Monthly Archives: February 2011

An Honest Day’s Work

Today started out early with Keetah helping Porkchop with grooming:

Grooming Time!

Keetah’s licking is Porkchop’s secret to magnificent hair.

After getting pretty, we went out and bought some seed-starting supplies, such as this little greenhouse shelf:

Ready to grow things!

It isn’t the fanciest or sturdiest, but we needed a way to mount our grow lights, and this fit the bill. Plus, it will be easy to take it outside when it’s time to harden off the plants.

I actually just finished planting tomato, bell pepper, basil, and marigold seeds. The heat mats and greenhouse lids fit perfectly on the new shelving unit. Excellent. This is so much better than growing plants in the bathtub!

After having leftover brisket for lunch (from last night’s dinner – yum), I made snacks for this week:

Cashew and date bar.

This is the DIY version of the Larabar cashew cookie bar, which is one of my favorites. It’s so easy and delicious! You throw a 1/2 cup of raw cashews in the food processor until you have small bits. Dump the cashews in a bowl, and throw 8 oz of dates into the food processor. Process until you have date paste, and a ball forms (this takes a few minutes, and you might have to add a bit of water). Mix the date paste with the nut bits, form into a giant bar, and then cut into individual bars as you wish. Wrap in wax paper and store in an airtight container.

I also made these spiced fruit and nut balls:

Balls. Fruit and nut balls.

I can’t wait to break into these during work tomorrow.

For dinner tonight, I made two options: a tofu chili loosely based on this recipe and yellow tofu curry. Since we don’t have time to cook dinner during the week, we have to cook up a storm on the weekend. I’m exhausted from all the cooking and the clean up this weekend.

(And as I wrote storm, the storm siren started. Now I’m writing from the basement!)

Other Stuff

Twice in the previous week, we’ve had a chicken escape to our neighbor’s backyard via a hole under their fence. It’s always unsettling to realize a chicken is missing. Fortunately, they continue to produce eggs:

Pretty eggs.

Last weekend, Porkchop helped hang the Wisconsin printmakers show she organized! There are about 35 prints, and I wish we didn’t have to send them back to the artists next month!

This is by one of my favorite artists:

Why can't I have this?

And here’s Porkchop among the prints:

Prints. Lots of prints.

If you’re local, come to the artists’ reception! It is March 17, 6-8:00 pm, at the St. Louis Community College – Forest Park gallery (located right outside the library).

Good night!

Bitten

Last night I had two tests, a veritable one-two Anatomy & Physiology punch.

The first one – my lab practical – went as expected. That is to say, there were things that we never covered in class on it. Besides having to make up a word for something I didn’t know, it went pretty well.

The second test was a walk-in-the-park, multiple choice exam. The lecture tests are usually so easy, I feel insulted. Of course, many people actually miss questions on the lecture exams, and I realize it might be about technique. Multiple choice test-taking strategies and skills: I’ve honed them well. I feel like I’ve really gotten into the lecture professor’s head, and I’m able to take the test from his perspective.

The lab professor’s head, however, is a much tougher nut to crack.

Anyway, this long intro is leading up to what happened before the tests.

I spent all weekend sequestered away, studying studying studying. I took Monday off of work so I could sleep in a bit, and review review review before the evening tests.

All the while, I was battling a yeast overgrowth due to a recent round of antibiotics (I’m scheduled to get a blood vessel in my nose cauterized this week! Hopefully this will mean goodbye to scary nosebleeds!), which made things a tad uncomfortable. So I kept thinking…what if something really bad happens before my tests? What if I get a stomach bug or something and I’m too sick to take the tests?! Will I be able to reschedule??

My imagination ran amuck, but my health stayed strong (besides the yeasties).

But then Monday morning rolled around, and I noticed while showering that my tailbone area felt a little sore. Actually, it felt a lot sore. I started to have visions of some horrible disease overcoming me, and preventing me from taking my tests!

