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Back in February, I wrote an entry about how I was cutting sugar out of my diet — both for Lent, and also for health reasons.  Aside from the fact that, post-wedding, I developed quite a stomach pudge (ugh), I spent a few weeks reading up all the ways that sugar is pretty much poison, or if it isn’t quite poison, it certainly isn’t doing you any favors.  So I decided to cut it entirely out of my diet.

I started small.  On February 22nd, I switched from white sugar to raw sugar.  (I know, I know — careful not to trip over that HUGE leap there, NH).  After two days of obscene migraines, I finally managed to go a whole day without feeling like I wanted to shoot myself or anyone who had the misfortune to wander into my office. 

It’s been about a month, and while I didn’t feel the need for sugar, I desperately felt the desire for it.  I had a Dunkin Donuts coffee on Sunday with cream and sugar (Sundays don’t count in Lent), and OMG, I had forgotten how delicious it was.  And what a freakin’ crash I got after having it.  Sunday was also the day of my friend’s bridal shower, so it was not the smartest day to cheat on my “no sugar” diet.  Back to the grindstone I went on Monday.  And then things took a turn for the more interesting.

My boss is obsessed with losing weight, and discovered Skinny Muffins on Dr. Oz’s website.  He cooked one up the other day and let me try it.  The recipe is simple — you mix all the ingredients in a mug, cook it on high in the microwave for 50 seconds, and then eat.  I hit up the grocery store yesterday in search of the ingredients that I didn’t have — ground flax, coconut oil, and Stevia.

Well, I seriously balked at the coconut oil ($8 a jar!), but relented when I remembered that people on a message board I frequent had been talking about its uses for skin and hair as well as consumption.  But Stevia was expensive, and came in a tiny little jar.  As I roamed the shelves looking for a substitute, I noticed blue agave nectar, and remembered that one of my friends had recommended it to me when I first gave up sugar.  I had made a mental note at the time to try it, but it had completely slipped my history-fried mind until yesterday.  It was also half the cost of Stevia, for about triple the amount.  So I threw it in the basket, went home, and made myself an altered Skinny Muffin.

Neophyte Historian-Altered Skinny Muffins
1/4 cup ground flax
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. coconut oil
2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 – 1 tsp. agave nectar
1 egg
1 handful Craisins (or raisins, blueberries, any fruit)

Mix together in a mug, microwave for 60 seconds (I like mine slightly firmer).  You could probably eat it right out of the mug but I prefer to flip mine out onto a plate and let it air cool for a few minutes before eating.  It’s definitely filling, and is touted as an energy-booster.  I definitely felt the energy yesterday afternoon!  This is pretty delicious.  It looks like crap  but has the consistency of a slightly-denser muffin.

My feelings on agave?  So far, I LOVE it!  It’s sweeter than sugar, so you can get away with using a lot less of it.  I’m going to have to experiment with it in cookies and baking and whatnot, but for use in coffee and tea, I don’t plan on going back to sugar ever again.

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* Weirdly enough, I’m excited for school this week!  Mainly because we’re getting down to the wire and there are only six more weeks of school!  I’m behind on my Thursday reading, and I just discovered last night that I’m missing two books of required reading (one for each class), so a trip to the school bookstore is in order, but…that’s okay.  We’re getting there!

* David and I bought a NEW CAR (well, new to us) on Saturday.

ImageTechnically, it belongs to both of us (both names on the insurance, etc.) but it’s going to be primarily David’s car, since he drives so much more than I do, and my old car has over 165K miles on it.  But it’s beautiful, it’s new to us, it’s a 2007 Camry and I love it.  We love it.  Life is going to get a lot easier to manage from now on, no more juggling two schedules and one car!

* I went to my friend Tina’s shower yesterday.  It was good times, and I’m getting really excited for her bachelorette party at Foxwoods Casino next month.

* Came home last night to find out that David got us tickets to Wildfire Retreat in May!  Wildfire is a fire-spinning convention/camping trip that takes place in May, August, and September of every year in Connecticut.  We went to August 2011 Wildfire, and it was amazing, definitely the best part of the summer.  We weren’t sure if we’d be able to get tickets to the May Wildfire (they sold out in a record-breaking 8 minutes online yesterday), but David managed it while I was at the shower.  May is going to be an incredibly busy month, but hey, they’re all fun things!  I am so excited.  We have to get a tent (we  borrowed one last year but it’s really time we get one of our own), and David needs a new water bottle (his shattered last year — don’t ask), but other than that we’re raring to go!  I can’t wait.

