Sep 292014
 

The official title of Marie Porter’s cookbook is “Beyond Flour: A Fresh Approach to Gluten-Free Cooking & Baking”, but that’s way too long to use as the header for a blog post and the hashtagged version of the title (#BeyondFlour) means you’ll be able to find this post and said cookbook through Twitter. If you want to find it via the Interwebs, you can use this link instead.

I’m slightly regretful that I didn’t write something about this sooner because you can buy the cookbook through the Celebration Generation website for $24.99, but the pre-order discount price is $19.99 until October 1st. Not to rush you into making a purchase or anything.

The book’s funding involved a Kickstarter campaign, so by donating a certain amount of money, I got an autographed cookbook that arrived in the mail on Friday. It took me a few days to finally make something, in part because I needed to go shopping for ingredients like coconut flour and sorghum flour. Go figure.

Tonight, I finally decided to get out a mixing bowl, turn on the oven and try making something from the cookbook. This was kind of a big deal for me because I don’t cook. Sure, I can whip up a mean box of Kraft mac ‘n’ cheese, but when it comes to combining separate ingredients like flour and eggs and butter without anything prepared ahead of time, I’m pretty sure this was a first. Gluten-free? Unheard of until now.

Thus, I was very deliberate. I set out the ingredients, the different measuring cups and spoons I’d need, the pan and bowl… time to make the recipe on Page 157: Double Chocolate Brownies.

I won’t bore you with the whole process, but even after some bits of advice from my mother before I got started, I learned one thing the hard way: “A watched pot never boils” may also apply to butter. I say “may” because I wasn’t watching it melting in the microwave, but I’m pretty sure it did boil because there was a pool of butter next to the measuring cup when it was done. Oops.

Aside from that, things went pretty smoothly. I mixed the ingredients together, spread it out in a pan, put the pan in the oven for just over 30 minutes, then sat around and waited until it cooled enough for the first taste.

The result? The brownies don’t suck. (Yay!) They actually turned out pretty good. (Double yay!) Which means that Beyond Flour has some really yummy recipes in it. (Triple yay!) Excuse me for a moment while I pat myself on the back for this first successful venture into gluten-free cooking.

Oh, and as a final note, I recommend making a batch late at night or in the wee hours of the morning. There’s a much greater likelihood that you won’t eat the entire pan of brownies right away if you need to go to bed soon.

Sep 172014
 
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I know, I know, that’s not really a line from the “Do You Hear What I Hear?” Christmas carol, but that’s the tune that popped into my head when I was thinking about writing this.

I went to the eye doctor on September 15th, 2014. The date is only significant because it’s almost exactly four years after the last time I went: September 23rd, 2010. I got a new driver’s license a few weeks ago and I was pretty sure that the glasses I was wearing this time are the same ones I was wearing the last time. One point for me!

I didn’t have a reason for not going, I just never got around to it. I could see well enough, so why go through the hassle? Well, I got tired of not being able to see straight. I have a nifty form of astigmatism that makes my eyes focus in different places. If I let my eyes relax, everything splits into two. (Upon getting my eyes tested this week, I found out that one is slightly diagonal, too.)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m very sensitive when it comes to my eyes. Or maybe “squeamish” would be a better term. It can be ridiculously hard for me to do really simple stuff. I’ve been in a handful of plays and I can barely put on mascara. I usually end up caking a bunch on the ends of my eyelashes, then use paper towels to pull off the excess. Eyeliner? Not gonna happen. I can’t handle letting stabby things like pencils get that close to my eyes.

The eye doctor had an assistant who did some of the initial testing. After some of the basic “What’s the lowest line you can read?” charts, it was time to put in some eye drops to dilate my pupils. Wonderful.

I’m not sure what’s happened with eye drop technology in the last four years, but thankfully, I didn’t need to keep my eyes open afterward: she just pried open my eyelid, dropped some liquid in there and it immediately ran down my cheek when I blinked my eye closed. In the past, that would have meant more eye drops, which would have led to more suffering. And I was suffering.

