Hello Fairy Followers.
Happy Gluten Free Awareness Month!! May is also National Salad Month, National Bike Month, National Hamburger Month, and National Barbecue Month. We are in some good company!!
Products in the news: Kimberly Clark just released a new toilet paper and facial tissue that contains 20% wheat straw? It is marketed under the Green Harvest name. In the name of conserving natural resources by easing the demand for tree fibers… I’m sure the demand is already easing as we are living in a digital age and everything seems to be going paperless. And Staples carries a copier paper that is 80% wheat straw. And possibly some corrugated cardboard will contain wheat straw in the near future. The powerful food/farm lobbies are crossing over – like someone else we know.
Also, there is a product at Walgreens called Gluten Cutter. “Eat the gluten without the bloat.” For some of us, the bloat is the least of our worries!! But also the bloat is telling our bodies that there is something wrong, so be vigilant and be skeptical.
Did you know there is a GF dating site for GF people looking for GF romance? Glutenfreesingles.com.
Last month I was at a bar with friends listening to some music, and we ordered Sangria, which I have ordered many times before, but at a different restaurant/bar. I found out afterwards…as I was getting sick and trying to retrace my eating for the previous 2 days, that this particular Sangria was made with Moonshine. Moonshine is off limits to celiacs, even tho it is made with corn mash, because it is frequently distilled with other grains. It is in the whiskey family, which I already know is forbidden. For 2 days I thought my appendix was going to have to come out. This situation totally blind-sided me because I was sure Sangria was safe. Always be on the lookout for hidden ingredients, in your food, drink, AND NOW YOUR TOILET PAPER!!
Whole Foods had small boxes of homemade Peeps for sale at Easter. I had the box of 6 in my hand, read the ingredients (sugar, vanilla, etc.) and was so excited to try them because the regular Peeps have no flavor these days and are made from petrochemicals, or close to it. But then I saw the price – $6.99 for 6 Peeps. They went back onto the beautiful display table, but I think about them a lot, so next Easter I might splurge, just so I can blog about them! If any Fairy Followers tried them, I would love to hear what you thought. If they weren’t that great, I can stop fantasizing about them for 10 more months.
Remember years ago when fruit pizza was the rage? I never tasted one on account of being GF. Well, on Easter morning my sister brought this gorgeous thing to my house. It was scrumptious, and gorgeous!
GF sugar cookie mix made per directions. Flatten in a cookie sheet with sides and bake per package directions.
Mix together 8 oz cream cheese, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 c powdered sugar, and juice from 1/2 a lemon. Spread over cooled cookie crust, then top with colorful fruit.
If there is leftover “frosting”, it makes a great dip for leftover fruit.
Dandelions are the 1st spring food for bees, so don’t kill anything that helps the bees. We need them to pollinate for our food supply.
This post is dedicated to Fairy follower Cindy, my 2nd biggest fan (behind my husband, her brother), who passed away last month. Cindy always commented on posts, told me about her latest GF finds, and loved to take pictures of Trader Joes food with her phone. I will miss her support in many parts of my life.
Until next time, stay healthy. The Gluten Free Fairy
Hello Fairy Followers.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!! The media has given a lot of attention to the subject of happiness since the new year began, which leads me to believe a lot of people set their New Year’s resolutions to inch closer to becoming happier. According to the book THRIVE by Dan Buettner (author of THE BLUE ZONE), there are 6 domains that can be shaped to boost our chances of happiness: Community (is it an environment that helps you to feel good about your life?), Workplace (is it an environment that facilitates meaningful work?), Social Life (do your friends influence you to reach your potential?), Financial Life (is it easier for you to save or spend?), Home (is it set up to nudge you into behaviors that favor happiness?), and Self (do you have capacity for gratitude, openness to give and receive love?). A component of the Self domain is Health Strategies. As they say…you have nothing if you don’t have your health. If you don’t feel good, how can you be happy and project a positive attitude? My wish to everyone reading this blog is to make healthy food and lifestyle choices in the new year.
My New Year’s wish for 2014 was to color my hair using safer products. I did not make this change. What I did change was my hand soap. Soft-soap brand contains 5 chemicals that you should not be using, so our household switched to a safer brand of soap. A small change… but one that will remove 1 more toxin from our house.
