A kid’s point of view: My I-pad can act like a typewriter!


Editor’s note: to find out more about the Hanx Writer (which apparently is a Tom Hanks project), click here.


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A week later: Caterpillar’s quadrupled in size

caterpillarTalk about a growth spurt: When we took the above photo last Tuesday night, our caterpillar was dwarfed by a dime. The photo below shows how much he’d grown as of yesterday. (It would’ve been cool if we could’ve popped him on a scale to get a weight difference as well!)



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Slow carb diet update

I’m feeling less than thrilled with the Slow Carb Diet this week. I’m still recovering from Sunday’s post-cheat day SIX-POUND spike, with three pounds left to go as of this morning.

Last week’s slightly smaller gain resolved itself by Wednesday. By the end of the week, I’d had a net loss of another 1.8 pounds for a total of 5.2 pounds in about 10 days.

I’m not going to abandon this just yet. For one thing, I want to get my lost weight back! Also, I finally found my copy of Tim Ferriss’ Four-Hour Chef, so that should give me some more ideas on what to eat. But however much weight I do or don’t ultimately lose during this experiment, it’s been interesting to work on my dietary discipline “long game,” sticking to the program for at least six days at a stretch.

One option is to go 10 days between cheat days. (Or “treat day,” which is what I think I’ll call it from now on, because technically it’s not cheating if it’s programmed into the rules of the diet.) But at some point I suspect I’ll be better off if my daily regimen allows fruit and nuts — both of which I crave on treat day — and if my treat day is less of a bender and is viewed simply as a weekly opportunity to have bread and dessert.

One interesting thing about this process has been the realization that it’s not that devastating to go to a party or get-together on a “diet” day. I kept wondering about that leading up to a party last week at a friend’s house, especially since she’s something of a foodie. But Rachel only had a couple of fattening dishes and they were cut into small “tasting” pieces, whereas she had plenty of fruit and veggie options. I nibbled on some veggies, tried a dab of bacon carmelized onion dip, and indulged in 2 glasses of red wine (which is allowed on this diet).

The big treat of the night, though, was trying these tiny yellow light-bulb shaped tomatoes that were extremely tasty and turned out to have been grown on the same block where we used to live on Park Avenue.  (No, not THAT Park Avenue.) It was fun to meet the hobbyist gardener who brought them. Funny thing is, I might not have bothered sampling them at all if I’d been focused on the dessert tray, as usual.

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Cool sight on a run: 10 turtles parked on a pipe


I don’t know where this pipe came from, but when Colleen and I went for a run/walk along Bluffton’s Wabash River on Sunday word had obviously already gotten around among local turtles about the new primo spot to catch some rays. Each turtle had its head and neck extended as much as possible to catch the maximum amount of sun. When we stopped to watch — and later when Bob showed up with his camera to take a photo for the paper – most of them would scramble into the water with a surprising amount of speed. If we stayed quiet, though, they’d all climb right back up again.


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Shutting off trail running snake paranoia

Here’s a running improvement made during injury rehab: Thanks to a little brain rewiring project, I realized the other day while jogging the cross-country course with Colleen that I’m no longer paranoid about the possibility of encountering a snake on the trail.

To be clear: We didn’t actually see a snake, and I’m not sure how I would’ve reacted if we had.

The difference is simply that I wasn’t crippled with paranoia the whole time — which not only makes for a more enjoyable run but makes it more likely that I’ll venture off the pavement more often in the future.

The brain rewiring itself was a pretty simple fix, in retrospect. But getting to the point where I recognized the specific problem took several weeks – long enough for a meandering conversation about why my nephew fears spiders but not snakes to jell in my brain.

On that Fourth of July hike to Abrams Falls in the Great Smoky Mountains, I was picking Riley’s brain, trying to figure out how his perception differed from mine. At the time I couldn’t understand why on the one hand he said snakes didn’t bother him, but then admitted that on one occasion – when he was startled at the lake the previous summer by a fat black snake all coiled up and aggressive looking near his foot — he did feel momentarily “creeped out.”

Retreating briefly to summon his brothers and a cousin, that spike of tension turned into curiosity and excitement as they captured and killed the snake, which they then dissected. There was a moment there where he could’ve legitimately experienced fear; he could’ve been bitten. But that brief flicker of tension never rose to the level of fear, and it wasn’t strong enough to imprint that emotion on either that specific memory or on his opinion of snakes in general. Most of the snakes he’d encountered in his 16 years had been harmless garden snakes, and so that was the image that came to mind whenever he heard the word “snake.” Whereas spiders tended to startle him by crawling on his arm or dangling in his face, the appearance of a snake simply aroused his curiosity.

