Tiny Bit of Crazy

A chronical of the laughter, revelations and transformations that are possible when you embrace the crazy

Rant January 16, 2012

I did a guest post over at Do These Kids Make Me Look Crazy, in which I lay out my suggestions for my BFF Tara’s New Year’s Resolutions. I expected people to see me as bossy and arrogant while still witty and insightful.

Instead everyone’s all “You’re so sweet!” and “Wow you’re such a beautiful, loving person!” and “OMG you’re the funniest person I’ve ever encountered in my life!”

But the thing is, I really pride myself on being kind of grouchy and misanthropic – though I can’t argue with the perceptive people who recognize my comedic talent.

So I feel the need to balance my image with a post where I’m a complete asshole.

It’s all about Yin and Yang and managing expectations. So here’s my asshole rant. Feel free to chime in with your own major pet peeves – consider this an asshole safe space.

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I really don’t want to be that person.

You know the kind. One of those superior and self-righteous and “my way is the only good way to do things”people.

Because I’m not – at my core – one of those people. I don’t believe my way is the right way, about anything, but especially when it comes to my diet and specifically being gluten-free.

I’m not one of those extreme evangelical people shouting about how gluten and sugar are the new asbestos and no one is safe. If you can process gluten and sugar without any issues, then more power to you.

BUT.

(And there’s always a but, isn’t there?)

BUT. So many people complain of health problems that have a recognized connection to gluten sensitivity, and yet they refuse to even try a gluten-free lifestyle. These people drive me fucking crazy. In large part, I readily admit, because if they only have to go gluten-free, and not sugar-free as well (like me), they really have very little to bitch about.

It’s not like it was 15 years ago when my sister was trying to find gluten-free products for my nephew. That was an expensive and time-consuming endeavor which still yielded limited products of questionable taste and texture.

But now, you can walk into basically any grocery store, not even specialty grocery stores, just regular old Food Lion or Safeway and find at least a handful of gluten-free products. If you shop a higher end store, like Wegmans or Whole Foods, you will find a cornucopia of gluten-free products.  You can go online to Amazon.com or glutenfree.com and order just about any product you can think of for reasonable prices, and 95% of the time they are delicious and the other 5% of the time they are still fully edible once you get used to the texture.

Some restaurants are better than others (CPK I’m looking at you – I appreciate the special menu, but I miss my BBQ Chicken Pizza!), but pretty much every restaurant I’ve been to since going gluten-free offers at least a couple of options, if not a whole gluten-free menu.

Yes, you do have to be a little more aware of what you’re eating or what your access to food will be like at events like weddings and parties. Yes, occasionally you will need to carry your own food with you or go hungry at these types of things. But I always consider those times to be failures on my part to think ahead and be prepared. And for the people who have subtle or manageable reactions to gluten you can totally indulge in that wedding cake/Christmas cookie/grandma’s famous baked ziti. If I eat gluten I act like I’m drunk for several hours and then feel like I have the flu for 12 more hours. So almost nothing is worth that to me. But if your reaction is manageable to you, then you have even less to bitch about.

The bottom line here is that being gluten-free is just not a tragedy, and to those who act like it is I say “put your big girl/boy panties on and let’s find something real to get upset about. Like the fact that people exist who take Rick Santorum seriously.”

If I hear one more person say “Gee, I always feel kind of icky after I eat bread products,” or “Wow, your symptoms sound a lot like me… But I just don’t think I can live without pizza…” my head might explode.

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But as much as the gluten whiners bug me there’s one thing that actually drives me even more crazy.

I haven’t met any of these people personally, but I see their posts on gluten-free chats and Facebook pages ALL.THE.TIME.

They all go something like this: “I think I should go gluten-free, but I have no idea where to start?!?!?! HELP!”

Again, I really try not to pass judgement on stupid people. Maybe they’ve lived a really sheltered life. Maybe they are one of those people who grew up thinking “fast” and “frozen” are two of the major food groups, and have no idea that food comes without a bun or from a source other an a box.

Maybe they have been living in a cave or ashram in the desert for the last 5 years and have completely missed the fact that everyone and their grandmother is talking about gluten in one form or another and thus really have NO IDEA that gluten is in wheat. And that wheat is in flour. And that flour is used to make all bread and pasta products. It does, eventually, get more complicated than that, but as far as where to start?

