Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Wheat Belly Wednesday - Week #3

It was a good second week – I lost another 2 lbs. and felt great. On Sunday morning, I tried a recipe for almond flour pancakes, and they were wonderful, very much like regular wheat flour pancakes (the recipe is toward the bottom of this post).

But after two weeks of wheat-free eating, like everyone else, I wondered if eliminating wheat was really the reason I was feeling so well, or was it just that I was eating almost entirely whole or real food? Secretly, I thought all those people who said they got sick when they ate a sandwich after eating wheat-free for a while were just a bunch of wusses, and that it was all in their heads. So I ate a couple of big slices of thick crust pizza with a glass of wine, a normal dinner for me before Wheat Belly. (And it was delicious.)

I can’t believe how SICK I was.

It started with an almost instantaneous headache right after I finished eating, followed by mild heartburn. I thought, “not so bad,” took some aspirin and went to bed. I woke up at 3:30 a.m. with killer acid reflux and severe gastro-intestinal distress and barely made it to the bathroom. Not to be too graphic, I think my colon was as clean as it was when I went for my colonoscopy. I took a couple of Immodiums, went to work, and made it through the day, but all I could focus on was going home. When I finally did make it home, I took care of my dogs, put on my pajamas, and went to bed – I think it was around 7 p.m.  Not going to do that again for a long while.

On to the wheat-free pancake recipe: I found this on A nice man named Robert Burton Robinson included it as part of his 5-star review of Wheat Belly. The pancakes are made with almond flour, and they have both the taste and texture of regular wheat flour pancakes. Almond flour isn’t cheap, so I’m not going to be making these more than once a week. Red Mill Almond Flour was $11.99 at my local grocery store. I found it cheaper online at, just $6.99/pound, but since they use 2nd day shipping, it was almost as expensive as buying it locally (which makes sense, since it's a food product and you don’t want those boxes sitting around for days and days for some little critter to get at). Since I was also ordering coconut flour and gluten-free cornstarch, I decided to order from anyway. The almond flour IS cheaper if purchased in larger quantities – the price drops to $6.59/pound if you buy the 5 lb. size and the shipping is the same, so including the shipping, it comes out to about $8.40/pound. I think they sell even larger quantities. Since it is pure ground almonds, I am storing the almond flour in the freezer so it doesn’t get rancid. I bought the bleached almond flour but may try the natural almond flour next time I order. (Re the gluten-free cornstarch – yes, I know it raises your blood sugar as much as wheat, but I need something to thicken gravy a little. I used two tablespoons mixed with water to thicken a huge pot of stew – I figured out it added 2 grams of carbs per serving to what was otherwise an almost no-carb meal.)

Almond flour pancakes:

1 c. almond flour
2 eggs
¼ c. + 2 T. water
2 T. oil (I used coconut oil – warm in microwave until it liquifies)
1 t. baking powder

Place all ingredients in a medium sized bowl and stir until combined into a batter.  If the batter is too thick to pour, stir in a little more water.  Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-low heat; grease lightly with butter or coconut oil if desired. When the skillet is hot, pour 1/3 of the batter (about 1/3 cup) into the hot skillet; cook about 2-3 minutes until the top is bubbly, the edges appear dry, and the bottom is golden brown. Turn and repeat with the other side. Remove from pan to a serving plate to keep warm while you cook the remaining batter. Makes three 6” pancakes (2 servings).

To serve, I cut the pancakes in half and arranged three halves on a sandwich plate and topped them with a little butter. I have not been able to find a sugar-free pancake syrup that I like, so I warmed a couple of tablespoons of sugar-free apricot preserves in the microwave until it liquefied and spooned 1 tablespoon of preserves over each serving. I cooked a couple of breakfast sausages to go with each plate – yes, I know they’re bad for you but it was Sunday morning.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Missing Tuesday - Joan Yarbrough Bernal

So many people have been missing for decades, and their loved ones still don't know what happened to them.  Today's story is about an Illinois woman who went missing without a trace in 1988, yet her story has an uncanny resemblance to the story of another missing woman, Stacy Peterson.

