Friday, November 26, 2010

Trekkie!!

Folks who love Star Trek in all it's many forms and incarnations are usually thought of as geeky or strange--"Trekkies".  I love Star Trek in all it's many forms and incarnations (although I don't attend conventions and don costumes) and I don't really care what anyone thinks!  It's just so . . . amazing!  

Netflix made the Star Trek: The Future Begins (2009) a "play now".  I have had it on my queue for a long time waiting for the right time to watch it.  I finally did yesterday and I was not disappointed in the least.  I thought it was casted brilliantly and I just tend to love movies in which the concept of time is called into question (which is why I cherished Kindred by Octavia Butler).   I also recently enjoyed Star Trek: First Contact (thanks to Netflix) which also dealt with time travel and changing destiny by changing things in the past or the present.  To me, it's something really interesting to think about because while right now we cannot change the past, it's powerful to be fully aware that what we do know will definitely and without question change what happens next.   

Long and short, there hasn't been one thing I've seen having to do with Star Trek that's left me feeling disappointed. 

I realize that I've loved the science fiction genre (in books and movies) since childhood. For some odd reason, I wasn't introduced to the science fiction genre as a genre until college but I've always like science fiction type stories, shows and movies. Star Trek: The Next Generation was what I grew up watching faithfully.  That is, until we had a houseguest who was an "evangelist" and declared that Star Trek was demonic and un-Christian (because of the aliens) and my parents quickly agreed and banned it sending me underground with my Star Trek love.

I think I appreciate Star Trek even more now that I've read and watched a wide array of futuristic books and movies.  Star Trek manages to create a future world where people of different races, sexes, heck even different species, have successfully figured out ways to coexist and accept each other. Yes, there are hostilities and issues but overall, we get a picture of a world that while not idyllic is a place where racism, sexism and even specie-ism are greatly reduced.  

I tend to prefer the more modern incarnations to the original Star Trek though.  It's hard to get with a future that looks so . . . 60s.  But I'm always intrigued by the plots and impressed by the story lines.  Star Trek: The Future Begins was no exception.  Also, I think Chris Pine and Zachary Quinto are cuties! :)

Thursday, November 25, 2010

The Problem with Thanksgiving

When I undertook homeschooling, one of my biggest goals was to counteract the omissions and blatant lies that is passed off as history.  My children are pretty young right now so we're giving them a rather G-Rated version of what the first thanksgiving was really about.  But as time goes on, they'll receive a more rounded version.

Most of us associate the holiday with happy Pilgrims and Indians sitting down to a big feast.  And that did happen - once.
The story began in 1614 when a band of English explorers sailed home to  England with a ship full of Patuxet Indians bound for slavery. They left behind smallpox which virtually wiped out those who had escaped.  By the time the Pilgrims arrived in Massachusetts Bay they found only one living Patuxet Indian, a man named Squanto who had survived slavery in England and knew their language.  He taught them to grow corn and to fish, and negotiated a peace treaty between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag Nation. At the end of their first year, the Pilgrims held a great feast honoring Squanto and the Wampanoags.
But as word spread in England about the paradise to be found in the new world, religious zealots called Puritans began arriving by the boat load. Finding no fences around the land, they considered it to be in the public domain. Joined by other British settlers, they seized land, capturing strong young Natives for slaves and killing the rest.  But the Pequot Nation had not agreed to the peace treaty Squanto had negotiated and they fought back. The Pequot War was one of the bloodiest Indian wars ever fought. 
In 1637 near present day  Groton, Connecticut, over 700 men, women and children of the Pequot Tribe had gathered for their annual Green Corn Festival which is our Thanksgiving celebration. In the predawn hours the sleeping Indians were surrounded by English and Dutch mercenaries who ordered them to come outside.  Those who came out were shot or clubbed to death while the terrified women and children who huddled inside the longhouse were burned alive. The next day the governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony declared "A Day Of Thanksgiving" because 700 unarmed men, women and children had been murdered.
Cheered by their "victory", the brave colonists and their Indian allies attacked village after village. Women and children over 14 were sold into slavery while the rest were murdered.  Boats loaded with a many as 500 slaves regularly left the ports of New England. Bounties were paid for Indian scalps to encourage as many deaths as possible.  
Following an especially successful raid against the Pequot in what is now  Stamford, Connecticut, the churches announced a second day of "thanksgiving" to celebrate victory over the heathen savages.  During the feasting, the hacked off heads of Natives were kicked through the streets like soccer balls.  Even the friendly Wampanoag did not escape the madness. Their chief was beheaded, and his head impaled on a pole in Plymouth, Massachusetts -- where it remained on display for 24 years.  
The killings became more and more frenzied, with days of thanksgiving feasts being held after each successful massacre. George Washington finally suggested that only one day of Thanksgiving per year be set aside instead of celebrating each and every massacre. Later Abraham Lincoln decreed Thanksgiving Day to be a legal national holiday during the Civil War -- on the same day he ordered troops to march against the starving Sioux in Minnesota.
This story doesn't have quite the same fuzzy feelings associated with it as the one where the Indians and Pilgrims are all sitting down together at the big feast.  But we need to learn our true history so it won't ever be repeated.  Next  Thanksgiving, when you gather with your loved ones to Thank God for all your blessings, think about those people who only wanted to live their lives and raise their families.  They, also took time out to say "thank you" to Creator for all their blessings.

