Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Women and Easter

This is my second Holy Week post. Again, if you're conservative theologically or just not into religion at all, feel free to skip. Next week I'll be back talking about other exciting topics--knitting, cooking, gardening, etc.

Women have gotten the shaft in religion for a long time. It's not just a Western thing, certainly. I wrote my master's thesis about women in Buddhism, and one of the best things that happened to Buddhism with regard to women is the surge of popularity in the West. Feminism* took hold in the West before the East, and Western women refused to bow to the monks just because they were men.

If you read the gospel accounts of the execution and resurrection, you'll see that women played an important role. Peter repeatedly denied he'd ever met Jesus; women were there at the base of the cross as Jesus died. While the disciples were locked in a room trying to figure out what to do next, women were headed to the tomb to prepare Jesus's body for a proper burial. The story of Jesus's appearance after his resurrection has Jesus appearing to a woman.

Women played a huge role in the early church, providing funding for the fledgling religion along with teaching and outreach. There's some strong evidence that women were highly involved in the early church, and this involvement has been written out by later (male) authors of biblical texts.

I'm proud of the women who followed Jesus. They were the ones who saw it through to the end. I want to be like them--doing the nitty-gritty work instead of locking myself away in fear.

May we all have such bravery.

*When people ask me if I'm a feminist, I always want to know what they mean. Do they mean that I believe women should be valued more highly than men? No. Do they mean that I believe women and men should be valued equally? Yes. Mostly, they mean the latter, and I don't understand why that's labeled feminism.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Judas Iscariot

If you lean to the right theologically, you might want to skip this post. Actually, maybe you should just skip this week. Come back after Easter.

I'm one of the few Christians who really, really wants to skip Easter. Since that's impossible, I'm going to do a few posts about thinking through different aspects of the Holy Week story.

Yesterday was Palm Sunday. For those of you not in tune with the church calendar, that's the week before Easter and celebrates Jesus's triumphal entry (it's always described like that--Triumphal Entry) into Jerusalem. Everybody* is thrilled that Jesus is here. He's the Messiah! He's going to kick Rome's ass! Finally we'll get our country back.

For that's what they thought. "Messiah" was a term for a political king. It didn't become connected to this spiritual savior idea until much, much later. Most of the Jews who followed Jesus saw in him someone who could lead them to overthrow Roman rule, and they were thrilled.

Granted, Jesus had been confusing them a lot over the course of the last three years--encouraging people to forgive and just generally not doing a lot of ass-kicking. Still, they were hopeful that he was the One.**

Then he was betrayed by one of his own followers, and he was executed.

There's a fascinating theory about Judas Iscariot that I love. Judas has been villified as a traitor, but what if we're wrong? What if Judas was expecting Jesus to be a political messiah, and he was frustrated that Jesus was taking so long to get the revolution going? If this was the case, then it makes some sense that Judas tried to force Jesus's hand by creating the confrontation with the leaders of the day. When it backfired--when Jesus insisted that instead of fighting, his disciples should allow him to be taken quietly and then he is executed--Judas is so devastated that he commits suicide.

This makes sense to me. Judas was one of Jesus's closest followers. His treachery appears out of nowhere.*** It's possible that Judas even felt that he was doing what he was supposed to do--that Jesus wasn't just letting Judas know that Jesus knew Judas had some betrayal planned when Jesus called him out at their Passover seder. Judas could have thought that Jesus was giving him the nudge. In fact, in Luke 22:36-37, Jesus is telling the disciples that they need swords. Why do you need a sword if you're not going to fight?

The text has this happening at the seder, shortly before the sword discussion:
"But see the one who betrays me is with me, and his hand is on the table. For the Son of Man is going as it has been determined, but woe to that one by whom he is betrayed!" Then they began to ask one another which one of them it could be who would do this.
Luke 22:21-23

Then they promptly begin arguing about who is the greatest, so there's some continuity issues here. That's for another day.

Now, I'm really going to shake some people up, but what if this was written this way by the early Christian community looking back and trying to make sense of what Judas had done? Nobody should be shocked that I'm left-leaning--see blog title--and I maintain that all sacred texts have been filtered through human experience. We know that the obsession with historical factuality didn't come about until the Enlightenment. Before that, stories were told with more emphasis on the wisdom they imparted than the historical accuracy of the events. There's nothing wrong with that until we forget it when we read old texts.

