Water A Flower Day

Yes, that’s right! Today is Water a Flower Day.

In the physical world, I’m all out of flowers to water. My orchids are stubbornly remaining barren, and the garden boxes are similarly devoid of blossoms. Instead, I have pictures of the beautiful flowers at a local arboretum a friend and I visited recently, armed with suddenly flimsy-feeling cameras against the hissing guards of the garden.

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Happy Water a Flower Day!!

Bugs and Blooms!

Right before the rains hit, but before the term was really over, I slipped out to the local park and got a few pictures. It was a bit dark, so not the best picture taking time — and I learned that even if my lens was technically capable of shooting at a super-wide aperture, well… that doesn’t always give the most fantastic results!

Still learning, here. Work in progress.

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Does anyone know what the moth above is? I’m thinking it’s a “Pale Beauty.” I haven’t worked much with moths; normally I’m not shooting that late. But this one was striking against all the rich new green.

Pearl crescent butterfly; he teased me all through the clover underneath the trees until it was too shadowy to get a decent picture, and only then did he alight for a quick moment.

Happy spring!

Skipper on a Bloom

20170416_131522It’s been a rough spring for flower pictures, to be sure! Torrential rain, late freezes, and gusty winds stripped scraps of white and pink from the trees, and if it wasn’t snowing stinging flakes of ice, it was snowing petals.

But then on Easter Sunday I ran into a little tree in a park in a protected corner, and then bemused several visitors by chasing around it in dizzingly little circles. I wasn’t really prepared to go shoot butterflies that day, so the picture quality is not the best.

Butterfly photography to me is a weird mix of the childish and the mature. I get a lot of odd looks when someone says “she is very into taking pictures of butterflies.” Chasing them at times does seem to be the most childish of hobbies, but it is so enjoyable. I often lament that many seem to feel doing things that are innocent fun and then loving it is childish; standing on one’s dignity only for the sake of appearing to be “adult” is so limiting. Stand on tiptoes, chase a butterfly, blow bubbles! And along the way, reach what you need, promote awareness of the role of pollinators and learn about photography, and expand your lung capacity to really handle those long melismas for an important performance. Even though the picture quality isn’t what I wanted, it was still a wonderful moment.

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Blackberry Agave Cream of Rice

DSC_0002My childhood home was in a small valley floating in clouds of blossoms and wisps of sea fog, surrounded by spikes of spicy-sweet sage mountains. In the spring, fields of stock, sweet peas, and marigolds spread down towards the sea. It might have been ground zero for allergies, but I spent a lot of time rolling down windows to catch the scent of stalk on a cool morning breeze.

Several years later and most of a continent away, I went into the grocery store. And there were blackberries and bouquets of stalk. Small apartment, allergies, graduate student budget…. I managed to come up with three rounds of perfectly good reasons why not to walk off with arms loaded. The fourth time struggling past with my loaded cart, searching for that last certain something that always, at the end of every single grocery run, defies location, stopping each time I went past to breath in deeply the smell of sweet pastel memories… well, I couldn’t resist.

Coupled with the bliss of creamy rice cereal topped with agave and blackberries – a great and completely elimination-diet, allergy-friendly (for me!) combination – and the first strong morning sunlight in weeks, it was dreamy start to the day.

Elimination Diet Raspberry-Maple Cream of Rice

DSC_0070.JPGI hadn’t eaten much Cream of Rice cereal since I was very young. More precisely, I don’t remember having any since the times when I would taste-test of my younger siblings cereal before/during feeding them, back when they were adorable little tykes with big eyes and fat fingers. Now they are fiercely strong, intelligent, and charming adults, so you see it was a time-warping moment to find the little red Cream of Rice box on the shelf of the local store.

My version is far different from the milky mush I remember. I made a serving with the package amounts, using boiling water and a little extra sea salt. I topped with frozen raspberries (fresh would be better, but the ones in the store looked horrendous). The cereal is more than hot enough to melt the raspberries, and I like a bit of a cool blast when I’m impatiently devouring my boiling hot breakfast and searing my taste buds into oblivion. A quick drizzle of maple syrup, and it’s done. 5 minutes to a nice hot breakfast. I’m a fan! Especially since Cream of Rice holds heat well, and I get to play with capturing steam on camera. 🙂

One warning: Raspberries are high histamine.

