Thursday, September 4, 2014

Day 90 AD - Confessions of a Fat Guy

Things have not been going so well lately.

Three months have gone by since the end of my Survivor Diet Challenge and the summer foods have been difficult to moderate.  I successfully complete a couple 'modified SDCs' in order to keep my weight below the 185 mark but recently I have been a slacker.  And as soon as that starts to happen, it can get out of control quickly.

This sounds more like a confessional than a log book but I thought it would be good therapy for me to write it all out.  Actually, after giving this some thought, I realized that an important step in the SDC is to document it.  By writing it down I can see more clearly what needs to be done.  It is actually a form of confession and a way to wipe the conscience clean.

I weighed in at 189 today which is about 8 pounds too heavy.  It's interesting how those extra pounds can start to wreak havoc on my system.  I have started to notice subtle changes such as waking up in the morning feeling bloated, increased gasiness, laziness and restless sleep patterns.  I'm sure an elevated blood pressure accompanies these other symptoms - not to mention increased cholesterol levels. 

In addition to the naturally growing food in the garden and the fresh seafood options, I have been over-indulging in ice cream, cookies, bread, cheese and many other culinary pleasures without regulation.  It's time to lay down the law and get back in the game.  Let today mark the day that I begin again and I will start with another modified SDC until I achieve my goal of under 180 pounds.  So let it be written, so let it be done.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Day 28 AD - Day 1 MSD - Modified Survivor Diet

I woke up this morning and stepped on the scale.  It has been almost a month since the end of this year's Survivor Diet.  The scale read 185.4 pounds. 

I think that I have been doing very well with my eating habits since the end of the challenge.  I slowly started gaining a little bit hear and there but my weight has always stayed below the mark of 185.  185 is my trigger weight.  The rule that I have in place right now states that if I should go above 185 at any time, a modified Survivor Diet is triggered.  And that happened this morning!

It's Survivor Diet time again folks - a modified version.  The modified version involves all of the same rules as the original but with all rewards and extras included.  For example, I will have rice available as well as butter, spices, flour, etc.  Anything that was "rewarded" to me during the Survivor Diet is available during the modified version.

How long will this last?  You might be asking yourself.  Well, the answer is that it will last until I drop my weight below 180 pounds.  the first morning that the scale reads 179.9 or less, it's back to normal eating again.

Hopefully this system will prevent the extreme weight gains and losses that happen when normal eating resumes.   We shall see.

So. . . today I brought to work a foil pack with 3 fluke fillets seasoned with salt, pepper and the welcome new addition of fresh garden parsley and basil.  The garden is coming to life now and there are many new things available to me that were not fully grown last month.  I will update these posts regularly again until I drop below the 180 mark.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Day 1 A.D. - Free Spear It

Today I had a few pieces of my Lindt Chili Chocolate bar.  It was really, really good.  For my lunch at work I brought in one of my vacuum bags of fried fluke - and it was really, really good.  I also baked a new bread boule in the toaster over at work - and it was really, really good.  Can you tell that I am enjoying myself today?  I feel like I haven't strayed too far from the Survivor Diet.  It's just nice to eat fluke the way I love it the most.  Better yet, I'm going to make a fluke sandwich tonight when I get home with a little lemon and cocktail sauce.  Can you say 'The Best Sandwich Ever?'
I drove home from work today and it was so nice and still outside.  I got home and no one was there to greet me so at 6pm I decided to take a drive up to the ocean and go for a swim.  Now for me, this means spearfishing.  I geared up and was in the water by 6:10.  I was hoping that the visibility had improved from last week.  I took a test dive in about 12 feet of water and it looked a little better.  Not great by any stretch of the imagination but if there were fish there, I might have a shot.
I moved out a little deeper into about 25 feet of water and tried to relax so that I could maximize my breath hold.  On my second dive, I dropped in on a rocky bottom holding blackfish and stripers.  Quietly, I laid on the bottom and waited patiently.  A few smaller bass swam by along with some large blackfish.  Blackfish are not in season right now so I had to pass on them.  Out of the corner of my eye a pretty large striped bass started approaching from left to right.  I slowly tracked this fish with my spear until it was in my sights.  I took the shot and it was PERFECT!  Right in back of the gills at the level of the spine.  Success.  And on my second dive.
It took some time to get this fish strung up on my float and I was excited to get back underwater to look for a really big one next.  There have been reports of fish up in the 50 pound range in this area lately so I was hoping to have shot at my personal best.  On my next dive, I went down about 20 feet and it was murky.  I had lost the rocky bottom as the current moved me a substantial distance from where I had shot that first fish.  As much as I kicked, I could not make any progress against this current pushing me south.  I tried to dive down a couple more times but the water was not getting any cleaner.  With my catch secured, I decided to call it a day and head for shore.  One quick fish - and done. 
As it turned out, the swim back to shore was not an easy one at all.  Not only was the current moving south but it was pushing out as well.  When I finally made it back, I was about a half a mile from where I had started.  Diving from the beach can be very frustrating at times - not to mention dangerous.  I decided to gather up all of my equipment and fish and leave them on the beach where I was.  Then, I walked back to my dive bag about a half mile and got in my truck to drive and pick up my stuff.  I couldn't believe how far I had actually drifted and I was grateful that the current didn't take me out to sea because that would have been another story all together.
Anyway - I got my first nice bass of the season while freediving and spearfishing and it felt great.  I would much rather dive from a boat but there are some roadblocks associated with that as well.  I'll try this a few more times while the big bass are still here in good numbers.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Day 40 - A Grand Finale

Day 40 feels like an old friend.  Back together again.  Another Survivor Diet Challenge in the books!  YaHoo!  As much as I look forward to Day 40, it is always bitter-sweet.  I finally hit my groove with this thing and now it is over.  Or is it? . . . Duhn, duhn, duh!
I have been thinking about different approaches to my Survivor Diet in terms of how long it should go, the types of rewards, the challenges to earn the rewards, etc.  As an individual like myself finishes a Survivor Diet I learn many new skills and become more knowledgeable.  It makes sense that each time I complete the Survivor Diet that I should strive each time to further challenge myself.  Perhaps adding days to the duration of the diet each time it is completed will make it more challenging.  Since this is my 6th time completing it, the addition of a day for each time would seem appropriate.  If that's not enough for someone, feel free to add more - maybe an additional week for every completed SDC?

Because I am feeling very good and I have not yet reached my desired weight of 175, I think I will semi-continue the SDC for an undetermined period of time.  I will shoot for at least 6 more days based on the reasoning I previously listed - but I'm feeling like I can even go longer.  I wrote 'semi-continue' because I don't think I am going to be so rigid and strict with the rules.  Instead I will be 90% in Survivor Diet mode and 10% enjoy a couple treats here and there.  I think that's only fair.

I ended up not obtaining a few of my weekly rewards.  I'm not sure if this is due to laziness, inability to competently demonstrate survivor skills, or indifference.  But it didn't seem to bother me that I did not get these rewards.  Not nearly as much as the first few times I took on the SDC.  Perhaps I am either getting better at this or just getting more tolerant of the Survivor Diet foods.  If I recall correctly, I believe I had a similar experience at the end of last year's diet.  Interesting.  I will have to ponder this a little more to see if I can figure out a trend or an explanation.  I do remember a few years back when I had Megaburger as a weekly reward - oh, how I was looking forward to that.  And I enjoyed it so much. 

