Category Archives: Summer

Vacation


I’ve already posted some of the pictures from my recent trip to the desert, but now that I’m back to civilization, I thought I’d post a few more (having cell service and wifi does help with that).

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This is from one of my dawn romps with the dogs. And we got up that early because there is something decidedly unsexy about a 90 pound German Shepherd panting in your ear at 5:15 in the morning.

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This photo was taken at dusk. There’s nothing spectacular about it, but I thought it was neat. So there you are.

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This picture is of our campground. Pretty cool, huh?

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And I discovered I really like arches…

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And petroglyphs (photo courtesy of my young son).

A Year in Review


I elected to post this a few days after New Year’s for a couple of reasons:

1) I didn’t want my post to get in the way of the Thursday Thread

2) I wanted to be able to leave this up for a little bit longer while I think about the year ahead.

This year was… busy. At the end of 2012, I’d decided to go to graduate school and get a PhD in Speech Pathology. I took the GRE, did okay, I guess, and, indeed, got accepted to the program.

But I didn’t take it.

The pay cut was too big. Sure, they’d pay for classes, but I had to work for them for 20 hours a week, and the pay was less than half of what I would make if I just worked per diem. I could work half time for the school district, pay for all my classes myself, and still come out ahead (that’s how little it was). But I was told that I had to work for them, regardless of who paid for my classes.

So I said thanks, but no thanks. I’m a little sad I didn’t take it, but it’s okay. I’m not unhappy doing what I’m doing, and I never was. That wasn’t why I wanted to the PhD.

Anyway, I had surgery again in May to repair yet another hernia. It was my fourth hernia repair in three years, and was not my favorite thing in the world. Yet another reason why I was reluctant to leave my job for a PhD: I have okay insurance, but coupled with husband’s insurance, it’s pretty awesome. Double coverage pretty much rocks, when it comes to surgery and hospital stays.

Also in May, because I wasn’t going to graduate school and putting us in the poor house, husband and I bought a small, used travel trailer. It really is pretty tiny, and husband and I sleep on what is supposed to be the dinette, but it works for us. We went camping several times over the summer, to places I have always wanted to go, but never been: Crater Lake. Bend, OR. The Oregon coast. Various places in CA. We saw salmon running, watched a bald eagle catch a fish early one morning, and had deer munching on grass right across from our trailer. We also learned that our very scary looking German shepherd is great with throngs of people and super with little kids, but terrible with other dogs. Lord, he’s barky.

I think we had the best vacations we ever had. If we didn’t want to be in town for a weekend, we weren’t. We dry camped for a couple of those weekends, which meant that it was basically free. The burn restrictions kind of stunk, but better to follow the rules and NOT cause a forest fire, right?  We had enough of those this year without us adding to it.

Also this year, I started learning how to bake. I’ve never been a baker in the past–heck, if I wanted a bagel/muffin/cookie, I would just go down and get one. But with the celiac disease and the egg allergy, I have to make my own stuff. I make good cookies and muffins. I think I’ve finally gotten okay at gluten free, egg-free bread. Almost all the recipes I found for gluten-free bread required the use of eggs, which I can’t have. So the bread I make tends to be denser than normal bread, but it’s good. I’ve made quinoa/millet bread, and breads with buckwheat, and another type of bread with teff. I’m learning to appreciate things like chia seeds and arrowroot and xanthan gum.

I’ll admit, I really miss sourdough, but not enough to do my own starters with cabbage leaves and stuff like that. I’m not that ambitious. And I don’t miss anything enough to take the hit for it. I did that for years–I can’t go back to that. By the end, right before I was diagnosed (after two GIs told me, No, you don’t have celiac, despite the fact that ALL of my path reports going back three years say that I do),  I was getting pretty desperate. I threw up after almost every meal, so I only ate once a day–at night, when I had the time to hang over the sink and feel miserable. And, more often than I care to admit, I would live on nothing but one small cup of applesauce a day for up to five or six days. It was pretty miserable.

It’s so much better now.

So, I can live without the bread. It’s hard sometimes. I have yet to master the gluten-free roux–every attempt I made at making gravy was pretty pathetic. It was more like gak than something you can eat. But I guess that’s okay. I can live without gravy.