If Jesus said something at that seder that indicated he knew there was going to be a betrayal, it's possible that Judas heard him and believed he was being asked to do the "betrayal"--to light the blue touch paper that starts the political revolution. As the early church looks back, all they are able to see is Judas as a traitor, and the text gets written this way.

But what if we're wrong.

*Except the Pharisees, who are working diligently not to get the Romans pissed off. This is a laudable goal considering what the Romans were known to do to those who pissed them off. See: Crucifixion

**Yes, like Neo. Watch that third Matrix installment again and tell me that's not a retelling of the traditional understanding of the crucifixion. In one scene, he's even got his arms out in the crucified pose. I love you, Wachowskis, but subtle you are not.

***Do not tell me that "Satan" got into him. Seriously. Don't.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Mixed Bag of Greens

First, the good:

The cooking class's facility was nice. The chef was pleasant and knew a lot.

Coincidently, a person who goes to my church was there, and we cooked with two other women who were nice. I'd taken a class on lowering my carbon footprint with the person from my church, so we had our hippie greenness in common and had things to chat about.*

The food was quite good.

As to the rest...

I've been struggling with how to word this. It wasn't what I was expecting. I was expecting much more instruction. What I feel like I need is someone telling me things like how to make a roux, the best way to cut leeks, the purpose of heating a vinaigrette dressing for a salad.

Instead, the eighteen of us were split into five groups. The two small groups were given two recipes to complete, and the three larger groups were given three recipes to complete. That was it. The chef and a sous chef walked around constantly and helped give advice or answer questions, which was helpful, but we were left pretty much on our own to follow the recipe.

This wasn't what I had hoped. I can choose a recipe from my cookbook and stumble through it at home. In fact, that's all I know how to do. Of the four of us, I seemed to be the one most comfortable with cooking, which shocks me so deeply I can barely type it.

The same place has a series of "foundation" courses, and I'm still toying with the idea of taking the knife skills class. That seems like it would be helpful, but it would not be helpful if they gave me a pile of carrots and told me to go to it. I'm not sure I will pay $75 to take that risk.


Anyway, the food did turn out well, and I learned things like how to use a potato ricer on tofu. (Sadly, I don't own a potato ricer.) The two recipes we didn't make were Artichoke & Oyster Mushroom Rockefeller and Quinoa Maki with Avocado & Cajun Portobello Filets. The two people I ate with were from a group that made these, and they said they were very difficult. I watched someone assemble and roll the maki, and it did look very tricky. I think I would make steamed and roasted artichoke, even if I just served it with butter or some other dipping sauce. I also might make the cajun portobello, even if I didn't put it in a roll.

The three recipes our group made were Corn Chowder, Whole Wheat Penne w/ Gardein (Fake) Chicken, and Wild Field Green & Tofu Ricotta Salad with Warm Blueberry Vinaigrette. The chowder was very good. The pasta dish was fine--I think it has possibilities if I change a few things I didn't like. The salad was also pretty good, although I can't imagine I'll make the dressing again. It had two cups of olive oil and made a huge amount of dressing. We only used half on six salads--the recipe was theoretically for six--and it was a tremendous amount of dressing. I can't imagine wanting to go to all that work to make a dressing that has so much oil the calorie count will be very high.

I'm trying to come to peace with the idea that it's okay to be disappointed with this experience. It doesn't mean that the cooking class people did anything wrong. It just means that I was hoping for something different. It was still a new experience, and I did get some new ideas from it, so perhaps that's all for which one can hope.

*I did wonder if it was appropriate to ask about her vermicomposting (composting with worms) whilst we cooked, but it didn't seem to bother her.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Vegetarian Chicken

Here's the truth: I'm not very brave.

An episode of Diagnosis Murder gave me nightmares. I don't like meeting new people. I like eating the same things at the same restaurants. I value safety over excitement, order over chaos, and bulleted lists over just about everything.

I've been thinking a lot the past year about things I would do if I knew I could not fail. Then I've been trying to do some of them. They're not huge things, but they're huge to me.

Then I began thinking about what I would do if I weren't afraid. These tended to be smaller things than the "not fail" list, but they were still things that scared me.

One of the things I would do if I weren't afraid is to take a vegetarian cooking class. We all know that I struggle with cooking, with food, with weight, with blah blah blah. I became a vegetarian about eleven months ago, and since then I've become more and more interested in learning how to make healthy yumminess out of vegetables.

