Sunday, February 27, 2011

Dinner Winner

Parenting was meant to be a tag team event.  While the busy schedules of the two might collide now and then, for the most part, between a pair of capable adults, the needs of their children can generally be met.  In the same vein, it's nice to have another on your team when you're wiped and frazzled and done.

That's how I always feel by dinnertime on Sundays when I've had the kids for five consecutive days.  It's not because I can't take the kids any longer -- it's that my kid-friendly menu ideas have been depleted and I just don't know what the heck to make.

Tonight I fell back on an old standby, pizza, with yet another attempt at passing off a gluten-free crust as an acceptable surface for their own topping choices.  Last weekend, Gillian, Mark's sister, sent a clipping of g.f. recipes from her local (Sydney, Australia) paper.  Lemme tell you, it's awesome to get personal not-bills mail, let alone airmail with cool stamps from an exotic land.  Add to that fresh and fantastic recipes (including one for pizza bases)...that'll put a smile on any girl's face. I tweaked the recipe a bit for nutrition sake and of course, had to put my handy dandy metric conversion skills to work. That very night, I made pizzas for Mark and I with lovely results.

Tonight's pizza was a big hit. A neighbor girl was over and she loved it. Ike and Princess Pearl both raved. (Em had slipped into a coma-like nap -- she's a teenager after all.)  After the crusts were par-baked, I made a simple red sauce and put out veggie and meat and cheese options for each child to assemble their own pie. A little more oven time and dinner was served.  They were fabulous enough that we had to make an additional one for each kiddo. A unanimous I'll take seconds stamp of approval is a rarity.

So while you may not see much use for a g.f. flatbread recipe in the near future, I'll share my creation with you anyway.  Perhaps you'd like to invite me over for dinner.  P.S. I especially like caramelized onions.
Gluten-Free Flatbread
Makes 16, Serves 8

1 c. teff flour
1 c. brown rice flour
1/2 c. white rice flour
1/2 c. potato starch
1/2 c. tapioca starch
1 tsp. xanthan gum
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
3 c. cold water 
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Combine dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.  Add water and oil and blend with an electric mixer for about 5 minutes at medium speed.  It will be a fairly runny batter.  Line a  baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat mat and spoon on circles of batter, spreading them into circles (or ovals or hexagons or...)  I fit between three and five per sheet depending on size of pan and circles. Bake for 15 minutes then remove to cooling rack for a few minutes.  Top with desired toppings, return to oven for 7 to 10 minutes.  Remove, enjoy!
I used parchment on one pan and a Silpat on the other. Because of the high moisture content, the parchment ones got wrinkly on the bottom.  No biggie, but the Silpat ones were gorgeous. And after the first round, I decided to bake the topped crusts directly on my pizza stone.  That was a good decision. 

I have the remaining crusts in the freezer now.  I'm excited to come home from school with a grumbling tummy and satiate it with something much more clever (and tastier) than a chocolate rice cake.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Use It and Lose It

Now, as a dietitian-to-be, I wouldn't recommend someone drop 4.8 lbs in one week, but lo and behold, that is what happened to me.  I didn't do anything out of the ordinary.  I ate my meals, I snacked now and then, I drank my cappuccinos, I ate Christopher Elbow Chocolates (while listening to my 2nd annual Valentine's Day CD), I enjoyed my nightcaps.  I didn't exercise more (really, how could I?). I just logged what I put into my mouth.

...because it sucks to admit that you stuffed half a bag of cheesy rice cakes down your face.

If you really want to see what I've been eating, my profile, virasana70, at LiveStrong's MyPlate is public.  You can see that on Saturday night, I went over budget by 500 calories eating french fries and drinking vodka tonics. You can also see that on Sunday I ran nine miles and didn't make it anywhere near the top of my caloric allowance for the day. And you'll learn that I'm adding chia seeds to my oatmeal for extra fiber and omega-3s.  And you can join in on the fun.

Now, for the MyPlate it!  Not only do I have the power to log my meals from my phone or at my computer (and they are constantly wirelessly synced) it shows me a pie chart of carbs/protein/fat that adjusts as the day passes. If I look and see that my fat intake is only at 15 or 18%, I know that my next snack should be a piece of cheese or a handful of nuts.  Five nutrition classes have taught me that my ideal intakes are 55-60% carbs, 20-25% fat and 15-20% protein.  This makes it so easy!

