Thursday, June 30, 2011

Need Some Teaching Help

I teach this class that uses vector calculus to derive the equations of motion in the atmosphere.  Yeah, sounds like a blast, right?  That's why I need some help.  Maybe you can give me some advice?  I'm teaching this class for the second time this fall and am going through the motions of trying to improve it, but I think I need to take a step back and look at a few big picture teaching philosophy ideas first. 
  1. What did your favorite math/science/engineering/derivation class teacher or professor do to keep you interested or at least not lost?
  2. What are they teaching in high school teacher training these days that I could use in my class?  I'm thinking some of the cool tools that high school math teachers use, I could use.  
  3. I've tried making digital notes that I can scroll through during class, then fill in the holes with example problems on the white board.  Any better ideas for presenting this material? Anyone else hate white boards with a passion?  Come to think of it, my white board is behind my projector screen, so this option won't even work in this classroom!  Maybe I can get a chalkboard mounted on a side wall. 
  4. Lastly, I'm having a hard time organizing my materials for this course physically.  So I have a 5 inch binder of last year's notes, exams, homeworks, keys.  I have three textbooks that I use, an old notebook, a new notebook both filled with sample problems.  I usually organize digitally, but I'm not about to scan in a notebook's worth of sample problems.  Any organizational tips?  Is the 3-ring binder the way to go with those nice post-it tabs? 
I guess I just haven't mastered the upper level class yet.  I'm so used to my intro classes where I have colorful pictures, demos, labs, stories to go with every lesson.  It's hard not being good at this yet!  Help!

A little flavor of my current digital notes:
If I can't get anywhere with this class, I might just have to do live prep during the fall and switch to my next summer goal of creating computer labs.  Help!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Wisconsin Girl Makes Cheese at Home-- Queso Blanco

We've made paneer before, which is a cheese used in Indian cooking.  With my garden plans for this year of basil and tomatoes, I really want to learn to make fresh mozzarella before these veggies start coming in. Dave surprised me with a cheese making book and while I'm deciding what ingredients to order for the more complex cheeses, I thought I'd dry an easy recipe for Queso Blanco.  My immediate reaction to this process is that it was 90 degrees, we don't have air conditioning, I probably shouldn't have spent an hour over a hot stove making cheese.  Maybe it's more of a winter process?  I won't give up on my mozzarella dreams!

Before I show you the fun, why make your own cheese?  Frankly, because it's pretty darn cool.  The more hobbies I have, the better.  I don't need my mind rotting while I'm on "summer break."  Learning is fun.  Trying new things and succeeding makes a person feel good.  The flavors of cheeses made at home are going to be on par with the cheeses you might pay big bucks for at the grocery store, but will be infinitely better than the cheap cheeses you buy there.  I'm all for yummy cheese.  The ingredients for this cheese cost me about $12, mostly because the heavy whipping cream was so expensive (and Soopers didn't have regular old heavy cream, time to shop elsewhere for milk).  Keep in mind that I live in Colorado, where milk is not cheap.

Almost 2 gallons of milk, 3 cups of heavy cream, bring to 180 degrees F while stirring (BORING!)

Remove from heat and add a little over 1 cup of vinegar, stir for 10 minutes as curds form.  So cool!

Strain the whey from the curds using cheesecloth.  As you can see, I kept the whey because I attempted to make Ricotta with it afterwards with no luck.  This leads me to believe that the "whey" is not technically "whey" when you use vinegar.  Thoughts?  It's possible I didn't wait long enough for curd. 

Throw the curds back into the pot and stir in 0.9 oz. salt

Press.  Here's my ghetto cheese press.  Turns out, it didn't work very well and after letting it sit over night, I made another press in a cake pan and put 35lbs of weights ontop of it to try to get more whey to drain.  
Queso Blanco in a cake pan.  Apparently it's supposed to be hard, but it's not.  I will have to work on the pressing for my next batch, which will probably be more authentic and more complex.  You're supposed to serve it sauteed in butter.  It tastes really good, but I'm disappointed that I wasn't able to make it firm. 

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Boulder Lefhand Canyon Maxwell Fire June 26, 2011

Lefthand Canyon from Fairview High School at 6:25 PM

From Fairview High School at 6:25 PM

From Fairview High School at 6:25 PM    
A 10 acre fire in the 4,000 block of Lefthand Canyon burns on a hot, dry, windy day in Boulder, Colorado.  Evacuation orders are in effect.  Stay up to date with the Daily Camera.  Comment on post if you'd like full resolution pics (or, you can click on them, I believe). 

