Sunday, February 24, 2013

Doug is NOT in the Trees!

More signs of winter. . . .

. . . . and LOOK! Doug is NOT in the trees!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Some Poor MisGuided Souls LOVE Winter!

It's true; there are those who love this white stuff and relish the idea of bundling up and heading out into it.
Not me!

And even though this was considered a gloriously wonderful day in terms of the temperature (15 above; keep in mind that our windchills registered around 37 below this past week), I still can fill volumes listing the ways I hate winter.

Here's a sampling:

1. It gets so dry indoors that my fingers crack and bleed at the corners. It's not a phenomenon peculiar to me; my friends and I spend long hours debating the relative merits of liquid bandaid, clear nail polish, first aid tape, and every possible lotion you can think of;

2. Your best bet to give your dog exercise is to throw a rubber ball down the stairs, over and over and over;

3. I'd never read the local newspaper for weeks on end if my husband didn't walk the two steps out the front door, because it's too freakin' cold;

4. The worse thing about filling your gas tank is NOT the price! (that is, if you can get the frozen gas cover open; *hint: credit cards are helpful for this.);

5. Wearing two winter jackets at once is not out of the question, as in: an inner down jacket and an outer windbreaker type Northface jacket.

OK, OK, in the interest of not being a total winter grump, one silver lining is each day, I scan the horizon for sun dogs, and we've had lots of them this year.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Yogurt: Specific Carbohydrate Diet

One of the staples on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet is home-made yogurt. Happily, this is a very satisfying thing to make. . . . and eat.

The process involves heating whole milk to just over 180 degrees, to simmer, for 2 minutes, and then cooling it down to below 110 degrees. It takes a good long time for it to cool down. But in the meantime, I sterilze the little jars that I'm going to pour the yogurt in. I boil water, with the jars in it, for 10 minutes, and then just let it sit in the water until the milk is ready.

Next, I take about a cup of the cooled milk, and stir in yogourmet (freeze-dried yogurt start that I buy at a health foods store. If you can't find it, whole milk, plain, Dannon yogurt will work). For each bath, I have to use a packet of the yogourmet or Dannon starter, NOT a portion of my previous home-made yogourt.

SCD is very specific about the bacteria that must be generated in the yogurt, so not just any yogurt will do. And for this to be effective, the yogurt has to be cultured for 24 hours in order to eliminate the lactose from the milk. I have a yogurt maker by Cuisine, so it's very easy to just drop the little jars into the yogurt maker, and leave it on for 24 hours. There are other ways to make this, to provide the heat to a batch of yogurt, but this is the most convenient way.

The theory is that the colon becomes populated with more of the good bacteria, and the bad bacteria is starved out, by restricting carbohydrates. "The allowed carbohydrates are monosaccharides and have a single molecule structure that allow them to be easily absorbed by the intestine wall. Complex carbohydrates which are disaccharides (double molecules) and polysaccharides (chain molecules) are not allowed. Complex carbohydrates that are not easily digested feed harmful bacteria in our intestines causing them to overgrow producing by products and inflaming the intestine wall. The diet works by starving out these bacteria and restoring the balance of bacteria in our gut.

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet™ is biologically correct because it is species appropriate. The allowed foods are mainly those that early man ate before agriculture began," (from Breaking the Vicious Cycle website ) As you can see, there are some similarities to the Paleo diet, although there are a few additional restrictions on the SCD diet.

But I'm relieved to know that 4 weeks into this diet, my symptoms of colitis are improving, and while I can't be certain whether it's the medication, or diet, or just the passage of time, I'm just glad I'm seeing improvement!

And besides, I get to eat some delicious yogurt! Honey is the only sweetener allowed on SCD, so of course, I add to the yogurt.. . .along with some fruit, or maybe coconut . . . or maybe I'll even throw in a little peanut butter (as long as it's "no sugar added".)

Monday, February 18, 2013

Bird Brain?

Perhaps I should have a contest to see who can come up with how to get my bird-brained husband out of the tree? And you'd get a feather in your cap?????

Let me explain these photos.  My dear, beloved, ever-so-cherished husband likes birds.  Apparently a lot. And our lovely North Dakota Weather has turned foul, with another one of our relentless blizzard warnings.

So what does my husband do for winter-preparedness?  Why, he gets out the 6 foot ladder, climbs to the very tip of it. . . .

Oh, but wait! That's not high enough!

So he swings himself into the tree.  The rotted, brittle-limbed, ugly tree that birds really love, because apparently birds like almost dead trees, so they can feast on bugs that are infesting the tree. . . .

And up he goes ANOTHER 6 feet into the tree! All so he can refill the bird feeder.

But why stop there?  Maybe it's time to do a little house maintenance.  You know, on the roof of the two-storied house, but grabbing a long-handled rake and swinging it overhead . . . .

. . . . to shovel some of the snow off the roof.

Of course, if you are Doug, you can defend to your complaining wife that you were totally safe the entire time, but look how thin these branches are compared to his foot. These BRITTLE, ALMOST DEAD branches, which you might be having trouble getting your foot on, and have to struggle a bit for your footing 18 to 20 feet above the ground!

