Monday, March 25, 2013

off to paradise!

Well, I'm heading to Hawaii for a while, and am very very excited about the entire thing. I'm flying first class due to some internet wisdom, which is no longer on offer, but which worked for me! I'm flying round-trip, first-class, for about $400. I will concede that I'm departing on a Tuesday and returning on a Monday, so it isn't ideal in that way, but eh, I'll take it. And I hope I get a lei out of it!

In related musings: I've had my iphone for all of a month or so, and I'm already debating if I should even bother bringing my camera. I love the convenience of being able to blog right from my phone and post pictures from it, like I did with my garden post. Actually what I really like to do is start the post, upload the pictures, save them, and complete my post from my keyboard. But I won't have a computer with me, so my posts will either be quite photographic, or rather non-existent.

I plan to hike, and scuba, and loll, and snorkel, and go to a couple museums, and check out Honolulu, and go to a luau. Stay tuned for photographic goodness!

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Gluten, sweet sweet gluten

Today's my first day returning gluten to my diet. Okay, well I cracked last night and had a beer while out watching a friend's band debut at an open mic night - I drank it, but it wasn't an epic revelation of beery goodness or anything.

Today though I'm glutening it up, and how. I've been reflecting that for me, gluten mainly means sweet treats. Sure, it can mean cereal, or delicious home-made sandwich bread, also pasta, but for me it REALLY means scones, cookies, cakes... and I have a freezer full of girl scout cookies that I ordered before I did this whole cleanse thing.

My fingers are a bit sore, but I attribute it mostly to a twenty-mile bike ride and then a bunch of square dancing on Sunday - those are both very hand-intensive labors, though the strong-handed among us may not notice so much!

This morning I had mini scones for breakfast and I'll have a sandwich on REAL bread for lunch. I'm having people over for a book group meeting/dinner and will be serving ravioli baked into a lasagna (the cheater's quick dinner), and one of the members is bringing brownies (hoorah!). That ought to cover the gluten front, big time! Then I am supposed to go off it for three more days to test to see if I react.

I'm not really being fair to the cleanse, because I've opened up the taps on almost everything I had eliminated, but that's too bad. I've come to the end of my limited patience for diet and behavioral modification.

So, we'll see if I have a noticeable gluten reaction. It may behoove me to mostly cut it out anyway, given how closely it's linked to unhealthy food in my mind!

Saturday, March 16, 2013

End of cleanse!

I'm just shy of three weeks cleansing, but Today is my last day - I'm participating in a potluck tonight and couldn't deal with the menu implications.

Thursday especially I just wanted to be DONE, but oddly today I'm not rushing out to break the cleanse. I'm still avoiding gluten for a few more days while I test for nightshade vegetables (hurrah for tomato sauce tonight!), but otherwise all bets are off going forward.

My energy levels stayed the same. I had less indigestion/coughing than I sometimes do (classic intolerance indicators, I understand). My knuckles still have some occasional discomfort but may be slightly improved.

I think I'll re-introduce gluten on Tuesday and see if I notice any changes, but so far this has not been life-altering. (Phew!)

Friday, March 15, 2013

Working remotely: six months in

It's nearly six months since I started working remotely for my employer so I thought I'd pull together some thoughts about how it's going.

