Sunday, February 28, 2010

It was a Special Day

I was in excellent company four several hours today and couldn't have been at more peace. The weather was gorgeous and I spent a good deal of it outside today working on a special mosaic art project with new friends. I felt pampered and cared for through out the day and couldn't ask for more.

All connections made are important parts of the whole, every character having a place in the ebb and flow of this human experience. Something truly energetic is happening within and I hope as my life takes on a more positive path, those around me who I love will in turn find their own lives a little better and more satisfying.
I do have more pictures and will have them up very soon!

Friday, February 26, 2010

Getting Over it

The gluten free thing is getting easier every day and I have found my groove in the kitchen again. I was a little freaked for a while about having to miss out on stuff I love, but I am seeing something positive emerge from out of the seemingly grim reality of never eating a piece of pizza again from my favorite pizza place, or a juicy burger from other favorite haunts. I am a foodie after all and what might not be a grim prospect for some, was for me. But no more!

I started to truly analyze what was bothering me the most about these food intolerances I have learned of, and it isn't the food itself that I was grieving over, it is the loss of a big part of my culture which is the freedom to eat out anywhere and at any time when the occasion arises. I'm not only talking about dining out at restaurants, it is also difficult to safely dine at others' homes as well, or to join my coworkers and eat what is catered into the office on a fairly regular basis. Food is a heavy part of one's culture. I have to strike out of my cultural norm and learn to create something new and better for myself.

I think the area I live in needs a gluten free something or other...a private chef, or cafe maybe... Should I take a giant leap into something daring? Any endeavor into the culinary world is a risky one if you miss your mark, but there is a niche here that is hard to ignore. I need to consult my good chef friend and a few others to explore the possibility of finally putting a culinary business together. My brother has experience in managing restaurants and perhaps I should talk to him as well.

Cooking with whole foods has always been easy for me, but it became very difficult over the past year when I didn't feel inspired to cook great food(it is a different way of life for me, being the single working mom). And finding out about all the different food intolerances was a hard blow at first which didn't help. I had started to rely on convenience. But I am slowly realizing what has fallen right into my lap and I need to pay attention and get focused. I am feeling inspired for the first time in a long while.

Culinary sauces are amongst my favorite foods to experiment with. Lately I have been thinking about sauces for poultry or pork. I made one up and emailed it to myself which is becoming a preferred method of organizing my ideas. It is much easier to find stuff I need this way and I am never too far from a computer. All the raw material I need for copy should I decide to write a cook book is already in black and white and waiting for me. I should consult with my sister too, she had to put a cook book together for a school assignment. I have no idea how that turned out, but she used different recipes from family members(including me).

Anyway, I had been imagining all last week having a beautifully roasted chicken stuffed with lemons, scallions, and butter. I thought meticulously about what elements in a sauce I wanted to pair with the meat. Did I want sweet or savory? Did I want au jus or something more? Did I want familiar or exotic?

The flavors and textures started formulating in my mind. This is the creative process happening. I wanted to use wine, I imagined a drier light wine like chardonnay. I imagined how it might taste coupled with the lemon chicken stock as a base for my sauce. I thought about how the wine would taste drinking it straight with dinner. I wanted the sauce to be semi exotic with a bit of sweet but not too much. Something fruity was coming into focus. Something light and distinct and complimentary with the lemon undertones...and just like that apricots came to mind.

My friends, a sauce was born. I have plans to make versions possibly using hints of vanilla or nutmeg and trying different liqueurs and different fruits. It will get very interesting doing all this experimentation and I will need guinea pigs dear readers. By the way, I made the roasted chicken exactly as I had envisioned it, and the sauce complimented it perfectly.

I am now imagining a beautiful roasted pork tenderloin paired with a fresh raspberry sauce using the same principle as the other one. I'm not sure if I would stick with a nice chardonnay or try a rose wine of some kind when using raspberries. I will need to experiment and have some tasters tell me what they think is best. Personally I think they both sound great!

So here are my ramblings for the day. I hope you found something entertaining. I have to run out now and register my son for summer day camp and take care of a few other errands. But if I could, I'd sit here and write the day away. I'm feeling creative and want to act on it. I still have paintings swirling around somewhere in the back of mind too, along with a hundred more creative projects. Taming the time beast is forever daunting.

My first pictures taken with Ara's camera

Hi all, I have finally found the time and energy to go buy the adapter I needed...only about 5 bucks...not bad. Here are some pictures taken with the new camera via Ara. The photographing opportunities that came my way were many, but I was only able to get a few shots here and there for one reason or another. I am keeping my eye out for more though. Without further delay, here you go! Enjoy my friends.

