Category Archives: grumble

same ol’, same ol’

I went to the orthodontist this week for the first time in, oh, a long time. I had braces as a kid, then had a removable retainer for my top teeth and a permanent one for my bottom teeth. I think by the time I got to college I had started not wearing the removable one very much. The permanent one was, well, permanently in there. I probably hadn’t been to the orthodontist for two reasons. One, I wasn’t having any problems so I didn’t feel an urgent need to add yet another appointment to my life and two, my dental insurance didn’t really cover orthodontic procedures. Or even visits, I’m guessing. So, since my teeth seemed to be fine and not becoming crooked and since the permanent retainer remained permanent and didn’t get loose or anything, I just kind of let it all go. None of my dentists ever strongly urged me to get a check up (although, sometimes they would ask if I had been seeing an orthodontist and I probably lied and said I was) until recently when my new dentist (at the dental practice that makes me wait an hour every single time I have an appointment) gave me some sort of guilt trip about still having a permanent retainer. Like she was appalled at the medieval dental device in my mouth and that caused her to chastise me and tell me that there was new technology that could be used. Never mind the fact that she talked to me like I was 12. Then, this lady comes in and tells me I can visit their orthodontic practice for a consult and just see what they recommend, at no charge. Since I’m tired of all this fuss anyway, I agree but am already thinking that it’s going to cost way more money than I’m willing to spend on something that is working just fine.

To make a long story short, getting a retainer removed and being fit for a lower removable one is not nearly as expensive as I thought. Plus, just the fact that I have dental insurance at all brings the cost down, even if insurance doesn’t cover any of it. They removed the permanent brackets and wire (and the assistant commented that it was really well-done and fitted perfectly and there was no decay on my teeth) and now my teeth feel eerily non-bracketed while I’m waiting for the retainer to be made. One more visit for a fitting (and a fitting check of the upper one) and I’m done with that entire office. Which is kind of a shame, because the orthodontist is really nice, but even there I was left waiting for 40 minutes.

So, I’m looking for a new dentist. One that doesn’t make me wait 30 minutes after my appointment time and one that doesn’t talk to me like I should have a parent or guardian present. I really miss my old dentist who sold his practice.

Our friends have moved into their new-old house. I’m a little jealous that they get to decorate with a blank slate (and before fully unpacking) because once your home is furnished and lived in it gets a little harder to paint the walls and such. But it makes me want to freshen up my house, so I’m trying to convince T to completely redo the master bathroom. Nothing like knocking down walls or anything, just ripping out the built in cabinets, the sink, the flooring, and the toilet and putting new stuff in. Maybe rewiring a couple of switches. I think if we can pull that off ourselves, he might be more willing to tackle the kitchen. I already have it all laid out and priced according to the Ikea cabinet catalog. I think it’ll take about $1,000 for the bathroom, which sounds like a lot (when you consider how small the bathroom is), but I think it’ll be worth it. The kitchen will be quite a bit more, so it may make sense to wait on that, anyway.

I also made cabbage rolls this week, mainly because I had three heads of cabbage sitting the fridge. They came out pretty good, considering I just threw things together and then mixed it up. One pound ground turkey, an egg, some cooked brown rice, a handful of pinenuts, another handful of dried cranberries, and then it all got rolled up in parboiled cabbage leaves. Into the crockpot, topped with a couple of boxes of Trader Joe’s starter sauce, and dinner was ready by the time I got home! That’s how I’ve been cooking lately – no recipes and hoping for the best.

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I hate Splenda

There.  I’ve said it.  I hate Splenda.  Yes, I know everyone thinks Splenda is practically the same as sugar and tastes the same as sugar, but it’s not and it doesn’t.  Splenda (the brand name) is sucralose, which is a chlorinated sucrose product.  It is not natural and it most definitely has a funny taste to it.  Now, stevia is natural and is a completely different story, but I still don’t like it.

I’m not sure how it happened, but Splenda appeared and all of a sudden the little yellow packets were a godsend.  People started dumping it into iced tea and baking with it and then Splenda came out with a baking blend of Splenda and brown sugar and the food world went insane.  I think Splenda seemed more natural because the tagline used to be “Tastes like sugar because it’s made from sugar” AND the proportions were more equal to sugar.  Where a pinch of NutraSweet was the equivalent of a teaspoon of sugar (or something), a teaspoon of Splenda was the same as a teaspoon of sugar.  Want to know why?  Because the Splenda people added water-soluble fillers to their product.  Ta da!

Now, I’ll admit, I jumped on the bandwagon for a while.  I think it was when I had the brilliant idea to go on the South Beach diet.  So, I put Splenda in my coffee.  And I drank it, because Splenda was allowed where sugar wasn’t.  And when I gave up on the South Beach diet (because it’s a little bit crazy, although the concept in general makes sense, and because I’m lousy at diets in general), I went back to sugar and decided Splenda tastes funny.  It tastes like chemicals.  Because it’s a chemically altered product. 