This year, my M had a health scare, too. We’d known he was diabetic for about six months when his blood sugar started going haywire. He lost so much weight. His cheeks became sunken and hollow, and I was getting scared (not that I told him that, though he probably knew, since I was hounding him to go to the doctor). Turns out, he had Type I diabetes–his poor pancreas doesn’t do much. He’s on insulin now, and we’ve had some kind of scary moments where his blood sugar dropped precipitously, but he’s doing great at managing it. He tests his blood frequently, and he’s gotten really good at administering the shots. It still scares me, but I’m adjusting.

So, given this new information, learning to cook for all of us has been an interesting endeavor. Luckily, I rarely cook with potato starch–I use garbanzo bean flour, millet, quinoa, and sorghum, which tend to be higher in fiber and protein than other breads. And I don’t give him very much of it. We’re slowly learning to adapt to our health issues, and the kids have been pretty good about it.

Also, this year, I sold another book: Highland Deception, a book set in Scotland in 1725. It comes out in a few months, and I’m excited to share it with you. But I am busy, busy. I started doing some editing on the side, which is nice and brings in a little extra money. Also, because I decided not to get the PhD in speech, I decided to pursue my TESOL endorsement (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages), mostly because, if I get above a C, the classes are totally paid for, and I don’t have to quit my job to do it. So that’s cool. The coursework isn’t hard, but I do have to work on it, so it does take time. I guess I should have been doing some of the work over the break, since I have stuff due that week we get back to school, along with report cards and three IEPs that first week, but hey. I’ll get to it. Maybe Friday.

The kids are doing well. Chewey isn’t in as much trouble as he was last year. He has gotten into some trouble this year, but it’s not as bad as last year, so that’s good. He’s getting older, and he’s learning to control himself a little better. He loves his time with his dad and his sister, playing D&D, while I get some largely uninterrupted work time. And Monk? Well, she’s learning to manage her time better, and is coping well with the increased work load of her new school. We try to go to basketball games when we can, and they’re both in Scouts and swimming. I think it’s been good for both of them.

In a few days, I’ll post my list of hopes for the coming year (I am loath to call them resolutions). I turn 39 in a few months, so I have some time to reflect on my list from a few years ago: 40 before 40. I’m pleased to say that I hit some of them already. Some of them will have to wait for the bucket list, I think. 🙂

So, to all of you out there…. Happy New Year!

 

What’s a Little Panic Between Friends?


So today I climbed Fort Rock (200 ft drop) and walked the rim of a cinder cone (I have no idea how tall, but it felt really high). Then we went to Paulina Peak, the highest point in the Newberry Caldera. About halfway up, my tolerance for heights gave out. I’ll admit the views at the top were stunning (once the panic had waned enough for me to get out of the truck) and the drive down was better (the passenger side faced the mountain on the way down, rather than my imminent demise).

My self talk for the drive down went something like this:

Breathe, Connors. Oh hey, that’s a nice rock. Breathe. Oh hey, there’s a nice tree. Breathe, dammit! OH CRAP WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!!! Breathe, Connors. Oh hey, that’s a nice rock.

And then I ate potato chips. A lot of them. Followed by chocolate. I’m not proud of it, I’m just reporting the facts.

Here’s a picture of the view from the cinder cone. I was sweating and shaking too much to take a picture at Paulina Peak, because I swear to God, it was like looking out the window of an airplane. Without the airplane.

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What I’m Doing on my Summer Vacation


I’m actually doing this post from my phone, so you’ll be getting more pictures and less talky-talky from me.

Which might be a good thing.

We are now in the middle of our twelve day trek across Oregon. We’ve visited Crater Lake, which had the most beautiful campground we’ve ever been to. Clean, large spaces, and I think we lucked into the best space in the entire camp. We could have stayed in the campground all day long. It was that awesome–so much to do right there. It was fantastic.

So, here are some of my pics. These are from my phone, but if you like them, I’ll post more. 🙂

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My Summer of Being Granola


I know I’ve been a bad blogger–bad Meggan, bad Meggan. Let’s just say that, after two hernia surgeries less than six months apart, and more mesh than a stripper in fishnets, I **should be** on the mend.

But the surgeries and work and life (read: t-ball and softball) took their toll on my blog. We weren’t getting home until almost 8:00 on any given evening, and then it was a rush to get dinner and showers done by a reasonable hour. And the morning time? Forget it. That was all about me nagging my children about their homework, and trying to make sure they completed their chores and didn’t forget anything on their way out the door.