STOP EATING BREAD AND PASTA.

How about we start there? That’s what I did. My doctor suggested trying a GF diet just for shits and giggles, just to see if it might affect some of my chronic health problems, and so the next day I had yogurt and fruit instead of cereal for breakfast, soup instead of sandwich for lunch, and chicken breast and veggies for dinner. Repeat. And when I started to feel better, then I started looking up more information about a gluten-free lifestyle and looking for recipes and trying out gluten-free products from the grocery store. But first? I just ate things without flour in them. Because getting started really is that easy.

Seriously, I want to find sympathy in my heart for these poor confused souls on these message boards. I want to believe that their story is more complicated than just the usual combination of stupid and lazy. Even as I write this I imagine offended and outraged people responding with explanations of lives spent in fallout shelters and deep-seated fears of foods that comes out of the ground. And to those people I imagine myself saying:

OK, but have you heard of GOOGLE? I know you have a computer, and I know you are familiar with the internet because you’re here posting on this message board on this website about being gluten-free. OH WAIT, or you could just read the f*&ing website you’re posting your “Where do I start?!?” question on. Hmmm? How about you just start with that?

And then I imagine the person crying and saying something like “You don’t have to be so mean!” before running off and being forever incapable of asking for help with their gluten-free lifestyle and then dying either of starvation or of a disease caused by gluten toxins.

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And then I think of Darwin and I stand by my position.

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I’ve held this rant in for a long time. Because I know sharing these feelings does kind of make me one of those people.

Maybe its the  sugar withdrawal, maybe it’s because I’m not watching enough reality TV and judging all those people all the time. But I just couldn’t keep quiet any longer.

Just don’t hate me because I’m judgmental.

Hate me because I’m mean.

Change out "Salmon" for Chicken and this just got that much easier. You're welcome.

 

Sugar Fast. Again. January 6, 2012

I’m starting my new year with another 30 day sugar fast. Because I was a bad, bad girl during the last 2 weeks of 2011.

But in my defense, being gluten-free AND sugar-free, at Christmas, while traveling and relying on other people and rest stops to provide food is really hard. And another opportunity for frustration, disappointment and stress in a season already chock-a-block with those things.

Plus, I totally love sugar. Yes, I learned to live without it in a carefully constructed world where I allowed no temptation, but once I was out of work, out of my routine all bets were off.

At first it was a magical indulgence, and a chocolate stolen from a box of Godiva was a treat to be savored for hours.

Then, once I decided to just give up my ban on sugar until Jan 2, instead of being constantly conflicted and guilt ridden, it was like a race to see how many gluten free sugar products I could get into my body before the deadline.

The effects of this choice were not subtle:

  • Less energy.
  • More headaches.
  • Not sleeping as well.
  • Less appetite for “regular” food.
  • Being distracted by thoughts of desserts and sugary treats all. day. long.
  • Bloating.
  • Swollen ankles.
  • Mood swings usually involving tears.
  • I look like crap in most of my Christmas pictures, including really cute ones that Chris took with his new camera with a timer. My face is fuller, my eyes are dull and my skin is pale. Which means no festive holiday photo for my Facebook profile. This is a tragedy.

Somewhere around Jan 30 I accepted that I was completely powerless over the sugar. I didn’t even try to make up limits, knowing that any self-imposed sanctions applied as an afterthought would wilt against the original decree of a sugar and guilt fueled holiday.

I was honestly a little relieved to have the holidays end and be able to return to work and my carefully constructed sugarless universe. I actually came back to work half a day earlier than I needed to, and if that’s not rock bottom, I don’t know what is.

But even with all of this, it was still totally worth it.

Which I know is not a politically correct diet thing to say.

I’m supposed to follow a binge like this with loud lamentations, self-flagellation and heartfelt dramatic declarations of “AHH SUGAR, YOU CRUEL MISTRESS!! NEVER…. AGAIN….”

To which I say, “meh”.

I mean, do I love the effects of my binge? No, I’m avoiding mirrors and cameras like a vampire. Do I look forward to the sugar withdraws I’ll experience over the next two weeks? Not particularly.

But was it worth it? Um, kinda, yeah.

