December 28, 2008

Miracle Berry Madness

Like a lot of people, I read an article in the New York Times in May about the “Miracle Fruit” and how people were having “flavour tripping parties” with food tasting under the influence of these berries as the main event. That was all it took, I became obsessed with the idea, read everything I could about them and earlier this month when I was ordering things for my husband for Christmas on ThinkGeek and saw tablets of the berries were available for a mere $14.99 US, I was sold and bought a pack for our New Year’s Eve festivities.

The pack contains 10 tablets, made of freeze-dried berries and each tablet, according to ThinkGeek, is two doses, although other sources say to use the whole tablet.

When people have asked me what I’m doing for New Year’s and I reply with “We’re having a Miracle Berry party!”, they immediately ask me what that entails, so I thought I’d do a post on it, followed up with a post on the actual event.

The Miracle Fruit is a berry from West Africa where, when chewed and swished around the mouth for a minute, it makes bitter or sour foods eaten immediately afterward taste sweet. The fruit contains an active glycoprotein molecule called “miraculin” which, from my research, binds to the sweetness receptors on the tongue and actually changes their shape so they become responsive to acids, making bitter, acid-based foods taste sweeter. For example, after eating a Miracle Berry, a lemon will taste as sweet as lemonade and you can eat it in the same way you’d eat an orange.

The effect can last from 30 minutes to 2 hours and from what I’ve been able to ascertain, the longevity of the effect is largely dependent on the foods eaten while under the influence of the berry. Acid-based foods, such as citrus fruit, make the effect last the longest, whereas fat-based foods, such as bitter cheeses, make the effect wear off sooner because the fats break down the berry’s residue in the mouth.

Here’s a video of a food blogger explaining how the berry works and instructing her guests on how to use it before a Miracle Fruit party. Note that they’re using the actual berries, which are hard to come by and expensive due to the need for overnight shipping (the berries lose their effectiveness 5 days after picking them from the tree):

Sounds pretty cool huh? So why haven’t you heard about these “Miracle Berries” before? Well, that’s because they have a somewhat shady past.

In the 1960’s, a man named Robert Harvey, who was a biomedical postgraduate student, encountered the berry and the the 1970’s he had found a way to extract the miraculin from the berries to create an artificial sweetener with zero calories, specifically to benefit those with diabetes.

According to this article from the BBC, here’s what happened:

“Harvey’s sweet dream of making the world healthier came to an abrupt end. On the eve of the launch in 1974, the US Food and Drugs Administration unexpectedly turned against the product.

Legal advice and contact with the FDA had led Harvey to believe that the extract from the berry would be allowed under the classification “generally recognised as safe”. Having been eaten before meals for centuries in west Africa, without anecdotal reports of problems, it could be assumed not to be harmful.

But the FDA decided it would be considered as an additive which required several years more testing. In the poor economic climate of 1974, this could not be funded and the company folded.”

Read the whole article for the rest of the story, it’s interesting stuff. Basically the (conspiracy) theory is that “big sugar” had a problem with the whole operation and they were in bed with the FDA, but no one knows for sure if that’s true or not.

So while the berries are legal, miraculin extract is not. Also, to be clear, the berries are NOT drugs. The only thing they affect is your tongue and the only side effect to them is the possibility of heartburn, a stomach ache or a sore tongue from eating a dozen lemons in one night.

If you search YouTube for “miracle berry” or “miracle fruit”, you can find all kinds of videos of people trying the berries and then eating all kinds of strange things from raw limes, to capers, to malt vinegar.

Here’s a video from the original New York Times party:

Here’s one where author, Adam Leith Gollner (The Fruit Hunters) talks about the fruit and gets the host of the show to try a lemon while under the influence:

And finally, here’s a clip from the british show “Richard & Judy”, where the hosts and guests of the show try the fruit and then sample various foods while under the influence.

I don’t know why, but I absolutely love watching the reactions of people when they bite into that first lemon and I can’t wait to try it myself. It’s taking all the willpower I have not to sample the Miracle Berry tablets I have in the desk.

Miracle Berry Party

So how does one throw a Miracle Berry Party? Well, the first step is to obtain the berries or their freeze-dried counterparts. As I mentioned in the beginning, the tablets are readily available at ThinkGeek fairly cheaply, but the actual berries are a lot harder to come by as the plants are finicky and only grow in hot, humid places such as Florida or their native west Africa. If you Google, there are growers who will overnight ship the berries directly to you, but there are waiting lists and some charge up to $5 per berry, along with a $45 handling fee on top of actual shipping costs. Also, from my research I’ve learned that the tablets contain about 3 berries each and the effects work better and last longer, so that’s probably the way to go.

