Cleaning out the system…
In January I changed my diet. I hadn’t been eating foods that would generally be thought of as unhealthy, so I didn’t think this would be a very disruptive experiment. My wife and I had been directed to the Whole30 idea, which basically boils down to eating:
- meat, pasture-fed and natural, if possible,
- veggies, in-season are best,
- some fruit, the higher percentage of water content the better (watermelon has less fructose than mangoes),
- and a handful of nuts.
Slightly stricter than the Paleo diet it’s based on, it rules out all:
- and legumes.
You’d be surprised how sneaky soy and sugar infest nearly everything in the grocery store. You may also be shocked at how expensive it is to shop for meat and produce, even cutting out those expensive processed foods, and alcohol.
The Whole30 program works like a detox: eliminating food groups that are the usual suspects for food allergens for 30 days, then reintroducing them one at a time. Some symptoms I looked forward to getting rid of: congestion in the mornings, overall fatigue, and once a month headaches. With some skepticism, we decided the pros outweighed the cons, and started the day after New Year’s Day.
We struggled through the first week without too much complaining. Going without half and half in our coffee was a tiny challenge with a nice boost of pride. “Room for cream?” the barista asks. “None for me, thanks; I like it black,” I would smugly say. Going without a glass of wine at dinner was less satisfying, and cutting out beer made me sad. I think I compensated for my lack of beer by over doing the caffeine. My next detox diet will be to go 30 days without caffeine – crazy, I know.
What was most noticeable during the month was the fact that I was always thinking about my diet – even when I wasn’t hungry. It became a part of my identity. I was someone with dietary restrictions. With no history of known food allergies, I’d never had to really think about what I ate. Now, every bite was first mentally reviewed, and queried with the database of “compliant” foods. When my son left a good spoonful of yogurt uneaten, I had to catch myself from finishing up after him. But I felt good – I had clear sinuses each morning, steady energy levels all day, and I felt confident because of my self-discipline.
Snack, snack, snacking…
When you cut out most carbohydrates – and rice, bread, and potatoes previously made up a large portion of my meals – you’re often left hungry. It takes a while for your body to look to proteins and fat for quick energy, when it’s used to getting its fix from carbs. The Whole30 authors also encourage refraining from over-snacking. Somehow, I was supposed to get by on three filling meals and be done with eating. Maybe someone with a slower metabolism could hack that, but I need to eat!
For snacks, I chose:
- boiled eggs, until they became part of my very essence (seriously, the return on investment for owning chickens has got to be undeniably high).
- Yams, which are very easy to cook in the microwave.
Snackable Whole30 Compliant Protein from Shurky Jurky
But it was difficult to find snack-able proteins. I liked the idea of finding a good beef jerky for snacking. However, most beef jerky in grocery stores have sugar, added flavors, preservatives, and on and on. With serendipitous timing, the guys from Shurky Jurky had recently sent us a sample of their Whole30 compliant beef jerky. If you want to be adventurous, there’s also their chocolate covered jerky. I’m highly tempted to order their monthly subscription – monthly meat, delivered to my door. I’m not usually a fan of jerky – I find it too peppery and spicy – but this was different. It was chewable, smoky, and delicious beef. And it filled the gaps between meals.
Back to Reality…
January is over, and I can go back to eating whatever I want. It’s a little scary, to be honest. Even though I had to follow a restrictive regimen, my body felt good, and I didn’t have to guess what was causing annoying symptoms, aches, and fatigue. I weathered the gentlest cold virus ever over the last week. I’m not going to attribute mystical healing powers to the Whole30 (c’mon, you gotta admit diet programs can be a little cult-like). But I do think my immune system was strengthened. I’m looking forward to spring in the Pacific Northwest, and testing my immunity against the evil hay-fever. I think my body adjusted to higher amounts of protein from beef, pork, chicken, fish, vegetables, and nuts, and lower amounts of starchy foods. And I don’t want to ruin all my hard work. I’m in a difficult position of deciding how to proceed.
Do I want to keep certain food groups out of my diet, even though my experiment is over? Who does that make me – Brian, who doesn’t eat grains or drink beer anymore? Now, I get to choose.
A Well Crafted Party received a complimentary package of the Whole30 Compliant Shurky Jurky for purposes of review. All opinions are those of A Well Crafted Man. The portable protein snack is created from beef, bison, turkey, or pork. It is Paleo, Gluten-Free, Primal, & Whole30 compliant. Check out the Shurky Jurky website for more information and to purchase your own gourmet jerky.
