Monthly Archives: May 2008

Random Notes for the Week

  • I have gluten-free sandwich bread baking in the oven.  My fingers are crossed.  I tell ya, five and a half years of being gluten-free, me baking and cooking daily (or very, very nearly so) from scratch, and I have yet to find a recipe which I can make successfully (and repeatedly so), which I like the taste and texture of (especially past the first day), and which has a modicum, at least, of whole-grain healthiness to it.  Ginger Lemon Girl posted a very hopeful-looking recipe earlier this week, and left me a comment which led me to it.  I’ve made the recipe (with a couple modifications, to make it dairy-free), and now am very anxious to see the results.
  • My dear baby girl has strep throat.  Since Tuesday, when she developed a fever, I’ve been on edge.  A few times her temp shot up in the high-103* range, which saw me dosing her with both infant Tylenol and children’s Advil, plus soaking her in a tepid tub as long as I could get her to stay in, sometimes in the middle of the night.  ~sigh~  It took nearly 24 hours for the antibiotics to kick in and start working;  I was getting worried.  But, she’s finally fever-free now.  She’s still sleeping a LOT, though, and is sort of… fragile, speaking in a teensy voice, and very emotional.  And I’m really tired.
  • I still don’t know if I’m having a boy or girl.  I’m a little confused about my new OBGYN’s s.o.p.  I thought I was supposed to call in to schedule the u/s, but when I called the doctor’s office, the lady with whom I spoke said, “Oh, so-and-so was supposed to schedule that.  I’ll check with her and get back with you.”  That was Tuesday.  It’s Friday, with nary a word from either.  I guess I’ll call them again on Monday.  I must say that if I didn’t already know that I like this particular doctor (he used to be in practice with my “old” OB, who retired, and is actually the doc who delivered Audrey), his office staff would not inspire any confidence;  I’d seriously be looking for a different doctor.  Oh, well.
  • We’re still schooling, until June 14.  All the schools in the area are done for the summer, and our doorbell is ringing incessantly.  I need to make a sign.  This time of year, I’m bummed that we’re still doing school… but then, when the neighborhood kids start back up again during the first or second week of August, I’m always glad that we’re still having summer.  Then, again, with the baby due in the middle of October, I’ve been thinking about starting school a bit early this year.  Typically, I start the Tuesday after Labor Day, but I’d like to get a solid six weeks in, before the baby’s born.
  • That’s all for now!  I’ll have to work on another hiking post tomorrow or Monday.  🙂 
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Four Girls, Lost (sort of) in Pine Mountain Wilderness — Part One

Tip #1:  If you choose to go to Pine Mountain Wilderness, and you don’t particularly enjoy trailfinding, I highly advise you to stick with the first 2.7 miles of the Nelson Trail #159, then take a left onto Willow Springs Trail #12, which, after an additional 1.6 miles, will lead you to an the always-exuberant experience of cresting a mountain.  Then, turn around and go home.  If you decide you’d like to brave some trailfinding, invest in a GPS unit that has topo maps on it, or you’ll be up a canyon, surrounded by sheer walls, not knowing how to get out (more on that, later).

Tip #2:  If you have a map, even a very good map, like this one, where the map’s creator has handily placed little fishies where there is supposedly running water, even if you go hiking directly after some torrid rainfall, don’t expect the fishies to actually mean that there’s running water.  Also, especially in Arizona, if the first mile or so of your hike is by a babbling creek, and you see other creeks on your map within the wilderness boundaries, don’t expect them to similarly babble.  Invest in a good water filter (like Erin’s Katadyn — more on that, later) and be thankful for those cloudy pools of odd-tasting, but now filtered-and-safe, life-giving water.

Tip #3:  If, in spite of being well-equipped with said GPS, good maps, and multiple trail descriptions, you still get lost, make sure you do it with a group of level-headed friends, so that everyone still enjoys themselves, in spite of treacherous circumstances and a bit of niggling fear. 

And now, on with the real story.

(Note:  I didn’t take the pics for this trip;  many thanks to Jessica for toting the camera along.)

My friend Erin and I have been semi-planning an overnight hike for, oh, about a year now.  The planning began in earnest a couple of months ago, and we mostly settled on a place called Willow Valley, on the northeast end of West Clear Creek wilderness.  It would be 9-ish miles of boulder-hopping and swimming through a canyon that is, at times, lush and brilliantly green, and at other times, more like a slot canyon, with narrow passages framed by towering sheer rock walls.  We had picked May 23-24, a Friday and Saturday.  As we were planning, our friend Jenny got wind of the trip, and we invited her along, too.  Then, Erin was chatting with her friend Jessica about it, and invited Jessica, too.  Frankly, my husband (and I think Erin’s, too), felt a lot better about there being three or four women on the trip, rather than just Erin and me.