Food is, of course, the most important element besides the berries themselves and from what I’ve read, it’s best not to be stingy about it as people WILL want to eat a lemon or two all to themselves. Here’s what we’re having at our party (although other suggestions of acid-based foods are welcome!) and there will be 4 adults and 2 children:

– 12 lemons
– 12 limes
– 3 grapefruits
– Under-ripe strawberries (easy to find in winter in Canada!)
– Sour green grapes
– Granny Smith apples
– Sour Patch Kids
– Salt & Vinegar chips
– Dill Pickle chips
– “Stout” Guinness beer (apparently under the influence of miracle berries, it tastes “chocolatey”)

Friends are possibly bringing bitter cheeses, although I’ll be personally avoiding those as to maximize the longevity of the fruit’s effects, and I’m sure we’ll come up with more foods once we’re actually in the grocery store and looking around at stuff. I wonder what coleslaw will taste like?

Anyway, if you’re interested in the Miracle Fruit/Miracle Berry, do some Googling and YouTube searches and take a look, I bet you’ll be wanting to do it too. :o)

Coming January 2nd or 3rd: (Hopefully) Pictures and video from our little miracle berry party!

Other Stuff I Found But Didn’t Know Where To Put:

Miracle Berry Cafe where all they serve is tart desserts under 100 calories, all served with a side of miracle fruit
Blog post with video of people having a miracle berry party
Toronto Star article

Posted at 12:14 pm in: Food
December 23, 2008

Quickly – Xmas Paintings

The paintings I was working on for my daughter Madison and my sister Raili are finally done! I was afraid that with my dire illness over the weekend I wouldn’t be able to finish them in time, but I worked through it and got ’em done.

Taking decent pictures of them was a whole other thing I didn’t have a lot of time for though, so these will have to do.

Here’s Madison’s:

And here’s Raili’s:

And here’s a blurry pic of both of them to show how they sparkle!

So there ya go. I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday!

Posted at 4:26 pm in: Art , Madison , Raili
December 16, 2008

I can’t sleep.

So I’m dicking around on the internet.

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I’m dying for a smoke. I know it’s just the “nicotine monster” screaming to be fed and that eventually that little bastard is going to die, but right now it really sucks. :o/ It’s going to take all the willpower I have not to go over to the neighbours’ tomorrow to hang out and bum a few smokes, but I’m reserved to not doing it. If I can make it 3 days without doing that, then I think I’m golden. After a few false starts, tomorrow is day 1.

I went to bed tonight at 10pm, after Heroes, because I was literally falling asleep in my chair. Then I woke up around 1:30am and haven’t been able to get back to sleep due to what my shrink calls “racing thoughts”. I’ve taken an extra clonazepam and an Ativan and if those don’t kick in soon, I’m pulling out the big guns and taking Zyprexa because the more I sleep, the less I want to smoke and if I can sleep through the next 3 days of withdrawal, that’d be great.

I also can’t sleep because I’m excited. Today the mail lady came while I was sleeping and left a package slip on the door. If it is what I think it is, it means I have a new toy to play with and that makes me happy. I have it on good authority that a new camera is coming my way and that makes me beyond giddy and all I can’t stop thinking about all of the things I want to do with it. Images flashing through my mind, my brain figuring out logistics.

When Madison was 3 and 4, I took a lot of really great pictures of her using a piece of crap 1.3 mpx Sony Cybershot that ultimately got used to death and it’s always bummed me out that I never got to do the same with Wes because right now all we have is this PIECE OF SHIT FROM HELL Canon Digital Rebel (yeah I know, it’s supposed to be good, whatever, I hate it, it’s 100 x more camera than I know how to use).


(Click here if you haven’t seen the rest.)

But now that a certain friend from the intarwebs who probably wants to remain nameless has gifted me this new version of the Sony Cybershot for Xmas, I’ll be able to and that makes me sooooooooo happy.

