Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Time Out for a Book Launch Party

Stan and I had a fun opportunity to see a little behind the scenes of a new author getting his first book published.  Melanie's friend from college is A. C. Fuller, author of the thriller Anonymous Source, recently published by Booktrope.  Thanks to Melanie, Stan and I got to read the manuscript during its last round of edits, and suggest comments and corrections.  We loved the story - didn't guess whodunit until the very end - and we also had some suggestions and caught a few typos.  We received a nice email of thanks from A.C. and were very pleasantly surprised to learn our names are included in the Acknowledgements in the book!

Adam and his wife Amanda hosted a fun launch party last Saturday at Lowercase Brewing in south Seattle.  Amanda is Mandy to me, and A. C. is Adam - she is Melanie's friend from high school, and in fact, Melanie introduced Mandy and Adam  : )   Mandy performed a long rap she had written to advertise the book.  It was amazing!  She had the entire (long) thing memorized and never lost a beat and spoke so we could understand the words.  She has talent!!

Folks enjoying beer and tamales at Lower Case Brewing

Melanie chatting up A.C.

A.C. signing the book

I wait to buy raffle tickets and get my copy of the book signed

 Notice the beer we are holding.  Lowercase Brewing brewed a special batch, called Anonymous Source ale.  It is served with a "hop drop", which is a mix of hops and lemon peel hung in the glass in a filter that looks like a tea strainer.  Sorry I didn't get a close-up.  I was too busy having fun to even remember to take photos, so these photos are thanks to Stan.

The raffle tickets turned out to be a good investment.  We bought three tickets and won two books - signed by the authors, who were also present at the party.  Quite a few authors donated signed books for the raffle, and all proceeds went to Solid Ground, a charity that works in the local neighborhood, South Park, in Seattle.  We also went home with a "party favor", which was a quart-sized can of Anonymous Source Ale.

All in all, this was a great experience, and we're happily looking forward to the sequel, which A. C. says is already in the works and will be titled Inverted Pyramid.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Real Bread

Uh oh - I made real bread yesterday, and I've eaten a lot of it already.  I have a good excuse - a member of our investment club brought samples of the flour her family sells.  It's called Shepherd's Grain, and is lovely light brown wheat flour grown with a focus on sustainable farming.  I used the New York Times No-Knead Bread recipe and it is really delicious!

The NY Times no-knead bread recipe came from Jim Lahey at the Sullivan Street Bakery in New York City.  It's easy and produces a loaf of artisan-style bread with a chewy brown crust.  I was a bit worried when I mixed up the dough and found with this flour it is much more brown, like whole wheat flour dough, than when I use regular white flour.  I was afraid it might not rise enough for the bread.

In this recipe you just mix the dough and let it sit at room temperature for about 17 hours.  Yup, seventeen hours.  It rises and becomes bubbly and then you pat it out and shape into a ball for a shorter (2 hour) second rise.

While waiting for the second rise, you heat the oven and a heavy covered dish very hot, to 450°.  Cooking the bread in the covered dish apparently keeps it moist from steam.  Here's what my loaf looked like when it came out of the oven.  It rose pretty much the same amount as white flour, although this bread looks and tastes more like whole wheat.

It's so nice to have some real gluteny chewy bread!  I won't do this very often - this is the first time since writing this blog - but I'm glad that I am eating a product that was grown and processed in a sustainable and healthy manner, for both the environment and myself!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Cutting Down on Caffeine

I spotted this book in the library, and found it quite interesting.  As you may remember, I went one month without coffee in May.  That month the only caffeine I knowingly had was in tea and chocolate, quite a bit less than my usual 2 or 2+ large cups of coffee per day.  During that month I lost weight and slept well, although I was also being extra zealous in my diet and exercise, so I can't give all the credit to the reduction of caffeine.

The book has some interesting information about the history of caffeine use, and how it is different in other parts of the world.  The author calls it "a bitter white powder" and says without question it is a drug, and how convenient it is legal!

