Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Baby Mamas

I made my first homebrewed kombucha tea this week.

(365 Day 204 Photo)

Actually it was my first kombucha to try ever, and I don't think it really brews- just ferments- as the yeast culture I put into the tea feeds on the nitrogen and sugar to release all sorts of good stuff that is said to cure a long list of complaints. I've been wanting to try it for a while.

This tea dates back to 221 B.C. in China, where the kombucha mother (the rubbery yeast colony) was passed from friend to friend like bread starters. But probably more happily received, as a week's worth of kombucha is a whole lot easier to make than a week's worth of bread.
Even the smallest bit of yeast "floaties" from an opened bottle could be carefully nurtured into a little "mother".

But where would I happen upon a small mother to begin with? Especially when the bottled varieties have been pulled from the health stores to be studied for alcohol content?

Craigslist, of course! I was told about a woman who gave baby mamas away regularly for free, I emailed her, we met, and I got the hook up.
Just like those friends in China centuries ago, she passed along potential health in a kombucha mother.

Below are a combo of her directions and those from this site's:

You'll need 12 bags or 1/4 cup loose leaves of any black or green tea you prefer (Vanessa recommended Republic of Tea's Blackberry Sage or Chai,) 1 cup white sugar, 1 gal boiling water, 1 kombucha starter in a cup of previously made kombucha, a strainer, a coffee filter, rubber band, and sun tea or pickle jar.

First, bring the gallon of water to a boil then add the tea and sugar, letting it brew for 15 minutes (long enough for nitrogen to be sufficiently released from the tea, I guess.)
Here, you can remove the bags or strain the leaves, then let the tea cool completely.

You can place the mother and it's cup of kombucha tea into the bottom of the gallon jar, covering the mouth of jar with a coffee filter and rubber band.

(This is the mother waiting for the tea. I know, it's gross looking.)

Once the tea is cooled, pour it into the jar on top of the mother, filling just to the beginning of the curve at the top of jar. This allows room for it to expand. Replace the filter and wait 5- 10 days, depending on the temperature and if the sugar has been absorbed enough. Taste to see.

I don't know if you can see it, but the mother here floated to the side and began reproducing a baby mama across the top of the tea. I think this is how it works. Each batch leaves you with a new mother that you can use or pass along to someone else.

When it's no longer sweet, remove the mother and baby with a cup of tea for one or both depending on how many batches you're going to make from it. You can pour the tea into bottles, filling to the top, and capping to trap the gases produced by the sugar breakdown. (In other words, it fizzes like a carbonated drink.) Then, tuck them into the fridge.

As far as I understand, the old mother can be separated into a couple of layers to be used individually or reused intact until it is dark brown. You should then replace it with one of it's babies, which it makes with each batch. So, I can see how easy it would be, if you have 2 or more gallons going all the time, to have extras to give away. That is, if anybody wants it.

Now, what I really wanted to know was how will it taste? The answer is really good. I used pomegranate tea so it was pretty strong, yet my kids liked it. It did taste carbonated, and I didn't even wait the recommended few days to let it mature. It beats the whole apple cider vinegar and honey tonic to pieces.

In fact, we're going through it really fast. Good thing I made double this time with my new baby mama. I'm trying ginger tea, hoping for a ginger ale kind of taste.

One more word of advice: add it to your diet slowly, 1 cup a day for a while to prevent gas and bloating. When your body is adjusted, you can increase to even the recommended 3 per day.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Some 365's

(365 Day 186)

These are some 365's taken through the viewfinder, a sometimes frustrating endeavor that has the potential to produce a neat little image along with many impatient outbursts. Maybe you can tell how annoyed I am above.

(365 Day 190)

First there's the whole light leak thing when the camera is tilted at certain angles.

(likeness, 365 Day 196)

All of which is made even more interesting if I'm photographing something at eye level. I can either scrounge around for something to stand on or hold both cameras and all those inches of cardboard balancing above my head.

(ruffled, 365 Day 200)

I know my family thinks I'm nuts when I look through it and shuffle back and forth, then side to side, over and over again, like the town drunk, trying to compose my shot while looking at the reverse image. Good times.

