Monthly Archives: February 2013

My Phone Is Too Smart

Yes, dear readers, David and I are being pulled, kicking and screaming, into the 21st century. Since David recently took a second position in a property management firm (He’s still doing general brokerage real estate! Don’t stop calling!), we realized that he really did need a smartphone, and since it’s only ten dollars more for me to have one, too, we jumped into the smartphone world.

ImageFirst of all, I was still under the impression that you got a new phone FREE after two years of being a loyal customer. Well, it’s been a long time since I’ve upgraded, evidently, since now you pay $200 for a phone and say “thank you” for the privilege. Michael would not allow David to settle for anything less than the Samsung Galaxy S-III, which was $200 before we added on all of the extras that are actually essential, not extra. Because I am sweet and wonderful, I saved money by getting the $50 Droid Razr instead. I did get a cute, pink cover. My other phone was so old that they couldn’t change our calling plan before we got the phones via FedEx, because if they put us on a data plan, my phone would die—which would be bad, considering that we don’t have a home phone.

The day we received the phones was the day I had a blowout on I-40, so by the time I got home (safely!), all I did was call and change us to the real plan and charge up the phone. The next evening, my sister called to tell me that she was rushing our mom to the emergency room. I hung up with her and called David, who happened to be walking in the door, and my sister called me back. I could not figure out how to answer the call waiting! Furthermore, when I tried to call her back, I somehow hooked her number onto David’s number and got this message: “We’re sorry. You do not have international calling enabled on your plan.” I started crying and wailed to David, “My mother is having a stroke and I can’t even answer my phone!” He made soothing noises and sat next to me, promptly crushing my glasses. Now I couldn’t see, either. Thank the good Lord, Mom is at home and mending nicely, and I have spent some time on the Verizon Wireless tutorial site.

Did you know that there is no tutorial on how to send a text? None. There is one on how to attach documents to a text, which, if I knew how to text, might be handy. Apparently, all the world knew how to text but me. I Googled it, and it showed a little box with a pen-looking object in it, but I could not see anything like that on my phone. It didn’t help that the factory setting for the screen saver is about ten seconds. By the time you unlock the phone and start looking for icons, the screen goes dark. So my first task was to get the doggone screen to stay on long enough for me to find the settings icon! There actually was a tutorial for that. Afterward, I figured out that the little plus sign is how to start a new text. I’ve sent, like, ten texts now and consider myself an old pro. The most entertaining text I’ve received so far was from a friend last Friday telling us how her daughter had just had a baby on her bathroom floor—and no, it was not supposed to be a home birth. As texts go, that one will be hard to beat.

I told Michael before I got the phone that what I really wanted was an MP3 player with a phone attached. He got all of my music onto GooglePlay, which is nice, and then I went to figure out how to create my own ringtones from my music. I Googled around and found a free app called RingDroid, but it did not pull in all of my music, as it was supposed to. Now I find out that I need an SD card to put my music on my actual device. Why did no one tell me this before? So, I have one in my Amazon cart, waiting for David’s closing later this week.

Finally, I fell in love with my phone. It’s not the vivid green screen with the little red bug on it or even the weather app right on the home screen. Sunday night, I really wanted to watch something on YouTube, but I needed to walk on the treadmill. I attached the “Sports Headphones” to the phone, logged onto Chrome, found Robert Lustig’s “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” (very motivational), and watched almost the whole thing while I sweated and puffed. Granted, I could not see his teeny-tiny charts and graphs, but I got the gist. I am so impressed! I could get used to this.

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Cheryl’s Low-Carb Chocolate Chip Cookies!

I did it! I made up my very own low-carb cookie recipe. Now that I’ve been working with nut flours for six months or so, I can predict how they will perform. I think the reason that no one has made a chocolate chip cookie recipe before is because there were no readily-available sugar-free chocolate chips. But now Hershey (may their tribe increase) has packaged them, and they can be found in the baking aisle almost anywhere!

I am following the baking method of Peter Reinhart’s The Joy of Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free Baking, which I have reviewed previously in this space. He tells you to position the oven racks as close to the center as possible, and then put the two cookie sheets on the racks with one toward the right and one toward the left, and then switch racks and rotate the pans halfway through the baking time. I am not sure of the science of all this, but it has yielded happy results for me. On the other hand, I’m sure your oven will not explode if you do it slightly differently.

