New Years is not the time to make a resolution…

Slay the Gruncle

Anyone who loves science fiction has read about how in the future all our dietary needs will be available in pill form, or nutrient bars, or as an oatmeal like gruel as seen in the “MATRIX”.  How popular is that line; ” …Everything the body needs”? Well, meal replacements are not a thing of the future, actually they have been around for decades.  Remember when “Slim Fast” made it to the shelves?  Anyone else have memories pop up of their Mother choking down a can of slim fast, while doing her make up in the morning?  I still can remember the smell.  I know guys to this day, who chug a can of slim fast before donning their armor for a major battle in the SCA.  It is easily digestible and full of nutrients, protein, and vitamins;  “Meant” to be a long lasting dose of calories for the active body.  Other forms have also been available on the market, remember Dexatrim?  A pill form that was supposed to fill you up, giving your body the energy to power through the day.  Well with the amount of stimulants packed into those pills, you were also bouncing off the walls!

Even today there are lots of meal replacements available at local grocery stores, health/natural food stores, even at GNC.  Each one has it’s own claim on the market, and all basically do the same thing.  They all give you the fiber, nutrient, vitamin, protein, and calorie count that should equal 1 fully balanced meal.  You mix it, and go.  Viola!- your breakfast, lunch, or dinner is just a whir of the blender blades away.

I have tried many different meal replacement products, all of them tasted like ass.

Yes this is a a harsh thing for me to say, but honestly I tried so many different styles through out my adulthood.  Each one ended up going down the drain. The unpalatable powder mixes just moldered away on the shelf, being pushed aside for a more tasty option of pop-tart, power bar, luna bar, even oatmeal when I was desperate.  If these were not available (or even if they were), drive through was more delicious temptation than whirling tornado of powder mix being beaten in a blender… hoping that at least half the powder would mix in, and not just float to the top.

But another thing, none of these meal replacement products took into account the natural urge to chew, masticate, thoroughly enjoy a mouthful of yummy-delicious-oh so good FOOD.  So most people would take their shake or pill… and then end up snacking between meals.  Why? because their head would tell them they were hungry and needed to snack on something, ANYTHING.  Even though their bodies had all the calories it really needed to make it through the day.   There is a disconnect between the brain and stomach that needs to be reprogrammed. This is when people got into trouble, they’d just have a quick snack of chips, candy bar, fruit, or even veggies.  (WHOA, you may say, VEGGIES don’t have calories.  Well yes they do, not alot but they do.  And if you are supposed to be getting your complete calorie count from your meal replacement, then the addition of any more calories gets stored in the form of fat.  So unless you are pulling out the celery regularly… those sugar (and thus calorie) containing vegetables are now going to your hips.)

Now you may ask, what is the point of this?  Every year around this time people gorge themselves past fitting in their current wardrobe.  Partaking in all the wonderful and tasty goodies of the season… only to instantly decide to go on a diet come January 1st.  New Years resolutions… seriously? a starting date for a goal?  I thought you were supposed to set a GOAL and then work towards it, no matter the calender year!

I admit it, I love food.  Seriously I love good, fresh, home made food.  But I also enjoy tasty, manufactured food full of artificial dyes, salt, and ingredients I can’t pronounce (and I have a minor in chemistry…granted from over a decade ago). I believe that no one should starve themselves.  Each person is a wonderful and unique individual, and we should embrace who we are and not try to fit in the status quo boxes that media and society dangle in front of us.    But I also believe we should be happy with ourselves.

I started to not feel all that happy. I started to feel bloated, a loss of energy, and a loss of stamina. Frankly I did not want to be around me, so why would I expect anyone else to?  I found I turned to food even more, I was no longer enjoying what I ate. I just ate what I thought might make me feel better.  Well I can tell you a 20oz Coke and Twinkies before work does not fit in the “feel good” box. I was hitting the snooze button more times and running out the door without fixing a lunch… and even if I grabbed something I would still go out for fast food at Lunch Break.  It was a habit I knew needed to change.

But I love good food!  I love flavor! But most of all I realized I loved all of these while feeling full.

Now, around this time some of the girls at work had done a “mass diet” together for moral support. Lots of cleanses, water, more cleanses, and shakes.  It was interesting to watch, I have never been a big believer in crash diets, or instant fixes.  I got to see everything from a Niacin reaction, sending one of them to the ER.  To a massive line for the ladies room, because after all- all that water has to go somewhere.   I heard them boasting how the products came from New Zealand, grass fed cows.  I even listened to them boast that they got one more person signed up, so now they might actually be able to start making money!