(365 Day 201)

Of course, with a 365 I'm the subject, so though I stumble about composing, set the timer, run around to get in the shot, and run back to see how it came out, I know it's just a gamble.

In fact, 365 is making me think my grungy argus lens is too grungy. The dust and sand grit from Utah is magnified to look like giant moles, creases, and dirt clods on my face. I'm all for unedited realism, but some shots border on scary.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Road tripping, Part 4: Grand Canyon

After the whole Wupakti thing, we were ready for the grand canyon, I gotta say a lot of this privately owned land off the highway is just as beautiful as the painted desert. But the landscape changed sharply as we neared the North Rim. It looked very Alpine. Though we'd checked the weather before coming, the temp was rapidly dropping below what we'd expected. It was an unusual cold spell for June, we were told. That word again.

We barely got to our campsite before dark. My husband and I popped the camper up by ourselves because it was now about freezing and the coats were buried under something. So glad I brought those blankets from Peru.

This was the perfect night for "First Day" stew. We huddled around our tiny table like cavemen around a fire in the dead of winter. And most unbelievable, we were mere yards from the rim.

Lesson #8: Aww, dreams really do come true.

The next morning we walked from our camper to the edge and saw it. The place I'd wanted to see since I was a little girl, watching the Brady's Westward Vacation. This was our only full day in the Canyon, so we wanted to hike down the North Kaibab Trail first thing.

Lesson #9: Know thyself, and don't let any well intentioned person or Ranger tell you different.

We planned to bring coats, mostly waterproof coats down just in case we didn't get very far and it was as cold as the night before; but after several Rangers (one of which hikes to the bottom in flip flops) warned us of the super high temps, even after we said we'd probably just go 5 miles down, we left them at the Visitor's Center and headed out.

I don't think they realize we are from Southeast Texas. I work out in 100 degree heat with 80% humidity regularly, but okay.

We were about 1 mile down when the clouds rolled in and we heard distant thunder. It was quickly cooling off and a volunteer ranger we met suggested we go no farther than Supai Tunnel (only 2 miles down) because of the weather. By the time we reached the tunnel, we were in a lightening storm.

The anxiety I thought I would have over the heights never really manifested. The paths were wide enough and my son understood that straying too far from the canyon wall induced a volley of robotic-like "Hug the wall"s from me, so it was an easy hike. There was, however, a new concern for all of us in the amount of thunder and lightening we were hearing and seeing shortly after beginning. I'd read lightening storms were serious and deadly and that a strike was often preceded by the hairs on the back of your neck rising. If we saw lightening we were to take cover.

My question is, when you are suspended on a small trail on the side of a steep canyon wall, where is cover?
Basically we just looked for overhanging rocks to shelter us a little when the lightening was continuous. The kids were scared and I was even more conscious of the hairs at the nape of my neck. Plus the temperature was now freezing, we were getting soaked, and I worried about us getting sick.

So, I told them the verse my mother told me to repeat to myself anytime I was afraid: Psalm 56:3, "What time I am afraid, I will put my trust in thee."
After a few switchbacks and more lightening, we bumped into that same ranger. He'd waited for us to give us plastic ponchos. Our hero!!

My son perked up immediately and explained to us how things like this aren't just accidents or coincidence. Shortly after that it quit raining (yay) and started snowing (huh?).

Honestly, I wasn't really that worried about lightening, and I could've gone 10 miles in this easily by myself. But, my biggest worry was the family's lagging morale.

They didn't see as much as they'd planned and the steep climb up was hard. (Now we understood why the people trudging up past us, earlier, as we skipped down, weren't all bright and chatty.) However, the kids mood improved greatly with the gift of ponchos and the trailhead in sight.

When we got back to our camp, we just sat in the truck with our heater on, answering texts as slowly as we could.
After a while we noticed the truck next to us was full of kids whose tent had gotten soaked, doing the same thing. That group was also headed to Zion next. It was pretty neat to meet people from all over the states or world, traveling the same beautiful trail down the canyon wall as we were. The same trail explorers and natives had for hundreds of years.

Lesson #10: Pay showers are good!

