The Mess Hall

Rants and ramblings on all things edible, wearable, doable, or usable with a focus on Home and Health. Home is fun, easy on the wallet, and “gool” for the greatest game of tag ever (Life). Welcome to my home, the Mess Hall. Get in the Mess!

14 Oct

Ergonomic sewing

Posted in Craftin', Healthy Body on 14.10.12 by Octopi

Hidey Ho there Mess Hallers (i.e. Mom and whatever random peeps stumble across this). This last year I’ve been focusing on alternative ways to approach holistic health. I’m gettin older, yo, and need to keep body and mind in top condition.

Life Changes
I recently started going to the chiropractor, and as I’ve been focusing on ensuring my spine is in proper alignment, I started thinking of my lifestyle and activities that probably don’t help maintain proper alignment.

One of these is the “hunched over the laptop for the entire day” activity. Can’t be good for the ol spine, right? So I pimped my workstation set-up so my posture is better. Check it out:

Pimped out set-up


Key features
* Laptop on a stand so screen is up in front of where my face actually is
* Bluetooth keyboard
* (now Bluetooth) mouse (I have a fear of numerous/tangled cords: cordophobia?)
* Credit to my friend Chris at work cuz I totally stole the setup he had already figured out

Now that I had all these fancy devices, I need to protect them when I travel, so I made some felt cases for them. I was feeling ambitious so also tried my hand at “sewing drawing” for the first time.

Case #1

A case for my long board, er keyboard. Get it? A surfboard on my keyboard case? …. Yeah


Case #2

A house for my mouse. Self-explanatory.


Mess Hall over and out

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02 Oct

SOS on SFS: Part Deux

Posted in Healthy Body, Healthy Living on 02.10.10 by Octopi

OK, so I’ve posted previously on the book I had started reading called The End of Overeating. Well, I’ve renewed it once and now the book’s overdue, but I’ve finally gotten through the last of it and wanted to present some final interesting factoids to ponder from the book.

The author (Dr. David Kessler) summarized some facts on consumption that I thought were particularly breathtaking and supports some of the USDA data I’ve summarized in the past.

  1. There has been a 63% jump in consumption of fats and oils over a 33-year period.  This is per capita consumption going from 53 lbs to 86 lbs!
  2. Interestingly, sugar and sweetener consumption has increased, by 19% compared to 63%.

     Author’s Source of Data here and here

Here’s another thing.  You know how we always talk about food that melts in your mouth and how great it is?  Well,  it’s fat that’s making it easier to chew.  On top of the whole consuming fat thing, the easier to chew reality, in my mind, leads to eating faster and eating more.  The author cites research that in the past Americans would chew a mouthful of food an average of 25 times before swallowing; now it’s only 10 times. 

I am totally guilty of what I’ll call Shovel Syndrome: I eat too fast and don’t chew my food well.  I’m sure some of this is attributed to not only the type of food we eat, but also our go-go-go culture that includes eating on the run.  I’ve been told several times recently that I “eat so fast!”  I need to stop and smell…the food (and savor it!).  Plus, if I slow down I’ll probably eat less because my body will have more time to tell me that I’m full.  So I’m going to chalk that up as a small goal for sustainable changes that help me live a healthier lifestyle!

I WILL Stop, Smell, and Savor the food!! In other words, Slow down.

In the meantime though, I’ve gotta hurry up and get this book back over to the library.


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15 Sep

High Fructose Corn Syrup: The devil? Or is the devil in the details?

Posted in Healthy Body, Healthy Living on 15.09.10 by Octopi

A friend turned me to a New York Times article that I missed in early August.  It focused on high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and how it may not be the bad guy many (including me) have portrayed it as.

Essentially the article referred to research indicating that, in contrast to initial publications on the minuses of HFCS, that it is NOT directly related to higher rates of obesity. 

While the way in which our bodies process fructose may be related to weight gain, apparently HFCS doesn’t have that much more fructose than regular sugar.  It just has more fructose relative to regular corn syrup.  Related to this and just in: The Corn Refiners Association is petitioning the FDA to change the name HFCS to “corn sugar”.  NPR’s got a good little blurb on that here.

