Thursday, April 23, 2009

Tomatoe Sauce - hold the tomatoe!


As a child I suffered from a variety of ailments - most of which memory and time have erased, while a few reinvent themselves again from time to time. The main example of this presented itself as skin irritations which have randomly reoccurred during the past six years in which I have traveled the US and abroad.

Having left the clean and moisture rich air of the Vancouver rain forest behind for the dry heat and sunshine of California was bound to have an effect. I accepted this. Trading tank tops and shorts for the many layers I was accustomed to would obviously expose my skin to more contaminants than it would have been subjected to in my prior life. I took it in stride, accepted the many prescriptions and ointments prescribed and went about my life. In theory. What I actually did was bitch and moan a rather lot, so that even I got sick of complaints regarding "my body" (but that is besides the point!)

Initially, the issues would flare up following dinner out. Usually a lovely Indian Curry would precede it by a few days - then the urge to scratch my arm would consume me. I banned spicy food from my diet for a few weeks to test the theory that the curry caused my discomfort - and it nearly explained it. Except, once in a while I would give in to the desire for a wonderful korma or Butter Chicken - and no reaction would follow the meal. Odder still - I could cook at home and nothing would happen at all no matter what spice combination I would throw together in the meal. For months there appeared to be no pattern.

Then I began to experiment with removing selected foods from my diet which I recollected being banned from as a child for health reasons. Finally I stumbled upon my Eureka moment. While it is satisfying to know that I can still enjoy my spicy Thai and Indian curries, it is difficult to navigate around the actual cause of my reactions.

Tomatoes loath me, even while I adore them.

During the greatest flare ups I had often been eating fresh tomatoes from the farmers market daily, I would eat curries and pasta and chili and rice every week. Honestly - more likely, in every meal. While I like to pretend that maybe it is the pesticides used on the tomatoes, or something in the soil or during transport that I am allergic to... my own testing cautiously disproves this. Within a week of having deleted ketchup tomatoes and eggplant (another nightshade linked to the causation of dry skin reactions) from my diet I reverted to healthy skin that gets compliments again.

The magic cure, the deletion of something I loved, simple - and yet so complex. One moment I traveled down the road towards psoriasis, eczema and repeated trips to the pharmacy - the next moment, seemingly cured!

With one Caveat. Tomatoes are such a mainstay in American life that it requires constant navigation to avoid them. Breakfast, lunch and dinner - in restaurants, delicious tomatoe based meals call out to me. I look away, walk away, stay away.

I am mildly troubled as I walk past the baskets full of Cherry tomatoes and the rainbow of Heirloom Tomatoes at the Farmers market each week; saddened by the difficulty of locating pasta sauces and pizzas without the banned food in the ingredients list; I am amused by the kindness of my friends as they separate Tomatoes and Eggplant from the other broiled vegetables when I Join them for Barbecues.

Most of all, I am thankful that my allergy is a mild one. If I eat a curry every few weeks - the itch factor remains in check for the most part. A pizza slice here or a few spoons of beans on toast there - these are mere blips on the scratchiness scale, easily lived with even if they are not to be desired.

The true difficulty in possessing a simple allergic reaction such as this one - is that it is so simple it becomes complex because of its simplicity.

Each time I interact with tomatoes I am aware of how recently I last ate them. Too often - too soon - too much and I am back to square one. Faced with total elimination from my diet for weeks until the toxins or acids or whatever it is that cause my misery have depleted themselves enough to be at a safe level for me to eat them again. I can honestly say - I doubt that I will eat a heaping plate of Spaghetti and marinara sauce ever again. This saddens me.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

THINGS I want to do....

When I wander most successfully I find myself surrounded with great ideas for "not quite right now." The following are a small compilation of semi random things I am interested in... just not quite right now...