I think I took as many breaks as I got drops. She told me to look up at the ceiling, I could hear the surge of blood rushing into my ears, my eyelid would immediately try to close if anything got near it, then I’d have to stop and rub my eye for a minute. Then she said the most irritating thing I’ve heard in a very long time:

“I know how you feel. I’ve seen people have this problem plenty of times.”

My relatively polite response?

“No, you really don’t.”

I don’t remember where I read this, but one of the worst things you can say to someone is “I know how you feel” because you don’t. You can’t. My grandfather died while I was in college and I had to stay at school for a majority of a week until I could fly home for the wake. I think I told three people before I left. Back in 2005, we had a dog who had some nasty disease and we were going to put her to sleep. I went to the vet, sat down next to her with a box of tissues and bawled my eyes out for forty-five minutes. If any of you read through this paragraph and thought, “I know how you feel”, you’re full of shit.

I know people who are afraid of heights. I sometimes get a sense of vertigo when I’m looking down from the edge of a skyscraper, but that’s not the same as being scared of climbing three steps up on a ladder. Maybe I know that you feel afraid, but I have no idea how you feel.

It’s incredibly frustrating because it’s so simple. All I need to do is hold my eye open just a little bit. It’s a tiny drop of liquid, nothing more. I see people put eye drops in all the time, but honestly, it makes me cringe a little, thinking about how my body would react if I tried doing it myself.

Eventually, the assistant left to go get the doctor. He came into the room and even though it had been four years since my last visit, he quickly remembered me having the same problem back then, too. “Try to hold your other eye open and look toward the ceiling.” I tried as hard as I could, but the blood started surging in my ears again while the other eyelid stayed closed tight.

We managed to get through most of the tests that involved shining bright lights directly into my eyes. Not all, but most. He decided that was good enough. There wasn’t much point in trying to do any other tests if my eyelids were going to clamp shut every time we tried to keep them open. Ultimately, my eyelids would win. Thankfully, when my appointment was over and he handed me my new prescription, the only thing he said to me was “Say hi to your dad for me.” Much less irritating.

Sep 052014
 

Gratitude, day three. I was invited to play by Vee. For five days, you list three things you are grateful for, and… you know the drill.

1) Sleeping in. I like it a lot more than waking up too early.

2) The Interwebs. Keeping in touch with people around the globe, a near-infinite amount of information accessible with a few taps on a keyboard, cat videos.

3) My family. I love them whole bunches.

3b) Definitely grateful for my grandma. She’s 96, one of the smartest ladies I know, still living in her own home and still loving life. An inspiration.

3c) Extremely grateful for my dad. Age 71, he’s survived a heart attack, two open-heart surgeries, stage 4 mantle cell lymphoma (currently in remission) and three sons. (And a partridge in a pear tree…) He brings a lot of joy to a lot of people.
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Gratitude, day four. I was invited to play by Vee. For five days, you list three things you are grateful for, and anything else you do is a crap shoot.

1) My sense of humor. Some people laugh and some people groan, but if God wanted all the people to laugh all the time, He wouldn’t have created politics.

2) Caffeine. Aside from the anti-seizure meds, it’s my drug of choice.

3) Boy Scouts of America. It was a big part of my life growing up, it’s my current employer and it was my subtitle on Beauty and the Geek (“Assistant Boy Scout Master”).
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Gratitude, day five. I was invited to play by Vee. For five days, you list three things you are grateful for, and then live happily ever after.

1) Time zones. I was visiting my brother in Wisconsin on Tuesday, got home late, did a couple chores around the house, then realized it was 12:15 on the 30th. But that’s Central Time: in the Mountain and Pacific time zones, it’s still the 29th.

2) Comfy shoes. I spend a lot of time on my feet at work, so being allowed to wear sneakers is awesome compared to how I’d feel wearing flat-soled shoes all day.