* Dave is working 78 hours this week between both jobs.  I’m going to have a lot of time to finish that annotated bibliography.  I’m thinking tomorrow is going to be the night that gets done.

* I’m making crock pot pulled pork for dinner tonight (best meal ever).  I’m trying something new — instead of just piling the pork with BBQ sauce I added a little Woodchuck ale to it.  I’m hoping it comes out all right.  David improvised gravy with Sam Adams last week for St. Patrick’s Day and (supposedly) the shepherd’s pie he made came out magnificently (I don’t eat shepherd’s pie — no ground beef — so I wouldn’t know).

Monday’s shaping up to be pretty damn good. 🙂

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Today I have nothing to share for Book Reviews You Won’t Care About.  This is mainly because I’ve been spending my Spring Break mostly reading articles, and the two books I have to read for next week have largely fallen by the wayside (although I need to crack down this weekend because I still have over 400 pages to go for one of them).  And although I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and highlighting, my focus has generally been on journal articles.

And this book:

Image

I bought this book as required reading back in 2008 (not really reading so much as reference), and it has become my pseudo-Bible for this semester.  You see, before I can write the paper, I need to do an annotated bibliography.  For those of you who chose not to click on that link (can’t say I blame you), an annotated bibliography is a fully-cited list of all the sources you plan on using for a paper, with a little summary or abstract about each one.  This paper is due a week from yesterday.  It’s three pages long, and I’m not even half-done with it.

You see, back in the day (in undergrad, a full 10 years ago…ugh), I wasn’t a History major.  I was an English major.  And English majors use the MLA method of citation.  So I spent four years of undergrad memorizing MLA.  By the time I wrote my senior thesis, I knew MLA so well that I could bang out a citation without double- or triple-checking it.

And then I became a history major.  History majors, btw, don’t use MLA.  They use the Chicago Method.  I do not know the Chicago method.  Therefore, I spend a LOT of time flipping through that book up there (also known as “that horrible Turabian book”.

I really, really don’t understand why there are multiple methods of citation.  Couldn’t the whole academic world get together and agree on ONE method?  Wouldn’t that be so much easier?  I will admit I felt slightly vindicated when I checked out Turabian’s profile on Goodreads and saw the following review:

“Why does this Turabian lady get to say how I document and cite my history papers and why, why, why can’t English, History, and Education people just get together and pick one style they can all agree on?! (frustrated sob)”

I feel your pain, I really do.

Fortunately, this weekend, the husband and I are going to have an absolutely delicious Saturday!  He’s promised to cook pancakes on Saturday morning, and then we’re going car shopping with my dad.  Then it’s off to see the Hunger Games movie (!) and then out to dinner.  I’m very much looking forward to an exciting, relaxing afternoon.

With no Turabian.

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Random Historical Fact of the Day — March 19: In 1941, the Tuskegee Airmen, the first unit of the United States Air Force comprised of all African-Americans, was activated.

I didn’t blog this weekend because I was, in all honesty, too busy.  And I’m ashamed (sort of) to say that nothing I was doing had anything to do with my homework, or research, or papers.  Time to buckle down this week and work, I say!  Instead, I spent my Saturday cleaning everything in sight and making Irish soda bread and Car Bomb Cupcakes for our St. Patrick’s Day get-together.  Which IMO was a rousing success.

Image(My Irish-American husband, an expat from north of Boston, agrees)

Exciting things happened of the sewing variety this weekend as well.  First off, I’m almost finished with the pink skirt for my outfit for Connecticon.  I worked on it Friday afternoon at my parents’ house.  It’s show here (not a great picture), missing only a hem and a waistband.

Image(Sorry for the poor photo quality.  I really have to start taking pictures with my camera and not my cell phone.)

Other exciting news — my father found me a temporary sewing machine!  He found a used 1960’s model on Saturday and brought it home for me.  It’sancient, it’s huge, it weighs about 60 lbs…and it’s mine 🙂  I’m so excited.  My mom says that for all its years, it works perfectly, and she just needs to remember how to thread the bobbin on it and show me before I take it home.  Yay, my first grown-up sewing machine!

ImageIt’s awesome and ancient and mine, all mine.

It’s been absolutely beautiful up here in New England lately, and I hope it lasts.  Spending the afternoon at my parents’ house yesterday meant a lot of walking around outside, helping my mom wash her car, just enjoying the sunlight and warmth.  I managed to get a picture of their single lone crocus.

