Musing on food and cooking ...

Friday, May 30, 2008

Such Excitement!!!

Today was a day of great excitement. It began with a tire blowout.

Now, I knew my tires were on the way out and had stopped in yesterday to price them and get them ordered. But we figured I would be good until today, when I would take the car in. Well, on the way, boom! The really bad one went. Ah joy ah fun. Luckily, my insurance covers towing, so off to the tire shop we went and I now have four shiny new tires.

I decided to work at home this afternoon so that the water meter guy, who was supposed to come yesterday but didn't, could come and see why my inner and outer water meters were not registering the same. Turns out I am being overly cautious. They only charge by the thousand gallon usage, and I was worried about a difference of 350 gallons. Either way, he said it was good that I had called and that if I don't see the thousands column turn over on both the inner and the outer at the same time, I will need to get a new meter. Which is $118.

But the real excitement was the weather. We had tremendously exciting weather. Wind, rain, hail, possible tornado. With more arriving sometime this evening. I came home and had two lilac trees snapped, a huge limb off my giant maple, and there is another large branch from the neighbor's willow balancing nimbly on the power lines behind my house. So I called ComEd, and once they get done dealing with all the lines that are actually down and sparking (of which there were many in the area including at a high school), they will be out here removing the branch from my power lines.

All and all, I really didn't have much damage at my place.... mostly mess. I was a tiny bit sad about the lilacs but they broke in a place that opened up a lot of son to the far back of the lot, which may change my ideas for what to plant that there.

My garden seems have survived pretty well. Lots of maple pods and leaves on it, which I will have to remove by hand as I can't rake yet as my seeds aren't all out. But the seeds are a popping. My peas, lettuce, radishes, and shallots are already up. I suspect most everything else, if the weather stays warm, will be up in the next week. I am about to plant my peppers and tomatoes, although I am very sad about my tomato plants from Burpee, many of which were damaged in shipping or are incredibly tiny. Makes me wonder how they will do this year and I might have to go and buy a couple extra just to be sure I get some maters this year. Of course, I am also a firm believer that you can never have too many maters! I will do a post on the garden and its creation, with pictures, soon! I promise.
What Do You Know about Me?

Here is a fun meme I stole from Little Merry Sunshine...

In this survey, you tell me what you know about me! You can put your answers in the Comments section.

Where did we meet?
Take a stab at my middle name?
Do I smoke?
Color of my eyes?
Do I have any siblings?
What's one of my favorite things to do?
What's my favorite type of music?
Am I shy or outgoing?
Am I a rebel or do I follow the rules?
Any special talents?
How many children do I have?
If you and I were stranded on a desert island, what is one thing that I would bring?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Entries Are In

I finally got my entries for the Cooking Light recipe contest in. Here's hoping!

I had to rethink my strategy as they do specify unpublished recipes, and I wasn't sure if I could count any of the recipes on my blog as unpublished.

So, anyway, I submitted seven recipes. If they don't win, I will put them up for you as soon as I know. If they win, you will see me leaping for joy on or around July 7 from wherever you might be standing. I am not sure if I set my recipes up the way they wanted (they wanted paragraph form, but what does that mean? The magazine uses numbers. And how big does the paragraph have to be anyway?) And I forget to put in serving sizes, although I did put in number of servings. Oh well, if I messed it up, I will try again next year.

Anyway, here they are:

Asian Pear Crisp
Indian-style Shepherd's Pie
Sweet and Spicy Lentil Sloppy Joes
Smokey Chickpea Salad
Italian White Bean Soup
Wild Rice and Blueberry Sausage Muffins
Curried Bean and Rice Salad

I have at least one recipe in each of the four categories and used all the sponsor ingredients except Stacy's Pita Chips and Swanson Broth.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Thank You, and Catching Up

Thank you everyone for your kind words and support. It's true that we all mourn the loss of a loved one alone, especially late at night, but you certainly can't get through it without the support of loved ones.

