Friday Night Pizza

While we were in Savannah in October for our wedding, I bought Animal, Vegetable, Miracle from E Shaver Books  It’s a story about one family’s attempt to gain a stronger connection to their food and how it’s grown and harvested.  It’s also an attempt to disengage from the fossil fuel economy that allows all foods to be available at all times.  It’s an eye opening book best treated with a full post somewhere else but one tradition they have is Friday Night Pizza.  Every Friday they would make pizza at home.  The dough was homemade, the ingredients were home grown or acquired locally and it’s a huge improvement on the quality of what they could get from Pizza Hut, assuming they even had a Pizza Hut in their small Virginia town.

I haven’t made pizza at home in years but yesterday, I decided it would be an easy Friday night dinner.  I’m back on Paleo so it’s a little different but I figured I could find some gluten free pizza dough or crust at Tom Thumb down here in The Cliff.  Alas, the food choices at grocery stores here strongly lean towards carne asada and conchas.  However, I did manage to find some La Tortilla Factory <a href=”http://www.latortillafactory.com/view/products/gluten-free-wheat-free-wraps/”>gluten free tortillas</a> made from <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eragrostis_tef”>teff flour</a> which I had never heard of.  It’s actually a grass originally from Ethiopia.  These are some pretty good tortillas though like most bread products made from non-wheat ingredients, they have a tendency to break.  I have to assume that’s because most non-wheat flours lack the protein that makes bread stick together but also tends to irritate those of us with real or imagined gluten sensitivity.

Even though these are tortillas, when baked at a high temperature on a pizza stone or baking sheet, they crisp up into excellent, very thin crust, pizza crusts.  I made BBQ chicken pizza with chicken, red onions, mozzarella and BBQ sauce.  Because I was using chicken that was already cooked, I did not actually have BBQ chicken but instead just drizzled Stubb’s Spicy BBQ on my pizzas.  Cooked at 450 for about 9 minutes, the pizza turned out pretty well.  At first, I thought it was going to be a fork and knife kind of pizza but the tortillas held up pretty well.  Mara made a much more traditional pizza because she specifically said she didn’t need gluten free crust.  So she had a margherita pizza with mozzarella and basil on a plain old pizza crust.

While those tortillas worked out pretty well, I may try to make some rice flour pizza dough this weekend.  Wildly exclamatory claims aside, this <a href=”http://minimalistbaker.com/the-best-gluten-free-pizza-crust-sauce/”>recipe looks pretty good </a>and while it has xanthan gum, it doesn’t have soy lecithin and other preservatives that the tortillas have to have to sit on the shelf for a couple of months without spoiling.

In other news, the bird feeders had been pretty lonely lately after I ran out of sunflower seeds in December.  Two weeks ago I noticed a flock of goldfinches hanging around the backyard so I picked up some niger seed which has kept them happy but the cardinals, doves, chickadees and titmice were mostly out of luck.  We don’t have a Tractor Supply anywhere near here and they always had the 50lb bags of black oil sunflower seeds that most birds seemed to love.  But last weekend I was back in Wylie for a golf tournament (1st place net after not playing for 3 months, crazy) so I stopped at a couple of old haunts one of which was Tractor Supply.  They were actually out of the sunflower seeds in large packages so I picked up some basic seed and refilled the feeders.  With the snow yesterday, the birds have been pretty happy to have a regular food source.  This is a pretty grainy, shot through the kitchen window iPhone photo but you can see the doves and goldfinches if you squint real hard.

 

Hosting A Site At Heroku With Email at Site5 (or any other mail provider probably)

My wife’s non-profit theater website, Cry Havoc Theater was created by moi after we had a temporary dalliance with WordPress. We bought a really nice template but couldn’t figure out how to make it work well with her logos. So I built a site on sunday using Rails and Bootstrap. I hosted it on Heroku using Amazon Route 53 DNS which is my standard now that Zerigo has started charging a lot more money. This costs me about $1.11 a month per site.

