Day One

Today is our quit date, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.  After a weekend of too much eating, drinking, and smoking, our lungs and throats are thrashed, our bellies distended, and we are finally prepared for some good, thorough cleansing of mind and body.  I suppose I’ll start to feel the physical effects by this evening, but at the moment it’s a relief to know that I won’t be smoking tonight even if I want to.

This Thanksgiving was possibly the best I’ve ever spent. We joined Cleveland at the Dear Compound in Junction for a half-week of vacation.  The house sits alongside the river, craggy old pecan trees and cacti dotting the expansive lawn to the slope leading down to the water.  There is a hammock, space for a bonfire, and chairs set out in the spots that are best for sitting.  We enjoyed a feast of unparalleled proportions with 34 other guests, played along the river, cracked and ate the tiny native pecans, picked up rocks and bits of sun-bleached bone, watched birds and learned names of plants, drank wine, played music, and enjoyed good company.

The house itself is practically a museum of Americana, handcrafted artifacts. Duck buoys, walnut cups, hollowed antler serving cups, depression glass, roll-top desks, porcupine quill boxes.  Stuffed pheasant, tapestry, majolica, handmade quilts, rag dolls, cut glass, cozies and dishes and holders and decanters, sitters and stuffers and toppers and thousands of other what-nots and hoozits.  Gracious matriarch of the Dear family, Nol, gave me a bag of vintage buttons to help with my Christmas sewing project, and we were sent home with a fryer and more food than we could fit in the fridge.

Saturday evening when we arrived back in Austin was spent at the grocery store buying provisions for Tyson’s birthday party, and I was up late trying to finish cooking all the food.  It was a good birthday Sunday.  There was a generous spread of hot wings, cupcakes, German potato salad, black-eyed peas, shoe-peg corn salad, pumpkin tamales, and more.  We stuffed ourselves once again and smoked with abandon on our last day.  Geoff, Ben, and Robert joined us for games and helped with leftovers.  We smoked our last cigarette before we went to bed.

Today is recovery, in so many ways.

I’ll do my best to continue to update throughout the quitting process.  In the several hours since I started this post, a headache has started to set in.  I’m trying to remember and be still and calm through the physical changes because I know this three days will be the hardest physically, and following that I should be ok.  The majority of my friends have already grown up and stopped smoking by now, so I’m not feeling as though I’ll feel particularly pressured or motivated to start again, though there is still a small part of me that enjoys smoking.  I guess when you take anything out of your life that’s been a part of you for many years you’re bound to feel a sense of loss, or maybe just space where that thing used to live in your routine.  C’est la vie.

Onward and upward.


Gluten-Free Made Easy

A lot of people have asked me lately for information regarding gluten-free baking.

As a relatively new convert (six years now, the last four of them “clean”), I know firsthand how emotionally taxing it can be when you’re just diving into the gluten-free lifestyle.  Everything seems strange and sometimes tastes horrible.  It’s all expensive.  It’s confusing.  There are lots of choices, and you don’t know what anything is supposed to taste like. And with prices for flour blends at around $5/lb or a single box of crackers soaring over the $6 mark, who can afford to experiment?

These days, with even mass production giants such as Duncan Hines displaying their wares on the gluten-free shelves, it’s a little less daunting.  Every year I see more and more gluten-free options as gluten sensitivity becomes more widespread, either because of a higher level of awareness or because our bodies are finally falling to the strain of living in a culture in which we’ve grown up eating lots and lots of refined foods.  Either way, here’s a short basics guide to help you transition into a gluten-free lifestyle.

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On Moving, Eating Vegan, and Other Very Important Nothings.

Well, blow me down.  I really thought a dietary experiment would make me keep up with my blog more consistently…or did I?  The truth is that I rarely blog unless I have a lot of extra time on my hands, or if something happens that I feel requires instant discussion.

And usually in the in-between spaces all of that stuff that requires instant discussion – such as the Occupy Movement, for example – ends up spinning my head into such a wound-up ball of brainstring that I talk myself out before I manage to get my little fingers to the keyboard.  Which is probably a good thing. You don’t want to hear my political rants any more than I want to hear about your BMs.

Here are some of the highlights of Random Things That Happened in the Gap:

1.) It rained.  Not just a hopeful sprinkle, but two or three days of good, hard, ground-soaking, blessed rain.  The earth, which was dry and pale and crumbly and cracked in wide swaths, suddenly gave birth to all the post-shower wonders one sees in dry climate such as this.  Evening star rain lilies sprouted and bloomed overnight, nodding their pristine white heads en mass in approval of the much-needed moisture.  The roadsides were jam-packed with the little beauties.  Slower growing vegetation popped up, too, producing a wonder of new flora to explore and memorize.

2.) The temperature dropped.  Welcome, autumn.  I’ve been waiting for you.  Pumpkin seeds were baked.  Candles were lit.  Fleece hoodies were pulled from plastic bags and reunited with the rest of the clothes.

3.) We moved. Again.  Now we’re back at Cleveland’s house – right where we started when we landed here in Austin, and in my humble opinion, exactly where we belong at this juncture.

4.) I did the vegan thing for a couple weeks pretty faithfully and lost a lot of weight.  I felt good, but got sick in the middle of the experiment with whatever summer bug was circulating, and due to what I thought was a prolonged recovery time, switched back to my normal diet and almost immediately felt better.  I think I might have been missing some of the essential nutrients my body needs, so when I begin again I will more carefully research exactly what food combinations I need to properly sustain my body.

A couple interesting things happened while I was eating an exclusively plant-based diet.  For instance, I knew I was eating too much soy, but it’s such an easy fall-back (and I love the taste of it) that I got lazy and found myself eating soy milk and tofu every day, multiple times a day.  Soy contains isoflavones, which are naturally-occurring chemicals that mimic estrogen.  When men eat too much, it can cause the condition most of us know as “man boobs.”  When women eat too much, the hormonal imbalance created can manifest itself in a lot of different ways.  For me, it caused whiskers to grow on my chin.  Not like beard whiskers, but two long, white hairs that grew straight out.  And they continued showing up until I knocked off the soy consumption.  So, yeah, that wasn’t a very desirable effect, albeit interesting.  It also served as a reminder for me to pay attention to what I’m putting in my body.  Not all signals are so clear; I should be thankful for such a public display of my body’s dysfunction.

During that time, however, my love for creative cooking was reinvigorated.  I can munch on plants all day and not really miss a thing, but coming up with hearty dishes to satisfy my carnivorous Tytron was a much bigger challenge.  He, too, said he felt satisfied and full after eating, and that his energy levels were sustained and even.  Score.  I came up with some pretty impressive little dishes and learned a lot about nutrition.  I consider myself to be fairly well-versed in biological functions and how food affects body on a cellular level, but some of the things I learned were pretty profound.

Because I’m bad at wrapping up (I’m one of those people who either walks away and you’ve no idea I’d gone until you start looking for me, or I say goodbye for a full twenty minutes until it’s really just played out and you’re desperate for me to leave) I will close with this website, which is simply an amazing resource for anyone who cares about food.  Type some random shit in, and I’ll bet you an imaginary dollar that it’s in the database.

Ok, bye.