I know I won't drop weight like this again.  Last week's loss demonstrates just how poorly I'd been managing my intake as of late (and I'd been hovering as 145 for over a year, so the weight change was definitely more than just water loss and hormonal changes). I can tell you that I feel fantastic. I can tell that my belly is shrinking (the thighs and boobs haven't budged, but there's plenty of time for that). Sunday's run felt great and I have to wonder if it isn't because I was lugging a bit less around.  I also read awhile back that for every five pounds you drop, you ease 20 lbs of pressure off your joints. I would like it if my knees didn't make snap-crackle-pop sounds when I go down stairs.

And if that groundhog was right, I won't miss this personal insulation in a coupla months.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Not a Hypothetical Warning

If this were a hypothetical warning, you'd be asked to keep your fluff in a safe place anytime I was in your vicinity. This is not a hypothetical warning. This is a real one.

I only keep up with a small handful of blogs. The People and Places I Dig sidebar keeps me apprised of new postings on friends sites.  Last week, Running Jamie posted a picture of a fire truck in front of her house (she's been known to set portions of her kitchen afire more than once), so I quickly scrolled down and read that her carbon monoxide alarm had sounded and she had to call in the F.D. to find the leak (I'll let you read the story if you want the exciting consclusion).

Imagine my surprise just a few days later when A-Dub reported the same phenomenon.  This is a not-so-awesome theme threading through my friends' lives. So I'm pretty sure it's now my appointed duty to alert you to the risks of living in a house in the wintertime.

Time to build an igloo!  Oh, never mind. There might be a simpler solution.

Check your carbon monoxide detector. Check its battery.  Don't have one? Buy one. (I'm buying one right now -- I guess I lost mine in the divorce.) It's cheap. It could save your life...though if you roll like the rest of my friends, it's more likely to end up causing [life saving] embarrassment.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

To Tell the Truth

Okay! Okay! Okay!  I'll do it!!!

Historically, it has tended to take an outlandishly long time for me to make any sort of tangible move.  Glance back to, what, four years ago? Mr. X: "I want a separation." Me: "Um, I don't believe you." Nearly two years later, I finally moved out.  Twenty years ago... Me: "Hmmmmm. I wonder what I want to do when I grow up." Eighteen years later...epiphany.  Three months ago: Me: "Wow. I'd better do something about my growing arse." Today: "Uuuuhhhh.  Okay."

My promise from last fall has been on my mind for awhile now.  A couple of weeks ago, I grabbed the body fat analyzer at work and gave it a good long squeeze.  I told it what I weighed (146 lbs.) I told it how tall I was (5'5 1/2") and it told me that my body fat percentage was 28.7% and my BMI was 23.8.  None of these numbers surprised me.

I told you numbers just like I promised. Now for the pictures.  Here's my new-ish thrift store...I mean, Banana Republic little black dress.  I would like to wear it in public. I think I would look smashing in it -- if it weren't so busy smashing me. So here I am, trying to break free from a size six dress (I cannot take a full inhalation).  My hope is that in a few months I can post a photo of the dress and I getting along on friendlier terms (perhaps under a graduation gown...).

So what am I doing to make these numbers shrink?  I'm keeping a food diary.  If I am accountable for what I put in my mouth, I'm much more likely to think twice about offing 3/4 of a bag of conversation hearts. (It happened. I'm not proud.) I have had a food log on my phone for more than a year now. After I loaded it, I didn't open it for three months.  Then one day I just did it. And for two weeks or so, I did a fabulous job of logging each meal and snack. It made exercise more fun because it automatically added the extra calories that I could eat for that day.  Then summer school started.  A cooking class. So I cooked.  And tasted.  And nibbled.  And ate.  And at the end of each day, I had no idea how to log those calories and nutrients.  So I quit tracking.