1. Collect Pine cones this year so I am ready for fall / winter crafts.
2. Find Pussy Willows.
3. Collect Maple Leaves and make these awesome maple leaf roses i saw ages ago and just bumped into tutorials for again while randomly avoiding the last third of my math exam that waits in front of me. (Ideally BEFORE July 1st, Canada Day arrives)
4. Drag someone to Maker Faire on May 30th. Geek out.
5. Actually plan an anniversary before it is a month past.
6. Do SOMETHING on my birthday that is actually FUN - on the actual day, not 3 before or two weeks after... but ON the ACTUAL day so I can get it out of my system and not be irritated by it for the remainder of my lifetime.
7. Polish off my degree (so close!)
8. Bake my own bread.
9. Tile my patio this summer vacation.
10 Demolish and tile part of my kitchen.
11. Paint a mural.
12 Set up the projector in the back yard and watch movies in our own drive-in theatre, minus the cars.
13. Hike
14. Bike
15. Try out letterboxing and maybe Geo caching if i can fix my GPS.
16. Have my nephews and family visit for a few weeks so we can get some time together before they are all grown up.
17. finish this test....

The World's Largest DIY Festival Maker Faire coming to the Bay Area

300x250A two-day, family-friendly event to MAKE, create, learn, invent, CRAFT, recycle, think, play and be inspired by celebrating arts, crafts, engineering, food, music, science and technology.

While for many, Spring break, Summer vacation, Christmas and Easter are the events to anticipate with eagerness - the Geek in me is ecstatically happy to see that Maker Faire is coming to a local venue next month.

Make is one of my top destinations each month, along with repeated visits to Craft and Geekdad. These Zines and Blogs are great brain food filled with creative geekified concepts that keep me entertained.
While Etsy is an amazing resource for artists /crafters /makers /hackers /creators to showcase and sell their creations, the previous sites assist you in the creation of the creations, how to's and procurement of needed supplies. My first issue of Craft purchased last year included a cardboard loom which introduced me to weaving. The forums and project sites have led me to felting (both wet felt and flat felt) as well as to many other projects and brainstormed ideas.
Current projects I am fiddling with include felted balls, adventures with LED's, Hula Hoops, magnets and pink baseballs. This year I am going to make it to Maker Faire, equipped with at least a couple cool crafted wearables with the intention of standing out so that I blend right in!

A few weeks ago, a new friend took me for a day hike in the Almaden Hills. Incredibly well informed, she shared her knowledge of the plants and wildflowers and we chatted about future hikes. While I expressed my past interest in treasure hunts (Captain Vancouvers Great Treasure Hunt took up YEARS of mine and Beekers time way back in the 90's), she explained the idea of Letterboxing to me. Similar to Geocaching, except without the GPS - Letterboxers locate hidden caches and leave their mark by stamping a log book with their personal stamp. Clues to locate a local Letterbox can be found online at various sites such child friendly Atlasquest or Letterboxing North America which describes the activity as "an intriguing pastime combining navigational skills and rubber stamp artistry in a charming "treasure hunt" style outdoor quest. A wide variety of adventures can be found to suit all ages and experience levels."

This sounded great to me! Over the next few days I traversed the internet for knowledge and scavenged my bins of hobbies n' crafts bits-n-bots for the simple equipment deemed necessary to make our own permanent stamps. This was no time for potatoe stamps!

Though I located the equivalent of a GIANT sheet of white rubber eraser on sale at D&J Hobbies in Campbell - any clean eraser would have done just as well. Also -though they recommend carving tools - a charcoal pencil and exacto blades worked beautifically for the purpose. This past weekend we met up again and spent a more relaxed evening over a glass of wine and carved stamps for future letterbox adventures. I sketched out a young womans face (inspired by B's fascination with Manga and fairy illustrations) while my friend sketched out and then carved a wonderful rustic owl.

Downside - safe, carving tools would allow the kids to explore this a bit, but unless I stumble upon an inexpensive set to test out - the exacto blade will be kept off limits and stamp carving is a "second mom" only event.

Plus-side - watching me craft anything they are not involved with directly inspires the girls to venture off into their own collections of craftables and they always live up to the challenge of entertaining themselves.

While my bronze cast instructor is quick to dismiss anything useful as being far removed from "art" - I beg to differ. Each of the imaginative pieces that have been conceived by the little ones this week are definite masterpieces.The Girls are well on the way to becoming GeekGirls - this past weekend they each completed felted creations to be shown with pride. I will post pictures of A's Flower Bouquet and B's nifty felted handbag soon.