Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Bangled, Tangled, Spangled and Spaghettied!

Gimme a head with hair, Long beautiful hair
Shining, gleaming. steaming, flaxen, waxen
Gimme down to there hair
Shoulder length or longer
Here baby, there Mama, everywhere Daddy Daddy

Hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair, hair
Flow it. .Show it.
Long as God can grow it! My Hair!

The revival of Hair is moving from Broadway to the West End next week and I so want to see it.  Reviews indicate that it has survived the years and seems particularly relevant today even though the few seconds of nudity are no longer shocking.

I saw the original production in New York sometime around 1970.  I thought I was so cool.  I went to a Broadway theatre in my ragged bellbottoms, a t-shirt with no bra (not that it mattered that much), my hair in braids and barefoot.  EEWWW!!!!  Barefoot on the streets of New York.  Even at 15, what was I thinking??

When the cast entered from the rear of the theatre and tumbled, jumped and swung from scaffolds into the audience and then onto the stage, one of the cast members stopped in front of my seat and handed me a daisy.  Obviously he did that because I was clearly one of the coolest people in the room.   At least I was able to hold on to that fantasy for oh a couple of days until I returned home from Model UN and realized how totally impossible it was to be cool when living in a small Southern town and leaving three days later for church camp and going into 11th grade in a school that didn’t even require that we read Catcher in the Rye or anything by Kurt Vonnegut.  I bought a book of poems by Lawrence Ferlingetti while I was in NYC and that was the only tiny little element of coolness I retained.  I pressed the daisy between the pages of that book.

Since we’re talking about hair I must admit that I have never had cool hair.  The closest I ever came was not too many years ago when I cut it off very very short and died it red.  That sort of spiky look appealed to the slight personal rebellion I was trying to mount after leaving my job.  But when we started traveling, David asked that I grow it out. I tried for a while and then cut it again and he asked again.

 What is it with men and long hair?  I would suggest  some sort of connection with short hair and homophobia if I hadn’t started writing this post about a bunch of long haired hippy freaks  - and the fact that  David sued the Commandant of the Marine Corps over the hair regulations - and lived to tell about it (He won the lawsuit BTW) and I have photos of him with long hair in the 1070’s so it must be some sort of hangover from that time which probably also explains why I gave in and let it grow.  Well, that and I have always thought grandmothers with hair long enough for their grandchildren to braid were kind of cool in an 80-year-old gray-haired sort of way.  But Toby swears he is never having kids and Tavish has too many things to do before he even starts to think about it (and I think those are good and proper attitudes for both of them)  And my hair is growing so slowly that it may never reach my shoulders much less hang down my back in a braid.

In the meantime, my hair is thin, fine, stringy, styless and as far as I’m concerned, just plain ugly.  David compliments me on it frequently, I think more to keep me from cutting it than because he really thinks it looks good just now - or perhaps he looks at me through the memories of our early years together when my hair was long, my face was a lot less wrinkled, my butt was a lot, well, narrower and I still had my real boobs.

While, as I said, my hair has never been my best feature, I think some of my current hair issues are related to living in Scotland.  There is a commercial on the telly  with a woman in a red dress wearing 5-inch stilettos  that she clearly can’t walk in.  I know she can’t walk in those shoes because she is photographed lying on her stomach with her feet kicked up in the air behind her, never standing - of course, this also provides a nice view of her ample cleavage and she is talking in a posh Scottish accent about how when you live in Scotland your hair is dull, limp and lifeless.  Apparently the water is very soft and certain expensive hair products are required if I want my hair to look like hers.

 I am sorry but ever since I read an interview with Kristin Chenoweth where she admitted she never appears in public unless she has at least THREE hairpieces pinned in because apparently she has dull, limp and lifeless Scottish hair, even though she lives in the US… anyway, ever since I read that I do not believe for one minute that the women in hair product ads have hair that looks at all in real life like it does in the commercials.  I want to see one of  those women just after she has walked in out of  the rain or, better yet, when she first wakes up in the morning.

I stood in front of the mirror this afternoon and contemplated cutting my hair again.  I had just showered, shampooed and completed the blow dry and my hair still hung there - dull, limp and lifeless - but I decided that at least it was there since very short, dull, limp and lifeless hair would only make me look like a crazy old lady who doesn‘t care anymore. SO, tomorrow I am going to buy some of that stuff the “we girls in Scotland need to have full, beautiful, bouncy hair.”  I hope it works without the stilettos.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Eat More Lunch.