This year I'm not really craving the red meat much at all.  Strange.  I can't really think of anything in particular that I am craving right now.  Maybe an ice cream cone?  I'll tell you one thing though - if I lost the ability to use butter and spices, everything would be different.  I remember that first week or two this year very clearly.  The use of a little butter and some spice makes EVERYTHING just a little better.  I can make salt from sea water - and that's a huge help.  But butter?  I'm sure I could make it but I would have to figure that one out and I would probably need access to a cow.  I'll put it on the list of things to consider.  I didn't really have sweet until the addition of honey this year.  And that was another HUGE boost.  Why not make my own butter?  We'll see.

Here's a little recap of how Day 40 went today.  I was off from work because it was Wednesday.  Dad came up for a couple hours of fluke fishing.  We had a really nice time and we were very successful coming home with about 6 keepers.  We fished close to home which meant a very short boat ride in and out.  The tide was almost completely low but despite the lack of current, the Wonder Rig did the trick once again.  I would guess we caught over 20 fish all together but the best story is about the big one that got away.  Or did it?


I hooked up and began to reel my fish in.  It started to feel pretty big so I asked Dad to get the net.  While grabbing the net, he accidentally dropped it overboard into the water.  It started to sink and he made a stretched out effort to try to save it.  My fish started to really pull and I tried to keep it still in the water until Dad got the net.  I watched as he struggled but eventually grabbed the net and  got into position for my fish.  Just as I was about to see the size of the fish it made a big surge backwards and broke my line - leaving me hookless and fishless!  I just barely got a glimpse and sure enough it looked like the biggest fish of the year so far.  Jokingly, I blamed my Dad for not being ready in time but in reality, my leader was probably chaffed a bit from previous fish and the drag on this reel was a little sticky.

About 20 minutes later we repeated our drift over an area that was fishy and I hooked up again - to another big one.  I took my time as this one was pulling line off my reel and fighting to get free.  Dad was ready at the net and after a short battle we landed this really big fluke.  It was 24.5 inches - the largest caught on my boat this year.  Well, you're not going to believe this but as I was going to unhook this fish I reached into its mouth with my pliers and next to my hook was another hook embedded in the corner of his mouth.  An identical hook to the one I was using - the same red, size 4, gamakatsu octopus hook from the Wonder Rig!  It was the Big One that previously got away.  I was amazed that this was caught twice in a 20 minute time frame.  One mistake too many and this time it was coming home with us in the live well.

The Big One that got away once, but not twice.
I kept 3 fish and gave 3 to Dad to take home for dinner.  My fish will sit on ice overnight and I will clean them tomorrow.  Since I didn't eat anything prior to going fishing, I decided to go get my fasting blood work done at Lab Corp.  It was around 10:30am and when I showed up without an appointment I was surprised that I walked right in.  The morning rush was gone the whole process took about 15 minutes.  In the past I have waited over an hour to get blood drawn so I'll have to remember that the time of day makes a big difference.  I will probably get my results back next week and I will post the numbers to see how they compare to last year.  My hope is that my cholesterol numbers are as low, or lower than the end of last year.  I know the weight and blood pressure have stabilized.  I'll just have to wait for the cholesterol report.

The rest of the day was somewhat uneventful with the usual food items and some spicy honey popcorn for dessert.  I went to the A&P with the kids and I was trying to think of the first thing I would like to eat tomorrow as a 'free man.'  I decided that I would treat myself with a favorite piece of chocolate - Lindt Chili Chocolate - a hot, spicy chocolate that neither of my kids like at all!  That will ensure that the chocolate bar will last at least a day or two.  I am determined to not go overboard after this diet is over.  Little treats here and there and meals in moderation.  That will be the key to long term success.  Moderation.  This is a term that many people are just not familiar with.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Day 39 - And Then There Was One

One day left.  Time sure flies when you're surviving.  My truck is back in the shop today - the ongoing AC problem is not fully resolved. 

I am optimistic about my new and (hopefully improved) killie trap and bucket.  Notice the small combination lock on the trap.  I think this might raise a few eyebrows of would-be killie thieves in the future - not to mention the kids in the park who are just pulling up every line they see dangling from the dock.  The warnings on the bucket are self explanatory but thieves don't really care much about warnings now do they?

I made up a nice plate of fluke sushi and sashimi for dinner accompanied by a couple slices of freshly baked bread with butter.  I'm getting better and better at this particular loaf of bread - tweaking some of the ingredients and measurements until I come up with the perfect blend.  I will continue to do this until it becomes second nature because there really is nothing like a fresh baked boule of bread with hard crust and a light, airy inside.

I'm planning on fluke fishing early tomorrow with Dad.  It's supposed to be a nice day so we're going to hit the river for a couple hours to see what's biting. 

It's Day 40 tomorrow!  Wow!  What am I going to do after it's all over?  I'll tell you one thing - I need a plan.  Without a plan, I will be doomed to go right back to the way things used to be.  It's time to put the old thinking cap on again.  A man, a plan, a canal - Panama.  Say that backwards.

Monday, June 2, 2014

Day 38 - A Needle in the Haystack

I broke out a couple of eggs today (week 3 reward for those who need a reminder of where the eggs came from) and made a nice French toast breakfast with honey-butter as syrup.  It wasn't the best French toast in the world but it sure was something different and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  Actually, it was quite filling and I was only able to eat half of it.  The other half was put into the refrigerator for tomorrow's breakfast.

Survivor French Toast
On my way to work this morning I noticed that the air conditioning in my truck was on the fritz again.  I just had it recharged the other day!  I will have to bring it back to the garage so they can check it out again.  I called their office and it looks like I can bring it in tomorrow morning.

At my lunch hour today I took advantage of the nice sunny day and checked the bee hive.  I was concerned because I have been seeing way too many drones lately and it made me worried that there may not be a queen in the hive.  I suited up in the full regalia and opened it up.  The bees were pretty docile - I didn't have to use the smoker to calm them down.  I opened the hive and checked each individual bar and comb.  One of the combs was crooked and was starting to cross over onto the adjacent bar.  This is not good but I caught it early enough to take care of it.  I removed this comb completely.  Hopefully this will force the bees to start a new one on this bar and hopefully the new one will be straight.  The comb that I removed was full of nectar and some honey so I took a photo and put it into a zip top bag.  Even on such a small comb there is a lot of honey inside.

I examined the internal combs for some time looking for signs of the queen.  I almost gave up hope until I glanced over and saw a bee that was slightly longer and just ever so slightly different from the rest.  I found her!  It's a miracle that I could figuratively find the needle in the haystack.  In this case the haystack is a continually moving, crawling colony of bees - literally over ten thousand of them - and ONE queen.  I was sure of it though.  So as soon at I spotted her I figured everything was all right.  I closed up the hive and continued my day.

