Monday, February 25, 2013

Gratitude Monday --There and Back Edition

The world changes all the time and with it changes the roads that one navigates in life. At times the most trying alterations are the physical road changes which move one from A to B and then back to A.
Such changes gave me a sharp slap in the mind over the weekend, and I am here unscathed to tell the tale. For that, and many other things from a wonderful weekend, I am grateful.

This past weekend I visited my best friend in Edmonton. She lives in the west end and I've been driving to her home once or so a year for the past 20 years. Her home is easy to get to and used to take less than five minutes once inside the city proper. I've changed the route a few times over the two decades until I found the most efficient way about a decade or so ago. The west end of the city keeps growing.  I've had to make a turn east sooner, but the change was minor. I still found my target,  Whitemud Drive, quickly.

On Saturday I found things had changed yet again. I hadn't been in the area in at least one year and probably two. It was so built up I didn't recognize my route.
I was headed the proper direction even as it seemed to be a much longer road than in the past. Businesses, homes, and traffic will do that to perception. I started feeling lost. It was making me claustrophobic.
I had a choice: give in and panic or force my mind into logic.
I am grateful I had the sense to choose the latter.
I knew if I continued I would find a main traffic artery. I was still west of my target. I know the core streets and I know the city well enough to know what to do. I also knew I'd get somewhere eventually.
Panic was tempting, but unnecessary.

Ahead of me I saw the pyramid atop West Edmonton Mall. It anchored me to my location and to the moment. Keep it head of me and to the left and I'll be fine, advised my logical mind. After a few more minutes and a few more traffic lights I hit Whitemud Drive, as my logical mind told me I would.

I am grateful for getting there unscathed, for keeping my wits about me, and for knowing that as long as I kept going I'd get somewhere.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Photo-Finish Friday -- Frosted West Edition

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I went for a drive yesterday. It was one of those fine winter days where the frost covers everything in a glistening white coat.

This was taken about twenty miles east of Rocky and looks toward the west.

Remember to click to enlarge.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Gratitude Monday --Garbanzo Bean Edition

Not long ago I made some flatbread. I used a variety of gluten-free flours with the bulk of the recipe carried by chickpeas a.k.a garbanzo bean flour.

Flatbread made with chickpea flour. Am I the only one who sees the likeness to the Muppet's planet Koozebane?
Shortly thereafter I whipped up a batch of hummus, the base of which is garbanzo beans.
The flatbread was good. I use chickpea flour often in my bread baking as I quite like it.
I have been recently blessed with several bags of assorted dried beans and lentils with many of those bags containing chickpeas. That means more hummus in my future.
If organized enough I may make some flatbread or even gluten-free pita and then knock out a batch of hummus to have with it.
Simple beans can do so many things and I am grateful for them all, but to stop and think that both the bread and the dip would be made from the same beans is something for which to be especially grateful, and I am.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Photo-Finish Friday -- Fall in the Rockies

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I took this in October along the Jasper-Banff Highway.

Just as a quick reminder: click on the pic for an even bigger view.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Tuesday Tales --Lonely Peter

This marks the final Tuesday Tale.
I hope you enjoyed them as much as I enjoyed writing them.
Thank you for reading me.

Lonely Peter

It was once that a man led a simple life. He worked hard in his fields. He cut his own wood and cooked his own meals for he was a single man. He wanted nothing more than to be married and have someone to look after him that he could cherish.

He was good to his neighbours and to strangers. He helped them in their fields, gave poor families eggs and fowl whether he could spare it or not, and everyone knew if they needed help they could count on Lonely Peter.

He knew they called him that behind his back, but he did not care for it was the truth. He was lonely.

One day he was hewing wood and talking to himself, as he often did. "I don't want to be alone."

He raised the axe high above his head. "I don't care who I marry."

The words were barely out of his mouth when an old woman appeared in front of him.

She said in a thin, crackly voice, "If you give me your firewood I'll will let you marry me."

She was bent over. He thin gnarled fingers clasped the crook end of a staff she held for support. Most of her teeth were missing and what hair she had stuck out at odd angles from her head.

"I will give you some of my wood, old woman. But I have no interest in marrying you."

"Didn't I just hear you say you didn't care? Who else have you got, young one? You're shy. You keep to yourself. If you don't marry me, you'll be alone."

Despite being close to past the age when most young men married he also wanted a family. The old woman offered companionship, but she was past the age of bearing him children. If he couldn't have children, he may as well remain alone.

"You are too old to be my wife. You may take this cord of wood I've split, but I won't marry you."

