Monday, January 28, 2013

Wheat Free Breakfast

After reading several books on health and diet -- some of which are very controversial* -- it made sense to try some changes in my diet just to see if any of the health issues I've been experiencing over the last 10 to 15 years would subside... or, better yet, completely disappear.  Diet has always been important to me and I've strived to eat "well" or so I thought.
An elimination diet, eliminating one food item at a time, made the most sense to me.  I’ve been wheat-free for a week now.  Luckily, with the wide variety of alternative flours available these days it’s not as hard as I thought it would be.  The hardest part is remembering to read labels on EVERYTHING even on so-called gluten free products!  It's surprising to learn how many items have some form of wheat in them, including some medications, lipsticks, etc.! Or, in the case of gluten free products, how they are produced in facilities where wheat is also used, thus possibly causing cross-contamination.  Try picking up a standard soup, cereal, or condiment without some form of gluten or wheat in it! 
Fortunately, I cook from scratch and I love fruits and vegetables so finding an alternative to take the place of breads, muffins, or the like, is not that difficult.  Pictured below is a variation of breakfast I’ve enjoyed a couple of times over the last week.  Don't knock it until you try it!!  I have found a new favorite.
It's also important for me to keep my sugar levels steady, so too much fruit or carbohydrates are not so good for me either. For the next 3 weeks (one month total for the elimination diet), I'm steering clear of the typical eggs and toast or muffin, and side of fruit. Instead, I'm including a healthy helping of sautéed veggies and maybe a side of rice with my eggs on the days that I swim.  

Red Bell Pepper, Summer Squash, Curly Leaf Kale, Garlic,
Onions, Baby Bella Mushrooms

Everything on the plate was organically grown except for the summer squash.  The eggs are farm fresh and from my friend Luann’s free-range chickens.  I’ve never eaten such tasty eggs! -- thank you, Luann! 
This breakfast, along with a hot cup of coffee and a glass of apple cider, satiates me for up to four hours. Really!  No blood sugar swings either.

Sautéed fresh veggies with feta cheese and two farm fresh eggsfried in a small amount of extra virgin olive oil.

* Controversial books referred to above:
The China Study: The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted And the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, And Long-term Health, by , Thomas M. Campbell II
Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back to Health, by

Monday, September 24, 2012

Urban Landscape

Vapor Trails at Sunset

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Shuttles, Buttons and Petals

On to learning the shuttle! 

I've learned the skills of using the needle for tatting lace.  I've learned the double-stitch, how to form consistent picots, make joins, and I've tried writing patterns.  I feel like I'm finally ready to try the shuttle again.

After a lesson with a wonderful teacher, Denise K., a member of the Great Lakes Lace Group, Inc., I felt confident enough to work on my own.  Using the shuttle, I finally learned all the lessons (mistakes) one can make while learning to tat rings and chains with two shuttles and two colors.  It's time to move on to an actual project.

Top to Bottom:  First to last set of mistakes. 
I tried different threads and different shuttles
and learned a lot!

I was working from a YouTube video for the idea of adding buttons to tatted lace and a pattern that someone wrote for a piece she created and shared with us on our international NewShuttlesAndNeedles YahooGroup.  I took both the video and the pattern and adapted it for a two-hole button, instead of a four-hole button.  The pattern called for eight rings and chains.  My button is in the shape of a five-petal flower so I modified the pattern to have seven rings and seven chains. In design, odd numbers of items are more appealing to the eye, so I kept to the design rule and used an odd number.  It seems to be the right choice for this motif.

My First Shuttle Tatting Projects

For the first attempt (my prototype of sorts), I was concentrating so hard on the actual act of joining that I accidentally joined to the wrong picot! Oops. I didn't discover this until three rings and three chains were already done. Oh well, this was a practice piece so I kept going.  Following along with the video (see link above) I used a picot gauge as she suggested in the video to make the large picot for joining to the button.  However, I discovered too late that the picot was actually a bit too small and so made the motif turn out oval-shaped instead of round.  I was almost done with the "prototype" when I realized I had not joined the last ring on both sides, which brings the piece into a closed circle. Gently, I tried to pull it out.... no luck!  Cut bait!  Start over!!!  I'm so glad I did. Another lesson learned.

First Attempt, Second Attempt

Now I have to learn how to properly secure and hide the tails at the start and at the closing.  I found trying to learn everything at once is way too overwhelming.  I'm perfectly fine with how the motif turned out at this point!  The next one -- I have two more buttons to play with -- will have the tails worked in at the start using the "knotless method" where you tat over the tail to incorporate it into the first ring.  It takes a certain amount of dexterity and I'm using my right, non-dominant, hand to learn this techinique.  It's definitely an exercise for teaching yourself muscle control.  Wish me luck!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Spring Flowers

I finally managed to finish my first needle tatted bookmark.  The original pattern is made up of just the wave of flowers.  The Josephine Knots and flower pendant at the top were additions because I like to have something peeking out of the top of the book so that I can easily find the page where I left off.

My First Needle Tatted Bookmark
inspired by Julie Patterson's design,
Spring Flowers.
For my second version of this design, I will try to come up with a modification that keeps it from twisting without detracting from the main design... maybe some lacy chains around the perimeter? 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Have A Heart!

My latest attempt at needle tatting...

Heart A-Fire designed by RogerL
This is the sweetest design.  As simple as it looks, it still presents a good challenge to us newbies. As torturous as it was, I managed to learn how to join a new thread, bury the tails (sew in the ends)... not my favorite part of the process.  And I learned to put the whole thing together with a "folded join". 