There are dozens of sugar-free, diet-friendly, blah blah blah recipes out there that call for Splenda.  These recipes also tell you that people won’t know the difference because Splenda tastes like sugar.  It’s all a lie, unless you’re one of those people who exclusively uses artificial sweeteners.  In that case, you definitely won’t be able to tell any difference with Splenda-sweetened products.  You’re just used to it.

A friend of ours found out she has gestational diabetes, and one of her friends (totally not me) said she would gladly bake her desserts made with Splenda so she could satisfy her sweet tooth.  My first thought after hearing that was, really?  Feeding your body desserts made with artificial sweetener is better than fruits or honey-sweetened treats?  I mean, I know nothing about being pregnant, but I would rather forgo soda altogether than ingest the diet versions.  No one would dream of baking with Equal or NutraSweet because those have the stigma of being made of chemicals and are artificial.  I’m betting that most people don’t realize Splenda isn’t all that different.  Different chemicals, yes, but it’s not any more natural.

So, then I started wondering if there is such a thing as a healthy sugar.  I know there’s honey and maple syrup, but are they better than sugar?  Less refined?  I also remember an old co-worker praising agave syrup in her raw food desserts.  Like chocolate “pudding” made with avocados, agave syrup, and cocoa powder. 

I found agave syrup at Trader Joe’s one day.  I picked it up, not knowing much about it other than the fact that it’s used in a lot of raw food recipes (being processed at a temperature below 118F), which makes it sound healthy, and it’s derived from a plant (I guess kind of like stevia?)  It tastes like a sweet syrup, but without the underlying flavors in honey or maple syrup, which makes it nice and neutral.  It’s supposed to be good for diabetics due to its low glycemic index.  I’ve been using it in my coffee instead of sugar and I can’t really taste the difference.  I’ve also used it in place of sugar for poached pears and a fruit tart.  Aside from the fruit tart getting more liquidy than usual, it all tasted fine.  Sweet and fine and not chemically altered.

Now, I am by no means an expert on artificial sweeteners.  The things I know are from the internet, and we all know how reliable the internet can be.  But I’ve always been suspicious of Splenda, because my tongue was telling me that it didn’t taste like sugar, so reading what I’ve found makes sense.  I also suspect people have embraced Splenda because it has no calories, unlike honey and agave syrup.  If you’re dieting, “0 calories” probably means more to you than “natural sweeter”.  By all means, go for it!  Embrace the artificial sweetener in the neutral yellow packets.  Just stop trying to tell me it’s natural and tastes just like sugar. 

In the end, I just really wanted to rant a little.  To vent.  I’m not judging you for enjoying your Splenda.  Unless you’re looking at it as a health food instead of a diet aid.  In that case, I probably am judging you a tiny bit.  But only in my head.

You know what they say about fish and guests

We had friends in town for about 4 days and it was tiring.  I could be petty and specify that they were not specifically “my” friends or “our” friends but, rather, “his” friends but I won’t.  I’ll just say that it is infinitely more exhausting to entertain people during the week (you know, when you have to get up early, work, come home and not relax, and then go out to do something) than it is just over the weekend.  I’m also extrement grateful that Cami was willing to give me some desperately needed girl time so I could get all my complaining out and not have it fester in my head, where it would most likely have exploded from my mouth at some ill-timed moment in front of T.  And then I might have to do this all over again in August.  Personally, I think it’s unfair to schedule a second visit before your first one is even over, leading me to enter a state of high anxiety for the next two months.  I’m also pretty sure you’re supposed to wait to be invited back and not assume that just because you can arrange to be in town you are automatically invited here.  Also, even if you’re told to make yourself at home and are welcome to whatever food we have, perhaps you should make yourself a little less-at-home when meeting a fairly important significant other for the very first time.

Okay.  I’m done ranting.  Probably. 

The good news is that I learned I often completely underestimate T and that he always behaves in a way to let me know that I am important to him and, if needed, he will take my side.  And he generally knows when something is bothering me and I am unhappy.  And he tries to work the situation towards a compromise, something I am working to accept instead of just fighting it out of stubborness.  I am a lucky girl.

We also picked out the exact paver stones we want to use, which was more involved than I ever imagined.  And I discovered that there is new gopher activity near my precious garden (where I harvested 2 eggplants and 2 bell peppers!) so that gopher gasser better get back out here and take care of it.  For free, since it’s only been 2 weeks since he claimed to kill the gopher in the first place.  Now, granted, it could be a brand new gopher and the original one is dead in a tunnel, but the point is that we were guaranteed a gopher-free existence for 30 days and I’m holding him to that!

