Friday, August 7, 2009

In search of Circadian Rhythm

I've always had trouble with sleep. As young as 5 years old, when my parents divorced, I had terrifying nightmares that disrupted my rest. When I was 12, I even saw a doctor because my insomnia was so bad. I've had good years and bad years, and last year was a bad year.

I've tried a range of remedies. Some have helped. A chiropractor suggested a concussion I had at 11 (from a head-first bike accident) may have disrupted my hypothalamus. The treatment she gave me did make a notable difference, but it didn't erase the problem. I have a history also of slight hypothyroidism (resulting in a slow metabolism). My insomnia seems to be related to hormonal cycles. Melatonin sometimes helps. Exercise sometimes helps. But I still have nights where I can only sleep half the night.

Earlier this week, I read a blog post intended for travelers changing time zones. A Harvard researcher discovered that in addition to light, food intake affects the body's rhythms as well. Clifford Saper suggests that fasting for 16 hours can reset the sleep/wake cycle. I'm trying it out, and it does seem to make a difference. I haven't been falling asleep earlier, but I have been waking up clear-headed and alert when I am usually sluggish and sleepy. I've gone 2 nights so far. We'll see if it actually shifts my sleep/wake cycle enough to fall asleep earlier.

(The nifty biological clock illustration is by YassineMrabet, posted on Wikimedia Commons)

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Light Summer Salad

Recently, I've been putting some intention towards really sensing and caring for my physical well being. After all, our bodies are, in a sense, our most consistent "home" in this life.

Regular exercise, focused breathing, and good food are my main body-care activities right now. I've been considering a "cleanse"; a semi-fast to purify the body. I haven't taken that plunge yet, but today I did try a recipe from Adina Niemerow's book Super Cleanse, with some adaptations.

Watermelon Salad with Zippy Lime Dressing
(my version, adapted from Adina Niemerow)
- watermelon
- julienned arugula & pea shoots
- chopped toasted pistachios
tossed with:
- flax oil
- lime juice
- fresh cilantro
- good quality chili powder
- sea salt

Yummy, light summer eating!
This would make a great lunch with a light protein, maybe a broiled white fish or roasted chicken.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Breakfast of (f)unemployment

I'm officially (f)unemployed! I volunteered to have my position eliminated. I'm thinking of it as a sabbatical. Today is the first day that I don't have anything scheduled.

I slept in, then made myself a fabulous breakfast!
Soft-boiled eggs over a bed of sauteed onions, spinach, cilantro, and cherry tomatoes, with buttered walnut sourdough toast, and a nice steaming cup of coffee. Most of the ingredients are from Sunday's farmers' market (everything but the eggs, butter, cream for the coffee). It's amazing to live in a place where good fresh food is so readily available.

Too bad I didn't take a picture!

Friday, June 19, 2009

My Covet List

after moving into my new home with L, I decided I would be leaving my job. Both for personal reasons and because of the economy, I expect to be unemployed for a while. So all of my original fantasies about how I wanted to set up our space had to be re-thought. Now that I'm on the frugal living track, I'm collecting a list of home items that I really want, but am not allowing myself to buy (yet).

- Deck Tiles: we have three balconies! With views! But they are a bit stark and windy. They also have some special finish that needs to be treated carefully because they are actually roof decks. So, I'd love to put in some wood or bamboo deck tiles. has some decent options.

- Planters: again, make the roof decks feel more hospitable. I'd love to have big, rectangular ones around the edges of at least one deck. Then the question is; edibles, or ornamental grasses?

- A ModKat Litter Box: these are so much better looking than your typical plastic litter box, plus the top-entry means the dog won't get into it.

- A wall-mounted bookcase for my office space, such as this one at CB2.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Party Food!

So it turns out I'm not much of a blogger. This post is sooo way overdue!

We had a housewarming party! It was fabulous and festive, and did the trick of filling our home with cheer. It was 3-7pm on a Saturday in May. It was a beautiful day, during a heat wave. We had all of the doors open and the fan on high, and it stayed nice inside.