To grow a plant, all you need is a seed or start, soil, sunlight, and salt-free water (I had to force an s in there somehow). Water is easy; it comes out of the faucet, and I point it at the garden plot until it’s soaked, twice a day. Sunlight’s easy, though I should have planned my plot for a sunnier patch of the yard. I’ll talk about seeds in another post, since first I want to tell you about our soil.
What I should have done
I should have tested the soil to check its pH balance, then correct it to a veggie conducive growing chemistry. I read (flipped through) the chapter in the veggie garden bible, Growing Vegetables West of the Cascades, by Steve Solomon, but I didn’t retain much. I remember something about loamy and silty soil being good, I think…but I never found out what category mine fell under. When digging our plot, my brother and I removed all the large rocks, anything bigger than a potato, and that alone filled a bucket. If we tried to get all the rocks smaller than that out, it would have taken days of back-breaking effort. Besides, my mom said a few small rocks help keep the soil wet, or something like that.
I also should have supplemented our poor dirt with some quality soil and compost. I started a compost pile last year, but didn’t really keep up with it (noticing a pattern yet?), so dumping non-decomposed – is it just called composed? – eggshells and coffee grounds wouldn’t do much to engender growth in my veggies. Maybe the pile will be decomposed by next spring’s garden.
What I actually did
Squat. I’m the lazy gardener. Sometimes I put in the minimal amount of effort to get the payoff that minimally satisfies. I am proud of the veggies we’ve eaten so far: a few handfuls of green beans, 3 cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, and basil. They were surprisingly tasty. To supplement the soil, I did buy two bags of organic soil and mixed that into the plot. For a garden the size of mine, I should have used six bags. We’ve gotten some edible veggies so far, but my neighbor’s garden makes me jealous. I guess the saying is true: you reap what you sow. And I’m a shoddy sower.
Luckily, I have amazing neighbors. Four out of the five houses around ours have gardens, and besides sharing their veggies, they’re sharing their tools and expertise. Check out this sharp-bladed contraption:
With just a few minutes of arm-jarring steering of the bucking rototiller, our plot was plowed. You can rent them cheaply from your local hardware store if you lack generous neighbors. Using the machine got what would have been 2 hours of effort done in 15 minutes. And remember my last post, where I said gardening should mostly be done by hand? Ha! I recommend using at least a gas rototiller to other lazy gardeners out there.
What other tools have you used to spruce up your soil? Or if you went the hands-only route, how did you prep your soil?
Jenni used to be an editor at a newspaper. I think the journalism blood is still pumping through her veins. She’s been blogging for most of our marriage, and, at times, I worry that she might have an addiction. I’m not sure there’s a cure.
These are the times I’m reminded I’m the husband of a blogger
- Bloggers often get solicited by companies and marketers, trying to reach the blogger’s audience. This can manifest as an invitation to dinner at a hip, Portland restaurant. I hear Jenni gush about the delicious, free food she’s given for review. They should have blogger-husband-to-go-containers for that kind of thing.
- She has an all day blogger event, putting me on single daddy duty. Not that I mind being with my own kid, it’s just that he’s easier to handle when you get to say, “tag, you’re it; he just poured his milk in my shoe.”
- I do get invited to join her on some of those events. I feel like she’s a celebrity when people say, “oh, you’re Jenni’s husband! I love her blog.”
- Sometimes we have to stop the car so she can get out and pose next to a warehouse. But then none of the shots show off the outfit just right.
- Random text conversations of ours get posted to her Instagram. My photo has been seen pinned on Pinterest.
- Our car’s interior is currently covered in glitter – and she knows how much I hate glitter. When a 3-year-old girl needs a birthday gift wrapped, however, I’ll suffer through.
- Craft projects litter every surface of the house.
- Whenever we go out to eat, and the server brings our food, I have to wait until she gets it on Instagram before I can dig in. In all honesty though, I do the same thing with beer.
- She experiments with recipes, and I’m the guinea pig. I can’t complain. My co-workers ask me who’s always making me so much good food.
- We have email addresses that just contain our first names and our domain name. It’s pretty cool. I don’t even need numbers after my name!
- I can drop phrases like SEO, printables, WordPress conversion, etc., into conversations.
- I recognize people from their blog. I feel like I know their superhero alter-ego, since I know them in real life.
So, it’s not all bad. Her foray into the blogging world has allowed us to meet some great people, who are also bitten by the bug. We’re part of a larger community that’s developing ways of sharing life together, online, and in person.
Happy blogging, honey.