"You would rather stay alone than marry one such as me?"

He leaned on his axe for a moment, thinking. For as lonely as he was he was not desperate. He did not wish to appear rude, but neither did he want any misunderstandings between them.

"Yes," he answered staring at the ground.

"So it shall be," she said.

The next minute he was standing in the middle of a shallow stream flowing from a small lake. Last year's bulrushes crowded the shores. New growth struggled beside them.

His body felt different. Thin legs ended in clawed feet. Wings and feathers grew on his body. When he bent down he saw a beak protruding from his face.

A shiver coursed through his body. Muscles moved from a  directive beyond his thoughts. His beak pointed upward and his wings opened and closed as his legs moved underneath him in a rhythm both familiar and strange.

The dance took him down the stream and back up again. As his mind grew more used to the sensations he understood: it was the spring and he danced to attract a mate.

But he danced only for himself.

Light dimmed as the sun lowered in the west. Frogs chirruped near him, birds flew above the trees calling to one another, and the occasional small fish or freshwater shrimp caught his attention.

He grew tired yet continued his dance. As dusk deepened he heard a soft trill. Another crane landed beside him.

A voice said, "Hello. You are new here and I see you have no one. Will you dance for me?"

Energy surged through him at her request. He raised his bill to the skies and jumped and twirled, beating his wings in rhythm.

But it was to no avail. The crane shook her head and flew away.

He stood in the middle of the stream. The water rushing over the rocks at his feet seemed to laugh at him, but it didn't stop him. After a short rest the compelling rhythm inside him made him begin his lonely dance again.

Soon another crane approached him, but she was not impressed by his dance and flew on leaving him alone.

The sun was almost gone. The other birds had taken a sleeping perch. Night insects were waking up and announcing themselves.

A shuffling noise in the grass behind him caught his attention. Another crane stood in profile behind some of the dead bulrushes at the edge of the stream.

"Hello," he said. He was tired and his heart ached with disappointment but still he asked , "May I dance for you?"

"It doesn't matter. You won't want me anyway."

"I fear it's you who won't want me," he said. "None of the others did. Please will you give me a chance?"

He jumped and beat his wings again in the strange rhythm as she watched him.

Dimness intensified around them.

"Stop," she said. "I've seen enough."

"You'll be flying away now like the others," he said.

"No. But it's not fair of me to make you continue." As she said it she slowly turned around and stepped out from behind the bulrushes.

She had hair on one side of her head, and an arm and a leg.

"I can't marry anyone, human or crane."

But he didn't care. "I was human until today. I refused a bent old woman. She turned me into this. Please do me the honour of being my wife."

The moon rose above the trees throwing more light over them. She turned her crane side toward him and stepped beside him in the stream.

"I, too, was cursed. An old woman asked for my help, but I refused. She made me only half crane so I would know what it was like to need. The curse can only be broken by someone who still wishes to be my husband after seeing me."

He rested his bill against hers. He was about to speak when a light flashed beside them. It dissipated leaving an old bent woman standing at the edge of the stream.

"Well, isn't this lucky?" she said. "Your curse can be broken, dearie. But what about this fellow? I don't recall giving him any options."

"It doesn't matter. I'm happy as I am and we have each other," he said.

"You've only got half of her, sonny. What'll you do when it's time to fly from winter?"

"I'll do whatever she does," he said.

"She'll be human soon. No place for you then."

"He can stay in my house," she said.

"And your family will taunt you for marrying a bird," cackled the old woman.

The moon rose higher in the sky until the three figures stood out against the night.

"I don't care."

"And you," she said to the crane once known as Peter. "You've got a woman, but you're stuck as a scrawny-legged bird."

"I'm happy. I won't be lonely."

As he spoke the half-crane, half-woman began to change. Her hair shrank into her head. Her arm turned to a wing, feathers sprouted from the human half, and she had changed to a crane completely.

The two cranes stood side by side with their bills touching.

"Bah. Love," said the old woman, and disappeared.

"Darling," said Peter, "May I get you a frog?"

Monday, February 11, 2013

Gratitude Monday -- Dinner for the New Year

Yesterday was Chinese New Year. We've entered the Year of the Snake.
My husband decided to celebrate with dinner out at the local Chinese buffet restaurant.
It's good to celebrate and I am grateful for the dinner out.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Photo-Finish Friday -- A Rock in the Rockies.