Also, I have always appreciated Dana Carpender’s advice about brown sugar substitutes. Most of them are hideous, so she recommends cutting back on the regular Splenda, and then adding just a bit of very strong molasses, such as blackstrap. It tastes so much better, and only increases the carb count infinitesimally per serving.

Enjoy!

Low-Carb Chocolate Chip Cookies

Yield: 24 cookies.

1 ½ cups almond flour

1 cup pecan flour

Scant 1 cup Splenda or equivalent

½ tsp. baking soda

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup chopped pecans

4 oz. sugar-free chocolate chips

2 eggs

2 tsp. blackstrap molasses

2 tsp. vanilla

½ cup butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and lightly grease two cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, stir together the nut flours, Splenda, baking soda, and salt until well combined. Stir in pecans and chocolate chips. In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, molasses, vanilla, and butter.

Slowly stir the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients with a large, wooden spoon. Continue to stir for one or two minutes until a stiff, sticky batter is formed. If the batter is too soft, add a bit more almond flour.

Drop the batter from a tablespoon onto prepared cookie sheets and press down lightly. Place on two racks near the center of the oven. Bake for 9 minutes, switch racks and rotate pans, then bake for 9 more minutes. Remove onto cooling racks.

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Fat-Bottomed Girls & Dead Rats

Freddie Mercury, meet Hanne Blank. Freddie and Hanne both rejoice in ladies with excess avoirdupois, and both of them want them to exercise. That might be where the similarity ends, however. Hanne Blank’s latest book, The Unapologetic Fat Girl’s Guide to Exercise and Other Incendiary Acts, is part manifesto and part how-to guide. In sassy, sometimes potty-mouthed style, Blank encourages large ladies to get moving for the good of their health. Since she is a writer, she has come to realize that a sedentary lifestyle is not safe for anyone, but particularly those who are already prone to heart disease, diabetes, and other ailments. Blank is part of the Size Acceptance Movement, so she refrains from encouraging anyone to lose weight and spends a lot of time helping you to shut up, tell off, and otherwise get rid of people who are telling you that you should. While I may not agree with everything Ms. Blank has to say—and may never wish to read her other books— she is certainly motivational and very knowledgeable about gyms, equipment, different types of exercise, and the particular needs of very overweight individuals. There are appendices for product information in the back.

As I have told you before in this space, I do love a plague story. While I was reading Geraldine Brooks’ famous Year of Wonders, I came to believe that part of the appeal is that the reader knows so much more than the characters in the book. The foreshadowing is overwhelming and helps to build suspense. “No! Not the rats! Don’t let your children pick up the dead rats!” You know what will happen in the next chapter. Soon, you’re on to buboes, rosy rings on the skin, and “Bring out your dead!” Ah, yes, it never gets old, does it?

Anyhow, this story of 1666 England tells how Anna Frith, young mother and housemaid, weathers a horrific year of plague in her little village. Rather than concentrating on medical details, Brooks uses this catastrophe to illustrate how people change when their lives are no longer within their control. During the reign of the vile Charles II, superstition was rampant, and witches were blamed for everything whenever a convenient woman could be found. Many of the most devout people lose their faith, and some the most unlikely find it. Some people, including Anna, are forced into roles that they never would have imagined and make choices that would have been unthinkable during peaceful times. This absorbing and beautifully-written novel is based on the real village of Eyam.

If I had one quibble with Brooks’ story, it would be that the conclusion is ridiculously unbelievable and anachronistic. After the year is over, Anna—a beautiful young woman who has never gone more than seven miles from her home— hops onto a ship by herself, something that would never have happened in the 17th century. Furthermore, she asks to be let off when she sees a country in northern Africa that reminds her of an ancient Muslim book that she found in someone’s library. She had learned about medicine in the book during the plague, and it had caused her to admire Muslim culture. So she becomes a part of an elderly gentleman’s harem, where she is free to study medicine and practice the healing arts. Right. In a country that does not respect women or believe that they should be educated at all, let alone a foreign woman, Anna would settle in freely, far from everyone and everything she has ever known, and live happily ever after? I think that this was a major misstep in an otherwise thoughtful and engrossing read.

The piles of books on my nighttable have been multiplying again, so I will be bringing you more goodies soon!

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Well, Shoot. I Bought a Suitcase.