On New Years Eve we had a fabulous dinner at El Chorro in Paradise Valley, AZ. When I made the reservation thru Open Table, they asked if any diners had special dietary needs, so I added “1 person gluten free”. As soon as we sat down, I was presented with a fairly large GF menu, so I didn’t need to ask any questions!! That is soooo nice!! When my lemon sorbet dessert appeared on the serving tray with a cookie next to it, the waiter promptly whisked it away and a fresh bowl was served. They did not just remove the cookie – they served a fresh order. That gesture tells you a lot about GF dining at that restaurant. I highly recommend El Chorro if you are ever in the Scottsdale, AZ area. This is not a Mexican restaurant. It is a very nice restaurant that used to be a girl’s school – thick adobe walls and a beautiful, walled “pueblo” style outside dining area.
Who is this man? He is Tom, my sometimes contributing editor. Doesn’t he look more like a Chief Financial Officer? Happy New Year, Tom. Thanks for your continued support of this blog.
I have a great bon-bon recipe from my sister, who voluntarily eats gluten free and sends me “have you tried this product” texts all the time. She has made several batches of these cookies, and has perfected the ratio of ingredients – as you will see in the following recipe:
8 oz cream cheese, softened.
1 bag Kickernick brand GF oreo-type cookies. She has tried several different brands of cookies and says Kickernick is the best.
Chocolate and white almond bark.
Now you will think this is crazy, but first thing you do is open the package of cookies and eat 1. Just 1. This will give you the perfect consistency of dough. Crush cookies in food processor. Beat cream cheese with hand mixer until fluffy. Combine the 2 ingredients. Chill for 2 hours. Roll into balls and place on cookie sheet. Insert toothpicks and then freeze for 1 hour. Melt chocolate bark. Dip balls to coat evenly, letting excess drip off, and place back on cookie sheet. When chocolate is set, remove toothpicks and drizzle with melted white bark. Store in fridge. If decorating with sprinkles, decorate right after dipping in chocolate so they stick. Yields 3-4 doz. bon-bons.
So during the last 3 Christmas, my mom would get sick – stomach ache, UTI, respiratory infection. My sister the nurse finally figured out why. My mom bakes A LOT before Christmas, and she also samples A LOT of her baking – her favorite being fudge. So this year, as she was starting to complain about a belly ache, we took all sweets out of her house, and guess what, her stomach ache went away, and she never developed a UTI or a sniffle!!! So this was the 1st Christmas in 4 years that we didn’t have to drag her to the ER during the holiday season!!!
Here are 2 tidbits from my GF group at the library:
Namaste brand spice cake – add shredded carrots and frost with cream cheese frosting. Fabulous!!
Glutenator Beer – large bottle. This beer is not processed to remove gluten. It is made with all GF ingredients. A gal in the group, whose husband brews his own beer, could not believe this was a GF beer. It is sold at Whole Foods in some larger markets (not our little market yet, but we’re working on it).
Dang coconut chips – comes in several flavors like chocolate and salted caramel. They are FABULOUS for a sweet snack. About $2.50 for a small bag.
Hippocrates said 2000 years ago: Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food. He also said all disease begins in the gut. He also said walking is man’s best medicine. What took us so long?
Until next time, stay healthy.
THE GLUTEN FREE FAIRY
Hello Fairy Followers.
After returning from the November meeting of the gluten-free support group at the library, I felt so refreshed and invigorated. Kind of a dysfunctional statement… but celiac disease has forced me to eat healthier, has led me down this blogging path, and I have met and talked to so many wonderful people along this journey who otherwise would not be in my life.
November’s meeting topic was arsenic in rice. I blogged about this subject back in January, but I learned a few things. Lundberg California Basmati Rice has one of the lowest arsenic levels of rice grown in the US. Arrowhead Mills White Rice Flour is also a good choice for baking. The best way to cook rice for the lowest possible arsenic content is to rinse the rice first, then boil it in lots of water and then drain the water off after it is cooked. Sounds odd to boil rice like pasta, but inorganic arsenic is a carcinogen that builds up in your body. White rice contains a lot less arsenic than brown rice because much of the arsenic is in the outer shell of the brown rice, whereas that shell is removed during processing of white rice.