The good:
  • Life multitasking: no surprise, it's lovely to be able to throw in a load of laundry or get dinner started during a short break from work. 
  • Focus: it is SO much easier to get work done without bunches of people around. 
  • Space control: I now have a stand-up desk, and when I get tired of standing (I can do about 2/3 of the day now) I can go sit on my couch or at a table. When the good weather gets here I hope to work outside sometimes.
  • Food control: It has to be said: I'm not sure I could have stuck to this cleanse if I were out in the world all day. Sticking at home for almost all my meals has made it a lot easier to give up dairy/soy/corn/gluten/nightshade vegetables/citrus/peanuts/caffeine for a few weeks. To my credit, last year I DID make it through a month of vegan eating, so it's possible I could have made it but I can't say for sure. 
  • The people factor: boy do I love not smelling coworkers' stinky food or hearing them hack up a lung when we are all devoutly wishing they would stay home. 
The bad:
  •  The other people factor: I worried I'd be really lonely, and as it happened I first lived with a friend, now have my sister living with me. But I miss my coworkers and our sometimes silly lunchtime conversations. I was lucky to have really great people around all day, who I was genuinely happy to see! Online communication is better than nothing but sure isn't the same.
  • Fresh air: I've been surprised and disappointed at how little I leave my house during the workday. I definitely got more regular exercise at work in the form of short walks with friends looking for a break from the day! Now I tend to work past noon, and grab some food, and do something productive like a grocery store run or a short poke about in the garden. I've set a goal to go on a walk three times each week and am not doing great at meeting it! 
  • Distractability: It has to be said: you know how the internet gives you ten billion things to look at instead of doing work? It's still here, and then I've got a good chunk of the REAL world to distract me too! Instead of working I can do laundry! Re-organize some boxes! Poke around in the garden! I've been pretty good about working through distractions, but they are very real. 
  • Sharing: I have no willing victims to bring in baked goods for - now if I bake something, it has to be for a planned event or I know I'll wind up eating all the goods. 
The unexpected: 
  • I thought I'd spend a lot of time in coffee shops for people interaction, but that hasn't been necessary. 
  • I am getting my work done and enjoying a reasonable percentage of it; I wasn't at all sure what I'd be doing or how I would feel about it. I'm fortunate that I perceive my company's expectation is that I'm available and working from 8-5 every day. I don't think I would do well with open-ended time expectations - I would never start and never finish!
  • No colleagues in day to day life: Since my social life overlapped almost 100% with my work life, I was militant about not talking about work in my off-hours. But now that I don't have any colleagues to talk shop with, I was surprised at how eagerly I engaged in work talk in my free time when I visited in December.
To sum up:
I feel extraordinarily lucky to have gotten to work remotely. It's pretty much what I thought it might be like - I miss the people and some things about the place, but I am also so grateful and happy to be back where I wanted to be.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Garden 2.0

When I lived in the Bay Area I organized a community garden at my apartment building. Only about 15% of the residents participated, but it was still pretty awesome. Now that I've got my own place I wasn't sure how much (if any) gardening I'd be doing.

However, fate intervened: on the day of my housewarming party, one of my former housemates let me know she was getting rid of three 5x5 beds, and asked if I wanted them - delivery & setup included! I'm not one to look convenience in the mouth, so I said sure! She and her boyfriend delivered and set them up on the day of the party, which was very exciting. Not only that but she came up with a source for garden dirt - another friend of hers is getting rid of the raised bed at the house she just bought, and was willing to lend us her truck to transport said dirt.

Fortunately it was GORGEOUS on Saturday, so all the heaving of buckets of dirt was nearly enjoyable. And progress was made. From this:

To this: 
In just a few hours! 

You'll note the beds are shaded in the morning, so I'm not certain the location is perfect. I wanted them to be someplace where I would see and remember them, and if they were at the sunniest part of my yard they'd be much more out of sight. As it is I can see them from my kitchen and office windows. 

So far I've planted three kale starts, and seeds for carrots and radishes.  I'll be getting more plant starts from a CSA I joined, but I think before I get them I'll add a couple bags of dirt to the beds I haven't already started using. Still - off to a great start.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Okay fine...

this cleansing business is getting a bit old.

Last night I made soup from homemade chicken stock, celery, carrot, mushrooms, chicken, and wild rice. It was pretty good! And a friend came by later in the evening and we drank wine, which was quite nice. So it's not like I'm suffering massive deprivation here.. I'm just a bit tired of feeling constrained.

Well, it's all for science! so I will just have to carry on. Fortunately I'm just past the halfway point.. next Saturday can't come soon enough! This is supposed to be a 21-day cleanse and Saturday is actually day 20, so we're quitting a couple days early - because I'm having a dinner party and we're tasting riojas and I'm feeling rebellious. I will endeavor to only add in one of the things I'm cleansing, and given that the food is Spanish-themed, I'm pretty sure it'll be nightshade vegetables so we can serve tomatoes! Though I might be at the stage of killing for a decent gluten splurge.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Do you feel lucky?

