Sunday, November 26, 2023

Second childhoods.

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It's a holiday weekend here in the US, and that means the media are publishing a lot of evergreen stories -- features that can run any time, and in fact may have been written a week or two before they show up on your favorite news outlet.

One of the themes this year appears to be keeping old folks entertained.

Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal ran a feature by Rob LaZebnik, who's a co-producer and writer for "The Simpsons", about how he's trying to avoid being boring, now that he's past 60. His friends and co-workers had heard all of his best stories multiple times, so he decided to try a bunch of stuff so he'd have new stories to tell. Several of the activities on his list I've already done ("set up a table at an autograph convention" -- check; "made a shirt" -- check; "bid at an art auction" -- check; "cooked dinner" -- what kind of rarefied life does this guy lead that he's never cooked dinner before?), but others I have zero interest in. "Attend a megachurch", for example, is not, nor will it ever be, on a challenge list of mine. (The rest of his list included going to a leather gay bar, taking a sound bath, making an announcement on an airplane, and going on a police ride-along.)

I suppose the idea is to come up with your own challenge list. But if that sounds like too much work -- and let's face it, at the end of a four-day weekend, almost everything sounds like too much work -- then toymakers are coming to our rescue. They're aiming at the senior-citizen crowd by retconning classic games and developing new ones. New "Generations" versions of games like Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit have bigger game pieces and larger fonts (which makes me wonder if there are ADA standards for such things, but I digress). These versions are also supposed to allow grandparents to play games more easily with their grandkids; according to the Associated Press, "the answer to a question in Trivial Pursuit about fitness can be Jack LaLanne or Zumba, depending on the player’s age." 

Jack LaLanne? Just how old an audience are these people aiming at? I would have said Jane Fonda, or even Richard Simmons. Jack LaLanne, really??

The idea of old folks buying toys out of nostalgia isn't new (it's called a second childhood for a reason...), but toymakers noticed an uptick during the pandemic, when isolated older adults began "gravitating toward plush animals and robotic pets as companions." (This clearly does not include me, as Flora is neither plush nor robotic.)

These toymakers are all benevolence, of course, only wanting to help this aging demographic's quality of life: the games give elder folks a way to interact with their grandkids. And puzzles keep your mind sharp, right?

Eh, not so much. Reseachers have found that while playing a lot of puzzles makes older folks good at doing those specific puzzles, it doesn't do much of anything for the types of skills that would help them keep working longer, for example, or allow them to live independently. Skills like, say, cooking dinner.

As for interacting with the grandkids, it seems to me that the prospect of playing a board game with Gramps wouldn't be much of an enticement to the cellphone-and-video-game generation. The robotic pet, though -- that might be a better draw.


Oh, speaking of retcons, I should update you on the pumpkin pudding tweak that I mentioned last week. Substituting brown "sugar" Swerve for regular brown sugar worked great. 

However, we are not going to talk about the recipe for keto pecan pie I found online and how I tried to tweak that today with the ingredients I had on hand. Nope! Not discussing it!


These moments of bloggy amusement have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!

Sunday, November 19, 2023

Gobble, gobble.


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We are currently in the midst of Peak Eating Season, which I define as the period that starts when you buy the first bag of Halloween candy and ends after the leftover Easter candy goes on sale. The season kicks into high gear in the U.S. this coming week with Thanksgiving on Thursday.

A lot of people stress over Thanksgiving, and not just because all the relatives are coming (including the ones you don't like). There's also a lot of angst over how to cook the turkey, how much food to buy, which sides to have, and so on. Not me! I am one of those people who makes the same thing every year. I buy the biggest turkey I can*, stuff it with Pepperidge Farm stuffing, roast it in one of those plastic cooking bags, and serve it with mashed potatoes from a box, nuked whole sweet potatoes, a green vegetable, crescent rolls from the vacuum-packed can (nothing says a holiday meal at La Casa Cantwell like the explodey sound those tubes of dough make), and the jellied substance that my daughters long ago dubbed "canberry sauce". With pumpkin pie and chocolate pudding pie for dessert.

That is, that was the menu for many, many years. Then I went low carb.

Honestly, though, as a veteran of decades of dieting, I can assure you that of all the holiday meals, Thanksgiving is one of the easiest to adapt to whatever lifestyle change you're making. Granted, it's tougher for vegetarians and vegans because of the focus on meat (a problem that Thanksgiving shares with Christmas dinner). But for nearly everybody else, a few tweaks and you're good.

Take this low-carb thing. There's quite a number of carbs in my old menu, but you can lean on lower carb veggies for sides.

Take the stuffing, for example. A couple of years ago, I found a recipe online for cauliflower "stuffing". It is amazing. It 100 percent tastes like regular stuffing. And it's not just me saying it - other people I've served it to have said the same thing. (Pro tip: If you have a Trader Joe's nearby, skip the business about chopping your own cauliflower, carrots, onion and celery -- instead, stop by their produce section and pick up a bag or two of fresh riced cauliflower and a container of mirepoix.)

For rolls, I've made almond flour biscuits. The mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes? You could sub mashed butternut squash, but honestly, I just skip them and add another veggie. This year, it'll be acorn squash. It's not like there isn't enough other food on the table.

Turkey is already zero carb, but I always feel like I ought to put something where the stuffing usually goes. I'm going to try this recipe this year, which includes my cherished plastic cooking bag but doesn't require you to stuff the bird with bread.