The kicker to this story is that I had never bothered to set up email on The Sports Pool Hub because I just use a non-branded Gmail account (and no one has ever signed up so it’s a moot point anyway). Because we’d originally created and hosted the site at Site5 (which I totally and whole-heartedly recommend by the way for any WordPress hosting you might want to do), I had originally set up her webmail there. When she tried to log in the other day after I’d moved to Heroku, that clearly didn’t work anymore.

After spending a little time googling and thinking about the solution, I learned about MX records and I figured I could still host the mail at Site5 while the host was at Heroku. Unfortunately, there was precious little documentation on how to do that. The fantastic support team at Site5 were quick to respond to my request and after 10 minutes of configuration, I had mail back up and running at Site5. This is a reminder/tutorial for anyone else out there wanting to do the same thing. You will need the mail subdomain from your host (ours was mail..org but yours may be different). You will also need the IP address for the domain.

In your AWS Dashboard, go to Route 53. Click on Hosted Zones and then go to the recordset for the zone/domain that you want to route email for. Create an A record for the mail subdomain with a value of the IP address that you received from your host. Site5 told me to set the TIL to 1 hour so feel free to choose that. Save the record.

Then create an MX record with the same Name as the A record you just created. I made the TIL the same as the A record and set the Value to “10 mail.cryhavoctheater.org”. This sets the priority the routing goes through. With only 1 option, 1 would have been fine but most of the examples I’d seen chose 10 for later flexibility. Save the record set.

Then at Site5 (or wherever the email hosting is happening), in SiteAdmin, you need to edit the MX record for the domain in question. It was originally set up as a root domain, cryhavoctheater.org. It needs to be whatever the mail subdomain was from steps 1 and 2 above. In this case, mail.cryhavoctheater.org. After propagation, which in our case was immediate, pinging your mail subdomain should result in the IP address provided by your mail provider. You can then go to /webmail and login.

The hardest part as with anything new is just figuring out the details. The implementation was pretty straightforward.

On A Longer Fast

As I mentioned in my Lenten 2015 post, I kicked things off with a 48 hour fast, my longest one yet. I had previously done a 24 and a 36 hour fast but most of the studies out there point to the minimum necessary as 48 hours (and the stem cell regeneration stuff is saying at least 72). My last meal pre-fast was Tuesday night at around 9:30 after Master Naturalist class. Before starting, I did a little research on longer fasts and as with anything on the Internet, advice was conflicting at best. This site seemed the most informative but also made it sound like fasting bestowed super human powers on you. In my previous 36 hour fast, I did not turn into Superman but after day 1, I did notice an increased ability to focus up until about the time I ate. I don’t think this was observer bias since I wasn’t aware of the possible benefits.

For this fast, day 1 was definitely the hardest though nothing terrible. I had my first temporary hunger pains around noon on Wednesday. In my limited experience, these are almost always minor and can be mitigated with coffee and substantial water. The more difficult hunger happens for me around 20-24 hours. In the article linked above, the author says this is your body trying to stay in homeostasis. This makes a lot of sense in our modern world where for most of us (at least the ones reading my blog), hunger is a very abstract concept. Our bodies are used to eating every 6 hours and when we miss a couple of cycles, minor panic sets in at a nutritional level. But in the grand scheme of things, long term homeostasis without any stress to the system results in frailty. Think about sitting on your couch for a week. Your body doesn’t like that. There is some evidence that exposure to cold brings the body out of homeostasis and increases metabolism. A regular feeding cycle conditions your body to never feel hunger and therefore never activate important mechanisms like attacking free radicals which happens during fasts. What I did to make the 20 hour hunger pains easier was drink more water and imagine my body destroying cancer causing free radical cells. Obviously this is likely a stretch but it helped with will power.

On day 2, I found it much easier to ignore being on a fast. I was never actually hungry in a physical sense. What I did encounter was my brain trying to convince me to stuff something in my mouth. Again, I think this was as much habit/homeostasis as anything. We have a cat that if you don’t feed her every 6 hours, she turns into a meowing kitchen timer. The thing is, she’s probably 3 pounds overweight and could go 4 days without food just fine. That’s what I thought about my brain on day 2. Of course, it didn’t help that someone brought fresh fruit and donut holes for breakfast to work along with a working lunch that would have included free sandwiches if I had partaken. Temptations aside, the real struggle was just making the realization that my hunger seemed to be largely psychological mental panic and not true “I may die” hunger.