For dinner tonight I took advantage of some more lettuce growth in the garden and prepared a nice bowl of salad greens.  The asparagus have finally run out.  There seems to be a few short, new stalks emerging but nothing to harvest today.  It was great while it lasted though.  And I am very grateful for the asparagus and for all the nutrients they provided during the past several weeks.

dinner salad
This evening it was time for the big fish fry number 2.  I had a nice pile of fluke that needed my undivided attention for a few hours.  And a few hours is exactly how long it took to get through it all.  I vacuum sealed and froze this whole batch minus the bag in the photo.  I want to have one out to eat after the SDC.  One that was never frozen.  I made about 6 bags just like this one and now I have a good number of cooked, breaded fillets in the freezer for any time I want to have some fluke.  It will last here for about a month before starting to 'turn.'  I made a big mess out of the kitchen but I also did a good job cleaning as I was cooking so it didn't get too out of control.

I made 6 bags like this one!
There are only 2 days left! It's a little anticlimactic because after that first week I really haven't had to struggle much at all.  I may continue on with it with a few exceptions.  Tomorrow I will make my monthly dessert lists for junk food like I did last year.  I found that to be very helpful for someone like me who has trouble with moderation.  And as usual, I have to come up with a post SDC plan and write it down.  I'll be thinking about that a lot in the next few days.

It's time to get another blood test to see how my cholesterol numbers are.  I will also request a heavy metal test and Vitamin D.  I called the doctor today to request a prescription for lab work right after diet is over.  No ice cream until the blood work is done!

Truck apt for tomorrow am.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Day 37 - First Bun in the Oven

June 1st - happy anniversary to my loving wife Debbie - may we have many more that are just as good or better than the first 18!

Interesting thing about celebratory events - they always seem to center around food.  What do you want to do for our anniversary?  The answer always seems to come down to what restaurant do you want to visit.  Even with both of us dieting in our own special ways, we couldn't shake the idea of eating out so we let the kids decide.  We ended up at Kissui Sushi.  I watched the kids eat about $100 worth of delicious looking sushi and sashimi while tasting a little bit of edamame.  Debbie did a good job too - not swaying too far off her plan of eating whole foods.

Going back a few hours, in the morning I had a softball game and after it was over I baked that bread that had been rising over night.  It came very good - not great.  I think it needed a bit more flavor or salt because it was a little bland.  Very crispy crust though.  And as you can see, it looked fantastic.  It had a lot of nice airy holes in the interior.  With a little butter, honey and salt it was really, really good.  By itself it was a little bland but that might make for some good breadcrumbs once it gets stale - if it makes it to stale.  I don't think it will last the day.

I had the idea to try some spearfishing today but that got cancelled due to a bad weather report.  The new plan was to take the dog and Jamie to the beach/park at end of street.  I brought my SUP (Stand Up Paddleboard) to try it out and to test my balance.  It was a little too windy which made the SUP a challenge.  I fell off once and went right into the drink.  I tried a little fishing off of it - no luck.

After my bread had some time to cool I just couldn't get enough.  I really have to moderate when it comes to the bread or else I am going to gain weight and get a headache - just like with the candy.  Debbie thought the addition of flour to the SDC reward list was a stupid idea.  We'll see.  I just really enjoy making these cool loaves of bread from time to time.

Before heading out to dinner, I set up my fish cleaning station in the garage and cleaned massive amounts of fluke. Alex and Jake helped.  I gave a piece to Jake to take home for dinner.  Hopefully his parents are willing to cook it for him.

With some of my remaining bread I am planning on French toast in morning.  I have also been accumulating bread crumb scraps in a bag so that I will be able to bread some fish fillets soon.  Back to work tomorrow.

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Day 36 - Stop. Thief!

I have been stockpiling killies all week again down by the boat ramp in preparation for Saturday morning fishing.  I had a bunch of nice big ones which I'm sure will produce very respectable fluke in the river.

The wind picked up pretty heavily this morning from the Northeast but i was going to give it a shot anyway.  The tide table let me know that the best time to go would be around 8:30am.  I trailered the boat to the ramp and walked over to pull up my bait bucket and trap.  Low and behold, they were empty!  Someone had stolen all of my precious bait and had left my bucket behind.  I was absolutely furious!  I had just re-baited and checked it the night before and the only people using the ramp this early were the fishermen who left before me.  I had no way of knowing who it was but I was so mad it hurt. 

I was determined not to give up hope however.  I remembered about the fluke strips that I cut from those fish that I accidentally let go bad the other day and I went back home to retrieve them from the freezer.  These may not work as well as killies but they should do the job.

The wind sure was howling but luckily the wind and the tide were going in the same direction.  This made for a really fast drift which I like.  In just about 2 hours I am happy to report that I caught about 12 nice fluke - keeping 5 to take home to eat.  The alternate bait worked and what makes me more happy is the fact that I was able to utilize the bait that I made just the other day.  Those fish were not wasted after all and I was basically able to convert 3 dead fish into 12 new fish today.  And without that bait I may not have gotten any at all.  I was able to turn a mistake into a fortunate event and I am very happy about that.

I was quick to remember to get these new fish on ice as soon as possible. Through this learning process I have also developed a system of freezing big blocks of ice in my garage freezer so that I never have to buy ice again to chill fish (hopefully).

After icing the fluke I decided to try to make another primitive fire in the backyard.  One more weekly reward would really help to make the rest of this week a breeze.  I gathered all of my equipment and my knife and started spinning away with my hand drill.  It took several attempts and I was close to quitting several times but in the end I got it done.  My little baby ember came to life and allowed me to make a flame from a cedar bark tinder bundle.  From this, the fire grew and grew as I kept feeding it fuel from scraps of wood strewn throughout the yard.

Successful FIRE!
I successfully unlocked my third reward consisting of a dozen eggs, a bag of flour and some yeast.  I have a plan to start the bread making process and as long as I moderate and do not over eat it, the bread will be a welcome addition to my diet.  I can also 'officially' make my own breadcrumbs and have a few pieces of breaded fluke - my favorite.

I followed an old recipe I had in the memory bank - 3 cups of flour, 1/4 teaspoon yeast, 1 1/4 teaspoons of salt, 2 cups of water.  This will be the start of my favorite bread boule.  Couldn't be simpler and it usually comes out fantastic.  This mixture of ingredients will sit overnight and be ready to bake sometime tomorrow after rising.

I used the hot coals from my fire to heat a tin foil bag filled with wood chips to be used on the smoker grill.  I had dried a batch of bluefish and fluke strips the night before and it was time to add some smoke.  The hot fire did a great job to ignite the wood chips and after a quick dowse of water it was ready for the smoker.  A few hours of smoking, followed by a couple hours of dehydration will yield a nice batch of jerky for the next few days.  This is my first attempt at fluke jerky.  It is not a very oily fish like bluefish so it should be interesting to see how it turns out.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Day 35 - Special Occasion Temptations

Morning health update - weight is 178.4  BP is normal at an average of 122/78.  I've been a little bit gassy.  Probably from a Peligrino water I drank at lunch the other day.  I'm very happy with my weight.  It seems to have stabilized at the high 170's and that's exactly where I hoped to be in the final week.  I will most likely put on about 5 pounds after this is over so if I can stay at or below 185 I will be happy.