I am very pleased as you can see by the look on my face. I am having lunch with a person who makes me happy.

looking down below into the water from my perch on a rock above.

A lunch spot with my special friend.

Cocktails on a gorgeous day. This is at the Spider House in Austin

The 360 bridge...I drive down this road to get to a new gluten free bakery I found called the Wild Wood Art Cafe. It is becoming one of my regular haunts.

This is a cocktail I made myself tonight using Bombay Sapphire gin, a twist of fresh orange, tonic water, and a splash of blackberry Izz. Yummy!

Brushy Creek Lake

The lake again

The Labyrinth trail...very tiny little trail but kind of cool

South maybe?

well manicured trail

For your own reading pleasure explaining the trail

You are welcome Kia

I hope this car continues to perform well. I do like it quite a bit.

It is unique, and I like that

Yes those are the boxers of a male companion. Think back to the camping trip that wasn't.

Right after setting up my new tent out at HCSNA before we discovered the fire.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Moab is a Bust

One would think I would have learned by now to NOT get excited about things I plan for because my plans generally fall apart. It is just life getting in the way of life I think and no one's fault. After further thought, Ara doesn't want me to come to Moab because he will be too busy dealing with concert stuff to have a tag along. He also he doesn't want me to spend money I don't have. He is right of course. I was going to put the plane ticket on my credit card, but it turned out that plane fare was going to cost too much to justify spending for only a couple of days.

*Sigh* I hate the voice of reason sometimes. Life goes on...

Wheat Gluten Intolerance/Celiac disease...It bascically SUCKS!

I am learning a lot about wheat gluten and some of the lessons haven't been easy. I've completely cut out all dietary offenders(it is not just wheat gluten) and I was starting to feel much better, thinking I had a handle on all of this finally. Then I accidentally ate some food that turned out to have hidden gluten and holy bat crap did my body react violently!

My stomach has been in knots, my joints are swollen, stiff, and I'm in a world of's been over 24 hours and my symptoms have not subsided. Come to find out, the longer you are away from the gluten, the more severe the reaction will be to it if you accidentally ingest it. Good to know. Doesn't make me feel immediately better, but at least I know what is going on. So back to the drawing board for me. I need to learn how to better identify the hidden gluten in the ingredients list on the food packaging. I now understand that bbq sauce is a no no as are most condiments...they are loaded with gluten. Who knew?

Check it out...this is a complete list of ingredients to stay away from that I found on a Celiac website. I can't even pronounce some of this stuff and the list seems to go on forever! I am coming to the realization that eating processed anything is not a good idea for me anymore. The health problems that these intolerances and allergies have caused are debilitating to one degree or another and it simply isn't worth it.

The bad list:

abyssinian Hard (Wheat triticum durum)
alcohol specific types
Amp-Isostearoyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
Atta Flour
Barley Grass (can contain seeds)
Barley Hordeum vulgare
Barley Malt
Beer (most contain barley or wheat)
Bleached Flour
Bread Flour
Brewer's Yeast
Brown Flour
Bulgur (Bulgar Wheat/Nuts)
Bulgur Wheat
Cereal Binding
Club Wheat (Triticum aestivum subspecies compactum)
Common Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
Cookie Crumbs
Cookie Dough
Cookie Dough Pieces
Criped Rice
Dinkle (Spelt)
Disodium Wheatgermamido Peg-2 Sulfosuccinate
Durum wheat (Triticum durum)
Edible Coatings
Edible Films
Edible Starch
Einkorn (Triticum monococcum)
Emmer (Triticum dicoccon)
Enriched Bleached Flour
Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour
Enriched Flour
Farina Graham
Flour (normally this is wheat)
Fu (dried wheat gluten)
Graham Flour
Granary Flour
Groats (barley, wheat)
Hard Wheat
Hordeum Vulgare Extract
Hydrolyzed Wheat Gluten
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein Pg-Propyl Silanetriol
Hydrolyzed Wheat Starch
Hydroxypropyltrimonium Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
Kamut (Pasta wheat)
Kecap Manis (Soy Sauce)
Ketjap Manis (Soy Sauce)
Kluski Pasta
Maida (Indian wheat flour)
Malted Barley Flour
Malted Milk
Malt Extract
Malt Syrup
Malt Flavoring
Malt Vinegar
Macha Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
Matzo Semolina
Meripro 711
Oriental Wheat (Triticum turanicum)
Orzo Pasta
Pearl Barley
Persian Wheat (Triticum carthlicum)
Poulard Wheat (Triticum turgidum)
Polish Wheat (Triticum polonicum)
Rice Malt (if barley or Koji are used)
Semolina Triticum
Shot Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
Small Spelt
Spirits(specific types)
Spelt (Triticum spelta)
Sprouted Wheat or Barley
Stearyldimoniumhydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
Strong Flour
Suet in Packets
Teriyaki Sauce
Timopheevi Wheat (Triticum timopheevii)
Triticale X triticosecale
Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Flour Lipids
Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Extract
Triticum Vulgare (Wheat) Germ Oil
Udon (wheat noodles)
Unbleached Flour
Vavilovi Wheat (Triticum aestivum)
Vital Wheat Gluten
Wheat, Abyssinian Hard triticum durum
Wheat amino acids
Wheat Bran Extract
Wheat, Bulgur
Wheat Durum Triticum
Wheat Germ Extract
Wheat Germ Glycerides
Wheat Germ Oil
Wheat Germamidopropyldimonium Hydroxypropyl Hydrolyzed Wheat Protein
Wheat Grass (can contain seeds)
Wheat Nuts
Wheat Protein
Wheat Triticum aestivum
Wheat Triticum Monococcum
Wheat (Triticum Vulgare) Bran Extract
Whole-Meal Flour
Wild Einkorn (Triticum boeotictim)
Wild Emmer (Triticum dicoccoides)