It was… busy.

But softball season is over (yay!) and school is out, so I’ve decided on embark on yet another project. This one revolves around both food and outdoor activities.

For a background on the food project, I’ll tell you: my family has some weird dietary restrictions.

I have celiac, and I’m allergic to eggs and beef (and a mystery, TBD spice, but we won’t mention that). Husband is diabetic. My young son gets a glorious rash that mysteriously gets better when I don’t feed him wheat products, but the doctor swears up and down he has no allergies (granted, he also didn’t see the hives he got from the latex tape, either. They bled). Now before you scoff at the rash, I’ll tell you this: he has scars from it, it gets that bad. So when I say it gets better without wheat, that’s something, because, honestly, corticosteroids helped, but not as much as the giving up of wheat did. And both of those together actually cleared it up for a few days.

And Monkey, AKA Tiny Daughter (who, at eight, is not so tiny anymore)? Well, she gets stomach migraines (yeah, I sort of thought that was a “Get out of here, crazy Mom” diagnosis, too. Except it’s been mentioned a couple of other times, not in relationship to Monk, so maybe it is a real thing.) Anyway, her stomach aches get better when she’s not eating artificial colors.

So here’s what we have going: diabetes, celiac, no artificial colors (and I’m cutting out the flavors). The doctor told M no diet sodas, because they mess with blood sugar, and, because I’m reactionary, I took out all artificial sweeteners except Splenda, which she said was okay. So M’s favorite sugar-free creamer? I trashed it. He gets fat-free half and half instead, which I actually like better.

So, with all of this, I’m doing a crazy crack down on processed foods. No nitrates, no sulfites, no artificial colors or sweeteners (except Splenda, because, well, I can only go so far). I’m using agave nectar to sweeten most things I have, because, in theory, it doesn’t raise blood sugar like regular sugar does, but even that I’m trying to do in moderation.

And all of this makes me feel… pretty granola.

And dude… it’s hard to be granola.

Do you know how hard it is to find nitrate-free lunch meat? Or bacon? Or sausage without MSG? I mean, if I go to Whole Paycheck, land of uber-granola, I can find it, but a) nitrate free lunch meat has the consistency of a slimy sponge, and b) who can spend that much money on food? It’s already three dollars for a gallon of milk if I buy the cheap stuff on sale ($4+/half gallon for the organic stuff, and there’s just no way). Can I really afford to spend $15/pound on almond flour? And two dollars for a bunch of kale?

No. And growing it myself is sort of out of the question this season.

But, with the wizardry of the internets, I can find bulk almond flour for about $6/pound, which is way more expensive than wheat, but is better and cheaper than the trip to the ER for one of my attacks–which I haven’t had since I gave up wheat, so I guess there’s that. So, I’m embarking on a project where I bake my own bread, make my own lunch meat, and basically, where I serve low-carb (but hopefully still good) food that is good for us, too. It’s a whole foods kick, low carb style (almost, but not quite, paleo). If I don’t know what it is, I don’t eat it.

So, for my first recipe in this endeavor, I recently made mashed cauliflower as a replacement for mashed potatoes. It went over relatively well. M liked it, I liked it. Chewey seemed to think it was okay, and Monk wouldn’t touch it, because heaven forbid I make a single meal where no one complains.

Bonus? It’s so stinking easy, and it was cheap.

So, here’s the recipe:

1. 1 head of cauliflower, cut up

2. 1 cup of chicken stock

That’s basically all you need to start. I added garlic into the pot because I like garlic mashed potatoes, but you don’t have to do that.

Anyway, I put everything in a Dutch oven. Any old pot will work, but I’m in love with my ceramic Dutch oven, so there’s that.

Bring to a boil and let it cook for 20 minutes or until the cauliflower is soft. If the chicken stock gets low, add more.

Once the cauliflower is ready, transfer it to a food processor. Blend for about 30 seconds, and then start adding what you like in potatoes. I like cream cheese, so I added some, along with two tablespoons of clarified butter. It was still a little dry, so I added a little more chicken stock from the pot. The chicken stock adds plenty of salty flavor, so I just topped it with some pepper (because my family likes pepper. A lot of pepper), and served it up. I’m sure it would be awesome with bacon and chives, but bacon doesn’t exactly make things low-fat. Or good for you.

But it is delicious.