Nine

Posted on

Have you heard of the G-free craze? If you haven’t, you must live under a rock. 😉 In all seriousness, though, it seems like there is always a new fad diet to follow – no red meat, no carbs, no dairy, etc.  Everywhere I turn lately, people are talking about gluten-free diets.  I would venture to guess, though, that the people who try eliminating gluten are looking for a long-term lifestyle change rather than a quick-fix weight loss plan. Articles abound discussing different ailments that seem to be cured by eliminating gluten.

Hubby shared with me an article on the relationship between skin diseases and gluten.  Those who know me well know that I have a slight case of psoriasis.  I have suffered from this ailment since adolescence.  I use the term “suffered” lightly because although this condition has been with me for much of my life, I have been fortunate enough to not have a severe case.  I get the occasional flare up on my elbows and knees, but the most annoying spot of contention is my scalp.  That’s right.  Underneath my hair, my skin is covered in those scaly patches.  I have developed a nervous habit of poking at my skin when I am uncomfortable or anxious and that leads to small white flakes of skin all over everything.  Yuck!

I have found that rubbing some EVOO on at night time helps to keep it in check, but that leads to an oily pillow case and even oilier hair in the morning. So oily, in fact, that it often takes at least two washes to get it all out. Wouldn’t it be nice to not even have to worry about applying anything on my scalp?  So, in my quest to find a natural cure for this condition, I agreed to go gluten-free.  For a whole month.

Hubby and I decided to make the gluten-free trial also somewhat of a jump-start, or jump-back, to eating better and exercising regularly.  We had been in the midst of a bathroom renovation for the previous 5 months, and during those 5 months, we celebrated Thanksgiving, my birthday, and Christmas.  You know, all those diet-defying holidays.  Late nights of DIY labor and a so-messy-I-can’t-even-begin-to-describe-it house only encouraged us to frequent our favorite neighborhood spots.  As much as we love supporting our local greasy spoons, we usually only eat out about once a week for both economic and health reasons. Unfortunately, in my laziness, we were up to several times per week, not including leftovers. (Oh, how I love cold pizza!)  We chose to follow this meal plan from Derma Harmony just to take the guess-work out of gluten-free eating.

During our g-free experiment, I also read Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s The G-Free Diet.  I found this book fascinating.  She discusses concepts such as cross-contamination and how to keep a gluten-friendly and gluten-free kitchen for families who may have one gluten-free member.  I also discovered that gluten sneaks into the most surprising places.  I am no stranger to reading ingredient labels for additives and preservatives, but it just hadn’t crossed my mind to look for gluten in anything other than bakery products.  Did you know that gluten makes it way into condiments and spices?  I finally understood why I had started seeing the “g-free” label on food items.  Because, well, one can never be sure!  For me, this was just an educational experiment with hopefully a positive effect on my health, but for a celiac, this labeling could save him or her from a serious gluten reaction.  And, while gluten in my salad dressing won’t harm me, does it really NEED to be there?  Just another reason to make as much of my own food as possible.

There were a few foods that we actually missed on the g-free diet. Our everyday meals generally don’t revolve around wheat, so it was fairly easy to leave it out, but there were a few instances where the g-free alternative just wasn’t the same.

1. Pizza – We usually have pizza once a week. We have a couple local favorite pizzerias, but we also love to make it at home.  (This is our favorite pizza to make at home!)  Many pizza spots now offer gluten-free crust.  One night when we didn’t feel like cooking, we decided to give it a go. Now, the pizza in its entirety was delicious – sauce, cheese, Canadian bacon and pineapple.  But, the crust did leave something to be desired.  It wasn’t horrible or even bad; it just wasn’t. . .good.  (I’ve since seen recipes for zucchini and cauliflower pizza crusts that sound intriguing!)

2. Flour tortillas – We love our Mexican food. Burritos, quesadillas, tacos. There are quite a few taquerias around Atlanta that we frequent. They do offer corn tortillas as an alternative to their standard flour, but a quesadilla on a corn tortilla just isn’t the same. Neither is a burrito. These were definitely two dishes we missed. Trust me, though, we made up for them in nachos! 😉

3. Hamburgers. With Buns – During our g-free experiment, we did have a burger or two.  😉  We just used big iceberg lettuce leaves as our buns.  I love a good lettuce wrap, but they don’t hold a juicy burger topped with bacon and cheese the same way a gluten-full bun does!  😀

