Monday, January 30, 2012

Eating Gluten-Free at Knott's Berry Farm

Amusement Parks May Not Be Amusing

And that's putting it lightly.

I don't know which is worse, trying to find safe, gluten-free food in an airport or amusement park.

Maybe it depends on the airport and the park?

Either way, some homework is in order for either.

Anytime I know I'm going to go somewhere where I will have to find food, I try to research the place ahead of time. Amusement parks are no different.

Scour the web site. Ask others who have gone before you. Search the web.

This is just what I did before we went to Knott's between Christmas and New Years. The extra effort paid off.

Gluten-Free in Knott's Berry Farm

Friday, January 27, 2012

State of Wonder

Book Review

State of Wonder by Ann Patchett

I think I stumbled upon this book in a listing of new books. I had never read Ann Patchett before, but she has written several books, some which I would like to read.

So why shouldn't I start with the most recent?

No reason.

Except that all of the library copies were checked out. I had to request this book. And I did request it.

And it finally arrived.

I needed to start reading it right away. I could bet that there were already more requests for it. Once there are requests for a book, I can't renew it at the end of my three weeks.

Add to that, this book is 526 pages in the large print form. I needed to get started right away and finish in under three weeks.

No sweat.

Well, we'll see about that.

See, I read my large prints on the treadmill every morning.

State of Wonder

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Gluten-Free Tomato Bisque

Winter has Arrived

We've been the beneficiaries of this wacky winter it seems everyone is having.

We've had one previous, small snowfall, but that was at Halloween last year! No snow since then, except one morning with just a skiff.

Usually, we would have had one or two bigger storms by now. This is highly unusual.

Don't think for a minute that I am longing for the usual. No. Not me. I'm loving this less-than-usual-snowfalls-and-warmer-than-usual-temperatures winter we have been having.

Ah, but I guess it couldn't last forever. Not here. Not with this climate.

Sometimes the winter weather advisories bring us some beautiful weather.

Beautiful, as in, beauty. Pulchritudinous. As in, in the eye of the beholder. As in, picturesque, if I had had better lighting.

We had gotten about an inch of snow the night before, but instead of stopping during the early morning, it turned to freezing rain. Rain that freezes on contact.

Let's review: Rain is water that falls from the sky. When that water falls from the sky, it lands on something, possibly the ground or bushes. If that ground or bushes is covered in snow, that falling water is going to freeze on contact. That gives us ice. Ice on the ground. Ice on the snow. Ice on the bushes.

I took these pictures just as we were leaving the library. These bushes were bare of leaves, but full of ice.

Ice makes for some spectacular beauty.

I wish my pictures had captured what I was seeing. It was beautiful. It was spectacular.

Unfortunately, the weather was gray and overcast. See it in that top picture up there? That is the sky. Gray. Dark. Heavy.

If the sun had been shining, the ice bushes would have sparkled like no tomorrow. But it sun wasn't shining. Not at all. Not at any time during the day.

I had to take the beauty of the ice as it came. I still found it stunning.

And chilling.

Brrrr. I needed something hot. I needed some hot soup. Hot, gluten-free tomato bisque to the rescue!

Gluten-Free Tomato Bisque

Monday, January 23, 2012

The Eyre Affair

Book Review

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde

I have never read Fforde before now. I didn't even know the author existed. But a friend recommended him to me.

This is the first book in a series of currently six books, with the promise of a seventh, all with the same protagonist, Thursday Next.

This also happens to be the author's first novel.

Since the writing of The Eyre Affair, he has written many more novels, several of which are parts of trilogies.

The Eyre Affair

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cookie Mix - Chocolate Chip

Mixes Make Baking Easy

I've never really been a fan of boxed mixes. Cake mixes. Corn bread mixes. Cookie mixes.

I've always liked to make my baked goods from scratch. I am not saying I like the hassle of having to lug down seven different flours along with all the other ingredients, measure them each out, close them up, and then put them all away.

Don't even get me started about how much of those flours inadvertently ends up on my counters.

