Archive for July, 2011

First off, I’d like to thank The Older Brother for once again taking over the sandbox while I was tied up with moving.  It’s fun to read the Fat Head blog and laugh out loud for a change.  (I don’t laugh while writing, or while reading what I’ve written.)

I’d also like to thank him for creating a new word that I hope will become part of the paleo-blogger vernacular:  vegetrollian.  Perfect.

Now for the big news, starting with the short version:

As of 10:00 a.m. this morning, when the closing documents were filed, we officially became the proud owners of a 5.7-acre mini-farm here in Franklin, TN.

Yeee-haaah!

I’ve been dying to tell y’all about it for weeks, but heard enough horror stories about real-estate deals falling apart the last minute that I decided to wait until the deal was all signed, sealed and delivered.  We visited the property with Amy Dungan and her family while they were here a few weeks back, but I swore her to secrecy.

I said in my last post that we were moving this week and then moving again in about three months.  That’s because the house on the property needs some significant renovations, so we had to move into an apartment while they’re underway.  If all goes well, we’ll become small-time farmers – or least people living on a small farm – around the end of October.

Now for the long version.  (Seriously, it’s long.  You may want to get a cup of coffee or a cold drink before continuing.)

———————————————————————

Not long after we moved here two years ago, Chareva began dreaming of owning enough land to raise chickens and perhaps some goats or sheep.  One of the many reasons I love Franklin is that owning a few acres isn’t an impossible dream here … in fact, it’s quite possible.  Drive away from downtown Franklin or one of the subdivisions, and within a minute or two you’re looking at small farms and ranches, many of which are situated between residential areas.  Multi-acre properties that would require movie-star money anywhere near Los Angeles are fairly common around here.

Owning land wasn’t an impossible dream, but nonetheless felt like a distant one until recently.  Back in May, I told the owner of the house we were renting that we’d sign for another year when our lease expires on August 1st.  My plan was to save up a decent down-payment and go looking for a property next spring.

Part of the reason I set my sights on next year is that when we bought our house in Burbank 10 years ago, I learned that if you’re self-employed, mortgage bankers calculate your income based largely on the average of  your previous two tax returns.  We incurred some big fat production expenses for Fat Head in 2009, which pushed my adjusted income close to the official poverty level.  Business in 2010 was pretty good, but averaged together with 2009, the resulting income figure wouldn’t exactly make a mortgage banker stand up and uncork the champagne.  So I figured next year would be our soonest opportunity to buy some land.

In early June, our landlord changed all my figuring by telling us a friend of a friend was interested in buying the house and wanted to come by for a look.  Suddenly we were facing the possibility of having to move in August whether or not it fit our plans.  Chareva had been regularly checking for multi-acre properties online for some time (mostly just to indulge her dream) and told me a 5.7-acre mini-farm that seemed ridiculously under-priced had just been listed the day before.  She called our next-door-neighbor, who happens to a realtor, and said we wanted to see the property.

As we walked around the land and through the house the next day, I understood why it was under-priced:  the elderly widow living there hadn’t maintained much of anything for a long time.  The land was overgrown with waist-high weeds – even some of the fences were obscured.  Every room in the house needed painting, every floor needed refinishing, many of the fixtures needed replacing, and the whole place smelled like dirt, dog hair, and mold.

So you can imagine my surprise when we got in the van to leave and Chareva said, “I love it.  I want it.”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes, I’m serious.  It’s a fixer-upper.  You have to picture what it can be, not what it is.”

“Yeah, well, maybe.  Sherry has a couple of other places on her list we should probably look at before—“

“No, this is the one.”

“You feel that strongly about it?”

“Yes.  It’s worth way more than she’s asking, and if we don’t put in an offer right away, someone else will snap it up.”

I was reminded of something Dave Ramsey said in his financial seminar:  Guys, when your wife gets one of “those feelings,” you’d better listen, because she’s probably right.

It occurred to me then that while the girls and I were walking around the property with our realtor, Chareva had disappeared for awhile.  Turns out she’d been talking to Barbara – the owner – and they’d bonded immediately.  Chareva explained why she wanted a small farm, how it had been her dream since moving to Tennessee.  Barbara shared her own stories of raising chickens and goats.  Before we left, Barbara told Chareva she felt like they could be long-lost relatives.