New product find: Kale popcorn. I have always said that kale chips (roasted kale with oil and salt) taste like a cross between broccoli and popcorn. Well, someone was listened because they made a popcorn that tastes like broccoli. IT’S GOOD!! It’s green and looks really healthy. But $3.99/bag – kind of expensive for a food that is mostly air.
The Washington Post recently printed an article on their opinion page titled How a National Food Policy Could Save Millions of American Lives. Some excerpts: The food industry is the largest sector of our economy yet we have no food policy, no agreed-upon principles, for managing American agriculture or the food system as a whole. Policy should guarantee that all Americans have access to healthful food, the food supply is free of toxic bacteria, chemicals and drugs, animals are treated with compassion, etc. Today’s children are expected to live shorter lives than parents, mainly because 1/3 of them will develop type 2 diabetes. Michelle Obama warns Americans to avoid high fructose corn syrup as the President is signing farm bills to subsidize its production. Federal recommendations for the American diet is called “My Plate”. It recommends 50% veggies and fruit, yet less than 1% of farm subsidies go toward research, production and marketing of those foods!! More than 60% of that funding goes towards production of corn and other grains – food that is mostly fed to animals, converted to fuel for cars, or processed into junk food. These are the by-products of an agricultural policy, not a food policy. In 2012, $245B was spent to fight type2 diabetes. The government subsidizes soda with one hand while the other writes checks to pay for insulin pumps. This is not policy; this is insanity. We need to align agricultural policies with public health objectives. Mexico has implemented a tax on junk food and soda, which has reduced consumption by 10% in the 1st year. Think of a food system that encourages health rather than undermines it.
Pretty interesting and powerful stuff written jointly by a food author, a journalist, a scientist and a professor.
Did you know there is a new pill called Glutenza that breaks down gluten proteins? It is a pre-biotic/pro-biotic enzyme capsule that can be used before you dine out (where cross-contamination often occurs), or when you have mistakenly eaten something with gluten. It is not a cure all/open invitation to eat gluten, but will lessen the discomfort/damage of accidentally eating gluten.
Also, 342 celiac patients have been part of a clinical trial for an intestinal permeability drug called Larazotide Acetate. Its intended use is the same as Glutenza – for accidental ingestion of gluten. It is said to be the 1st pharmaceutical support for the gluten-free diet. A larger clinical trial comes next.
And from Facebook (cousin Cori??): There is a test strip in the works to test foods for gluten. It’s called the Canary, developed by 6Sensor Labs in San Francisco. It will integrate with your mobile device for info sharing, and over time will create the most robust and accurate list of gluten-free foods and restaurants in the world. You can put yourself on the waiting list on their website. Available sometime in 2015 for under $150. The company was founded by 2 MIT graduates who have history at Google, YouTube and Johnson and Johnson. This could be very cool! Restaurants will want to use the Canary to test foods before delivering to the table.
Here is a very easy but fabulous potato dish that is suitable for holiday guests:
Parmesan Potato Bake
2 1/2 c Half and Half
1/2 c butter
1 tsp salt
1 c grated parmesan cheese, divided
24-30 oz. frozen shredded potatoes
Heat cream and butter over low heat until butter is melted. Add salt. Place frozen potatoes in 1 or 2 baking dishes in a shallow layer. Mix 1/2 c parmesan cheese into frozen potatoes. Pour cream mixture over potatoes. Top with the other 1/2 c parmesan cheese. Bake at 350 for 1 hour. If not golden brown, put under broiler for a few minutes to brown cheese. The secret to this recipe is to put potatoes in a shallow layer (1″ thick??) because you want a lot of square footage of browned cheese with every serving, and the thin layer prevents the potatoes from being mushy.
Somewhere, someone else is happy with less than you have.
Helloooo Fairy Followers.