Here are some things I learned from the book:
  • We use caffeine to wake us up in the morning and it definitely works.  However, those same morning cups may be still hanging around in our systems when we're trying to go to sleep at night, causing a vicious circle of sleep deprivation and needing more coffee. 
  • Caffeine doesn't affect REM sleep, as other stimulants do, but disturbs stages 3 and 4 sleep, which account for about 20% of our sleep time and include some of our most restful and restorative sleep.
  • A study found that susceptibility to caffeine's disruption of sleep varies with a person's chronotype (this is whether you are a day-person (lark) or a night-person (owl)).  Larks are more susceptible - darn - that's me!
  • Another study found that caffeine disrupts sleep more in people who are already having sleep issues due to stress.
  • Caffeine can trigger anxiety.  This was news to me.  Sometimes when I can't sleep I find myself worrying about all kinds of issues I hardly think of during the daytime, and I feel sort of tingly and almost frightened, even though I know I'm safe in my own bed.
  • The half-life of caffeine in the human body is an average 4 to 5 hours, however this varies a lot from person to person.  (Half-life is how long it takes for the concentration in the bloodstream to lower by 50%.)  For a woman on birth control pills, it is twice as long.  For a pregnant woman, especially in the last four weeks, it is even longer.
  • A smoker gets half the caffeine kick as a non-smoker.
  • Here is an interesting example from the book:  imagine a couple where the man is a smoker who weighs 180 pounds, and the woman is on birth control pills and weighs 135 pounds.  If they sit down for a cup of coffee together, she gets a caffeine effect that is nearly five times as strong as his!
  • Vegetables in your diet may play a role.  Cruciferous veggies like broccoli can increase enzyme activity that breaks down the caffeine, giving you less of a "hit".  Apiaceous veggies like celery and carrots can reduce the enzyme activity, giving you more of a hit.  (Here is a paper about this in relation to how various types of vegetables affect cancer, but it didn't seem to come to a definite conclusion.)
  • This book caused me to realize how much caffeine many children are drinking in orange soda, Coke, Mountain Dew and energy drinks like Red Bull.  Apparently the FDA limits the amount of caffeine powder that can be added to soft drinks, and recently has made regulations about the amount in energy drinks and "energy shots".  This issue is a bit outside my topic here, as I have no plans to drink any of those products, but there is much information online, including a case where a teenager died after drinking an energy drink, and a study in 2010 showing that young children who used the most caffeine slept fewer hours.
  • Caffeine's effects aren't all bad.  It is a very effective headache remedy, and is also effective as a morning-after solution to a hangover.  It is also an effective treatment of breathing problems in premature infants.
  • Headache is also a common symptom of caffeine withdrawal.  There are over-the-counter suppositories available for people who are fasting and a prescription called Cafergot for people who are too nauseated to keep down a caffeinated beverage.
  • In 2012, Harvard researchers found a relationship between caffeinated coffee and a lower incidence of basal cell carcinoma, a very common skin cancer.  This is being studied, and mouse studies have shown that caffeine can help to eliminate sun-damaged skin cells.
  • There is conflicting information about whether caffeine is harmful during pregnancy, but many women choose to avoid or limit their caffeine consumption during that time.  I was lucky - very early in my pregnancies coffee was the first thing to disagree with me.  I felt queasy in the mornings and didn't want coffee throughout my entire pregnancy.

So what am I going to do with all this information?

Aarrrgh!  I didn't really want to know : (   I do love my morning coffee.

And I love my occasional treats later in the day, too!

Can you tell I love Starbucks??  I own SBUX stock too, and it has done nicely  : )  I wish I had purchased some many years ago when I was lining up downtown every day before work!

Okay, seriously, I know I'm not going to give up coffee!  I am glad I don't have any interest in Coke or other soft drinks, and I drink my tea so weak that I don't think there's a problem there.  In fact, I think tea is overall a pretty healthful beverage as long as one doesn't add cream and sugar.

  • Since I drink most of my coffee at home, as of today I'm only going to buy decaf.  I don't taste much difference, as long as I get a good brand (the one on sale, of course), and I can start making it a bit weaker.
  • I have already stopped buying the bottled frappaccinos, since I noted my weight gain last month.  These will remain my treat for long car drives - like when I go to Portland or when Stan and I take a long road trip. 
  • How about 2 or 3 tea-only days each week?  I got used to this during May, although I do find myself looking forward to my coffee as soon as I'm up in the morning.
  • Or, how about having my first cup of coffee and following up with tea if I want more?  These changes will take some determination and getting used to.  I'll let you know how it goes.

P.S.  Younger readers:  don't give your kids soda pop!  Do you know about Soda Stream?  This is a gadget that makes carbonated water, and they sell syrups in cola, orange, lemon-lime and other flavors, both sugared and sugar-free.  There are several flavors that are completely caffeine-free, and others have had their caffeine content reduced recently.  Here is a list.  You can get them in Target.  I like to make the sparkling water and then add a few drops of the syrups that folks put in coffee, like caramel or raspberry.