A few months later, a gal at the gym suggested another food log app.  I loaded it.  I have yet to give it a glance.  And then a few days ago at school, one of the guys in my major told me about a diet analysis program that his girlfriend had introduced him to.  It is significantly easier to use than the app that dietetics students so often are forced to use (and it surely crashes less often), and it has an iPhone app that continuously syncs with it to boot. So this morning as I was laying around feeling the extra poundage pool around my frame, I uploaded LiveStrong's MyPlate and logged my breakfast. Game on.

So now to further cement my commitment, I post this. My goal: to look awesome in that dress. I don't know how much weight loss that will take...fifteen-ish pounds? I'm more concerned with dropping the BMI and body fat percentage to a place where the trainer at work will say, "That's good!" instead of "That's good for your age."

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

A Unicorn is Caught in My Sweater!

It's a good thing The Valedictorian was with me today when I said that. She was able to subtly convey to Coffee-Refill-Guy that I was harmless and that he should simply take my $1.01 and smile. 

My charm bracelet had become entangled in one of my many layers of winter gear.   It's cold.  So cold, in fact, that the unicorn was seeking shelter.

See how it all makes sense now?

Monday, February 7, 2011

The Mark Spark

It's what I was seeking back in my lonely single days.  After any given date, I would catch up with whichever friend would listen and we'd review whether or not said date and I had The Mark Spark.   That's the name I'd given to that feeling -- the magic of an instant connection. There was something the very moment Mark and I met, and just a few hours later, the energy between us was palpable and must have looked akin to one of those plasma balls.  As for the first kiss...well...had there been any kindling within five feet of us, I'm sure we would have set the Blue Bird Bistro afire.

I adamantly claimed during the fifteen months between Chapter One and Chapter Two of our relationship that I was not looking to find Mark's clone (yes, I'm well aware now that I was lying to myself) -- I just knew that I wanted to feel warm and sparkly about a guy if I was going to bother with date #2.  And the ka-zing that Mark and I shared from the moment our eyes met over a loaf of fresh-baked bread was what I demanded.

Yesterday, however, The Mark Spark redefined itself.  He and I were each working away at our computers in separate corners of his basement when I shuffled over to him to offer a gentle kiss.  And instead of a soft, affectionate gesture, we each were hit by an electric shock that threw us apart and left our lips smarting.  After a few seconds and a sincere apology on my part, Mark touched my waist and then offered another kiss -- this time, without the bite.

I guess this gives new meaning to staying grounded in a relationship.

P.S. I almost forgot.  Avocado Virus.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Sacrificial Chipmunks

Inspired by Running Jamie's post, I looked (for the very first time) at the stats that Blogger makes available to me about the traffic sources and whatnot here at my good ol' Mountain.  I was surprised to know I could  see which search engines were sending folks here based on which search terms (it appears I'm a big hit in Bulgaria) (that's not true, but it would be funny if it were).  Luckily, I stumbled upon it on the very day that someone had found my blog by googling "sacrificial chipmunk."
Now, it's odd enough that I have actually used the term sacrificial chipmunk in a post -- I'll give you that.  But that someone is actively seeking a sacrificial chipmunk? I think that's even weirder (and I am a highly qualified judge of weird). 

So this is my new game:  to place in [most of] my posts a term or phrase or made-up-word, then monitor my statistics for weirdos who google them.  I can only assume that I will over think the possibilities and then no one will search for them...but on the other hand, it will be good to have a place to put some of the stupid things I say on any given day.

Maniacal boots.

And yes, suggestions are welcomed.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

One Stone, Two Birds...You Know the Drill

Creative Problem Solving.  It's a class.  A required class.  (Well, I could have taken Sports in American Life, but I opted to spend my $585.20 on something a little more useful.)  While I don't think there's anyone who will convince me that I'm actually a creative person (someone had the nerve to accuse me of it again today),  I've been asked to present images and text that demonstrate things/people/stuff that inspire me.  And in an effort to keep atop this Mountain of Laundry and stay ahead of classwork, here goes... surprise here...exercise.  Without it, I would spend the bulk of my life moping around wearing a muumuu.  Without it, I wouldn't have my identity.  Without it, my creative juices would have settled into my arse and thighs (in which case, they would be competing for space against Nutella and frozen yogurt, who are comfortably camped out on my backside for the winter).  