I didn’t mean to, but my little handbag has been driving me crazy for so long that I overreacted. I love a big handbag with lots of compartments, but the one I had was small and all one opening. Maybe I should have put up with it more gracefully, but a woman’s handbag is such a big part of her life, isn’t it? It goes with her everywhere, and while it may not be her home away from home, when she’s at work for forty hours a week, it’s her financial-center-and-health-and-beauty-aids-counter away from home, anyway. And if there’s one thing I hate, it’s when my financial center is on the health and beauty aids counter, so when I kept having my hairbrush fall out when I was checking out of a store, I thought I’d lose my mind.

We had our tax refunds coming, and I was determined to get a handbag that I loved. I had it pictured in my mind: a capacious, brown leather bag with a shoulder strap and lots of compartments—just the right compartments to fit all of my belongings. After trolling around on the internet for a while, I asked several people for recommendations of the very best places to buy purses, and one of my colleagues said to try Wilson’s Leather. Lo and behold, there is a Wilson’s Leather in the outlet mall in the next town!

Last Friday was drizzly and warm, and I made my way down to Smithfield after work. I went straight into Wilson’s Leather, heart full of hope, and searched through racks and tables of purses for the bag of my dreams. There were tiny clutch purses, tote bags, and everything in between. For some reason, purple and mustard yellow leather are really in style, as are copious gold studs and really ugly stitching. After a great deal of scrounging, a staff member came over and began searching with me, which is a ridiculous thing to do, when you think about it. She went over all of the tables that I had just covered, except that now I had to explain why I did not like each and every one she held up, which just made me seem picky and cranky. I started apologizing for not buying them.

Finally, I found a beautiful bag on one of the wall displays, on the bottom shelf near the back. It was the right size, the right color, and had lovely compartments. Unfortunately, it did not have a shoulder strap. I searched inside for a detachable strap, but no. I do not want to carry a bag around on my arm. It makes me feel as if I were Queen Elizabeth. Plus, it’s so inconvenient. Behind that bag, though, was a larger bag, in a more reddish leather, with all the compartments a woman’s heart could desire. It did have a shoulder strap, and it could actually fit on the shoulder without the extra strap. I hesitantly looked in the mirror to see how big it was, and decided that it was really too big. I asked the clerk for other stores that sold handbags, and left.

I went to the two closest stores, and their bags looked terrible compared to the ones in Wilson’s Leather, so I ventured back to Wilson’s, talked to the clerk again, picked up both bags, and decided that I really couldn’t live without a shoulder strap or with a bag that’s too big. I went out to my car and drove around the mall, looking for other stores that might sell handbags. I found a shoe store, parked and went in. While I rifled through their bags, the clerk told me that none of them were leather. I left and tried to call someone at my house to get the phone number for T.J. Maxx, to see if they were still open, since they’re 45 minutes in the other direction. No one answered. I sat in my car for a few minutes, and then walked back into Wilson’s Leather. “This time,” the manager grinned, “you can’t leave until you buy something.” I agreed that I’d take the bigger bag. It’s not too big, I thought. It’s just larger than I expected.

ImageWhen I got home, both of my guys let me know that, yes, it is enormous. David wanted to know if it was actually luggage. Michael said, “Well, that’s… large.” I said that I would be able to fit whatever I wanted in it, like a book. He said, “Or a refrigerator.” They did not let up. The next morning, I told David that I was depressed, and he said, “I understand that you have buyer’s remorse.” I wailed, “It is not buyer’s remorse! I love this bag! You guys are just so mean!” But I admitted that I was going to have to buy another, smaller one, since this one, um… doesn’t fit in the drawer where I put my purse at work. In my defense, I did take it to church on Sunday, and one of the ladies exclaimed, “I love your bag! Where did you get it?” She actually wrote down the name and location of the store, and is going to go there herself. So there.

ImageSunday afternoon found me at T.J. Maxx in Garner, hating all the bags there. By this time, though, I had all of my usual purse stuff, plus a hardcover book and a bottle of water in my new handbag, so it was putting about 25 pounds of weight on my shoulder. That gave me some motivation to find something smaller. Eventually, it was David who picked up a bone-colored purse off the display table and started unzipping and unsnapping all of the openings, saying, “Look! I think this one even has enough compartments for you.” I wasn’t crazy about the color, but everything else was perfect. That night, I put all of my stuff into the smaller bag, and everything fit. Not only that, but the bag fit into my drawer this morning at work.

I still love the overnighter, though.

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