Thursday, March 27, 2014


I love debunking myths! What fun to shoot down a bit of "accepted wisdom" that started as somebody's opinion and has little evidence to hold it up.

The myth I'm taking on today is this: "Eating gluten-free is too expensive!"

Here are some facts:
  • Prepared gluten-free products can be expensive.
  • BUT, a great many products are gluten-free naturally--fresh produce, fresh meat, fresh fish/seafood, spices and herbs.
  • Some canned and prepared items are gluten-free--they say so on the label. (Read your labels.)
  • More and more restaurants are offering a gluten-free menu--even one of our Italian eateries has GF pasta!
When changing to a gluten-free diet, it's not necessary to throw away everything in your kitchen and pantry and start over. Start slowly: remove bread, crackers, pastries, cake/cookies/muffins, and the like.

Then--next step--learn how to bake your own GF foods.

One of my favorite websites is Gluten Free on a Shoestring, hosted by Nicole Hunn. She gives exactly what the title promises--eating gluten-free on the cheap.

And--she has three cookbooks out:
  • Gluten-Free on a Shoestring
  • Gluten-Free on a Shoestring: Quick & Easy
  • Gluten-Free on a Shoestring Bakes Bread
She's funny, she's informative, and she knows what she's talking about. Nicole creates all the recipes she puts in her books for her family.

Her secret? The "shoestring" part comes from--ready for this?--starting from scratch.

Remember cooking from scratch? It's what we all used to do before we could buy convenience foods, prepared foods, boxed dinners, and deli meals.

I can't say enough good things about Nicole Hunn's website, her recipes, and her books. She knows where to buy certain hard-to-find ingredients, but she also knows we can't all get them. So she tells us how to cook without those items.

Nothing is exotic. This is all good food, some of it comfort food a new GF diner might miss.

Check out her books and spend a little time in the kitchen. You'll be glad you did.

(In case you're wondering, Nicole didn't pay me anything for this plug.)

The main reason folks need to change to eating gluten-free is health. So the question becomes: Is improving your health too expensive?

We spend  beaucoup bucks on vitamins, supplements, and various products that are supposed to do something wonderful for your well-being. If I can spend a little more on certain foods--and at the same time quit taking some of the items drilling a hole in my change purse--I'm willing to try.

Maybe that's because I like cooking and trying new recipes.

One thing you won't have to buy, if you decide to cook from scratch, is all new equipment. Look in your cupboard--if you have mixing bowls, measuring cups and spoons, wooden (or not) spoons, and spatulas, you can make nearly everything you need. A mixer is handy but not required. (Mine is 30+ years old and still does its thing with panache. And it's a little hand-held job.)

So what have you got to lose? Some time spent reading a new cookbook and experimenting in the kitchen; some time at the grocery store searching for those elusive GF ingredients (hint: They're often in a special section, sometimes called Natural Foods). You may garner some gripes and grunts and grimaces when your family and friends sample the results. But you may--and this is the cream--get a few comments that make it all worth your while. "What did you say this was? Gluten-free? What's that?" Or (my favorite), "If you hadn't told me, I'd never have known it was gluten-free."

Next time you hear the phrase gluten-free, don't sneer. Keep an open mind. Learn a little more about it. And if you never have to change your diet to gluten-free, recommend websites and books to folks who do. It's all about health--and feeling better. I'm all about that!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Pillow my daughter made for me years ago...great sign!

"Sign, sign, everywhere a sign!"
That was part of the refrain of a protest song of the 1970s, "Signs."

Today I'm not protesting the arrival of the Vernal Equinox, which is 'way too formal for the season we welcome as Spring!

But there are certainly signs . . . everywhere you look.

Daffodils pushing through leaves

For several days I've noticed more birds in our neighborhood. They're singing, chattering, calling . . . each according to its nature. Of course we've had birds all winter long--bluejays, cardinals, robins (who do not migrate south in winter, something I never knew until a few years ago), and the smaller birds, some of whom are rather timid except when the feeders are full and yummy seeds fall while other birds feed. Until the recent dawn choruses, I hadn't realized how much I missed birdsong. I recognize only a few. I've never kept a life list of birds observed. But they are such a part of  my daily scene that when they're gone, it's obvious something is missing. Their music completes the story.