The next day we went to see a mortgage banker at Wells Fargo who, much to my surprise, didn’t laugh out loud when he examined the 2009 tax return along with our other financial records.  In fact, he looked at my software sales for the year so far, plus the license fees from Netflix, the PayPal DVD sales, etc., and said, “You know, your income sources are kind of unusual, but I think maybe I can make this work for you.”  He wrote a letter stating that in his opinion, we were qualified to buy the property.  That’s not the same as getting a loan approved – just an initial opinion allowing us to make a good-faith offer.

That afternoon, our realtor called.  Someone else had already made an offer on the property, just as Chareva predicted.  So Chareva violated the usual etiquette of real-estate transactions by calling Barbara directly.  Please put in your own offer, Barbara said.  I want you to have this farm.  I feel like it’s supposed to be yours.  I won’t accept the other offer until I hear from you.

So we called our realtor and she came over to draw up the offer, even though we didn’t yet have loan approval from Wells Fargo.

For the next few days, I worried that Chareva would be crushed if the bank turned us down.  She’s emotionally resilient, but definitely had her heart set on the mini-farm – and I mean this one in particular, not just any ol’ mini-farm.  It wasn’t so much the house as the property that grabbed her.  Other five-acre properties she’d seen online were either all flat pasture or nearly all forested.  But this one consisted of three distinct pastures, a small creek, some hills, and some forested area with huge trees.  The surrounding area is mostly forest and hills.  It’ll be gorgeous when the leaves turn in the autumn.  Best of all, the property is only 10 minutes from downtown Franklin and three minutes from the Gentry Farm, which raises and sells grass-fed beef.

We finally got the call from our realtor on a Friday night, just after Amy Dungan and her family arrived for a weekend visit.  Yes, Barbara had accepted our offer, and yes, Wells Fargo had approved the loan – in fact, they also approved a renovation loan to go with it so we could begin fixing up the house immediately after closing.  I was delighted to get the news while we had good friends in town for a visit.  I opened some wine for a toast.

The next Monday, our landlord emailed to say his potential buyer wasn’t interested in the house, so he’d draw up another year-long lease. I replied that we’d just gone under contract to buy another house, but we’d like to continue renting for a few extra months while the new house was being renovated.  He didn’t reply, so the next day I called him and made the same offer.  He said he was heading into a meeting, and but we’d work out the details later.

The next couple of weeks were a blur of inspections, meetings with contractors, meetings with the bank, calls to my accountant to pull files the bank needed, etc.  The first two contractors wanted more for the renovations than the bank had approved.  No go.  Then we learned that another neighbor’s brother is a contractor.  He came out for an inspection and showed us exactly what needs doing immediately, what can wait, and where we could save money by hiring his usual sub-contractors directly.  Then he turned in a bid the bank approved.

The big surprise came less than three weeks ago, when the landlord apparently forgot our conversation about extending the lease and announced that his new renters would be moving in on August 1st, so we should start making arrangements to leave.  My suspicious side says he didn’t want to turn me down on a month-to-month lease until he found another year-long renter, but he’s also a bit of a scatter-brain, so it’s possible he forgot.  Whatever.

So we spent the next couple of days looking around the area for an extended-stay hotel that wouldn’t cost a fortune and trying to figure out what the @#$% to do with our furniture and belongings for three months.  A hotel, hmmm … I love my girls, but I wasn’t looking forward to sharing what would amount to a studio apartment with them for three months.

Our realtor suggested we look at a nearby apartment complex that rents a few units on a short-term basis.  We dropped by the next day, and it turned out they had exactly one unit available that they could rent on a three-month lease.  The girls were thrilled to discover that the large complex includes two big pools and a playground.

We were relieved to find the apartment, but now instead of facing one move three months down the road, we were facing four moves:  some of the furniture and belongings to an apartment, most of it to some kind of storage facility, then from the apartment to the new house and from the storage facility to the new house after the renovations are finished.  It was a bit overwhelming, thinking about making all this happen with just over two weeks to go.

Now … (I warned you this was a long story) … back up two years.  When we left California, we got three quotes from moving companies.  The local Allied Van Lines quote came in significantly lower than the others, so we took that one.  The day of our move, the independent owner-operator they’d contracted with was clearly unhappy.  After two hours of picking up bad vibes, I asked him if something was bothering him.

