, the recipe is as follows:

6 oz of vanilla vodka
3 oz of white creme de cacao
3 oz of Godiva white chocolate liqueur

Mix in martini shaker with ice until cold. Serves 2 people or 1 lush


Saturday, March 1, 2008

Forbiden, Foods

IT'S OVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

This experiment was SO much harder than the "Month of Not Buying Anything New." One really can just not buy things--stamps, epoxy, that darned fabric that I still can't find--but one can't just not eat for a month, even if that would be preferable to facing oatmeal every morning.

I bounded out of bed at 6:08 AM this morning, giddy at the very thought of

Getting food from a box was a surreal experience--food that doesn't look like food. Grape-Nuts do only have one polysyllabic ingredient--an emulsifier (so weirdly enough, that texture is on purpose), so they were the only boxed food that came close to making the "allowed" list this month, but at the final cut, they were out as well. According to our experiment, the only "food" we could have eaten from a box was the box itself, and even oatmeal tastes better than that!

At noon:

To drink something besides water or coffee was positively heavenly. Having not a single ingredient that occurs in nature, I do think I'd probably have been better off without it, but today was not a day of willpower.

And the anticipation while driving to the restaurant..........

And the big moment:

If Nirvana could involve pepperoni and mushrooms, this would be it!

Fall! Finally!

Even without extremely hot summers, I've always loved fall.  A little coolness in the air, leaves starting to turn, sweaters coming out-...