Running, spinning, yoga and cross-training all give me a sense of purpose, and thus allow me to do those things that some might consider to be "creative":  making-lunch-out-of-nothing-at-all; juggling school and kids and work and love; managing a household on a ratty, frayed, pieced together shoestring.

Endorphins from exercise are potent. They dragged me out of my dead marriage into my new fabulous life and give me a reason to wake (at 4:56 a.m.) every day.  You don't just go running 26.2 miles for the heck of it.  There's a fantastic hormonal payoff.

Food. big shocker.  Cooking was all I thought I had going for me when I found myself faced with starting a new life.  I always loved cooking gizmos and gadgets.  I even snagged a job at Williams-Sonoma for a couple of winters.  But it wasn't until Mr. X went on his aggressive diet that I dug my heels deep into the nutritious side of things.  During that 100 lb. plunge, we reduced sodium, increased fiber, decreased portion sizes and learned how fabulous food could taste.  I'd already begun my grain-mill kick, (only to be later quelled by a #$%^!@! gluten intolerance), then I dusted off old Eating Wells and soon found pure joy in cooking. It was that joy that helped me acquire my job at Hope Care Center, which in turn inspired me to go back to school to become a dietitian.  So yeah, cooking.  It's a good thing.

Friends!  Family! This life of mine has been so wonderfully enhanced by the presence of those who will tolerate me.  From my early morning exercise mates to my truest love who sends me the last text of the night, it is people who make my world go 'round.  Those Three Little Diggs, even in their most frustrating moments, are the very purpose for my journey on this earth.  My family, despite differences that would stagger even the finest of mathematicians, support me without question (well...there is an occasional question). Mark...well...I promised long ago that I wouldn't gush over him too much, but the truth is, he's totally dreamy.  And how 'bout those friends -- y'know, in the classical sense -- the ones with whom you share your deepest feelings, giggle 'til you nearly pee your pants...and roller skate while wearing a purple wig?  Those friends.  Without friends, how could I be inspired to one-up each year's Halloween costume?

Those who are willing to sacrifice their own well being for the greater good inspire me.  Whether they drink from an off-limits water fountain or demand legal acknowledgment of their loving relationship, whether they attempt to hush a hateful church's voice or oust an unjust government, those who are willing to risk life and limb to have their voices heard stir my soul.  I hardly agree with every opinion plastered on every protest sign and I realize that what I believe to be fair and just differs from what you believe to be fair and just. (Seems like a good time to mention that I was once in a play that was protested by Fred Phelps.  It was nearly 20 years ago so there was no media circus.  That's the gist of the story. Carry on.)  But I am moved by those who actively seek positive change in this world.  Human rights. Dignity. Peace. Chutzpah. Color me inspired.

And now, one of the more recent interests which tickles my brain into new [creative] ways of thinking: science.  I had no idea before I returned to school that I had a talent in, let alone a passion for science.  Had I not been so wholeheartedly driven to become a dietitian, I might have let the science-laden course load scare me away, but instead, chemistry and microbiology opened my mind to an entirely new way of thinking and my worldview has most certainly been affected.  The multiverse is so much more than a bunch of headstrong humans thinking they're the bee's knees (have you ever seen bee's knees?  They're awesome!)  I used to be playing peek-a-boo with my surroundings -- if I couldn't see it, it must not be there.  I'll go ahead and say it here: I was wrong.  Science rules.

And finally...drum roll please...writing inspires me.  This blog inspires me.  Words inspire me.

While I've been blogging to one degree or another for nearly a decade, it's the last few that have really helped me grow.  When I began sniffling about a crumbling marriage some time ago, I never imagined where I might land when the divorce was all said and done.  Some days, all I could manage was to jot down a few thoughts for the sole purpose of getting them out of my head.  I rarely know when I sit down at the keyboard what will come out of my fingertips, and it's often personally moving.  While I'm not a fan of reading from those early days on my Mountain, I'm glad to have the words and thoughts recorded so that I may glance back just to see how far I've come.  To many, I'd imagine a 40 year old who is finally getting around to finishing her bachelor's degree is less than impressive, but to me, it is more than I ever dreamed for myself.  And to now be preparing for graduate school and a promising career?  Words cannot express...

So there you go.  Problem solved...dare I say, creatively?