It turned out the local Allied rep had under-estimated the contents of our house and therefore the cost, probably to ensure we’d go through them.  They get a commission, contract the work to a trucker, and they’re done.  Unfortunately, the bad estimate on how much truck space we’d require meant that Doug (the guy actually doing the move) and his crew would have to skip what was supposed to be their third pickup in California before heading east.

I asked Doug who ends up eating the loss in a situation like this.

“I do.”

“How much will you lose by skipping that third pickup?”

“Gross or profit?”

“Profit.  What’s this going to take out of your pocket?”

“Around five hundred bucks.”

“Okay, listen, Doug .. I’m not going to let you eat the cost of Allied’s mistake, so let’s not make this an issue between you and me.  You didn’t cause the problem, and I didn’t cause the problem.  Allied caused the problem, but I’ll make it up to you when we arrive in Tennessee.  As far as I’m concerned, I’m still getting a good deal on the move.”  His disposition changed immediately.

When I handed him the cash after the move, he told me he’d been screwed by moving-company estimators several times, but I was only the second customer ever who offered to make up the difference.  We parted on excellent terms.

So … faced with a sudden moving emergency, it occurred to me to call Doug, who lives maybe an hour from here.  Yes, he said, of course he remembered us.  Sure, he knew exactly what to do.  We’d put most of our belongings into PODS storage containers for the next three months.  He’d make arrangements with his own crews to conduct all four moves, and he’d give us a better deal than any of the moving companies.

And he did.  Two of the moves are already out the way.

We’ve been in the apartment since Monday.  It’s quite an adjustment, going from a four-bedroom house to a two-bedroom apartment.  In the house, one of the bedrooms was my office.  In the apartment, my office is now one small desk in a corner of my bedroom.  I don’t even have my printer or business phone line hooked up yet.

But it’s all worth it.  The mini-farm will be fabulous someday … but getting from here to someday will require more work and more funds than we’re getting in the form of a renovation loan.  I’ll also be paying a mortgage, apartment rent, and storage-facility rent for the next three months.

Faced with these facts, I conducted a quick observational study that showed a fairly strong correlation between A) working and B) money.  Being a skeptic, I asked myself the usual questions:  could it be that B causes A?  That is, does having money cause work to appear?  No, I didn’t think so.  Okay, could it be that A and B are both caused by C?  Perhaps something in the environment produces more money and also causes us to work more.  Nope, that didn’t seem likely either.

Reluctantly, I concluded that 1) the house and land will require money to fix up, and 2) working more leads to extra money.  So after two years of blogging and working part-time from home, I decided to go back to full-time contract work as a programmer, at least for awhile.  I have, in fact, been working weekdays at BMI in Nashville for two weeks now.  I’m just now starting to get used to waking up at 7:00 a.m. again.

Since I wrote two songs for Fat Head, I happen to be member of BMI.  (Pretty much everyone who writes music that’s heard on radio, film or TV joins BMI or ASCAP.)  First day on the job as a database programmer, I looked up my records to make sure I actually exist.  I do.  I didn’t worry about entering payment records, since as the producer of Fat Head I’d have to pay myself as a songwriter.  I’ll probably just skip all that.

Anyway … (whew!)  … that’s the big news I’ve been keeping secret for the past several days.  It’s been a crazy, stressful month, but Chareva’s dream is coming true.  She’s reading up on how to be a mini-farmer, with the goal of raising or growing much more of what we eat.  Back to the land and all that.  For my part, I’m starting to plan the layout of my Frisbee golf course around the property.

And in case you’re wondering, yes, I’ll continue blogging as well.  When two people from Chicago take up mini-farming in Tennessee, there are bound to be some good stories to share.

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Well, The Younger Brother is a smart guy and all of that, but still hasn’t figured out that I’ve got the keys to the kingdom while he’s busy moving and has disconnected his computers. It’s like when the neighbors go on vacation and forget to lock the gate to their pool. And leave the bar refrigerator unlocked. Well, not unlocked maybe, but the key is under a rock next to the slide.

Where was I? Oh, yeah, speaking of people being off-line, you may have heard that with the impending debt and borrowing fiasco, the politicians are saying entire agencies may shut down if they can’t come to an agreement to keep spending money we’ll never be able to repay. The FAA, the FCC, the EPA, etc., etc. The whole alphabet soup would just stand down. Including the USDA.

Sorry — having a moment enjoying the thought. Of course, we’re being told how scary it would be with no USDA. Since factory farming and food processing and packaging operations wouldn’t have any government inspectors, it wouldn’t be possible for us to get any food. That’s because without government workers on the scene, the food industry would be able to carry out its evil plot to poison all of us.