I am only working until 2 today because Debbie and I have a wedding to go to this afternoon.  I was still able to take Ty out to lunch and went to the same deli as I took Jamie yesterday.  Interestingly, Ty ordered the same exact thing Jamie got yesterday - without any prior knowledge of her order.  And yes, again we went to Hoffman's for an ice cream.  I'll be attending this facility quite a bit starting next week I can assure you.

Before the wedding I wanted to get some Survivor Diet food in me in order to resist the temptation that were to follow.  I made 4 fluke sushi hand rolls with lettuce and ate them right before we left. The wedding was at a really nice red church with an old pipe organ in Elberon.  A couple hours later the reception was at a place in Shrewsburry called Shadowbrook.  I had heard very good things about this place in the past.  Typically weddings have incredible food and this might have been a good opportunity to invoke my "Special Occasion Reward" so that I could partake in the culinary delights to come.  It would mean I would have to give up one of my other weekly rewards but I have two or three to potentially give up that I have not even used yet.

Tough to pass up
 Well, when we got there I was tempted by several things but not tempted enough to break form.  That was, until I saw the ice sculptures filled with jumbo shrimp cocktail, oysters on the half shell and caviar.  Hmmm.  Time to invoke?  I grabbed a plate and filled it with these delicious looking seafood items and took it back to my table.  However - - - I made a last second decision to NOT go off the diet despite this special occasion.  Pass the water please.  It was difficult to resist but I did it.  I think the sushi rolls that I made prior to the wedding did the trick - just enough to fill me up so that I had the will to resist temptation.  A pat on the back for me (from me).

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Day 34 - Truck Trouble

I dropped off the truck this morning and have been anxiously awaiting a call from the garage to see what it needs.  I was hoping for them not to say that whole under body is rusted out and it's a goner.  I'm glad I got some fishing in yesterday morning because I may have been without a boat for a short while.  However, when they called late in the afternoon they said that the problem was with the left front hub assembly and that it was all fixed.  How about that!  It wasn't cheap but to have it done in a day and not have to wait very long - that was well worth it.  I was very grateful especially since I thought it was going to be a much bigger problem.

I took Jamie and her friend Corrine to lunch today.  We stayed local because I didn't have my ride.  I suffered through watching them eat at the Italian deli followed by some pretty impressive ice creams at Hoffman's.  I had a sparkling water for lunch today and all I got from it was some uncomfortable gas.

It was a huge relief to be able to drive my truck home from work today.  I had the usual for dinner and followed it up with a popcorn dessert again.

I'm getting hooked on this stuff!  Too much of anything can start to take its toll over time though.  I'll have to keep the moderation idea in mind.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Day 33 - The Final Week Begins

Not to sound fanatical or desperate for food (because I'm not), but I got up 'naturally' this morning at about 5:30am and decided to go fishing for about an hour and a half before having to go to work.  This is very unusual for me.  I am certainly not a morning person.  Perhaps I am becoming one?  I looked at the weather forecast and the tide and saw a brief window of opportunity to get out for a little while.

I was on the water fishing by 6am.  The weather was starting to get lousy and there will be few opportunities for the next several days.  It was windy, foggy and drizzly.  On top of that there was a tremendous amount of seaweed in the water and it was getting snagged on my line every time I dropped it into the water.  Not a good sign.  However, I had several good spots marked from the previous few trips that I decided to go directly to in order get a few quick fish and head home. 

2 fish on at one time!
Despite the adverse conditions, my plan worked very well.  I got the job done.  I managed to catch 4 keeper sized fluke with at least as many short throw backs.  I spent about an hour fishing and was home before the rest of the family was even awake.  I was smart about putting these fish right into an icy cold cooler and there they will sit until cleaning time.  There will definitely be another big fish fry soon!

On my way to work I noticed a strange grinding noise coming from my truck's left front tire area.  This did not sound good at all but I can't imagine what would have caused this overnight.  At lunch today I stopped in at a local garage and they were nice enough to have me bring my truck in tomorrow to check it out.  On a whim I went to the Chevy dealer to see what they had available.  Even used, these Suburbans are quite costly.  I think it would be a much better idea to try to fix what I have rather than get something new or used.  Hopefully this will be a pretty quick fix because without the truck, the boat is out of commission for a while.

I worked all day and it was a bit stressful at times.  When work was over I had all of that fluke to clean at home so I set up a fillet station in my garage and got busy.  Unfortunately, the fish from the previous day (that had died in my live well) had gone slightly bad.  I didn't want to risk it so instead of cleaning these three fish for food, I made bait slices out of them.  Hopefully they will come in handy sometime in the future and not be wasted.  Other than those three fish, I meticulously cleaned all the others and I have a very nice stock of fluke at the moment.

Wonderful fish and veggies for dinner
 I had a nice dinner of broiled fish, asparagus and rice and after dinner I treated myself to a wonderful bowl of popcorn with spiced honey butter.  Man, I really found a winner with this treat.  It's got salty, sweet, spicy and crunchy all rolled up into one pretty healthy treat.  I have a feeling I will be making this quite often in the future.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Day 32 - Making Use of the Whole Day

Today is the last Tuesday that I will be starting work a little later (10am start).  After that I start at 8am on Tuesdays.  It's along story, but that's just my work schedule in the summer.  Today I decided to take advantage of the early morning and invite my friend Brad out for a sunrise search and destroy fluke mission.  We left at 5:30am and were fishing in the river by 6. 
It didn't take long to start bringing in the fluke using my Wonder Rig.  Brad started by using a jig and shortly abandoned this method in favor of mine.  It's just that good.  We found some really nice holes that produced some quality fish.  In under 2 hours we were finished and had about 7 very respectable fluke and one bluefish in the livewell.  We also threw back several fish that we just about a half inch short.  I landed the largest fluke of the year today - a nice 23.5 incher.
Please excuse the NY Giants sweatshirt I am wearing.  I have designated it for wiping fish guts and slime on - so it will officially be my garbage hoodie.  But I agree, no self respecting Cowboys fan should be caught dead in a Giants sweatshirt!
We were back home by 8:30am and it felt like we had already had a full day.  The rest of the family was just waking up.  I gave 3 nice fluke to Brad and kept 4 for myself.  More fluke to clean! 
I left my fish in the livewell on the boat with the aerator pump on all day.  My objective was to keep them alive while I was at work and then make up a nice ice water cooler to chill them in overnight.  This was a big mistake.  When I returned home from work (8 hours later) I found only one of my fish still alive in the tank.  The others had died and without the ice to chill and preserve them, they had been sitting out in a warm water bath all day long.  Not good.
I attempted to chill them all, despite a slight funky smell that the dead ones had.  My gut is telling me that these 3 fish are just not going to cut it.  We'll see tomorrow when I get the knife out.  I feel bad but I only have myself to blame.  If these fish go bad then I will chalk it up to a learning experience and try to not make that same mistake again in the future.
I brought some Honey Bits into work today to offer to my co-workers as a sample tasting.  Almost everyone enjoyed them.  You just can't please all of the people all of the time can you?  I packed a nice lunch of, you guessed it, fluke, asparagus and rice in a tin foil pack to be broiled in the toaster oven.  It was a long, tiring day and I suffered some lower back pains on occasion.  I'm not sure why I had the pain but I'm sure I was tired because I was up at the crack of dawn and going non stop all day long.
For dinner I enjoyed my first salad of the season - right from the garden.  I also managed to pick yet another helping of asparagus.  Did I mention that it seems like a never ending asparagus crop?  Man, they just keep on coming.  I should post some photos of the garden soon.  It's really starting to change now.  It's amazing what can happen in a few weeks. It was good to get some greens tonight.  Always nice to have fresh garden veggies during the SDC.
First Garden Salad
Sauteed Asparagus
I also enjoyed a small plate of fluke sushi.  It's a very mild fish when it comes to sushi and sashimi preparations.  I can't really rave about it but it's easy to make and a nice treat.
Fluke Sushi
Another long day in the books.  I may have another fish fry in the near future because my supply is growing again.  That may depend on the quality of the fish tomorrow.  The weather is turning lousy again starting tomorrow afternoon so I'm glad I had time fish today despite being a work day.  As long as I'm not lazy, and the tide is right, I can get a couple hours of fishing done in the morning before work.  Pretty cool.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Day 31 - Just Another Manic Monday