So what are we really celebrating today?  It's kind of sobering.  Too often,this day feels like one big excuse to eat way too much and a precursor to all kinds of "deals" on things we don't really need (more consumption) on Black Friday.  In any case, I'm happy that for at least one day, folks ostensibly take a minute to give thanks for all they have instead of focusing on things they are going to get.  Let's remember to give thanks for those who came before us who sacrificed so much and had so much taken from them so that we could have what we have now.  Let's give thanks every day for the many blessings we have and let's keep things in perspective. 



Fitness Mish-Mash

This week and last week have been difficult for me.  I've been fighting off a chest cold and flu-like symptoms.  I've been trying to take it easy but I'm still keeping up as much as my body allows.  I just finished a short 25 minute run and I actually feel really good right now. Here's to hoping the feeling stays.

Anyway,  a few notes:
  1. I have continued to run even though in the morning the temperature is consistently below 40 degrees.  It's been working out except for the fact that my hands get really cold.  It can be painful, too especially when I get back into the warm house.  So I did a little research online and invested in a pair os 180s Ultralite CRG running gloves. They cost $25--more than I've ever spent on a pair of gloves (but thankfully, shipping was free).  They arrived quickly and I was excited to try them to see if they would work.  I was disappointed. Admittedly, my hands stayed warmer than if I had worn my regular winter gloves (fleece gloves lined with Thinsulate) or my thin, acrylic running gloves but my hands were not warm.  So, after reading some more reviews and articles, I invested a little more money and bought a pair of silk liners.  This improved the situation but it's still not perfect.  My hands are still cold when I run but at least, I will happily say, they are not painful--just uncomfortable.  I thought maybe I could pick up a pair of thin, inexpensive fleece gloves and try layering the silk gloves underneath the fleece gloves . . . or some variation.  I've been wanting to knit wool gloves forever but who am I kidding?  Quite honestly though, my hands and feet are usually cold even when I'm not running--more so than the average person, I'd say.  So I guess I should expect it to be a challenge for them to stay warm when I'm running (and all the blood is pumping to my lower half).  
  2. Lately, sometimes before and after a run, I've been doing yoga stretches indoors.  I found Karen at FlexibleWarriorYoga on YouTube and subscribed.  She does an excellent job of putting together simple, quick yoga routines to target all the muscle groups that get worked during running.  Generally to warm up before a run, though, I do the warm-up that goes with the Plyometrics X routine that's part of P90X.  That warm up is awesome because it really does get me very warm while stretching out all the muscles that I will be using during the run.  But for a quick run like today's, Karen's pre-run warm up is what's up:
  3. I've been feeling kind of disconnected from my body with the whole gluten/intestinal issues stuff.  It's so amazing how exercise helps to bring me back to my body.  Simple things when doing exercise like how my hamstrings are affected by my spine.  Today, I was fascinated by what a difference arching my spine makes for a stretch (as opposed to rounding it).  If I round my spine, my hamstring will not fully stretch.  Arch it and oh boy.  I don't know.  Maybe I'm a little dorky in this regard but really and honestly, exercise is my release.  I don't really know I could deal with how badly I often feel in my gut if I didn't exercise.  It's the only time these days where I feel healthy and in tune and wanting to be in my body.  
Anyway, so that's my fitness mish-mash.  Hope you are enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday--or at least the day off.  

Making it Work Better!

Our living situation that is.  We accomplished this recently by moving things around in our house.  


Let me see if I can describe the layout of our house. We live on a single floor. We have a front room which we call the cold room. We can't use it during the winter months at all. Next to that and moving towards the back of the house, we have a large room with a fireplace (which was the living room--Room A). Separated by French pocket doors, next to that (and continuing to move towards the back of the house) is the room that was serving as our master bedroom (Room B). Separated by a solid wood door, next to that (all the way at the back of the house) is the children's bedroom. 

Room A is bigger, has a fire place and guests can walk directly into it.  Also, it's two rooms away from the kids' room which is great for when I workout in the morning and the hubby and I can hang out when they go to sleep without bothering them.  The cons of Room A (mainly one) is that it is dark. We needed to have lights on in there are all times no matter how bright it was outside.

Here are the pros of Room B: it is very bright--4 high windows. Another pro is that it's closer to the kitchen where I spend lots of time and since it would have the computer in it, I would be closer to the computer.  Here are the cons of Room B: guests have to walk through the kitchen or through Room A (which would be the bedroom and ain't happening) to get to Room B, it's in the middle of the house, adjacent to the kids' room, and it's smaller than the Room A (some things would have to remain in Room A).

So we moved everything around.  We made Room A into our master bedroom and Room B into the living room and now our bedroom is separated from the kids' room by the living room.  This is a really hard adjustment for the kids who were used to me being right next to them as they fell asleep.  Every night since we re-arranged things, they have ended up in our bed due to bad dreams and monsters.  