I mean sure, if I had it to do over again, I might not go quite as crazy. I might not shovel Santa imprinted Hershey bars and tree shaped peanut butter cups into my mouth like a drowning woman gasps for air. Maybe.

Part of my excess was due to wanting to try out all of the gluten-free sweets I’d previously avoided like cookies and muffins and chocolate dipped donuts and birthday cake.  That part was research, really, so that when a sugary treat is really needed – like a birthday, or a Christmas day brunch where I’m surrounded by bagels, coffee cake, and french toast, I can have something equivalently indulgent yet gluten-free for myself.

So were I to fall off the sugar-free wagon again, I’d probably eat those items in the same moderation I did before I went gluten and sugar-free, which is to say only on special occasions.

But here’s the real reason why I don’t regret my sugar binge:

1. I made the choice with a clear and sound mind fully aware of the likely outcomes. And as such, it feels a little hypocritical to now regret that choice. This is a good life philosophy as well. You’re welcome.

2. It was a learning experience. I saw the improved way my body processed sugar better (at the beginning) which reinforced the wisdom and benefits of a low/no sugar diet. This is only going to make this second sugar cleanse that much easier.

3. It really did make my whole holiday experience a lot less stressful and mopey. Mood swings from the sugar notwithstanding. And I know I’ve written about getting past using sweet treats as away of compensating for emotional or physical needs. But come on… I spent a total of 30 hours alone in a car over the span of about a week. I couldn’t have any of the normally fun road trip food that makes that much driving feel more like a treat than a punishment, like donuts and Big Macs and cookies the size of your head. So I had flavored coffee, french fries, and Ghirardelli peppermint bark instead. And it made the schlepping and the traffic and the butt cramps that much easier to take. Don’t judge me.

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But now I’m 3 days into my sugar fast, and so far so good. Since I broke so many routines and associations the first time it’s actually much easier mentally this time.

Physically it still has its challenges, but on the plus side, since I’m excited to be back into my healthy eating routines my creativity for lunch creations is refueled.

For example, today for lunch, I did an inventory of all the food I had on hand and ended up making a salad with beets, granny smith apples, feta cheese and walnuts. I know I’m not the first person to combine beets and green apples, but damn is that an insanely good taste combo.

what is also clear from this picture is that I will never have a career as a food photographer.

And then because I was feeling the need for something warm on this cold day, I took some frozen sugar snap peas, put them on the toaster oven tray, sprinkled some kosher salt on them, and popped them at 350 for about 10 minutes or so, moving them around once. Then I sprinkled a bit of feta on them and bam. Incredible taste explosion and satisfying lunch.

So much more satisfying than another peppermint bark or peanut butter cup… at least that’s what I’m going to keep telling myself until I forget the way that peppermint bark candy melted on my tongue…

*Sigh* only 27 more days to go…

 

Buddha’s Diet November 23, 2011

Filed under: Food — Meredith @ 10:30 am
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’m a slave to protein.

That’s what this whole diet has basically boiled down to: Protein, and my endless need for it.

It’s the master of my schedule, the ruler of my moods, and the deity to which I regularly bow.

Because that’s pretty much all I can eat. And when you only eat protein, it burns up fast. See the nice thing about complex carbs like the one I typical ate – with lots of whole grain and fiber** –  is that they are slow burning. Slowly burning into sugar, yes. But slow burning nonetheless. This is an attribute of carbs I took for granted when they were a part of my life.

But when protein is king, I can go from not hungry, to starving in less than 3 seconds. Every choice I make in my day somehow relates to, or is influenced by an opportunity to intake protein.

.

I don’t want to sound like I’m complaining, because really, over all, this diet is the best thing that’s happened to me, health wise, in years.

Pounds and inches have been lost. (More inches than pounds actually, which seems impossible, but is apparently true and according to the doctor, not uncommon. But smaller is smaller, so I’m not complaining).

But more than anything, a lifestyle has emerged.

A lifestyle of mindfulness. Mindfulness about when I’m going to eat, what I’m going to eat, and of course, how much protein will be in the meal. I have to make daily decisions about whether and how much GF and sugar-free protein bars or apples, or cheese sticks, or nuts, I need to put in my purse.

Fast food is a thing of the past, we can’t eat anything out of a box, and very few restaurants offer us more than one or two options on the menu (although the few that do, like Mongolian BBQ, we patronize often.)