Today was the last day off of a long weekend.  I have several straight days of work ahead so I wanted to see if I could gather some more food for the next few days.  I met up with my new friend, Dave and we made an attempt at the first spearfishing of the year.  the ocean temperatures have reached an acceptable level and the water was relatively calm.  Time to jump in.

We started at 6:30am and headed to Deal.  There are several rock jetties in Deal that usually have fish around them.  I had read some fishing reports the night before talking about several 50 pound striped bass that have been caught in the area.  Boy would that be nice to see. 

Filled with delusions of grandeur, my expectations were set way too high.  Unfortunately, when we got to the water it was so cloudy that I could not even clearly see my hand in front of my face.  I made several attempts to go to the bottom to see if the visibility was any better but it wasn't.  In fact, I didn't even know I was at the bottom until the tip of my speargun hit the sand.  Never saw it.

Conditions looked perfect - different story underwater
This is the worst possible situation to come across while trying to spearfish.  It takes a lot of energy and preparation just to get into the water and when the conditions are this bad it makes me miserable.  We packed it up and left - disgruntled.

At home I was faced with the task of cleaning and drying my wetsuit and equipment - not to mention all of the SAND!  I hate sand.  It was everywhere - despite all of my efforts to keep things clean.  I also spent a good part of my day working on a new design for a diving board/float that I plan to use on my next dive.

In the afternoon I finally made time to cook all of this fluke I have been accumulating.  I have way too much to keep refrigerated so my plan was to bread and fry a mass amount of fish and then freeze it for later.  It took a couple hours but I think it was well worth the effort.  This is my favorite way to eat fluke and although the breading and frying is not part of the Survivor Diet, I will have several bags of ready-to-eat fish for after the diet.


This is where the Foodsaver vacuum sealer comes in handy.  I don't really like to freeze fish for any extended period of time but when you have this much, the vacuum bags are the answer.  These pieces will stay very fresh for about a month.  After that, the quality starts to go down a little.  I prefer cooking the fish first instead of freezing it raw and then cooking it.  I think this makes a big difference.  When I go out fishing I can now take a bag of fillets out of the freezer and bring it on the boat.  It is an easy lunch. Once it defrosts you can just open the bag and eat.  It's best on a sandwich though.  I remember that from last year - The Best Sandwich Ever.  You're going to have to look that one up if you're interested enough.

Fluke - ready for the freezer
Finally, at the end of this very long weekend, we made a nice fire outside in the pit and I made a batch of smoked bluefish out on the smoker grill.  It should be ready for tomorrow.

Bluefish jerky
While we were spending a lot of time in the backyard I made an attempt at another primitive fire.  Fail, fail and more fail.  I got lots of smoke but I just could not get an ember to ignite.  I was so exhausted after this day - after this week!  Back to work tomorrow - and once again I will be working on Wednesday so I will have to prepare enough food to last the week.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Day 30 - Losing the Battle of Will

After getting up really early and working hard for several consecutive days, I decided to sleep in a little today.  It was really nice.  I had a softball game scheduled for 10am so the early morning belonged to me. 

While playing my game, I snacked on a large piece of my Honey Bit candy.  This was a chunk that was stuck to the dish and after we finished making the and wrapping the little bits, this big hunk was left over.  It wasn't huge but definitely too big for one mouthful.  I made it last throughout the game but I made the mistake again of overeating the candy.  Ugh!  That's right - a sugar rush headache.  It wasn't terrible but it was dull and nagging for a good part of the rest of the day.  This sucked because we headed down to Lavallette and I was not feeling in the party mood.

I made the most of it and having other people around was a slight distraction from my headache.  When we arrived, the cousins were fishing off the dock.  I sat with them for a while and we managed to pull up a very small crab.  Everyone wanted to toss it back but this was the first crab of the Survivor Diet and was not to be wasted.  It didn't take long to quickly steam it and although it was small, it still tasted the same as a large one.  I should have taken another misleading photo like the jumbo shrimp cocktail from a few days ago.

The crab was a nice treat but there were oh so many other delectables all around me - not to mention the beer and alcohol.  I was offered sausage and pepper sandwiches, jelly donuts, brownies, sliders, chicken, broccoli, drinks, etc. - the list goes on and on.  I brought some fluke with me and broiled up a few nice pieces for dinner.  I resisted the temptations as long as I possibly could but in the end I am only human and I did some illegal picking.

To keep things honest, I made a list of my cheats and I'm coming clean with this confession:  Bite of a slider burger, about 5 strawberries, a chocolate peanut butter brownie, some Caesar salad and a bite of breaded chicken.

In my defense (for what it's worth), the sliders were about to go into the garbage and the Caesar salad was dressed and left over and was not going to make it another day.  Essentially these things were going to be wasted.  If anything, I could use more greens so I felt it was my duty to have that salad - and I didn't even finish my plate becasue the dressing was just a bit 'heavy' for me. 

The other stuff, well, I don't really have an excuse for it.  I'll tell you this though. . . if I wasn't doing the SDC, I would have eaten about 5 brownies, 20 strawberries, a sausage pepper and onion sandwich, about 4 pieces of breaded and fried chicken, 2 sliders, two plates of salad, broccoli, tomatoes basil and mozzarella with olive oil, wild rice, multiple beers, a couple mixed drinks, other finger snacks, a jelly donut, a cream donut, milk, juices, sodas, chips, dip, pretzels, a large ice cream cone and a variety of other desserts and candies.

Wow!  That's a long list.  I never realized how much I would normally consume in an afternoon down the shore.  Moderation just goes right out the window.  I feel pretty good about my slight cheats considering what might have happened.  There ya go folks.  Modern American gluttony at its finest.  And that was just a basic weekend afternoon in the summer.