I hate pyramid schemes. Always have, always will.

I am a skeptic.

But one thing I did notice, the binges to McD’s and the Bell had come to a sudden halt.  I noticed that many of the girls were ready to go, as soon as they walked through the door. Instead of hauling around an over full cup of crappy coffee.  I started to notice that lunches were slowly trickling in that had GREEN in them.  I was reminded how much I miss green in my food, heck how much I love COLOR in my food.

I needed to change something… Now.

But mornings come too early, days are too long and many times “LUNCH BREAK” was just written on the schedule tantalizingly close but not a reality.  I started to talk to my dear Hubby about doing some breakfast and Lunch shakes.  Not protein shakes but meal replacement shakes.  Now, remember back to Slim fast?  That was not what I was thinking… nor would ever settle on.  I decided to go to the local “health food store” and see what their selections were.  Walking in the door I found an entire WALL of meal replacement shakes.  Everything from gluten free, to dairy free, to hemp based.  I spent a good hour reading all the labels and comparing them.  But in all honesty I knew, for me, it would come down to the taste.  So picked up some individual serving packets to try.

I was so excited that first morning, I blended up my breakfast shake… had the lunch one packed up and ready to go. Got in the car, turned on my audio book, and took off on my 45 minute commute.  3 minutes and 5 sips in, I stopped the car and dumped then entire shake out on the side of the road. IT WAS DISGUSTING. Hemp based something-or-another, completely unpalatable and horrendous.  I just gave my self the shivers remembering it!  I stopped at fast food and was “fixed” for the day.

Round two, three, and four.  All failures.

I was getting upset.

Now, back to the girls at work, one day I was super hungry and even had a headache started because of it.  A coworker handed me a “snack”.  It looked like a giant chalky mentos.  She told me to chew two of them up and make sure to drink plenty of water.  I cocked my eyebrow at her, but heck I WAS HUNGRY!  I popped them into my mouth and chowed down, add some water and it was like a chocolate smoothie.

Isagenix.

I was hooked.  I had never had a pick me up snack nor a meal replacement taste anything like that. It tasted like creamy chocolate.  Now, as a caveat, it did not taste like Truffle pig, Ghirardelli, Hershey, Cadbury, or Green and Black- now those are CHOCOLATE.  This tasted like a chocolate snack.  There is a difference, and there will always be a difference… it’s called fat and sugar content!  I was curious about the meal replacement shakes… She stated they tasted the same as the snack, even better.

Next she gave me her card and sent me to their website. It was a little confusing, since I was starting off with only minimal knowledge, had only over heard somethings about it from others at work.  But knowing I liked the “snacks”. After sorting through all the weight loss testimonials, and “Isagenix Millionaires” crap, I finally found the products and all the ingredient listing. And yes they are proud about their New Zealand cows (a little secret folks, there are grass fed hormone free cows raised in your very own state!  you just have to pay a little more for the meat and dairy products. Because guess what, it takes more time and energy to raise them… but lowest price shopping does not always give you the best options).  What I did notice was the cost.  Especially if you are an “associate”.  The cost for all their products was comparable to the foul tasting stuff down a the “health food store” and even at GNC.  Now this, I could handle.

Again you have to wade past all the weight loss challenges and packages. All the youth and vitality in a bottle. But you can buy individual items and NO you do not have to invest your life savings to try them out.

Not everyone is on a diet.  Not everyone is looking for a quick fix for wrinkles.

If you are, great!  They have some wonderful, easy to use programs.  GO FOR IT.

I talked it over with my husband, and though he was listening through half an ear, he seemed to be game.  So I placed my first order.  Two shake canisters, one Dutch Chocolate and the other Vanilla.  I also wanted to try their “get more energy” drink powder  (I always loved the taste of Vit B drinks… I think I am the only one. AND it’s cheaper than Vitamin water). And some of the Snacks  in chocolate (the snack tablet my coworker had given me, that fateful day).

My husband was not happy the day the package arrived in the mail.  He did not think I was going to actually go through with it. But that night, when he got a late night craving he tried the “Snacks”.  He kept trying them again day after day after day… you get the idea.

The next day was a Saturday.  Pointless for a work shake, but I was so curious I just had to whip one up.  Mixed a chocolate scoop with a vanilla scoop.  My husband had a full vanilla shake.  I had mine about 7 am.  I was not hungry again until 12-ish.  Seriously NOT HUNGRY, not thinking about what I was going to make for lunch. NOTHING.  When my stomach finally told me it was empty, I was startled to see what time it was.  My husband on the other hand, was ready for something about 3 hours after his shake (viola’ a “snack” was there waiting for him!).