If there is one thing I have learned while traveling in Mexico, France and the UK during the past two years, it is that the locals do things right at midday.  Lunch is a time to be enjoyed. A great respite in the middle of the day.  In Mexico, the kids take two hours off from school for it.  In France, even the most humble of local bistros serves a three or four course affair that everyone from workers in muddy boots to the local ladies enjoy with a free flowing bottle of wine that is placed on the table when you arrive.  In Britain, weekday lunch is just as likely as in the US to be a pre-wrapped sandwich or a take-away carried back to your desk from the local fast food shop but it can also be a relaxed time at a pub with friends over cottage pie or fish and chips and a pint , or a nice business oriented sit-down affair in Edinburg or The City of London with wine and all the trimmings.  And Sunday lunch, particularly the traditional Sunday Roast, is almost sacrosanct. The point is that in most cases lunch  is still taken seriously.

My grandmother began cooking lunch just as soon as the breakfast dishes were cleared.  There was generally a main course of some sort of meat, and potatoes or sweet potatoes, sometimes both, or maybe beans,  at least one green vegetable and usually some stewed fruit or a Jell-O salad ,and maybe even  macaroni and cheese or chicken and dumplings.  A big pot of vegetable soup filled with chunks of beef was always a favorite.  Homemade biscuits were alongside with butter and molasses, an extra one often serving as dessert.
On Sundays there was always a special cake or pie as well.  Dinner was that big meal served on Sunday and supper each night was whatever was leftover from lunch  Lunch was often referred to as dinner even on the weekdays.  Only on Saturday might a sandwich be considered adequate at noon.  And then supper might be oyster stew or fried fish or a time out at my grandfather’s club.

In the Sunday London Times, AA Gill, wrote in his regular “Table Talk” column that “We are all remembered and revitalised by food.”  Having just attended the funeral of a restaurateur friend, Gill posited about food that is comforting, satisfying and evokes memories, particularly a good lunch, and he got me to thinking.

Food is all about memories for me - my grandmother’s table, the recipes my family shares, how can I adapt something I loved as a kid to fit my new healthier and perhaps even vegetarian eating preferences.  Food is emotional.  Just like Jews set a place at Passover for the prophet, so are each of us joined by those who came before when we sit at table.  Shared food is communion.  And during this week called Holy Week, Christians the world over celebrate the sharing of food at “The Last Supper” in many ways - festivals, feasts, sacraments, pageants, family dinners.  Everything we take the time to put on our table says something about our heritage, our ancestors and even what we want to pass on to those who follow.  Food is our history and our legacy.  It is emotional, and metaphysical as well as sustaining.

So, as Gill says ,we should all “Eat more lunch.”  Take that time to stop and savor what is going on around us.  Listen carefully to what that co-worker or friend is really saying,  Hell, give yourself time to hear what you are really thinking.

Personally, I won’t go as far as Dr. David and advocate the return of the three martini lunch.  Although I do love a good martini - or two. Based on the thoughts of James M Schlessinger, Jr, “A martini is the staff of life.“  And former president Gerald Ford once said that, “The three martini lunch is the epitome of American efficiency. Where else can you get an earful, a belly full and a snoot full a the same time.”

Personally I would be more likely to end up like Dorothy Parker if I had martinis at lunch,

I like to have a martini,
Two at the most.
After three I’m under the table,
After four I’m under the host.

But I do advocate a nice glass of wine, or even sharing a bottle with your lunch companion as a way of better enjoying the food, opening up the conversation and perhaps lingering a bit longer at table.

Think of how much better all our lives would be if we took those two hours midday to unwind, breathe, relax and eat lunch.

As I continue to develop my new blog Ciel’s Vegetarian Pantry, I hope to concentrate on making food a memorable and important part of every day.  Give it a try and let me know how it goes.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

It is all Marie Antoinette’s fault --or, Why I cannot be a vegan

I do not like breakfast.  Well, not at breakfast time anyway.  This is at least partly my Mom’s fault because she doesn’t like breakfast right after she wakes up.  She rarely cooked what most would consider a “proper” breakfast except occasionally on Sunday night for supper.  My Dad liked breakfast but he also liked having it in a local restaurant with some friends where he ate  things like livermush, grits and eggs and they discussed sports and politics, or after a few hours of driving at the start of a vacation, which was OK with us kids and Mom because that usually meant pancakes or waffles and chocolate milk after we’d been awake and arguing for several hours as siblings do on car rides.