Eating local Week 2

My CSA gave me rhubarb, spinach, cilantro, green onions, butter lettuce, red leaf lettuce, and radishes this past Tuesday.  I'm trying to be really efficient with the veggies so none go to waste, and so none carry over into the next week.  I've done a good job of planning, spending about an hour on Mondays to see what I have left, what I'm getting, and plan out a menu for the week.   That way I can grab a few groceries and spend some time on Tuesday cooking after I pick up the veggies (which I'm making myself run to instead of drive so I get in a nice work out since it is at the bottom of a huge ridge that I live on top of).  Somehow with about two hours of cooking on Tuesdays, I'm able to get set up for the week when I'm more busy.  I'm sure this will stop happening in the fall when school starts again, but for now it has worked pretty well. I'm sure you can tell that I love cooking, so this is fun for me.

Here's a list of what I made this week, and what ingredients it used up for me:
  spinach pesto-- spinach, parsley from last week, cilantro
  very green buttermilk salad dressing-- parsley, cilantro, spinach
  potato salad-- radishes and green onions
  strawberry rhubarb pie #2-- rhubarb
  salads-- leaf lettuce, butter lettuce

Spinach pesto is called Mando Bizzaro Sauce in the Moosewood cookbook.  Use one whole bunch of spinach in stead of basil in your pesto recipe, but add a few leaves of basil if you can.  Dave actually liked this better than regular pesto, but I prefer basil, which is why I have about 15 basil plants growing right now.

Very green buttermilk salad dressing was also from the Moosewood cookbook.  This was great, but next time I'll roast the garlic first to avoid garlic breath.

The potato salad came from a recipe I found online, here.  I love it!  Dave won't eat mustard (okay, that's putting it lightly, he actually won't even look at it, hates me when he sees it in our fridge, and I've witnessed him gag and nearly barf at a restaurant once when he tried some tartar sauce that had a dash of mustard in it) and he doesn't care for mayo.  He didn't even know what miracle whip was.  (I freaked him out by saying that it's not unheard of to make a Wonder Bread/miracle whip/bologna sandwiches in Wisconsin.)  So, I made this treat for myself and cut back on the number of potatoes.
Radishes, green onions, in potato salad
My pie this week used Bittman's Flaky Pie Crust recipe (don't tell my mom that I didn't have time to call her for her and aunt Darcy's mind-blowing pie crust recipe) and a gluten free oats crumble topping that I threw together after realizing Bittman didn't intend for the pie recipe to make a top and a bottom unless it was doubled.  I made the crust with Jules Gluten Free Flour and rolled it out between two pieces of plastic wrap, which made the process super easy and clean.  This week I had a significantly larger amount of rhubarb, but threw it all in the pie anyway.  It was definitely tarter, but good.  If I get more next week, I might try making jam instead. 
If you've ever tried making a gluten free pie crust, you might be tempted to give me an award for this one.
Tapioca is the best pie filling thickener.  Who knew?
Meanwhile, my garden has peas!  They will probably be ready to be picked next week.  I will have to share some pictures of my pea plant.  I've never seen anything like it, and since it's the first real thing I've grown without screwing something up, besides lettuce this spring and about 10 lonely cherry tomatoes last year, I have to gloat.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Easy Spinach Pasta Pie

After a fun weekend of brewing beer, painting art, and watching softball all with good friends, it was back to the grind this morning.  My day flew by and dinner snuck up on me.  Turns out the mystery green from last week's CSA box WAS spinach, just like they said it was.  I guess I've never actually eaten fresh non-baby spinach, which is why I didn't recognize it.  I feel like I'm learning so much and it's only week one!  Once I realized I had spinach, and am getting more of it tomorrow, I figured I'd better start cooking the darn stuff!  I went through my two favorite cookbooks Bittman's How to Cook Everything and The Moosewood Cookbook and came up with six spinach recipes.  Then Dave reminded me that Indian Saag involves spinach, so I broke out the Indian Cook book for that.  Still, I didn't have many of the non-spinach ingredients for the recipes.  I'll make them later in the week after a trip to the grocery store for a few small items. 

My CSA sent out a newsletter with the below recipe for Fresh Greens Pasta Pie, which I did have ingredients for!  I'm sure everyone doesn't have rice vermicelli sitting around like I do, but since it's gluten free, and takes only boiling water, I tend to make backpacking packets out of it.  Anyway, you can find the rice vermicelli in your Asian food section of the grocery store.