So, you may be wondering how the g-free experiment went.  Let’s just say that we are not a g-free house 😉  Honestly, in the beginning, I felt like there was a difference in how my scalp felt.  At the risk of giving you more information than you may want, the itchiness never fully went away, and, at times, it was much worse, but the flakes were definitely different.  Maybe I should have given it some more time. . .I do find that we’ll go several meals with no gluten now and not even miss it.  While I was really hoping to find a solution to my psoriasis problem, I’m secretly glad I don’t have to give up my bread.  I think with any diet craze, the key is actually moderation.  Just as I think butter and oil can be good for us within reason, I also think gluten, in and of itself, is not the enemy that so many want it to be.  I won’t say that I’ll never give g-free another try, but for now, I’m enjoying my whole wheat pizza! 😉

The G-Free Diet

The G-Free Diet

Ninth Bucket List Item: Go on a gluten-free diet for a month.  Check.

Share on Facebook

Eight

Posted on

Making chicken stock from scratch is not a novel idea. My mom, in fact, makes her own frequently. But, it was just never on my to-do list. While I enjoy cooking, I’m not much of a baker; I don’t tend to make things that require lots of stove time. I like to see quick results from my effort, although there is a standing joke in our house involving 30-minute-meals, as in “is dinner almost ready or is this another one of those 30-minute-meals?” So, I guess it’s no surprise that I would much rather buy a box of stock at the store than sweat for hours over a big pot on the stove. (I always buy an organic, low sodium version. Trader Joe’s has a great option for a decent price.)

But, then I started seeing ideas for soups in the crock pot. Would it be possible to make chicken stock in the crock pot? That would take the simmer time out of the equation. But what about all the ingredients? It always seemed daunting to buy all the fresh ingredients to make something that just goes into something else.  Then, I saw this post about kitchen scraps. Now, that’s a great idea! Kind of a twist on Rachael Ray’s garbage bowl, but instead of throwing it in the trash, toss it into the freezer.

What about the chicken? Was there a way to be resourceful on that front as well? Sure enough, there was according to this other post.

So, I could make a stock using all “recycled” ingredients and my crock pot? I’m in!

It took me no time at all to store up a chicken carcass (thanks to Hubby’s beer can chicken!) and a bag full of veggie and herb scraps.  It really is less depressing to throw unused herbs and other extra veggies into the freezer for a later purpose rather than just tossing them into the trash.  I think the end result turned out pretty tasty.  It was easy, cheap, and I know exactly what’s going into it.  It has definitely turned into a staple in my kitchen!

DSC_0388

Freezer Bags

I’m now in the habit of keeping a Ziploc bag (or two) in the freezer.  Anytime I chop a vegetable and have skins or peels or leftovers, I throw them in the bag.  If I’m cleaning out the fridge and notice some veggies starting to go bad, I’ll throw them in.  You don’t want to use anything that has already spoiled, but anything on the verge that you know will not get eaten before it does go bad is fair game!  Peels and skins are fine because you are going to strain it after it cooks, and they can add just as much flavor as the “meat” of the vegetable.

DSC_0390

Chicken Stock just before the crock pot lid went on!

Dump your chicken carcass and veggies into the crock pot.  Fill with water almost to the top.  If you happen to have some fresh herbs on hand, thrown some in as well.  Then, set your crock pot to low for 8-10 hours, and let it do all the work!  Skim off the layer of fat on top, remove any large chunks with some tongs, and then pour through a strainer.  Store in the fridge or freezer.  Plastic Chinese food containers are great for storing stock and other soups in the freezer.  Just be sure to leave a little bit of room at the top for expansion.

Eighth Bucket List Item:  Make chicken stock from scratch.  Check.

Share on Facebook

Seven

Posted on

Almost 3 years ago, I got a new camera for Christmas. I did a little research and decided on the Nikon D5100. A friend of mine already had one, and her photos always turn out beautifully.  I’ve always taken a lot of pictures.  Hubby gave me a Fuji digital camera before study abroad, and we both got a lot of use out of it.  You can look around our home and tell that 1) we LOVE to travel and 2) we LOVE to take pictures of all the places we’ve been.  I was ready for the upgrade but was at a loss at where to start learning about photography.

Funny story:  Hubby and I actually met working at a photography studio during high school.  We were two years apart in school, so we probably wouldn’t have crossed paths otherwise.  Thanks, Russell!

While I can help you pick out a great portrait, and I think we’ve been lucky to get some great shots over the years along our travels, I couldn’t tell you a thing about photography techniques.  I came across a Groupon shortly after Christmas for a local photography workshop.  I vaguely remembered reading on a friend’s blog about the same workshop.  I decided to chance it.