I planned the menu for weeks. OK, maybe just one week. I wanted food that I could make ahead, that could sit out all afternoon, that would be super yummy, relatively healthy, and would go well together.

Here's what I came up with:

- Toasted baguette with artichoke antipasto; fresh baguette sliced into small pieces, drizzled with olive oil & toasted in the oven, plus artichoke dip from Trader Joe's.
- Pita crackers with white bean hummus; Trader Joe's all the way. I love the pita crackers; they're a round cracker out of pita bread, super light.
- Crudites with roasted eggplant-garlic yogurt sauce; carrots, celery, radishes, with a sauce made from Trader Joe's roasted eggplant-garlic dip with greek yogurt mixed in.
- Feta-stuffed olives from Berkeley Bowl.
- Rosemary-cayenne walnuts; from a Chow recipe, except that I used maple syrup instead of sugar and added cayenne pepper. Super yummy!

- Lamb meatballs w/ lemon-cumin yogurt; recipe from chow. These were a super big hit and gone almost instantly. I wish I had made more!
- Lentils in endive leaves; I used the pre-cooked lentils from Trader Joe's, spooned into individual endive leaves, garnished with a leaf of fresh oregano.
- "Caprese bites", using pre-marinated mozzarella balls from Genova Deli, fresh basil, and sugar plum tomatoes, on toothpicks for easy munching. Yum!
- Paprika-roasted cauliflower; inspired by another Chow recipe, except I followed some of the commenters' suggestions to make it with balsamic & olive oil with salt, and I added paprika for a "Mediterranean" theme.

- Dates with chevre & pistachios drizzled with honey; my mom used to make dates with goat cheese for parties. I added the pistachios & honey. Big hit, even from a former pastry chef.
- Fresh fruit; grapes, on the stem, snipped into party-sized bites & strawberries.
- Almond cookies from Trader Joe's; light, just sweet enough.

Rosemary-ginger lemonade, both a hard version (with Vodka) and a juice-only version. I used frozen lemonade concentrate (a good organic kind from Berkeley Bowl), and with one of the cans I put it in a saucepan with ginger & fresh rosemary to simmer for about 10 minutes before adding the water and the two other cans of concentrate. I also added some fresh squeezed lemons to add more tart (I find lemonade from concentrate to be too sweet!). I used three cans of concentrate, maybe six lemons (?) . About a third of it I reserved as unmixed, and mixed 1.75ml vodka into the rest.

People stayed well past 7pm, and all of the food was gone! I had expected leftovers! The only things left were a small amount of lemonade (virgin), some of the walnuts, and a few radishes with some eggplant dip.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

1st Brunch!

I've been scheming about brunch menus since we first found out we got the place. Something about the big windows, and the location (walking distance to the farmer's market, good coffee). But today was the first time we actually made it happen though, and it was wonderful!

Beautiful rainy day outside. Great company. Also, our puppy, Elmo, just came home with us Friday night. She's learning quickly and spent the whole meal sleeping contentedly in her crate. She's a chihuahua-jack russell mix (we think), and a total sweetheart.

The menu:
- Alderwood smoked salmon & pita crackers with a range of topping options: creme fraiche, fresh dill, chopped chives, capers.
- Asparagus & Crab egg cups: fresh asparagus, canned crab, spring onions, beaten egg, paprika, salt & pepper in little ramekins (about one egg per cup). Baked 30 minutes with the crisp.
- Roasted potatoes (following this Chow recipe, but parboiling the potatoes before roasting)
- Strawberry-Apple Crisp, again based on the maple-wanut apple crisp with half strawberries, (though it takes more than 30 minutes to brown!)
- A double recipe of white sangria with the addition of a granny smith apple & Grand Marnier (in addition to the brandy mentioned in the recipe), soaked overnight. This was my first time making this, and I did half the simple syrup called for, which was perfect. If I were doing it again in the spring, I would probably use lemons & strawberries, instead of lime & raspberries (which were delicious but more summery). I used frozen raspberries this time around.
- Fresh coffee!


Monday, April 20, 2009

"Home" Cluster

Love this: the graphic charting of the various meaning of words. From