I hope this post gets a lot of looky-loos. Who wouldn’t click to find out what a camouflage gluten free food is!! See photo below and tell me if you see the Mary’s cracker on my kitchen counter. And several months ago I posted another picture of a camouflage black rice tortilla – see below for that photo too. Both products, I must admit, did not taste that great, so my scientific conclusion is: if a gluten free food looks like my countertop, don’t buy it. That is not totally true. Mary makes a caraway cracker and an herb cracker that are delicious. I just didn’t think much of the hot and spicy crackers. They had heat but not much taste.
A little health news to start off our week strong:
In 1905 the average person consumed 5 lbs. of sugar/yr. Now we consume 150-200 lbs./yr. in the form of candies and processed foods (that turn into sugar when digested). 4 carbs = 1 tsp. of sugar. A can of pop (can you tell I’m from the midwest?) has 12 tsp. of sugar.
Cutting down on salt by 1200 mg/day (1 1/2 slices of pizza) could save the healthcare system $250-/$450M per year. National dietary guidelines are 2300 mg./day, but if you’re over 40, African American, or have high blood pressure, the guidelines say 1500 mg./day. 60% of us fall into one of those categories. A chicken breast (original recipe) and a side of mashed potatoes at Kentucky Fried Chicken has 1660 mgs., which is over the daily allowance for most of us. A McDonalds Big Mac has 960. Enuff said.
I have to vent about my breakfast staple, Food for Life brown rice tortillas. I have loved them for 3-4 years, but they have changed recently and they are as boring as a pc. of white bread. They used to be chewy and elastic (sort of like a fresh bagel with lots of gluten), and they had air bubbles that had a little char on them. Heated in the microwave with peanut butter was my breakfast for years. Now they are uniform and flat with no air bubbles and no char marks, and kind of dry. They almost seem undercooked, or the dough has been stirred too long. I’m going to contact the company to give them this little pc. of negativity. You know the 2/10 rule don’t you? If something is good, you tell 2 people. If something is bad, you tell 10, and those 10 tell 10 more, etc. So this little pc. of negativity could go viral in no time. I will contact them soon!! Fast forward a week. I just picked up a fresh package of the above brown rice tortillas, and they were like the old ones!!!! I swear for the past 6 months they were different. Maybe they had some new employees, used a different source for the brown rice…who knows. I do recall about 6 months ago there was a time where I could not find these tortillas, so I’m wondering if they had supply chain issues. I don’t care – THEY’RE BACK.
Fairy follower Kathi sent me a link to a CNN newscast, and guess what, mainstream America finally believes that the elimination of gluten and processed carbs in your diet can slow down or reverse Alzheimers!! Drs. Davis (Wheat Belly) and Perlmutter (Grain Brain) are probably saying I TOLD YOU SO I TOLD YOU SO.
And from Bailey the GF acupuncturist: Chinese medicine believes you treat symptoms or imbalances 1st with eating the right foods. If that fails, only then should you turn to acupuncture and herbs for cure.
So this evening my contributing editor (or so he calls himself) Tom said he was going to hire a replacement Fairy because of my blogging irregularity. Well, I work better under a deadline – or threat – or whatever you want to call it. I hear you Tom. My work life has been very stressful, so much so that I joined a gym last night to help me blow off some steam. My whipped cream vodka (processed to remove gluten) was not enough!! I’ll let you know when my muffin top disappears. Fast forward a week. Now Tom says he has hired my replacement. She has red hair and a good body. What a bunch of hoooweeee.
Last week while walking my friend’s dog, I met a handsome 49 yr. old man who just moved into our neighborhood 3 months ago. I had heard earlier from another neighbor that he had some serious health issues, and patiently waited for him to open up and tell me that he had a degenerative connective tissue disease. He has had 21 surgeries to rebuild many of his joints, and is on 8 medications. He has hit the proverbial wall with his doctors – they want to put him on a morphine pump for pain management, and he adamantly refuses. So I asked him if he knew about gluten, and it turns out that his younger brother who has the same disease but not as progressed, has been gluten free for over a year and it has made a difference in the way he feels. (The new neighbor, however, is not eating GF like his brother). I told him about our 100-member-strong GF group at the library that meets every month for support and friendship, many of whom live with/have overcome severe ailments and how gluten free living has changed our lives. Then he said something about leaky gut, and bam!! I told him we had an acupuncturist in our group who just attended a medical conference about gluten and leaky gut and gave us a great recap last week, that 70-90% of his immune system is in his gut, that I had purchased The Gluten Summit webinars that talked about leaky gut in almost every lecture by experts from around the world, and everything else I could think of that would not sound too pushy, while my friend’s dog patiently waited for me to continue walking. I have not stopped thinking about this man. He had the look of giving up. So sad that a person so young could be saddled with such a devastating disease. I am again thankful that I have celiac disease that I control with food.