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Early Blooms

20170313_181119After a week of balmy weather, we were hit with a cold spell and late snows. I couldn’t take my nice camera out – at this point the “snow” was still that blend of frozen diamonds, glittery chips, and zinging pellets known as “wintry mix.” Too much wind and wet to risk the bigger gear.20170313_181137

I’m also re-adapting to using my bigger, heavier gear myself. Like the poor blooms, I’ve had an occasionally  irksome winter with unpredictable health gullies and mountains. One fallout from this health storm is my apparent inability to hold still while taking a picture and/or to focus the stupid thing. If I stand too long, my body’s automatic “we’re vertical now, folks!” system starts to fail. My heart rate soars and then tanks, my vision blurs, and I’m usually to into my work to notice the focus gradually slipping away from me. The muscle fatigue and pain is immediate and harder to ignore, but the result is the same. A jittery, messy, mucky picture. Anyone out there have any tips? I shoot with a Nikon D5000.

 

Loaded Friday Night Burger, Elimination Version

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Your standard loaded burger has all sorts of things not allowed on an elimination diet: beef, eggs, corn, gluten, soy, dairy… Fortunately, substitutions are available. And they’re delicious.

My burger was brought to you by Trader Joe’s, a mecca for cheap(er) healthy food options. I used turkey burgers instead of a beef patty, switched out the hamburger bun for the Food4Life Rice Bread (gluten-free alone usually still has eggs, dairy, and corn), and decided to skip the vegan cheese this time. Tomato is high-histamine, but I cracked – I adore tomato. However, instead of the sugar-loaded ketchup I have in my fridge, I used a mix of hummus and artichoke antipasto. Be careful buying hummus – some major brands like Sabra use soybean oil. Mine is pale red because I picked roasted red pepper; it worked well the other flavors and gave some needed moisture to the bread and turkey patty. Mustard is usually without allergens, and I could use the cheap stuff already in my fridge. Other than that, lettuce, onions and mushrooms cooked in EarthBalance Vegan butter, plenty of salt, pepper, and garlic, and hefty slices of pickle. I opted to have my burger open-face. It was all ready too large for my mouth!

Interestingly enough, Trader Joe’s potato chips are also completely elimination-diet friendly. Potatoes, sunflower oil, and salt. It might not work if grease is a trigger, because these chips are lovely crisp, greasy, salty flakes. I know this is starting to sound like an ad for Trader Joe’s, but it is rather marvelous to be able to walk in, pick up food, cook it, and stuff your face with junk food on a Friday night, just as if I wasn’t sick, wasn’t on a special diet, and wasn’t allergic to water.  🙂

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I topped off my extravagant splurge of junk food with a banana watermelon smoothie. No, not my normal choice, but while hunting in the icy (and painfully tall) shelves of my freezer for the turkey burgers, some frozen watermelon fell out, along with most of my ice cubes. I had one dying banana to deal with before the weekend’s taking-out-o-the-trash and shopping run. I put an entire banana, about 1 1/2 cups of frozen watermelon, 4 lonely melting ice cubes, and about 2/3 of a cup of almond milk in the blender. Cool deliciousness. DSC_0041

Since this is mostly assembly work, it’s doable even for a questionable “chef” like myself. Hamburgers and chips are one of those basic meals that never make it onto a meal plan or list of recipes, but this is proof-positive that you can have unhealthy, enjoyable, and still allowable food on the Elimination Diet. As for my progress as a cook… well…  the onions and mushrooms were only a little black on only one side. I am pleased to report this time, although it was still a tad overdone, I did not burn the turkey burger. As a matter of fact, it was all … delicious.

I feel positively spoiled. 🙂

 

Elimination Diet Peach Maple Oatmeal

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup gluten-free oats (I used quick 1 minute Quaker Oats)
  • 1 3/4 cup boiling water
  • dash of salt
  • 1/2 cup frozen peaches
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • maple syrup to taste (I used Kirkland’s organic)

Instructions:

Put boiling water and salt in pan. Return to boil. Add peaches and oats. Boil for about 2 minutes, until peaches are slightly soft. Add cinnamon. When cool, swirl in maple syrup. It’s that simple. 🙂

 

By now, I think I have established that I am not a Good Cook. I’m not even a Passable Cook. I fall more into the Destroyer-of-Quick-Breads and Burner-of-Water category. For some reason – a masochist pleasure, a stubborn will, or just genuine hunger – I continue to try to innovate in my kitchen.

Now that I’m on an elimination diet (no, not a “diet” for weight loss, I’ve got plenty of that and to spare – this is one of those medically necessary “diets” instead), experimenting has gotten harder and, conversely, more important. I can’t rely on eggs on toast for breakfast anymore, because that has about 3 things I can’t eat – dairy, eggs, and wheat.