There’s this trail with a creek running along it near my house and I’m excited for spring so I can take Wes back there and take good pictures of him like I did with Madison. I was laying in bed like, planning the shots, as well as the logistics. Like, do I need Blake’s help? (Maybe.) Should I do some with the dogs? (Maybe.) But what I’m thinking is that one day in the spring when Madison’s at school, we’ll both douse ourselves with bug spray, pack a picnic and just go on an adventure back there with the camera and see what happens.

I wish I could explain what it looks like back there. There’s a creek, of course, but along the side of the creek there’s a path that’s lined with these purple flowers in the spring. Over the creek is a canopy of trees that make these amazing shadows and reflections on the water and the shots of Wes in my head are all golden.

I CAN’T WAIT!

Here’s another pic I took with my old Cybershot, which I still have and refuse to throw out even though it doesn’t work anymore:

And another:

I don’t know what it is about that brand of camera, but I just love it, it’s like this amazing tool to me, and I’m so excited about my new one maybe being here tomorrow that I just can’t sleep.

I’m also hoping it’ll take better pictures of my paintings than our PIECE OF FUCKING SHIT FROM HELL Rebel. Have I mentioned that I hate that fucking thing? Because I do. Immensely.

Of course, the package that Blake’s going to pick up tomorrow may not even be the camera at all (truthfully, it probably isn’t) and I’m getting excited for no reason, but still, my creative juices are flowing and my head is flooded with images that I wish I could turn into reality right this second. I thought about sketching them, but I figured they were probably best left in my head for now.

Well the drugs are kicking in, I’m going to go make another attempt at sleeping and dream up more shots.

(X-Posted to Live Journal, although the Technorati links are different. Favourite them both!)

Posted at 4:19 am in: Art , blogging , Creativity , Photography , smoking
December 15, 2008

What I’m Working On, And Other Things

Ooooooooh I should be in bed like a good little Sunny, but as per usual I’m up puttering around and waiting for paint to dry. Instead of sitting here twiddling my thumbs, I decided to take some pictures of what I’ve currently got on the go. Normally I don’t like to show works in progress because I’m superstitious and once I’ve let the cat out of the bag, I tend to not want to finish things, but I decided tonight that I would do it anyway.

The first thing I’ve got going on is two paintings of girls for my sister Raili (who’s almost 4) and my daughter Madison (who’s 10) for Xmas. I’m making these paintings partially because I want to – my daughter’s been drooling over my recent work over the past few months – but partially because I’m broke as fuck and Xmas is on a serious budget this year.

The one on the left is for Raili, who’s blonde herself, and the one on the right is for Madison, who’s a brunette. These girls are going to both be holding the word “Imagine” and their dresses will have matching fluffy trim along the bottoms once I cut them out and adhere them to the canvas.

The canvasses, which I forgot to take pictures of, are white and crackle based, with splatters of metallic colours corresponding to their dresses with glitter paint over top. Silver for Raili’s and gold for Madison’s. It’s hard to tell in the pics, but the cardstock their dresses are made out of are metallic as well.

Obviously their slippers are encrusted with glitter as well, which corresponds to the colour of glitter on the background of the canvas. Both canvasses are 8 x 8.

I’ve also been sketching boys in the hopes that I’ll have time before Xmas to do one for my son, in metallic blues, of a boy wearing a crown and holding the word “Inspire” as he’s been drooling over my recent work as well and I don’t want him to feel left out. Since these paintings are taking so long for me to get done, I’m not sure I’ll have time to do it, but his birthday is in February so if I don’t get it done for Xmas, he’ll get one then.

The other piece I’m working on…I was really leery of sharing this one because I’ve been reluctant to work on it for some reason and I was afraid that if I put it “out there” I’d definitely run out of steam. But then I thought maybe if I put it “out there” someone will say the right thing to get me wanting to work on it again.

Behold the mermaid:

Her canvas is 20 x 16 and her background is metallic blue “waves”, done in a wash, and gone over with silver sparkly paint. The sand at the bottom of the painting is actual sand, made into a paste with gesso and sand coloured paint and painstakingly applied (which wrecked one of my favourite brushes :o(). I’m actually unhappy with the colour of the sand, so I think I’m going to repaint it with a lighter colour of brown.

In this picture, you can kind of see the glitter in the top left hand corner of the painting. As you can see, she’s going to have purple jeweled nipples to match her eyes and tail.

Her tail is a paisley pattern with crackled “scales” applied over top and accented with metallic purple paint. Once the piece is finished and varnished with Triple Thick Gloss Glaze, the crackle should “pop” a little more and become more prominent.

