how we're staying warm this winter
Every winter, I try to save money and cut down our electricity bill by exploring options to stay warm. I can't sleep when the room is too cold, but we can't shut the door because the cats cry when faced with a closed door. Over the years, I have tried heating pads, hot water bottles, rice bags that you can microwave. We've tried using central heating, space heaters, more blankets. Nothing worked.

The winning idea ended up being super simple and inexpensive at less than $30: I hung a curtain in the doorway. In fact, I'm a little embarrassed at how long this took me to figure out. I installed the curtain with a tension rod and a set of shower curtain rings. It's funny because I saw this kids' shower curtain at the store a while ago and adored the pattern, but I let it go because I had no use for it. When I came up with this idea, I was excited to have it prominently displayed at home. Anyway, we were a little worried about the gaps at the top and bottom of the curtain. But I was fairly sure that despite those spaces, it would be an improvement over having the door partly open. Plus, I figured it if ended up being a problem, I could sew the top of the curtain into a sleeve and add some scrap fabric to the bottom to close the gaps. But this solved the problem neatly. The cats could have the in/out privileges while we could keep the heat exactly where we wanted it.

I'm excited to report that we were warm and toasty last night despite the gaps. In fact, we have to decrease the space heater output tonight and figure out the optimal setting now that the heat stays in the room. Despite the curtain's light color, it also offers the added bonus of blocking out the surprisingly bright ambient light from the rest of the apartment.

But this is more than just about the heat. It's about winning a battle that I've been fighting for years. I'm feeling hopeful about the future and the coming year.

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PMS brownies

So I have been missing chocolate a lot. I decided to try carob, and because I'm PMSing, I thought these AIP PMS Brownies from Grazed and Enthused were appropriate.

I had so much trouble making them. I've never worked with gelatin before, and I definitely did not do it right the first time. It just clumped together and didn't dissolve. They didn't have the high quality kind that people always recommend, so I had to use the cheapie ghetto ones. The smell was horrible. I know what gelatin is, so the smell should not have surprised me, but gross. I can't wait to be off the AIP so I can actually eat eggs again.

The other issue I had was that I don't have a blender. The closest thing I have is the NutriBullet, which only works with a fair amount of liquid. I dumped some extra water in the batter to make the NutriBullet actually work, and once it had more liquid, it worked really well.

Another issue I had was with the coconut butter, which I have never used before. Truthfully, I was just being impatient softening the butter.

Anyway the point is, they had to cook a long time because of the extra water I added. The flavor was just OK. I don't think I will make them again. Or maybe I'll try them again when I have the proper equipment and more experience baking for AIP/Paleo.

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chicken salad wrap

Over the last few weeks, I have just been tired of my elimination diet. I have been really sick with the flu, so I think that had something to do with it. This diet doesn't really allow for quick fixes, and I've discovered it's most challenging when I don't have a plan for food. So I was actually cheating a lot while I was sick. It was fun, but I definitely didn't feel as well, and maybe that's partly why I was sick for so long.

The last few days of cheating on my diet actually made me realize that when the elimination diet is over, I don't want to just go back to eating the way I used to. I just didn't feel great. And I gained 2 lbs T_T Eating a bunch of bread and cheese was fun, but I realized it wasn't what I wanted to do in the long run. Once in a while is fine, but for my body, I don't think those foods should be part of my everyday staples.

When I first started this diet over 3 months ago (wow!), I was eating basically the same two meals (pulled pork and baked chicken) over and over because I figured it was temporary, and I could just eat other stuff when the trial was complete. But now I understand that this is a real life-long change, and I need to start cooking like it is. So this weekend, I started exploring more recipes. The Paleo diet is the closest to the elimination diet, so I started looking at those recipes.

It took a while, but I found this Clean and Green Paleo Chicken Salad from Grass Fed Salsa. I made the marinade as directed, but used the ingredients below for the salad part:

1 medium avocado (sliced)
2 heaping Tablespoons Just Mayo
1.25 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast
1/2 cup kalamata olives (chopped)
2 tablespoons parsley or cilantro (chopped)
salt & pepper to taste
romaine leaves to make lettuce wraps
juice from 1/2 a lemon

I did not mash my avocado with the mayo like the instructions say because I really like the texture that avocado adds to wraps.