This flavor sampler came with our SodaStream.  We haven't used most of them, as we like the sparkling water straight or with a few drops of flavored syrup, but for kids, you can add some flavoring to make it like regular soda.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Time Out for Girl Stuff

Yesterday I spent time with my granddaughter Mira, who just got the cutest pixie haircut ever!  We agree she looks older, more sophisticated, more polished and still her very lovely self.  She was happy her hair was long enough to donate for kids going through chemo.  Here's how she looks.

So, with hair styles on our minds, we shopped for some hair accessories and did some experimenting.  Here are some cute looks we came up with. You can see I need to practice on the spiky look...

Mira likes simple bobbies
I like bows
Different, but cute

Slicked back
I tried a spiky look
Smooth with gel
Here's my personal favorite.  Isn't this just classic and beautiful for a dressy look?

Must admit, while we were in Bartells right next to the clips and bows my eye caught packages of hair coloring.  I've been toying with the idea of trying to make my gray/white hair look more ash blond.  I've been using a conditioner that's supposed to add golden tones, but it doesn't make a noticeable change in my hair.  Hmm, there I was right next to the products, and I had a competent stylist along!  A no-brainer!  Here's my "before" shot, and what I was supposed to look like after.  I don't quite look like the picture on the box, but I'm happy with the result  : )   You did a good job Mira - thanks!

Here's the goal...
Champagne colored??
Stan took this picture, and says we both look lovely!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Some Observations at the Halfway Point

I planned to keep up this blog for one year, so here we are just past the halfway point.  Part of me thinks "Arggghh!  Lots more posts to write!" and part of me thinks "Wow, already?  How fast time flies!"  I want to pause and assess how it's going.

If I were trying to become a popular blogger, the results would be pretty discouraging - I have a small group of regular readers, and the occasional one-timer who stumbles upon me while looking for something else, or just browsing.   My blog host, Blogger, gives me some statistics that I've enjoyed following.  I have read that these are not necessarily perfectly accurate, and they try to weed out "bots" that roam around the internet without a real human attached, cataloging information.  A "pageview" is an instance of someone, somewhere opening a page of Grammy Getting Strong.

I can also look at a service called Google Analytics, which gives more information but is quite difficult to understand.  From that, I can tell that most of the hits I get are from one-time users.  For the past month, 5% of views were from returning users and 95% were from new people.  Average session duration is 27 seconds and there is something called "bounce rate" which counts the number of people who land on your site and leave without visiting another page.  Mine was 84% last month.  So, if I were in this to gain an audience, or hoping to make money, I would not be doing well at all.  Luckily, that is not my purpose!

I set up this blog the day after Christmas, 2014, as I sat in my chair in our family room thinking about starting yet another "year of better health".  I usually start a journal with the intention of recording everything I eat, maybe getting an average calorie count, noting how I feel at the time of eating or drinking something I shouldn't.  And I usually taper off and stop writing after a month or so.  I have tried signing up for a website where you can enter your food, weight goals, etc. and I know I don't keep that up either.  I was considering an online journal when the idea of a blog suddenly hit.  Perfect!  I would be too embarrassed to quit if someone was watching!

Well, dear Readers, thanks for watching!  I am really very happy at the results so far.  It has been decades since I weighed what I do now, and even more important is the absence of hip pain and sciatic nerve pain.  I have learned I can improve how I feel by paying attention to how I eat and being diligent with exercise - a valuable lesson for the future as I navigate into the rough waters of old age.  I don't think I would have gotten this far without you!!

I still plan to continue until next Christmas, although maybe at a slower pace than how I started.  Now that I'm feeling well I have less motivation to do health research, although there are many topics left to pursue.  I have enjoyed including the occasional "fun" post, sharing our activities and photos of our travels.  Here is a list from Blogger of the most-viewed posts - an interesting mix of health info and fun.  Congratulations to my guest blogger, Charla, for having the most views other than my intro post!  I plan to do more cooking (although it's so easy and delicious to just let Stan do it!), so perhaps I'll have some good recipes to share in the coming months, too.

A Comment about Comments

I understand Blogger's method of accepting comments is not the easiest and there has been some confusion about what is needed for a comment.  When you click on Comment, a box opens with a choice of ways to identify yourself.  It might appear that an ID on Google or other blog website is needed, but it is not.  If you select Name/URL, you get a place to enter your name, and a first name or nickname is fine.  If you have a website of your own, you can enter the URL (website address) on that line and when another reader clicks on your name they'll go to your site.  It's fine to leave that line blank if you don't have a site, or don't want to create a link to it.