On the rare occasions when we kids were younger and my mother escaped from home for a few days on a trip to the beach or some church women’s conference and we were left with my Dad,   all he knew how to cook was scrambled eggs - and fried baloney (When fried. it is definitely baloNEY and not boloGNA even if Oscar Meyer made it and quite frankly except for how cute that song is when little kids sing it in commercials I think Congress should officially change the spelling to baloney since even in the commercials for B-O-L-O-G-N-A, the words are “My BALONEY has a first name…..”  couldn’t some hot shot advertising exec find a word to rhyme with ‘Y’?)

But I ramble…..

On school days I preferred a few minutes of extra sleep to even a bowl of cereal and truth be told I’ve never really liked eggs unless hardboiled and mixed with exactly the correct amount of Hellmann’s mayonnaise and made into a sandwich on really good wholegrain bread with lots of seeds - and maybe a little lettuce.  Because my Mom didn’t care for breakfast either she was quite satisfied if we made a glass of Carnation Instant Breakfast or carried a fresh out of the toaster Pop Tart in the car on the ride to school.  We had to eat something!  No good mother would allow her children to go to school with an empty stomach no matter how much I might protest that if she made me eat something I was going to throw up in the car , or on the ball field during 10th grade when I had PE for first period.

How stupid is that for a 15 year old girl?  Gotta get up, get dressed, including hair and makeup and then go to school and change into a gross awful smelly gym suit that we were only allowed to take home to wash once a week and then get all sweaty playing some stupid sport that I always hated and then get dressed all over again in a steamy stinky locker room.  I really did want to throw up then.

But on test days - achievements tests, IQ tests, PSAT, SAT, things like that, - Mom always made us a full cooked breakfast of eggs, bacon, grits, toast, juice, and milk.  I probably associate breakfast with the terrible stress caused by those tests and that is why as soon as I got to college I gave it up all together.  It was only after I was out of graduate school and could pick up a coffee and danish on my way into the office in Manahttan that I started eating anything again before noon.

But what does all this have to do with being a vegan you ask?  Well, I have just completed the 21 Day Vegan Kick Start sponsored by Physicians for Responsible Medicine.  They do this several times a year and put helpful hints, menus, recipes nutritional information, doctor’s suggestions and the  requisite celeb pointers (I just ignored those because I. Hate. Celeb. Pointers. - especially when they don’t know one iota more about the subject than I do.) Anyway, I think the next challenge is in September if you are interested.   I am pretty damn proud of myself for making it through the 21 days.  I only slipped twice and on one of those times it was because how was I to know that vegetarian chicken strips have eggs in them (well, I guess I could have read the label before I ate them but who woulda thought it? I mean, what do eggs have to do with chickens?   Oh… well… now, that is part of the problem.

As I have mentioned before, living with Toby who has been a vegetarian for over 7 years convinced me that I should give it a try again.  And reading all about it convinced me that if I was going to make a commitment to not eating animals I should really let them off the hook entirely for my food production and should forego eggs, milk, butter and cheese as well.  Most of my friends predicted a difficulty with cheese, which surprisingly has not been the case.  The problem my friends is eggs, butter and milk.

 Actually, the problem is CAKE.

I am not a baker.  Believe me when I tell you that Marie Antoinette did not mean that even starving peasants should ever be forced to eat a cake that I baked. (It is not relevant to this argument whether or not M.A. ever really said anything about cake or bread or even realized there were peasants outside the palace, it just makes a good point OK? So let the historical accuracy slide Dr. David)

 If you want cake you should get may sister to make it for you, or her mother-in-law or any one of my friends Mary, Carol or Sarah, fabulous cake bakers all.  I just like to eat it.  For breakfast.

When I wake up I want a large cup of very strong (preferably Italian Roast) black coffee and a little slice of something sweet.  I do not like croissants unless they are pain au chocolate and in that case I’ll have deux, s’il vous plait,  and while good toast with excellent marmalade will do in a pinch it is never my first choice. 

The best breakfast cake  in the world is either Scottish Dundee Cake

                                                                      or Claxton Fruit Cake 

- well that is if you can’t get someone who really loves you  to make you a chocolate cake with chocolate frosting using Flossie Harwell’s recipe. 
 Now that my peeps, is pure chocolate heaven!

So you see my problem.  I can’t be  a vegan and have cake for breakfast and I can’t be a happy person eating something else - and as I have pointed out I am a disaster at baking regular cakes so trying to hobble something together without milk, eggs or butter is just wrong.  So I will be a happy vegetarian, but not a vegan.  Do not misunderstand me. I. Will. Never. Eat. Meat. (or any other animal) Ever. Again.  We’ll have to chat a bit about all of that at a later time.

But I will have cake for breakfast and every day I will thank the chickens and cows for their contributions.