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This is on a hillside out west of Rocky Mountain House near the Banff National Park border. It can be seen from the highway.
I'm looking forward to summer and hiking.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Cravings Changed Going Gluten-Free

I crave vegetables.
Since I went largely gluten-free my appetite has changed. Instead of wanting cinnamon buns and submarine sandwiches and pizza I want vegetables.
I always liked them, especially carrots and peas right from the pod, but this is different.
Zucchini and/or mushrooms and /or spinach are important to a scrambled egg. So are slices of bell pepper. I don't scramble them often, but when I do there are more veggies than egg.

Hunger changes as well.
It used to be I had to eat not now but right now. After punting spelt I can wait to eat.
The call for regular gluten baked goods left quickly. I believe it was less than a week.
Don't get me wrong, I'll still eat 'em, I just don't feel compelled to do so.
My need for sweets has altered. I still hear them, but it's no Siren call  leading to a shipwreck.
Full disclosure: I eat rolled oats almost every day as I discovered about four years ago it keeps my blood sugar even.  This took care of most of the craving for sweets, but not all. Avoiding gluten is what sent it away.

I rarely eat chocolate. Instead of the daily chocolate bar of old I have high-quality dark chocolate, and not too much of it. I don't need much for sweets anymore. I hardly use any maple syrup on my morning pancakes.
My eating has changed to the point I can do without potato chips. I still have them around a good lot of the time, but they are unsalted. In fact, I no longer care for foods that are very salty or very sweet. I honestly thought I would never see this day.

Why am I telling you this?
Because if you are contemplating punting gluten you should know what you're in for. I'm not going to guarantee my experiences will be yours, but from what I've read these are pretty common.

I may write about this again, but for right now, I really, really, wish I could go to the garden and eat some peas.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

My Gluten-Free Experiment

I've been largely gluten-free since late last June, and it is good.
It started as an experiment. I'm gluten intolerant or wheat intolerant and had been getting away with eating Spelt flour for years.
Spelt's in the wheat family and can be used as wheat. It needs a bit of help from gluten substitutes like guar or xanthan gums, but it makes great pie crust, a decent loaf of bread, and baked goods as good as anyone can bake.
But I decided to see what would happen if I punted gluten for a while.
The stuffed up nose I'd enjoyed for years left me. My heartburn took a hike and that means I can rest on my right side while my husband reads me a bedtime story.

I still eat gluten now and again, but I know what to expect and I put up with it. Why? Because my husband bakes with spelt and/ or barley and /or rye flour, and mediterranean cuisine restaurants have pita bread and tzatziki, or pita bread and hummus or...well... you get the idea.

My experiment was only to be for a few weeks, but I felt so good I kept going.
The bloating went away, I had more energy, and in general I plain felt good.
I started to lose weight. A few pounds over the course of a few weeks. I also started going for daily bike rides which must be factored in, but still, losing the gluten was a big part of it.

I replaced toast with pancakes made from flax, rolled oats, assorted different flours like garbanzo bean, or sorghum, or soy, or coconut or almond, hazelnut, or brazil nut, or some combination thereof depending on my mood.
Also I eat more butter now and more olive oil. We've been using coconut lard in baking for years.

I noticed after a few weeks I had to tighten my bike helmet strap. About a week after I did I had to tighten it again. Between June and October I tightened it five times. It should be noted that in July I started taking iodine in the form of kelp. It gave me more energy, I am sure it helped get shed of some of the water I was carrying, and best of all my skin is nowhere near as dry as it once was.

The experiment was only supposed to last a few weeks. It has been more than eight months. I've been working on gluten-free pizza crusts and flatbread, and made a serviceable gluten-free pita bread the other day.

Why am I telling you this?
Because gluten intolerance comes in many forms and ingesting it may exacerbate other conditions.

Am I telling you to try gluten-free?
This is information with my experience as an example.I am telling you what it did for me.
What you do with your life is your concern, no one else's.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Tuesday Tales -- Honest Hans