Blatant signs include the disappearance of snow banks, some of them seeming to go down by inches as we watch. Underneath--grass! Truly! Grass--green, brown, muddied up by snowplows and snow throwers--but grass, nevertheless. The grassy areas expand daily, and Joy and I can now walk around the house with only one or two places where we must cross snow to get to the snow-less patches.

Joy's big thrill is being able to sniff out whatever it is that tickles her fancy, and has been covered up for so long. Some days I get almost nothing done because she wants to go out--again!--after all, the sun is out, and there's grass out there to be explored. She knows I don't understand, and she's very tolerant of my ignorance. But she is insistent.

Surprise Lilies coming up
More subtle signs occur in the new shoots of lilies and daffodils that emerge from under last year's layer of mulching leaves. Yellow-green on top, growing deeper green down into the ground. My neighbor Dixie has daffodils on the south side of her house; the sun gets trapped there between the houses and those bulbs send up shoots long before the rest of us see the tiny tips. Today hers are six inches tall--they're always the first ones to bloom. Truly a sign that Spring has arrived.

Although Spring is not my favorite season, I'm always more than ready for its return. More than any other season, Spring seems to remind us that our world is indeed orderly. We may not get the season we want on a certain day, but it will come. And its companions will follow in their own time.

Haven't seen this much ground since before December!

Amazing to me, the absolute determination of those bulbs to push through the ground; tree buds to appear on branches; grass to grow in spite of snow, rain, sleet.

All those signs make me realize: More than hope appears with the return of Spring--I call it affirmation. Affirmation of new life--animals, birds, plants--reminding us that in spite of our selves, the earth renews and we are the beneficiaries of that abundance and beauty.

Thursday, March 13, 2014


In a recent post I may have promised no more winter blahs, gripes, or rants.
Too bad, if I did, because I want to re-open the subject—not, I hasten to say, to blast away at winter’s grip on the upper Midwest—but to share some insights that came about one day when I wrote in my journal about winter. I was feeling particularly upbeat that day, and decided to explore the subject of redeeming social value to winter.

Now you have to understand: I am not an athlete, I do not ski or ice skate, or go on long winter treks through woods. I like winter landscapes, so long as I can admire them from a warm house, with a mug of hot chocolate or fragrant tea in hand; and if the house is drafty, I’ll wear a couple layers of turtlenecks and heavy knitted sweaters. When folks say they hate winter because it’s so ugly, I shake my head. The shapes of trees and shrubs are visible without their leaves. Winter shadows are blue on snow. Evergreens are greener against a background of less color.
With that background, I’ll tell you some characteristics I discovered about winter that deserve recognition. I call them Hidden Gifts.

If you look outside and all you see is snow cover, then you could say everything is hidden by the snow. Grass, shrubs, mulched flower beds, patio, sidewalk, driveway. I know they exist under their white cover.

But the Hidden Gifts I’m thinking about are the benefits (really!) that accrue because of deep snow and cold.

Here are some thoughts to share with you:
Spring - dinner time
·         Monday and Tuesday this week were milder, temps warmer, snow melting and running down the drains; everyone I spoke with smiled, talked of spring days to come. In the midst of snow piles on every corner, higher than our heads, and a forecast of 4-8 inches of new snow yesterday, those mild days were a gift. Not exactly hidden, but it’s easy to forget how nice those days were when the new snow clogs up driveways and streets, closes schools, and causes us to cancel medical appointments and scramble to reschedule. The soft days were a gift we didn’t anticipate and roused our hearts with hope for spring.

Summer feeders
·         A truly hidden gift is the benefit of snowmelt on our water table. We may wonder where all that snow is going to go, but eventually it does melt and much of it goes underground. We are guaranteed future moisture for our crops, lawns, and trees. Two years ago in our area of northeastern Indiana, the summer was one long drought. We watered, we mulched, we prayed…and we watched our annuals droop, our perennials wither, and worried about the trees that sheltered us with their leaves. This year’s crop of water ought to meet the needs of whatever summer brings in 2014.

·         Then those sharp days, with below-zero temps that seemed never-ending, all helped wipe out pests that live from year to year when we have mild winters. Our crops, lawns, and landscaping won’t be compromised so much in the seasons to come. Not to mention relief for allergy sufferers with respiratory problems.