I did not make shakes again until Monday.  For breakfast I made my husband and I shakes, then I took one for lunch.  I was not hungry until Lunch, when I sat down for lunch I was not ravenous like usual but slightly peckish. I drank my shake.  That afternoon my schedule got super hectic and I was running around like a chicken… so about 3 hours later I started feeling some pangs of  hunger. Popped a Chocolate “Snack” and some water.  I was able to go home, have the time and energy to make my family a GREAT dinner and have a movie night.

I have done that every work day since.  With the exception of  one day where I worked 10 hours, and stopped for dinner pick up on the way home (even then I craved an awesome antipasto salad!).

I find on the weekends, I crave a shake. Just the flavor.

I have also found I no longer “need” my caffeine fix in the morning.  I am an avid Earl Gray drinker, going on 15+ years DAILY.  I must admit I no longer finish my tea in the morning, rather it’s drained on way home from work as I drive relaxing to music.

That was one month ago that I did my first order.  The day my last shake canister ran out, my new order arrived.  Honestly  I was as excited about it, as I am about my fabric orders.  This time I added a new shake flavor, and switched up the snacks.

I for now am happy.

That is what all this has been about.  Finding that happiness again.  I am excited about food again. I am excited about cooking again.  I am excited about going to dinner with my hubby again, whether it is burger n’ fries or Sushi.  I am excited to get up in the morning- not because I get to have a shake (HAH!)  but because I have the energy to get up. I feel good. I want to do stuff. I want to be…

Now if I had decided to start juicing instead, would I feel the same. Probably.  If I decided to go vegan, would I feel the same. Probably.  If I decided to start exercising daily, would I feel the same. Probably.  What I did works for me, and that is why I am sharing.

I have slayed the Dragon.

If you would like to learn more please visit the Isagenix website. For those of you wondering; yes, they have a facilities in the continental USA.  Remember, you can do as little or as much as you like. Everything is available for individual sale and you DO NOT HAVE to join a program.  But if you do join a program, enjoy your personal results!  I use my cheap Kitchen Ninja set up (you know the $60 one and not the $200 one!) to blend the shakes.  I tend to blend my lunch shake in the morning at the same time I do the breakfast ones, I store it in the fridge at work so I can have a shake and run if needed.  But just know, the probiotics in the shakes are best consumed within 10 minutes of initial mixing.

Personal Isagenix recipes: I don’t always stick to their recommendations… surprise, surprise!

If using a blender; add 1/2 banana to your shake no matter the flavor. It adds a little somthin’-somethin’ to the whole experience.  Add some ice to the blender to get a true milk shake effect.

I like to mixed my shakes using Milk, instead of water.  Gives a bit extra protein and smoothness.

Mix 1 scoop vanilla + 1 scoop chocolate to get a chocolate milk shake like flavor

Mix 1 scoop chocolate + 1 scoop Black Sesame  to get a dark chocolate (even slightly mocha) flavor.

Mix 1 scoop chocolate + 1 scoop of Berry to get a chocolate raspberry flavor

Mix 1 scoop Vanilla + 1 scoop Berry to get an earthy flavor (not super sweet…)

Take 1 berry snack with 1 vanilla snack to get an interesting creamy flavor burst in your mouth

My last recipe is the BOMB!  While taking your morning shower steep your shake WATER with 1 chai tea bag.  Once you are ready to mix, take out the tea bag and add 2 scoops of vanilla.  You have a VANILLA CHAI flavored shake.  Mmmmmmmnnnnnmmmm!

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Lessons with Refined Pallet, Making Wood Beautiful

Over this last holiday weekend I was privileged to visit the studio of a fellow artisan.  I am going to introduce you to Jef (yes, it’s with one “f”) he is the proud owner of Refined Pallet, Making Wood Beautiful .  Around 10-15 years ago Jef started playing around in his garage, at the time he worked at a furniture supply store and had plentiful access to higher quality moving pallets.  He started his journey in woodworking  by making custom boxes; jewelry boxes, storage boxes, even traveling bar sets.  Over the years his boxes went from simple construction to dovetail joints with exotic wood inlays.  I really don’t know what inspired his venture into lathe work, but once he started turning wood, he started producing even more unique and amazing pieces of art work.  I know his first item made on a table lathe was a wooden chalice, Jef said he made it for a wine tasting party (I told him it was blasphemy to waste good wood on wine and needed to use it for Mead sampling… he just smirked).  What inspired him to make pens, razors, and tablet stylus?  Seriously I think it’s his obsession with Harry Potter… he started making wands, and that’s what did him in.