Joan Bernal disappeared on December 9, 1988. She was last seen at her home in Crest Hill, IL.

Joan Yarbrough was born on July 17, 1954 at West Suburban Hospital in Oak Park, IL. She and her three siblings grew up in Hickory Hills, IL. She attended Stagg High School and graduated in 1972.

Her first husband was Larry Stanfill. Joan had a son from a prior relationship, Alexander (called Lex for short), and Larry adopted Lex. He and Joan had a daughter together, Larissa. When they divorced, Larry was awarded custody for the two children.

Joan worked for the Joliet Mass Transit District as a bus driver. Her mother Florence Wilms said she adored her job because she was a “people person.” At the transit company, Joan met a man named Gilbert Bernal Sr., a mechanic who worked in the bus barn. Joan became completely infatuated with Bernal and divorced her husband Larry to marry Bernal.

                                                      Joan Bernal

Larry and Joan remained on good terms after the divorce, and Joan visited her children every two weeks like clockwork, never missing a visit. After Joan’s disappearance, Larry raised the two children.

Joan’s relationship with Bernal was often stormy. Both Larry and Lex Stanfill stated that Bernal abused Joan, and that she and the children sometimes spent the night at a shelter for battered women to get away from Bernal. When interviewed, Bernal himself admitted that he is a violent man and that Joan was often the subject of his violence.

In December 1988, Joan and Bernal were scheduled to travel to Edinburg, TX, and would be gone for two weeks. They intended to take Joan’s two children and the couple’s two year old daughter Sarita with them. Between them, the couple had five children from previous relationships and one child together. When Joan contacted him on December 9, 1988, Larry Stanfill told Joan that he would not allow the two older children to leave the state. He was the custodial parent and it was the middle of the school year, so he refused to allow them to leave Illinois. It was the last time he heard from Joan.

According to Bernal, the family went on the trip to Texas as planned but Joan missed her children and wanted to go back home to see them. He said when they reached McAlister, Oklahoma, he gave Joan $1500 and put her on a bus back to Joliet. He says it was the last time he saw her and that she must have gotten off the bus somewhere along the route. Investigators learned that Joan never got on the bus and never made the trip.

Stanfill became suspicious when Joan missed her next scheduled visit with the children about two weeks after he last spoke with her. He called the Bernals’ home and asked about Joan; Gilbert Bernal said he put her on the bus in Oklahoma, but she never came home.

Joan told a relative that Bernal threatened to kill her and hide her body in a 55 gallon drum and make sure no one would find her, which is eerily similar to what authorities suspect happened to Stacy Peterson in 2007. Witnesses said Bernal purchased two 55 gallon barrels shortly before Joan disappeared but only one was found in his garage.

Gilbert Bernal Sr. was charged with Joan’s murder in February 1993 even though no body had been found. His arrest was based on the purchase of the barrels plus Joan’s relatives’ testimony and testimony from Bernal’s son, Gilbert Bernal Jr. Gilbert Jr. stated that he, his father, Joan, and his toddler sister left their Crest Hill, Illinois, home for Texas on December 9, 1988, but soon turned around and returned home. Joan and Bernal went into the house and Gilbert Jr. remained in the car with his sister, where he could see Joan and Bernal through a window. They got into an argument and Bernal allegedly hit Joan, yanked her hair and then began to choke her; when she went limp, he dragged her out of the room. Bernal then returned to the car and the three drove away without Joan. Joan was never seen again.

The charges against Bernal were dropped eleven months later when witnesses came forward claiming to have seen Joan in Chicago Heights, Illinois, and in Tennessee. The last alleged sighting of Joan was in December 1992; four witnesses claimed to have seen Joan, and two of the witnesses knew Joan personally, so their evidence carried additional weight. The Will County state’s attorney’s office said the witnesses were not reliable and their stories were not convincing but without a body, they had no choice but to drop the charges against Gilbert Bernal. Otherwise, if Bernal was tried and acquitted, he would go free and they would not be able to try the case against him again. Authorities believe the witnesses were planted, just as was suspected about witnesses in the Stacy Peterson disappearance who claimed to have seen Stacy after she went missing.