This was really good! It was also super easy because I used the sous vide for the chicken. I will definitely be making this again.

kalua pork

The Crock Pot I bought in May is doing great. I sometimes have it running for days on end, and it handles the work like a champ. I usually use the 6 quart, but I have used the 4 quart on occasion. It is helpful for cooking side dishes, like beans. I still have not used the split pot, but that's okay.

Today I'm making really easy slow cooker Kalua pork. All I do is line the bottom of the crock pot with some bacon (3-5 slices depending on how much I have), cut slits in a 5lb pork butt and stick peeled whole garlic into the slits. Then I throw the pork butt in the crock and salt it up with Hawaiian salt (or Kosher if I'm out of the Hawaiian variety). The original recipe says to cook it on low for 16 hours, but I usually cook it on high for 6-8 hours. And this time I left the fat on so the top of the pork (that ends up above the liquid) wouldn't dry out.

This always comes out amazing. It is a great recipe for a crowd or when you want leftovers for lunch or dinner. I haven't made it in a while, so I thought I would since it's so simple.

a blessing in disguise
professor chaos
When I first started having acid reflux, I was very frustrated and upset. I only had a theory as to the cause, which was based on nothing but circumstantial evidence and a hunch. After a long process, a lot of trial and error, some major diet changes, and the unexpected added benefit of weight loss, I have come to a conclusion.

Though the GERD is a serious problem, it has actually been a blessing in disguise because it basically forced me to accomplish a goal I'd been quite readily procrastinating. I had been trying to cut down my sugar intake for months with some success, but not great success. I had a lot of reasons for wanting to decrease my sugar consumption - the forefront of which was my pre-disposition to diabetes.

My dad was diagnosed with diabetes years ago, and I have always been afraid of meeting the same fate. (I know that old saying about a man meeting his fate on the road to avoid it, but I don't think they were talking about health problems.) So now that I'm getting older, I realized that I really need to get myself in gear and take care of my body. It certainly takes care of me.

Because of the GERD, I was forced to give up chocolate, which turned out to be the main source of sugar in my life. I do prefer dark chocolate, but I would often have a hot chocolate or one (or more) of any number of chocolate baked goods and other sweet treats. I would eat sugary, chocolatey treats throughout the day, not just once, and often more than one per sitting. But I discovered that I would often choose not to have dessert at all if chocolate couldn't be involved.

So the diet changes I made had inadvertantly decreased my sugar intake, which unexpectedly cause me to lose some weight. Both good things. Now when I do have sweets, I don't eat as much of it and don't need it as sweet. For example, I can finally have just one cookie. I'm also not drinking soda or other sugary drinks as much. It's been a great changed in my life.

Humans are funny. We love and are inspired by a certain thing and so always want to be surrounded by that thing and be reminded of it even when we can't directly connect to it. For a while, I embodied this characteristic in an extreme way, to the point of buying merchandise for any show or new thing about which I felt fond for any amount of time. Over time, I've learned to curb this behavior but still sometimes revert back to old habits.

I recently started reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I've only read about half of the book so far, but I started going through my clothes yesterday. Oversimplified, her guideline is to discard anything that does not bring joy.

As I read, I started feeling hopeful because her process was similar to what mine has been. Purging with no end, trying to tidy a little bit every day, attempting different types of storage. All led to the same result of reverting back to old messy habits.

I began with my clothes, as instructed. I don't have a lot because I purge often and rarely buy. Even still, I struggled a lot with these simple instructions because of, as Konda predicts, rationalization. Most of my clothes don't bring me joy, but for many of them, discarding didn't make sense. I can't go out and buy an entirely different wardrobe full of items that only bring me joy, both in terms of time and money. I understand the rationale behind keeping only items that bring joy. That's the dream, right? To be surrounded by things that bring us joy. I just don't find it practical. I have, for example, 3 pairs of dress pants. These do not bring me joy, and I am not required to dress up at my job, which I hope to have for many years. But if for some reason I need to interview or dress up for work, I'd like to be able to wear these pants that I already own, rather than purchasing expensive new clothes each time I need to interview.