Midday, I started taking half a teaspoon of glutamine in my water every 4 hours or so. This came on the recommendation of the site linked above. I’m not sure if it helped but I’ll definitely use it more consistently on future fasts, especially since I have 8 ounces of the stuff. He suggests daily use and I’ve heard other people talk about amino acid usage during intermittent fasting. I’ll probably play around with it and report back.

My goal was a 48 hour fast but I was kind of hoping to make it 60 hours into Friday morning. However, eventually the mental hunger panic won out at the 47 hour mark. I ate pretty healthy starting out with an orange and then lean turkey. Having a little more experience with fasting helps avoid going crazy coming off of it. Not to mention, most sources say to go easy coming off longer fasts.

In the end, I didn’t achieve Super powers. However, I did notice that getting out of bed this morning with only 6.5 hours of sleep was pretty easy. One of the supposed benefits of fasting is less sleep is necessary though that’s entirely anecdotal. I don’t have anything measurable at this point. I’m 45 days into a 90 day reset hoping to vastly improve my lipid panels so that will be the first measurable moment. The proof will be in the pudding. Now I want pudding.

Lent 2015

I don’t have a lot of traditions but Lent seems to be a consistent one that I uphold. For me it’s a journey of both sacrifice and growth. I give something up to experience the sacrifice inherent to the original Lent and I try to find something creative to do each day as a way of growing. Last year, I chose to write a blog post every day. That wasn’t only a growth goal, it turned out to be quite a sacrifice as it takes a lot of dedication and time to write even a banal few paragraphs. Towards the end, I resorted several times to haikus or complaints about how hard it is to write every day. I’m not sure that’s in the spirit of the goal.

This year, we have a family Lenten sacrifice. We have struggled some over the last year or so with financial issues from a “we’re in a new relationship and there are some things to hammer out” view, from a “we’re spending too much money on bowel movements and hangovers” view and not to mention from a “we had a really awesome wedding in Savannah” view. Some of these were conscious choices we made. I wouldn’t trade the wedding for anything. Others were habit, the habit of just pulling out a card. Paying for some average food and a couple of drinks with a card is painless. Paying for average food and a few drinks with a $50 bill isn’t so painless. If you read any of the mainstream “no-debt” resources, almost all of them advocate paying with cash to make you aware of your spending, painfully aware in some cases. From this awesome post at Get Rich Slowly

  • Paying in cash forces you to consider the real purchase price – No matter what you’re buying, the fact that you’re paying in cash turns it into an entirely different experience. That’s because you have no choice but to consider how much money you’re paying overall, and not just what you’ll have to pay on a monthly or yearly basis.
  • Paying in cash might help you spend less – When you force yourself to pay in cash, big ticket items start to lose their appeal. Try walking into a dealership with the intention of paying $15,000 or $20,000 for a newer car. All of a sudden, the prospect of keeping your old paid-off junker becomes an incredibly attractive option. Am I wrong?
  • Paying in cash keeps you out of debt – The best thing about refusing to finance things is that it keeps you out of debt in the first place. We all know what a slippery slope that can be. There are so many benefits to being debt-free, including the option to save more of your income, less stress, and of course, the feeling of not really being beholden to anyone. It’s a freeing feeling, and it’s one that I will never, ever surrender without a fight.

Dave Ramsey says much the same thing. The powers that be tricked us when when they gave us all credit and debit cards and taught us that we could afford anything. Anytime something is easier, it should immediately arouse suspicion especially when it comes to spending money. So we’re embarking on a Lenten journey of paying cash for everything outside of bills and auto fuel. I’m toying with shutting down even the bills and sending in actual checks like people in the Stone Ages did (no offense, Mom). The upside of all of this is that come April 1st, we won’t have to listen to the sucking sound of a $1000 or more black hole coming from the bank account as our credit cards swallow money.

For a positive family Lenten challenge, we’re going to spend one night a week dedicated to just us. We’ll have dinner and then play a game or read a common book. The goal is for it to be interactive, to avoid the passivity of the computer or the TV. I’ve been wanting to learn Go for a long time so if we just trade off every week between that and Rummikub, maybe I’ll only get my tail kicked every other week.

