Live Below the Line: Days 13-16

First off, my apologies for missing a few days of writing. A lot happened this weekend which tired me out completely. It’s definitely hard to keep up with the writing when your energy levels are running on fumes.

Saturday saw me working at the bakery. It was a busy shift, so I actually didn’t eat anything. To be honest, I wasn’t that hungry. My appetite had been replaced by a somewhat upset stomach, and some of the smells coming out of our oven were even making me a bit nauseous (except for our cheddar and chive scones — I can stand in front of the oven with the doors open just to be embraced by that smell).

I knew I was going to be okay dealing with the baked goods at the bakery, but it was what was planned for Saturday evening that had me worried. Like I mentioned before, I was going out with a group of friends for some birthday celebrations. I was the only one out of a group of ten that was participating in the challenge, so there was a nagging voice in the back of my mind that kept on lending to my self-doubt and lack of will power. And that was even before I knew where we were going: a pizzeria specializing in real Neapolitan pizza.

I fell in love with traditional Neapolitan pizza in its motherland, where even the type of tomatoes used is sanctioned by law: Naples (I love that city, and not just for its pizza). North American pizza has not been able to compare for me since. Thin crust blackened by a wood-burning oven; tangy yet sweet San Marzano sauce; just a touch of fresh mozzarella and copious amounts of fragrant basil. I was doomed as soon as I glimpsed at the menu.

I decided that there was no point in fighting it as I’d just probably turn into a miserable birthday guest, so I gave myself a night off of the challenge. I made one promise to  myself though: I was going to keep a running tally of how much I spent and then donate the same amount to my friend Eric who’s also participating in his own extended version of Live Below the Line.

Eric’s challenge is actually a little tougher than mine, as he’s continuing to live on $1.75 a day until he reaches his fundraising goal, whereas I have a set end date. So although I felt guilty and a tad gluttonous for the evening, being able to help him out softened the guilt for me. Plus, he’s fundraising for Spread the Net, a charity that provides mosquito nets to families to avoid the spread of malaria. It’s a different charity than the one I’m fundraising for, so it made me feel good to know I was supporting more than one cause.

I ended up splitting a small pizza with my friend Abby. We ordered a marinara (which was like what I’ve been eating for lunch everyday for the past week, only a million times better), and the smell that it produced hit me before our plate was even placed on the table. It was probably the best thing that I could have ordered as it was just sauce, basil and dough, but despite it tasting delicious my stomach was still upset. I wasn’t even able to finish my part!

Let me tell you though, as soon as that San Marzano sauce hit my taste buds, I was in heaven. And the fresh basil?! Forget about it! I think a traditional marinara or margherita pizza may very well have to be my last meal…preferably in Naples.

Although my tummy was a bit off, I didn’t have any problems with enjoying a “liquid menu”, so I also imbibed a few pints throughout the night.

I estimated that my spending throughout the evening, which included visits to a bar before dinner, the restaurant, a bar after dinner, then karaoke (my first time!), tallied up to about $35-$40 including tips. That is double what I spent on groceries to last me to the end of my challenge! I’m still shaking my head about that. At the end of the night though, it was worth it because I got to spend time with two of my most favourite people in the world:

01

Left to right: Abby, myself and Dominique

It was the first time these two had ever hung out together, but they got along famously. It just goes to show that when you keep only good people in your life, there’s no drama; only genuine friendship and love. I effing love these girls.

So, Saturday was the one day I fell off the wagon. That San Marzano sauce alone made it worth it.

With Sunday being Mother’s Day, I promised to make me mudda a pancake breakfast. That. Was. Torture. I rarely have pancakes because I’m finding that flour bothers my tummy, but sometimes you just have to deal with the pain and eat a pancake. I was strong though; despite them being cinnamon oatmeal pancakes that I made from scratch, I did not falter. My basement apartment still smells like them!

Sunday was a lazy day that I spent doing some laundry and catching up on my TV shows (needless to say, I was very tired from the night before). I was supposed to go to my friends’ Chuck and Cheryl’s apartment to work on a video blog, but around three that afternoon a monkey wrench was thrown into my plans. This was that monkey wrench:

02

My mom found him wandering around our front yard. He had no tags on him and with it being Sunday, the vet was closed so we couldn’t check to see if he was microchipped. He’s a border collie that I guessed to be about seven to eight years old. I had to keep him in the basement with me because of our other pets (our female puppy is actually in heat, plus we have two one-year old cats that were rescued as strays last year and are still a bit skittish).

This dog is by far the most well-behaved dog that’s ever been in our house. He’s a huge sweetheart who likes to cuddle, but I could tell that something was up with his joints by the way he walked (also an indicator of his age). We spent the afternoon chilling on my couch and spending some time in the backyard. I even let him sleep in the bed with me because my floors are hard and cold, and if he did have a joint problem it would only make it worse. That cutie seemed grateful for the bed and politely stuck to his side of my queen mattress (unlike our dog, Tia, who’s smaller than this dog yet somehow ends up draping herself all over you and smothering your face with her giant head).

The next morning I brought him to the vet to try to scan for a chip. I had been worried that he wouldn’t have a microchip seeing how he didn’t have any dog tags. I would have adopted him in a hot second, but based on his demeanour I knew that he came from a good home, and that family was probably missing him like crazy. Hell, in the less than 24 hours that I had him, I got attached to him.

Success! He was chipped! And his name is Charlie 🙂 I got a little misty when I had to say bye, but it was only because I was so happy that he was able to go home. I also found out that he was on medication, so I’m thankful that we got him home as quickly as we possibly could in the situation.

Charlie took up my Sunday and Monday, and now that it’s Tuesday my schedule is slowly getting back to normal. I’m finding that the longer I continue with the challenge, the less hungry I am. It’s almost like I’ve lost my appetite for food in general. There’s the psychological aspect of “Oh, I could go for some avocado right now!” or “Hey, that coffee smells delicious! I want a cuppa!”; but the actual physical pain of hunger is diminishing.

I’ve learned another lesson by doing this challenge: I need to stay away from bread, pasta and anything else made from wheat flour. I’m not allergic to gluten, but I do have a health condition (mentioned in this post) that causes scar tissue to grow within my abdomen. This tissue is stimulated and (I’m assuming based on the pain and discomfort) gets inflamed whenever I eat foods that are starchy or sugary, especially bread and pasta. I think that once my LBL challenge is over, I’m going to put myself on my own personal challenge and follow a gluten-free, 100% vegan diet for a week or two, just to see how my body feels. I was partially raised by my Italian-Portugese neighbours though, so I have to admit I LOVE my breads and pastas. Plus, I’m a baker! This is so unfair…

After today there’s only three more days left in my challenge, then I’m booking it to Baltimore for the weekend. I already know where we’re going for dinner on Saturday (I guess I’m predictable because it’s yet another pizzeria with a wood-burning oven. Honestly, I’ve even looked up how to build these ovens in your backyard…), but aside from that and a few attractions that we’d like to see, it’s going to be a pretty laid back trip. But I am getting another souvenir tattoo! So excited!

How many more days before I can eat another decent meal? Oh right, three…thankfully that pizza place in Baltimore sticks to the rules and only uses San Marzano tomatoes as well. That’s all I’m going to keep telling myself to get me through the week.

San Marzano: my new woosah

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