On Friday afternoon Chris and I start thinking through our weekend and what our schedule will be like, and before we can settle in for the evening, we have to make sure we at least have enough eggs, fruit and breakfast meat to make breakfast Saturday morning.

At breakfast we talk through our day in detail, thinking about where we’re going, what our food access will be, if we’ll need to bring food or come home to eat. If we’ll come home to eat, what will we eat, will we have time to cook or do we need something quicker.

Crock-pots are an invention of the gods.

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After a few weeks that all becomes second nature, especially to detail oriented planners like me and Chris.

But then there’s another level of mindfulness, having to do with correcting habitual eating and cravings.

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I realized that I used food as rewards- a diet sabotaging habit if ever there was one.

Several times a day I’d think, “I’ve made it through a hard day, I should get myself a cupcake,” or “I’ve had a great day! I should stop at Starbucks for a frap,” or “I just did the bare minimum amount of work I need to do to stay employed. Time for some M&M’s!” At first I just focused on not robotically steering into the Starbucks or bakery parking lot.

Then one day it hit me: “Why do I need a reward for every goddamn thing that happens in my life? Am I 4 years old? Should I get M&M’s for making a pee-pee in the potty?”

First I thought “Well, it wouldn’t hurt,” but then I thought “NO. This is no way for an adult to live!”Because, as an adult, I’m responsible for my life. I’m responsible for all of my choices and my actions. I shouldn’t need a reward to get through a day in a life that I created.

“But,” I asked myself, “what about when things go wrong, and you’re too sad to do anything but eat a cupcake one crumb at a time?”

That pulled me up short because, I mean, seriously, WHAT ABOUT THE CUPCAKES?

Well here’s the thing about the cupcakes:

They served as a pseudo solution for situations I didn’t want to resolve for real. Relationship trouble? Lets not look at the ways in which I’ve participated in letting him make me feel bad, that’s icky, I’ll just eat a cupcake instead. Pain from physical therapy after my car accident? Eh, getting perspective about healing time and the human body is hard, I think I’ll mope and eat a cupcake instead.

The sugar and the feeling of getting what I want would make me feel briefly better, but quickly disappear leaving me feeling lonely and sad again. A terrible cycle that has now ended.

I’m not saying I’ll never have another cupcake, but it will be when my sugar intake for the day has been low, when its GF, and when its only because I want a cupcake, not because I’m using it to hide behind. Because being mindful also means having choices. I can choose to have a peanut butter cup, or a slice of GF apple pie at Thanksgiving because I can make choices about other things I eat – skip the potatoes, go easy on the citrus fruit and pick carrots over corn so my sugar intake is as low as possible when I eat the pie.  I can pretty much do whatever I want as long as I’m always mindful of the big picture. Which makes me hate this diet a lot less.

Next, I realized that I mostly crave sugar and carbs when I’m dehydrated or just plain hungry. The body wants a quick fix, so it wants carbs and sugar. So I had to learn to ask myself what I was actually in need of – water? protein? just something in my mouth to chew?

What I didn’t expect to happen was that I eventually trained my body to crave what it actually wanted. When I’m dehydrated I crave water, when I need protein I crave cheese or meat, when I just want something to chew images of apples and carrots come to mind.

Swear to Protein, I’m telling the truth.

But it’s really easy to undo. One little slip – like eating rich chocolate desserts every night because you’re stuck in a hotel in the middle of the desert and you’ve only been able to eat like 20% of every meal and you’re sick of your protein bars and it’s not fair and a little bit of sugar isn’t going to hurt, and damnit why does everything have to be so effing hard all the time – and you kind of have to start the retraining all over again. But it is easier the second time around.

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I was explaining these details of this diet to my dad a few weeks ago, and he said “So its like a Buddha diet. It’s all about mindfulness.” Which is the first time I thought to put it into that context. Of course, if we wanted to be very literal, Buddha’s diet would be vegetarian, but I like to think he’s cool with my using his name this way. Mostly because Buddha is pretty much cool with everything.  But as soon as I re-contextualized this diet from a pain in the ass list of restrictions, to a lifestyle of mindfulness, everything got a lot easier.

For example, I’ve finally accepted that there were no short cuts anymore, that my idea of indulgent eating is adding kidney beans to my salad, and that I will spend an inappropriate amount of my life thinking about eggs.