I'll have to try to remeber this post when I am no longer on the Survivor Diet.  Making a list of everyting you eat in a day can be a real eye opener.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Day 29 - Father Daughter Fishing and Fun

Rise and shine - 6 am.  It's another weekend to get up early and get busy.  My fishing partners today were Jamie and Corrine.  I woke a little earlier than the girls so that I could make them a couple of bacon, egg and cheese bagel sandwiches to bring out on the boat this morning for breakfast. 

June, the dog, decided to come along on this trip and once again we had a successful outing.  I came out on top with the largest fluke measuring 22 inches.  Jamie was a close second with 'Stumpy' - a 21 inch fluke with a mangled tail.  It was a somewhat slow start but once we found the hot spots we kept pulling fish up and started to fill the live well.  Overall we came home with about 8 keepers.  The girls did really well hooking and netting all of their fish.  We made a video with the GoPro and I will get around to editing and posting it some day soon.  It was a little chilly but the girls stuck it out for several hours.

Back at home I had a bunch of fluke waiting to be cleaned from the day before and this new bunch took their place in the ice bath - waiting their turn to be cleaned tomorrow.  Now I had a significant amount of fish to last for all of next week as long as I am careful.  I even have enough to give some away.  I'll probably bring a few down to Lavallette to give to dad.

I also cleaned a bluefish today that I am planning on putting on the smoker grill for some bluefish jerky.  This was the first bluefish of the season.  That's a bit of a surprise but I'm not going to complain about that.  I put the cleaned pieces into a zip top bag with a honey and salt brine and in a day or two I will dehydrate and smoke it.

We are planning on a trip down to Lavallette tomorrow afternoon to spend some time with the family.  This will be a big test of will as I know there is sure to be a lot of food available.  I almost don't want to go all together but I think it will be a good challenge for me to try to resist.  We'll see.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Day 28 - Flukey Friday

Weight update 180.4 pounds (down 17.6 pounds overall).  Blood pressure 122/78.  Pretty good so far on the healthometer.

Ok - today I had a very pleasant surprise!  I have been talking all week about the opening day of fluke season this Saturday but stupid me - - - it turns out that it is TODAY!  Wow - good thing I am totally prepared for it with my bait and my rods and my secret spots. 

As I was going to bed last night I was checking some of the local fishing forums online and I came across several posts of people looking forward to fluke fishing Friday.  I did a double take and then checked the dates to make sure.  How cool is that?  I worked Wednesday so that I could take Friday off and it's paying off big time right now.  It would have sucked if I had to work today.

I woke up at 6 and the tide, current and weather forecast were just right for fishing in the river today.  Unfortunately I didn't have anyone to fish with but I managed quite fine on my own.  I even made a video that I hope to edit and post soon.  Overall I did very well while many other boats around me did not.  I have a great system for fluke fishing in the river and as long as I have some killies it's almost a guarantee of catching fluke.  I caught my 5 fish limit in an hour and threw back a lot more that were undersized.  Overall I must have caught about 20 fish.

When I got home my fish were still alive in my live well that I made out of a large garbage can.  I went to the store to buy a few bags of ice so that I could chill my catch before cleaning them.  I dunked the fish in a cooler with an ice water bath and will chill them for 24 hours.  It's going to be fluke, fluke and more fluke for the next week.

Jamie had her friend Corrine sleep over tonight because I offered to take them fishing in the morning.  We thought it would be fun to make some more Honey Bits candy.  I showed them the process and they were both very helpful - especially when it came to cutting and wrapping all of the individual candies.  Instead of bunching them all together like last time, we cut little squares of parchment paper and wrapped each piece.   It took some time but it was worth it.  These candies will last me a while as long as I don't gobble them all up like I did last time. 

Honey Bite - round 2
It was very late when we finished and we had to get up early for more fluke fishing in the morning.  I certainly had a full day today.  Very busy.  I am looking forward to tomorrow and the rest of the long weekend.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Day 27 - Missing Thursday

I have to be honest.  I have not been updating my daily events lately.  So busy.  For today, I'm drawing a blank.  It's a few days past Day 27 as I write this - trying to recall my day but I've got nothing.  Thursdays are typically 8-5 work days for me and the only thing I can remember is that this Thursday is like a Friday because I took tomorrow off to jump start the Memorial Day weekend.  My plan for tomorrow will be to try a little early morning fluke scouting - again, looking forward to opening day of fluke season on Saturday.

I know that I have been diligently checking and baiting my killie trap - but I also know that I have written that all before.  Oh well.  Sorry that I couldn't provide more information about Day 27 but sometimes that happens.  It's not easy doing the Survivor Diet by itself - let alone trying to take photos and video and keep up with a blog and a Facebook page.  Oh - and run a business and have a family and a life all at the same time.  So I think I deserve a little slack for this day.

One thing I do remember is my Thursday lunch out with Jamie.  We went to Fuji (sushi restaurant) and instead of just sitting there twiddling my thumbs watching her eat a delicious meal, I ordered a couple pieces of fluke sashimi and a bowl of white rice.  I'm doing a little Survivor Diet trading.  I am very confident that I will be catching many fluke in the upcoming weekend.  As long as I give away at least one fish then it will make up for the fluke that I eat today.  It's a bit of a stretch of my rules but I think it's acceptable.  After all, I make the rules.  And although I try to stick to them as closely as possible - there are times when they can be bent a little.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Day 26 - Working Wednesday Waiting for Weekend

Normally I am off on Wednesdays but due to the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, I had planned to work the Wednesday in exchange for taking Friday off and having a nice long 4 day weekend.  Sacrifice now and hopefully enjoy later.

I have been diligently checking and baiting the killie trap and I am beginning to accumulate a good  number of killies.  They're not very large however.  I prefer the large ones but I can't really control that part.  All I can do is keep the biggest ones I catch in my holding bucket and continue to catch new ones in the trap.  I even had the trap out without any bait in it and still managed to get a bunch.  I will be ready for the fluke on Saturday that's for sure.

I have been still eating much of the same foods with an occasional new item from time to time.  The norm has been rice, fish, asparagus and I have had the occasional treat of candy and popcorn.  I have also started to incorporate some sushi rolls into my menu but I am not really using much soy sauce because it is so salty.  It's amazing how you begin to notice these things when you have been eating bland food for a few weeks. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Day 25 - Shrimpy Shrimp

When I have to survive during the work week I have to use my time wisely - especially during my lunch hour.  Sometimes I will pack a lunch in tin foil that I can bake or broil in the toaster oven at work.  Sometimes I will cook at home in the morning and bring something prepared to work.  When I do that I usually eat it all before 10 am.  Today I was a little unprepared for lunchtime so I had to improvise a bit.  As a result, a meal was made that was a Survivor Diet first, once again.

In preparation of the upcoming fluke season, I knew that I needed to stock up on some bait.  this meant putting the killie trap out every chance I could get between now and Saturday.  Last year the killies were scarce and it was unreliable to think I could just put the trap out the night before and be fine.  In addition, my trap is vulnerable to vandalism from kids in the park and other anglers who would steal my bait for their own use.  I tried a new tactic this time.  I tied my trap to an area that is very difficult to reach.  It was a little dangerous - and I almost fell into the water while doing it - but I think this location may prevent the occasional tampering.  I can easily use a boat hook to grab the rope to the trap when I check it or change the bait.