Friday, March 26, 2010

My Recovery Plan

I am in a 12 -step program to overcome the stress created by the health insurance reform process or whatever this debacle we have just been through is called and invite you to join me in my move toward greater sanity.

Step 1:  Admit that I have a problem over which I have no control

Damn right, I have a problem and it is called idiots who listen to and watch political pundits on Fox News and similar outlets and actually believe what they hear.  Didn’t these people go to school somewhere that taught them how to evaluate information and form their own conclusions?

Step 2: I believe a power greater than myself can restore sanity.

And that power is the POTUS - Barack Hussein Obama.   If people will just shut up and listen to the man.  He is well- educated, brilliant, lucid and peace-maker.  They gave him a prize for that. Remember:?

Step 3:  I have decided to turn my will over to “God” as I understand “him”

This is a little tough because I don’t believe there a God that is a him.  However, I do think there is a lot of energy out there that is a lot bigger than me and I am spending as much time as I can focused on meditation and trying to pull in positive forces  and push away the negative ones. Take that Bill O’Reilly.

Step 4:  I have made a searching and fearless moral inventory of myself.

Yes, and I have discovered that my opinions on this issue are correct.  We need a single payer health care system, health insurance companies are run by greedy bastards and the basis of all our current problems is capitalism run amok.

Step 5:  I have admitted to “god”, to myself and to another human being the exact nature of the problem

See #3 above re: the god thing, #1 as to what the problem is and as for telling someone else, well you’re reading this.

Step 6: I am entirely ready to have someone remove all these defects.

Absolutely, and if Rush Limbaugh will just keep his promise and get the hell out of the country  -- and take with him Glenn Beck, Sarah, “Death Squad” Palin, that blonde crazy, what’s her name ,oh yea, Anne Coulter and while they’re at it, Dick Cheney and Jeb Bush (in case he gets some hair brained idea about  running in 2012) then we’ll be started in the right direction.

Step 7:  I humbly ask that the shortcomings be removed

See #6 above

Step 8:  There is a list of all that have been harmed and I am more than wiling  to do my part to make amends to them.

As I understand it, people who could not afford or be approved for health insurance can now get it and I think that is a great use for some of my tax dollars.

Step 9:  I will make direct amends to those that are injured except where to do so would hurt others

So, here it is.  I will put Tavish and Toby back on my insurance as soon as the Bank of America will let me.  I will pay my taxes and will contribute to the political campaigns of candidates who support  a single payer health insurance plan,  and  I will work diligently to defeat candidates who represent and cater to the ill-formed wrongly directed religious right, or the tea baggers and who take bribes in the form of contributions from lobbyists for Big Pharma..

Step 10:  I will continue to take personal inventory and admit when I am wrong

Yes, because I pride myself in exploring all sides of an issue before taking a stand and in a willingness to change my opinion when I have been proved incorrect through equally logical argument.

Step 11:  I will meditate as often as possible, at least daily, to improve my clarity and develop a clear mind so that I can carry out the  appropriate actions as needed  in a calm and thoughtful manner ,

‘Nuf said.

Step 12: Having had a clear acknowledgement through all these steps that the  idiots are still uninformed and acting and speaking in an irrational manner I will do my best not to hunt them down and try to change their minds because, obviously peeps,  stupid and uninformed is incurable.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

I only have one spoon left today......

 I have started several new blog posts this past week but have been unable to finish any due to distractions caused by the healthcare vote - we all know it took almost every hour to keep up with that - finishing reading a couple of books I had started simultaneously, being told David and I  have no place to live this summer - three times! and having an extreme shortage of spoons.
Spoons you say.  What does that have to do with anything?

Christine Miserandino, who suffers with Lupus, developed The Spoon Theory and I credit her with brilliance in describing silent illness in a way that others can understand. Below is an excerpt of her theory with a few edits to make it appropriate for MS. (Christine's writing is in italics and my additions are not. Bold is also mine)

I am carrying around just one spoon today folks.

 Christine was sitting in a diner with a friend and in trying to discuss how her energy level works, the spoon theory was born.
I quickly grabbed every spoon on the table; hell I grabbed spoons off of the other tables. I looked at her in the eyes and said “Here you go, you have [MS]”. She looked at me slightly confused, as anyone would when they are being handed a bouquet of spoons. The cold metal spoons clanked in my hands, as I grouped them together and shoved them into her hands.

I explained that the difference in being sick and being healthy is having to make choices or to consciously think about things when the rest of the world doesn’t have to. The healthy have the luxury of a life without choices, a gift most people take for granted.