My default setting of a snake, on the other hand, was of a big, fast aggressive blue racer. I’d had a couple of encounters with these as a young child. In the most memorable encounter, at a relative’s pond, my Uncle Dan somehow grabbed hold of the speedy snake and dashed its head against a tree. I was horrified by both the snake’s aggression and the violent act that ended its life. And this image, rather than of the slow, small garter snakes I’ve seen much more frequently over the years, is the one that remained stuck in my brain.

Consequently, for the next 40-odd years, whenever I was required to walk through ankle-high grass or a woods or any other place where a snake might be lurking, I would go into red-alert mode. I can’t tell you how many trips to the compost bin in the far corner of our back yard I avoided over the years – or how many times I made excuses not to do a trail run, no matter how much I might’ve wanted to enjoy the scenery and soft surfaces.

So how did I manage to change this default setting? The biggest thing was realizing what the problem was. Then I simply visualized clicking on the image of a more benign-looking snake, much the way you’d change a default image associated with a bank account. After that, every time I walked or jogged through grass or the woods, I’d focus on the new image, imagining a small garter snake scrambling to flee in its pitifully slow gear as my thundering feet approached.

This new mindset acknowledges the possibility of getting bitten – any animal might bite if it feels threatened – but it doesn’t skew the potential danger way out of proportion to the actual risk.

It feels like a huge improvement. It will be interesting to see how this works out the next time I actually see a snake for real.

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A kid’s point of view: Cross country is hard work!

A Q&A with Colleen, who just started middle school on Tuesday, along with her first week of cross country practice:

colleenQ. Is cross country harder or easier than you expected?

A. Harder! I didn’t realize the warmups would be so hard. I thought it would just be some stretches. But we do a lot of running before we even run the course. And then there’s core workouts and dynamics and stuff!

Q. Is there anything fun about it?

A. Not yet. There might be later, but not yet. Right now it’s just sweat and sore legs!

Q. So what keeps you going?

A. The idea of getting in shape and thinking about my fitness.

Q. How do you like your new shoes?

A. They are awesome! They feel great, even walking around the school. And have you noticed the outside swoosh (on the Nike Zoom Structure) is red and the inside swoosh is blue?

Q. Have people on the team been supportive?

A. Yes, they have. When some of my friends run by me, they always say, “Go Colleen!”

Q. What’s it like doing cross country and soccer in the same season?

A. I am guessing it will be a fun challenge. Part of the reason I’m doing cross country is to get better at soccer. Thursday I had cross country practice right after school and then soccer practice at 6:30. I was tired, but I really, really like soccer so I wasn’t going to skip practice or not try hard in our scrimmage. But if I have a soccer game that conflicts with a cross country meet, I’m going to the soccer game!

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Diabetic chocolate chip zucchini bread: Good enough for ‘cheat day’

diabeticcczukebrotWe first made this bread for a relative who’s diabetic. But it was so good, the kids asked me to make another batch for them. Now it’s quickly becoming a regular part of our baking repertoire, especially with zucchinis erupting all over the garden.

Because the first couple of batches were made during my first week on the Slow Carb Diet, I didn’t get to taste it until “cheat day.” Needless to say, the slice I’d set aside earlier in the week tasted amazing.

The first batch we made adhered fairly close to this recipe on diabeticlivingonline.com, though I omitted the orange peel, used a chopped apple instead of applesauce and replaced 1/2 cup of sugar with Stevia. I also chunked up the zucchini in the blender, then mixed up the rest of the wet ingredients there before adding everything to the dry ingredients.

I have no idea what the diabetic exchanges are; click on the link above for how they were calculated for that version. Frankly, except for the Stevia, this still seems fairly carb dense to me, but I may be biased by my current Slow Carb dietary experiment. At any rate, we’re big fans, we’re probably going to make another batch this weekend, and here’s the recipe we’ve settled on for now:


  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 18 packets of stevia (equivalent to 3/4 cup sugar)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking power
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 chopped apple or pear
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini (about 3 small zukes)
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate pieces
  • Directions

    1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 8x4x2-inch loaf pans. 
    2. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar, baking soda,ginger, salt, cinnamon, and baking powder. In the blender combine zucchini, apple or pear chunks, oil, vanilla and eggs (being careful to crack the eggs separately first).
    3. Pour blended wet ingredients into bowl containing dry ingredients. Stir well, then add in chocolate chips.
    4. Divide mixture evenly between the two loaf pans. Bake about 55 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near centers comes out clean. Cool a few minutes before slicing.
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