The pie was surprisingly tasty!  I had no idea what to expect, but I'd make it again for sure.

Since everyone on the web seems to have ripped this recipe off from Crystal Lake Gardens, and I can't find the original webpage, I'll rip it off as well.  I didn't have milk on hand (very vanilla soy milk doesn't belong in spinach pie), so I used water. 

Fresh Greens Pasta Pie--   6 ounces vermicelli  2 tbs butter of margarine, softened  1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese  5 eggs  2 tsp cooking oil  1 small onion, chopped  2 cups fresh spinach or other greens 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese  1/3 cup milk  1/2 tsp salt  1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper  1/8 tsp ground nutmeg  several shakes hot pepper sauce  Any other veggies you have in the fridge (optional)  Heat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease a large pie plate.  Cook vermicelli according to package directions; drain.  Stir butter and Parmesan cheese into hot vermicelli.  Beat 2 of the eggs and stir well into pasta.  Spoon mixture into pie plate, and use a spoon to shape vermicelli into a pie shell.  Cover with aluminum foil and bake 10 minutes.  Set aside.  Heat oil in small skillet, add onion and saute until tender.  Beat the remaining 3 eggs and combine with spinach, mozzarella, milk, seasonings, and sauteed onions.  Spoon spinach mixture into pasta shell.  Cover pie with aluminum foil.  Bake 35 minutes; uncover and bake an additional 5 minutes.  Let stand 10 minutes before slicing.  Makes 6 servings.  Recipe by Crystal Lake Gardens

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

"Why can't I find rubarb in the cookbook index?"

"Because it has an h!"

Ah hah!  I know so little about rhubarb, I didn't even know how to spell it.  My mom grows some by our shed for my grandma, but I've somehow managed to never eat it, at least as far as I know.  Yesterday I picked up my first box of veggies from our CSA (community supported agriculture) from Grant family Farms.  I just showed up at a house a few blocks down the hill, crossed my name off the list, loaded up the veggies from a purple box into a bag, and was on my merry way.  (You can still join if you're interested!)  Of course, you have to ask yourself, what exactly is in season this time of year at 40 degrees North latitude?  Well, I'll tell you:  lettuce.  Here's the stuff that were supposedly in my box:  rhubarb, spinach, cilantro, parsley, butter lettuce, leaf lettuce, green onions, bag of salad greens.  I don't think I see the spinach, but there's some big stemmy-leafy thing in there that could be anything.  I don't know just yet if it is what they say it is. 

Regardless, I got the list of things on Sunday, so I strategically planned out meals for the week as best I could and got the ingredients necessary on Monday from the store.  Things to make with my veggies, among other things I need to use up:  Pad Thai, strawberry-rhubarb pie, grilled chicken salads, salads, stir fry, eggplant parm (made it, not so stoked about it, not going to share the recipe with you), home made ravioli, oh, and did I mention salads?  If you have any other ideas for what to do with gobs of yummy lettuce, I'd appreciate your sharing it below! 

Last night I made the pie as soon as I got home with the veggies.  Off the top of my head, here's how the recipe went:

I had 2 long pieces of rhubarb, I took off the outer stringy layer, then cut it into 1-inch pieces. 
I had a pound of strawberries that I cleaned and sliced. 

I added 1 cup of sugar, 4 Tbsp tapioca, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and a dash of salt and nutmeg for the pie filling. 

I found a bag of gluten free pie crust mix in my closet which was probably two years old and rolled that out.  If I wouldn't have found this, I was going to use some of my new Jules Gluten Free Flour and a standard pie crust recipe.  The crust I used was almond and rice based and was awful to work with, but I rolled it out and called it crust.  The flavor on the crust was really good in the end and probably worth the trouble.  

I threw all of this in the oven at 450 for 10 minutes and 350 for 45 minutes.  

It was fabulous!  The sweet strawberry with the tart rhubarb really makes me happy!  You know what else makes me happy?  I used two in-season ingredients and one of them was grown locally.  Unfortunately, my strawberries came all the way from California.  Imagine the gasoline burned to bring them all the way to me!  ::Sigh::  I should have gotten a fruit share as well. 

For those of you who actually have strawberries locally available to them, try this cold strawberry pie recipe that I've blogged about in the past. 