After thawing, we used the pay showers and thoroughly enjoyed our full 8 minutes of hot water. Then we topped that indulgence off with a piece of awesome vegetarian pizza and bottomless hot cocoa at a shop by the Lodge.

Driving to Point Imperial and Cape Royal was a good opportunity for me to play with all the cameras I'd brought, as the whole shake- the- polaroid- in- the- snow -and- rain- thing didn't work so well.

I'll post more ttvs and polaroids later.

As we drove these mountain roads, I also remembered stories of my dad, taking 30 minutes of fearful shuffling just to get from the car to one of these lookout points. Or how his cousins said Hail Mary's and cried from the floorboard of the back seat as his uncle drove up Pike's Peak. How funny we'd seem to people raised in the mountains. (I'm remembering a guide in Peru who thought my fear of heights odd) Some people are just sea level folks.

(365 Day 158 Photo)

Lesson #11: Bring campfire stories

With it being this cold, we spent our nights at the Grand Canyon bundled up together, reading. I was so glad I'd brought some ghost stories of the southwest and an Indian legend to read from each tribe whose land we'd passed through. My husband and son conked out early, but my daughter and I would stay up reading and talking together in her bunk.

Once we were ready for bed, the winds at night were so powerful there that they rocked our little camper to sleep. There is nothing better than a pop up swaying in the wind, except maybe a boat.

I want to go back there one day, when the children are older, and hike all the way to the bottom to spend the night, Brady style.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Leave Your Sleep

Has anyone heard this?

I was in line at Barnes and Noble with more than I planned to buy, of course, the other day when I noticed a new Natalie Merchant album by the checkout. A double album, actually. I had listened to 10,000 Maniacs when I was younger, but haven't even heard a song from last 3 albums, so I made a mental note to check it out online and see if my Natalie impersonation was still right on.

It's sort of a cross between Tracy Chapman and a regular person who's just swallowed a glass of milk and still has a little bubble of it in the back of their throat but trying to belt out a song anyway.

Strangely, I think the sound was what originally drew me to 10,000 Maniacs as a girl. I liked imperfect female voices. Wonder why? She did sound like a real person and the lyrics were just a bit more challenging than Power Station, so in my little town where I didn't know about any music unless it was in the Columbia House catalog, this was a breath of fresh air.

A sample of said challenging lyrics:
"Lineage closed, dissolved in its birth. Tragedy prelude a balance. It's a synergy of reason, malicious hope as techno atrocities elapse their effects; but associate these ends, their clarity demands your revenge. Please compensate and not deny."

No one would argue that there is definitely something challenged about that.

You want to know the sad truth? I wrote those from memory. No, I never sang them with soulful vigor, pretending to understand whatever issue they were bringing "awareness" to, but the pretentious "mad lib" aspect of it compelled me to read it out loud to people so many times that it's now permanently wedged in my subconscious. This is another aspect of having too much time on your hands. When you trade worst lyrics with people (imagine that song pitted against something from Nursery Cryme) Or when you cover songs from completely different genres of music in the Natalie Merchant voice. Or Cher.. or Elton John...or an unholy combination of milk bubble voices.

Anyway it will probably take hypnosis...

(365 Day 194 Photo)

But, I liked her. She was like a cheesy friend that said things that made you cringe, but you still like hanging around them. Plus, her albums always had one or two songs I really liked a lot on them and they'd never have to be censored when my daughter was little.

Anyway, I looked up the new one on Grooveshark, poised on the edge of my computer chair ready for the first line of the first song to end in a drawn out sort of wail that bends flat, but it didn't really. At least not the few I listened to.

I kind of liked it until I heard the wild Indian beats and voices of the next song. I thought, "Oh, she's gone too far," but realized the player had reverted back to a Slumdog Millionaire song I'd listened to earlier, so I closed my jaw and listened some more.

The album is based on various poems for children that she read to her daughter and is backed by a lot of traditional sounding songs that she wrote. Nothing I heard grated. But I might have bought it even if some of it did. Nostalgia controls me so.

So, I'll probably get it. My husband will tolerate it. My brother would mock it. My kids will love to hate it. And my impersonation will only get better.