So already, I am not following the instructions. I am, however, doing what I can. For those dress pants, rather than packing them back in their storage box, I hung them in my closet. I was also able to discard many items that I chose to keep during previous purges, which I think is a great accomplishment considering most of those items I'd kept for sentimental reasons. Or because the item was expensive and I couldn't bear to part with it even after only wearing it once, or in some cases, not at all.

I did experience a wonderful side effect of this effort. As I was removing all the clothes from my closet, I found two vests that actually did bring me joy, but hadn't fit me for years. I was conflicted because they gave me both joy and frustration. I'd been holding on to them all these years in the hope that I would someday be able to fit them again. I knew I would have to discard them this time, so as a last ditch effort, I decided to try them on. They fit! The diet changes I've made because of my GERD have enabled me to secretly lose enough weight to fit into some of my old clothes. I'm quite joyful at this discovery.

Tomorrow I shall tackle bags and purses, another category which I purge often but keep things because of sentiment or the original cost. We'll see how that goes.

checking in
tea flower
It's been a few weeks. I haven't been cooking anything super interesting, so I haven't posted lately.

On Wednesday, the power was out all day. The electric company had a planned outage for some service, but forgot to tell us about it. When I got home, I had to throw all our food away. Much of it was new because we'd only just gone shopping on Monday. I called to complain and was given a claim form to submit to them for reimbursement (because they didn't notify us of the outage). I am waiting to hear back from them. I didn't even claim everything I threw away, and it was $75. I hope to get that back soon, but the form said it could be up to 7 days before I even hear back from anyone. My coworker asked if I had renter's insurance, so I wonder if that would have covered it if the electric company didn't.

Anyway, I went to Costco yesterday and stocked up on some meat. I really want to start buying from the local, sustainable, humane farms, but we just can't afford it right now. The cost, for example, is literally twice as much for a whole chicken. So I decided we'd buy from Costco for now, to save some money, and then when we are in a better place, we can buy better food. I will still buy the bones for my broths from those butchers though.

I've got a chicken broth simmering right now, and after that comes out, I'll be making some more pulled pork. I had this crazy thought and considered keeping the smaller 4 quart slow cooker that I replaced recently (which I still have not gotten rid of yet), but that doesn't make any sense. Since I buy all the groceries at once, the slow cooker is busy until all that stuff is cooked, then it sits for a bit. Ideally, I'd like to always have broth going, but we don't always have the bones needed to make one, and not many places around here have those, so it's a special trip.

I'd like to try making a fish broth next. I've never done it, but I bet the flavor is amazing. I have a seafood chowder recipe I've been wanting to try for a long time but I haven't because it's full of milk and cream.

fried chicken and cheesy grits

DH and I are a little obsessed with fried chicken. We are having it again. This time we did cornstarch dredge, egg wash, almond flour. I think I like the straight cornstarch better.

I was feeling like something cheesy to go along with it, so I found this Shrimp and Grits recipe. This was the first one that I found that included cheese but no milk or cream. It turned out pretty good, but it made a lot! I will try to half the recipe next time.


I’m doing great on my sugar diet, except today because I made a flan and ate an entire serving. But rather than making me miss sugar, it actually made me feel sick! It’s kind of satisfying to know that I really can change my sugar addiction. I’m realizing that the way sugar makes me feel isn’t worth the taste - or the risk, considering my family history of diabetes.

Which is great! Except now I have all this flan that I don't know what to do with. I used a lot of eggs to make it, and it seems like such a waste to just throw it away. I don't know anyone who likes it, and it's not my best flan so I'm not sure I'd want to give it away.

The point is, I'm doing great with the sugar stuff.

Ok, that was my last post for today.

fried chicken

We made fried chicken together today for lunch. DH used the sous vide for the chicken and then we battered the chicken with cornstarch. SO GOOD.


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