I have discovered 2 new foods this week: Pub cheese from Trader Joe’s, and uncooked corn tortillas.
Dip a gluten free pretzel in this pub cheese, and you have the BEST happy hour munchie with a glass of wine. And my other favorite from a few posts ago – Synder’s of Hanover hot buffalo wing GF pretzels dipped in sour cream. Both are just yummy.
And the tortillas – grilled for about 1 minute per side. They puff up and have grill marks on them. Then sprinkle shredded cheese on them, microwave for about 5-10 seconds, then add your favorite taco toppings. They are chewy and pliable and don’t fall apart, and they have the most intense corn flavor. When I was in Acapulco, Mexico about 10 years ago, our driver/guide took us to a tortilla factory on a little side street, and we each took a dozen tortillas back to our hotel wrapped in paper (the tortillas were wrapped in paper, not the hotel). I ate 4 of them on the ride home. The uncooked ones we just grilled tasted like those fresh ones in Mexico.
From my cousin Elizabeth, who is a yogi, a beautiful quote from John Muir: Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.
My Fairy Followers, I think about you guys all the time, and I feel very bad that I have been so neglectful. My work life is becoming more normal and manageable, and I promise to be more attentive in the coming weeks. Bailey the GF acupuncturist, will write up notes about her medical conference mentioned above that I want to share with you all, I have several more Gluten Summit lectures to listen to, and I have 281 emails about gluten and other health topics in my in box, so we have lots to talk about!!
“I believe in everything until it’s disproved, so I believe in fairies.” John Lennon
Oh my Fairy Followers. I am so sorry for the absence of bloggage during the last 2 months. After returning from Italy, I jumped into new responsibilities and really long hours in front of my work computer, so after hours, I just could not make myself put in more hours in front of my home computer. I can thank 3 Fairy followers for kicking me in the keester, Shona, Kathi and Judy, asking where the Fairy has been – she’s been missed, and a couple people from my GF group at the library asked for my blog address. Thanks ReeSee, for being a new follower.
Last month while getting my hair colored at the local beauty school (yes, I’m still doing that), I discovered my student colorist had been diagnosed with MS 2 yrs. ago at the age of 22, and then went gluten free on her own, and all of her symptoms disappeared. And a neighbor who struggles with Crohn’s disease went off of Flagyl, which had been prescribed to him 16 yrs. ago, and had symptom relief for 3 weeks. He’s also going to the acupuncturist who comes to my GF library group, and the “hot spots” on his skin have disappeared. And next week she will start working on his Crohn’s symptoms. I’m sticking my nose into this neighbor’s business because I want him to know about the relationships between some autoimmune diseases and food/environment, and he asked about the allergy blood test, so that is a great start!! It’s all about baby steps. One small, positive, healthy change could have a much larger, positive, healthy effect later.
Fast forward 1 week. Things have changed with my neighbor. He has decided to go on Remicade infusions. I am so angry…and sad. I do stick my nose in other people’s health business because I am passionate about turning to good food and natural remedies instead of pharmaceuticals to solve our health problems. But when my good intentions and passion do not help someone, it is deflating, and it makes me sad. I so wanted this man to find relief in gluten free eating, or removing FODMAPs from his diet (see below), or research the IBS Treatment Center in Seattle and Dr. Wangen. He tried a GF diet for 2 weeks and it didn’t seem to have any positive effect. I wanted him to stay on it for at least 3 months, but I can only make decision for me, I can only make decisions for me, I can only make decisions for me.