For dinner, I threw some chicken breasts on the grill, washed up a little bit of every kind of green we got in my salad spinner, and had salads topped with grilled corn from the cob, grilled chicken, cherry tomatoes, carrots, and cashews.  Here's some dressing ideas for summer salads from an old post.  Yesterday I made a huge bottle of balsamic dressing.  I had a 1 cup olive oil, 1/3 cup balsamic vinegar, then added 1 Tbsp Parmesan cheese, 2 cloves of roasted, minced garlic, and 1/4 tsp salt and pepper.  Simple enough!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Home Brew

Dave has been making his own beer for a while now.  Here's a few pics from Easter when Dave brewed his latest batch, a cream ale.  Apparently it was a huge success!  I even put some in my mouth, swished it around, and then spit it out since beer is not gluten-free.  It tasted pretty good, but it smells amazing!  I smell a lot of beers, people.  It looks like I'm helping in these pics, but I will be the first to admit that I played very little role in this whole process and I'm totally impressed at all of the planning that goes into one of these deals. 

We also make mead and ciser for me.  These are honey wine and cider-based honey wine.  Yum!  We've got a batch waiting to be done on that end as well.  

Cooling down the beer before it goes into the carboy by running it through this hose system, which has hose water on the outside of the beer hose cooling it down.
Bubbles!  A successful bottling!
 There's an even more amazing DIY project that Dave has in the works that I can't wait to share with you! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Congrats to Joel and Shannon

Good friends-- the cutie on the left is expecting in September!  I had a good time blowing bubbles with her daughter at the wedding. 
I was home this weekend for a good friend from high school's wedding.  In fact, Joel and I have known each other since we were in diapers.  The wedding was beautiful and, frankly, one of the most well-attended weddings I've ever been to!  The couple could pack a church, that's for sure!  It was so comforting to see such a good friend so happy with his beautiful bride.  Congrats Joel and Shannon and thanks for the awesome party!  Joel and Shannon actually dated in high school and reunited years later and fell in love.  How romantic is that? 

This wedding had a few wow-factors.  One was the dinner table vases filled with water and live flowers floating in the water.  Such a cool effect and so pretty!  Another neat-o touch were that we each received a pouch of seeds to plant flowers and on that pouch was a sometimes romantic, sometimes funny phrase that we were to use as conversation starters with the bride and groom.  What a fun idea!  We laid ours out and had Joel explain a few of them to us.  So cute!  I also very much appreciated the bottle of red wine on our table.  Wine at a Wisconsin wedding?  Yeah, Joel's classy like that.  Another fun idea was handing out bubble wands to all of the guests, having them circle the bride and groom during their first dance, and add to the mood by being surrounded by love and bubbles.  I'm curious if the photographer was able to snag any good pics of this effect.  All of my pics of the bride and groom are on my mom's camera, so I may never see them, but it was worth having the good camera to get the high quality pics that I snapped from the balcony of the church.  Maybe I'll snatch them when I'm home in August. 

The best part of the wedding was catching up with my high school gals (one not pictured above, sorry, NavyGirl), their husbands, and parents.  Joel reins from this crowd himself, but was clearly too busy to sit down and chat with us all night!  I can't tell you how easy it is to talk to people who knew you best when you were 16.  These girls have always been there for me, and even if we have to wait for Christmases or weddings to reunite (running out of weddings here, people), it's as fun as it has ever been.  Most people I know look back at their high school years negatively.  Every single day I had adventures with these girls (and Joel) that made high school an absolute blast.  They taught me how to be confident, work hard, but have fun!  Not all young girls are so lucky to have such positive influences in their lives.  Some people are just worth flying home to see and will always feel like family.  Thank you, girls, for making it so worth it!  I will continue going through withdrawals until we meet again. 

I got to spend some good time with local family back home as well!  It makes me super excited for our upcoming family vacation in August.

I flew back Sunday early afternoon, am back in Boulder teaching summer school, and I really needed a moment to sit and collect myself after a long Monday.  I was contemplating a nap, but sometimes it feels good to blog, even if it's only for 15 minutes!  Thanks for reading. 

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Garden take two

A draft from 5/22:  Today I planted my garden!  Let's hope season number two is more fruitful than season number one.  The soil was super easy to work with due to the fact that we've had a few inches of rain in the last two weeks.  I picked my lettuce, weeded, turned everything over except my peas, added some compost, and started planting.

I planted several heirloom tomato varieties from beefsteak to cherry to pear sized, a few early girl tomatoes and cherry tomatoes (non-heirloom).  I could eat a bowl of tomatoes a day, so I'm hoping this year my garden plus my CSA keep me content.