As the weekend approached, we anxiously watched the weather reports.  Now, it’s the end of May.  It hasn’t really rained in the Phoenix area since early February.  Normally, rain is eagerly looked forward to, and joyously welcomed, here in the desert.  However, when the rain comes on the very day that you’ve been planning for a YEAR to go hiking… well, I wasn’t all that excited about the cooling temps, wind, and big, splattery raindrops, after all.

Thankfully, all of us either a) didn’t have work on Memorial Day Monday, or b) were able to get it off of work, so we opted for a Sunday-Monday hike, instead, delaying for only two days, which also worked fine for all of our families.  The rain did clear, as predicted, and we were able to set off, after meeting at Erin’s at 7 a.m. on Sunday, under blue skies.

However, since it had rained, and the temps were a good 15-20 degrees cooler than normal, we thought it would be best not to hike in a narrow canyon choked with rainwater runoff, which we’d have to swim through.  So, we decided on an alternate hike we’d already looked into, Pine Mountain Wilderness.

It took us just over two hours from Erin’s house to reach the Salt Flat campground, where the trailhead was for the hike.  It’s a gorgeous, small campground, with three or four sites, each with a picnic table and fire ring, with a mix of huge deciduous trees and pines.  However, there was no water in the creekbed that runs through the campground.  Maybe one can find running water earlier in the spring, with snow melt, or in midsummer after the monsoons.  I don’t know.  But, it’d be perfect for family camping if there was water in the creek.  (There is, however, plenty of water in Sycamore Creek, only a few hundred feet from the campground, though I prefer my creeks to babble and chatter right outside my tent flap.)  Perfect, that is, except for the toilets.  (More on that below.)

There’s pretty much no “official” information on Pine Mountain Wilderness online, but we did find a number of hikers who had gone, taken pictures, and posted trail info online.  This was a big help.

Well, it was sort of a big help.  When the trail disappears, and the GPS unit is really of no usefulness, and you’re surrounded by brush and trees and boulders, those trail descriptions that say “trail grows faint;  watch for cairns” really doesn’t help, either.

I also firmly decided that the well-travelled Todd, of Todd’s Desert Hiking Guide, is absolutely surly.  He gave the beginning portion (which is all he did) of this hike only half a star, out of a possible five.  Now, it could be that since it’s been five and a half years since he’s made this hike, things have greatly improved, but golly.  It just seems to me that every trail description he writes up, he finds something (usually somethings) completely to his disliking, and he gives a perfectly fabulous hike one star.  Or two.  Or, like this one, a half, out of spite for his being somehow inconvenienced or disappointed.  I’ve even seen him down-star a hike simply because he should have worn pants, and his shins got scratched up.  That’s not the trail’s fault, Todd!!  Most of the outdoorsy people I know are rather chipper, the kind who find the silver lining in each cloud.  Not Todd.  He finds the cloud in the silver lining.  Granted, he’s right about some of his trail description at Pine Mountain:  The trail does grow faint, but not until much later on the hike.  The whole way up to the crest of the mountain is great.  And, as he noted, the pit toilets at the trailhead are trashed.  They’re both missing their doors, one toilet seat is broken, and they didn’t look (or smell) like they’d been serviced in, oh, at least a year.  However, who comes to a Wilderness area for the pit toilets???  Not me.  Big deal.  So the toilets are trashed.  Todd says:  “What [Pine Mountain Wilderness] really is: a poorly managed hangout for hunters and cows.” I disagree.  I’m more in line with this hiker’s description: 

“As an Arizona native, I must say the trail along Nelson Spring is among the most beautiful I know, passing through an oak riparian area with clover and other greenery.”

From Todd’s description, I thought we’d possibly be traipsing through foot-deep cow pies, with nary a real trail in sight.  We certainly saw evidence of cows being present rather recently, but it’s not like they tore through the place, and even though cow droppings are a pet peeve of mine (especially in hikes on public lands — double-especially in federally-designated WILDERNESS areas), there weren’t so many of them to bother even me.

Anyways.