Larry Stanfill raised questions about Joan’s disappearance after Lisa Stebic disappeared in 2007 and her case gained national prominence. Joan’s mother said that when they first reported Joan as missing, the family was told to keep quiet and not go to the media, so as not to jeopardize the investigation, so it was several years before a news story about Joan appeared. Now Joan’s family and friends feel that if they had been allowed to publicize the case like Lisa Stebic or Stacy Peterson, or offered a reward for information, the police may have received tips and information from the public.

Gilbert Bernal Sr. continues to insist that Joan is alive and living in Tennessee or Kentucky. No one has heard from Joan for 24 years.

Joan Yarbrough Bernal was 34 years old at time of her disappearance; she would be 58 in 2012. She is a Caucasian female, about 5’2” tall, weighing 135 lbs. when she vanished. She has long brown hair, blue eyes, and wears contact lenses. She has a scar on her upper lip and several scars on her knees from multiple knee surgeries as a child; there are several stainless steel screws implanted in her knees. When last seen, she was wearing a wedding band and wristwatch.

Her mother Florence Wilms fears that Joan is dead but is still hoping for answers about what happened to her child. Joan's father William passed away in 2009 without ever learning Joan’s fate. Joan has three children: Alexander (Lex) Stanfill; Larissa Stanfill; and Sarita Bernal Woerheide. Joan is also a grandmother now: she has two grandchildren who have never met their grandmother. Joan’s family has placed a memorial marker for her at Chapel Hill Gardens South in Oak Lawn, IL.

If you have any information about what happened to Joan Bernal, contact the Will County Sheriff’s Office, 815/727-8574.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Literary Monday - Edith Wharton's age of desire

My favorite book from last week is called The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields, an interesting historical novel about Edith Wharton that covers a little-known period in her life. What first attracted me was the beautiful photo on the cover, of a woman in a gorgeous dark red dress standing on a Paris balcony with her back to the viewer. 

While living in Paris when she was in her early 40's, Edith had a fling with an American journalist named William Morton Fullerton. Fullerton’s contemporaries referred to him as a boulevardier, meaning that he was a man about town but also a sharp dresser and always entangled in multiple love affairs. They met shortly after Edith’s first big hit, The House of Mirth, was published. Their affair lasted three years in an on-again, off-again manner. It caused a rift between Edith and Anna Bahlmann, her long-time governess turned secretary, who disapproved of her relationship with Fullerton and the disdain Edith had for her husband Teddy.  Their marriage was not a happy one since Teddy was pretty eccentric and not altogether stable, but Anna felt that marriage vows were sacred.

The book covers about four years and is full of wonderful description about their lives and the era they lived in, as well as where they lived in Paris and New York in the first decades of the 20th century. The only thing that irritated me about the story was the characters’ almost constant complaints about how exhausted they are and how much they need to go someplace for a rest, when most of them don't DO anything!  AND THEY HAVE LOADS OF SERVANTS!! Other than the servants, Fullerton and Anna are the only characters who have actual jobs. And then there are Edith’s complaints about having to go to their country estate for three months during the summer, and how boring it is, and not being in society for the whole summer. Please, SEND ME to a lovely country estate for three months!!! I haven’t had three weeks off work since I was 16 years old.

But enough about me.  The Age of Desire is a very enjoyable historical novel, sure to please any Edith Wharton fan or any reader who enjoys lush descriptions of a bygone era.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Wheat Belly Wednesday - Week #2

This posting is certified to be gluten-free.

I successfully completed a whole week without gluten.  I didn't even cheat on the weekend.  In the past, on whatever diet plan I was on, the weekends were always sort of a "free" zone, where the diet didn't really count and I could eat outside of the plan.  But since this is a different kind of plan, cutting out gluten instead of cutting calories to lose weight, I find I'm in a different mindset.

The positives:

- during my first week of gluten-free eating, I lost 6.5 lbs! 

- I usually wasn't hungry between meals. 

- the cravings for carbs and wheat products went away after the first few days. 