My plan was to check that trap every time I drove by the park going to and from work.  When I catch some killies I would relocate them to a holding tank so they could not escape.  By repeating this process I should have plenty of bait for the fluke next week.  To catch the killies, I put a bit of stale bread into the trap.  I have been accumulating this bread in my freezer over the past few months instead of throwing it in the garbage.  This is a good recycling process and a way to put unusable bread to good use.

Today, on my way home from work at lunchtime, I checked the trap and there weren't many killies in it.  Disappointing.  However, there was about a dozen little grass shrimp inside the trap.  This is not uncommon.  I usually see quite a few tiny shrimp in my trap and I usually discard them because they are so small.  A couple times I have tried to use them for bait but again, they are so tiny that it seems impractical.  I do know that they are a primary food source for the fluke and weakfish this time of year.  I always see the little shrimp in the bellies of the fish I catch and clean.

Since I had no food to speak of, I decided to keep this small sampling of grass shrimp and prepare them for lunch today.  It was more of a joke than anything - as you will see from the photos.  My plan was to quickly cook them like shrimp cocktail, peel and plate them and then take a deceptively close photograph so that they look like normal sized shrimp.  It was tedious but I had fun.  And after it was all over, I ate them and they were quite tasty.  I wasn't surprised - after all they are just miniature versions of their larger cousins.  I ate all the heads and shells too.  With a little butter and seasoning they were very flavorful.  This meal was a SDC first.
Pictures can be deceiving.  Especially when tiny shrimp look exactly like their bigger cousins.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Day 24 - Candy Overeating

I was a little too excited yesterday to have a whole bunch of candy at my disposal.  I gave a lot of samples away to people but I just kept eating it over and over and over.  It was delicious - but I think the excessive sweet has gone to my brain and the result is a headache.  It's not terrible - but this just confirms that too much of any one thing (especially sugar - or in this case honey) is never very good.
I tried drowning my headache with excessive water consumption and of course - eating green vegetables and some rice and fish - but once it starts I think it just has to run its course.  Regardless, a headache puts me into a bad mood and makes me not want to be on the Survivor Diet.
My supply of fish is starting to run low.  I need to make it to Saturday when fluke season opens.  I know how to catch lots of them.  And they are very easy to prepare in a variety of ways.  For now I'm still surviving off what I caught last week.  I didn't freeze any but in hindsight I should have vacuum packed a few pieces when I had excess.  When I smoke it - I just eat it all.  I think I have a problem with moderation!  Debbie tells me that all the time and it becomes very clear as soon as I make something that I really like.  Like candy.
Well, I am grateful to now have my week 2 reward (10 days late) after successfully making fire Saturday.  I will put these to good use and try to moderate my consumption.
Weekly Reward - popcorn, soy sauce, nori, wasabi
I drove past a road killed deer today.  It looked freshly killed so I stopped my truck to check it out.  It was very obvious, upon further inspection, that it had been dead for a while.  No scavenging today - but if I ever do witness a fresh kill, I would definitely attempt to get some meat from it.  I haven't done that yet on the Survivor Diet Challenge but it could happen at any time.  Maybe I should drive around at night when I'm bored.
Road Kill - Too far gone to scavenge
I will be working on Wednesday this week so I will not have my normal mid week break to try to gather food.  On the plus side, I will have a 4 day weekend for Memorial Day - just have to survive until then.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Day 23 - Resources Running Low

Are you sleeping in this Sunday?  Not me I've got things to do.  I made some breakfast out of my depleted supply of fish hoping it gives me enough energy to get through 2 softball games.  I also brought along a tin of Honey Bits so that I would have a sweet pick-me-up if needed.  Vegetables are scarce right now but I will continue to get whatever I can from the garden and backyard.  We're about a month late this season for many crops and that will make it difficult for me in the weeks to come.

I made it through my games surprisingly well.  I hit with a lot of power getting 2 home runs, 2 triples, a double and a few singles through both games.  My legs didn't do as well though.  Toward the middle of the second game I started feeling pain in my right knee - a nagging injury that doesn't seem to want to get better.  I'm not even sure what type of treatment I would need but the fact remains that I never really give it enough time to heal - going from one sport to the next without much of a break in between.  I'm going to need to take some time off from sports if I plan to be well enough to play football next year.

I ran out of salt today.  That's the first time that has happened to me during a Survivor Diet.  I used up a lot of it in the brining liquid for smoked fish.  For now I will get by using some of the other spices I have but someday soon I am going to have to get another bucket of sea water to make some more salt.   This is especially true if I am going to do any more smoking.  I haven't caught a bluefish yet (surprisingly) but if I do, that will get smoked.

I've been working on creating a new 'modern' primitive fire making tool.  The punishment to my hands from the hand drill yesterday was just too much.  I will have a huge open wound on my right hand for the next week or two before that gets much better.  I can't afford to do that again.

A fire piston is another fire making device that may prevent stress to my body.  It has several components to it but I think I can take some of the items from my hand drill and cannibalize them for the fire piston.  Again, I will be using some PVC components but as I've said before, this doesn't necessarily make it any easier to get an ember.  In fact, I found out the last time that the super smooth sides of the PVC made it difficult to get enough friction.  As a result I used honey to make it more tacky and ended up tearing my hands apart.  I'll try to be smarter this time around.

I will be working on the design in the next few days so that I can try out the prototype.  Meanwhile, I am also thinking of other primitive survival skills that I can attempt in order to unlock the week 3 rewards.  Either I'm not being creative enough or these skills are just that difficult.  It's also tough to focus on projects like this when I have a life to lead (work, family, sports, etc.).  I have to find just the right balance of my usage of time.

Later in the afternoon I took the boat out to scout out some possible fishing opportunities.  There were some fluke around but no signs of other (in-season) species.  It's kind of stupid to put a season on our ability to catch wild fish.  I believe the reason is because of over-commercial fishing for certain species.  The recreational angler gets penalized while the commercial fishing fleet decimates certain food fish to the brink of extinction.  This subject irks me to no end.  If a particular fish is showing signs of scarcity, just close down the commercial fishing season for it.  I know that's easy for me to say because I don't make my livelihood catching these fish but people think that a natural resource is never ending - until it suddenly ends.  Then people will wonder what happened to all the fluke.  It will be too late.  Anyway, don't get me started on that subject.  I will most likely be eating tons of fluke next week and for several weeks after.  As long as they remain plentiful in my backyard bay.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Day 22 - Candy Making 101