We mostly followed the trail description and map of helpful hiker “Moovyoaz” at www.hikearizona.com, which is a free alternative to the (IMO) huge ripoff of www.trails.com.  However, as described above, our group hiked along Nelson Trail #159 until the junction with Willow Spring Trail #12, at which point we continued east.  The trail was well-marked and well-travelled all the way to the summit.  It grew a bit steep towards the end, but since it’s a mountain, that’s to be expected.  The actual summit is a short scramble up off of the trail.  We hung out at the top for a while, snapping pics, and enjoying the view.


Jessica, Jenny, Erin, and myself


There was an alarming number of ladybugs/ladybird beetles at the top.  Some sort of beetle convention??  Or do they migrate???  I don’t know.  But there were millions.

After we descended the crest and headed to the southwest for the hike towards our campsite, things started to get… interesting.

However, I’ll have to save that for the next installment.  😀

Short message to the world

I been tagged.  By Steve.

Rules are simple: 

You have 150 characters to send a message to the world.  Punctuation doesn’t count.  Here’s mine:

First priority:  relationship with God.  Not far behind:  be involved a local church where you receive and give.  Foster good relationships with your family.  Don’t read trash.  Go D-backs!

Hmm…  Whom to tag?  How about Tammy, Esther, and Michael.  That little grouping should see a wide range of messages, I would think.  😀

Books, allegory, and block-headedness

Well.

The book club with which I’m happily involved has chosen its next book.  Or, rather, I should say, “WE have chosen the next book.”  It’s a book that two of the six of us have already read, but were happy to read again, mostly to gain the perspective of the other members.  I had heard of the book, and for some reason, had really wanted to read it, so I heartily threw in my assenting vote. 

Now, I have it in my hands, and I’m hesitant to start.

It’s The Life of Pi by Yann Martel.  I don’t read reviews before I read a book;  I generally read them afterwards, if at all, so don’t tell me about it, if you’ve read it.  But, it seems to me that the book leans very heavily on allegory and metaphor.

The inside flap of the dustjacket reads thusly:

A boy

A tiger

And the vast Pacific Ocean

—-

This is a novel of such rare and

wondrous storytelling

that it may, as one character claims,

make you believe in God.

I have thought, many times, that it’s a good thing I found God as a child, and now have a long and beautiful history of relationship with Him.  My faith is so real to me — my dear Father in Heaven is so real to me — that, honestly, it doesn’t even seem like faith.  It’s tangible.  It’s experiential.  It’s real.  If I hadn’t come to Christ as a child, and someone had tried to introduce me, as an adult, I’m positive I’d have balked.

Airy ideas are not my friends.  They never have been. 

I was scandalized when, at about the age 10, I discovered The Song of Solomon in my Bible.  My BIBLE!  I couldn’t believe it, and was so embarrassed, I couldn’t even ask my parents about its inclusion as a part of our sacred text.

Similarly, at about the age of 12, I was bewildered why my church would show, during the Sunday night adult service, an animated version of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.  I had owned a boxed set of the treasures of Narnia from C.S. Lewis for about two years, and had read all of them at least once, and most of them twice.  Yet, I had no inkling that the books were allegorical in the least.  It never dawned on me.  Ever.  I read them as purely mythical adventure stories.  And, golly, I’d been a Christian since I was four years old.  I knew the story of the crucifixion, and what its purpose was.  Yet, I didn’t grasp any parallels between it and The Lion…  Nor did I see illustrated similarities between any part of any of the Narnia books, and that of Christian life.  It wasn’t until my adulthood, really, that I saw any resemblance between faith/fact and fiction.  Now, I can see it.  Even now, as I write, the picture of Eustace becoming humbled by getting his dragon-skin layers cut and peeled off of him in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader grips my heart with a powerful conviction.  But, that didn’t happen until a few years ago, when my story-reading to the boys drove an intercept course with my spirit, and I was struck with Lewis’ truth.

So, I have a feeling that I’m not going to get as much out of Pi as I’m “supposed” to get, and all its deep, meaningful insights are going to sail right on by my concrete outlook.  All of this, I suppose, is rooted in pride, and not wanting to reveal my block-headed ignorance to the women in the group.  I just know I’m going to be frequently exclaiming, “Oh, I never saw that!” and other such expressions of lightbulb-moments as we discuss the book.  But, if there’s a group of women to do be revealed as a insightless dummy amongst, it’s that group of Godly, brainy, yet thoroughly gracious women. 

Still.  I can’t help but wish I had a copy of Mansfield Park — the last Austen novel I’ve yet to read — with which to distract myself.   