The canberry sauce is a tough one, but in the past, I've made cranberry-orange relish with Swerve instead of regular sugar.

For dessert this year, I'm going to tweak a pumpkin pudding recipe that I've used for many years. It worked great when I was doing the regular kind of dieting, and I think all I'll have to do to make it low carb is swap the brown sugar for brown "sugar" Swerve. I'll report back.

Here's the recipe. I don't remember which newspaper I got it from, or I'd give them credit.


1 14 oz. can pumpkin puree (don't get canned pumpkin pie filling by mistake)

1/2 c. light brown sugar (I'm going to sub brown "sugar" Swerve)

1/2 t. nutmeg

3/4 t. cinnamon

1/4 t. ginger

1/4 t. ground cloves

(Of course, you could use 1 3/4 t. of pumpkin pie spice (aka "pumpkin spice") instead of the individual spices)

1 c. whole milk (or 2% or nut milk -- but remember that the less fat in your milk, the less creamy the pudding will be)

3 eggs

Preheat oven to 425 degrees Farenheit. Bring a large teapot full of water to a boil. In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, brown sugar/"sugar", and spices. Set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together the milk and eggs, then add them to the pumpkin mixture and whisk until smooth. Arrange eight ramekins in a shallow baking dish (about 2" deep) or lasagna pan. Spoon or ladle the pumpkin mixture into the ramekins. Place the baking pan in the oven. With the oven door open, carefully pour the hot water into the baking pan until it reaches halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Push the baking pan to the center of the oven and bake for 20 minutes; reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake for another 30-35 minutes or until the pumpkin is set. Carefully remove the baking pan from the oven and remove the ramekins from the pan. Serve warm or cool.


* On the off chance that I haven't bored y'all with this before, here's why I always buy a huge turkey: It's cheap. This year, I paid 67 cents a pound for my turkey. And here's the key:

You don't have to eat the whole thing in one weekend. 

Once the big meal is over, I use a four container system for turkey leftovers: one for slices from the breast for sandwiches, one for the rest of the white meat, one for the dark meat, and one for the skin and the other stuff that nobody's gonna eat. The breast slices go in the fridge for eating that weekend, and the light and dark meat goes in the freezer. (The fourth container goes in the trash, or you can boil the contents for broth.) I can stretch those frozen leftovers for months: turkey rice soup, turkey taco filling, turkey this, turkey that. If you only have turkey a couple of times a month, you don't get sick of it. I swear to you it's true.


If you take away only one thing from this post, make it this: Don't make yourself crazy over a single feast. Bodies are adaptable. One day of breaking your diet isn't going to wreck your metabolism or your life. If you want the damn pie, eat the damn pie.


These moments of festive low-carb blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe, and happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 12, 2023

Taking a week off.

 As promised, I'm taking the week off from the blog. See you back here next Sunday, November 19th.

Sunday, November 5, 2023

The time has changed. Again.

PantherMediaSeller | Deposit Photos
This graphic seemed appropriate for the day after the night before. I suspect that all of us in North America are spiraling a little bit today. (You Europeans ought to be all recovered from your time change a couple of weeks ago. Aren't you? Aren't you???)

Besides the usual chorus of "ugh"s and "not again"s, the most common reaction I've seen to reminders about last night's return to Standard Time has been, "I thought we got rid of that!" Alas, no. You're thinking of that parliamentary maneuver last year in which a couple of U.S. senators snuck through a bill to keep the country on Daylight Time all year. The House never brought it up for a vote, and so it died.

Congress has been dinking around with Daylight Time since World War I, but we really played around with it in the 1970s. I distinctly remember a year in junior high when we were all ordered not to change our clocks. Our school system got around it by not resetting the classroom clocks, but shifting school hours by an hour. (The time-change tussle was way more complicated in Indiana than I remember, according to this guy's blog post.)

Also, I was sure I remembered that we spent less of the year on Daylight Time back then, and it turns out I was right. Take a look at this chart. When I was a kid in the '60s and '70s, Daylight Time started at the end of April and ended at the end of October. Now it starts in early to mid March and ends in early November. Why did it change? Does anybody really know? Does anybody really care? (According to this article -- in Time, appropriately enough-- it was lengthened in 1986 to make recreational business interests happy. It gave folks more daylight hours in the evening to, y'know, spend money on having fun. It was also supposed to save energy consumption, but it didn't actually do that.)

To be honest, I think we're all just sick of of the constant disruptions to our circadian rhythms -- the older you get, the harder it is to recover, or so I've found -- and most people think we should just pick one time and stick with it. The science appears to be on the side of Standard Time; the Washington Post has a cute little story-with-graphics about it on its website today -- here's a no-paywall link, if you're interested in checking it out. But a lot of folks like Daylight Time because it gives them more light at their preferred time of day.

I tend to be a night owl, so I'm in the camp of more light at night. But I'm also in the camp of not getting up before dawn, and I don't have much control over that, either, now that I've gone back to work.

Maybe one of these days, both houses of Congress will take a stand against messing with our clocks. But in the meantime, we'll have to keep doing this semiannual dance.

I'm not yawning; you're yawning!


By the way, I'm taking next weekend off from blogging. See you back here on Sunday, November 19th.


These moments of bleary-eyed blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Stay safe!