I had started this yesterday, got half done and then messed up.  So I started another one this morning.  Then during breakfast, I promptly knocked over a full glass of apple juice on it and my entire tatting kit!  (Excrement!)  Everything was covered in juice, all the pockets had juice in them and anything in a bag or container had juice in it too.  I gave it all a bath... life is much better now, now that I have a tatted heart.  Awww

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Seven Inches From the Midday Sun

Man, it's a hot one
Like seven inches from the midday sun....

--Smooth lyrics by, Santana

Inside - Outside Temps today... and yesterday,
and the day before, and....

Yes, this is in southeast Michigan, not the Carolinas! With the pop up storms that took place in the area over the last couple of days, we were lucky enough to have power the entire time.  Unfortunately, many folks 'round these parts are still without power in this heat!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Now THAT'S a jar of pickles!

I made a batch of homemade fermented refrigerator pickles last week.  It was a small batch of two 1-quart jars, so I shared one of the jars with a friend.  Sadly, our jar is nearly empty already!  So, at the farmer's market this past weekend, I bought more pickling cucumbers -- about 18.  I usually use three 1-quart jars to make my fermented pickles.  Each jar can handle about six average-sized cucumbers that are approximately 5-6 inches long.  However, these cukes were really fat!

Last winter, another kind-hearted friend "gifted" me with four half-gallon jars!!!  How cool is that?!  So I opted to use one of those jars this time.  It's a good thing since they would have never fit in only three jars -- definitely a four or even five jar batch, due to the extra fatness of the pickles.  I opted to cut the cukes in half or in quarters in order to squeeze them all in.
Left: extra brine. Center: Half-gallon of pickles.  Right: Seasonings used.
The brine I like to use is a 3.6% brine. This is a ratio of 2 TBL of (non-iodized) salt; 1 quart of water.  It's just salty enough for my family's taste.  The natural lacto-fermentation process gives the pickles that "pucker power" we all associate with really good deli pickles.  I learned about this process several years ago from another friend in our spinning guild.  This friend and I are both very interested in keeping ourselves and our families healthy through using organic wherever possible, eating whole foods (no processed foods) and preparing the foods we eat ourselves, which ultimately leads to getting the proper nutrition. 

Making pickles using the fermentation process produces the invaluable probiotics our immune systems need to stay strong and to help us ward off disease.  You can read more about it in Sandor Katz's books.  There is a lot of information on the web too.  Even if you don't believe in all the mumbo jumbo about probiotics, the pickles are the best you've ever had, no matter what spices you put in the jar.  The fermentation process is da bomb!

Here's my recipe which started out as an off-shoot of Alton Brown's Dill Pickles Recipe:

Melissa’s Fermented Dill (refrigerator) Pickles
Ingredients you will need (amounts are spelled out below):
Kosher Salt (no iodine is important)
Filtered Water
Approx. 18 Pickling Cucumbers, 4-6 inches long
     (size and shape will dictate how many will fit in each jar)
Black Peppercorns
Red Pepper Flakes
Dried Chopped Garlic
Dill Weed
Dill Seed
Mustard Seed
Celery Seed
Bragg’s Organic Cider Vinegar (with the mother)

If you have a crock, follow Alton’s method.  Seasonings ar up to you. (  I only have 1-quart canning jars available, so I modified the brine and spices to work in my jars.  Here’s how I do it:
1.    Wash and dry three 1-Quart canning jars.  You can use standard canning lids and rings but count on them rusting from the salt water. 
Note: I recently purchased the plastic lids to try.  So far so good except they don’t seal really well, so be careful when you invert the jars – expect some leakage.
2.    Make the brine:  Dissolve 2 tablespoons of salt in 4 cups of filtered water.  Set aside.
Note:  You can use less or more salt to taste.
3.    Rinse cucumbers and cut off blossom end.  Cut in half, quarters, or leave them whole; your choice. 
(How I decide to cut them is based on the fatness of the cucumbers.  Ex: sometimes they are very fat and quartering them allows the cukes to fit better in the jar – sometimes with the last two or three cucumbers, I even make pickle chips to squeeze in those last few and just push them down and in wherever they will fit.)
4.    In the bottom of each 1-Quart glass canning jar, add the following spices:
13 pepper corns
1/16 teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon dried, chopped garlic
½ teaspoon dried dill weed
1/8 teaspoon dill seed
1/8 teaspoon mustard seed
1 pinch celery seed
1 teaspoon Bragg’s Apple Cider Vinegar
5.    Start fitting the cucumbers into the jars, trying to keep them upright.  Pack them as tightly as you can.
6.    Once they are all in, add enough brine liquid to cover the cucumbers.
7.    Tightly screw on lids and invert the jars a couple of times to mix the spices through the brine.
8.    Loosen the lids and set on a clean, dry towel on the counter for the next 6 to 7 days. 
9.    Every day, tighten the lids and invert the jars to mix the spice through.  Loosen the lids so that the gasses can escape.  After the second or third day, bubbles will start to form.  Fermentation is taking place.  The brine will become cloudy... do not be alarmed, this is normal.
10.  On the sixth or seventh day, they are ready!  Place in the refrigerator.  Depending on how fast you eat them, they will store refrigerated for several months.
Note:  If they are mushy or have a funky odor, then they are spoiled and should be tossed.  (This only happened to me with one jar out of dozens I’ve made.  Actually, I think it was a bad cucumber.)