3) Cheetos. Because they’re Cheetos.

Aug 312014
 

Gratitude, day one. I was invited to play by Vee. For five days, you list three things you are grateful for, and invite three more people to join.

1) Pizza. Because pizza.

2) My job at the Scout Shop. The schedule is flexible, my coworkers are fun and I like being able to pay down my credit card balance.

3) My rebellious spirit. Okay, I’m not that rebellious, but enough that I don’t feel the need to abide by rules like inviting more people to join. Mwa ha ha haaaaaa!!!
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Gratitude, day two. I was invited to play by Vee. For five days, you list three things you are grateful for, and invite three more people to join. Or zero people. Or a couple dozen. It’s your call.

1) Air conditioning. It wasn’t that hot today, but hot enough to remind me of days when A/C is a godsend.

2) My right patellar tendon. My knee was feeling a bit sore and wobbly today (probably pushed it too hard on the elliptical machine yesterday), but if it weren’t for the surgery that used the middle third of said tendon to replace a torn ACL, my knee might not be functional enough to use an elliptical machine at all.

3) Lamictal and depakote. Because not having epileptic seizures is awesome.

4) Pizza. I know this was on yesterday’s list, but I’m including it again because pizza.

Aug 312014
 

This is a challenge that’s gone through Facebook a couple times. The version I’ve read on my news feed the last few days reads like this: “I have been challenged by ___________ to a gratitude challenge: to post three things I am grateful for for five days, and challenge three friends a day for the challenge.”

Given that I’ve written gratitudes in the past (see: previous blog entries in this category), I took on the challenge when someone tagged me back in July and started posting three things for five days. And then I kept posting more. And more. And more.

I eventually wrapped up toward the end of August, but the one thing that occasionally nagged at me was that I was writing them there, but even with my Gratitudes category here on my blog, I never touched it. My blog has been getting lonely enough as it is, but posting gratitude status messages on Facebook was like rubbing salt in the wound.

I haven’t decided how to proceed, really. It’ll be a bunch of copying and pasting, but will I do one a day? Two a day? Randomly dump five into a single blog post every week and a half or so? I don’t know, but since the ladies say they love spontaneity, maybe I won’t bother with a pattern. I guess we’ll both find out whenever they get posted.

Aside from all that, feel free to take up the challenge on your own. You can post your gratitudes online; you can write them in a journal. Whatever the case, take the time to remember the spiffy things in your life. (Here’s a blog entry from back in 2006 that might help if you need some suggestions.)

Aug 112014
 

One of the plugins I use for my blog is NewStatPress, which shows a wide range of information about recent hits, recent referrers, recent searches, etc. The last one is what worries me the most sometimes. The easiest way to find this website (aside from typing in the web address) is to search for “Shawn Bakken”. (It’s up toward the top of the list if you Google “Joe Bastianich douchebag”, too.) Some of the other search terms, though… yikes. Take this one, for example (and I wish I was making this up):

“boy with a boner in spandex porn”

And that search led someone here.

The page viewed as a result was the first page of the “Journal” category and I was at a loss as to what Google might have found there. I mean, it’s been a long time since I’ve joked about Shawn porn and I don’t look that great in spandex, so what’s the deal? I scrolled down the first page, wondering how it could have made such a tragic mistake, then found these entries:

What are you most proud of?
Marie Porter doesn’t make Canadian porn
Is that a franchise in your pants?

I’m proud of earning my Eagle award in Boy Scouts. Marie Porter doesn’t make porn and she has a website called Queen of Spandex. I got some junk mail about franchising “NHance” that I joked about being “boner medicine”. Add them all together and you’ve got a serious creeper who’s now stalking you online.

What’s worse, this also means that if someone searches for “Shawn Bakken with a boner in spandex porn”… please, God, don’t let any potential employers try to see what they can find out about me on the Internet like that.