ImageSometimes I wish spring could last forever.

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My new office!

When David and I moved into this apartment back in April of last year, we decided that we wanted a “formal” living room (somewhere we could have people come over and congregate in), and an informal den, for David’s video games, for eating dinner in if we wanted to, etc.  David appropriated one of the two spare rooms, made it his “man cave”, and pretty much decorated it as he saw fit…right down to the Nerf guns filling the empty spaces in the DVD rack.

ImageClassy.

Anyway.  Nerf guns notwithstanding, I have tried to keep my personal opinion of his decor to myself, commenting only when the room becomes a mess, or when we’re having company over.  But after the last year of “my space” being the bedroom, I decided that I was going to utilize the other room for my personal craft room (I knit, and I’m learning to sew) and office (I need peace and quiet and a desk for writing term papers).  So yesterday, while David took a nap, I went to work on the other spare room…and here are the results!

ImageOur old bed (used to be mine before we got married).  We upgraded to a queen this past year, and this is our old full-size bed, now a guest bed.  Yes, that is a hamburger shaped pillow (college was a fun time).  The little white nightstand in the foreground was a garage-sale find of my mother’s.  You can’t see inside, but I have all of my knitting books in there.  I thought it was a good way to keep them all in one place.  The rose in the vase is a feather one that Jess and Christina bought me from a Renaissance faire this past year.

ImageTHIS is my favorite part of the room — my bookshelves.  The little black one was another garage sale find (Christina’s, but she ended up pawning it off on me) and it used to be yellow and covered in gumball machine stickers, until a friend of mine (Lyndsey) came over and helped me re-paint it to a more stately lacquered black.  This bookshelf has all of my fiction books (top and middle shelf), memoirs (middle shelf), HP books and technical writing manuals (bottom shelf).  The cardboard box on top of it is the collection of books that I’ve either borrowed, or put up for swapping on Paperbackswap.com.

The OTHER bookshelf, until yesterday, was our DVD case.  It wasn’t really a good DVD case — the shelves aren’t moveable and they definitely left a lot of extra space (compared to the one above, which was a Wal-Mart find).  Top shelf are my school books for this semester.  Second shelf are my U.S. and European history books, third shelf are my English history books (mostly Alison Weir).  Second-to-bottom shelf is my collection of classics that my grandfather gave me (all the stories of Tolstoy, Dickens, Hawthorne, etc).  And bottom shelf is for games.  On top is a cheap TV (don’t even want to think about how tedious that was getting it up there) and a little DVD player.

The white Rubbermaid bin next to the tall bookshelf is my yarn stash.  It’s not very well-organized, but it’s all in there.  The basket on top is a “workbasket”, which has some of my WIPs (works-in-progress).

ImageMy desk is an antique that belonged to my father when I was growing up; he gave it to me when we moved in here.  It’s pretty bare right now, except for my laptop.  I want to get some organizational trays and maybe a little file cabinet for our important papers (we don’t have many yet).  The chair is a makeshift until I can get a proper desk chair.

The bookshelf there is sort of funny.  Dave and I don’t have any bathroom storage, so we’ve never had a place to put our towels until I worked this out yesterday.  The top shelf is for our iron and a little tray of personal items for guests (toothpaste, extra toothbrush, floss, headache medication, etc.) so they don’t have to go searching if they stay over.  Top shelf is a basket of knitted woolies and a photo collage Christina made me for my birthday one year — all black and white pictures of me and Dave.

So there you have it!  My new office!  It still has a ways to go in the way of photos on the walls, etc., but then again so does the rest of the apartment.  I love it thus far.  It’s nice to have my own space.

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Random Historical Fact — February 23: In 1945, American photographer Joe Rosenthal took the famous picture Raising the Flag on Iwo Jima which later won the Pulitzer Prize for photography.

Last month, everyone was in a tizzy over the Susan G. Komen Foundation’s choice to pull funding from Planned Parenthood (and their subsequent rescinding of that decision when Komen executives realized how pissed off everyone was).  I followed the case as closely as I could from behind a computer, trying to weed out the truth from the propaganda.  (I know, I promised no politics — I promise that’s not where I’m going with this).

What really surprised me was all the evidence that many of these backlash websites were publishing about the causes of breast cancer.

Of course, you can tear up the internet and find a million websites that say that sugar is poison, and you can find an equal number of rebuttal websites stating that sugar (in moderation) is just fine.  But cancer runs in my family line, and if there’s something I can do to somehow lessen the risks, I’m going to take it.  Plus…I’m, uh, how you say?  Not exactly thin.  Or as my friend James puts it, “festively plump.”  Cutting sugar out of my diet would definitely not harm the weight loss goal.  Bottom line?  Sugar — especially white refined sugar — isn’t something that I need to survive.