Old Man

This is a photo tribute to my good old man who got a bath today.

(365 Day 193 Photo)

He's my walking buddy. We walk on grass while his paw is healing and my feet are adjusting to more minimal shoes.

I know he's too big, but he's on a diet and getting regular walks. He wants to run, run like Jethro Bodean.

He used to be my son's pillow when he watched cartoons, is Spot's idol, and our protector on walks in an iffy neighborhood. Best of all, he had total reverence for our old cat Celie (in the sidebar.)

(more on my Flickr)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Ticking Time Bombs

I always hated track, but loved to run. After running every day in track (yuck) I'd come home and sometimes run some more. Some Saturdays I'd run to a pick up a friend and we'd take off for another 3-5 miles. As an adult, I'd run my daughter in a stroller, play chase, run bleachers, run trails, and always get a little run in if we went to the beach. That is, until about 3 years ago when it was all I could do to finish a run with the excruciating pain in the balls of my feet.

(365 Day 192 Photo)

A doctor and chiropractor later, I was told my arches had fallen. It was obvious. I could see it and my shoe size had gone up by a half. The whole foot rolled inward.
Was this caused by the time I'd been spending barefoot in taekwondo, my age (mid thirties), my mileage (we're not talking marathon, here), trying to sprint more; or, as the book I'm now reading suggests, was it the super structured, supportive shoes I was wearing?

Well, this book, Born to Run, has got me thinking about the course of events and my chiropractor confirmed that my arches wouldn't strengthen while I was wearing supports.

(365 Day 191 Photo)

I'm really intrigued by the idea that it's the heel support and heel strike that weaken our arches in the first place. And gradually walking and running without so much shoe, might get them back into shape.

So, it's time to give "Chi Running" another try. This time, a real try. If I combine what I remembered about it with what I am reading about the stride of the Tarajumara people of Mexico who run in huraches and never suffer injury, I may be able to retrain myself to run the way I probably did as a child. Before the magazines and coaches said to strike at my heel and roll forward.

So, my first step was to go barefoot around the house more for a couple of weeks. So far so good.
I also incorporated my chiropractor's arch exercises each night: picking up a golf ball with my feet and sitting in front of a towel on the floor, using my feet to bunch it up toward me. Then I roll them out on the golf ball.

My first "more minimal" run was yesterday. I tried to get that feeling of leaning into the wind from the ankles, not the waist, chest open. I kept my knees bent and relaxed and let my feet softly stroke the ground from mid or fore foot to spread toes, never striking in front of my hips. I took lots more steps, trying to relax and listen to what any pain could tell me about my mechanics.

Anyway I felt so awkward! I was out of breath just from the mental energy I was expending.

I remembered a time when my brother and I saw some kids playing outside of my apartment and he laughed, saying they all ran like Scooby Doo with feet circling, but torso unmoved. I don't know, maybe they've got the right idea. I did feel like I was going nowhere yesterday.

But, (even though the shoes I chose were so loose that they rubbed a big blister and I had to walk/ run the last half) I actually ran that 1 1/2 mile faster than normal without realizing it.

Today, my calves were sore like I'd done calf raises, but not too bad. Before trying again, I scavenged the internet for shoe types that were good to transition to near barefoot running, hoping I'd have something like it in my closet. I settled on some casual low heeled new balance shoes. My chiropractor would definitely cringe. And I cringed too. In fact, I had trouble relaxing again and it wasn't just because of all the loose dogs in the neighborhood. I've been seeing my little feet as time bombs, ready to explode and end my mobility for life.

Cheery, huh? I can't remember a time in the last 3 years that I ran with the old abandon I'd always had. This has to stop. I wasn't given a spirit of fear. I really wasn't.

Besides, though my calves are a little sore from being worked differently, I had absolutely no pain in the ball of my foot from my arches today.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Dry Bones

(365 Day 189 Photo)

‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD! This is what He says to these bones: “Surely I will cause breath to enter into you, and you shall live. I will put sinews on you and bring flesh upon you, cover you with skin and put breath in you; and you shall live. Then you shall know that I am the LORD.” Ezekiel 37:4-6

Just considering these little leaf skeletons from my sweet peas.
They are like an area in me that was once strong and green, but has withered away.

