Saturday, June 27, 2009
We had to wait a really long time for a table at the cafe this morning. Then we had to wait a really long time for our food. I got bored. So, I whipped out the camera and started taking pictures of John. Figured we needed a record of his nekkid face, since it's something you don't see more than once a decade, or so. Lucky for him, I had just put the camera away again, when he made the best face of all. You know, that one where your eyes bug out, your cheeks blow up, and your head spasms forward, all at the same time? Then he leaped up, made a beeline for the bathroom, and lost those meds that probably weren't meant to be taken on an empty stomach. Guess he never should have glanced over at that guy next to us, who was pouring salsa over a huge oval plate that was layered with biscuits, bacon, gravy and cheese! Can't say that I blame him. Made me wanna toss my cookies, too.
Did I mention that I went to Wimberley's Market Days a while back, before it got so freakin' hot? Didn't buy much - just this wonderful beaded hair clip, and some old mason jars for my pantry re-do - but I sure had fun looking. The hair clip had a tag on it that said "France." Do they even have cacti and coyotes in France?
I came across the Butterfly Lady in a both selling kid's tutus, tiaras and wands. She gets my vote for "Person With Most Enthusiasm For Her Work!"
My BIL is a dyed-in-the-wool Texan, who bleeds burnt orange. Though he spent most of his career in Virginia and Ohio, he always hoped to come back to Texas one day. Then he had kids. When he lugged them to Odessa each summer, which is in the middle of the west Texas oil patch, to visit Grandma and Grandpa, they were not overly impressed by what they saw. So, they chose colleges in Ohio, took jobs in that general area when they got out, and of course, BIL and SIL stayed nearby.
Over the past several years though, I started to catch a glimmer of hope. Niece Megan began traveling to Austin on business, and stayed for a few conferences, including SXSW. Finally she admitted, "Austin is way cool. I could live in Austin!" Of course, those conferences were always in spring or fall. Nephew Geoff and his wife came to spend a few holidays with us, leaving first Chicago, and then Milwaukee, where they were knee deep in snow, and arriving here to enjoy feasts out on the porch, where we dined in balmy bliss. "I could get used to winters like this!" they said.
Alas, all hope is lost. A couple of nights ago, I got an e-mail from Meg. It read something like this: "I am here sweating in your neck of the woods, wondering what the heck is going on? It's 10:30 PM, pitch dark out, and it's 90 effing degrees out!" She's here? In Austin? In summer? NOOOOOOOOOOO! Not now! Not this week, of all weeks, for gawdz sake!
Why not this week? Well, we're makin' history here folks. Usually we have less than a dozen days all summer when our temps flirt with triple digits. We've already hit that number this year, and it's still June. This week, we had seven in a row, and they didn't just flirt, they settled comfortably into the 104 - 107 F. range.
I did my best to show her the good side of summer. We took her to lunch at Kerbey Lane Cafe, where they always have a special seasonal menu, in addition to their regular stuff, with a dozen or more items using locally sourced ingredients. We savored scrumptious Tomato Pie, and amazing Lamb Burgers with cucumber-yogurt sauce, but it did no good. I believe her words were something on the order of "Give it up, Aunt Becky. Ain't never gonna happen!"
Oh, by the way, don't forget to leave a comment, if you wish to be included in next weekend's drawing. I think we will go with this food theme we've been on lately, and it just might include one or two surprises, in addition to a wonderful book!
P.S. Many thanks to yelp.com for the Kerbey Lane sign image above.
Friday, June 26, 2009
FOR A PRIZE GIVE-AWAY! So leave a comment any time this week, and I will throw your name in the hat. I promise to make it something good, since you were so nice and didn't even mention the fact that I totally spaced out on last month's drawing!
Thursday, June 25, 2009
Yesterday, on her blog Towards Sustainability, Julie wrote about irony. She said her grandmother (who lived on a farm) fried all her meat in lard, ate dozens of eggs per week, yet had super-low cholesterol levels. It irked her father to no end, since he did everything the media told him to do, such as switching from real eggs to fake ones in a carton, and from butter to margarine, but his cholesterol was through the roof. She also mentioned that French Paradox - the fact that they have always refused to have anything to do with products labeled low fat, lite, or diet, and insist on sticking to the old ways of cooking, using real cream, butter, and always choosing real and fresh over boxed, canned or frozen. So why is it that their rate of cardiovascular disease is so much lower than ours here in the U.S.?
According to authors Michael Pollen, Nina Planck, Tosca Reno, and Barbara Kingsolver, it boils down to those two words, real and fresh. Turns out Mother Nature was right all along, and perhaps the big food industry and pharmaceutical company propaganda that tried to convince us that fake was better, was just that - propaganda. When you think about it, you realize that their survival depends on our continuing to veg out in front of the TV with our bags of chips and cans of soda, getting less and less healthy, watching their adds for fake foods and magic pills that will cure everything that ails us. Because, well, what on earth would become of them if we all were to suddenly get up off the couch, switch off our TVs, and go out into our gardens instead? Disaster! Collapse!
Don't you know that they just hate this whole real foods/locavore movement? I bet they've got their spin doctors burning the midnight all right now, trying to come up with a campaign that will convince us all that eating real food is actually bad for us, and was probably the cause of this whole recession we are in, or some such thing. Reminds you of that movie Thanks For Smoking, eh?