The following items may or may not contain gluten depending on where and how they are made, and it is sometimes necessary to check with the manufacturer to find out:

Artificial Color
Baking Powder
Caramel Color
Caramel Flavoring
Clarifying Agents
Dry Roasted Nuts
fat Replacer
Food Starch
Food Starch Modified
Glucose Syrup
Gravy Cubes
Ground Spices
Hydrolyzed Plant Protein
Hydrolyzed Protein
Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysate
Hydroxypropylated Starch
Mixed Tocopherols
Modified Food Starch
Modified Starch
Natural Flavoring
Natural Flavors
Natural Juices
Non-dairy Creamer
Pregelatinized Starch
Protein Hydrolysates
Seafood Analogs
Smoke Flavoring
Soba Noodles
Soy Sauce
Soy Sauce Solids
Stock Cubes
Vegetable Broth
Vegetable Gum
Vegetable Protein
Vegetable Starch
Wheat Starch

Monday, February 15, 2010

Projects and General News

It turns out I need to go get an adapter for the memory card in my new camera so I can get pics from it to the computer. I hope to take care of it today after work...I'm antsy to start throwing photos up on the blog again. It's been a long time coming! Bless you Ara for sending me everything you had for the is a shame my computer isn't compatible. Thank goodness for adapters though. :)

Several projects are in the works and exciting things are starting to happen for me. One of the more fun projects is my attempt to get into theater. I met a person who acts in small plays and said I should audition. I think it sounds like a blast and a good use of my creative energy so am going to give it a shot. I grew up around the theater and don't see any reason why I can't be a part of it again. It should be noted that this is probably going to be more for my entertainment than anyone elses, but if I can find the actress down inside and bring enjoyment to others as a side note, that would be cool.

In other news, my art studio(the spare room in my apt. ) is beginning to take shape. I need to buy a couple of large drop cloths to line the floor with and a couple of easels. I hope to put some serious hours in soon and get a few paintings completed. One of these days I will have an informal art show and may even see about getting some of my nature abstracts on a public wall somewhere.

I also hope to have a new website eventually where others can go to purchase my art. Dusty is doing an amazing job with web design and if I'm really nice to him maybe he will design my website. His company is Right Side Optics, so if anyone wants a cool website let me know and I will send you his way.

My friend Azzurra came over on Saturday and I helped her make a home made Valentines day card for a friend of hers. She loved the card and was shocked that I have such an eye and talent for this kind of thing and inquired why I wasn't doing this as a side business. I use to do it as a side business and might start up again only this time for myself and not through another company. She strongly feels that I could be selling handmade cards in little boutiques and gave me some good ideas on where to start. It helps to know people who know something about marketing. I am the creative talent only and need all the business help I can get which seems to be typical of artists.

Getting focused will be the most difficult part in all of this. It is often a curse to have so many great ideas and not be able to hone in on one or two to see them come to fruition. It is time I start setting some goals and be sure to follow all of the baby steps. If anyone has any good tips for getting and staying focused feel free to pass them my way.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

I have Two Pictures from HCSNA

I forgot they were in the camera. I managed to take a couple of snap shots right after camp was set up. I have to install software first however before I can get them on here. The installation disk I have is not compatible with my OS, so I need to download the drivers. For now I just want to go outside and click some shots. It is a very foggy day.