I ventured down to Little Five Points with a friend for our introduction to DSLR.  I have to say, it was well worth the time and the money.  I really should take a refresher class now that I’ve had some time to play with my camera on my own.  I now know to play with settings to get a specific result, but I would love to be able to know which setting to use instantly without having to go through the trial-and-error process.  Here are some shots from the day:

DSC_0242 DSC_0268 DSC_0282

Seventh Bucket List Item: Take a photography class.  Check.

Share on Facebook

Six

Posted on

“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.”
― Jo Walton

 

Sunset at Cape San Blas!

Sunset at Cape San Blas!

Sunset in Portland, ME!

Sunset in Portland, ME!

Sixth Bucket List Item: Watch a sunset.  Check and Check.

 

Share on Facebook

Five

Posted on

“There’s a sunrise and a sunset every single day, and they’re absolutely free. Don’t miss so many of them.”
― Jo Walton

Sunrise at Cape San Blas!

Sunrise at Cape San Blas!

DSC_0648

Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain!

Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain

Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain!

Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain!

Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain!

Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain!

Sunrise on Cadillac Mountain!

Fun Fact: Cadillac Mountain is located in the Acadia National Park in Maine.  It is considered to be the first spot the sunrises in North America, although the spot actually changes according to the Earth’s seasonal tilt.

Fifth Bucket List Item: Watch a sunrise.  Check and Check.

Share on Facebook

Four

Posted on

My fur baby loves the water. I mean, she REALLY LOVES to swim. Both sets of her “grandparents” have pools and lakes, and, when we visit, we cannot keep her out of the water. It doesn’t matter how cold it is or how tired she is, she cannot resist a little swim. So, Hubby and I have been talking since she was a puppy about taking her to beach. We really wanted to see what she would do with waves of water on the beach. In 2011, we got serious about turning all of this talk into reality. We started researching dog-friendly beaches. A lot of beaches allow dogs but only for certain hours or with strict leash laws. We also started thinking about how our fur baby would do with swarms of people and *gasp* other four-legged friends. You see, Stinkerbell is a sweet, sweet girl, but she is much more a “people” dog than a dog’s dog. She has a few dog friends, but she’s not keen on meeting new dogs on walks or at the park. So, we decided off-season would probably be best for us. Our anniversary is in October, so what a perfect celebration!

Then, we stumbled upon Cape San Blas. It just kept coming up in our search over and over. We heard from various people what a relaxing and quiet place it was. Perfect for us! We found a pretty good deal on a townhome right on the beach and decided to go for it. We packed up the car and road-tripped down to the gulf – with Stinkerbell on my lap for most of the ride!

She loved the sand and the water, although she didn’t really get the concept of riding waves. Her favorite part, though – the BIRDS! She is a hunting dog by breed, and she definitely enjoyed making those birds fly!

While on our beach trip, I was also able to cross off two other items on the bucket list – Five and Six.

Stinkerbell digs Cape San Blas:

All packed and ready to go! And, this is before Bambino! Avery barely had a seat in the back, although she didn’t really need it. She is very much a lap dog!

All packed and ready to go! And, this is before Bambino! Stinkerbell barely had a seat in the back, although she didn’t really need it. She is very much a lap dog!

First Steps!

First Steps!

Enjoying the view!

Enjoying the view!

Life's a beach!

Life’s a beach!

Family Photo Op - Christmas Card 2011

Family Photo Op – Christmas Card 2011

Fourth Bucket List Item: Take Stinkerbell to the beach.  Check.

Share on Facebook

Three

Posted on

Back in 2010, I got the bright idea to undertake the.largest.project.ever. Hubby’s grandma was turning 80 years young, and we were trying to come up with something to commemorate the event. My MIL had planned a big surprise party with family coming in from all over. We knew she didn’t need anymore “stuff” and would enjoy a more sentimental gift. So, we came up with the photo slideshow idea.

We have long talked about organizing all of our pictures. When we got married, we put together a slideshow of some of our favorites of us growing up. But, that just doesn’t begin to cover two families’ combined photo history. We dug up boxes from my in-laws’ and started scanning. We found some great memories and put together a slideshow 8 songs long. We had scanned a lot of photos.

Unfortunately, the quality just wasn’t up to par. We presented the gift with the promise to improve the image quality, and of course, add more pictures ☺ We researched, we tried new programs, and we just figured there had to be an easier way.