Not to worry! The Institute of Functional Medicine puts out a very handy recipe guide. Unfortunately, for me most of the recipes are simply too complicated for everyday use, or use foods I’m allergic to, or use ingredients I’m not likely to have in the neighborhood grocery store. I’m luck to get broccoli that doesn’t fall over sideways in a resigned slump when you pick it up from the shelf. The recipe book also only has food for a week. A very varied week, to be sure, but I’ve been on this diet for over a month and will be on it for about another two, give or take, while we continue to figure out my particular allergens.

I’m on that gift from the administrative deities, spring break. I have a chance to play in the kitchen just a little bit more. Beware, gentle readers, and only continue if you have a strong stomach.

 

Spoon Theory, updated

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Quite recently, and for the first time, I got to explain the “spoon theory” to someone. It was oddly funny to me. After all, the circles I now frequent in my little online universe are filled with references to “spoonies,” spoon crafts, spoon jewelry, spoon tattoos…

Actually, it turns out the story of the spoons is a little hard to relate succinctly. It goes something like this: One day a woman with a chronic illness was eating in a diner with her friend. Her friend asked her what it was really like to live with a chronic illness, and, struggling to find someway to *really* get this right, the woman collected spoons from the other tables. She then walked her friend through a day, taking away spoons for each activity. The physical removal of a spoon helped her friend realize the real pain of the loss of “normal,” the endless and emotional calculations one who is sick has to make on a day-to-day basis, and the ever-present knowledge that you are *sick* – its own special isolating misery.

It’s a great analogy and it works especially well if there are real physical objects available. Like spoons.

I was on the phone. It was late. I was recovering from a procedure. Spoon theory is not that intuitive, I discovered. We don’t normally think spoons = energy (at least not outside the world of the chronically ill). We think soup.

Enter the battery theory, which instead compares being chronically ill to being a damaged rechargeable, well, battery. It only partially charges, and that’s all the energy you’ve got. Simple.

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Of course, that explanation itself got quickly modified to my favorite, the cell phone theory. It’s similar to the battery theory, but with many more ways to elaborate. Basically, you own a cell phone with a bad battery. It doesn’t matter how long it charges – it’s never quite full. Honestly, it’s hard to predict how much juice you’re going to have when you grab it in the morning. Maybe it’s 83%. Maybe it’s only 39%. And that’s all you have, so all of a sudden Snapchat and Words with Friends is O-U-T. Maybe you put the phone in battery-saver mode and sacrifice some functionality in favor of longevity, or maybe you burn hard for 2 hours and are left at the end of the day with a busted radiator, in the rain, and no way to easily call for a tow. Perhaps you could bring along chargers, but then you’re always hunting for that free outlet at the back of a room. Now imagine it malfunctioning, in and out of airplane mode. The phone is physically in one piece and all the apps are there, but they can’t function. Or how about the stupid thing sometimes just crashes? BOOM, black screen, and now it has to reboot. Maybe some wires are loose, so the display flickers and doesn’t adjust properly to changes in light. Possibly some of the software is glitchy, so it can’t process texts or answer a call unless you first open the calculator app. What if you picked up a virus or key logger, and some of that energy is now being eaten by a malignant thing that destroys your phone’s operating system and steals your identity?

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Hopefully you can see how easy it is to not only explain the lack of energy, but to tailor it a lot of different conditions. Accessibility aids might be that charging cable. Disautonomias could be the abrupt crashes or glitchy software. It seems all too easy to match cancers and autoimmune disorders to computer viruses and airplane mode. It’s relatable, too: Many people have fought with a piece of tech that has suddenly stopped working properly.

There are always those people who insist that, even though they’re not ill, they count spoons (or battery percentages). Only so many hours in a day and so much energy, after all. The ease of these analogies is also a weakness. Since everyone has experienced a tech glitch – or running low on flatware – it’s sometimes difficult to make someone understand that this is different. This is constant, and there’s no replacing the phone.

That’s why in my version there’s one last part to the spoon/battery/cell phone explanation of chronic conditions, a step no one but the performer in this sometimes emotionally-draining vignette even realizes exists. It’s the final curtsy in this awkward little dance, a closing movement that most chronically ill people already know, but to skip it would be lax.

It’s all right. You tried to explain. You did your part. When the weather’s cold, butterflies migrate. Leave, and use some of that valuable charge on a new app instead, or a shiny spoon for slurping soup. 🙂