Shifting Due Dates

So.  I had an appointment yesterday with my OB.  Much to my surprise, he moved up my due date, to October 11 from October 24.  Looking at the calendar, and knowing how many days gestation takes, I know that I couldn’t have conceived on that particular date.  However, the ultrasound I had a few weeks ago showed that I was farther along than I had previously supposed.  Hm.  Ultrasounds in the first trimester show less variance in baby-size and development than do ultrasounds from babies that are further along, and for the date I had mine, there’s a variance of only have a +/- 7 days.  So, any date that shows up according to the u/s, if it’s greater than 7 days difference from the original EDD, becomes the new EDD. 

This is my fifth baby, and I’ve never had that happen before.

I’m not worried about potentially delivering two weeks earlier than expected;  it’s just that it seems to send the whole thing into limbo.

My husband was skeptical.  He said, “In other words, the baby will still come when the baby is ready.  Watch.  You’ll deliver on October 20 and they’ll say, ‘Oh, you’re 9 days late!’ but according to the original date, you’ll be four days early.  Who’s to say?  The baby comes when the baby is ready.”

Well, yes.  And I have had babies anywhere from 11 days “early” to 9 days “late,” and I do know that they’re born when the time is right.

Still, it’s nice to have a semi-solid date to look forward to, and now I don’t feel like I have that.

AND, since I’m anti-inducement, I do have some anxiety about resisting pressure to induce if, say, October 24 rolls around, and I still haven’t delivered.

Due to my “advanced maternal age” 😆 I do get the high-level ultrasound in a couple of weeks (the 3D/4D one!) and my doc said that we’ll see if the new u/s confirms the date from the first u/s.  So, maybe all my anxiety is for nothing…

Allergen-Free Breakfast Cookies (“Oatmeal” Raisin Plus)

From a batch made 25 July 2015.  With kaniwa and chia seed, plus cashews, in place of the sunflower seeds and pepitas.

From a batch made 25 July 2015. With kaniwa and chia seed, plus cashews, in place of the sunflower seeds and pepitas.

“Mom, what’s for breakfast?”

So asked my kids of me, who hadn’t a clue.  I hadn’t gone grocery shopping in nearly two weeks.  We were out of eggs, out of breakfast meat, out of milk (most of us are dairy-free, though), and we’d already had hot cereal the day before.  Hmmm…  I perused the pantry, and came up with an idea.  Breakfast cookies!  I started pulling ingredients, and hoped everything would work together.

Oh, my goodness!  They turned out SO GOOD.  The results taste like glorified oatmeal-raisin cookies.  And, as someone who hasn’t had an oatmeal-raisin cookie in nearly six years, they were so dreamy.  Relatively low in refined sugar, high-fiber, whole-grain, high-protein, filling, soft and chewy, and absolutely delicious.  My kids, as they were eating them, asked me to make them again.  I’m going on a hiking trip in a couple of weeks, and I know I’ll be making these to take along.

Now, anyone who has ever baked gluten-free before knows that it’s tricky.  Make the item dairy-free, too, and it’s super-tricky!  Take out the eggs as well, and you have a recipe that’s in a profoundly delicate balance.  SO!  While a substitution may work here or there, I make no promises for the success of any cookies made with substitutions and/or omissions.  I know there are a lot of ingredients in this recipe, but I’d be really careful about what I’d leave out or add in…

If you’ve never used quinoa flakes before, it’s a good time to start!  They look like mini rolled oats, and are surely what give these cookies their oatmeal-like appeal.

Edited 07/15/09 and 08/29/12 with a few ingredient and instruction improvements.

Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, Egg-Free, Nut-Free Breakfast Cookies

Makes 12 very large cookies

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Line an insulated cookie sheet with either parchment or Reynold’s Non-Stick Foil.  (If you don’t have an insulated cookie sheet, take two same-sized cookie sheets that nest together, and between them, lay some heavy-duty aluminum foil that has been crumpled and partially smoothed out.  This will give you an air gap between the two cookie sheets.)

In a large bowl, mix the following ingredients with a whisk:

With a wooden spoon, stir in:

  • ½ cup quinoa flakes (or 1/4 cup quinoa flour, though that defeats the “oatmeal” appearance and texture)
  • ½ cup puffed millet
  • ½ cup flaked or dessicated coconut, sweetened or unsweetened
  • ¼ cup sunflower kernels, either raw or roasted
  • ¼ cup pumpkin seed kernels — “pepitas,” either raw or roasted  (or a total of ½ cup of other nuts and/or seeds)

In a small bowl, or glass 2-cup measure, whisk together the following ingredients:

  • ½ cup honey
  • ½ cup canola oil (or other cooking oil)
  • ½ cup rice milk (or other milk)
  • 2 tsp vanilla
  • Optional:  ½ cup dark brown sugar OR 2 tsp dark molasses

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients.  This will make a very stiff dough.