Most people start the day with unlimited amount of possibilities, and energy to do whatever they desire, especially young people. [Please all my sleep deprived friends, understand that I know that you start the day with fewer spoons than most as well]  For the most part, they do not need to worry about the effects of their actions. So for my explanation, I used spoons to convey this point. I wanted something for her to actually hold, for me to then take away, since most people who get sick feel a “loss” of a life they once knew. If I was in control of taking away the spoons, then she would know what it feels like to have someone or something else, in this case [MS], being in control.

I asked her to count her spoons. She asked why, and I explained that when you are healthy you expect to have a never-ending supply of “spoons”. But when you have to now plan your day, you need to know exactly how many “spoons” you are starting with. It doesn’t guarantee that you might not lose some along the way, but at least it helps to know where you are starting. She counted out 12 spoons. She laughed and said she wanted more. I said no, and I knew right away that this little game would work, when she looked disappointed, and we hadn’t even started yet. I’ve wanted more “spoons” for years and haven’t found a way yet to get more, why should she? I also told her to always be conscious of how many she had, and not to drop them because she can never forget she has [MS and might not be able to pick them up]

I asked her to list off the tasks of her day, including the most simple. As, she rattled off daily chores, or just fun things to do; I explained how each one would cost her a spoon. When she jumped right into getting ready for work as her first task of the morning, I cut her off and took away a spoon. I practically jumped down her throat. I said ” No! You don’t just get up. You have to crack open your eyes, and then realize you are late. You didn’t sleep well the night before. You have to crawl out of bed, and then you have to make your self something to eat before you can do anything else, because if you don’t, you can’t take your medicine, and if you don’t take your medicine you might as well give up all your spoons for today and tomorrow too.” I quickly took away a spoon and she realized she hasn’t even gotten dressed yet. Showering cost her spoon, just for washing her hair and shaving her legs. Reaching high and low that early in the morning could actually cost more than one spoon [a BIG problem for me], but I figured I would give her a break; I didn’t want to scare her right away. Getting dressed was worth another spoon. [see my blog post on the issue]I stopped her and broke down every task to show her how every little detail needs to be thought about. You cannot simply just throw clothes on when you [have MS]. I explained that I have to see what clothes I can physically put on and what I can tolerate.  If my skin is tingling I will want tights or something firmly against my body. If my hands are weak that day buttons may be out of the question. If my balalnce is off I will need to wear something that looks OK with sneakers - so much for cute shoes.  If it is hot I surely don't want to wear long sleeves, and if I have a fever from taking interferon the night before I may need a sweater to stay ward off chills and so on. If my hair is dirty and I don't have energy to wash it or I have dark circles under my eyes, I need to spend more time to look presentable, and then you need to factor in another 5 minutes for feeling badly that it took you 2 hours to do all this.

I think she was starting to understand when she theoretically didn’t even get [out of her bedroom], and she was left with 6 spoons. I then explained to her that she needed to choose the rest of her day wisely, since when your “spoons” are gone, they are gone. Sometimes you can borrow against tomorrow’s “spoons”, but just think how hard tomorrow will be with less “spoons”. I also needed to explain that a person who is sick always lives with the looming thought that tomorrow may be the day that a cold comes, or an infection, or any number of things that could be very dangerous. So you do not want to run low on “spoons”, because you never know when you truly will need them. I didn’t want to depress her, but I needed to be realistic, and unfortunately being prepared for the worst is part of a real day for me.

We went through the rest of the day, and she slowly learned that skipping lunch would cost her a spoon, eating might give her one back  if she selected her food carefully. Driving could cost two spoons if there was traffic or she might lose a spoon for standing on a bus or train, or even typing at her computer [or reading a book] too long. She was forced to make choices and think about things differently. Hypothetically, she had to choose not to run errands, so that she could eat dinner that night. Let's hope there is food in the cupboard.

When we got to the end of her pretend day, she said she was hungry. I summarized that she had to eat dinner but she only had one spoon left. If she cooked, she wouldn’t have enough energy to clean the pots. If she went out for dinner, she might be too tired to travel home safely. Then I also explained, that I didn’t even bother to add into this game, that she was so nauseous [from MS related fatigue], that cooking was probably out of the question anyway. So she decided to make soup, it was easy. I then said it is only 7pm, you have the rest of the night but maybe end up with one spoon, so you can do something fun, or clean your apartment, or do chores, but you can’t do it all. You are probably so tired that you will just fall asleep in front of the TV - often in your clothes . No spoon left to wash your face and brush your teeth.

I explained that some days are worse then others; some days I have more spoons. But I can never make it go away and I can’t forget about it, I always have to think about it. I handed her a spoon I had been holding in reserve. I said simply, “I have learned to live life with an extra spoon in my pocket, in reserve. You need to always be prepared.”