In the midst of the slideshow project, we were also in the process of backing up all of our photos. You know, the ones that we had scanned when we got married AND the ones that we had just spent hours upon hours over the previous year scanning. After sending back a malfunctioning external hard drive not once, but twice, we finally thought we were making progress. Until that horrible noise and the even more horrible screen. You know which one I’m talking about. The screen that all computer-users know. The Black Screen of Death. It happened all of a sudden, without any warning, and BEFORE the external hard drive was recognized. We took the computer to the store, and we were told there was no hope for an easy recovery. The computer was vintage. I mean, it was just about 7 years old. ANCIENT! We had to call in the pros. The Apple store recommended a company that could possibly extract the data from our hard drive, but it would be expensive. As in, the-cost-of-a-new-computer expensive. It was worth every penny! All of our irreplaceable memories saved. We did buy a new computer, too, and with it, I discovered that the Apple store gives workshops. For free. Finally, we could figure out this slideshow thing!

So, one Saturday morning, Hubby and I sat through the “introduction to mac” workshop. And, although a lot of the information covered was a review since we have been personal mac users for about 7 years, we did learn some new tricks. Plus, a lot changes in 7 years, so we learned that our new computer had some neat features that our “ancient” laptop did not.

All in all, it was informational and, being free, I would definitely recommend a workshop to anyone who just wants to take advantage of all that these computers have to offer.

On a side-note, I was relieved and a little annoyed to learn that with the updated iPhoto version now available, the slideshow project was much simpler than we had made it out to be. I did continue to spend a lot of time retouching scanned photos, but the actual exporting and burning to a DVD process through iDVD went smoothly AND image quality was retained.

Third Bucket List Item: Take an Apple Workshop. Check.

https://www.apple.com/retail/learn/

Share on Facebook

Two

Posted on

When I started coming up with ideas for my 30-before-30 bucket list, I tried to think of local attractions that I may not have experienced, yet.  I do want to be adventurous, yes, but I also don’t want to break the bank in the process.  Staycations have been popular in the last few years, and that concept prompted the search for Atlanta activities.  I had no idea that Atlanta had a still-functioning drive-in movie theater!  Onto the bucket list!  I had already started thinking about my 30-before-30 bucket list prior to my 29th birthday last year.  Hubby and I were trying to coordinate a birthday outing with friends when he surprised me with the fact that he “already had plans” for us on the night in question.  Now, hubby has always been good at surprises, but it had been awhile since he had taken it upon himself to plan an all-out surprise date night.  I was not going to miss out on this!  We rescheduled dinner with friends, and I was given a clue of “dress warmly.”  After work on a Friday night, hubby picked me up for our date.  He still wouldn’t give away any hints as we drove along.  And, drove along.  Finally, we reached our destination – the Starlight Drive-In!  He had stopped by Fresh Market and packed us a gourmet picnic, brought blankets (because, yes, my birthday is in December), and even thought to borrow a TV tray table from my mom.  I really wish I had pictures of the setup complete with candelight!  We opted to watch the movie in the warmth of the car, but it was a ton of fun!sprite

Second Bucket List Item:  Go to a drive-in movie.  Check

Share on Facebook

One

Posted on

I’m not freaked out about turning 30.  Really.  At least, not in an “I’m getting SO OLD” kind of way.  Although, sometimes it feels that way when I’m in my pj’s before 9pm.  No, turning 30 is more about realizing how quickly time passes.  There just doesn’t seem to be any break in the monotony of daily life when you’re a grownup.  As a child/adolescent/young adult, there was always a new semester or school holiday that seemed to symbolize a constant cycle of beginnings and endings. Well, maybe not concrete beginnings and endings; more like milestones to commemorate a specific point in time.  Of course, there are still holidays and vacations, but what you lack as an adult is something to distinguish this year’s trip from last year’s.  I’ve found that now I tend to associate events with how old my nieces and nephew were at the time.  So, maybe the monotony is broken up when you have kids; maybe you begin to live through their milestones.  I am still able to place myself when I hear an old hit on the radio.  The song instantly takes me back to what was going on in my life when it came out.  I can tell you exactly what grade I was in until I graduated from college based on a song, but I admit that the years begin to blur after graduation.  Kanye’s “Gold Digger” was popular when I got married, as was Rascal Flatts’ “Bless the Broken Road;”  I remember listening to Taylor Swift’s debut album just after we moved into our first house.  So, maybe now I’m only able to place songs alongside life-changing events.  At any rate, the impending milestone of turning 30 is a gentle nudge to do those things that I’ve put away for “someday.”  Otherwise, someday could just turn into never.  Thus was born the bucket list – the 30-before-30 bucket list to be exact.  Honestly, I have come up with more than double  that, but I figure I’ll just save those for the next milestone.

First Bucket List item: Start a Blog. Check.

 

Share on Facebook