Monthly Archives: November 2010

The Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide review

A couple of weeks ago, I received a complimentary copy of a book that I’d been considering buying, The Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide (5th Edition).  My son and I were diagnosed with celiac disease eight years ago, when very few restaurants had heard of “gluten-free.”  Prior to diagnosis, my husband and I used to delight in hole-in-the-wall, mom & pop restaurants, especially ethnic ones.  Probably my toughest adjustment to a g.f. life is that of eating-out monotony:  As a family, we’ve become accustomed to the few places we know are safe.  (Or, at least, the safest possible, as very few establishments are 100% safe for a celiac diner.)  However, as the gluten-free diet grows in popularity (for sometimes dubious reasons), and as more and more people become acquainted with celiac disease, the options for eating out have been expanding!  Thankfully, I live in a large city where there are numerous, unexplored options for g.f. eating, and I’ve been wanting to expand my gastronomic horizons.

Thus, I’m very pleased to own this book.  It, combined with my local Yahoo Celiac group, gives some great suggestions which I’m excited to try!

I will put this guide in my truck and travel with it every where I go.  There are a few websites that have reviews of restaurants with gluten-free options, but for those of us (like me) without a smart phone, and for those of us (like me) who just like books, this is a great way to go.

The Essential Gluten-Free Restaurant Guide (5th Edition) is a 468-page, 50-state guide to restaurants which

  • Have gluten-free menu, and/or
  • Regularly stock g.f. menu items (like pasta, beer, etc.), or
  • Are a 100% g.f. facility
  • Are a chain restaurant which has a g.f. menu (menus — sans prices, of course — are included in the rear of the book)

There are also symbols noting which meals each restaurant serves, as well as its price range.

Each entry has a 3-10 line description of the restaurant, often noting g.f. menu items, and other things for a gluten-free diner to consider.  Picked at random, here is what is noted for Bloom, a Scottsdale restaurant to which I’ve never been.  Bloom does not have a g.f. menu, and is in the $$ range, and serves lunch and dinner:  “Marketing Coordinator Julia reports that many menu items are naturally GF.  She advises making reservations noting GF and calling ahead to speak with a manager or chef.  She also notes that all chefs are trained on the GF diet.”  Another restaurant, Bombay Spice Grill and Wine, in Phoenix, does have a gluten-free menu, serves lunch and dinner, and is in the $ price range:  “Extensive GF menu includes mango chicken salad, kebab skewers, tikka skewers, biryani, chicken keema, curries, and more.”

The book also has about 15 pages which supply (good) advice on safely eating gluten-free in restaurants.  Toward the end of the intro section, an author notes that restaurants policies, menus, and ownership (and even their existence) are always in flux, and reminds readers to use the guide “as a starting point, not a definitive resource.”

Indeed.

Case in point:  The Scottsdale location of small chain, The White Chocolate Grill, recently worked with a local celiac, Nina Spitzer, who owns a business (Gluten-Free Absolutely!) that helps restaurants create a g.f. menu, and trains staff in how to safely prepare gluten-free food.  The restaurant was certified by Nina in November of 2009.  However, it is not listed in the Scottsdale section of the Guide.  (It is, however, listed in the guide under its Naperville, IL, and its Lone Tree, CO, locations.)  That’s a shame, because my husband and I went to The White Chocolate Grill a few weeks ago, and it was easily the among the best gluten-free dining experiences I’ve ever had.

I have a couple of other quibbles with the guide, all dealing with the finding of information, within the guide.:

  1. I wish the Guide had an exhaustive, alphabetized index.  Oftentimes, I will hear the name of a g.f. restaurant, but I’m not sure where it’s located.  Perhaps it’s a chain, but I don’t know if it has a local franchise.  Or, I might know it’s in Arizona, but I don’t know where in Arizona it is.  Rather than skim through the 11 pages of Arizona entries, it would be nice to have an index to which I could refer, ensuring that I don’t miss the entry, and making it easier to find the info on that particular restaurant.
  2. The Guide’s by-city layout bothers me.  Of course, I’m most interested in Arizona, since that’s where I live.  I find it quite difficult to find restaurants within the Arizona section.  That’s because the entries are for Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tucson, and All Other Cities.  The Phoenix metropolitan area is comprised of at least twenty cities, and they’re all adjacent to each other.  So, a restaurant that is in Peoria would be found in “All Other Cities”, even though it could literally be directly across the street from a restaurant found in the “Phoenix” section.  I think it would be a better layout to have Greater Phoenix Area, Greater Tucson Area, Other Cities — Northern AZ, Other Cities — Southern AZ or something similar.
  3. Similar to Quibble #2, above, a MAP would most certainly be in order — a numbered map with statewide locations pinpointed, as well as metropolitan area maps.  This would be especially valuable when traveling to another state, with which I’m not familiar.

In spite of my concerns, this is a very worthwhile book for anyone on a gluten-free diet to own.

Fits, chocolate, the Dear Hubby, and composting

A couple of days ago, my hubby very greatly surprised me with an envelope inscribed in his all-caps, neat, architect-style printing:

FOR:  MY DEAREST
KAREN JOY
(OPEN WHEN I’M @ SMALL GROUP)

I was expecting a kind and encouraging note.  We seem to oftentimes communicate best through the written word.  The envelope, however, did not contain a note.

Mmmmm....

I will also mention that my receipt of this surprise came on the heels of me pitching a fit that he wanted a few squares of my horded (in the freezer) chocolate bar, to which I’d been treating myself THREE SAVORED SQUARES, nightly.  I should have just said, “Yes, Dear.”  In fact, I did say something like that, but it it required a Herculean effort to share, and I guess my body language reflected my internal dilemma — not really wanting to share, yet knowing that HE’S MY HUSBAND and he should be able to have any bit of “my” chocolate that he wants.

We ended up having an argument, and I really didn’t think he understood, that, at times, I find it difficult to deal with “all I have is yours”, especially since I have no stipend/allowance/spending/pocket money to spend as I’d like, and instead, have to carve a bit — in this case, $1.50, on sale — out of some section of our budget — in this case, groceries — in order to have a little something nice for myself.

I still don’t know where the right spot is on this topic.  God made humans with the innate desire to earn and own (which is why Communism doesn’t work).  However, the American culture takes that whole concept of earning and owning WAY TOO FAR over the top, to the point of materialism being the defining “god” of our country, and perhaps — Dear Lord, let it not be so! — that has permeated my heart.  I absolutely don’t want to be selfish — my husband and I do have everything in common, and I believe that is Biblical.  But, it would be lovely to have some discretionary funds, to purchase, willy-nilly (or carefully considered), things like chocolate or earrings or a pair of shoes I don’t really need or an additional long-sleeved shirt or two or on a fancy coffee or something decorative for our family room wall or a pretty little candle.  Or something.  Anything.  Without having to make a down-to-the-penny accounting for its necessity.

I don’t regret not being employed, which means, by default, that we have to be careful — very careful — with our funds.

All of this came to the fore, when it felt like I was required to share what I had hoped would be mine.

And, I guess that is a fit.

~sigh~

I didn’t handle it well.  I’m not even sure if I apologized, because, at the time, I felt justified.  NOT in not sharing — I was willing, though unwilling (if that makes sense) — to share.  I felt justified in feeling (and expressing) that it would be lovely to have some freedom to purchase something just because it made my own heart happy, and stymied, because that’s just not in the budget.

Like I said, I’m not sure I have an entirely Godly attitude about this.  I’m not sure what is the right and Godly attitude.  Give all of my chocolate away with no regrets, I guess, and never feel wistful for a cute and entirely impractical pair of shoes.

One way or another, even if I’m not walking in complete supernatural maturity on the issue of sharing, I just wanted my hubby to understand my heart, my thoughts, even my sadness.

In the end, though I felt like he completely did not understand where I was coming from, perhaps he did.

To my shock, inside the envelope was a hundred dollar bill.