The latter part of the NYT article makes an interesting observation.  While HFCS may not itself be any worse than other sugar ingredients, the impact of its use may have led to an interesting spiral.  Here’s my quick and dirty breakdown of the thinking here:

Source: The Mess Hall, via NYT article

A cheaper sweetener makes it possible to produce a cheaper product.  So, for example, with soda, super-sized containers gave consumers “more for the buck” while allowing the manufacturers to generate a greater profit since it’s costing them less to produce anyway.  More consumption of such products increased caloric intake.  Without “netting out” this added caloric intake in some way (e.g. exercise), an increase in obesity occurred.

Sounds plausible.  However, when looking at USDA data on caloric intake trends over the last 40 years, it’s not just HFCS or sweeteners categorically that increased substantially.  Fats and oils, for example, increased by a significant amount as well. 

Source: USDA Economic Research Service

Huh.  Increase in Sugars AND fats.  Interesting.  What do you wanna bet sodium (salt) consumption has increased as well? 

So in the end, it seems to circle back to the fundamental strategy of  finding your personal point of moderation and developing a strategy to stick to it.  What do you think Mess Hallers?

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25 Aug


Posted in Healthy Body, Healthy Living, Makin' Food on 25.08.10 by Octopi

SFS: Sugar, Fat, Salt

I’m reading a book called The End of Overeating: taking control of the insatiable American appetite by David Kessler.  Dr. Kessler was Commissioner of the FDA for most of the 1990s, during which time the FDA began requiring standardized nutrition labels on food among other things.  Everybody knows that we ARE typically drawn to those foods with Sugar, Fat and Salt; that’s not rocket science. His book is focused on understanding WHY we are pulled to foods with SFS.  The summary of research in the book explains what those things are doing to our BRAIN and how it responds to food.

So far, in the chapters I’ve read, Dr. Kessler has made his point about how the food industry (manufacturers, restaurants, etc.) have been playing upon cues our brains use to ingrane SFS into us.  And we’ve taken this into how we make food at home too.  He talks about loading and layering.  Loading foods with SFS and then Layering them with more SFS. 

For example: Nachos.  Menu Description: crispy (AKA fried) tortilla chips with cheese and sour cream.  Translation: fat on fat on loaded fat and salt.

I’m only part-way into the book now, but it definitely has me more focused on responding to this SOS on SFS.  I’m a big proponent of sustainable lifestyles and believe big changes in any part of a life (diet or otherwise) are likely not sustainable in the long-term. 

So what kind of small or incremental changes can I make regarding SFS?  The way I see it, I could eliminate a “load” or a “layer”.

  • Sugar: I stopped putting sugar in my coffee this past winter.  In this case, I think it’d be considered eliminating a Load.  Big deal, right?  Au Contraire! Calculating out 1 tsp per cup, 3 cups a day, just for work days, that’s about 7 POUNDS of sugar annually.  Holy Sugarbuckets Batman!  That’s almost 11,000 calories, which translates to over 3 lbs fat equivalent (One pound of stored fat in your body provides approximately 3,500 calories of energy).    Did you follow that?


  • Fat: For salads that I order, I will ask for the dressing on the side and I will NOT order creamy dressing (eliminating fat layering).  
  • Salt: For my incremental change here, I’m not going to add salt to my lunch food.  Instead maybe I’ll add some red pepper flakes for a little extra flavor. Here, I’m trading a layer for a lesser evil.


SFS Challenge: OK Mess Hallers, are you feeling up for a bit of a challenge?  How about picking one of the 3 SFS and a small goal to reduce that element in your diet?  If you take the challenge on, be sure to mention your goal in comments!!  We can do it!!


21 Aug

Grazin’ on Green Beans

Posted in Grazers, Healthy Body, Healthy Living on 21.08.10 by Octopi

I’m a grazer. I’ve always been one. When I’m busy I don’t get the urge, but if I’m sitting around an office or cooped up at home, it’s really easy for me to want to make a move for something to nibble on. I’ve been trying to find some good, light snacks lately and have discovered the wonderful world of raw veggies. Specifically green beans. Sound weird? Let me make my case. With a haiku.

Spring Green Beans: lanky

Crunchy, sweet, sinewy, strong

munch like a bunny

Well, it’s almost a haiku. Don’t think the American Haiku Society would approve, but you get the point.

So have I sold you on grazin’ on green beans?  They’re cheaper veggies than other tasty snacks like snow peas.  They’re more socially acceptable at work than sippin’ on gin and juice.  They’re healthier than things like The Bane of My Existence Because Chicago Kids Think They’re a 7th Food Group: Cheetos Flamin Hots.  What’s a favorite snack or grazer of yours? Let the Mess Hallers know! You could write a haiku about it too!

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