I’m looking forward to a nice quiet week and a visit to the Fair next weekend.  Some fried food, grilled corn, beer tasting, bratwurst, and a Strongman competition.  As long as it’s spent with good friends, what could be any better?  And maybe my mom will come with us!  Of course, on the other end of the spectrum, we’ll have to say good-bye to one of our friends.  He’s leaving beautiful San Diego (I know, isn’t he crazy?) for Seattle, a city that, while beautiful, has something like 55 days of sunshine all year.

Grammar, people, grammar

Okay, so I spell it “refrigerator” or “fridge” and I was going to get all up in arms when I saw people spelling it “refridgerator” because that seems like an odd combination of the word and it’s abbreviated version.  But Google brought up seemingly legitimate sites spelling it that way, too, so I’m going to let it slide.

When it comes to flavoring food, though, I am going to have to put my foot down.  People, a “marinade” is something you use.  It’s a noun.  To “marinate” is a verb.  It’s an action verb!  You “marinate” food in a “marinade”.  At no point, ever, should you be “marinading” things. 

It’s a slow day

When I’m bored, I mill around Chowhound. I’ve gotten pretty good at not reading posts with titles that I know will annoy me. I now ignore them. Sometimes I get tricked and read a post only to discover that it’s a stupid question (yes, there are stupid questions AND stupid answers in this world) or completely unrelated to the title. These days, Chowhound is most useful to me for providing insight on new restaurants in the area. Of course, I don’t trust chowhound praise outright. No, typically I’ll see a few restaurants named and I’ll read about them and try and get an idea if the reviews are balanced enough to believe. I don’t trust gushing at all. Especially if it’s accompanied by PRAISE in CAPITAL LETTERS. So, I make a mental note of these places and then if I see it pop up on a couple local blogs it triggers a “hmm..” moment. At that point, I probably write it down somewhere and tell T that I want to try it. Or Cami. And then a few months go by before we ever get to where it is we’re craving. So, I’m totally not a trendsetter when it comes to new restaurants. Except for places in Poway, I guess.

My actual point, however, was to say that I don’t actively try to annoy myself with Chowhound. I feel like I’ve been on that site long enough for the vast number of topics to actually start repeating themselves. What to make for V-Day. What to cook to impress a first date. What to do with leftover ham. What’s your favorite cheese. OMG – Greek yogurt rocks. How long do I roast a chicken. Where to eat during Comicon. No car in SD – what food is bearable. And on and on.

What I don’t understand is what people think the site is for. I see questions pop up that make me wonder if they think they’re having live conversations*. Like, there’s a chicken burning in the oven and the dinner party starts in half an hour – what should they do? If I had a dinner party in half an hour and my food was burning, my first instinct would not be to consult a message board for an answer (and then wait for said answer to eventually appear). I would turn on the vent hood, stick the food outside, and either run to Costo for a roast chicken or make a frantic call to Joey’s Smokin’ BBQ. But, I also plan my dinner parties very carefully, so the chances of this happening to me are small. Also, for small get togethers, I don’t tell people what I’m cooking. For all they know, I was planning on having take-out all along!

Or someone will pull out chicken, a pepper, cheese, and couscous and ask what they can make for dinner that night. In half an hour. Do you really think people are sitting at their computer, constantly hitting “refresh” to see what last-minute disasters they can solve?

My latest favorites, however, involve broken appliances. My oven sometimes bursts into flames – should I worry? My refrigerator is leaking water – what should I do? Weird noises, odd smells, random flames, and puddled liquids are not questions for a message board. That’s when you start calling repair people. Some problems don’t get better the longer you wait to fix them (actually, I don’t know of any problems that do that). The concept boggles my mind.

But, just so I don’t end this post on a grumpy note, I will tell you about a cookie from Trader Joe’s (I know, surprise, surprise!) that I bought and didn’t like that later grew on me to the point where I took the bin to work so I didn’t eat them all. In one sitting. They are like Nilla Wafers, if Nilla Wafers were made with butter and vanilla beans. They’re called Ultimate Vanilla Wafers. They come in the plastic tubs, like the chocolate chip cookies that are also addictive. The cookies are crisp-soft. Not as hard as Nilla Wafers, but not as soft as a chewy cookie. You can definitely taste the butter, but sometimes you can also feel the vanilla bean seeds (some people don’t like that). It’s kind of nice to know that you could use a more natural cookie in place of Nilla Wafers (remember making mini cheesecakes with the wafer as the bottom crust?), but I also take comfort know Nilla Wafer are always on grocery store shelves. For all I know, the vanilla thins are “seasonal” and will disappear once summer is over. All in all, it’s a good butter cookie, with just a hint of vanilla.

* Some message boards really are like real-time chatting. I know friends who frequent boards like this and they form their own little odd community. This comes in handy if, say, your car is stolen and you need hundreds of eyes keeping a lookout until it’s spotted, at which point they band together, block said stolen car in until police arrive, and help you get your car back. I’m just saying.