"Traditionally, birds have been considered inferior in intelligence to mammals, and derogatory terms such as bird brains have been used colloquially in some cultures. Such perceptions are no longer considered scientifically valid. The difficulty of defining or measuring intelligence in non-human animals makes the subject difficult for scientific study. " (Wikipedia)

Bird-brained? Maybe not, because birds, at least know they can fly!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Beets with Oranges and Pecans: Specific Carbohydrate Diet

Here's another little recipe that is Specific Carbohydrate Diet safe.  I modified this recipe from the Cook's Illustrated magazine.  I was looking for a way to cook beets, one of the vegetables that I've long insisted I "hate."  It was just a bias thing.  And never did I dream I'd be searching for ways to make this unfairly maligned vegetable tasty.

It turns out, it wasn't so hard after all, when my latest copy of Cook's Illustrated showed up in the mail.

The original recipe calls for brown sugar. . . . definitely not allowed for SCD.  But honey is wonderfully welcome, which makes the whole diet much, much more palatable.

Walnuts give me problems, but I can substitute pecans very happily. The recipe also did not originally call for the actual orange pieces, but I liked the slightly surprising change in texture and taste showing up throughout this salad-like treat.

3 beets, trimmed and cut in half
1 1/4 c water
salt and pepper
3 T white vinegar
1 T honey
1/2 red or yellow onion
1 t orange peel or zest
1/2 c pecans, toasted and chopped
1 t parsley
1 t thyme
1 orange, peeled, and in pieces


1. Place beets in single layer in Dutch oven. Add water and 1/4 t salt;;
bring to simmer. Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for about
45 to 50 minutes, until beets tender
2. Remove beets. Increase temperature of pan and reduce cooking
liquid, stirring, until pan is almost dry, 5 to 6 min. Add vinegar and
honey; return to boil; and cook, stirring constantly with heat-resistant
spatula, until spatula leaves a wide trail when dragged through,
about 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat.
3. When beets are cool enough to handle, rub skin off with a paper
towel and cut into 1/2 inch wedges. Add beets, onion, orange peel,
1/2 salt and 1/4 t pepper to glaze and toss to coat. Transfer beets to
serving dish; sprinkle with pecans, parsley, oranges and thyme; serve.

I also liked it served cold more than warm, so it was an excellent addition to my lunch over the next several days after I made it.

Give it a try! Beets are actually quite nutritious and have great digestive properties.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Almond Cookies with Cinnamon Glaze--SCD safe

Ahhh, cookies! Often, the perfect little snack to eat while settling in to a good book.

About a year ago, I was diagnosed with colitis, and dang if that nasty issue didn't resurface a few weeks ago. Strangely, it's turned out to be the explanation for life-long problems with MY FEET! Who would have thought? Apparently, colitis itself can cause inflammation in other parts of the body, creating arthritis in peripheral areas, like feet. And a seemingly innocuous brief bout with this winter's gastrointestinal bug triggered the colitis which makes my feet angry!

So, I decided to follow the lead of a number of other colitis sufferers and start to follow the strict guidelines of the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. And this recipe, avoiding all grain products and sugar, other than honey, is one outcome.

It's not the most wonderful recipe in the world, but it will do when there just has to be some kind of sweet treat (like for Valentine's Day!) *(edited to add: Actually, by the next day, I decided that these really were quite tasting after all! Especially with chai tea, and I really like the "nutty" texture because of the almond flour, and the tinge of coconut because of the coconut flour and sprinkling on top. I'll make these again, but increase the honey just slightly.)

2 ½ cups almond flour (250 grams)
¼ cup coconut flour (35 grams)
2 teaspoons baking powder (8 grams)
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup macadamia nut oil (2 oz) or coconut oil
1 tablespoon honey, melted
1 teaspoon almond extract or vanilla
2 eggs

2 tablespoons honey, melted
1 tablespoon grass-fed butter melted, or ghee
1 tablespoon cinnamon


Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit
Combine your almond flour, coconut four, baking powder, and cinnamon in a mixing bowl and stir well
Add your oil, honey, almond extract (or vanilla) and eggs and mix into a soft dough
Roll your dough out, pressing to just shy of ½ inch thick all around
Cut with heart-shaped cookie cutters and lay on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet.
Place in the oven and bake for 9 minutes

While the cookies are baking, combine honey, butter, and cinnamon for the glaze in a bowl and mix well
At the 9 minute mark, pull your cookies out of the oven, and using a basting brush, brush your glaze on all of your cookies
Place your cookies back in the oven and bake for 9-11 minutes or until done

Remove from the oven, sprinkle with some almond flour or shredded coconut and drizzle any remaining glaze over your cookies. I like the contrast between the coconut and the cinnamon glaze.
Grab your camera and take some photos.
Serve immediately or place in an airtight container which will last 3-4 days

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Snow? It's Not ALL Bad. . . .

It's been a rough weekend, around the country for snow events. But some don't think it's all that bad. . . at least, not Ruby!