I also planted some wacky peppers, some sweet reds, purple, white, yellow, and greens, three from Dave's trip to Kansas, and two as gifts from a neighbor.  I'm excited to see how they turn out!

I have an entire row of basil.  I'm worried that they won't grow into the big bushy basil plants I'm used to, but if they do, I'm going to be swimming in pesto and caprese salads.  Yum!

Lastly, I have a new little spot that is a bit rocky.  I'm not so sure what to throw in there, but I might try some cucumbers for the hell of it.

We also have a small swath that we let overgrow with mint, which grows like a weed here naturally.  Tea time!

With the exception of the peppers, I grew all of these from seed starting several weeks ago.  I'm going to see if they make it through the week.  If not, I'll have to go buy some greenhouse-grown tomato plants that are stronger than mine.

I have not yet planted my patio tub-garden.  My back is too sore to work on that today, I think.  I've got some bush cherry tomatoes, more basil, herbs already started, and cucs to plant in my tubs.  Tomorrow is another day! 

Beyond gardening, I've decided to learn how to make cheese this summer.  I've made the most basic cheese, paneer, but I hope to try mozzarella next.  Then, once my tomatoes get going, I'll be drowning in caprese salads!

Update on 6/3:  My patio garden is doing well.  I have gobs of bush tomato plants.
All tomatoes except for beans in the white bin and herbs off to the right.  We've been collecting pots for a while now, they seem to collect near our garbage can and on the sides of roads with "FREE" signs on them.  There's several more not pictured here. 
 My tomato starters in my actual garden died while we were in the desert.  In fact, the peppers don't look too good either.  I should have put a note on the garden to have someone water it, but I actually think it was two other factors that killed them:  1.  I didn't plant the tomatoes properly.  The starters had weak stems and I should have buried them right up to their leaves.  2.  It was windy and the stems all snapped in the wind against the hard crust on the soil.  

I ran to Harlequin Gardens here in Boulder and got some awesome tomato starters from them!  I also couldn't resist a tomatillo plant.  I can't even remember all of the varieties I bought, but about 6 different kinds of heirloom tomatoes total.  I planted them yesterday, nice and deep.  The woman told me to cut off all of the branches except at the top and plant it as deep as I could, that all the little hairs on the stem will become roots!  I am super excited to watch them grow!

My pea plants are looking good!  My CSA starts in a week!

6/6 update:  I have flea beetles eating my tomato plant leaves!  After some online reading, I did 3 things:  fertilized (they don't like the smell of chicken poo, who does, really?), put down one of my spider sticky traps to catch as many as possible, and then watered the leaves with a chili sauce, cayenne pepper, water mixture.   Yeah, I'm desperate here.

Friday, June 10, 2011


My family grew up eating meat and potatoes, Dave's family grew up eating lots of Mexican food for some reason.  Yum!  I have found the most craving-worthy fajita recipe ever!  I'm actually not sure if they taste authentic.  All I know is they don't taste like the fajita seasoning that come in those envelopes.  If you like spicy, tangy steak and peppers, try Tyler Florence's Mojo Marinade Fajita recipe
Marinated and sauted peppers

Marinated and grilled flank steak
Serve the meat, peppers and onions on corn tortillas (microwave these in a wet paper towel or saute them in olive oil to keep them from breaking apart instantly).  I like to make small sides of cheese (pepper jack is the best with fajitas, but cheddar may be nice as well), sour cream, home made pico, and/or hot sauces for options to put on the fajitas. 
Mojo Marinade


Thursday, June 9, 2011

Stir fried quinoa with vegetables and tofu

Easy! Yum!  Quinoa makes the perfect rice substitute!   The recipe is here.
I substituted green onions for the scallions.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Gluten free diet for non Celiacs

As I discussed in past posts here and here, I have Celiac Disease, which was diagnosed by a blood test that showed extremely high antibodies in my blood and then was confirmed through an endoscopy and biopsy of my small intestine.  I have an autoimmune response to gluten where my own body fights my small intestine when I eat gluten, making the intestine walls slippery and unable to absorb nutrients and digest my food.  The gut becomes permeable and we call it "leaky gut."  If I cheat on my diet, there's several short term repercussions like diarrhea for a week, foggy brain and inability to concentrate, and general tiredness.  These are just my personal symptoms, but everyone is a little different.  The long term consequences of cheating on my diet is that there would be a good chance that I could die young of small intestine cancer, among a slew of other related diseases.  In fact, I had a number of issues in my first years of being diagnosed that I'll blame on malnutrition from Celiac.  Celiac Disease is technically a gluten intolerance.  I am not allergic to gluten because I do not have an anaphylactic response.  In other words, my throat won't swell shut and I don't need to carry an Epi pen like someone with a peanut allergy.