Honest Hans, or The Cabbage Thief

One late night a shepherd stole a cabbage to feed to his sheep. It had been dry in the pasture and the sheep had grazed most of it down to bare earth.
He passed by the old man's garden every day and knew the man had watered his garden. His vegetables were plump and green.
The young man went out by the dark of the moon feeling his way though the undergrowth of the forest to the clearing. There he made out the shape of the old man's hut looming in the starlight.
He crept to the garden and crawled on his hands and knees through the rows of carrots and turnips until he found what he wanted.
Each head he found was examined. Some were still too small. Others to big and awkward to carry. But he thought of the sheep and what a treat it would be for them and he persevered until he found just the right cabbage.
The next morning the sheep gathered round the boy bleating for the toothsome treat. They ate it up and went out to the pasture to nibble on the few mean blades of grass that remained.
He was fond of his charges and wanted them to grow and do well in the world. If the sheep were healthy, then the farmer would keep him on.
The young man wanted this. Minding sheep was all he'd ever done and all he wanted to do. It required little schooling and that is exactly how much he had. He could read and enjoyed it, but that was about it. He could count well enough to see to it he had all the sheep, but even then he used the names he'd given them, not numbers to keep track.
He liked to be out of doors winter or summer. He loved the feeling of fresh air on his face and the grass beneath his feet. He had no one but himself to look after and no matter how little he made he earned his living his way.
He was know as an honest fellow. Those who saw him in the village as he gathered his charges for the day's grazing remarked, "There goes Honest Hans."
He smiled his big wide smile when he heard this and he refused to think about his nightly excursions to the garden.
"It's for the sheep," he told himself as he crept about the ground looking for a juicy cabbage to take.
The sheep had liked their treat so much Hans knew he had to get more. He crept back among the cabbages the next night, and the night after that, and the night after that again.
Soon all that were left were the smaller heads. He wanted to leave those for later. The bigger the cabbage the more sheep it would feed.
He rarely had a day off during grazing season. If he needed to attend to other business he had to find another shepherd for his flock. But one day the farmer who owned most of the sheep Hans looked after decided he'd take the sheep to the pasture himself.
"My flock is doing well at your hand. You've earned a day off. I will see for myself where you find this tender grass for them."
Hans had no choice but to walk away.
He thought about the cabbage under his coat. He'd have to save it for the next day.
He had a whole day in front of him with nothing to do. It was one thing to have all the free time you wished while you earned a living, but this was different. When he didn't work he did not earn any money. If that happened too often he'd have to steal cabbage for himself.
He decided not to think about it. One day would not matter. He went to the village and searched through the shops for cheese and meat and wondered if he could afford a new pair of boots.
He looked at his feet. His boots were holding together well enough on the sides, but the soles were worn. He might get the rest of the summer out of them, but he'd need new ones for winter.
Winter was still far away. He'd have money enough. He kept his money in a sock under his mattress in the loft of Mr. Lauer's barn. Hans had lived there since his parents died many years earlier.
The sock held enough for a pair of boots already, he decided, and perhaps a bit of joy at the local tavern. He went to his loft to get the money and remembered he still carried the cabbage with him.
He set it on his pillow and drew up the covers just enough to make it look like someone was sleeping and then went on his way.
The tavern was warm and noisy and the tavern keeper friendly and quick to draw his beer. Since Hans had no where to go or to be until the next morning he sat back and enjoyed his day off.
By late evening Hans had drunk all the money he'd taken with him and had convinced the tavern owner to let him run a tab. It was late when he left the tavern and very dark out. As he stumbled along on the cobblestone streets singing to himself he thought about the sheep.
"They must have been very disappointed to only have thin grass," he thought. "This will never do."
He turned around and made his way back through the village and along the path in the forest to the old man's garden.
He crawled around the rows, but could only find a small head to take with him.
As he was wresting it off the stem the hut door opened. A gruff voice called, "Who's stealing my cabbage? I'll show you."
Hans heard a click and the report of a gun, and he felt a curious stinging in his backside.
He yelped and stumbled to his feet. The cabbage rolled out of his arms to the ground. He had no time to pick it up. He stumbled and jerked and reeled as fast as he could to the path and through the forest and all the way to his loft.
He threw himself on the bed forgetting all about the cabbage he'd left there in the morning.
As he reached over to pull his thin pillow under his head he found the cabbage instead.
It rolled toward him.
"Ayyyyyyeeeee. There's a bodiless head in my bed."
And he screamed and ran from his loft into the forest.
The shepherd was never seen again. The old-timers in the village say if you venture into the woods on a night in pasture season you'll hear Hans stumbling and screaming about the bodiless head.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Gratitude Monday -- No Penny For These Thoughts

Thank you, one cent piece.
The humble penny has had it
It was once made of copper and was occasionally referred to as a copper. It got too expensive so the copper was mixed with cheaper materials. Soon that got too expensive to make so the government killed it.
No more pennies for our thoughts or spending a penny (been many a year since a pay toilet cost a penny, methinks) or penny candy.

As sad as I am to see it be no longer struck, I do feel better that it will remain legal tender, and for that I am grateful.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Photo-Finish Friday -- Guatemala Moment

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We had to wait for a ferry to cross a river. Across the bank is a good-sized town. You'd never know it from this scene.