Monday, February 08, 2010

A Real Eye Opener

Every time I go out for a long day hike or a backpacking trip I learn something new to add to my experiences. Generally the lessons learned have been in fairly controlled situations with nothing too serious involved. Some are very general lessons, some more specific, but all are important.

This weekend I did make it out to Hill Country State Natural area with a friend of mine, but we didn't stay the night. There was a controlled cedar burn going on right near the park boundary about a mile away from the Wilderness Camp area, which park staff failed to mention. Had we been told about the controlled burn in the first place, we would have stayed to enjoy ourselves vs thinking we could be in serious trouble and needing to leave.

It is unfortunate this was the very first backpacking trip my friend had ever been on, because he never got the pay off and our situation was extremely stressful. I wanted him to understand why I am so obsessed with this type of adventuring...but he is forever soured I am afraid... And I only want more...dangers and all. I realize that I am an adrenaline junky. Here is my story...

We arrived at the park fairly late in the afternoon...around 2:30 or so, but had plenty of time to walk the two miles to the wilderness camp area and set up before dark fall, and do a little exploring. After partially setting up camp it was decided we would climb Ice Cream Hill and set off on our little adventure leaving everything in camp.

About a quarter of the way up I happened to notice smoke coming from some trees to my left. At first I figured it was someone burning trash since there was a house not too far off in the distance, that was very close to the park boundary. Not to mention HCSNA had just been dumped on with tons of rain. At the time I couldn't imagine this being anything other than a fire someone was tending.

But I had no way to be sure and called out to my friend who was further up the hill to come see what I saw. By the time he was at my side...just a few seconds later...we both saw flames leap from above the tree tops and the fire started to grow in intensity. That got our attention and we both came to the conclusion that we should leave the area just in case.

I did a quick wind check to see which direction the wind was blowing...good we were upwind from the fire. I was fully aware however that the wind could easily change direction and bring the fire our way leaving us possibly trapped, or unable to out run it if in fact it was a fire out of control.

We wasted no time getting back to our camp site. About the time we got within a few yards of where my new tent was set up, ash was starting to fall on us. Terror started to creep in but I refused to panic and stayed calm even though my thoughts were coming at me fast as I was trying to think clearly. What if this was the real deal? Could it be? I struggled with the idea.

There were other backpackers in the area and while I broke camp, my friend went to go tell them what we discovered only to find they were no where in sight. I was disappointed to hear the news, but was ready to go. I think I set a record for that being the quickest I had ever broken camp...probably about 6 minutes or so.

Of course it was not a neat pack job but obviously I didn't care. I even pondered as I was doing it, if I was being stupid by taking the time to gather my stuff. But I kept thinking if we got caught out there past night fall for any crazy reason...a fall...etc....we'd have a whole new set of problems to deal with if I didn't have my gear. Right or wrong, that is where my head was and my gear is my security blanket.

Overcoming the fear of decision making in such trying circumstances was a new challenge. I wanted time to slow down for me...I didn't want to get it wrong. But in my mind there was no time to waste and we'd wasted plenty already. There was a bit of disagreement about the route to take out of there. I wanted to double back the way we came...which was away from the fire and back to the car. My friend wanted to do something that although made sense on some level, completely made no sense to me on another. We were like chickens with our heads cut off.

He wanted to take a route that would bring us to a park road that was supposedly going to be faster than doubling back. His goal was to reach the house we saw outside of the park boundary, and call for help since we had no cell phone signal. Mind you this is a lonely house in the middle of nothing but hills as far as the eye can see. I found several flaws in this plan. One, being the fact that we would come very close to the fire and two, being the fact that it was entirely possible no one was home or that we could even get to the house since it wasn't near a trail, and the fire could cut us off.

Whatever the case, I agreed to go with his plan because I was beginning to doubt my ability to make a sound decision. But as soon as my feet started to move the direction he thought we should take and I got a few yards, I came to a dead hault. I called out and told him to hold up a minute...that we needed to re-think this. My gut was telling me that it was a mistake to go the way he thought we should go. I physically could not force myself to walk in a direction with so many unknowns. He said it was my call. I was in a serious state of not knowing what to do but found myself moving back towards the direction we had come. I was making it all up as I went along.