I am also lactose intolerant, as are most adults.  When I drink lactose, I get a stomach ache, but besides the inflammation, I'm not doing permanent damage.  Therefore, I'll eat cow's milk ice cream every now and again and just deal with the temporary discomfort.  I eat cheese and sour cream on a regular basis, but I put soy milk or almond milk in my morning latte.  This sounds much less severe than gluten intolerance, yet it is called lactose intolerance.  When consuming lactose, some people can take a pill with enzymes that will help them digest the lactose.  These don't work for me. 

On the other end of the spectrum are people who are gluten sensitivePeople who are gluten sensitive do not have an autoimmune response to gluten, nor do they have leaky gut syndrome.  They simply feel better when they don't eat gluten.  I appreciate that people thought to themselves, "I get ____ symptoms too often, maybe I should try eliminating things from my diet and see when I feel better."  They try eliminating things from their diet and realize that they feel better not eating gluten (and I'm sure most of them avoid lactose as well).  I think this is great, to take your health into your own hands and see what makes you feel better.

Now, I was diagnosed in 2003 with my Celiac Disease, but I had been sick for over a year and several doctors had passed me by and told me there was nothing wrong with me except that I was stressed out.  My impression is that doctors are very aware in 2011 of Celiac Disease and would happily offer the blood test to people with a collection of health problems or just Irritable Bowel Syndrome (the syndrome for people who they can't diagnose with any real disease, but who suffer nonetheless with no cure).

The increased Celiac awareness has caused a large number of previously undiagnosed people to finally be diagnosed.  An old study claimed that 1 in 133 people have Celiac Disease.  I read in a recent New York Times article that 6% of Americans eat gluten free.  I hate to point this out, but maybe 6% of New Yorkers eat gluten free, I can't picture people in Alabama climbing on this fad diet. 

The increased awareness about gluten have caused a huge number of people to go on gluten free diets.  

Some companies that sell gluten free food have realized that they can make us the processed food we used to enjoy, such as pizza crusts or cake mixes, make it gluten free, and charge us 300% of what we used to pay for these items.  My pizza crust costs $4.00 without anything on it, it's a personal size, and it doesn't even taste good.  My cake mixes are about $6 each.

Recently, some companies have started marketing their products as gluten free and claim that it will help people loose weight!  Really?  Substituting whole grains or wheat flour for potato starches are going to help someone loose weight?  Do you know why I lost weight because of Celiac Disease?  Because I was malnourished and didn't digest my food for over a year.  Yes, cutting out pizza, bread, and beer from your diet and substituting it with whole foods like meats and veggies and fruits is a quick way to loose weight, but substituting it with gluten free products that use starches and rice flour might make you fatter. 

The result of all of this is that there are four types of consumers of gluten free foods:  Celiac Disease sufferers (the gluten intolerant), people who are gluten sensitive, people who are trying the latest fad diet, and our partners who are sometimes forced to suffer through gluten free options.  (Dave eats his own pizza crust, bread, cereal, and beer, but he'll join me for the rest.)

I live in Boulder where people eat health food as candy.  At the farmer's market this past weekend, there were at least ten separate tents that specialized in gluten free food like cakes, granola, or pasta, and several more that had gluten free options.  Of course all of the vegetable farmers are naturally gluten free.  If you go to any grocery store in town, you can find whatever you want gluten free.

What does all of this mean for me when I go out to eat?  I hate to be the obnoxious customer, so I only mention the gluten intolerance in a situation where the menu isn't very descriptive and I don't know what to order.  Sometimes I'll get a great response like, "Oh yeah, we have a separate gluten free menu" or "We can do these five meals as gluten free, which one would you like?"  Other times I'll get an eye-roll without the physical eye-roll.  Other times I'll get someone who has never heard the word gluten before in their lives, pretends they know what's going on, then feeds me gluten.  I recently had a waiter ask me what happens if I eat gluten.  I told him I'd suffer from diarrhea for a month, he winced and promised me a gluten free meal.  My breakfast came out with a huge roll on top.  Some folks hear the word "intolerant" and don't think it's a big deal, so I will cheat and use the word allergy to have them take it seriously. 