I really like having Room B as the living room, though. A lot.  I think it will have to stay this way and hopefully my children adjust soon.  I love being able to read by the window and I love all the light.  Yes the bookcase is still in the bedroom, our library books stay in there along with DVDs and other media but it really doesn't bother me.  And I honestly don't care as much as I once did if people have to walk through the kitchen to get to the living room.  

I realize we'll probably be living here a long time. I get so happy when we do things to make this place more functional and more like home. 

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What could it be?

So I've been conscientiously eating gluten-free for the past 2 weeks and I have not been feeling the slightest bit better.  In fact, I've been feeling worse.  Not to gross folks out but I've been running to the bathroom and my stomach is rumbling.  Painfully at that.

I realized that I must be eating something that is just totally not agreeing with me.  The culprit is supposed to be wheat but I'm not eating wheat.  What could it be?

I had purchased some gluten-free baking mixes a while back when they were on sale.  I also decided to make a small batch of my own gluten-free mix.  I used these mixes in some muffins and tried pancakes (which were horrid).  The muffins came out okay so I started to think that the muffins might be a great breakfast option.  I'd been trying various gluten-free breads for breakfast.  But I was feeling more and more horrible.  I kept thinking that everything I read says it may take some weeks or months to start feeling an improvement and I was just trying to hold on to that magical day that I'd feel better.

But I was getting worse.  So today I decided to skip gluten-free bread with breakfast and ate regular, old sprouted wheat bread.  I then made a cup of strong ginger tea.  And I feel so much better already.  It's amazing.

I'm still pretty sure I don't do well on wheat but I can't have these gluten-free things at all.  I believe it's the xanthan gum that is added to bind things (the way gluten would) that I am reacting too.  It seems like, indeed, some people can't tolerate xanthan gum.  Initially, I thought, it can't be xanthan gum which is in the soy ice cream I get.  But then again, I don't eat soy ice cream every day and I don't eat a lot of it.  I've never had as much xanthan gum as I've had in the last two weeks in my whole life.  It's quite possible I'm intolerant to it.  

So I researched a little and it seems guar gum is a suitable alternative but truth be told, none of these gums sound natural or like anything I want to eat anyway.  I think I'd rather risk having one slice of sprouted grain bread (I'll make sure to purchase multi-grain as opposed to straight wheat) every so often (2-3 times a week) than have any of these crazy gums and additives. At least I can recognize all the ingredients.

In my heart of hearts, I want my diet to be clean and natural.  I want to eat things I can make on my own from easily obtained ingredients.  I don't want my eating to be a science experiment.  

At this point, honestly, I don't really want to eat at all.  It's kind of a scary endeavor.  Eating makes me feel sick and I don't even know what I should or shouldn't be eating.  And no one really has any answers for me.  Super frustrating.  

I'm supposed to make sweet potato pie tomorrow.  (((sigh)))

Anyway, for now, no products with xanthan gum.  I definitely have to get good with other  other normal (not science experiment) starches.  This is even more difficult that going vegan.   

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Simple Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

On a whim, I decided to pick up a butternut squash at last week's grocery shopping trip.  We didn't grow up eating squash and I really haven't done much with squash in terms of cooking.  But squashes are everywhere now so I thought I might give it a go.  

Initially, I was going to find a recipe online but I decided to be a bit more experimental plus I didn't want to be bothered..  Here's what I did:

Ingredients

  • Small butternut Squash (mine was about 2 lbs.)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • half of a large onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • salt, pepper, dried thyme, cinnamon, brown sugar
  • water or vegetable broth, 3 cups


Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.  Cut the squash length-wise and use a spoon to remove the seeds.  Cut the squash into 1-2" cubes.  Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and place the cubed squash on it.  Pour one tablespoon of oil on the squash, adding a dash of salt and black pepper.  Use your hands to massage the oil and spices onto the squash.  Roast in the oven for about 45-55 minutes, until you can see that the squash has browned nicely (not burnt).  

At about 35 minutes into the roasting, add the other tablespoon of olive oil to a medium sauce pan and turn on the heat to medium.  Chop the onion and mince the garlic.  Toss the chopped onion into the hot oil.  Add 1/4 tsp each of cinnamon, dried thyme and brown sugar to the sizzling onions.  Cook for 3-4 minutes until the spices are fragrant and then add the minced garlic.  Cook for another minute or so being careful not to burn the garlic.  Once things start to stick a little,   add your 3 cups of water or vegetable broth.  By now, you squash should be ready.  

Pour the contents of your pot into your blender.  Add the roasted squash.  Blend.  Taste.  Adjust seasoning.  Pour contents of blender back into pot and warm (if you like hot soup).

Makes 4 servings.  

I thought this was very tasty and really autumn-esque.  I went heavy on the olive oil but you could cut it a bit and get good results, I'm sure.  As the recipe is written, each serving is 4 Weight Watchers points.  Considering that there's no real protein in this dish, I'd say that's a lot of points.  But it's oh so good.  And I need to put on weight.  :)
Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape
I hope you enjoy my musings that I share with you here on my blog. If you would like to use any written content on my blog, please ask and/or reference my blog correctly. Thank you.