- I was able to do about 95% of my grocery shopping at Aldi, so buying gluten-free whole food wasn't any more expensive than shopping for the processed foods that I used to buy.  Aldi even carries 85% dark chocolate. 

- I met friends for dinner at a Polish restaurant buffet and was able to eat gluten free.  At first, when they suggested going there, I thought there was no way I would be able to go with them.  But after I thought about it, I realized it was a good choice.  There's a salad bar, plus there is always some kind of clear vegetable soup or broth.  The buffet always has steamed vegetables, boiled and mashed potatoes, roast chicken and pork, and a carving station.  The only foods I had to avoid were the dumplings, sauces, and gravy.  The dessert section is very limited and nothing is very tempting.  It was a delicious meal and a very successful evening.

- Wine spritzers are low in carbs, so I was able to enjoy a spritzer with dinner a few evenings (2 oz. white or red wine with about 12 oz. of sparkling water).

- there is no post-lunch slump in the middle of the afternoon - I have a ton of energy at work.

- best of all, I am sleeping wonderfully at night!  For the past several months, I would fall asleep at my regular bedtime, then wake up about four hours later and often would not be able to get back to sleep.  For the past ten days, I fall asleep and either stay asleep all night, or if I do wake up (to let the dog out, for example), I go right back to sleep until morning.

The negatives: 

- I did wake up with a mild headache for the first few days.

- almost all processed foods contain wheat, so you have to read labels and shop mostly from the fresh food sections of the grocery store. 

- more planning is required to stay on the plan, like figuring out what you will be eating the next day, and having gluten-free snacks available (things like cheese sticks, celery and natural peanut butter or spreadable cheese, gluten-free chicken broth, almonds).

- the first few days can be hard, between cravings and habit.  I came home from work on the second day ready to eat a box of crackers, wrappers and cardboard box included.  Having done really well during the day, I managed to stop and ask myself what I had in the house that I could snack on that was gluten-free since dinner wouldn't be ready for about 45 minutes.  I made myself a wine spritzer, got a cheese stick (string cheese) and some almonds, and went and sat on the patio and took some deep breaths for about ten minutes.  After my snack, I was able to go back in the house and cut up vegetables for a salad.

- eating out also requires planning - you have to think about the restaurant menu and what you can order (online menus are GREAT).

- it helps if you like to cook, since gluten-free eating is definitely easier at home.  I have always done some cooking on weekends for evening meals during the coming week, so this is not a problem for me.

- I am sleeping great, but I had absolutely whacko dreams for a couple of nights, which I blame on wheat withdrawal.

I realize that it's not possible to sustain that level of weight loss and that I'm not going to lose another 6 lbs this week.  But I am hoping to see continued weight loss over the coming weeks and months.  I am also hoping that I will be able to get off the acid reflux pills permanently, although it may take 8-12 weeks.  I have been looking at gluten-free recipes online and at the library, so maybe I will share some successful recipes in my postings.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Missing Tuesday - Kara Kopetsky

Kara Kopetsky went missing on May 4, 2007 from outside her high school in Belton, MO.  She has not been seen since, nor have her family or friends heard from her.  I heard about her disappearance in 2011, almost four years after she vanished.  Even thought Kara was only 17 years old, and despite what her family told them, police believed that Kara was a runaway and had disappeared voluntarily.  It was not until Kara had been missing for several days that they took her family's concerns seriously, when the clues and the trail had cooled off considerably.  Even today, the Belton police insist there is no evidence of foul play, although they do admit her disappearance is suspicious.

Kara Elise Kopetsky was born February 17, 1990 in Frankfurt, Germany. She was a junior at Belton High School in Belton, MO. Her parents are divorced and her father lives in a nearby town. Kara lived with her mother, Rhonda Beckford, her stepfather, Jim Beckford, and her younger brother. Her family describes her as a typical 17 year old girl who had friends and an active social life, enjoyed shopping, and occasionally played truant from school but was looking forward to her senior year in high school.