Same feeders - winter
The winter of 2013-2014 will live long in memory. It came to visit before Christmas and never left, except for a couple of short side visits to other relatives. My winter wardrobe is almost threadbare by now because I’ve worn it so many months, but I can always buy new sweat pants and sweaters next year. The important thing is, I was warm, my house was comfortable, and so far, there have been no accidents—no falls on ice, no skids on slick streets.

I'd hate to miss this sight.
Years ago I dreamed of spending winters in southern Arizona. Eventually the dream expanded to include retirement. Now—I’m a little more realistic. The warmer climate would be wonderful for a winter or two, but I know I’d miss the four seasons we enjoy here in the Midwest—southern Arizona has seasons, but the changes are more subtle. I’m all for the ones that have definite personalities.

Maybe I can expand this exercise about finding hidden gifts in difficult or unwanted circumstances to the rest of my life. Not every cloud has a silver lining, but I won’t know until I look for one. It just might be there.

Autumn 2013 - leaves in my back yard.


Thursday, March 6, 2014


Or maybe you don't . . .Daylight Savings Time arrives this coming Sunday, March 9, at 2 AM. I will not be up to welcome it. I am never up at 2 AM, unless insomnia has hit.

One good thing: I don't have to "spring forward" on the clock before I go to bed. I have three timepieces that do it for me: an atomic clock; my computer; and my cell phone. I can, the next day, at my leisure, advance the hands or digits on the electric range, microwave, car, my watch, and two small battery-operated alarms I use from time to time. We--my dog and I--have a time keeper in every room, just in case we need to know what hour it is. (Joy, as you might have guessed, doesn't care about numbers; she knows mealtime, going out time, treat time, and bedtime. Much simpler. She doesn't have much use for DST either.)

The only 2 o'clock I know is PM.
But the main reason I never welcome Daylight Savings Time is that I don’t like it. My early morning walks out of doors, starting at 6:00, are postponed until mid-May when the sky is light enough to show upheaved sidewalks, downed branches from the previous day’s storm, and abandoned tricycles/golf clubs/tennis shoes/fast-food wrappers/umbrellas. (Before you ask, no, I do not live in a major city with striking garbage collectors. I live in a small town where independent living is considered one of the perks, and if I want to leave my tricycle, out on the sidewalk, well—it’s my sidewalk.)

Back to my ongoing struggle with DST. Here in northeastern Indiana, mid-March life is still a little uncertain, vis-à-vis weather conditions. We can wake up to a skiff of snow, blowing snow (near-horizontal), rain-mixed-with-snow, rain on its own, wind, no wind, and any other combination or permutation thereof. In my personal world, I solve that problem by walking on the track at the YMCA. As I say, this goes on until mid-May. And because DST lasts until November, I start going back inside around late August. Believe me, walking on a track isn't nearly as entertaining as being outside looking at other people's tricycles, and blooming bushes, and waking up their dogs (not a problem if there's a fence around the yard).

Another reason, secondary to weather conditions, is that I am at my best in the morning—give me a sunny day, a previous good night’s sleep, my usual tea/yogurt/tortilla & cheese wrap breakfast, and I’m a dynamo. Until about 2 PM. Whatever mental energy I had begins to wane, and I’m good for very little.

Now, factor in Daylight Savings Time—the one-hour shift means I’m reasonably viable up to 3 PM (formerly 2 PM). But the clock says 3 PM and I know I'm not much use after 2 o'clock. Usually it takes me several months to learn to ignore what the "real" time is. Sun time.
After my rest I’m up at 4 PM (not 3)—time for a cup of tea and I’m rarin’ to go again. Not because I got a second wind, but because the evening light is going to last and last and last. Light is obviously a big factor in my alertness and well-being.

Joy the Dog, now 17 years old
Last year this time, I was working on a healing quilt for a man who has cancer. I took notice of the outside light, gauged that I had another hour to work, and kept on sewing. When I got to a good stopping place, the dog reminded me that she was ready for bed. It was still light outside. So I took her out, gave her a bedtime treat, and watched her wander off to her bed. I sat at the sewing machine for another half-hour.

What I’m having to admit is this: I now have two distinct periods of mental and physical energy—my usual AM one and the evening couple of hours. Without DST, I’d have only one.


But I do have one serious question: What happens to the daylight we save?

[If you care to find out more, you can surf and read articles about the guy who "invented" daylight savings time, in 1895, and that it was implemented in 1916 in various places in the world. There's even a map showing where in the world DST is in use, has been in use occasionally, and has never been in use.]
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