And finally, this is what her original sketch looked like, which I’m probably only going to change slightly:

I’m probably not going to bother with the seaweed and if I do, it’s probably going to be made of frilly scrapbooking fibres. I’m unsure as to whether or not I’m going to include the fish, but if I do, they’ll be made of patterned scrapbooking paper. The hooks in the sketch are going to be actual fish hooks, which I’ve already purchased from good ol’ Wal*Mart and the hearts are going to be made out of this glittered red cardstock I found at Micheal’s. She’s also going to be wearing pearls around her neck.

So that’s what I’ve been working on. Exciting, no?

As I write this, I’m waiting for the glitter paint on the slippers of Raili & Madison’s paintings to dry so I can adhere them to their canvasses with gel medium and they’ll be dry by the time I wake up tomorrow when I can add their arms.

I think that’s why I’m stuck on the mermaid painting, it’s time to add her arms and that’s the worst part of doing these paintings for me because they’re a pain in the ass to paint and get the colour to match the rest of their complexion and it’s also a pain in the ass to make them the right length. With practice I’m getting better at it, but I still hate that part of doing these because it always takes a few attempts to get them right.

So that’s my paintings…

In other news, I don’t know how I feel about this new anti-depressant my shrink’s added to the mix. It’s called Gabapentin and I’m on 200mg a day and while I’m not as depressed as I normally would be at this time of year, I feel…boring. I feel like I’m unfeeling, I’m numb. I feel like I want to cry but the drug won’t let me, like it’s masking my emotions and blocking me from even really having them. I don’t have the drive or passion for things I normally do and while yes, like I said, I guess it’s good that I’m not wanting to kill myself and the grey days are easier to handle, but I don’t think I like this numbness either. I don’t like feeling blank, neutral. Truth be told, I think I like being bipolar and feeling the extremes. I miss them when they’re not there. :o/

I have no idea what I’ll tell my shrink when she calls tomorrow and asks me how I’m feeling. I’ve read about other anti-depressants and I don’t think I want to be on any of them so I don’t want her to switch me to something else, but I don’t really like this one either. What to do, what to do?

Anyway, this is getting long and I’m starting to get sleepy so I think I’ll save my other words for another time. Just as a reminder though, you can add the feed for this blog to your Live Journal by clicking here and I just wanted to mention that I’m not following comments on the LJ feed, so if you have something to say and you want me to see it, it’s probably a better idea to post it here.

And with that, I’m off to bed.

December 10, 2008

My 30th Birthday!

I think I’ve decided what I’m going to do for my 30th birthday, which is March 1st, 2009.

I think I’m going to get my 2nd tattoo.

If you’ve ever ordered anything from me, then you’ve seen the sun I use when I sign my name and I think I want to get that tattooed on my hand in light pink and blue. Like this, only placed a little differently and probably smaller. (It was hard to draw that with my left hand and even harder to photograph!):

I like how I can see it perfectly when I’m holding a pen and writing or drawing, which I’m usually doing every moment I’m awake.

I’m going to draw it on with pen like I did tonight from now until March to be absolutely sure I want it on me forever, but I gotta say, I’m really liking it so far.

So that’s what I think I’m gonna do.

(Here’s a pic of my 1st tattoo, which is of Blake’s art signature. I got it on our first Valentine’s Day. As an aside, he has my signature sun on his shoulder as well, except on the opposite side so when we stand back to back, they touch…or at least they would if I were taller haha :oD)

Posted at 1:52 am in: Art , Beauty , Misc.
December 8, 2008

Whopper Virgins

Burger King exploits indigenous people for taste test experiment and calls it a “film”.

I hate that I’m contributing to the viral nature of something Burger King is praying will go viral, but I wanted others to see this and maybe have a conversation about it.

I wish I could repost the thoughts of the person who brought it to my attention, and I’d link you, but it was a friends only post on Live Journal. Essentially his point was that Burger King was exploiting these people and that they were douche-nozzles for introducing fast food into their otherwise natural diets which, for the most part, have remained unchanged for a long effing time. Basically, Burger King was a bunch of assholes for giving these people the inevitable shits that even we, who are used to this kind of food, are prone to get after ingesting it.

Imagine the consequence of a Whopper AND a Big Mac on the delicate digestive systems of these people? That’s just evil!