Do you know who Olga Kotelko is? She is a 95 yr. old woman who took up track and field at the age of 77 – so it’s never too late!! Dr. Brooks-Wilson, a geneticist from the Genome Sciences Center in Vancouver says “We think longevity is probably 70-75% lifestyle.” That means just 25% of healthy aging is about the protection you inherit. 6 habits for super aging:
Swap the sudoku for sneakers.
Stay on your feet.
Eat real food.
Be a creature of habit (they are referring to healthy habits, of course).
Cultivate a sense of progress (move the yardstick as you get older, so you can give yourself small wins).
Lighten up (if you keep busy, you don’t have time to get stressed about small things).
This last one segues right into a quote my cousin Cori posted on Facebook:
Every time you feel yourself getting pulled into other people’s nonsense, repeat these words: not my circus, not my monkeys.
Fast forward 1 week. I just searched for a picture of Olga for this post, and found that she died of a brain aneurism a couple weeks ago. I’m so sorry. RIP Olga.
So, do you know about FODMAPS? My husband found an article in The New Yorker about this carbohydrate that is thought to be the culprit for many irritable bowel problems. Because celiac disease can be positively diagnosed with blood and biopsy tests, but non-celiac gluten sensitivity cannot, there is much skepticism about the latter. Dr. Fasano (from Mass General) thinks about 6% of the population is gluten sensitive, but Dr. Peter Gordon from Monash U in Austrailia, thinks that figure is about .5%…because of FODMAPS (fermentable oligo di mono-saccharides and polyols). Dr. Gordon tested 37 people with IBS and non-celiac GS with 3 diets (GF, low gluten, and high gluten). The diets contained the same foods, just different amounts of gluten. All 3 diets contained very little FODMAPS. The results: gluten seemed to have no measurable harmful effects. He believes that FODMAPS provoke far more intestinal distress than gluten. FODMAPS are found in wheat, apples, artichokes, onions, milk, mushrooms and mangoes. Many people truly believe that a GF diet makes them feel better. Dr. G. thinks that is true, but it may be the wrong molecule in wheat that is making them sick. Dr. Fasano stands behind his belief in the prevalence of non-celiac GS because we have not evolved enough to digest gluten. He thinks the Gordon study was flawed because the test population had IBS and non-celiac GS, and NCGS patients often have many other symptoms besides gut problems. Dr. G says don’t fixate on gluten at the expense of other potentially unhealthy dietary molecules such as FODMAPS.
Stanford University Hosp and Clinic’s read on FODMAPS: They are short chain carbs that are poorly absorbed by the small intestine, so they ferment with the help of gut bacteria and produce bloating and gas. 75% of IBS sufferers see a reduction in symptoms when they eliminate FODMAPS from their diet.
Pretty interesting stuff. Another possibility for sick people to get well simply by choosing the right foods to eat. Maybe get off some meds, prevent some surgeries, reduce some suffering and embarrassments. Maybe give someone the chance to get out and be social after living in seclusion because they have to be near a bathroom all the time. Keep spreading the word.
Gluten has been in the news recently. The FDA has tightened up on GF labeling…well, sort of. If a food is labeled Gluten Free, it must have less than 20 ppm of gluten. The FDA says: An estimated 5 percent of foods formerly labeled “gluten-free” contained 20 ppm or more of gluten. If a glutened grain has been processed to have less than 20 ppm of gluten, that product can be used and labeled GF. So food manufacturers could use wheat, as long as it has been processed to remove all but 20 ppm of gluten. I’d bet $100 that the long arm of the food lobbyists had some influence in these regulation!! These new FDA regulations apply to packaged foods and supplements only, so continue to be vigilant!
The following text was taken directly from the FDA website?
How Does FDA Define ‘Gluten-Free’?
In addition to limiting the unavoidable presence of gluten to less than 20 ppm, FDA now allows manufacturers to label a food “gluten-free” if the food does not contain any of the following:
• an ingredient that is any type of wheat, rye, barley, or crossbreeds of these grains
• an ingredient derived from these grains and that has not been processed to remove gluten
• an ingredient derived from these grains and that has been processed to remove gluten, if it results in the food containing 20 or more parts per million (ppm) gluten.
Today’s recipe is cool and elegant and low calorie. Hopefully it will take your mind of the news you just heard!!
