Friday, April 27, 2012

Seedlings and Mosaic Bird Bath

That Miracle Grow soil might have been a bit too much for our seedlings.  These puppies still have a month before they can go in the ground and some are a foot tall!  We've been keeping our seedlings outside because it has been so warm and they are looking great!

This picture just really wanted to be sideways, so I gave up trying.  There are pepper and tomatillo plants on the far left and tomatoes on the right. 

We ended up only getting a handful of tulips blooming, but the vines (English ivy and grape vines) on our fence are slowly taking over our little condo yard, which is perfect for privacy.  The rose bush on the right never ceases to amaze me.  I cut it down to nothing ever year and before I know it it's full and bushy again!  Whoever lived here before us must have really loved purple flowers.  We must have 20 different purple flowering plants that pop up throughout the season.  These and the lilacs are out now. 

We're having a hard time having a normal lawn under our plum tree from all of the bird seed that ends up on the ground, but I like the wild look of it all. 
Dave made the cute little bird bath on the left.  He made a glass tile mosaic on a terracotta pot.  We might make it a little taller by throwing another pot upside-down underneath the existing setup, especially because I have a few broken pots from leaving them outside this winter.  The birds are loving the water, which can be hard to find in our neck of the woods!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

Spring Things Both Happy and Sad

It is safe to say that I am not having the best spring ever.  This post is about reasons to be sad and angry, but even better reasons to be happy and optimistic.

Between the two of us at my house, one of us has been sick for the last 3 weeks.  This ruined my spring break, caused me to cancel class for two full days after break, and has kept me from training for my 10K.  The only cool thing we've managed to do since Christmas, it seems, was to go fishing on Boulder Creek while I corrected papers on a blanket.  Dave has been working nonstop since New Years, including many nights and weekends, so we haven't taken any cool trips like we usually try to do. 
Fishing-- and the last picture of my car.

This picture is the last picture ever taken of my red, 2000 Ford Explorer that I've had since 2004, right before I moved to Colorado.  On April 4, I returned from work at 5:45PM to find that my car was missing from the Park and Ride and all that was left was my passenger-side glass, shattered all over the asphalt, and a cup holder that the criminal must have kicked out of the car while trying to find my spare key, which he did.  I considered for a moment that I had parked elsewhere and that my cupholder, still filled with a carmel stain on the side, just happened to be laying in a pile of glass.  I hit the panic button a few times on my key chain, but no honking.  I called Dave and said, "Someone stole my car."  I had to repeat myself a few times because you can imagine this is not the type of thing you say or hear very often.  After he understood, I started crying in the parking lot and told him I didn't know what to do.  Call the police was the obvious answer that Dave was able to tell me while I was in shock.  Yes, so I hung up with Dave, who would come down and pick me up in his new Westfalia Van (from 1980) and called the police.  I stewed in the parking lot for an hour with Dave before the police got there to take my report.  He looked around the lot and said, "Well, that is low income housing over there, and here is a church that was housing homeless people last night because it was cold out, and even though it's an official RTD (bus company) parking lot, there's no surveillance."  He suggested that someone went for a joy ride and that it could show up out of town.  They'd call if they hear anything.