It’s Picnic Week here on A Well Crafted Party. My wife bought me beers to try so I could tell you which ones I’d bring to a picnic. It’s a hard, hard life. Check out the other picnic-related posts, but only after reading about the beer!
Beer in a Can, Perfect for a Picnic
Beer comes in cans or bottles, usually. We once thought that beer in cans was cheaper, not as tasty, and only for frat boys and hipsters. It still is, but the audience is widening. Around 2009, craft breweries starting canning in addition to bottling. That lead to a shift in perception, and there are a few good reasons for breweries to offer their beer in cans. Cans don’t break like bottles do, and are cheaper to ship. For beer drinkers, the beer quality is actually better in cans, since no light can penetrate them, and the seal is tighter than bottle caps. The green consumer will also be happy that cans recycle much more efficiently. So let’s get tasting.
Right now I’m trying the “Sweet As” Pacific Ale by GoodLife Brewing Company. They’re a brewery in Bend, Oregon (can we call Bend Portland’s tomboy sister, and get away with it?), and it’s a satisfying pale ale for an Oregon summer. The Pacific in the name refers to the two hop varieties used in this pale ale: Galaxy from Australia, and Pacifica from New Zealand. The galaxy hops give the beer a slight citrusy, passion fruit profile, and overall, it’s not so hoppy to fall into the IPA category of bitterness. If you’re a fan of Widmer’s Drifter Pale Ale, you’d probably like this summer brew by GoodLife.
Hopworks Urban Brewery IPA is next. The hops hide behind the malt – the aroma’s all sweet and malty, and you don’t really know you’re drinking an IPA at first. I’d recommend it to beer drinkers who want to like IPAs, (oh, you’re from Portland? You must like IPAs, right?) but find that most are so bitter they shrivel their tongues. Now, I may be losing beer snob cred here, since Hopworks claims this beer is 75 IBU. But taste it, then taste something like Ninkasi’s Tricerihops. The HUB may indeed be a better picnic beer, but it’s not overly hoppy for an IPA.
Another selection from HUB: Rise-Up Red, NW Red Ale. This seasonal beer was only made available in cans this year. It’s full bodied, thicker on the tongue than a pale ale or IPA, but delicious. It’s brewed with the northwest mainstays, Cascade and Centennial hops. I prefer more refreshing beers for picnics, but might go with the Rise-Up Red on a hiking trip in the spring. By the way, Centennial hops are also used in many other Oregon beers, like Bridgeport Brewing’s Hop Czar, Rogue’s Independence Hop Ale and Double Mountain Brewery‘s Pale Ale.
21st Amendment Brewery’s Hell or High Watermelon is an American wheat beer, with watermelon added during second fermentation. I love eating watermelon, but I’ve never really been a fan of anything watermelon-flavored. When I tasted this beer, I did first notice the watermelon, but it really wasn’t overpowering. It ended up being really thirst quenching. I would pair it with campfire food or burgers.
Looking for a cheap, session beer? Some picnics call for trunks full of beer, but you just can’t stoop down to the level of Bud and Coors. And PBR makes you feel like you’re trying too hard. Our local Trader Joe’s stocks the Simpler Times Lager, from Minhas Craft Brewery, in Wisconsin, IL. Set your expectations to low, and you’ll be happy with this affordable (under $5!) six pack.
If bottled beers are allowed in parks where you live, like they are in Oregon, I’d also recommend 10 Barrel Brewery‘s Swill. It’s a summer sipper, a berliner weisse infused with grapefruit. You might not find it to your liking, if you’ve never had a penchant for fruit beers. I loved the taste, and the look on people’s faces when they take a sip. It’s surprisingly good. And even the most machismo of men can maintain their masculinity while partaking in this fruity picnic beer. Maybe they’ll sell it in cans, after they read this post? C’mon 10 Barrel, you liked my tweet that one time, about your beer; you know you owe me for the free advertizing.
For the perfect picnic, my recommendation is just to try them all. If I had to pick one, I’d suggest the Hell or High Watermelon Wheat. I had two at the Portland Blogger’s Family Picnic this afternoon, and it just felt right.
What are your favorite canned beers?
I do not have a green thumb. I don’t live with a dog or cat, partly because my toddler is enough of a mess to take care of, but mostly because I wouldn’t be a very good pet owner. I’ve always thought I should try and keep plants alive before taking on the responsibility of a dog.
Despite my terrible sense of responsibility, I had a strong urge to learn how to garden, and when my family and I moved into a house with a yard last summer, I decided to risk taking (botanical) life into my hands. I was motivated by seeing friends and coworkers show off their bountiful produce (the size of one coworker’s zucchini was astounding).