And in exchange I have a clear mind, high energy levels, stabilized moods, a smaller waistline, and better functioning organs.

Seems a fair trade.

Except when I walk past a Starbucks and see a picture of their holiday drinks and wonder how many more times I can walk past before I run inside, order 12, and then sit in my car behind a dumpster pounding one after the other until I pass out in a pool of melted whip cream, chocolate curls and my dignity.

Those days suck. But mostly its, you know, the other way.

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**this is an after post edit for clarity. I realized that by just saying “carbs” as I did originally it was misleading and just plaing wrong. But I’d been eating complex carbs, and whole grain/fiber filled carbs instead of simple carbs like white rice, white pasta etc, for so long that I didn’t think about what I was saying.

 

I’ll Never Be Accused of Being A Foodie October 31, 2011

Today is the end of the formal 30 day sugar fast that was the kickoff to my new “eating lifestyle”.
Yay! Except that I’m so over (most) of my sugar cravings, and have adapted to my options so well over the past few weeks, I don’t really want to eat outside my diet.
Did. NOT. See that coming.

I’d planned to do a deep blog about all of the things I’ve learned over the past 30 days in terms of food, my body, my brain, Chris’s body, society, and American culture as a whole. I may also have some revelations about the state of the global economy and how to stop the polar ice caps from melting.

BUT.

Work and life is really busy this week, and I’m not going to have the time to write such a deep, informative, and dare I say it, life changing blog post for a while.

So since food is kind of the center of my life right now, I decided I’d just throw a blog together about what I’m eating.

For me and Chris the keys to success on this diet, is planning and creativity. I live in fear of getting totally sick of something, like say sliced deli ham, because if I take deli ham off my list, that’s like removing 25% of my options. Or something. I don’t know, I’m not a mathematician, but I do know it would be ugly.

Breakfast

Breakfasts are the most challenging meal of my day. At work I either eat some combination of hard boiled eggs, microwave sausage, fruit, or protein drinks.

On the weekends, we try to be more creative, because the idea that we could get sick of eggs keeps us both up at night. And yet… all of our breakfasts still include eggs…so there appear to be some kinks in our plan…

Moving on. You all remember the post about our Flower Power Eggs, right? Well, since then we’ve gone with more of a “throw a bunch of veggie’s into a pan with some eggs and meat and cook it up” approach.

Scrambled eggs with some tomatoes and cheese thrown in, some bacon and fruit on the side.

This was supposed to be a fritata, but then we realized we had way more filler than eggs, so we just scrambled it all together and called it a day. Sausage, tomato, broccoli and cheese.

Lunch

Lunch is a bigger issue when I’m at work than on the weekends, because typically on a weekend we don’t eat breakfast until around noon, so “lunch” is more a snack sometime before dinner. But at work, lunch is my personal challenge.

At first I made these big elaborate salads that required I spend at least 20 minutes chopping things up.

Then I started coming up with faster lunch options. This is Amy's Organic, gluten free Chunky Tomato Bisque, and a salad of: tiny shrimp, romain lettuce, feta cheese and a touch of vinegrette dressing. Not the most flavorful lunch I've ever had, but it got the job done.

I had a few bites of a flourless chocolate torte this morning (co-worker birthday) and the sugar nearly made my head explode, so I wanted a really basic lunch. Plain shrimp, frozen sugar snap peas thawed in microwave, then tossed in the toaster oven on 450 with sea salt for 2 minutes each side. Again, not the most exciting meal, but it hit the spot. And took me less than 10 minutes to make. Win.

I also made a couple of salads last week with either pear or apple on romain lettuce, with fetta cheese, walnuts, and vinegrette dressing, but forgot to take pictures because I was starving. But they were delicious.

Snacks

I like to think that snacks bring out my true creativity. Of course we have the standard apple/organge/banana/carrots/celery, with almonds, cheese or a peanut butter substitute like Sun Butter (made from sunflowers).

But then there’s the deli meat.

Chris started me into the habit of buying deli meat and then just eating it straight from the bag. But after a few occasions of standing in the kitchen at work self conciously shoving slices of ham or roast beef into my mouth, hoping no one would walk in and comment on my unorthadox eating habits, I got an idea.