The sadness comes and goes. I will go for long lengths of time and then, at unexpected moments, wham! I will just start bawling. I stopped at the pet store to get Pele a new toy and they had kitten adoptions and I burst out bawling right in the middle of the store. I had a really hard time when I picked up his ashes. And then again, when I put them in a nice cedar box, courtesy of my aunt via a gift to mia madre.

Pele is still depressed. She actually got out of the house the other day, looking for Leo. And she is acting out - lots of plant destruction and dish destruction and under the feet attempted destruction. Plus, she isn't feeling well right now either. Her allergies are as bad as I have ever seen them - lots of sneezing and snot and even eye booger unhappiness. We may be going into the vet to find out how much children's benadryl I can safely give her. And I feel her pain because my allergies are terrible right now too.

Life is slowly getting back to normal. Work is overwhelming and I really need some veg time. I am crispy toast. I did take half a day off for Memorial Day weekend, but that was all spent in the car, so I don't know that it truly counts as relaxation.

I went north for the holiday. I worked at home Friday morning and left at midday. Everything got off to a slow start as I got almost to the Wisconsin border and realized I had forgotten the one thing I needed to bring with me on the kitchen table and had to turn around and go back to get it. But I was still there by 6 pm. It was a wildlife weekend - six bears, a million deer, turkeys, a coyote, one dead albino peacock (don't ask), and Ted Nugent's summer home. I also found a place where I might be able to harvest my own wild rice, if I can find a flat-bottom boat in the fall. I received some very old stained glass windows that I will clean and paint and recaulk and then hang as decoration as well as a gorgeous butcher block. I went to the family rock piles and got several dozen large rocks, so I can start to build flower beds. I made a wild asparagus frittata on Monday morning, and then I drove home.

And when I got home I discovered that someone had dug up my two orange Icelandic poppies. Just those two. None of the other plants were distrubed. Not even the $50 in forest perennials I had sitting in the back because I hadn't had a chance to plant them yet. And I have only one thing to say about the theft of the Icelandic poppies.

Doodz! Heroin. UR doing it wrong.

Wild Asparagus Frittata

olive oil
1 cup wild asparagus, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1 small zuchinni, sliced
1/4 cup yellow bell pepper, diced
8 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup cheese
1 T Sunny Paris seasoning (from Penzy's)
salt and pepper to taste

Use a cast iron or other oven safe pan for this recipe. It also helps if you have a family member who has incredible skills for hunting the wiley asparagus. Store bought asparagus is good, but wild asparagus is great.

Pre-heat oven to 350.

On the stove top, put about a tablespoon of olive oil in the bottom of the cast iron fry pan and toss in your veggies over medium heat. Let them cook until they are just starting to get soft. In the meantime, crack eggs into a bowl and add the milk. Stir to mix and add some freshly cracked pepper.

Once the veggies are starting to get soft, add in the Sunny Paris seasoning and some salt. Then pour in the egg and milk mixture. Add half of the cheese and give the mixture a good stir. Then, turn the heat on the stove top to low and let the egg mixture cook very slowly. Leave it alone. Don't stir!

When it is close to set, sprinkle the remaining cheese on top and stick in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until a butter knife stuck in it comes out clean.

Note: I used colby cheese for this recipe, as it was that or pepper jack and I hate pepper jack. I actually think this would be best with a sharp cheddar or a mild nutty swiss, instead.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Leo, 1995-2008

Leo, aka Leo-kins, passed away peacefully tonight, after a nearly four year battle against an undiagnosable gastrointestinal illness that resisted all forms of treatment. He faced his illness with great braveness and general good humor, remaining loving until the very end.

Leo was born in early winter, the only offspring of a teen mom who stopped feeding him not long after his birth. He survived due to the loving ministrations of a dairy farmer near Boyceville, WI, until he was adopted by me in late December of 1995.

He was originally adopted to be a companion to Pele the Empress, who initially hated him and attempted to kill him on multiple occasions through application of feline crushing.

Eventually, she got over her jealousy and became his staunch protector and cuddle friend.

Leo lived his early years in the city of Chicago, and nearly became the center of a custody dispute with a roommate who was angry that he was moving with me to northern Wisconsin, following her stay and eventual release from a psychiatric facility.