But I like knowing what goes into my baked goods, especially now that I have to be gluten-free. There is also something innately satisfying knowing that a delicious and beautiful creation was all your own doing.

Most of all, I like the results of baking from scratch. The flavor. It is always better from scratch.

But I do admit that mixes have their place. I know plenty of people who will never be inclined to have a dozen containers of different (some might say exotic) flours in their pantry. Some people want speed. Some people want efficiency. Some people want simplicity.

All of those things are fine.

But I came across another great reason for mixes while traveling over the holidays.

Gluten-free mixes are perfect for gluten-eating hosts who are trying to accommodate gluten-free guests.

This is just about the nicest gift a host can give to a guest. Thank you, Grandma!

Betty Crocker Gluten Free Cookie Mix - Chocolate Chip

Friday, January 20, 2012

They Do It with Mirrors

Book Review

They Do It with Mirrors by Agatha Christie

I had never read a Miss Marple mystery.

Once upon a time, I was all excited and rarin' to read The Murder on the Orient Express. And then I did read it. And it made me mad.

I got mad at Ms. Christie for using French in the novel without translating it for the reader.

I. Hate. This.

If I start out reading a book in English, I have a simple request: Keep the entire book in English or provide translations for any other languages used. Agatha didn't.

I was so mad that I swore off reading any more of her books. And this had been the first book of hers that I ever read!

The best selling author ever. I swore I would not read the best selling author of all time anymore. That's pretty extreme.

That's how mad I was.

But I had my doubts, since she is the best selling author ever.

Fast forward several years. I was wandering through the large print section at the library, and I saw that there was a new re-release of a Miss Marple mystery. I asked a couple of friends about Miss Marple.

"Are there going to be any other languages that Miss Marple uses and Agatha doesn't translate for me?"

No. Not likely.

"Is there any timeline that I need to know about or an particular story I should start with?"

No. Starting with any one of the Miss Marple mysteries is fine.

And they assured me that the Miss Marple stories were good. My friends were wearing down my anger at Ms. Christie without even trying.

I was starting to cave. I wanted to know what a Miss Marple mystery was like. So, I decided to read one.

They Do It with Mirrors

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Eating Gluten-Free at the BWI Airport

Airports are Atrocious

Traveling through airports usually comes with plenty of challenges these days. Even more so when you need to eat gluten-free.

Have you ever looked around an airport and been faced with a plethora of fast food joints and prepackaged food stands and coffee shops serving only pastries? Have you ever faced all of that and not found a single place you can eat safely?

I can't count the number of times my heart (and stomach) sank in airports when I couldn't find anywhere to get safe food.

Whenever I travel, I try to research the airports that I will be traveling through, and I try to find a safe eatery ahead of time. I pull up restaurant websites. I print out menus. I plan and anticipate.

Silver Diner-Bwi Concourse B Bwi Airport on UrbanspoonAnd sometimes I just get lucky.

The Silver Diner in the BWI Airport

Friday, January 13, 2012

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Book Review

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson

I've already read the first two books in Stieg Larsson's triology. So, it seemed logical that I would finish it off.

I don't like to leave things hanging.

And yet, the second book in the series left me wondering how much I really wanted to read the third book. The second wasn't absolutely terrible, but it wasn't great either.

I think I was pushed along to the third book mostly through character development. I wanted to know what happened next to The Girl. These books are far from perfect, but wanting to know what happens to my favorite characters is just about the perfect hook for a series.

The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Eating Gluten-Free at In-N-Out Burger

Best Fast Food Anywhere

I've never been much of a fan of fast food. Sometimes it tasted good, but usually I just ended up feeling weighed down. Literally and figuratively.

Now that I need to be gluten-free, almost all fast food is taboo. Cross-contamination is extremely likely in most fast food restaurants, even if I could order something without gluten ingredients.

I know how sensitive I am to cross-contamination. During our recent travels, we stayed at a chain hotel that offers a hot breakfast every morning. On one of these mornings, I watched as my omelette was made in the same spot of the griddle that had just had pancakes cooked on it.