And let’s be clear here. What I linked above is NOT a film, it’s an advertisement. Burger King is counting on people to talk about this, good or bad, in the hopes it going viral and ultimately selling more product. Burger King looooves viral internet advertising. Maybe you’ll recall their Subservient Chicken of 2004. This is just another attempt and it’s probably going to work.

On one hand, the concept IS pretty interesting, but at the same time, I can’t help but feel that these people were being totally exploited, both by introducing fast food crap that we all know is bad for us into their culture and for using them in a sneaky form of advertising that they’d never see, probably wouldn’t understand if it was explained to them and was likely misleading in nature.

This wasn’t an exploration in anything, this was a stunt. If it were a true exploration in the form of documentary, as I’m pretty sure they want everyone to believe, we would have heard more from those “no preference” people, who I’m thinking probably thought both burgers were equally repulsive.

Also, you and I as North American consumers of fast food (well, most of you) know the gastro-intestinal repercussions of eating such foods and our systems are USED TO IT. Did Burger King explain to these people that within 24 hours of eating both the Big Mac and the Whopper they were almost guaranteed to have explosive shits the likes of which they’d probably never experienced before? Don’t you think it would be cruel to not forewarn them? I’m very curious to see if this taste testing came with a disclaimer.

I would love to see someone do a REAL documentary debunking this “Whopper Virgins” bullshit. I’d like to hear what those people really had to say, not just the ones that were selected for the ad (I refuse to call it a “film” anymore) and not just the clips we heard. I’d love for a documentary crew to interview them the next day or the day after and ask how they FELT after digestion and if the people thought it was good food or bad food to add to their diet and what they thought of the unfortunate fact that fast food makes up a significant portion of the North American diet. I bet a real investigation would be very different than what Burger King has presented in their ad.

Anyway, the whole thing just left a bad taste in my mouth. I don’t like it. I think it’s bullshit.  What say you?

Posted at 1:23 am in: Advertising , Food , Internet , videos
December 7, 2008

Be. Divine.

So, as I may have mentioned, I’m currently doing Suzi Blu‘s “Be. Divine.” class, which is all about goddesses. As a part of the class, we’re making goddess art journals. I posted the cover of mine a couple of weeks ago.

Currently our assignment is to make pages for a few goddesses we relate to, but I’m having trouble relating to any of them so I’m behind. Here’s the first assignment though, click on any of them to enlarge:

Admittedly, these pages are not my best work, but I think the point of the exercise is more to “get it done” than “make it pretty”. I mean, it’s both, but I think getting it done and just DOING the exercise is the more important goal.

Unfortunately all I could afford to use for this journal was a plain old spiral notebook, so I’ve been gluing 3 or 4 pages together to make a more sturdy surface to work on, but being thin paper, the pages have all wrinkled as I’ve gotten them all wet. That’s okay though, I don’t mind.

Anyway, that’s what I’ve been working on over the past little while. I’ve also been working on a new painting that I’m sort of stuck on. It’s a girl, as they all seem to be these days, and I’m at the stage where I should be making her arms but that’s the WORST part of any painting I do, I hate doing them, so I’ve been putting it off and she’s been sitting on my coffee table, armless, for about a week & a half now.

I think today I’m going to get Blake to help me clean off my desk because it’s a mess and I don’t have enough room to work on the piece that’s in process (it’s 20 x 16) and then while my girl’s arms are drying, I’m going to start working on the paintings I’m going to be doing for Madison and my sister for Xmas. My sister’s is going to be pink and Madison’s is going to be purple and I think they’re both going to say “Believe”, I haven’t decided yet. They’re just going to look like the ones I’ve been doing for everybody else recently, and small, 8 x 8. I think Raili’s is going to have silver glitter and Madison’s is going to have gold.

You care, I can tell.

Anyway, that’s my update for today. I hope you’re all having a lovely Sunday!

Posted at 1:06 pm in: Art , Creativity , Women , Writing

Who Does She Think She Is?

This looks good, check it out! http://www.whodoesshethinksheis.net/

Unfortunately I doubt it’ll be coming to theatres here any time soon, so I’ll have to wait to see it on DVD. But if you’re in a bigger city, look for it and if you see it, tell me what you thought! (There’s a list of screenings right on the site, most of which seem to be in art galleries and art centres in the US.)

Posted at 11:49 am in: Art , artists , documentaries , Feminism , Movies , Women