Going out to eat is a risk I take to take part in a social life that most people enjoy.  However, I'm sick of not being able to trust that the restaurant I'm going to is actually feeding me gluten free food.  If they were serving people who are gluten sensitive, then I personally feel that a few grams of gluten ending up in their food from using a knife to cut their food that was used on gluten-filled food is okay.  This is not okay for me.  A few grams will trigger a response.  It won't be there, at the dinner table.  I'll wake up at 3 in the morning in a sweat and rush to the bathroom in pain when the food finally gets to my small intestine. 

I don't want to hate on the non-Celiacs who eat gluten free, because gluten free food is now available everywhere, thanks to this demand, and people are just more aware of what gluten is.  However, if my waitress thinks that I'm concerned about gluten because I'm trying a fad diet, then I'm most certainly going to be glutened at every meal outside of my or my close friends' houses. 

What are your thoughts? 

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Needles Lost Canyon and Squaw Canyon

We made it back to camp at Lost Canyon 1 in Needles where we pitched our tent, opening it only for seconds to throw stuff in over a fear of letting in bugs.  The camp was buzzing disgustingly with life. Dave fed a few mosquitoes while I fended off horse flies with my hat. 
The site had a nice dining room table and chairs set up for us. 

Super excited for freeze dried food.
Our means of boiling water for our freeze dried packs of Mexican Style Rice and Chicken.  Yum!  Dave fends off the bugs by sipping fireball. 

From our tent
Dinner hit the spot.  2.5 servings, my butt!  I ate the whole thing.  We went and watched the sun set, then decided the best way to avoid the flies and mosquitoes was by getting into the tent.  We played a few rounds of Dave's homemade version of Quarto.  I had hiked in my ipod touch for reasons I can't explain, but to avoid listening to the noises outside the tent, I threw on Ratatouille until I got sleepy.

The next morning, over breakfast we debated how to get back to our car.  I just wanted to go home ASAP.  Dave thought we should take the scenic route.  I was scared of going back the way we came and seeing the ladder again, but I was also worried about the scenic route since the ranger mentioned a few things I wouldn't like.  Why go 2.6 miles when you can go 6.1?  We took the long way, up Lost Canyon, over a rock formation, then down Squaw Canyon with packs. 
We were able to pump water from this spring through Dave's fancy pump thingy and fill up his camelbak (haha, he gets the added weight!) to keep us satisfied for our long hike out.  We actually drank just about everything we brought in including this extra 3 liters. 
The hike started harmlessly along the bottom of the canyon, but things quickly got annoying.  Did I mention it was a wet year in Utah?  Well, Lost Canyon is usually the only canyon with water, but this year it was the canyon with a lot of water.  Standing water.  Yes, a mosquito haven!  I didn't vacation in Utah to hang out with mosquitoes!  In fact, as I was packing ample amounts of sun screen, I looked at the OFF and thought, "Nope, won't need that!"  I was very, very wrong.  These things were large and they swarmed around us as we hiked and pumped out CO2 like nobodies business.  The hat made a great swatting tool, but eventually I couldn't fend them off and got a total of 20 bites on my arms and legs and neck.  Dave was wearing long sleeves and pants, but they still got his face.  They even got me through my shirt!

Dave got bit while taking this picture. 

We were going up and over this thing off to the right to get out of Lost Canyon. 


We just climbed up out of this valley.  The scary part was very minimal and Dave talked me through it like a pro.  The Ranger mentioned a crack you had to jump over, but I swear, we never had to.  I kept worrying it was coming up, though!

After the scary part, I was very happy to be on something semi-flat, so I took a seat by a cairn to catch my breath after the climb.  No tears today!  Take that, Needles!

We stopped here for lunch.  Cheetos, beef jerky, and dried fruit.  Quality.

Entering Squaw Canyon on our way out.
Success!  We're almost out!  Note the yellow flowers everywhere!  , 
6 miles with packs after 3 days of camping/hiking, this about sums it up.  Time to go home!  Our cars are near the butte on the right, I think.  (Hehe, I said butte!)
We made it back to our car, threw on the chacos, used the pit toilet, changed, Dave had an Avery beer, and we hit the road.  It was finally time to head home.  Good thing, too, it was getting hot out!  We left around 1:00 and didn't get home until 9:00pm.  Poor Dave drove most of the way while I held my eyes open.  I've never been so tired in my life!  It was a pretty drive back, following the Colorado River all the way to Vail.  The River has overflowed its banks due to high snow pack melting.  It was fun to watch it rage through Glenwood Canyon. 