I’m a little bit of a scifi nerd, and some post-apocalyptic stories seem more likely than others. And if the grocery stores are all empty, I want to at least know how to grow my own vegetables. Ideally, I’d have a few goats, chickens, bees, and alpacas as well, but I thought I’d start with a veggie garden.
Urban Gardening—Choosing the Plot
I am the epitome of a novice, so this gardening series is not meant to be tutorial, but more “try not to cringe at all Brian’s mistakes.” Perhaps you can learn a little from what I’ve screwed up.
Spring was arriving in Portland, and I was ready to get started. I’d done a little research into how to convert a grass lawn into a vegetable garden. There were different options, like covering the plot with newspaper, letting the darkness kill the grass for a month, and mulching in the newspaper. I had two problems with that option: I didn’t have any newspaper (who doesn’t read their news online? Sorry, print journalists), and I didn’t have a month’s worth of patience. I decided to go with the other option I’d read about – flipping the turf.
We moved to this house from an apartment, so the only tools we had for outdoor work were left behind by the last tenants. I had a sturdy, if dull, shovel, and that was enough for this task. Some people rent a back-hoe for this – I witnessed a neighbor actually tearing up his yard with one – but I’m not that gung-ho, or that full of money. Besides, gardening should be done as much by hand as possible, don’t you think? (I changed my mind later!)
As you can see, my brother and I dug a rectangle, about 8 by 10 square feet. No real planning went into the dimensions or the location. It just looked to be the right size, and maybe we got a little worn out. Flipping sod is not for city folk, with flabby city muscles.
My first mistake was choosing the plot location. I didn’t put hardly any thought into the most important element: where sunlight fell in my yard. What a rookie mistake. All I needed to do was spend one day occasionally eyeballing my yard, and marking the extent of sunlight and shadow. The plot I chose is about 40% shady (that’s my very scientific measurement). Shade is okay for some plants, like lettuce, so it wasn’t the worst mistake I could have made. But now I know what I would do differently next time.
In the next post I will tell you about how my laziness and impatience lead to my next mistake. It’s not all bad news – we have successfully harvested spinach, lettuce, and basil, so far, and there is a fat cucumber getting fatter everyday.
Do you garden? If so, what were your mistakes in the beginning?
(Come on… make me feel better!)
A new addition to A Well Crafted Party is a series by my husband, Brian, called A Well Crafted Man. Please welcome him to the site and let us know what you want to know about the man behind the party!
This being my first post, I want to tell you a little about myself. Which puts me in an awkward position, since I don’t like telling the Internet stuff about me. I also don’t like lists, but Jenni suggested a list would make this post easier (doesn’t she love lists?). She’s my wife, so she’s usually right.
A Few Things About A Well Crafted Man:
In no particular order—
- RCTID! If you don’t know what that stands for, Google it, and come back to this post once you’ve donned your Timber’s Army scarf. I played soccer through college, never at any level of professionalism, and when we moved to Portland, I couldn’t wait to go to a game. I’m in love, and I don’t care who knows.
- I met my wife on a blind date, before the blind date. Actually, she eyed me on our college campus before I met her before the blind date…so I guess it can’t really be called a blind date. Our mutual friend hooked us up, and that’s why you make friends, kids. So they can match you with your future spouse. 7 years in, and we still really like each other. I’m not surprised, though; she’s my kind of girl.
- I grew up in Japan. I’m kind of tall, so usually the first thing people say when they meet me is, “you don’t look Japanese”.
- I love all things Portland. I bike across its bridges, drown myself in its coffee, beer, and wine, laugh about its stereotypes, and feel proud that my son was born here. He will actually get to brag to people, “I’m a native Oregonian”. Aren’t you jealous, you Midwest migrants?
- My son means the world to me. When he arrived, that meant the end of all my hobbies. I work, and I spend time with my son – that’s what I tell people when they ask what I do. I quite enjoy my life. My son is almost two (I wonder if Jenni will post about his 2nd birthday party), and I didn’t know time could fly so fast. I want to be the best dad I can be.
Now you know a little about me, and will hopefully welcome my addition to this site. In my typical, mercurial fashion, if I set out an agenda, I’ll change it later, but you may see posts from me regarding being a dad, enjoying Portland, brewing beer (here’s my old homebrewing blog: bostbeer.blogspot.com), and perhaps some philosophical ponderings of politics, people, and purpose. And a lot of alliteration.