I got up this morning with the desire to create something new from some of the honey I stole from my bees.  Does it make it "my honey" if I stole it from bees that are mine?  Interesting. . .
Anyway, I was watching some cooking shows and YouTube videos not too long ago about candy making and melting sugar to re-purpose it into something else.  Specifically, I watched how candy canes were made and found it very interesting.  Honey is basically a liquefied, concentrated sugar so perhaps it functions in a similar way when heated.  Sugar goes through several stages on its way to becoming burnt and if you bring it to a specific temperature and then cool it, you can create so many different things with it.  For candy canes, sugar is melted and heated to about 310 degrees to achieve what is known as the hard crack state.  This means when it is cooled to room temperature it will be hard as  rock and will crack if you try to bend or break it.  Would honey react the same way if I heated it to 310 degrees?  Let's find out.
At risk of possibly losing 2 cups of my precious honey, I decided to take a chance by attempting to make some honey candy.  In a small pot I poured 2 cups of honey and added about 2 tablespoons of butter.  On medium heat I boiled it for about 10 minutes while carefully watching a thermometer.  I wasn't sure about when to stop it but after a little trial and error I finally settled on 310 degrees to achieve a hard crack state.  After letting it cool in the pan for a few minutes off heat, I poured it all out onto a pre-buttered platter for more cooling.  Here's what it looked like at this stage:
I used a pretty dark honey so that's why it is so dark on the platter.  I let it sit for several minutes to cool down further.  Once it got cool enough to hold in my hands I scooped it up from the platter and began the stretching process.  Stretching or pulling is a way to get the molten sugar to cool down and to incorporate air into the mixture.  It takes about 30 minutes and as you continue to stretch, pull and fold the sugar (or honey in this case) back onto itself, it starts to significantly lighten in color.  This mixture went from a chocolate brown to a light golden color as I continued to stretch it.
I took a long video of the whole process that I plan on uploading to YouTube when I get around to it.  After I stretched it for about 30 minutes it started to firm up a bit because it was continually cooling down.  I had to work quickly at this point and with the help of my faithful assistant Jamie, we got it done.  We made long strands of what looked like taffy.  Then we snipped it into little bite sized nuggets with a pair of kitchen sheers.  It was pretty sticky stuff and it was difficult to keep all of the pieces separated. 
Overall it was a lot of fun and the best part about it was that these little bits of honey candy tasted amazing.  Remember the Bit-O-Honey candies?  Very similar to that.  Now, instead of scooping a spoonful of honey when I want a quick sweet snack, I can turn to my little candy bits.  Let's call them Honey Bits.  Another Survivor Diet success story!
Honey Bits - my candy creation
Later, in the afternoon I was thinking about doing a little fishing in the river.  Some of the little kids on my street came by and asked if they could go with me.  My kids never want to go - so why not take some other kids out to have a little fun.  Fluke season opens next Saturday so this would be a good opportunity to scout out a couple areas and to see if more fluke have come into the river.  The kids were REALLY excited and after getting permission from their parents we were off.
I made a nice little video of our adventure and posted it on YouTube so that these boys can see what a great job they did.  For some of them it was their very first time fishing and very first time catching a fish.  Great job guys!
When we got home I decided that it was time to make my first attempt at a primitive fire this year.  I really could use my second reward and if I could just make a fire it would unlock some really nice items to help me prepare my food.  I had some ideas yesterday about the type of fire tool I would build.  It's going to be a modified version of the primitive hand drill.  A hand drill is basically a straight piece of wood that you spin back and forth in the palm of your hands while pushing the end into another piece of wood.  The straight piece is the spindle and the wood you are spinning into is the fire board.  The basic premise is just like last year's bow drill - drill a hole into the fire board with the intention of creating a hot coal or ember using friction.  The hand drill is a little more difficult than the bow drill but both are very demanding on your energy levels.
I mentioned that my design would be a modification of the primitive hand drill.  That's because I will be using a straight piece of 1/2 inch PVC tubing for my spindle.  So I call my design the 'modern' primitive hand drill.  Still, even with the use of PVC, the principles remain the same and the energy and effort needed to produce a fire are the same.  You will understand when you look at the photos of my beat up, blistered, bloody hands after my first few attempts.
In preparation for this potential fire, I needed to gather a few things.  First - a tinder bundle.  I drove around town the other day looking for some dead cedar trees.  I found a few nice branches and the bark from cedar trees can be mashed up to make a nice tinder bundle.  Second - I need a pile of small kindling wood.  Again, this came in the form of twigs and shavings from these dead branches.  I simple organized it all into a neat little pile - ready to accept a flame from the tinder bundle.  Third - I needed a pile of large kindling and some fire logs.  For this I brought my newly constructed fire pit into action and piled up some larger pieces of wood.  This is how to grow a nice fire from a little baby ember.
I prepared my hand drill and my fire board and I was ready to rock and roll.  Or so I thought.  My expectations of my ability to start a primitive fire always exceed my actual ability to do so.  This was exhausting!  The first hurtle came when the spindle kept continually slipping through my hands.  I couldn't hold it firmly enough to prevent slipping.  The solution was quite simple.  Take a little honey and rub it on my hands for an extra sticky grip.  Boy did this work - actually too well.  On my next attempt I was sticking to that spindle and spinning away like mad.  I finally stopped and looked down at my hand to see a very large blister that was partially torn off the palm.  Ouch!  Not good at all.  I was stupid for not wearing gloves.  I rubbed some dirt on it and got back to work - cause I'm a tough guy like that.  This time I put on a pair of gloves. (Cause I ain't that tough)
Next attempt - next failure.  I think my spindle was too long.  Shorten it.  Try again.  Lot's of smoke - no fire.  I think my spindle was a little too short now.  Lengthen it.  Try again.  And that went on for a while - trying to modify some part of my equipment in order to get that precious ember to ignite.
 Finally, after several failures, I got my first ember!  When this happens you just have to treasure the moment.  All of that hard work has paid off and your reward is this teeny tiny little glowing red ember.  It's almost like giving birth (sorry for offending every woman on the planet) and now you have to nurture and care for this little guy so that he can grow and grow and live up to his full potential.  Well, my first little baby died shortly after his life began.  I tried and tried to save him but I just couldn't.  Please excuse my foul language at the end of this video - I was under a lot of stress and the loss of my little ember just put me over the edge.
It took me a while to get over this tragedy.  However - knowing that it can be done is a firm reminder to me that it can be done again!  Back on the horse.  Bloody blister be damned - I'm going to get this fire started!  I had to use gloves but on my very next attempt I was able to give birth (sorry ladies) to another little ember.  I was determined this time to not let him die like the last one.  With each failure, hopefully we learn from our mistakes so that we can avoid similar failures moving forward.  That is how we grow, succeed and survive.  I did it.  And now I can do it again and again and again if I have to.  Fire can mean the difference between life and death in a survival situation.  It also means you can cook your food!

It was a very busy Saturday as you can see.  I didn't do much in the way of gathering any food.  But my efforts in fire making will unlock my week 2 reward of nori sheets, soy sauce, powdered wasabi, and a bag of popcorn.  I used to get a bag of dried figs for this weekly reward instead of the pop corn.  The purpose of the figs was to finally give me something sweet to eat but I find that I do not need that any longer since I have all of this stolen honey.  Popcorn will make a nice treat on occasion and I don't think it will negatively affect my weight or overall health.
Bring on the sushi.  Now I'm ready.  Next week is the official opening to fluke season and I am also looking forward to the crabs which may be right around the corner.