Throughout his life, Leo remained strictly an indoor kitty. In his life, he escaped to the outdoors three times. The first, while he was living as a foster kitty with his grandma Shirley. The second involved an ill-advised wandering onto a second story roof in the middle of January. The last time he escaped, he hid under the neighbor's front porch and had to be rescued via utilization of a long-handled rake.

Leo was a well-traveled kitty, living in three states and multiple cities. He flew on an airplane, took more rides in a car than can be counted, and charmed passengers on the T.

His favorite hobbies involved snuggling, eating houseplants and flowers, chasing bugs, and talking with the divine. His favorite foods included brats boiled in beer, tuna, popcorn (butter, no salt) and milk.

I think the most important thing I can say about Leo is that he was simple. His heart was so big, it hardly left room for a brain. And it didn't matter. He loved fiercely and indiscriminately. He had a special fondness for wounded individuals. He always knew when you needed a head butt and a hug. He greeted me everyday, when I came home from work. I will so miss his sweet innocence, and I can only hope that someday, my heart will stop breaking.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Leo Update

Leo has been on a chemotherapy level steroid treatment for the last few days. He is more alert and appears to have more energy, but I can feel all his bones under his skin and his diarrhea has gotten worse. It is pure liquid now. He is insisting on sleeping under the covers now, something he never does, and Pele is hovering over him very protectively. She doesn't even fight him for the coveted boob snuggling position. He is having trouble keeping himself clean and is very unsteady on his feet. I talked with the vet this morning and she said that if the medicine was going to help hm, it would have done so by now and that I have done all that I can do.

So, he has lost his fight. She wanted to know if I was ready to bring him in today, and I have to say no. I think I will bring him in at the end of the day Thursday, so I can take Friday off to cry.

Friday, May 09, 2008

You Have Got To Be Kidding Me

When I was at the store today getting Leo's clam juice, I came across this in the pet aisle:

Yes, the obesity epidemic has spread to the family dog. Yeah right. This is pathetic.

And to help the concerned pet owner even more, the company provides a handy dandy calorie guideline chart:
How soon before there is a BMI chart for dogs?
Today's Episode, in which Leo Objects to Bubble Gum Flavor

Leo is on steroids, which are actually quite expensive. I am busily looking at ways to claim him as a dependent on my medical savings account, but that may be difficult. Not to mention illegal.

Anyway, he has to have 2 ml of 'roids twice a day. I started out just trying to squirt the liquid into his mouth using a syringe, but his penchant for injuring humans when receiving medical care came to the forefront and he object most violently to my attentions. His dislike of the syringe technique is no doubt intensified by the fact that his medicine is bubble gum flavored, as Wally World did not have any special tuna flavored 'roids.

So I have been thinking about how I can get around this without having to go to the emergency room myself, and so I stopped off and purchased a bottle of clam juice. He likes fish, and I figured that the clam might overpower the bubble gum.

I got it home and opened it up and Leo was in the kitchen like a bolt of lightning and circling around my feet making the loudest pleas for yumminess that I have ever heard from him. I let him taste the juice of my finger, and he was licking his chops. So, I got his special wet food bowl, that he knows is his bowl for getting a delicious treat, and mixed the 'roids in which the clam juice. I put it on the floor and he lapped lapped lapped. And then he stopped with a mrup of surprise. Bubble gum flavor strikes again.

But he really really really wanted that clam juice, so he would have a slurp and then run away. And then come back. He is currently running up to it, sticking his paw in, licking his paw, paw in, lick, paw in, lick, run away. If I can get a picture, I will. I have never seen him act so silly in his entire life.

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Thank You, Dr. Swanson

This morning at 9, I had an hour long consult with Dr. Laurie Swanson at Waukegan Pet Clinic. Dr. Swanson is a large and comforting take no nonsense kinda of person - my favorite type of person in the whole world. She reminds me a lot of my internist in Massachusetts, Dr. Oberst, who I adored beyond belief. Despite the fact that her office is not fancy, she is very up on cutting edge health issues for animals and yet also knows how to find a nice balance between what is right for the cat and what is right for the person, while being compassionate for both. I wish I could have found her two years ago, before we got into the clutches of the cat only clinic.