When I finished in the shower, I asked Porkchop, do you see anything here, pointing to my tailbone area (ie, my ass).

I expected to hear: nope, not a thing. And then I would have thought I was just imagining the soreness, or maybe it was from exercising and nothing to worry about.

Instead I heard: oh wow, huh.

This is not what you want to hear about your ass at any time, tests or no tests.

I had a huge red welt on my ass. A bite of some variety, apparently. The application of bug bite gel burned like all hell. Crap.

Despite visions of my skin rotting away and me having to drop trousers to prove to my professors that I really should be excused from my tests, none of that happened.

I managed to work with the pain-in-the-ass bite, and it appears to be getting better. However, the bite remains a mystery. How did I get it? When was a spider or other bug on my ass? These are questions I’d rather not think about, yet I’m reminded of them each time I sit down.

Snow Beaks

Thanks to the recent 60+ degree weather here, all of the snow has nearly melted. However, I’ve been meaning to post this snowy chicken photo for a while, so here it is without further delay:

Snow is yummy!

That’s Scout and Agnes with snow-encrusted beaks. All of the chickens love to eat snow.

Chickens are funny animals. And mean too. Agnes is still at the bottom of the pecking order, and now Scooter and June Wayne (known as the Wyandottes around our house) have started harassing her constantly.

If Agnes is pecking at food off by herself, the Wyandottes come over and push her away. If Agnes is enjoying some alone time in the run, the Wyandottes take the opportunity to bully her. Over the weekend, Agnes developed a swollen right eye, and if I had to take a wild guess I would blame one of the Wyandottes. (The eye is getting better.)

If we had another chicken coop, we would give Agnes her own place.

In other news, some jackass busted out one of our car windows last week while Porkchop was parked at the community college art annex. Apparently, they thought Porkchop’s lunch bag contained some high value materials, as that was the only item disturbed. Nothing was taken, unless you count the $250 we spent to replace the window (and I count that).

On a happier note, we have guests lined up for March visits. Fun times are on the horizon! Until then, my time continues to be consumed by classes and studying. I have two big tests on Monday, and am feeling rather overwhelmed by the amount of material I still need to memorize.

Recent Eating

We’ve had a few meals recently that I’ve been meaning to recount.

One Saturday morning found us at Brasserie for brunch with an out-of-town friend. While the brunch menu is not online, trust that it is tasty and surprisingly inexpensive. I had eggs benedict with ham…the poached eggs were perfect, the hollandaise had a delight dijon mustard twist, and the ham was tasty. Porkchop’s brisket sandwich was excellent, and our friend’s quiche looked pretty darned good too. Other menu items like hazelnut waffles and french toast with lemon curd sounded tempting.

Local Harvest CafĂ© needs to be closer so we can just walk there. They know how to make a mean trout and meatloaf, that’s for sure. If you go for dinner, go early or late to avoid the 6-7:00 rush. Otherwise, you have to stand around watching people savor their food, and you kind of start to hate them.

At home, I’ve been loving these roasted sweet potatoes with ginger and honey. Seriously, tasty times a million. Over the weekend, I made this brown sugar glazed turkey meatloaf and chicken curry apple stir-fry. Both are from the Gluten Free Goddess blog, and both are new favorites.

Enjoy the warmth and sunshine!

Snow Day!

For the first time in over a decade, my university canceled classes and work today! So here I am, trying to eke out the very last bit of this free day.

We were supposed to be hit pretty hard with the massive storm making its way across the country, but the snow prediction has dropped off dramatically. I can’t imagine I’ll have another snow day tomorrow – Porkchop already knows her classes are canceled (lucky).

Our streetscape hasn’t changed much from this shot I took earlier this afternoon:

Classy cardboard

None of the white stuff is snow. It’s all sleet, which is kind of crazy.