The hardest thing I ever had to learn is to slow down, and not do everything I want. I fight this every day.  Just ask David, he is a better observer of how many spoons I have in reserve than I am.  I hate feeling left out, having to choose to stay home, or to not get things done that I want to...I need to think about the weather, my temperature that day, and the whole day’s plans before I can attack any one given thing. When other people can simply do things, I  sometimes feel angry and I hate myself for that.. I miss  the freedom of never having to count “spoons”.

I do not see this as a blessing as some people would say -"Oh but don't you appreciate everything more."  NO! I have been forced to think about everything I do. Do you know how many spoons people waste everyday? I don’t have room for wasted time, or wasted “spoons”

 Once people understand the spoon theory they seem to understand me better, but I also think they live their life a little differently too. I think it isn’t just good for understanding [MS], but anyone dealing with any disability or illness or even a tough time in their life. Hopefully, they don’t take so much for granted or their life in general. 

In the next few weeks as David and I will plan what's next in this adventure we are on.   I will probably call on some of you for advice, ideas or even assistance.  Please do not think of me as lazy, incompetent or otherwise lame.  If I ask it is because I know that if I share one of my spoons with you I will get much much more in return.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Day the Earth Moved

When I turn on my computer each morning it tells me the time - the time in the Eastern US, that is.  David’s is set to tell Greenwich Mean Time, or the actual time shown  on the clocks here in Scotland.  Typically that serves us well and those of you who receive telephone calls from us, however infrequent, must certainly appreciate that it discourages us from calling you before the sun is awake in NC, FL, NY AZ or CA.  But this morning is different. Does anybody really know what time it is?

Sometime during the night I can only assume that the United States drifted 600 miles to the east, making it 1 hour closer to us than when I went to bed a 11PM GMT (6PM EST) last night. 

When I awoke, the 5 hour time difference had somehow magically been reduced to 4 as if by divine legislation or something.  EXCEPT, I find that AZ was left behind during the shift remaining 7 hours earlier than here.  California however was dragged along and now there is only a 7 hour difference where once there was 8.  All very strange.

I wonder if expensive waterfront property suddenly appeared overnight in AZ?

Having also realized that this is Pi Day I  must wonder if there is some irrational numerical explanation for this phenomenon. Perhaps we should all spend the day writing poetry in Pilish as a way to appease the time gods.  Such poems are constructed so that the number of letters in each successive word is equal to the digits of pi.  One of the most famous of Pilish poems was written by an English (cough,  cough) physicist. Sir James Jeans (oh, perhaps we should all wear jeans while writing poems )

How I need a drink
Alcoholic in nature
After the heavy lectures
Involving Quantum mechanics

Oh how I need a drink, alcoholic in nature, after hurting my brain, thinking about all of this (don’t bother to count the letters, it is not Pilish.  I can only do that AFTER the drink!)

Or perhaps we should all bake pies  (while wearing jeans, of course) after which we can calculate their imprecise circumference as a ratio of their diameter.  You can never determine the precise circumference, your know - unless, of course, you just get out a tape and measure the damn thing!  And even then it is confusing as hell because as we all remember the answer to the quiz question is that “pies are square” when we all know they are round and perhaps that is part of the problem we are wrestling with here today.

Square pies must cause the earth to shift. This information might be a great help to the new Chilean president who should get his people out looking for the square pie baker -- pronto.  Perhaps he could send some help to Haiti for that purpose as well.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Be aware! Be very aware!!!

This past week has been MS Awareness Week.  I am pleased that the well-run and most helpful National Multiple Sclerosis Society (NMSS) conducts this week each year in an attempt to spread the word about this dreadful disease.

(BTW - there are several MS organizations out there but only the NMSS is legitimate.  The others are poorly run and spend little of the money that is raised on research or client assistance.  The NMSS is consistently rated as an excellent charity.  So give generously but be sure you give to NMSS)

Multiple Sclerosis is the most common degenerative neurological disease in the US and Western Europe.  MS primarily strikes people between the ages of 15 and 55 - the so-called prime of life and after 10 years with the disease, half of all victims are severely disabled.  I was diagnosed in 1983 at the age of  29 although now that I understand the symptoms I know I was sick in high school. 