Yep, I got sick. That's how sensitive I am. My omelette didn't have any gluten ingredients, but it was made on the same surface as gluten pancakes. That's cross-contamination for you. And it got me.

Knowing that I am this sensitive is a pain. Sometimes literally. It really is an inconvenience when traveling and I'm not able to make my own food. If I could just pick the meat patty out of a burger, life would be much simpler. But that's just not possible for me.

So, I'm always on the hunt for new, safe options. A safe, fast food joint? Isn't that an oxymoron?

In-N-Out Burger on UrbanspoonNot this time. Enter In-N-Out Burger.

In-N-Out Burger

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Book Thief

Book Review

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

I had never heard of this book, until I picked up our borrowed Nook. It came preloaded with thirty or forty books. This was one of them.

Here, I need to give my impression of the Nook for a bit.

First, this appears to be a first edition Nook, which means that the entire screen is not a touch screen, like the Color Nook. Only the small screen area at the bottom is touch sensitive. And this is where all of your controls live. It wasn't obvious at first, but after just a bit, maneuvering the controls isn't too hard.

Second, speed is not the reason you would get a Nook. This is by far, not the most speedy electronic device you've ever worked with. I can only hope that newer versions, including the Color Nook, are quicker at responding.

Third, I haven't found any parental controls. I haven't searched high and low yet, but I've already browsed enough of the preloaded books to know that I need parental controls. Especially, when Mr. Nosey Boy comes and looks over my shoulder without notice or warning.

He showed up as I just happened to be reading the beginning of a book with more graphic information than necessary. I won't be finishing that book. And I certainly don't want to keep reading it at all, when one of the kids could pick up the Nook at any moment, open the book and continue reading from where ever I left off. Not good. Not good.

On the up side, the Nook does have a built in dictionary to look up words on the fly. And you can change the font size, which is critical for me, since I happen to be reading my book while on the treadmill. The downside to increasing the font size is, of course, that you get fewer words per screen. This means that you have to push the button to turn the page much more frequently than you would be turning real pages.

Also on the up side, and contrary to fewer number of words per screen, is the overall small size of the device. Even while in its protective case, it sits just below my treadmill fans and doesn't block the air flow, like so many of my large print books.

Again on the up side is that there are no loose pages to flop back and forth. Quite often, I have to weigh down my book pages with one of my hand weights, in order to keep the pages from flopping, interrupting my reading. Or forcing me to crack the spine of the book.

I enjoyed using the Nook on my treadmill. It certainly has its advantages. I can think of a few additions to make it better, but they may have already taken care of those things in the newer versions of the Nook. I might just have to think a bit more about getting one of these.

Now, as for the book... well, I am less a fan of it than the first version Nook.

The Book Thief

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Beach on New Year's Day and The Kettle

The Beach, Year Round!

Who would have guessed that we would be at the beach on New Year's Day?!

But that is just where we were, and loving every minute of it!

This is Manhattan Beach, CA. I love this place.

This is an excellent place to surf, boogie board, swim, walk, run, bike, skate, wind skate, and play volleyball. But none of that is why we were there.

We were there to breathe the ocean air, play in the sand, hop over waves, dig up sand crabs, and generate some vitamin D. We were treated to an absolutely gorgeous day!

We didn't bring our swimsuits, since we knew the water would only be about 55 or 58 degrees. Brrrr! But would you believe others did? And wore them! And swam in them! In the water! In bikinis!

Crazy people.

I can understand the surfers better, in their wetsuits. Wetsuits in 55 degree water make sense. Bikinis do not. The waves were big and choppy, but that didn't deter the surfers and boarders! Quite the opposite.

I tried to capture the waves crashing into the pier, but this is the best I got.

It was a spectacular day at the beach. We got there on the early side, just after noon, and didn't leave until our parking meter was running down, 2 hours later. By that time, loads more people had shown up. The beautiful, warm weather was a big draw and with the holiday, everyone was ending up at the beach!
The Kettle on Urbanspoon

The Kettle