                                                          Kara Kopetsky

On Friday morning, May 4, 2007, Kara left home and walked to school rather than having her mother drive her. She arrived at school by 7:30 a.m., when classes began. Around 8 a.m., she called her mother and told her that she had left her history textbook at home and asked her mother to bring it to school. She also asked her mother to wash her work uniform since she was scheduled to work that afternoon. Rhonda dropped the book off at the high school office, and Kara picked the book up sometime that morning. After getting into an argument with one of her teachers, she apparently decided to leave the school for a while. Her cell phone records show that the last call she made was at 10:30 that morning, to her ex-boyfriend. Kara was last seen on a surveillance video inside the school, heading for the exit around 10:30 a.m. She does not appear to be in any kind of distress or in a hurry. It is not known if she was leaving the school or meeting someone or perhaps just stepping outside for a cigarette, since she had only her phone with her and had left her backpack in her locker. Her actions indicate that she planned to remain at school and then later, stop at home, change her clothes, and go to her job. The last person she spoke to at school said Kara indicated that she was going to leave campus for a while and asked if the friend want to come with her. She is also seen on the same video footage chatting with others near a drinking fountain.  She was not seen again on the school’s surveillance cameras, and if any of the other students saw Kara outside, they have not come forward.  The school does not have outside cameras.

Kara did not come home from school that day, nor did she show up for work for her 4 p.m. shift. After trying to call her cell phone repeatedly, by 5:30 p.m., her mother and stepfather reported her missing to the police. They were stunned to learn that a school friend of Kara’s had just reported her missing as well. Since Kara was in school that morning, as was shown on the surveillance tapes, why would the friend think Kara was missing?

On April 28, 2007, only a week before her disappearance, at around 10:30 p.m., Kara had been forcibly abducted by her boyfriend, Kylr Yust, while waiting for a friend to pick her up outside the Popeye’s Chicken restaurant where she had a part-time job (Kara did not yet have a driver’s license). A friend called her cell phone while she was in Yust’s truck and she told her what had happened. When Yust pulled into a parking lot off the interstate, she jumped from the truck to escape from him. Kara obtained a restraining order against him on April 30, four days before she disappeared, describing how he kidnapped and restrained her and threatened to slit her throat. She went missing on the Friday before Yust’s court date. Kara had a history of running away or disappearing for a few days, and Belton police believed that she had left of her own accord. They dropped the charges against the boyfriend, believing that once the charges were dropped, Kara would return home.

Yust was initially a suspect but had an alibi for the time of Kara’s disappearance and passed a polygraph test (although later reports revealed he only passed some parts of the test). He stated that he was cooperating fully with the police. Kara’s stepfather was also questioned by police and cleared of any possible involvement (this is standard procedure – family are always considered the first suspects).

There was a possible sighting of Kara 13 days after her disappearance, in Louisburg, KS. The young woman in question was in the company of an unidentified man. Another teenaged girl, Kelsey Ann Smith, disappeared from Overland Park, KS, approximately one month after Kara disappeared. Kelsey was similar in appearance to Kara and at first police believed there was a link between the two cases, but Kelsey’s body was found a few days after she disappeared. She had been murdered and a suspect was charged with her death. Authorities decided that there was no connection between the cases after all.

                                                           Kelsey Smith

Area residents said that there were several searches in the woods following Kara’s disappearance but the searches always covered the same areas. They question why Kelsey Smith’s case received so much more publicity than Kara’s case. There are persistent rumors that Kara went to the house of a local drug dealer and possibly came to harm there.

Kara’s mother, Rhonda Beckford, believes that Kara’s ex-boyfriend Kylr Yust has answers to what happened to Kara. In 2011, Yust killed his girlfriend’s three cats and later pleaded guilty to charges of choking the same pregnant 18 year old girlfriend until she passed out; he was sentenced to two years probation and no contact with the victim. Yust insists that he never abused Kara or tried to hurt her. There are at least two other unnamed suspects in the case, one who confessed to killing Kara while intoxicated, another who was seen driving in his truck heading toward Belton High School around the time that Kara was last seen on the school video.