P.S. Don't you dare use this as an excuse to start frying everything you eat in lard - you know that's not what I'm touting here!
P.P.S. Many thanks to fromthemaas.com and earthfirst.com for the above images.
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
My poor kids are inheriting shitty genes from both sides of the family. There's my dad's arthritis, diabetes and weird blood disease; my mom's diabetes, bursitis, diverticulitis and congestive heart failure; FIL's severe hypertension; and MIL's cardiovascular disease. On top of all that, just about everyone on both sides has weight problems. Of course, a lot of the former may have been caused, or exacerbated, by the latter. My brother and John's father were the only slim ones in the lot, but unfortunately, they both smoked, so my brother had a heart attack while still in his 40s, and FIL had a series of strokes that left him severely brain damaged.
You can see then, why I am so excited to see my kids getting proactive about their health. My daughter was almost too thin growing up, but was never into sports or exercise at all, so she had a hard, hard time finding ways to fight her slowing metabolism. Luckily, she discovered belly dancing (Tribal, not Cabaret Style, as she recently explained to me) - the first exercise she ever didn't hate! She also joined Weight Watchers not long ago, to help her get a firmer grip on nutrition and portion control.
My son, bless his heart, takes after me and my side of the family. He was way more active than his sister, but even when he was in the marching band, lugging a tuba around in the heat most of the summer and for several hours after school each day, plus working as a sacker at the grocery store, he was never what you would call slim. Now that he must spend his days sitting at a computer, he is really having to fight it. You can imagine then, how thrilled I was when he took it upon himself to start working out with a trainer again, and showed up here this weekend, lugging his new cookbooks, and totally pumped up about "eating clean."
It really does a mother's heart good, to feel like her kids are on the right track - when they seem to be getting their lives under control, and using the tools she tried to pass on to them, to handle whatever comes their way. It makes it so much easier to begin backing away, and easing her grip on the reins - to pull out those scissors, and start snip, snip, snipping at those apron strings.
P.S. Many thanks to zehara.co.uk for the above image of tribal belly dancers.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
A couple of months ago, I mentioned going to a huge flea market in Houston, called Trader's Village. It was a bit of a disappointment, but quite educational. Take these mannequins I came across in one booth. I stood there staring at them for a while, trying to figure out what was unusual about them, then I broke out in a huge grin when it finally hit me. It's a relief to know that not everyone thinks we should all aspire towards the starving waif look!
Son Austin and the world's greatest dog, Guinness, showed up on Sunday to help us celebrate Father's Day. We took John out for a steak dinner over in San Marcos, then came back home and tried our hand at making a lemon sorbet for the first time, using my little tabletop Cuisinart ice cream freezer. That thing is amazing, and so was the sorbet! We got quite a workout, squeezing the entire bag of lemons that went into it, but it was worth it. If you could bottle summer, it would taste just like that!
Austin brought a couple of interesting books to share with us - The Eat-Clean Diet, and The Eat-Clean Diet Cookbook, both by Tosca Reno. They were recommended to him by the trainer he has been working out with. Basically, she has put into words what I've been trying, more or less, to do here on my own: avoiding over-processed, refined foods, especially white flour and sugar; avoiding all saturated and trans fats; eating 5 or 6 smaller meals each day, and never skipping breakfast; avoiding calorie-dense food with no nutritional value; depending on fresh fruits and vegetables for fiber, vitamins and enzymes; and of course, no super-sizing!
I spent the whole afternoon trying to speed-read through them, and learned quite a bit just in that short period of time. Though I never bought into it, the whole Atkins furor left me feeling somewhat guilty each time I let a carb of any sort pass my lips, but my common sense kept telling me that whole grains had to be good for you. Reno believes that each meal should be a combination of protein and complex carbohydrates. If you eliminate one whole food group from your diet, of course you will lose weight from the missing calories, but only for as long as you can keep it up, then you will yo-yo back to higher than when you started - which is exactly what I have observed in everyone I know who has ever jumped onto any of the dieting bandwagons. She suggests that we fill our carts with a colorful assortment of fresh vegetables and fruit, whole grains and lean protein, and "give the big food companies, whose products live in the center aisles and endcaps of the grocery stores, a big thumbs down!"
Of course, I've just started down this path, and still have miles and miles to go. There are going to be some hurdles to overcome along the way, such as my sweet tooth, and our love for good restaurants. I'm not one of those all-or-nothing people, who goes all radical and tries to convert everyone around me. I believe in balance - that one should be proactive about good health, but also that life is meant to be enjoyed. So, I will just take it one day at a time, and try to do the best that I can do.
I spent the morning yesterday photocopying the most delicious-sounding of the recipes, and compiling a grocery list. Then we headed over to Whole Foods in Austin, to fill our cart with the aforementioned items. Next we went to the Alamo Draughthouse to see Away We Go (very sweet!), and we ended the day in the kitchen, preparing a lovely feast of Adobo-Rubbed Pork Tenderloin with Black Bean Pico de Gallo, and Garlicky Couscous. Yummm...
Next on my list? Play with that sorbet recipe, and see if I can't substitute a natural sweetener of some sort, for the refined sugar. If I get it perfected, I promise to share the recipe with you!