SO.  As of February 22nd (Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent), I decided to start cutting sugar out of my diet. 

I quit white refined sugar cold turkey, and switched to raw sugar in my coffee (two teaspoons down from the four — four! — that I used to have).  I’m starting to look up more natural sweetners (I may try agave, and one of my friends recommended coconut butter — we’ll have to see), and realizing just how much I don’t need sugar or artificial sweeteners in my diet to survive.

It’s been about 36 hours since I quit white sugar cold turkey.  I’m not going to say it’s been easy.  I’ve had a raging headache since shortly after my morning coffee yesterday, and it hasn’t abated, it’s just moved from my left eye to my right eye.  I’m hoping that this is just a by-product of the weaning stages, and that after a couple of days it will even out.  I plan on hitting up Whole Foods on Saturday to see what I can find in the way of natural sweeteners.  The raw sugar isn’t bad in my coffee, but eventually I plan on cutting that out completely as well.

So we’re on Day 2, and we’ll see how long this takes, or how it goes.

Tomorrow: the return of Book Reviews You Won’t Care About.

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Historical Fact of the Day – February 22: In 1876, Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, was founded.

I don’t usually make it a point to make political entries.  But there’s a disturbing “trend” if you will, that I’m seeing on Le Facebook these days that I want to address.  I don’t like calling people out, I really don’t.  So I’m not going to use names.  But I do want to say…I find this really, really disturbing.

Last week, Jon Stewart lashed out at Fox News pundit Liz Trotta, who stated that female soldiers get “raped too much”.  In response, Stewart said, “Think about all the money that we’ve got to spend on women who have been raped too much. Think about how much cheaper it would be for all of us if they were raped just the right amount.”

Now.

I get what Jon Stewart is doing.  He is trying to point out how incredibly ludicrous it is to add the words “too much” after “raped.”  He is rebutting Trotta’s extreme stupidity in stating that the 64% increase in sexual violence among soldiers is a by-product of the sexes working together.  I get that.

What I don’t get is the increase in “rape joke” statuses that I’ve seen on Facebook in the past week.

I’m not saying that everyone has to go around worried about the PC Police here.  What I am saying is that…guys, rape isn’t funny.  Jon Stewart’s “joke” up there?  It’s not funny.  It’s sad.  It’s sad that there are actually people out there like Liz Trotta who believe that rape is a by-product of our society, that by putting men and women together in close quarters like an army barracks, you are guaranteed to have to deal with rape as a result.  And it’s sad that people think that rape in any way, shape, or form is something to be joked about.

According to the Colorado Coalition Against Sexual Assault, 1 in 6 American women has experienced an attempted or a completed rape.  One in six.  These are sisters, daughters, mothers, aunts, grandmothers, cousins, nieces, wives, best friends.  That’s not even touching the statistics of male rape.  Most of those cases go unreported, because of the social stigma attached to male rape, so we may never have an accurate number of how many men and boys are victims of sexual violence.

My point?  Rape happens, yes, but it’s not something that should be brushed aside as an inevitability, or mocked or joked about.  When you make fun of rape happening, and you do that publicly, you should be aware that your audience may include those who have been hurt by rape, whether they themselves have been raped, or they know and love someone who has been raped.  Rape hurts.  It’s not funny.  It’s not something that should be made fun of.  It’s brutal, it’s scarring, it’s devastating to the people it touches.

And maybe I’m being ridiculously sensitive.  Maybe the answer to this is “Gee, NH, if you’re so disturbed and upset and pissed off by these people’s FB statuses, why not just unsubscribe from them?  Or delete them?”

Well…Ihave unsubscribed from some of them.  And maybe Ishould just delete them.  But there’s another part to it, too.  Sometimes, when I feel really strongly about something that is an opposing POV from someone else, I like to write it down, write my feelings out, try and figure out if maybe I can find another way around it, or maybe I’m being pigheaded.  Maybe my POV is shallow or superficial and I’m refusing to see the “big picture.”  Or maybe I’m a stick-in-the-mud, and I’m just not accepting that you have to laugh about certain things…

…Okay.  Now at least I can say I tried.

Rape isn’t funny, guys.  Nothing anyone says is going to change my mind on that.

No politics tomorrow.  I promise.

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