In 2011, Kara’s family learned that the police file about Kara’s case contained serious discrepancies. One report notes that Kara actually disappeared on May 2, not May 4, and that in a conversation with her mother, Rhonda Beckford indicated that they believed Kara was a runaway and had gone off willingly with her boyfriend. Rhonda and her husband Jim both said that phone conversation never happened and when they did contact police, the officer who came to their house didn’t write anything down. Rhonda states that Kara was home on the morning of May 4 and the family all saw her. Belton police officials stand by the information in the file. The Beckfords also learned that a box of Kara’s possessions were turned into Belton police two years after her disappearance.

In the Belton area, a group of unidentified people including former police officers, researchers, and dog trainers with cadaver dogs have banded together to try to find Kara themselves. Following up on local gossip, rumors, and word-of-mouth clues, they followed the clues to an abandoned house in the Belton area, where Kara is reputed to have died or been buried. In February 2012, investigative reporter Russ Ptacek of KSHB accompanied the group of amateur sleuths to two locations that they feel have been missed or ignored by police, a house and an abandoned building. Kara’s father said there have been continuing rumors and innuendos about Kara’s disappearance that are connected to the house that the team visited. The group found graffiti that read “Kara is gone” and “I did it.” In the other building, a cadaver dog was filmed searching in the basement and repeatedly sitting down, the signal that the dog has picked up the scent of remains. Belton police have indicated that they do not want help from the amateur investigators or Kara’s family, threatening legal action if they don’t stop “interfering with the investigation.” Belton police did go to the house that Ptacek visited, stayed about 40 minutes, and never returned. Kara’s family does not believe that a thorough search could have been conducted in just 40 minutes.

The amateur group investigating Kara’s disappearance have handed over all evidence that they discovered to the FBI and the Kansas City police. They told Ptacek that instead of investigating Kara’s disappearance, the Belton police are more interested in investigating them.

At the time of her disappearance, Kara was 17 years old; she is now 22 years old. She is 5’5” tall, weighs 125 lbs., Caucasian, has brown hair with reddish blond streaks, and hazel eyes. She was wearing a gray t-shirt with a white skull print, dark jeans, a studded belt, a gray sweater with ¾ length sleeves, black and white checkered sneakers, and a black hobo bag. She has a scar on her forehead and her ears are double-pierced. Her navel is also pierced. She pronounces her name CAR-uh. Since her disappearance, she has not accessed her bank account or her MySpace page, and her cell phone had either been shut off or the battery had run down after she made that last call. All her personal possessions including clothes, cigarettes (Marlboro Lights), make-up, phone charger, and iPod are at home in her room; her backpack and debit card were found in her school locker.

While police say there is no evidence of foul play, they no longer believe Kara simply ran away and consider her disappearance to be suspicious. An $80,000 reward is being offered for information that leads to Kara. Her story has been featured on Disappeared on Investigation Discovery and Nancy Grace’s America’s Missing on HLN/CNN Headline News. In August 2012, a photo of a woman arrested in Indianapolis who bore a strong resemblance to Kara was believed by some to be the missing girl, but it was later determined that the woman was not Kara.

Every year, Kara’s family marks the anniversary of her disappearance with a two-mile walk to show that they are still seeking answers and working to keep Kara’s story in the public eye. They just want to know what happened to her and bring their child home. They will never give up looking for her.

If you have any information about Kara Kopetsky, contact the Belton Police Department, 816/331-1500.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Literary Monday - Best of Summer 2012

Since I haven't blogged about what I've been reading since the beginning of summer, I thought I would do a "best of" list for Summer 2012. 

Wheat Belly - Dr. William Davis - Nonfiction.  Recently I came across Wheat Belly, which not only advocates a gluten-free diet, but explains why so many people (as many as 1/3 of the current U.S. population) are gluten-intolerant or sensitive.  The wheat we are eating today has been genetically modified to the point where it virtually unrelated to the wheat we ate prior to 1980.   Dr. Davis maintains that this genetically modified wheat is the cause of the obesity and diabetes epidemics, as well as a host of other medical problems.  To make matters worse, wheat is found in the majority of processed food available today.  I have had frequent migraine headaches for most of my adult life, starting in the 1980s.  In recent years, frequent acid reflux has also been a problem.  I've tried cutting out coffee, eating smaller more frequent meals, eliminating fried foods, not eating after 7 p.m., getting regular exercise, skipping alcohol and carbonated beverages, etc.  Nothing helped very much or worked only temporarily.  It was mentioned to me a while back that I could be sensitive to gluten and might want to try a gluten-free diet for 4 or 6 weeks, which is why I was attracted to this book.  Very well documented and at times a little too scientific for the general reader to grasp, Dr. Davis has nonetheless made a fascinating study of the subject and I strongly recommend it.  And yes, I started on a gluten-free diet last week.