All the while, time is ticking and I'm inwardly kicking myself for allowing so much time to be wasted with the arguing in case this really was an out of control fire. Right about then, two hikers that we saw earlier were on the scene and I asked them if they had a phone that might get a signal. One of them tried and she got a weak signal. We called the park answer only a voicemail. I hastily left a message explaining that we thought a fire was out of control and where we were. The next call that was made was to 911 and though the signal was sketchy, we think they got an idea of what was going on and where we were, but we couldn't have been certain before losing signal because the dispatch kept yelling at us to repeat where we were because she coudn't hear us.

The hikers, a pair of older women, said that the route my friend wanted to take was a good idea because it would take us close to their car, stating that it was on the road we were trying to reach and that we could get there even looked quicker on the map. Against my better judgment though, and because I know those park maps are VERY decieving, I went along with the group consensus that we should go ahead and head for their car...we were running out of daylight and needed to move it. I still didn't like the plan and the ash continued to fall.

We came close to the fire...and saw that there was a small river of water from the rain between us and it, which brought a small amount of relief, but only small in my mind. I also knew that fire can jump water...all it would take is a tall tree to fall from one side to the other. I kept my thoughts to myself on this...I didn't want to upset anyone further.

Since I was well committed to the route by then and getting to the road as quickly as possible became my sole focus, I hadn't even realized that my friend and I put distance between us and those other hikers. As soon as I realized how far we must have gotten ahead of them, we hit the road. Than almost as quickly we saw a truck coming into view. It was a fire truck! I was so relieved! I think we only walked about 30 minutes by this time.

Soon after the fire truck came into view, the park host came into view. He stopped and told us that the fire we saw was a controlled cedar burn. He didn't stay to chat...he had to catch up to the fire truck to stop them from going further. My friend and I looked at each other in almost disbelief that no one bothered to tell the fire dept ahead of time what was taking place and no one bothered to alert backpackers either. And in the hooplah we forgot all about the two women, which I felt terrible about later. We hitched a ride back to our car and it seemed to take forever to get there. We would have been walking for at least an hour in the dark if we didn't have the ride.

Once we got to our car, the two ladies were not far behind...being dropped off at their car and guess what? Their car was no closer than ours! They had no clue where they were when they came upon us in the trail, though it appeared they were confident of where they were. Neither one of them was prepared for a night jackets or warm clothing, only walking sticks, so I took that as a sign they actually were not far from their vehicle. Wow that was a huge mistake on my part to deduct that. And had that whole incident not happened, they very well could have ended up lost in total blackness and seriously lacking warmth. I hope they learned some lessons of their own.

I think from now on I will not doubt my own instincts and be a more firm leader. I think doubling back would have gotten us to the trail head and my car much quicker than the other route regardless if a car was there or not...after all it was only two miles and we could have made it in about thirty minutes if we walked very fast. But I gotta say, under the circumstances those two miles might as well have been 8 in my head. My friend quickly acknowledged that my plan was probably the better plan, even though things worked out fine in the end.

I will be disecting this scenario over and over for a while until I am satisfied what the best course of action would have been. I want to go back and mentally correct my mistakes. Reader feedback would be most appreciated too, especially if you have backpacking experience or outdoor experience. I want to learn everything I can from this.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

It's AWESOME!!!!!!!

I got the camera! it is perfect for my needs and I can't wait to delve into it more to find out all the cool little secrets/features. I need to give myself a crash course asap so I will be able to take pictures of backpacking this weekend! You rock Ara, thank you for sending it so quickly.

That's right...I'm going backpacking. Yes I know I say that all the time and then something happens yadda yadda yadda. But it is for real. I am mostly packed already and so excited I can't stand it. I'm going to HCSNA and am hoping that the trails are not too much of a mess from all the rain we've had. But in truth I won't let muddy trails stop me. Fortunately where I'm headed is a lot of rock, so it should be fine.

Oh and I set my new tent up tonight...I LOVE it so far. It is very easy to set up and wow it is lightweight compared to my old one. It will be interesting to see how it handles condensation since it is a single wall tent. I can remember a couple of times when Thomas had some big condensation issues with his single wall tents so that is certainly a concern...but not a huge one. Bringing a sponge along just in case will help.

Yay! I can't wait!

This Rain is Getting the Best of Me

I can't remember hating cold wet rain so much. I'm so done I'm deep fried.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Going to Moab Utah

In May there is a camping/rock festival in Moab and I'm going! I am so excited because I've been wanting to see this part of the country for a long time now. Utah has some of the most amazing scenery on earth and I can't wait to see it first hand and take pictures! Here is the link to the festival for those interested. The best part of all is I will finally get to meet my dear friend Ara in person for the first time, and Spirit too! I'll be the guest side kick for a couple of days ;)