We spent a lot of time going over Leo's medical records, his history as a barn rescue, his reactions to various medications, his penchant for bodily injury (human) when receiving medical attention, etc etc. I told her how bad things have gotten in the last three weeks, including his forays onto the stove and his disinterest in just about everything and his accidents. She told me she thought I had made the right decision not to have the biopsy done last year because it is too invasive for an already fragile and elderly cat, which meant a lot to me as the other vet had made me feel guilty for not agreeing to do it. She did mention that they are seeing a new parasitical infection in cats that could be causing his problems, but that it is so rare and they have not yet discovered any way to treat it that it does not make sense to pursue it as a reasonable line of inquiry.

We spent a long time talking about the other two options - euthanasia and one last attempt at medication. I told her about the coversation I had with Leo and she told me she has those conversations with her cats, as well, and that it is generally right to listen to them. And I thought I was doing really well, until one of the clinic cats came in the room and jumped on my lap and headbutted me and I dissolved into a milksop and bawled.

And the vet said, "Leo may be ready but you aren't. Let me make a suggestion. Among vets, we like to say in cases like this that no one should die without the benefit of steroids." She recommended a two week course of steroids for several reasons. First, it will tell us if there is any realistic hope. The steroids will either lead to an immediate downturn in his health, in which case he is untreatable and his passing is inevitable, and the best thing I can do is ease his suffering. Or he will have an upswing, and two weeks will show us if the upswing makes enough of an improvement to his quality of life that it makes sense to pursue this as a long-term course of treatment. And finally, it is the last reasonable course of action that I can take that doesn't involving dipping into my (admittedly meager) life savings, and her feeling is that by the end of it, I will be able to come to a point where I can say I did all I could do, I did all that I should have done as a good cat mom, and I am ready to let go now.

Before I left, she also said one last thing that made me feel a lot better. Leo has never been a normal cat. He has always been pretty fragile. And the vet said that for a cat to come from Leo's background and to live as long as he has with most of those years without any serious medical issues is very rare and that I must be doing something right. She also complimented me on having raised another even older kitty who is as strong as an ox and with the attitude of a despot.

And who can't like a vet who uses the word "despot"?

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Leo Update

So, I have finally managed to get Leo's medical records from the evil cat vet here in Illinois, who has been nothing but obnoxious and unhelpful. Sadly, they are woefully incomplete and don't include the actually test results for the $2000 in tests I had done on him in 2007. Rather, there are just yes and no answers that I am sure our new vet will find mostly useless and then I imagine she will want to redo all those tests. And since it would be the 5th time I have had all these tests run since this whole saga began three and a half years ago, I think I am going to tell her no.

Unlike previous annual downswings, which were bad for a week or so and then improved, Leo has simply gotten worse and worse. He crouches like he is hurting. He is starting to have what in gently referred to as "anal leakage." I know he is having at least six explosive BMs a day, because he has at least that many when I am home. He acts like he is freezing. I was using the oven the other day and got him sleeping on top of the stove, obviously trying to get warm. He doesn't play at all anymore, not even with his fur mouse, which he adores beyond comprehension (although he did have some excessive interest in a centipede that wandered through the living room last weekend).

I asked myself, even if I can put him on some steroids or find some new miracle medication, is his quality of life going to improve enough to make it worth while? And then I asked myself, do you really think you are the one who should answer that question? So I decided to ask Leo.

We had a heart to heart last night. I put him on the bed and looked him in the eyes and told him I was concerned. I asked him what he wanted. He told me he likes reiki. I asked him if he thought that would heal him enough that he didn't have to clean his ass at least six times a day, and he thought about it and said that it would just make him feel calmer but not help him get better. And then he got very still, in only that very still way that Leo can get, and his eyes suddenly looked so weary. And he told me he thought he was ready, even if I wasn't. And then he closed his eyes and curled up in a tiny ball and went to sleep. Pele came over and groomed his ears. And I cried. I've been crying a lot lately.