Gone Girl - Gillian Flynn - Thriller.  This is one of the few titles that received a lot of publicity over the summer that lives up to the hype.  This is Flynn's third book (after Sharp Objects and Dark Places) and it's her most intricate yet.  The premise:  a young married woman disappears on her wedding anniversary; there has been some unrest in the couple's marriage; a struggle has obviously taken place in the living room of their house; the husband is suspected of having committed some violent act against his wife.  I spent a lot of the book wondering who was lying, what was true, who was the good guy/bad guy, and how were certain things accomplished.  While the ending wasn't totally satisfying for me (I like the bad guys to get what they deserve in a more obvious way), it made perfect sense given the relationships of the characters.  It will keep you turning the pages.

Go Down Together: the True Untold Story of Bonnie and Clyde - Jeff Guinn - Biography.  Anyone who has seen the wonderful movie with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty should read this bio!  The movie got a lot of stuff right, but also got some stuff wrong (especially about Bonnie and Clyde's sexual relationship and Clyde's ability or inability to perform - a number of Clyde's former girlfriends said no problem there!).  Guinn collected a lot of information from and about both families and delved into Bonnie and Clyde's separarte and collective histories.  There is so much more to know about the infamous pair, and even though you know how it's going to end, it made for an interesting and enjoyable read.

Full Body Burden - Kristen Iversen - Nonfiction.  From the 1950s until 1992, the Rocky Flats Plant located just outside Denver, Colorado, manufactured plutonium detonators for nuclear weapons.  The plateau where the plant was located was known for its constant high winds, so high that the cars of the people who worked at the plant often had a sand-blasted appearance from the swirling winds.  The plant  spewed radioactive waste into the surrounding air, water supply, and ground soil for decades, and the strong winds carried the radioactive particles as far as Denver and Boulder.  People living in the surrounding communities, as close as three miles away, had no idea what was being produced at Rocky Flats - many people believed the plant made cleaning products since it was operated by Dow Chemical for a time.  The author's family lived in one of the nearby communities, which she describes as a kind of paradise while growing up, which children riding their horses and dirt bikes in the open country near the facility, and swimming in the lakes and ponds where much of the waste from Rocky Flats ended up in the sediment.  She discusses the high rate of cancer and other diseases, including within her own family.  A real eye-opener to the hazards of toxic waste, the problem with disposal, and the government's lack of control or interest in handling these materials in a safe manner and looking after the people affected.

Shades of Milk & Honey - Mary Robinette Kowal - Fiction.  What if Jane Austen wrote a book about one of her usual social situations, except that magic was a normal part of life?  That's exactly what the author has done here.  Set in an English country house, sisters Jane and Melody live a comfortable if somewhat predictable life.  Older sister Jane is plain and on the edge of spinsterhood, but accomplished in music, painting, conversation, and "glamour," the art of subtlely enhancing reality with magic to achieve a more pleasing aspect.  Younger sister Melody is the unquestionably the family beauty, but because of her beauty, she has never done more than dabble in any of the social graces at which her sister excels.  All of the conflicts and social situations pas that you would expect in an Austen novel are here.  Great fun.  The sequel is Glamour in Glass.

Mr. Churchill's Secretary - Susan Elia MacNeal - Mystery.  First in a series about a young woman living in London during World War II, who takes a job as a typist in the Cabinet War Rooms under Winston Churchill.  Great descriptions of life in war time including rationing, building your own bomb shelter, and lots little known facts (did you know that many of the dogs living in London were put down during the war, because the government was afraid that the Germans would monitor their barking and base their bombing patterns on it?  Pretty lame, if you ask me.).  Fun, interesting, and fast-paced.  The next book in the series is Princess Elizabeth's Spy, due to be released later this year.