I played Bingo for the first time in probably 30+ years last night - at the local Eagle's Lodge. It was every bit as awesome as those retro boards would make you think. Sadly, I did not win, but three people at our table did, including my sister! (okay, most of what she won is going to Goodwill, but hey, winning matter!)

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

One mortgage payment down ...

... three hundred fifty-nine payments left to go!

I was pleased that exactly the right amount was debited from my account on exactly the right day. I'm not a fan of debited payments - I'd rather automate checks via my bank's website - but this one went okay. I'll keep a close eye on it, and this is why I use a separate account for bill-paying: if they make a mistake it SHOULD have limited effect on my other accounts.

The mortgage payment (including property taxes and home owner's insurance) comes to $253/month more than my rent was - that's including my repayment to my parents for their contribution to the down payment on my house. All in all I'd say it's a deal!

However, the wild card has always been all the other stuff I have to pay: in my apartment, my monthly expenses were:
  • $73 for renter's and auto insurance
  • $50 for landline/internet
  • under $10 for electricity (even in winter!)
  • $33 for my awesome no-longer-available cell phone plan
Now that I'm in a house, I've got a lot more to pay for:
  • ~$45 for car insurance
  •  $117 for landline/internet/cable (I get reimbursed by work for the phone/internet portion but I still have to front the payment) (also: this is the first time in my life I've paid for tv)
  • approximately $30 for electricity
  • $55 for my upgraded but still-a-good-deal cell phone plane
  • $24 trash
  • approximately $80 for gas (this is heat and hot water; Jan was very cold so I'm hopeful this will come down for much of the year)
  • the final wildcard: water. I haven't been billed for this yet as it's done quarterly. I'm guesstimating $50/month and hope that's high. 
So the numbers start to diverge quite a bit. Before, my costs on top of rent were $166/month; now my costs on top of my mortgage are $401 ($324 after my employer reimburses me) - or $235/month more than in my former life. So moving from a one-bedroom apartment in the Bay Area to a three-bedroom house in Portland costs me $488 more per month - in a month when nothing goes wrong!

I think it's important to note here that my apartment was considered a very good deal - a little over $1000/month for a lovely one-bedroom; and also that I bought a house in semi-far-flung Portland to keep my costs down. By being lucky and careful, both my rent and my mortgage wound up being quite a bit lower than they could have been.

The idea, of course, is that I've bought an appreciating asset that will help me out down the road. We'll see about that. I guess it's worth almost $500/month to find out! Hopefully Old Me will be very happy with this set of choices.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Cleanse: catch-up

yep, I'm still cleansing. My sister made some yummy almond sauce for some of the leftover spaghetti squash; it was equally delicious on broccoli. She also roasted a chicken and some veggies yesterday, and made more granola, so we're continuing to eat well (and I'm very grateful for the spare hands in the kitchen!).

I feel fine - not particularly any different than usual, but I continue to believe my eating was pretty healthy in general. I didn't have any terrible detox symptoms aside from a slight headache for a couple of days, and my energy level is about the same as usual.

I wound up eating out a couple times this weekend and did the best I could. At one place I ordered the blackened catfish on a salad - the spices made my face look sunburned, which was really not awesome and may leave me avoiding spicy foods from here on out. I like the taste but hate that I can be spotted glowing from a mile away after! The other meal out was at a gluten free bakery; I ordered the arugula-tomato-pesto panini but swapped mushrooms for the tomatoes, and ordered the dairy-free version. Presumably that means there's no cheese in the pesto... so, it's been fine. I feel like I'm getting plenty to eat and have only dropped a couple of pounds at last measure.

I don't know if my knuckles are getting any better - I thought they may be, but had some pain last night/this morning, so I'm not sure. I'd say there may be some slight improvement. We'll see what the next 2 weeks bring.

I'm hosting two different book groups in the next two weeks, to it'll be interesting to see how I do finding cleanse-friendly foods!