1 lb. fresh scallops
1 c chopped tomato
3/4 c sliced green onions
1 avocado, cubed
1/4 c chopped cilantro
5 Tbsp fresh lime juice (from about 2 limes)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes, or to taste
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
Boil water and add scallops. Simmer for 1 1/2 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain and refrigerate for 2 hrs. Cut into small 1/2″ pcs.
Combine all other ingredients. Serve in cocktail glasses with a thin slice of lime for a beautiful presentation.
Before I go, I want to tell you the cutest story that appeared in my local newspaper today. This is Manuel – well, a picture of a tarantula that probably looks like Manuel. He comes to live with a lady in Prescott every year for about 2 months on his migratory trip to wherever tarantulas go to migrate (the article didn’t tell us where he was headed). He has appeared at this lady’s house in August of each year for 24 years!!! She says he sits on the back of her couch and watches TV, and snoozes in the corner of her bedroom. Females live for 20-25 years, but males live only about 12. I guess mating wears them out. Manuel could be a girl, or an offspring of the original Manuel. The experts at the Phoenix Zoo say that Manuel’s offspring could follow the exact same migratory pattern as its parent.
Hope you can sleep tonight!!
Thaaaats All Folks. Until next time, stay healthy.
Hello Fairy Followers.
Whew, I’m back from a quick trip to Italy, and it was fabulous. The travel part was grueling, but the rest was wonderful – even the work part was great. I don’t eat much while traveling because I’m afraid, so after 13 hours of travel, 2 GF granola bars and a banana, I was pretty hungry, and ready for my 1st experience with authentic Italian food… but 1st there is a story.
We arrived in Modena – known as “the capital of engines” because it is home to Ferrari, Lamborghini and Maserati factories, at 3:30 p.m. and were told that none of the restaurants opened until 7-7:30, but we could find a bite at a little pub around the corner called La Bicicletta. We took a seat outside as we listened to the Italian chatter around us, and waited for a menu. Nope – the kitchen had just closed and would not reopen until 7:00, but they had 2 small (really small) sandwiches left in their showcase, so we took them. Brian ate 1, and Andrea ate the bread from the other, and I ate the bite of meat inside, and washed it down with a REALLY good glass of wine. Then we walked around for a while, found a gelato store, so we shared a vanilla because that was the only flavor I could recognize, to tide us over until the fabulous restaurant experience we envisioned at 7:30. So we walked to the restaurant that was recommended by the owner of our cute little boutique hotel, asked if they spoke English, and both waiters said NO and waived their hands in front of them, but Andrea was armed with her Google Translate app, so no big deal, right? Keep reading. We pieced together that the Primo meal was any 3 from the 2nd portion of the menu. That sounded good, so we ordered 3 that contained the words “meat” and “cheese”. The 1st plate arrive – pasta with red sauce and crumbled meat on top. Andrea gave me a helpless look. Then came the ravioli stuffed with meat, with crispy prosciutto on top. Another helpless look from Andrea. Then the 3rd plate arrive – rosetta: pasta and a slice of meat rolled up and set on end so it looks like a rose. By then I had had another glass of REALLY good wine, so I was thinking I could go back to the gelato store and that could be my dinner. Then Andrea types into her translator: Do you have a gluten free dish you can serve my traveling companion? He looked confused and disappeared. All this time, there was a large family of 8 sitting behind us and they had platters of meat and cheese and bread on the table, so when the waiter returned, Andrea typed: We would like a platter of meat and cheese like that table over there. Then the Chef came to our table and in broken English pointed to each dish we had ordered, and said “farina, farina, farina”. Yes, we know. Then he said there was nothing in the restaurant that would be gluten free. I’m sure he was referring to cross contamination, with flour and pasta laying around and flying around. I told him I would take my chances with the meat and cheese like on the other table. And then we waited and waited and it didn’t come. Then the waiter said something like “after” and we all said “now”, and pointed our finger to the table liked “right here!!” They must serve the cheese and meat at the end of the meal??? So I had 4-5 paper thin pcs. of prosciutto with blobs of soft cheese on top for my dinner, and went to bed hungry. So much for my 1st authentic Italian eating experience.