Then, with a heavy wooden spoon, and a healthy bicep, OR, using the dough hook on your stand mixer, mix in:

  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup sweetened, dried cranberries (or, use 1 cup total other small or chopped, dried fruit)

Next, either refrigerate the dough several hours until cold, OR, if you’re impatient like me, oil your hands.  Make 12 large balls out of the dough — each about ¼ cup of dough — and place on your cookie sheet.  Then, grease the bottom of a large cup, and dip the cup into a small bowl of sugar.  With the sugared cup bottom, flatten each cookie so that each cookie is approximately 3 to 3 ½ inches wide and ½ inch thick.  Re-dip the cup in sugar for each cookie.  OR simply flatten each ball of dough with the palm of your hand.

Bake for about 22-24 minutes at 350° F, or until the edges of the cookies are golden.  Cool on racks, or simply remove the parchment/foil from the pan with the cookies still on them and cool on countertop.  (I normally cool my cookies the way my mother and grandmother did — on cut-open brown paper bags spread on the countertop.  However, these cookies will stick to brown paper bags, due to their honey content.)

Serve warm from the oven, or, cool and wrap individually with plastic wrap, and refrigerate or freeze for an on-the-go breakfast.  I have also taken these cookies camping, and they have kept for a week with no refrigeration or loss of taste or texture.

Enjoy!

Random Bits for the Week

I guess I don’t have much original thought this week;  this is my first post, and it’s already Wednesday.  It’s not that I don’t have a lot going on… 

  • In my continuing Spring of Jane Austen, I finished Persuasion.  It is my favorite, so far, of her works I’ve read.  Perhaps it’s because the heroine isn’t just 20 and angsting.  She’s 28 and angsting.  😉  But, it just seemed the most full, the most realistic, and the most lovely read, and certainly the best climax of her works.  I really like that the end doesn’t have Anne saying, “Woe is me, I’ve been so ill-treated by the years I’ve lost” but that she’s able to see that the decisions that were made in her youth that affected her adulthood served a purpose.  There’s no sense of martyrdom.  That’s more of a… mature view of things, and one that I strive for, myself.  …  So far, I’ve read Northanger Abbey, Emma, Pride and Prejudice, and now, Persuasion.  After reading a few reviews on Amazon.com, I put a DVD on hold at the library.  There have been at least 3 adaptations of the story, but according to what I read, the 1995 version with Amanda Root as lead holds closest to Austen’s story.  Now that I only have Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park left, I’m almost starting to mourn the end of my Austen days.  They’ve been pleasant.  I think I’m going to start the Bronte sisters next, although their plots seem mighty contrived to me — though that’s just my impression from watching BBC versions of the stories;  I’ve never read any of their works before.
  • In hiking notes, our friend Jenny is going to join Erin and I on our hike.  This makes me very happy, and puts our husbands a bit more at ease.  I found some nice shoes (thanks to what was probably excessive web-searching) and pants (thanks to a tip from Erin), spending about $70 total, including shipping.  That still seems pricey to my penny-pinching ways, but for what I’m getting, they’re a good deal.
  • It’s been almost a week, but an article I read in the Arizona Republic has really stuck with me…  It’s about a work program that has disabled men working at a golf course, to the benefit of both the men, and the golf course and its employees.  I think, being almost 35 and pregnant, with the threat of increased likelihood of genetic problems with the baby I’m carrying due to my age, such things have been on my mind for the last six months or so.  It’s a good read;  please check it out.
  • In pregnancy news, I don’t have much.  I have a doctor appt tomorrow, a monthly check-up.  I have gained back two of the eight pounds I lost earlier in the pregnancy…  I’m starting to think/hope that perhaps I won’t gain my standard 40-50 pregnancy pounds this time, though.  I was, however, slightly encouraged that another friend of mine, who is also pregnant, and is rather intimidating to me with her stylish beauty (and her daughter who, while younger than Audrey, is better-dressed than me), gained about 70 lbs with her last pregnancy, then lost it.  Lost it through hard work, but still, lost it.  I really would rather not continue to keep 5-ish pounds from each child I bear, and it’s always good to receive hope from someone who says, “I lost my weight, and so can you.”      
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