Maybe that wouldn’t really happen, but how else would Americans be able to get obscenely bad nutritional advice? Who is going to pass out subsidy checks to our friends in the grain industry? Who’s going to artificially prop prices up, then pass out food stamps and WIC cards because food costs so much? How is it possible to find food without the government on the job?

I don’t know the answer for the first three, but found an answer to the last one Monday.

You’ve probably heard the old adage that “grandchildren are your reward for not throttling your kids when they’re teenagers.” Well, I got invited to go with my daughter and son-in-law and my two little “rewards” to a Kid’s Day tour of Veenstra Vegetables, an organic vegetable farm a few miles outside of town. It’s a chance to show little kids how and where real food comes from.

Veenstra Vegetables is on 16 acres that Garrick Veenstra and his family live and work on. Andy Heck is Garrick’s business partner on the operation and has a plot of his own where they grow most of their tomatoes.

Here’s Garrick’s “office”…

We got started by piling onto a hay wagon so Andy could take us on the “morning commute.” Amazingly, we all managed to get on and made the ride out to the tuber patch without mishap, even though there were no seat belts or air bags. Maybe it would be okay for the National Highway traffic Safety Administration to take a few days off.

 

Here’s a mound of Mother Nature’s fertilizer. Notice there’s no meth heads trying to steal it, so the DEA can stay home.

Also, it doesn’t kill all of the earthworms and micro-organisms that make real food real. As a matter of fact, they actually live in the stuff. And we didn’t have to have special training and wear hazmat suits around it, so the EPA can take a breather.

Here’s what some of that real food looks like, by the way. Sure, there’s some weeds in there, but real food is about balance. You’re not trying to annihilate everything besides your crop, just maybe put enough of a scare in them so they don’t takeover the neighborhood (the wall of corn in the background is where the neighbor’s farm starts).


Andy took us out to where some of their yellow potatoes where ready for harvest, and the kids got to do the two things they do best – explore with inquisitive joy, and get dirty!

Fortunately for everyone involved, no one from the Labor Department was around to witness this flagrant exploitation and violation of child labor laws.

While the kids were busy expressing their kidness, the worms were busy expressing their wormness as high efficiency aeration, fertilization, and soil enhancement specialists. Somehow they managed to develop these skills without a Department of Agriculture grant.

Then we all headed back into Garrick’s office, where he proceeded to teach the youngsters about seeds and planting. Here’s his high-tech, state-of-the-art organic planter. It already exceeds all recommended fuel efficiency standards.

They all got to see and feel different seeds, and Garrick seemed to have effectively imparted this knowledge – actually, the kids were captivated — without any credentials from the Education Department. I checked to make sure as we moved on to the next area of the tour and sure enough, there was No Child Left Behind. Hmmm.

The next stop was under a tent set up next to the chicken pen (we’re still in hot and humid mode), where Garrick’s daughter gave the kids a lesson on chickens and eggs (with an able assist from a nice woman from the Extension Service, so it wasn’t a total government-free morning).

Then all of the kids got to give some feed to the chickens and do a little “free-ranging” along with them.

The fence is portable so the chickens and coops can be moved frequently. They leave behind a piece of ground that has been scratched, aerated, fertilized, and cleared of bugs; and the chickens regularly get the fresh forage and tasty bugs that make free-range eggs so much better than the ones from the mega-mart.

It also reduces the amount of feed that has to be purchased, and prevents chicken-specific pathogens from getting a foothold. As the chickens are moved off a parcel, Mother Nature’s sterilization protocol – time, lack of a host, and sunshine – goes to work.

Last stop was a gentleman (I’m sorry I forgot to get his name) who works with Mother Nature’s little sugar factories.

As low-carbers, we shy away from sugar in all of its forms, but if you want something sweet, this is pretty darned paleo. It was also pretty darned good. Besides little samples of fresh honey, he also let us sample chunks of honeycomb from a colony he’d been called to remove from a grain bin the day before. Amazing. As Tom posits in Fat Head, maybe Mother Nature does know what she’s doing.