I believe it’s from the money he unexpectedly earned for playing guitar at a friend’s wedding.  Every time he is asked to do music for a wedding, which is usually 3-4 times yearly, he assumes it’s for free, and that way, we’re pleasantly surprised if there’s payment involved.  Occasionally, he gives the money back.  He didn’t, this last time.

I remember, early in our marriage, when I was more prone to argue over just about everything, I’d cut into him up one side and down the other, and eventually, he’d capitulate.  I learned very early on that:

a.  This made for very hollow victories
b.  Getting “my way” really didn’t matter much if

  • I had a husband who was wounded, and
  • who didn’t trust me to be kind, and
  • there was no peace in our home.

So, I’m very careful now, over what I’ll argue.  My husband is, himself, so kind that, even if I’m wrong — either in what I’m saying, or how I’m saying it — he’ll cover me with his mercy, and choose to give me (or agree to, or whatever) that on which I was insisting.  That can be much more humbling than losing, lemme tell you.

I was not asking for money.  I was asking to be understood that I struggle with having to say, “Everything belongs to you.  I own nothing.”

I’m not sure if the gift in the envelope was him capitulating (which would be a rather unsatisfactory outcome), or if, upon thoughtful consideration and prayer, he thought maybe I should have some pocket money, every once in a while.  He’s humble like that, and willing to bend, when I am usually not.  ~sigh~  I do so have a lot to learn.

In any case, for the last two days, I’ve been carrying the envelope and its contents around in my pocket, dreamily considering how I might spend it.  His only stipulation was that I not spend it on anything for the kids.

I haven’t entirely decided, but it would fit in with another of my goals — to get my raised-bed garden to grow something other than weeds — if I spent some of the money on a composter.  Every time I send a carrot peeling or the heel of a stalk of celery into the trash, I regret not having a system for composting, and a flourishing garden into which I can put the compost.

I spent some time, this morning, looking into composters.  I’d really like a tumbling one.  But, the composters of any variety which I can afford are flimsy, and seem like a huge waste of fifty or a hundred bucks.  Even used, on Craigslist, most of the good ones are going for $150 and up.  Then, I discovered that the City of Phoenix has a program, in which they re-purpose damaged trash bins, turning them into compost bins — really, just trash bins with big holes drilled in the side.  The city sells them for $5.  I was worried, though, about being able to properly aerate the bin, and mix up its contents.  Then, I stumbled upon this contraption, called The Compost Crank, which, by all accounts is a very effective, nearly effortless way to turn over the compost pile.  I’m still looking for one locally.  I found one shop that normally carries them, but is currently out of stock.  I’ve found several online retailers, but with shipping (it’s an 8 lb, 45″ long, one-piece stainless steel tool), it would run me about $50.

So.  If I went this route, It would cost me $55, tops, to have an mega-environmentally-friendly composting system.  Not just because I’m composting, but because the bin is repurposed — not another piece of newly-minted plastic junk — and the Compost Crank is made from post-consumer recycled stainless steel.  Voila!

I feel very good about this.

It’s something I’ve wanted to do, but hasn’t been in the budget.  It’s for me, but it serves my family, as well.

Seems like a win-win.

(And, if I do some very careful shopping, I’ll still have money left for a cute pair of shoes, and a top, and some nice little trinket or two for our home!)

 

Profound insight from a mystery novel

I must admit, though I search for the most literary of mystery novels, so that they’re not a complete waste of time, mysteries are probably the closest I come to a “guilty pleasure.”  I don’t read them in order to stretch my literary mind;  I read them because I like them.  I also don’t expect to glean deeper understanding of myself, nor do I read them with my ear attuned to what God might be saying to me through them.  Maybe, though, I should start.

I recently finished A Matter of Justice by Charles Todd.  Other than The Murder Stone (which I couldn’t even really start, let alone finish — there were about twenty billion characters in it, and none of them were sympathetic), I have so very much enjoyed Todd’s fiction this year.  Charles Todd is a mother-and-son writing team, and I’ve now read thirteen of their fifteen published books (not read:  The Red Door, which is calling to me from the library’s hold shelf).