Another option is Anonymous, and that is totally okay too.  Just select it and you don't have to enter any name.

After the name question, a box opens up that says Please prove you're not a robot.  Clicking in the check box is sufficient.  Then you get an option to Preview your comment and Edit if you want.  Then click Publish.

Of course, it's fun for me to get comments, but don't worry if you read and never comment.  I read some other blogs and rarely, if ever, have a burning need to say anything.  I'm just happy you're reading my posts!  (And a special thanks for the nice comments I've received, and so sorry some of you have tried unsuccessfully!)

Here are some things I have seen out my window while writing my posts.  We have a tiny yard, but it seems there's always something going on out there.

Red-breasted sapsuckers in the cherry tree

A thirsty rabbit, probably just visited neighborhood pea patch

These goldfish are great pets - completely self-sufficient as long as the pump keeps the water clean

Stan built this lovely pond

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Sixth Monthly Assessment - June 30th

Wow, I'm at the halfway point of my year of good health.  Must admit my attention has wandered from writing posts lately - I've been busy quilting, playing golf, planning vacations and just enjoying sitting around reading.  And along with not writing posts, I haven't been doing all the things I've been writing about either.  Too hot to walk, tired of making bone broth and almond-flour muffins, eating my "cheat day" grilled cheese sandwich after golf...  I've gained a pound, to 129, although I did see as low as 126 on the scale a week or two ago.  Waist still the same at 31 1/2.  Skinny capri pants by the way, that I've had for several years and not been able to wear  : )

January 31st
June 30th

January 31st
June 30th

What is going well?
  • Still enjoying my daily salad, especially with green and red lettuce from the garden and tomatoes from the Aerogarden.  My new favorite salad is greens with chopped apple, celery, pecans, and tomatoes, with balsamic vinegar and olive oil.
  • I had quite a few wine-free days this month, and love how they are followed by a really good sleep.
  • Ordered a pair of slacks in size 10 (LL Bean) and they fit!
  • Took a very long walk (10+ miles) with a nice stop at Starbucks at the halfway point.  I went early so it felt cool and lovely as I walked south along Lake Washington.  (Hot and sweaty later on the north-bound leg along Coal Creek Parkway, but there was more shade than I expected.)
  • My golf has improved!  Got 7 pars in 18 holes (very easy par 3 course).

So why did I gain weight?
  • Oops - I seem to have replaced my cocktail-hour wine with those bottled Starbucks frappuccinos.  They are sooooo delicious and sooooo not good for me!
  • I've gotten cocky about the weight loss and stopped planning ahead and making sure I have veggies, fish, etc. ready to eat when I'm hungry.
  • I've been eating eggs and sausage for breakfast with Stan instead of making my own veggie-full breakfasts.
  • I've been drinking two big thermal mugs of coffee with milk or cream every day.
  • I've been less careful when eating out, ordering whatever sounds good and eating a piece of bread, too.
  • I've been skipping most of my walks as it's already hot by the time I'm ready to go.

And what am I going to do about it?
  • Plan and shop more.  Remember the tasty items I had early on, like paleo zucchini muffins, and make more.
  • Drink more tea (which I take black), less coffee
  • Make my own breakfasts - eggs with cabbage, sausage with apple and sauerkraut, yogurt with berries.
  • Get out walking early
  • Order more carefully when eating out.
  • This is going to be hard - give up the frappuccinos without starting up on wine again!!
  • Consciously enjoy how good it feels to put on clothes that look nice and aren't too tight.  Remember there are lots of delicious things to eat that are also good for me!

I took Stan to Canlis for his birthday.  It's supposed to be the best restaurant in Seattle, and it was wonderful!  There were a lot of waitstaff and they were busy and well organized.  When they brought something, two came at once so they put our plates or drinks down at exactly the same time.  They explained what each course was, and about the wines.  (Yes, wine, but I only had two glasses, including the one in the piano bar before dinner.)  We got there early because I thought it would take a very long time to get to that location through the evening rush hour.  (Upper Queen Anne, just before the Aurora Bridge.  We did miss it the first time and wind up going over the bridge, but fortunately it was pretty easy to turn around, and the trip was easier than I expected.)

We gave the whole experience 5 stars.  (Also 5 dollar signs, of course, but a lovely experience.)