I took a slice of cheese, and pilled two slices of roast beef on it, and then wrapped the cheese around the meat to eat it like a taco. I don't know why, but somehow I felt less self-conscious eating this way. Sometimes I put a second slice of cheese on top and pretend its a sandwich. Don't judge me.

The first couple of weeks of the diet/sugar fast were challenging because I was used to having granola bars or protein bars as easy portable snacks. But none of the bars I used to eat fit into my new diet. So I went on the hunt and eventually found a couple of options. This was one of them:

This sat in my drawer for more than two weeks before I was brave enough to try it. I think the "live" part scared me. But it was actually kinda good. And nothing bit back, so there's that.

But this my favorite power bar option at the moment. They are the perfect pre- workout snack:

It says its sugar free, but it does have sugar alcohols, which means...something. I don't really get it yet except that they are better/different than actual sugar...somehow...

This weekend we went out to run a quick errand and ended up at the outlets. About an hour into the outlet experience we realized we hadn’t packed a snack or lunch because we weren’t expecting to be gone so long. And one of the major challenges to this diet is that fast food is a thing of the past, and even places like Panera Bread offer few options because I don’t trust their salad dressings to be gluten free. But we wandered into the food court anyway, thinking at worst we could split some fries to hold us over until we got home. But we were actually surprised to find some diet friendly options. (I started to type “pleasantly surprised” but that would be a lie, because we were a little disappointing when we realized we couldn’t justify french fries). And then for another installment of “what the fuck happened to us?” we sat in the middle of the food court surrounded by pizza, burgers and fries, and ate apples slices,  cheddar cheese squares, melon squares and grapes, and tried to pretend we were enjoying it.

But you know what?

We would rather have had ANYTHING ELSE IN THAT FOOD COURT.

Seriously, if I could have eaten a slice of pizza or a burger and not felt like death for the next 24 hours, I would have. And I’m pretty sure that goes double for Chris.

But this is our life now, so the only thing to do is look on the bright side. Which for me is that I did not have to spend $200 on new clothes to go to this work conference next week because I’ve lost enough weight in the last month to fit back into my old, pre-gluten-allergy-making-my-body-go-insane clothes.

So at least there’s that.

OH, AND, today at the grocery store I found carrots cut into disc shapes! I don’t know why, but I find this extremely exciting.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go eat an apple with some Sun Butter for my snack.

Try not to be too jealous.

 

Flower Power My A** October 24, 2011

Filed under: Food,It Ain't Easy Being Me — Meredith @ 3:45 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

There isn’t a lot of room for creativity with this diet. Especially not in terms of the variety of foods we eat.

So we’ve started looking for ways to be creative with the way we prepare and serve those same few foods. Over and Over.

Eggs are big in our lives. They’re a big part of our weekend breakfasts, and hardboiled, often serve as breakfast/snacks during the week.

We’re in danger of getting sick of eggs, which would be a disaster. I’m not exaggerating. Our carefully constructed lifestyle of grain fee/low sugar eating would crumble the first Saturday morning we woke up and couldn’t face the eggs.

So Chris has put himself in the role of “Creative Director” for our meals. All of our meals, but specifically our weekend breakfasts.

I think he’s trying to distract himself (and me) from nostalgia of weekends were we just rolled out of bed and went to the bagel place.

This week he decided we should try a “recipe” he found on-line called Flower Power Eggs. He picked it because it looked like a quick and easy way to get out protein and veggies in – the goal for every meal.

I put recipe in quotes because really it was a self-explanatory picture and a little text about how fun and easy it is.

Ok, we didn’t actually read the text about how fun and easy it was. We felt like we got it all from the picture:

The finished product we saw on the internet.

Its sliced peppers and sunny side up eggs. Easy, peasy. Right?

I sliced up the green pepper while Chris got the skillet ready, and then I was put in charge of cracking the eggs into the peppers.

The egg whites spilled over the sides of the peppers, but for all we know that happened to the blogger too, since she conveniently leaves out a cooking picture.

And then…the finished product:

Our final product

NAILED IT.

And don’t worry, I know the egg “flowers” look lonely on that big plate, but we also had bacon and the rest of the peppers for our breakfast, see:

PS. While Chris is ready to cut Flower Power from the breakfast roster, I’m planning a rematch at some point. I will not be bested by an egg and a pepper.

 

 
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