On a personal side, I’m going to repeat last year’s sacrifice of sugar. I started this year with some new personal record blood work (where the personal record is cholesterol through the roof). I have some personal ideas about carbohydrate intake and cholesterol that are, umm, not mainstream. Last year, I had my LDL levels down to 164 which is pretty good for me. In January, they were back up to 245. Obviously, that’s a heart attack waiting to happen according to the mainstream medical media. I’m pretty sure it’s a result of 4 months of eating like I was getting married and next to zero exercise. That 164 value came in May last year when I was eating well, had just come off of giving up sugar for Lent and was exercising a reasonable amount. I don’t think that’s a fluke. To really kick things off with a bang, I’m going to do my longest fast ever, 48 hours. There is a wealth of information out there in support of regular and intermittent fasting as a healthy practice. I’ve been doing intermittent fasting (food intake only between 12 and 8ish) for a couple of weeks. But the health benefits of a 48 hour fast are hard to ignore so I’d like to start integrating that into my eating. So starting today, until Thursday night, it’s water and coffee and tea only.

On the growth side, I’m going to think about it some today but I’m leaning towards something similar to last year as well when I wrote every day. If I did that, I’d expand it out to “write, draw or play the saxophone/piano” every day. On the upside, I miss those right brain creative type things. On the down side, I have some goals for 2015 that would likely suffer because there are only so many hours in the day. Things like Spanish and reading would go to the backburner. I have ways to mitigate this because I have a 2 hour train ride each day. But writing more personal code or exercising would be harder and harder to fit in. So that’s going to be a mediation for today to try and identify what I really want to focus on and what’s important.

Fasting Resources for those so inclined:

Update Notes from RVM

I figure these might come in handy and then I’d have no idea how to find them.

In case of problems: http://rvm.io/help and https://twitter.com/rvm_io

Upgrade Notes:

* WARNING: You have ‘~/.profile’ file, you might want to load it,
to do that add the following line to ‘/Users/osiris43/.bash_profile’:

source ~/.profile

* Zsh 4.3.15 is buggy, be careful with it, it can break RVM, especially multiuser installations,
You should consider downgrading Zsh to 4.3.12 which has proven to work more reliable with RVM.
* RVM comes with a set of default gems including ‘bundler’, ‘rake’, ‘rubygems-bundler’ and ‘rvm’ gems;
if you do not wish to get these gems, install RVM with this flag: –without-gems=”rvm rubygems-bundler”
this option is remembered, it’s enough to use it once.

* RVM will try to automatically use available package manager, might require `sudo`,
read more about it in `rvm help autolibs`

* If you encounter any issues with a ruby ‘X’ your best bet is to:
rvm get head && rvm reinstall X –debug

* RVM will run ‘rvm requirements’ by default, to disable run:
echo rvm_autolibs_flag=0 >> ~/.rvmrc

* RVM 1.20.12 removes the automated –progress-bar from curl options,
if you liked this then you can restore this behavior with:

echo progress-bar >> ~/.curlrc

* RVM will set first installed ruby as default and use it if run as function.
To avoid this behavior either use full path to rvm binary or prefix it with `command `.

* To update RVM loading code run ‘rvm get … –auto-dotfiles’

* RVM 1.20 changes default behavior of Autolibs to Enabled – if you prefer the 1.19 behavior
then run “rvm autolibs read-fail”, read more details: rvm help autolibs

* RVM 1.24 changes default package manager on OSX to Homebrew,
use `rvm autolibs macports` if you prefer Macports.

* RVM 1.24 changes default `–verify-downloads` flag to `1` you can get the paranoid mode again with:

echo rvm_verify_downloads_flag=0 >> ~/.rvmrc

* RVM 1.25 disables default pollution of rvm_path/bin, you still can generate the links using:

rvm wrapper ruby-name # or for default:
rvm wrapper default –no-prefix

* RVM 1.25.11 ‘rvm remove’ will by default remove gems, to remove only ruby use ‘rvm uninstall’