But Doug's not so sure he agrees with Ruby.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Sleep No More

And here is another shot of the mask used in my last post's light painting. The mask itself deserved its own post! (click on to make creepier. I mean, bigger.)

The mask is from an off-Broadway play called "Sleep No More," which I saw with Doug, Brian and Dianna in New York last June.  "Sleep No More" is a very peculiar experience of immersive theatre set in a 5-story warehouse in Manhattan.

When you enter the theatre, you are entering the world of the McKittrick Hotel, and are given the rather stern and foreboding instruction to "Not Speak" for the next several hours, and to never remove the mask. Everyone is given a mask, and set lose in the McKittrick Hotel, to wander its haunting rooms and stumble upon disturbing actors and performance.

In the hotel, you can rummage through drawers, sift through old mental hospital chart records, propped against rows and rows of bathtubs, set up dormitory style.   The rooms are labyrinthine  one leading to a ballroom, one to the hotel front desk, another to a graveyard that was needed to deal with the outcome of the various experiments performed in this former hospital turned hotel. There may or may not be a plot to this "play" but the actors appear often abruptly, interacting with one another, and frequently fleeing scenes inviting observers to follow, or leaving the audience on the other side of locked doors.  There are hints of a plot, or not, depending on your own subjective interpretations.  Throughout the 100 or so rooms, music adds to the haunting, jarring, images, and a combination of the music, and the actors, manages to direct the audience to the final, ghoulish scenes, after three hours, in the main ballroom.

This is a play that can be seen more than once, each viewing likely to create its own unique experience as pieces of the puzzles fit together, or dissolve.

And you get to keep the creepy masks at the end!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

The Winter Nights are Long . . . But Hot . . . in ND

As always, it's been a long, cold winter in North Dakota. But Light Painting warms things up!

This one used EL wire. It's this weird little plastic string that is battery powered and lights up. I like the red version, because you can dash around and create fire! (and not get burned!)  Sure, I could have removed the EXIT sign, but thought that with these flames, exits are good!

Want to know about the mask?  I'll tell you tomorrow :)

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Light Painting Delight

If you haven't discovered light painting yet, you don't know what you are missing!

You can while away some cold winter nights, and get your middle-aged friends laughing like children by organizing a light painting party!

And you don't need much to do this, assuming you already have basic photographic equipment.  Unlike most photography adventures, pretty much the only extra thing you need is very inexpensive!  Just find three little LED flashlight keychains, in different colors (like the kind you might find at stores like Target or Menards or Wallmart or Amazon, sometimes even in the checkout lanes).

A dog leash would come in handy, but if you don't have that, try to put a few lanyards together. You just need something long, that you can swing, with a clip on it.

Round up your tripod (absolutely essential!), a wide angle lens, your camera, and a very dark room, the darker the better.  We used a school gym.

Put your camera on the tripod, set it at the lowest ISO possible (100 or 200), f/16 or 22, auto white balance, and your shutter speed at 30 seconds. Using a timer to trigger the shutter is even better, or using a cable release and "bulb" mode is better, but you also can just use 30 seconds and trigger the shutter directly if you want.

Make sure your lens is set in "manual focus."  If your lens does not have a manual/auto switch, there should be a setting directly on your camera to change from "S" or "C" and "M".  Set it to "M", for manual focus.

Snap the LED lights onto the end of the dog chain or lanyards and one person stands  far enough away from the camera to not hit it when swinging the chain.  While the lights are still on, set the focus on the lens to the person with the lights. Throw some object on the floor in front of the person with the lights, as a point of reference, because they are going to move in a half circle around this point, while swinging the chain.

Turn off the light, trigger the camera shutter.  Now the Light Person should start swinging the chain in a circle, keeping the chain spinning straight up and down, perpendicular to the floor, directly above the object on the floor, and slowly move in a half circle around the object.  Get all the way through the half circle before the shutter closes and don't stop before it closes. Keep going beyond the half circle if necessary.

And that's it!  See the Light Person in the photo above?  Nope! Just the light!  Cool, huh?

The hardest part is to sneak the dog chain out of the house without Ruby going wild, leaping for joy for a walk (in the freakin' 30 below? I think not!), and then seeing her sad, disappointed eyes. . . .

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Party Girl!

Look who was 2 years old yesterday!

I know, I know, where have I been? I feel like I should make up some compelling story, like I was sucked up into an international vortex of dastardly ones with a fiendish plot to destroy all life as we know it--and I saved the day!--but there's not a single soul who would believe 1 word that I'd say.

North Dakota blah blah winters,(dull, dreary, North Dakota, as bleak and ugly as it's always been. Don't let the oil news fool you!) my work, a new-found addiction to (check it out!) photography videos, starting my very, very tiny photography business, my photography club, and netflix all gave me total bloggers' block.

But I've missed this! Words start swirling around in my head, (actually leaking out through my ears and attaching to the mirror in the bathroom while I brush my teeth!), and I've Just. Gotta. Blog.

So. I'm back! And although I may not be keeping up with everyone else's blogs as much as I'd like, my poor, neglected Pixelated Oasis is getting some attention now.