For my “learned something today I had no idea about” category, this apiarist said that bee colony collapse disorder hasn’t reached Illinois. In fact, most of the reported cases are among huge commercial beekeeping operations operated as pollination services. He also said these operations feed the bees – get this, fellow Fat Heads – HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP. Holy crud. They also usually destroy all of the bees at the end of pollination season, because it’s more profitable to sell off all of the honey and start with new bees next year. Yep, bees are factory farmed!

Well, anyway, that ended our day at the farm. It turns out we can get all of the food we need without the EPA, DEA, NHSTA, or even the amazingly bad USDA.  I was going to suggest to Garrick that maybe he could wash the entire farm down every day with industrial strength bleach like the factory food processors do, but thought I might want to get invited back some time.

I did buy a carton of Garrick’s eggs before leaving. He can sell them on the farm, but not at the Farmer’s Market (too many regs and paperwork). In case you don’t get out much, here’s what real eggs look like.

I just read that farm fresh (never refrigerated eggs) will actually keep longer out of the refrigerator if you don’t wash them  — just turn them every day or two to keep an air bubble from letting the shell get porous (just rotate the whole carton upside-down or rightside-up on alternate days).

Today, I went down to the Veenstra’s Vegetables stand at the local Farmer’s Market and picked up ingredients for tonight’s dinner (“Sara’s Awesome BLT’s”).

As you can see, it looks like you can get real food without the feds inserting themselves into every single transaction everywhere.

If the feds do shut down, however, it might not be so easy at the local mega-mart, where most of what they sell has to pass through all of those agencies. In that case, it would be good if you already knew some of these folks. There’s probably a local market somewhere near you. I’d suggest you check it out, if you haven’t already. Today would be good.

And here’s what it looks like when you buy fresh and local. That’s lamb sticks for snacking in the package (like Slim Jims – very good).

The lettuce, heirloom tomatoes, and red onion are for the BLT’s. Yes, red onion. There’s even more. I’ll fill you in later if Tom hasn’t found out I’ve been playing in his sandbox again.

See you in the comments!

Cheers,

The Older Brother

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I’ll won’t have internet service at home for a few days because our home is changing again.  I’ll also be tied up this week with moving and then unpacking.  I’ll check comments when I can, but probably won’t be posting.

For those of you who sent me emails over the past couple of days, I’m not ignoring you.  I just don’t have time to answer them right now.

The reason for the move (which will be followed by another move around three months from now) is exciting, at least to us.  I’ll write more about it soon, but for now, it’s time to pack up the computers.

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Some interesting theories on Why We Get Fat and What to Do About It have been popping in the news lately – and no, I’m not talking about the book by Gary Taubes.  I’m talking about ideas proposed by … uh … well, let’s call them somewhat less-brilliant researchers.

A doctor in St. Louis, for example, has decided that the main cause of the obesity epidemic is pregnancy:

National experts have suggested that if a woman is obese, she should gain far less weight when pregnant than previously thought:  just 11 to 20 pounds.  But one local doctor says even that is far too much. Dr. Raul Artal, chairman of the obstetrics and gynecology department at St. Louis University School of Medicine, says an obese woman who gets knocked up shouldn’t gain so much as an ounce — and then adds that pregnancy, not an unhealthy affection for fast food and the La-Z-Boy, is “the main contributor to the obesity epidemic in this country.”

I believe the doctor is onto something.  While researching Fat Head, I was surprised to learn that back in the days when obesity was rare, the vast majority of women never became pregnant.  All the propagating of the species was accomplished by a small minority of women who then gave their babies to women who preferred to remain thin.  Pretty much every family was made up of kids who were adopted — which is how Puritans and the upper-class British managed to raise large numbers of children without ever engaging in sex.  It was also the reason that every individual bore a striking resemblance to at least 200 other individuals in their geographic area.  Sure, the gene pool was a little shallow, but people were thin and that’s what mattered.

Unfortunately, all that began to change in the late 1960s with the arrival of loose morals — which became even looser after disco music was invented in the 1970s.  Women who wanted to raise children began insisting on having their own babies, and the obesity epidemic was born.  (By pure coincidence, this was also around the time the McGovern committee told everyone to eat more grains and other carbohydrates.)

I know what you’re probably thinking:  if Dr. Artal is correct that pregnancy is the primary cause of obesity, why are so many men obese? All I can tell you is that both times my wife became pregnant, I got fatter.  I can’t explain the biological mechanism, but I expect science to provide an answer eventually.