During all the sleeting, I did stuff like yoga, knitting, homework, and baking. A darned good snow day all around, except Porkchop had to open the UPS Store at 8 am. Boo. But don’t worry, she was back by 11:00 and able to partake in much of the fun of having a day off.

Here is documentation of the day:

A dedicated student even on a snow day

Knitting action!

I love these colors and this yarn

This afternoon I made peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, and Porkchop made orange-glazed sugar cookies. I also made knock-off Larabars. I love Larabars, but my habit was becoming expensive! This week I made a knock off of the cherry pie bar, and I can’t wait to try another knock off this weekend.

Tricks! No flour!

Rolling out cookie dough

Fake Larabar brick = 8 bars

Observant readers will note that the peanut butter cookies are flourless. A few weeks ago, in the midst of major sinus problems, an old friend suggested I try going gluten-free. Being game for any possible relief, I did.

Sinus-wise, my nasal passageways seem less swollen. Previously, I would wake up during the night, unable to breathe through the right side of my nose. Since going (nearly) gluten-free, this hasn’t happened.

However, the biggest change is in my energy and focus level. Before, there were days during which I would get so tired. I don’t just mean tired, I mean unable to think, fuzzy-brained, bone-dead tired. I would also get really hungry. My hunger was always a desperate, if-I-don’t-eat-now-I’m-going-to-die sort of hunger. I was tied to my hunger in ways I didn’t like at all.

This past weekend marked two weeks of gluten-free for me, and I decided to dip my toe in the gluten waters again by eating some pasta. I made a big bowl for lunch on Saturday, and an hour later, my brain hurt and I was so tired I had to take a nap (even though I had been completely fine before lunch).

This afternoon I had one of Porkchop’s sugar cookies, and about an hour later, I could feel it in my head. Not bad, but a difference.

I call it fuzzy brain, because it feels like my brain is turning into cotton candy. A sort of pulsing cotton candy. But when it’s really bad, it feels like sludge. Fuzzy brain means I can focus with extra effort; sludge brain means I’m lucky if I remember how to tie my shoes.

Given that I don’t like the sludge feeling, I’m going to stick to a very light gluten habit.

Also, I enjoy being a prisoner to my hunger no longer. I still get hungry, but it isn’t an all-consuming, must-eat situation. It’s more of an, oh, I’m hungry, guess I should eat in a bit. But if I don’t eat in a bit, it isn’t the end of the world.

I’m not allergic to gluten, so I’m not really sure what the deal is. But according to the internet, which is the expert on everything, many other people experience “brain fog” with wheat, so I guess I’m not alone.

I know I’m not allergic to gluten because I had an allergy test done last week, in the hopes of getting some answers to my chronic sinus problems and other issues. The answer is that I’m not allergic to anything! Not even tree pollen, which was an assumption under which I’d been operating for half my life.

However, this is not a cause for celebration. Instead, I have “non-allergic rhinitis,” which seems to translate into my respiratory system being sensitive to anything, really. I get all of the allergy symptoms, but it isn’t an allergic reaction. Well, I’ve certainly been fooled all of my life!

The allergist pushed some new nasal spray on me, but I’m going to try some other avenues first. Another avenue being acupuncture. I’d rather have a placebo effect from some needles and herbs, than continue to use nose spray for the rest of my life.

Flonase started giving my horrible nose bleeds this past fall. Horrible as in it looked like an entire blood vessel was falling out of my nose. This new nose spray isn’t supposed to do that, but if you spray any nose spray incorrectly, you run the risk of damaging your septum.

So…nose spray is safe, but it can damage your septum. I sincerely want out of this nose spray craziness.

Well, I don’t really know where this post is going any more. It started out light-hearted, but took a serious turn around gluten. I guess the major points are: the snow day was great, I’m trying to find non-damaging relief for my sinus problems, and wheat makes me feel funny.

Obviously, it’s time to go to bed.

Good night!

If you’re in the path of the snow storm, stay safe and warm!