All of the Todds’ books are exceptionally clean (with text like, “Rutledge stepped into the passageway and swore under his breath” instead of actual swearing), good mysteries, focus on character development, and are set in post WWI England.  Even though they’re squeaky clean, it would be my best guess that the authors are not Christians, with some recent dialogue between Rutledge and a rector mentioning that the main business of the rector’s job was something akin to trying to get his flock to be “good.”

There was a passage in A Matter of Justice, though, that I read and re-read, as the light dawned more and more brightly.  It was at a point in the book where Rutledge was reflecting on a man and his wife.  Each were afraid that the other had committed the murder, but neither wanted to believe that the other were capable.  So, each worked to cover up any evidence that might point to the other, and each sought to take the blame, to save the spouse.  In the meantime, neither actually spoke with the other, for fear of actually hearing a confession.

Here’s the passage (from the top of p. 203 in the 2009 hardcover edition):

Sometimes doubt was the deadliest of fears.  It grew from nothing more than a niggling concern until it overwhelmed trust and shone a new light on small inconsistencies, white lies, honest mistakes, and human frailty.  And as it distorted perspective, it could also distort the truth.  Words taken out of context loomed terrifyingly large, and in the end, doubt could convince a loving husband or wife that their partner was capable of the unthinkable.

No, don’t worry for my marriage!  😀  This passage was incredibly revealing to me, in the light of a semi-recently failed friendship, one whose history and failure, until reading this, still rested uneasily in my heart, with not a small amount of attendant confusion.

In spite of multiple years of relationship, my friend continually mistrusted me.  She questioned, criticized, and disapproved of virtually everything about me, from my parenting choices, how I communicated with my husband (or vice versa), the books I read, the music I listened to, my political beliefs and actions (or non-actions), how I spent my time, how I inquired about her life and how often, how I reciprocated (or not) gifts and cards.  She repeatedly set up little “tests” for me, which I repeatedly failed, thus sealing my unworthiness, in her mind.  She even doubted and questioned my pastor and his trustworthiness and Godliness (to me, not him), which was just about the last straw.

The thing that was a consternation to me is this:  I am trustworthy.  Am I perfect?  Absolutely not!  Will I fail?  Certainly, at times.  Do I have frailties and inconsistencies?  Sadly, yes.  And, I freely admit to NOT being the world’s most attentive friend.  So, I don’t want anyone to read this as me saying, with blues guitar in the background, “She done me wrong!  So wrong!  And now, she’s gone, gone, gone…”  I believe that, when relationships fail, that 99% of the time, there is mutual culpability, and I certainly had my share of missteps.

But.

This passage got me nearer to understanding the why on her end.  It wasn’t just “insecurity”, as others (including my husband and my other most trusted counselor) have suggested.  My friend had a deep, overriding tendency to doubt.  Then, like the passage stated, that doubt overwhelmed any ability she had to trust, and it cast all my frailties and honest mistakes (hopefully, no lies, even “white” ones!) into the most unfavorable light, distorted her perspective of me, and beset any truth of who I am, and what my motives, goals, thoughts, and so on, actually were.  It made her think, time and again, that I was not only capable of the impossible, but culpable for it!  It was as if I had done that thing, or thought that thing, or whatever — things I had never thought or done — but in her mind, it was so, and there was no convincing her otherwise.

And the root of all of that?  Doubt.  Deep, deep doubt.

Who could be friends with a person of such doubt??  Somebody, perhaps, but not an ISTJ who has a desperate need to be trusted.

When I ended the friendship, in short, I told her that whatever kind of friend she was looking for, I was clearly not it, and that it would be in the best interest of both of us to discontinue our relationship of five years.

Very sad.

But, in retrospect, I still feel like it was the right decision.

And, I dearly thank Charles Todd, Inspector Rutledge, and the Holy Spirit, for further insight into that sad chapter of my life, profound insight, really, which I greatly needed.

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