Until Tuesday - Luis Carlos Montalvan - Nonfiction.  The author is an Army captain and a veteran of the Iraqi conflict suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder following several head injuries in addition to back injuries.  He tells the story of finding his service dog Tuesday, a beautiful Golden Retriever who has issues of his own including abandonment.  A wonderful eye-opening book about the effect of war on the people who serve in the armed forces; how service dogs are helping these veterans return to a normal life; and the social issues that continue to plague the disabled (such as bus drivers refusing to allow service dogs on public transportation), but also a beautiful story about the bond between a man and his dog.

In the Shadow of the Banyan - Vaddy Rattner - Fiction.  Based on the author's childhood experiences in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge regime where anyone perceived as wealthy, educated, or even thoughtful was at risk of being executed or sent for "re-education."  Her family were part of a very minor branch of Cambodia's royal family, but the majority of the family died in the Cambodian genocide.  Only the author and her mother escaped.  Not a happy book, but fascinating and hard to put down.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Wheat Belly Wednesday - Week #1

It's been a while since I've posted to either of my blogs (about 3 months, to be exact).  My job has been crazy busy since we lost a lot of staff (moved to other locations) in the first quarter of the year, and then two people in my department retired.  I am going to try to get back on track and post at least three times a week, also answer the comments that people leave.

About the title of the post:  a couple of weeks ago, I came across a review of a book called Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis.  I was interested enough from the review to go buy a copy of the book during my lunch hour.  It isn't just another diet plan -- it's about how the wheat that is used in food today is completely different genetically from the wheat that was used prior to the 1980s.  The new strain of wheat, a thick-stemmed dwarf or semi-dwarf plant that grows about 18 inches tall with a very heavy seed head, was created with the very best of intentions:  a hearty, disease-resistant strain of wheat with high yield that would grow in virtually any climate, to help combat world hunger.  Around 1980, this new breed of wheat became the standard that is grown all over the world.

Unfortunately, this new type of wheat appears to have some unexpected side effects, including stimulating the appetite and a tendency to gain weight in the belly area (hence the title Wheat Belly, which for many of us could just as easily be Bagel Belly or Donut Belly).  There are some nasty health issues as well, including the rise of gluten intolerance.  Can you think of anyone who suffered from a sensitivity to gluten prior to 1980?  There are a number of other health issues that the new strain of wheat causes or aggravates.  Dr. Davis' book is full of well-documented studies - at times, it gets very technical and scientific.

I had good success with low-carb eating in the past, but with the government's push toward eating many daily servings of "healthy whole grains," I moved away from the low-carb lifestyle.  As a carbo addict, I was in carbo heaven.  But no matter how I tried to balance my calorie intake with daily exercising, I just couldn't seem to lose any weight, and even began gaining weight.  (Why I would believe what the government says is beyond me - these are the same people who said it was perfectly safe to live next door to the Rocky Flats nuclear plant in Colorado, where plutonium was released almost daily into the air and the drinking water).

So this week, I started on Dr. Davis' eating plan.  After reading the list of foods that contain wheat, I thought "What's left?"  But the plan is based on eating real or whole foods, things like meat, poultry, fish, eggs, vegetables, nuts, and even dark chocolate.  You don't have to give up all grains, just wheat.  Since I'm trying to lose weight, I am eliminating almost all grains and sugars, at least for the present time.  Today is day #3 - I've lost 3 lbs., slept well the last two nights, and feel a lot less bloated.

It takes some planning.  Yesterday I was hungry when I came home from work, and the chicken that I had defrosted would take at least 45 minutes to cook.  My immediate thought was crackers and a glass of wine.  But I stopped and thought about how well I had done during the day, and ended up snacking on a piece of string cheese, a few plain unsalted almonds, and a wine spritzer, until dinner was ready.  Not perfect but it felt like victory!

Believe me, if I can do this, anyone can do this.