Since women apparently plan to keep producing their own babies, the real question is what to do about all the obesity their pregnancies are causing.  A professor of bioethics has come up with a solution that was recently praised by a columnist for the Boston Globe:  we need to shame fat people into better eating habits:

“Hey, fatty! Pull that doughnut out of your pie hole! You look like a pig, and you are costing me, and every other taxpayer, billions of dollars in unnecessary health care each year!’’

How do you like my new public service ad campaign, designed to stigmatize the overweight and the obese in the same way smokers have been made to feel the knout of social opprobrium for the past quarter-century?

I got the idea when I heard Professor Daniel Callahan, the retired cofounder of the Hastings Center, a bioethics research institution, speak on a radio program about two weeks ago. Why aren’t overeaters subject to the same stigmatization as smokers?, he mused. Why not indeed?

Callahan makes a persuasive case: 67 percent of Americans are overweight, he writes. “Obesity is a leading cause of diabetes, heart disease, and kidney failure. There are some prima facie reasons for thinking about stigmatization as one more arrow in the quiver of possible solutions.

“It can hardly be said that obesity is beyond individual control,’’ he continues. “So, why not stigmatize [the obese], bringing social pressure to bear?’’

Boy, if only someone with Professor Callahan’s deep understanding of what causes body-fat accumulation had been around when I was becoming an obese adolescent, I would have remained lean.  When we had to play shirts vs. skins in gym-class basketball games, it just never occurred to me to feel ashamed of my fat belly, love handles and boy-boobs.  If the naturally-skinny boys in my class had cared more about me (and been armed with Professor Callahan’s insights), they could have helped me out by calling me names like Lard-Ass, Fat Boy, Pudge, Booby Boy, Porky Pig, or Butter Butt.  I now realize that with their kind-hearted acceptance of me (and the one other fat kid in class), they were inadvertently acting as enablers.

So to all you obese people out there who are happy with your bodies, it’s time to look yourself in the mirror and feel ashamed!  Don’t wait for Professor Callahan’s ideas to catch fire and inspire some do-gooders to shame you … be pro-active and take responsibility for shaming yourself.

I know what you’re probably thinking:  But what about all the fat babies being born these days?  Babies aren’t capable of shaming themselves … if they were, they’d  be more conscientious about where and when they fill their diapers.

Never fear.  The British government has an answer for the wee tykes:  get them to exercise more!

The British government says children under five — including those who can’t walk yet — should exercise every day. The new guidelines were issued Monday, partly to fight the obesity epidemic.

In them, the department of health says children under five who can walk should be physically active for at least three hours a day. For babies who can’t walk yet, the government says physical activity should be encouraged from birth, including infants playing on their stomach and swimming sessions with their parents.

I have to admit, I don’t know whether this advice will prove to be effective, since my only experience is with two little girls who are active even when I’d like to them slow down for a change.  Last night, for example, they grew bored with watching Man vs. Wild from a seated position and decided to construct a bridge between the sofa and an ottoman, using several household items as building materials.  When the bridge fell down under the older daughter’s weight, I thought they’d give up … but nope, they just built a new one.  When that one fell down, they changed designs and built yet another one.  When that fell down, they built another one.  I was expecting them to start whistling the theme from The Bridge on the River Kwai any minute.

But if the British government wants the “get your baby to exercise” advice to be truly effective, I’d suggest they combine it with Professor Callahan’s insights and shame babies into working out.  Then you’d have a sure-fire cure for childhood obesity.

“Come on, Junior!  Wiggle those arms!  One-two-three-four … you’re quitting at four reps?  What are you, some kind of baby?”

“Well, actually—“

“No wonder you’re so fat.  Look at you, you little butterball!  You’ve got thighs like canned hams!”

“That’s baby fat, coach!”

“Yeah, sure it is.  Listen, kid:  you’re fat because your mother listened to some old Bee Gees songs from the 1970s and then went out and got herself pregnant, so now everybody’s fat.  Well, not here in jolly old England, Butterball!  Not on my watch.  Now drop and give me twenty.”

“Twenty what?”

“Pushups!”

“WAAAAHHH!”

“Be quiet!  Hey, what did you just put in your mouth?”

“My thumb.”

“Is there any fat in that thing?”

“I’m a baby.  I’m fat all over.”

“Then take it out of your mouth, now!”

“WAAAAHHH!”

Yup, with all these brilliant new ideas being proposed, obesity will soon be nothing more than a bad memory – like disco.