Let me list a few reasons that my car was stolen
  1. There was an empty purse on my front seat.  I got a new ipad and needed a purse with a zipper that I could carry it in so it wouldn't get wrecked in my school bag (filled with rice chex crumbs and dirty kleenexes) or rain/snowed on.  I had my usual purse, but it didn't have a zipper, just a snap, so I took a zippered purse out of my closet and ran to my car to go catch the bus.  I threw everything from the non-zippered purse to the zippered purse, then left the empty (except for ipad charger) purse on my passenger seat as the bus pulled up, and ran for the bus.  Yes, there was an empty purse in my car when it was broken into. 
  2. I had skis in my car.  I was going to go skiing with my cousins and uncle the last day of my Spring Break, but I came down with a terrible case of awfulness that woke me up at 6am and put me in Urgent Care until noon on a Sunday, may last day of spring break.  Dave was loyal and skipped skiing to sit in a waiting room all morning.  We didn't go skiing.  The skis were in my car because, well, I didn't take them out.  I have been feeling like garbage, holed up in my house blowing my nose every 2 minutes, and I just hadn't spent any time outside, particularly any time where I might be inspired to clean out my car.  The skis were in ski bags, so the thief didn't know that they are old skis that no one would buy. 
  3. I have a key pad on the side of my car, which allows me to type in a code and get into my car without my keys.  Therefore, I kept a spare car key (and house key) in the glove compartment.  This was nice for many reasons.  I've had several friends benefit from the use of my car while I wasn't around, buy just telling them the code.  It also saved me several times when I couldn't find my keys.  This allowed the thief to break my window, glance in my glove compartment, and realize that he had just scored a free car without having to do any funny-work to the starter.
  4. My car is old.  It's a 2000.  It parks in a lot with lots of new, shiny cars of the business-men that I bus with every day to Denver.  My car had no alarm system, unlike the several cars that were parked around me that were worth more, but went untouched.  
  5. I live 2 miles from the park and ride where my daily bus to Denver picks me up.  If I wanted to park at a different park and ride, I'd have to go about 1/2 mile further every day on the way to work and then back home.  The other parking lot is on the wrong side of the road, and a further parking lot is a ramp that is usually full by late-morning when I catch the bus (9:00).  Both of those lots have a homeless population that sleeps nearby.  My parking lot has a homeless population that sleeps in the church that owns the lot.  They usually leave by 7AM, I parked that day at 9:30AM.  I never trust my car in this lot overnight and park in one of the other lots during long vacations where my car will sit for a few days.  This crime happened between 9:30 and 5:45 PM in the middle of the day. 
Where does this leave me?  Well, annoyed and without a car.  I can't drive stick shift, so I'm out of luck on borrowing Dave's car(s).  Wednesday night we ran to Home Depot and bought new locks for our house in case the creep found my spare house key and my address, which was on everything in the car, including my GPS system.  $50 down the drain for new locks and piece of mind.

Insurance will cover $30/day towards a rental vehicle, but I only use my car for 4 miles a day, of which I can substitute a second bus or a bike.  The second bus increases my commute by 30-60 minutes a day.  My usual commute was already 2 hours a day.  I also don't know how large our deductible is and if this $30/day would really be coming out of my pocket, should the car be found.  I have to wait 30 days before I can get a check for the blue book price of my car, which is a small amount of money compared to what it is worth to me.  My car might be 12 years old, but it is flawless with only 60-70,000 miles on it.  It was a car I could have kept for several more years without issues.  If they find the car in that time, then I will spend our deductible money to pay for the damages that the creep did to my car and have to replace the locks.  If they don't find my car, then I will buy a Subaru Outback, a car I've wanted for a while due to its reliability and better gas mileage.  If I buy a new car, I'll probably fork out $8,000 out of pocket to get a vehicle that would be worth investing in.  I'm not even sure who gets my stolen goods bill, my renters insurance (which I only took out about 2 weeks ago) or my car insurance.

I am frustrated that crime is expensive.  I am frustrated that I can't trust the people who live in my city.

Dave is going to take me grocery shopping today before he leaves for a trip so that I don't have to carry back too big of a load on the bus by myself.  I have plenty of friends who function perfectly fine without a car.  I admire them and look forward to being more like them in the coming four weeks, using my bike, being patient with the bus that follows no schedule that goes by my house. 

I have a few more sources for life anxiety right now, but they will have to play themselves out before a mass-sharing will be appropriate.  Still, I can use all the support I can get!

Spring is here, well, I won't bore you with the climatology, except to say that spring has been here a while.  March was the driest and second warmest March on record in Denver.  March is usually when we get a few feet of snow, but not this year.  My garden looks like a pile of sand, but I planted a few lettuce and pea seeds anyway.  I also started my seedlings.  I grabbed $3 worth of small pots at the hardware store and some Miracle Grow soil.  I scavenged our garage for small pots from last year's bought seedlings.  All together I ended up with about 50 small pots.  This is just enough for the garden and then the huge number of large pots I keep on my porch.  I filled them with all different kinds of heirloom and non-heirloom tomatoes, peppers, and tomatillos.  They are doing extremely well.  I bring them outside when I'm home on the weekends so they can get exposed to the intense sun and wind that Colorado has to offer so they don't die their first day in the ground, Memorial Day weekend. 

Labeled pots with seeds near our sunniest window.
Seedlings basking in the sun.

Plum tree-- having a really hard time these days, perhaps needs more water?  Branches are very brittle!

More seedlings.

I planted tulips two Novembers ago, but they don't seem to come up very well.  Perhaps they are too shallow?  Still, we've got one just about to bloom!

Dave caught this picture of a Robin.
I think the best cure for a sour, bitter mood is sunshine and exercise and I look forward to getting both of these this next week, even if I'm still suffering from a sinus thing.  Okay, that was my attempt at optimism! 