So when I had elbowed my way into the garage to get a tour of his studio, I managed to talk him into showing me the ropes on a custom piece for my Husband.

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Of course I had to my camera with me… Now many of you who personally know, or *gasp* live with an artist, knows that any space becomes a studio.  And honestly it is amazing what comes out of this small space.

The first thing I had to do was select what exactly I was going to make, so we started at the center front desk going through all the hardware Jef has collected through out the years.  I chose to make my hubby a double edge safety razor.  For those of you who don’t know what a safety razor is, here is a link.  Next I needed to choose a wood.  This was the hard part, and honestly his stash was to extensive to get in one photograph.  He had everything from marbled acrylics to black palm.  These woods were amazing, but I knew my husband would like a wood with lots of grain to it, so I chose a bocote blank.

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After the initial stages of cutting the wood down to a relative rectangle, I had to draft out the shape I wanted in my head.  Now I will be honest with you, I have never been an artist that can think spatially.  I have always had an issue with 3-D sculpture, and when I looked at the wood in postition on the lathe I was very intimidated.  I did not want to waste this beautiful piece of wood!!!  We looked through Jef’s stock of finished razors to give me a goal to shoot for.  I knew I wanted to give the handle some curves, beautiful shape, not only to help bring out the textures in the wood but also to assist in a good grip.  After all this was going to be a sharp razor against my beloved’s neck.

I decided to make the razor  handle follow the feminine form, or the more “PC” term would be… I wanted to make it look like a voluptuous mummy.

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But first, I had to master the tools to make the handle round!  I asked Jef at this point how long it takes him to make one razor handle… start to finish.  He nonchalantly stated 20 min.  GAH!  20 minutes! In that amount of time I was still trying to get the rectangle to have round edges.   Jef even had to resharpen his large turning tool for me.

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FINALLY!  I was starting to get a round shape to my “mummy”  Now I got to move onto the smaller turning tool, allowing for greater ease of movement and design.  The entire time Jef was patiently coaching me through, reminding me to keep the tool positioned “just so”.

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He even managed to snap some shots with out my notice… the best part is my camera was set to full Manual mode, and he managed some great snapshots (see Jef you can take photos not in auto mode!)  You can see in this set up how small his work space really is, yet if you take a stop by his facebook page you can see the diversity of his work.

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Okay I will admit it, he took over on some of the more delicate parts.  But you can see the “mummy” started RIGHT?

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After about 1 hour of shaving millimeter by millimeter off, I was finally happy with the shape.  I was proud that there were not large discrepancies or gouges in the beautiful wood.  Now Jef walked me through the finishing stages.  There are so many finishing steps, from applying 15-20 layers of Acrylic to sanding through an ump-teen amount of grit.  I thought the coolest stage was buffing the finished product with the self-same wood shavings I had so diligently piled up under the lathe.

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Isn’t my “mummy” BEAUTIFUL?  Now comes the really fun part. Adding the double edge safety head to the handle.  But before that one last picture of just the handle…

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Look at that shine and grain.  Hipnotizing.

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First things first, Jef made sure that the hardware fit flush. Then onto the final stage of placing the sealing epoxy to make sure the head and handle become one.

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1.5 hours of handwork, and the steady yet patient coaching of Jef made this piece possible.  I could see why Jef likes to loose himself in making so many wonderful items.  There was something so soothing, and almost meditative about watching the wood shape under my hands.  Not knowing what it would truly look like in the end, the surprise at the very end once everything was joined.   It made me want to get back on the lathe and see what the next piece would look like, how it would turn out, and what it would become. Wood working is almost as seductive as pottery… almost.

I do want to thank Jef for a wonderful experience in his little studio. It was a pleasure to learn about a new craft, and I can say my appreciation of what he does daily has multiplied exponentially.  I hope all of you who took the time to read this have enjoyed the steps we went through, and if you want to learn more or see more please follow these links to Jef’s shop(s) and facebook fan pages.  If you get a chance tell him Ursula sent you.

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<——-  can you believe this

 

turned into this  ? ————->

 

 

Refined Pallet, Making Wood Beautiful ETSY STORE

Refined Pallet, Making Wood Beautiful FAN PAGE

Refined Pallet, Hollow Book Safes  (his other hobby)