Do I look like this to Him?

Who knew dry bones could be so pretty. All sorts of potential.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Road Tripping Part 3: Wupakti Through a Box

Lomaki in Wupakti National Monument from the Arizona leg of our trip

These are some of my favorite shots of our trip.

So glad I stayed up late one night making a better contraption.

We could see Sunset Crater in the distance.

All on my Flickr.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Road Tripping, Part 2: Arizona (Everything to See Before the Grand Canyon)

Where was I? Oh yeah, Arizona. We left New Mexico through the Lincoln National Forest, so beautiful, seeing Lincoln (of Billy the Kid fame) and Capitan. I had lots of little printed out stories and facts about places we'd see for my children to respectfully sigh and put the nintendos down to listen to.

Lesson # 5 Force history on them. It's good for them. And an offhand story about how Billy the Kid shot two men, escaped the jail, just to hang out with friends a while before going on the lam makes the building they're posed next to more memorable.

Leaving NM, our goal was tent camping one night at White Sands Missile Range just past Alamogordo. But we just couldn't get there before dark, so we saw the Giant Pistachio (more of that roadside art), got a hotel room and tried to reorganize the trip to camp there on the way back. It was something I just HAD to do.

But I was very excited to get to the Painted Desert. It was beautiful and other than some crankiness between my husband and myself, it was really neat to see it all. But I guess I thought we'd be able to just meander all over the place, when really there are designated paths (that are really cool, right in the middle of painted hills), but it definitely felt managed by the Parks Service.

Don't get me wrong, I love the State and National Parks, but I just pictured myself wandering at will like an Indian on pilgrimage or something. Of course, I guess they have to because so much of the petrified wood is stolen each year.

So through the Apache Pass area where Cochise's guerrilla Apache warriors set out to rid their land of white men and avenge his father-in-law's gruesome death we drove. I won't go there. But you can.

Lesson #6: Keep it light!

If our family road trip had an unintentional theme I guess it would've been Native Tribes and UFOs. But, I'm not really a theme person.

We were surprised by how not-flat Arizona is. There was quite a bit to see. My husband never once nodded off at the wheel. Of course, we are from Texas, and if you've ever driven across Texas you know that it doesn't take much scenery to impress.

Here I am ..."standing on the corner in Winslow , Arizona" After several days of driving, I'm not sure I'm such a fine sight to see. But, we had fun looking at all the people there to do just that too. Who knew? And we did drive down a bit of old Route 66- pretty cool.

The Barringer meteor crater was my vertigo warm up before the Grand Canyon. The winds were so unusually high (unusual would be the much repeated mantra of this trip), the rim trail was closed. But we got to go in a ways on the skywalk and take pictures. It was big, for sure, but I'm glad we didn't bother stopping after the Grand Canyon. I enjoyed all the info in the museum about previous meteors in the Soviet Union and such, and the difference between meteors and meteorites, which I forgot instantly.

Lesson #7 Plan trip from the least impressive to the most or risk bored, underwhelmed kids.

Stopped to see Lomaki, the free segment of the Wupakti National Monument. It wasn't far off of the highway and gave the kids a chance to see where some of the ancient Sinagua Indians, then later Navajos lived. Interesting that their farming was succesful due to volcanic soil in cracks surrounding the area, not a lush and watered landscape.

But I really liked it most because I took some of my most favorite ttv photos there (which I'll post about separately.) Yes, the camera lugging had officially begun. So glad I stayed up past midnight at that hotel cutting a new contraption from foam board while my zombie-like husband handed me strips of duct tape.

Just before we get to The Canyon, we cross the Navajo Bridge. I don't know why my husband's been building this up as the scariest thing for the heights- anxious, but I walked out into the center of the pedestrian bridge anyway. It was unreal. So beautifully carved by water. I was enjoying, not fearing, until my son came running across it to me. Ahhh! Oh well, once he slowed down, I was ok.

Next stop: The Grand Canyon