Getting started gluten free--Going Out for Drinks

Now you  know how to eat breakfast gluten free, and make your pantry gluten free, but what about functioning in the social world?  You can still meet up with friends for alcoholic beverages, you just have to avoid one thing: beer. Yes, there are gluten free beers, but I don't like any of them!  Gluten free beers are the freaks of the brewing world, so if they are gluten free they will say it on their label very clearly.  It takes a lot of trouble to make a beer gluten free.  Go ahead and try a few if you crave beer, but know that they will always taste different than a beer that includes barley.  I never developed a taste for beer due to the age that I was diagnosed (too young to have spent money on beer that tastes good), so I am a bit of an outcast where I live.  Dave brews beers and so do most all of our friends.  We have some of the best breweries in the world in our city.  I spend a lot of time smelling beer and wondering what they might taste like.  I substitute all beer drinking with hard cider. I bet your favorite bar even keeps some in stock!

All distilled liquor, meaning hard alcohol, is gluten free.  Have a mixed drink!  I avoid malted beverages as well, such as Smirnoff Ices, Mike's Hard Lemonade, etc. Wine and champagne are fine!  I brew my own hard cider, ciser (cider+honey), and mead, which is honey wine, but let's save that for a future post. 

My favorite hard cider.  Luckily, it is also the easiest to find!

Part of my 30-during-30 list is to try 30 meads, ciders, and gluten free beers.  Here were a few I found at the liquor store in Colorado.  All were delicious!
It should be noted that anyone with intestinal issues should be avoiding alcohol until they are recovered. I was alcohol free for about three years (age 21-23) and when I started drinking again, I was very careful to take it easy, never more than two drinks, and that is only on special occasions. My body just takes days to recover from three drinks or more, and it is so not worth it for short and long term health.  Cider is pretty mild, though, so if I have some on hand, I'll have a half a glass with dinner. 

Friday, April 6, 2012

Getting Started Gluten Free- pantry substitutes

Now that we've established what to eat for breakfast while starting your gluten free diet, let's talk about a few easy things that you can put in your pantry to make almost all cooking and baking gluten free. 

Soy sauce
Who would have thought?  Yup, soy sauce, at least the brand that exists in most of America, is actually made out of wheat, not soy.  There are lots of gluten free brands out there.  In fact, our generic Kroger (store brand) soy sauce is gluten free.  There's another brand I commonly see near the Asian food section and/or in the organic section called San-J.

    Wheat flour is THE gluten source.  When you're starting your gluten free diet, don't go out and buy 20 flours (rice, tapioca, potato, quinoa, etc.) or even a mixed flour (Bob's Red Mill) or a bunch of Xanthan Gum.  You want Jules Gluten Free Flour.  This is the only flour that is a pure one to one substitute in all of your recipes.  Is it perfect?  No, there's no real gluten substitute.  Gluten is what makes breads stretchy.  Jules gluten free flour has a mix of flours and some other cool stuff that acts a bit like gluten.  The problem is, it's only available online, as far as I know.  Click on that link above and get some shipped to you!

    Unless you're making a lasagna, quinoa noodles are the only way to go.  They take slightly longer to cook and aren't good as leftovers.  Beyond that, it's one of the few gluten free substitutes that might actually be healthier for you.  Quinoa is a super grain. You can read all about it on the back of your box.  I find these in the organic section of my grocery store, but you can buy boxes online too.

    Cleaning the gluten out of your pantry
    Of course if you live with a gluten eater, you can keep all the gluten junk around and just add the above suggestions to your pantry.  Dave and I share a kitchen and he keeps his own flours around (he bakes bread and pizza dough from scratch for himself) and his own oats and pastas (his are cheaper), his own snack foods (pretzels, granola bars, cereal), but everything I'm going to cook us dinner with is gluten free.  There's no sense in having regular gravy and gluten free gravy around-- when is he ever going to have his own gravy that I can't eat?  There's also no sense in having two soy sauces, for example.  We do, however, have separate peanut butters.  If Dave's going to spread it on his roll, then put the knife back in, I'd rather just have my own jar.  I just use a sharpie and put my name all over it.

    If you're going 100% gluten free in your pantry, go ahead and get rid of your gravy packets, anything with regular noodles, any boxed mixes (brownies, cake, muffins).  Check any of those easy-meal things for wheat on the label (Zatarans--only one kind is gluten free, flavored rice meals that might have thickeners, couscous is gluten filled).  Soups are usually gluten filled for no good reason, check the label (no barley either!)  Get rid of your crackers and pretzels and check your junk food labels.  Then check the labels on your salad dressings.  I'm willing to bet that most of the other ingredients in your pantry and fridge are already gluten free, assuming you have already switched your oats to gluten free oats from our breakfast round.  If you're already a whole-food-eater, you might not have many of these things to toss out!