After cheering at a football game, my feet would feel like they were on fire.  Mom would rub and rub trying to relieve the discomfort.  Once, during a game I just spaced out completely.  I didn’t have the energy to jump up and down, couldn’t remember the words to the cheers and couldn’t concentrate enough to even know what was going on in the game.  I just stood there sort of staring into space.  I didn’t even realize anything was wrong.  The following week the Pep Club gave me hell, all but calling for the forfeit of my varsity cheerleading letter because I wasn’t ‘engaged” in the game.  On an intellectual level I know it is silly but I still harbor an intense level of anger about that incident that  eats at me.  I want to go up to the major critics and yell, “ I have MS and you were a jerk! Apologize, dammit!’

Multiple Sclerosis means “many scars”.  Perhaps this is one of them.

Actually, the disease is characterized by multiple lesions on the brain, spinal cord or nerves.  The lesions heal and are replaced by scar tissue, hence the name, and the affected nerve function is severely impaired or stops completely.  Symptoms range from numbness and tingling to complete loss of use of limbs, loss of bladder control, vision impairment or even loss, loss of cognitive function, fatigue - a loss of energy so severe that it has to be experienced to be understood.  Loss, loss, loss.  It is all about loss.

For me it has involved loss of my ability to run outside and play with my boys when they were little, loss of vision (once completely in my left eye), loss of bladder control, loss of the joy of sitting in the hot sun (heat causes an increase in symptoms which for me means it gets really really hard to walk) loss of  the strength required to get the milk jug out of the frig, loss of the ability to process multiple stimuli which severely limits my ability to drive, loss of a job I loved, loss of the ability to concentrate, loss of the ability to be a 10 in bed, loss of cognitive function that was once good enough to get me classified, along with a bunch of wonderful NC friends, as “gifted and/or talented” and to get me admitted to MENSA, loss of access to the rolodex of names and words that used to be easily available in my brain, loss of energy to the extent that I can plan only one event a day and then hope that I will not be too fatigued to do it, loss of emotional control and EXTREME LOSS OF PATIENCE WITH THIS RIDICULOUS UNPREDICTABLE DISEASE.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

It’s All About the Tatties

In Scotland, everything is served with chips - well almost.   A few things come standard with a good mash but mostly, it’s chips.  And I don’t mean those thin crispy things Americans call “chips.”  In Scotland, those are properly called “crisps” and come in flavors you’ve never thought of before - prawn cocktail, tomato ketchup (no more need to dip), olive oil and balsamic, sweet chili,  sea salt and garlic - this list goes on and on.  Everyone’s favorite, of course, is “salt and vinny.”

But I’m talking about chips here - proper thick cut slices, not wedges, crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, perfectly cooked fried potatoes.

Order a pizza - comes with chips.  Fancy a curry? Expect some chips on the side to dip in the sauce.  Breakfast?  Well, in addition to the bacon, bangers, haggis, eggs, beans, tomatoes, mushrooms, toast, butter and marmalade that are standard with a “full Scottish” you’ll generally find some chips or if not  you’ll most certainly be asked if you would like some.  Chinese food, Mexican food,  even Italian food, comes with chips.

David and I were dining in a rather posh Italian restaurant last Saturday.  At the table next to us a couple had mussels and soup as starters followed by a large shared salad (I always watch what other diners are eating for fear that I may be missing out on something wonderful) Then one had a pasta dish and the other risotto and, sure enough, there on the table between them was a huge bowl of chips. (David and I shared a cold antipasto and a risotto de la mare filled with all sort of shellfish, plum tomatoes and chiles)

Go to a pub.  Order a pint.  The bartender is likely to ask if you’d like some chips as a snack.  While I waited for take-away Chinese one night, four teenagers came in.  Each placed an order for chips with a different sauce for dipping - one sweet and sour, ane sweet/hot chili, one brown sauce and one garlic/chile sauce.  Ah, Scottish/ Chinese food.  Chips and Chinese-style sauce.

In the grocery there are likely to be more types of frozen chips than anything else in the freezer.  More chips than ice cream!  That is just wrong.  Even though, I place chips/French fries, pommes frites, whatever there are called in whatever country I happen to be, right up there with the foods of the gods, one of my absolute favorites and when on offer I can never turn them down.

(I feel in the interest of honesty here I must say that I DO NOT eat FREEDOM fries under any circumstances!  - coming up with that  name was just one step past ridiculous . Instead , the French should have stopped eating anything American because we were  the idiots who were out of line.  Oh wait. The French do not eat American food.  They eat wonderful fresh beautifully prepared luscious French food.  Sorry.  I still DO NOT EAT FREEDOM FRIES - and have been known on two occasions to walk out of establishments that called them that.)
But I ramble..