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Ha!

Looks like Tom left town and forgot I’ve still got his Fat Head login info. He and Chareva and the girls stopped into Springfield Wednesday and Thursday to visit before continuing on to Chicago, so The Wife and I decided to have them over for dinner instead of making Mom cook for all of us.

Naturally, it was low carb. We ended up getting one of maybe four nice days for weather so far this summer, so we were able to eat outside in the Flamingo Lounge (The Wife and her sister have had a running joke going for years where they give each other flamingo-themed gifts).

 


The Flamingo Lounge and family.

I also got a little help in the garden from a couple of young ladies you may recognize as Tom’s lab assistants…

 

For openers, cheese and deer summer sausage (no crackers, thanks).  The sausage is processed locally with cheese and jalapeno pepper using my last season’s success, where I happened to shoot the second-dumbest deer in the entire universe.

I knew it was dumb because it got close enough for me to shoot it.  I took care of the first-dumbest deer in the entire universe a couple of years ago.

To get started, we had a Crab & Avocado Salad for which I’d begged the recipe from a restaurant I’d come across while working near San Jose a few years ago…

It’s one of those “looks fancy/very easy” things. To make 8-10 servings, fold about 1 & 1/2 pounds crab meat (I know, take out a second mortgage first) into 1 & 1/2 mashed avocados, then fold in 1 cup of whipped cream. Add another avocado that been chunked up (not mashed), fold together, spoon into 8-10 molds and refrigerate for at least a few hours. When you’re ready to serve, put some mescal or other fancy salad onto a plate, drizzle with poppy seed dressing, then unmold the crab/avocado into the center. Put a coupe of lumps of reserved crab on top then garnish with some caviar.  Not a carb in sight.

The sides where steamed asparagus (recipe: get asparagus; steam)and a Two Cheese Squash Casserole.  That starts with boiling 4 pounds of sliced yellow squash with a diced onion for about 8 minutes, then draining and combining with a cup of shredded cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup of fresh parsley, an 8 oz. container of sour cream, a teaspoon each of garlic salt and  pepper, a couple of beaten eggs, and a cup of bread crumbs (we whizzed up about 6 pieces of low-carb bread for the whole recipe — which works out to about 2 net carbs per generous serving) and 3/4 cup of Parmesan cheese.  That all gets spooned into a 9 x 13 baking dish and gets topped with another 1 & 1/2 cups bread crumbs and 1/2 cup Parmesan mixed with 2 Tbs of melted butter.  Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes.

 

 

The main course was grilled pork tenderloin with lime dipping sauce.  A rub goes on the pork tenderloin made up of 1 Tbs salt, 1 Tbs (Splenda) brown sugar, 1/2 tsp each of chili powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper (actually, we usually make about a 5x batch of this and keep it in a shaker).

The dipping sauce is made up of a chopped jalapeno pepper, some grated lime peel, 1/4 cup of lime juice, a Tbs each of olive oil and Dijon mustard, a tsp of cumin, 1/2 tsp of salt, a couple of garlic cloves and 1/4 cup of honey (we doubled the recipe because we were grilling four tenderloins, but we had plenty left over), all whizzed up in the blender.

After all of that, we decided to pass up on the fresh strawberries and peaches with cream that we’d planned for desert.  We’ll cut the portion size of the crab & avocado salad down when it’s not a main course!

Everyone was happy and full but not stuffed and lethargic and there were probably less than 10 net carbs apiece for the whole meal.  Oops — that’s obviously not good.  For those of you who want to follow ADA guidelines, you can tweak it by spreading this over your plate:

110 grams of sugar.  I mean, Heart Healthy carbs! Sure, you could’ve had a big bowl of Raisin Bran, but that would really spike your blood sugar!

If you’ve bought all of that crab meat, odds are that there will be 6 or 8 ounces left. What to do?  Well, wait until The Younger Brother leaves town, then make omelets with that, a few of the asparagus stalks, and that easy Hollandaise sauce from my last post.

 

I better go before Tom checks his blog — see you in the comments!

Cheers,

The Older Brother

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We’ll be heading up to Illinois today to visit our families and attend a wedding reception over the weekend.  I’ll reply to comments when I can, but won’t be spending much time in front of the computer for the next five days.

In the meantime, some of you may be interested in the new drug reported in this news story:

As always, I say try the dietary route first, no matter what the doctor believes.

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