Straw Cozy

Seattle banned plastic, non-compostable straws on July 1, 2018. My inner Martha Stewart convinced me to knit a straw cozy to use to carry my new steel straw around with me, to use when I get a cold drink at a coffee shop.

This project took over an hour with fingering weight yarn…12 stitches on double pointed needles, knit to length, do a row of yarn overs every other stitch, then knit for another five rows and cast off. Make a two stitch I-Cord for the draw string.

A person who sews could make these a lot faster with scrap yarn.

You’re welcome.

Advertisements

Smol Flowerz

In winter 2017, I had a bunch of 4″ square canvases to work on, and decided to paint imaginary flowers that do not exist in nature. The light source is deliberately…just wrong. Each petal has its own light source. I was envisioning these more as mandala-esque coloring book pieces than any sort of realistic thing. I gave them pretentious names using a Random Name Generator, names like “Ear of Torches” and “Cleavertrumpet.” Then I promptly sold half of them last October at a Craft Show. Here they are for your amusement:

 

My whole 30 diet adventure

On March 1, 2018 I started an elimination diet plan called Whole 30. I lost about 9 pounds in two months, which is not bad considering I consumed two jars of mayonnaise during that time. Since I was most eating meat, veggies, fruit and fats during that time, I cooked every meal from scratch and had to come up with some creative ideas.

One of my favorite tactics, was to mix 4 to 6 ingredients together with mayonnaise as a cold salad, and eat it on the go if necessary. So for example, I might take cook sausage or chicken, combine it with chopped apples and or fruit sweetened cranberries, along with some endive, perhaps some fennel, and some walnuts, mayo over the whole thing stir it up and eat it. Deelicious. I also got a spiralizer and got serious about spiralizing vegetables. I never been a big fan of zucchini, but spiralized zucchini does work well as a substitute pasta, or noodle type ingredient, mixed with meatballs, or tossed into a soup and cooked for a few minutes. Other vegetables I spiralized included yellow squash, purple cabbage, sweet potato, potatoes, cucumber, and something else I can’t remember what the heck it was.

I relied on various Whole 30 cookbooks of which there are several, along with recipes printed from the Internet, and the latest Nom Nom Paleo book.

Let’s take a look at some stuff I ate:

 

Spiralized potatoes, bacon and parsley

 

Frittata with mushrooms, carrots and more.

 

Chicken broccoli stirfry with cauliflower rice.

 

Spiralized potatoes and this thing that looks like a mushroom is actually the core and end of the potato after the rest has been spiralized.

So what was it like going a full month without any grains, dairy, sweeteners, carrageenan, MSG, sulfites, and alcohol? Well about 4-5 days in I went through withdrawal symptoms, probably mostly from nixing sugar from my diet, as well as rice and other high carb foods I had been consuming. The withdrawal symptoms felt like… I don’t know the flu maybe …kind of headachy and just overall blah and yuck. But when that faded I felt pretty darn good. The most impressive thing is how balanced and stable I felt. I wasn’t constantly riding the blood sugar roller coaster, doing stupid things like grabbing some chocolate, eating it, and then thinking “I don’t feel so good” and reaching for something else stupid like Doritos, and then wondering why I still didn’t feel good, just stuffing my face trying to feel better. Obviously the strategy was not working for me and I knew it so I wanted to turn over a new leaf and try this new diet, which is billed as a way to reset your habits. So on the 30 days of Whole 30, you’re not supposed to have chips, or anything that is a treat, like cookies, pancakes or muffins or anything like that, even if all the ingredients comply with the dietary restrictions. This is to help you overcome habitual eating patterns.

Oddly, the thing I missed most was simply some sort of bland white food that I could use as a base for a sauce laden meal, or a soup. I could not use rice, noodles, toast, crackers or anything. But I could use that “zoodles” (spiralized veg). So I made my share of “cauliflower rice” and “zoodles”.

Going in, I already knew that alcohol, sugar, wheat, made me feel sick in one way or or another. So when it came time to do the food introduction phase, I didn’t even bother with these. The first thing I did try was soy, specifically miso, figuring it would be just fine, and 15 minutes later my stomach was like “what the hell did you just do? “. Then I had some tofu. And I spent the next hour or so feeling like digestive disaster was going to occur. Actually beyond that first hour I didn’t really experience any problems. But I do feel a little wary of soy now and will do some more experiments in the future. I did not appear to have much trouble with the other ingredients I tested, except some excessive burping after eating cows milk yogurt, but I knew that was likely to be an issue anyway, as I have had that reaction with dairy products for several years now since my gallbladder trouble.

Now that I’m eating my regular diet again (minus sugar which I am not eager to get back to), the digestion has been working overtime, which is a little rough, but at least I can have a break from all this cooking. And now I know if I need a “reset” I have a plan that has a community behind it.

Random salad of endive, apple, spiralized yellow squash, walnuts and dried cranberries, with lemon juice and olive oil.

 

Cauliflower, bacon, tomato sauce and I forget what else.

 

Tomato stuffed with ground cashews and parsley.