But the next morning, all was forgiven, because I ate the freshest fruit and best yogurt I have ever tasted. The yogurt tasted like part plain yogurt with just a little tanginess, mixed with fresh cream. It was so light and smooth and pure white, and dipping the fruit pieces into that yogurt was heaven. The plates were mismatched china, and at each table was a cup with miniature fork/knife/spoon wrapped in a brown napkin with a black velvet ribbon tied around it. And the carafes of orange juice were sitting in a square glass vase lined with what looked like ice bubble wrap. Each air bubble puff was filled with ice. The country gets an A for presentation – every meal was beautifully presented everywhere we went. And by the way, my stomach was PERFECT the whole time I was there. I was told that Italy is very organic and has very clean, pure food. Every toilet was “dual flush”, most of the toilet paper was brown, and my shower was about 3 ft. x 3 ft. with no shelf so I had to hold my shampoo bottle between my knees while showering. All part of the wonderful experience!!
BTW, our hotel was called Hotel Cervetta 5, and I highly recommend it. This picture was taken at the bottom of the stairs near the itty bitty front lobby. They lit candles at dusk that were intermingled with cactus and other small plants. Adorable.
The 1st afternoon, we were treated to an open air buffet of THE most fabulous looking and tasting food. This was my kind of meal, where I could choose whatever, and how much I wanted. This plate contains mozzarella with tomato, marinated artichokes, hard cheese, olives, layered potatoes, and salad, with thick balsamic vinegar and very green olive oil drizzled over the whole lot. Indescribably good, and sitting open air on the town square amongst century-old buildings made the food taste even better than fabulous!!
That night we searched the internet for a restaurant with some English words on the menu. They must have marked us as Americans because they sat us upstairs in the furthest corner from the rest of the guests. I blame it on Brian for wearing a grey T shirt to dinner. The meal was fabulous and the mozzarella lobster salad was the best dish I ate in Italy.
The next afternoon our host company wanted us to experience authentic Italian food. Where were these people on our 1st night!!! Everyone had pasta and the most perfectly spiraled rolls, and I had risotto with asparagus. I really, really wanted to taste that gluten-filled lunch. Look how perfectly beautiful the food is!!
The next day we headed to Verona, an hour’s drive, and were shown around town by a local business associate. We sat at an open air cafe for a traditional orange drink called Amari (bitters, Proseco and charged water). It was excellent! He took us down romantic back alleys and past little outdoor restaurants at dusk, and then to his favorite bistro for dinner. It was so wonderful being there with someone who could speak the language and recommend wines and food. It was the highlight of the trip for me. People sitting behind us were singing Italian love songs while we ate mozzarella with sun dried tomatoes, risotto that was red with wine, rooster breast over mashed potatoes, and suckling pig with crackly skin and asparagus. It was magical, and as authentic Italian as I will experience in my lifetime.
Before we arrived at the bistro, we stopped to see Juliet’s balcony. THE Juliet’s balcony. I was in awe – being right there, standing where Romeo stood, talking to his young Juliet. And next to the balcony was a large wire fence covered from top to bottom with paddle locks. The locks were placed there by couples professing their love for each other, “locking” them together forever.
The next morning, wanting to squeeze in another Italian memory before we headed to the airport in an hour, we climbed a steep sidewalk and this door was at the top. I could not have wished for a better farewell photo op. Just like a postcard.
A few more tidbits from the trip: Lufthansa Airlines gives you little hot towels to wash your hands with before they serve food. Really nice after touching all those public bathroom handles and airport chairs along the way. Also, I was introduced to Amarone wine. The grapes are picked and then dried for 3 months before they are turned into wine. And there is a wine called Recioto, which is sweet and we tasted it after dinner. It is made from the “ears” of the grape: they pick off the leaves above the grape cluster, and the “ears” are the grapes at the top of the cluster that receive the most direct sun, which makes them sweeter.
I will sign off with 2 profound quotes – 1 from each of the gentlemen I dined with that last night. Hmmm, they sounded much more profound that night. Must have been the Amarone wine.
I’d rather regret something I did instead of regret something I didn’t do. Thank you Brian.
Every man dies but not every man lives. Thank you Frank.
Until next time, stay healthy.