Tomorrow, I have a consult with the vet at 9 am. I will let you all know what the decision is.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

More Memes!

I like me some memes.

The rules are that all the answers have to start with the same letter as does your first name.

1. What is your name? Heather
2. A four-letter word: Hate
3. A vehicle: Honda
4. A city: Helsinki
5. A boy's name: Henry
6. A girl's name: Hillary
7. Alcoholic drink: Hurricane
8. An occupation: Hot dog vendor
9. Something you wear: Hijab
10. A celebrity: Hugh Grant
11. A food: Haricot vert
12. Something found in a bathroom: Heater
13. Reason for being late: Headache
14. Something you shout: Huzzah!
15. An animal: Horse
16. A body part: Hand
A Fun Meme

1. Pick up the nearest book of 123 pages or more. No cheating!
2. Find page 123.
3. Find the first five sentences.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people.

So I am currently rereading Stiffed by Sunsa Faludi, but that is at home on top of the laundry hamper in my bathroom, so no go there. And here at the office I am overwhelmed by a plethora of books all within equidistance, as I keep nearly all my femnist theology books here for easy access, in case a student ever asks a question (hahahahahahahahaha). So I shall select the book closest to me that has nothing to do with my work and I have no idea why it is even at the office.

Curry: A Tale of Cooks & Conquerors by Lizzie Collingham

A train of 850 camels, 140 elephants, 250 horses, and 12,000 personnel stretched across the plain for ten miles, raising a cloud of dust that must have been visible for miles. This was travel in the style of the Mughal emperors, whose effect as they passed over the country was that of a plague of locusts. Besides the damage done to the farmers' fields, the Mughal camp would requisition all available food to supply the entourage and leave hunger and misery behind them.
Oh Hell No!

I could believe my eyes when I saw this today as I was checking the business section. Didn't the last eight years with the drinking-buddy-in-chief do anything to convince us that what we most want is a president that we DON'T want to drink with? I mean come on, people! Don't even go down this road? Don't even ask this question!

For The Boston Globe online:

The text reads:

Which candidate would you want to have a drink with?

  • Hillary Clinton. I think she’d speak candidly and also with warmth, especially around the fifth beer.
  • Barack Obama. I think he’d be inspirational and you could use a guy like that to convince the bartender to give you one more past last call.
  • John McCain. His war record is bound to get us lots of free rounds.
  • None. I wouldn't want to have a drink with any of them.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

I've Been Tagged

Here's the rules:
A) The rules of the game get posted at the beginning.
B) Each player answers the questions about himself or herself.
C) At the end of the post, the player then tags five people and posts their names, then goes to their blogs and leaves them a comment, letting them know they’ve been tagged and asking them to read your blog.

1) Ten years ago I was: hmmm, let's see. That would be 1998. I was working as a reporter for a small community newspaper and contemplating what to do next. I was applying to graduate schools as a just in case.

2) Five things on today's to do list: 1) deep clean at least one room in my house. 2) make something for dinner that is large enough to provide leftovers for lunch. 3) call Leo's old vet and get the records for his last exams so we can go to a new vet. 4) call The Women's Union and tell them to stop sending me donation appeals. 5) Finish a mini-proposal for internal funding for an outside collaboration.

3) Things I do if I were a billionaire: Ah, I used to play this game with a friend, and even at my most wasteful, I would never spend more than 500 million. Most of my dreams involve paying off bills and buy my mom a nice place to live that has no stairs. I would buy myself and my sweety a home in the country. Would travel some. Would give to charity. All the standards. I am not terribly exciting in this regard.

4) Three bad habits: 1. Perfectionism. 2. Too impatient. 3. Driving too fast.

5) Five places I've lived: Wheeler, WI; Lake Forest, IL; Somerville, MA, Attleboro, MA; and Waukegan, IL.

6) Five jobs I've had in my life: high school summer janitor; safety eyeglass salesperson; filling clerk for fungus samples; journalist; grantwriter.

If you read this, consider yourself tagged.