 

Purple salsa: red cabbage, tomatoes, lime juice, red onion, salt and pepper. I couldn’t have any chips with it though so I ate it with ground beef.

Japan was amazing: 4: Capsule Vending Machines

I could say some stuff about the machines which dispense drinks, but this post is specific to the bonanza of capsule vending machines I found at the Narita airport, dispensing little round plastic balls filled with goodies.

They had dozens of these.

 

This is just one row!

 

You could find all sorts of amazing things. Check it out:

 

Bonsai tree

Ham is apparently short for hamster, for those who don’t know what ham actually means in English I guess.

“The Dog face pouch” WTF?

Appears to be plastic hedgehogs crawling into different receptacles.

Champagne Tower, because why the heck not? Might go well in a dollhouse.

Ham ice cream delicacies, because…

Cat torture devices

Japan was amazing 3: Food Surprises

Breakfast bar at Hotel Nikko Narita…I could not find any non-dairy milks, which was a surprise since I’ve heard most people in Japan are lactose intolerant.

 

The breakfast bar at Hotel Hikko Narita offered supplements.

 

Top to bottom: fruit, mystery substance, soup of some kind.

 

Oshinko pickles, soy sauce, and a shrimp floating in broth with mystery substances, one shaped like a flower cut out.

 

Raw fishes of various kinds.

 

Bottom to top: Shrimp, okra and mystery substance skewer over seaweed, mystery substance, gelatinous mystery substance over monkfish liver.

Japan was amazing: 2…Naritasan

I only had one day in Narita, and previous research led me to believe that my time would be best spent at the Naritasan temple complex, which is about a 15 minute walk from the Narita train station. The road between the train station and the temple complex is called Omotesando, and it is a quaint winding road perfect for tourists.

Omotesando

 

Hardware store with a big ol’ vending machine

 

Monkey show along Omote sando…ironic because in Indonesia the week before I saw people protesting monkey shows as animal cruelty.

There were many shops, selling things like jewelry, kimonos, snacks, jewelry, knickknacks baskets, and incense. There were reportedly dozens of Unagi (broiled eel) restaurants, as Unagi is a specialty of the region.

Many of the restaurants advertise their foods with the display of rubbery looking examples.

Fake food in the window display

I decided to eat at one of the Unagi restaurants. I went inside, looked at the menu, pointed at a picture of what I wanted, and received my food. Even though I encountered very few people who spoke more than a few words of English on my trip to Japan, we were able to communicate somehow.

The unagi, which I had not had in years since quitting gluten, was very good but my stomach felt itchy for hours afterwards, so something there didn’t agree with me. I was literally eating some foods I did not recognize at all.

 

My meal

Powder for the unagi

Another seasoning powder

Eventually, after making my way through all these distractions, I found the temple complex. Here is its entrance:

Entrance to Naritasan

 

Inside the temple area I was amazed. Memorably, it was a cold day, but the toilet seats were warm. I had never encountered preheated toilet seats before, and they were very welcome.

There are about a dozen temples, and many of them are still actively being used, apparently by Zen priests or monks practicing Shingon Buddhism.

 

I managed to get a few photographs of inside places before I realized I wasn’t supposed to be taking photographs inside.

 

Inside the main temple before someone scolded me for taking a picture

 

I think this was the main temple exterior

 

In the main temple, I sat down to try to meditate, figuring that seem like a good thing to do inside a Buddhist temple. After a while I noticed more and more people were coming in and one of the priests was lighting some candles. I wondered if something was about to happen, and sure enough I was in for a real treat.

A dozen or so priests filed in and sat in a row with their backs to us. There were now at least 100 or more people in the temple. I practically had a front row seat, if you can call sitting on the floor a seat. The priest spoke for a while and did some ritual movements that I didn’t understand. Then a very old man in fancy garb came in and he sat in some sort of seat of honor, also with his back to us. Then I saw fire appear in front of the old man, and I realized I was watching the Goma fire ritual. Priests started waving wooden planks with writing over the fire and then suddenly one of the priests was waving a bunch of handbags over the fire. Then I realized people were lining up and handing over their bags to be waved in front of the fire. I figured it was some sort of blessing. At one point during the ritual someone banged a drum that was probably at least 6 feet in diameter. It was simply thunderous. All in all a very special experience. I felt like quite the ignorant newbie.

There were opportunities throughout the temple complex to light and offer incense, purchase amulets and listen to rituals. Some people were having words written in Japanese on wooden planks, but there wasn’t any explanation in English how that worked. Almost all the signage was in Japanese. I expected there to be lots of tourists there but I was pretty much the only non-Asian, so I don’t know.

I’ve been practicing Tibetan Buddhism for years and found it fascinating to see the differences between Tibetan esoteric Buddhism and Japanese esoteric Buddhism. I saw statues of Buddhas I recognized, and there were vajras in some of the temples. But some of the things they were doing ritually seemed very unfamiliar to me, like rubbing the prayer beads against something to make sound. I felt bad in a way that I couldn’t understand more of what I was seeing. But it definitely lit the curiosity stick for me to learn more someday.