It was a fun memorial day weekend trip! 

Monday, June 6, 2011

Needles Lost Canyon and Peekaboo Trails

The poor man working the back country pass office had no idea what he was getting himself into when he volunteered to help us.  I wanted to do the exact same route we had done in 2009, or at least to hit the same high points.  Dave wanted to check out the east side of the park, which we hadn't ever explored.  The guy behind the counter knew not to intervene.  Dave was right, we should do something new.  We decided on Lost Canyon 1 (LC1 on the map below). We'd start at Squaw Flat and hike directly to our site, drop our packs, and continue on to Peekaboo to see an arch before the day ended (it was 1:00 or 2:00 when we signed in).  I mentioned to both of the people helping us that I have a fear of heights and they both didn't seem to think it would be a problem, but pointed out two places that I might have issues, one on each leg of the yellow highlights below.  Anxiety kicks in. 
Red indicates 2009 trails we hiked.  Yellow was this year. 

 We finished up packing our packs for one night in the back country (a few miles from our car), including our tent, sleeping bags and pads, stove, food, and water for two days in the desert for drinking and cooking. Then we wandered off towards Lost Canyon.  The hike starts off over a mild rock formation, then through a very dry, very sun-exposed, very sandy length until we reached the next rock formation that we had to hike over.
I think this is the view from the top of the rock formation we crossed.

We now had to get down into that valley.
So we follow the cairns through a few switch backs down this thing that leads us to a ladder to get us off one of the mushroom tops.  I was not too happy about the ladder and this is one of the fear of heights things that the ranger warned me about.  I had a very heavy, very large pack on my back.  Okay, Dave's was heavier, but still, we each had 2 water bottles and a 3 Liter Camelbak of water weighing us down.  My sleeping bag was strapped under my pack, so even when I tried to sit down, I'd feel like I was going to fall forward.  (I remedied this anxiety on my way out put putting the sleeping bag in the pack so I could always sit down if needed, which is very necessary when fear of heights freak outs occur.)  I was not ready to climb down this ladder with my pack on.  I unstrapped and handed the pack down to Dave.  The thing was that the ladder lead to a ledge with maybe three feet before a 30 foot drop to the bottom of the canyon, so Dave was a little nervous that I'd just let my pack pound down into him, knocking him off.  I handed it to him slowly.  Looking down was not a good idea, but how could I get down the ladder without looking down?  I did it.  I stood near the short ledge and strapped my pack back on, the tears now starting to come, and continued along the edge of this ledge, trying to hug the wall and duck under a mushroom top, but my pack kept hitting the top and throwing me off balance.  I made it, obviously.  I was pretty upset, but happy to be on solid ground in Lost Canyon. 

Sucking back snot and holding back tears after a major freak out.
 We made it to our camp, which was located in this oddly green portion of the desert in an oak tree stand.  And guess what greeted us?  Horse flies and black bumble bees the size of small birds.  Oh joy.  We dropped our packs and took a smaller pack to do a hike to an arch at the Peekaboo camp up the way.
Dave generously carried my water in his day pack and I was free to hike with nothing but my favorite rag and my trekking poles (which double as ski poles and reduce down to an 18 inch pole for packing), a birthday present from Dave. 
This hike looks like a straight line on the map from the ranger, but upon closer investigation, the hike weaves in and out of these large rock formations above the valleys.  (Note to remember to borrow topo map from friend next time.)

 After a mile+ where every little hill seemed like a cliff, my nerves, still frayed from the ladder incident, got the best of me and I broke down again.  I was done with this hike.  I wasn't going to make it to Peekaboo.  It was a repeat of last year's Island in the Sky Lathrop Trail where I freaked out half way and we had to turn around.  Dave explored ahead and even though I had quit prematurely, he was very sure that I wouldn't make it past a portion just ahead anyways.  He explored the area while I relaxed and collected myself for the hike back and enjoyed this epic view.

Snot rag comes in handy post freak-out.
Me--"I'm done with this hike."  Dave--"Check out the formation behind you!"

One of the many "cliffs" I don't care to tumble down.

Starting to feel better.  Sitting is good. 
Through the sun glasses.
Conveniently optimistic, despite me.

 We made it safely back to camp.