Perfect chips must be cooked three times.  First, peel the potatoes and boil them until just tender.   Drain, cool and dry well, then slice into thick finger-sized pieces (sort of like really thick steak fries in the US).  Heat some good non-flavored oil until hot.  If you want to pretend to make these healthier, use expeller pressed canola oil.  Actually, any good vegetable oil will do.  It is best to cook the potatoes in a deep pot or deep fat fryer  but they can also be cooked in a deep skillet in a single layer - but be sure if you choose this method not to overlap the potatoes or they will become soggy.  Cook the potatoes just until they just start to color.  Remove potatoes from fat, drain well on paper towels and allow to cool.  Discard the fat. 

At this point you may finish the cooking (see below) or store the potatoes.  They will keep in the frig for 24 hours.  Any longer and they oil will go rancid.  Or you can freeze them.

To finish the cooking  - heat some fresh oil and add the cooled or frozen potatoes (be careful of popping).  Cook until golden and crispy. I like them really brown.  Remove to paper  towels to drain and season with coarse salt.  Serve with ketchup, HP sauce, malt vinegar, garlic mayonnaise or salsa.

Guaranteed to be the best “chips” you’ve ever eaten.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Let us all stand and recite together......

It’s that glorious time of year again, peeps.  That time when “the boys of summer” take to the fields even though it is not quite Spring and the NCAA (read that ACC) is still paying basketball.  That time when the young guns can strut their stuff ( did you see that homer by S-Rod yesterday?) and the old guys can find out if they still have what it takes.  It’s that time when the proven stars get to sit it out a lot and only play when really needed to help the team avoid embarrassment, when the press has been called out to take photos and do interviews or when the fans are there in full force cheering against an arch rival ( Can you spell Yankees or Red Sox?)
It's that time of year when fans of my two favorite teams, the Rays and the Cubs, still dream of a pennant.

It’s that time of year when we all oil our gloves, fill our cups with beer, stand and  recite our Creed:

I believe in the Church of baseball.
I’ve tried all the major religions
And most of the minor ones.
I’ve worshipped Buddha, Allah, Brahma,
Vishnu, Siva, trees, mushrooms,
And Isadora Duncan.

I know things, for instance:

There are a hundred and eight beads in a Catholic rosary
And there are a hundred and eight stitches in a baseball.
I prefer metaphysics to theology.
You see, there is no guilt in baseball.
And it’s never boring.
Which makes it like sex.

Making love is like hitting a baseball.
You’ve got tot relax and concentrate.

It’s a long season and you’ve got to trust it.
I’ve tried them all, I really have.
And the only church that truly feeds the soul
- day in, day out - is the Church of Baseball.
        As adapted from “Bull Durham”
By Ron Shelton

                    PLAY BALL!!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Bacon is calorie free, right?

If, like me, you grew up in the South, you know that bacon is a seasoning and therefore has no calories.  If you feel that you must, you can remove the pancetta/parma/prosciutto and set it aside from your portion after the fish is cooked.  But I dare you to try leave it there and not tuck in.

Stuffed Roasted Salmon Wrapped in Bacon

2 large filets of salmon, skinned and pin bones removed (If you know how to filet and skin a fish it is best to do it yourself and use halves of the same fish)
8 oz prosciutto, thinly sliced (pancetta or parma ham will work as well)
6 cloves garlic roasted in their skins and then skin removed
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and coarse ground black pepper
8 oz fresh or jarred pesto (drain off a bit of the oil before stirring into some chopped fresh tarragon and flat-leaf parsley to taste)
Jarred roasted red peppers, sliced into julienne strips (one of those things that just aren't worth doing yourself unless you have grown your own peppers)

Pre-heat the oven to 375 F
Cut or tear a large square of plastic and cover with overlapping pieces of  prosciutto (this needs to be wide enough to wrap around the salmon filets)
Place one piece of salmon, skin-side down, in the centre of the prosciutto and cover the top with the pesto mixture being sure to  keep it off the sides and the prosciutto.
Lay a line of peppers and the garlic cloves along the filet over the pesto and then lay the other fillet skin-side up on top of it.
Using the plastic wrap, wrap the fish in the prosciutto, by lifting one side and then the other and overlapping it on top and peeling the film away as the prosciutto clings to the fish and itself.  You should have a fish completely wrapped in prosciutto sitting on an open square of plastic wrap.
Gently lift the fish using the wrap and roll it into a roasting pan so that the seam of prociutto is down
Dribble with olive oil and roast for 25-35 minutes. The fish should feel firm to the touch. Allow to cool.
Cut into large slices and serve with a leafy salad.

Let me know if you can actually avoid eating the bacon.  I think it is impossible.