I don't have knife skills. I get flustered when there are too many things happening at the same time in the kitchen. I believe cutting squash should be on the list of World's Most Difficult Tasks, along with Achieving Peace in the Middle East, Going to Parties, and Not Getting Frustrated with Republicans.*

Despite all this, tonight I'm going to a vegetarian cooking class.

And I am afraid.

Courage doesn't always roar. Sometimes courage is the quiet voice at the end of the day that says, "I will try again tomorrow."
~ Mary Anne Radmacher

*Sorry, Republicans. Really, I am.

Monday, March 22, 2010

If You Build It

Friday after work I went to the home improvement store to scope out what was available. I ended up buying seed starting trays and a bunch of seeds. I still plan on ordering some seeds, but the ones at the store were the same brand and cost less, probably because there are less seeds in each packet. Since I don't need a ton of seeds for my small garden, I don't need packets with gajillions of seeds in them. I know they only keep for a few years.

Saturday morning we went back to the home improvement store with a friend and a borrowed truck. Our list looked like this:

2 12' composite timbers
1 16' composite timber
8 frighteningly-sharp-and-toothy brackets
full bale of compressed peat moss
two bags of composted cow manure
landscape cloth
galvanized nails
bolts and nuts

Then I went to the garden center and bought a packet of delicata squash seeds--I'd had trouble finding vining ones and was thrilled to find these--and 8 cubic feet of vermiculite.

Our city composts the leaves it collects and offers it for free. You just have to bring a vehicle and load it yourself. We did that on Saturday afternoon.

My current garden is a circle enclosed by edging stones. The new garden is going to be a long rectangle made of the composite timbers, which means the edging stones needed to be moved. They weigh approximately four thousand pounds apiece. We moved a bunch to the front flower bed, realized they were a slightly different color and size than the ones up there, moved all the ones from the front to the back, and built up the front flower bed. I now need more soil in there and to replant everything so it's higher.

Sadly, I hit the wall before I was able to finish the front bed. Andrew finished while I sat quietly on the porch. I know the doctor said I might find that I tired more easily for a couple months after my gallbladder surgery, but I assumed he was wrong. To have things that I wanted to do and no more energy to do it made me a crazy woman. I tried to give myself some grace--after all, a week earlier my most energetic outing was handbell practice at the church. Since then I'd worked full-time all week, jogged a couple times, helped load and unload a truck with compost, etc. Still, it's frustrating.

I still have edging stones left over. There are enough to make another bed somewhere. We have quite a small yard, so it needs to be in the back where nothing much has been done. I'm still not sure where that's going to be. It is on the north side of the house and will get horrible light, so I'll probably only be able to plant some hostas and hellebore. Even though it seems inefficient, I think I'll move the remainder of the stones to the back patio and finish the work on the new gardening space before setting up the new flowerbed. The garden seems to be more important to get finished so I can get my peas planted.

Yesterday Andrew and I worked on building the structure for the garden. I'm basing this off of the Square Foot Gardening book. It's not radically different from what I had--a small area with plants in nonlinear formation. The idea is to build a raised bed with very good soil composed of one-third vermiculite, one-third peat moss, and one-third compost. (This will be quite a shock to my plants since my backyard is currently one-third tree roots, one-third rocks, and one-third clay.) The bed only needs to be 6" high. Then the bed is split into 1' squares. Each square can have a different type of plant, and the number of seeds planted depends on the type of vegetable/herb. For example, you can plant eight pea seeds in a 1' square, but only one tomato seed because the tomato needs more room than the peas.

Square foot gardening also depends a lot on trellising. We're going to build three 5' x 4' trellises to go along the north side of the garden. Tomatoes, squash, and peas will all grow (theoretically) vertically, so they'll need much less ground than in a typical garden. Last year my yellow summer squash tried to take over the entire garden, so I see the wisdom in growing up.... so to speak.

We decided to build a three-box structure. The two end boxes are 6" tall and the middle box is 12" tall. The extra height in the middle is both so I can grow vegetables that require more root room, such as carrots, and because I think it will look nicer. We built it out of composite wood so it would last forever.

Here's a picture of the early stages of construction:

Composite is very different from what I expected. It's unlike lumber in every way. It has deep grooves on the back, which make it difficult to nail without hitting a groove. The composite itself is extremely hard. We had to drill holes to help the nails get started, and even then I wasn't able to drive the nails in. Andrew loves me a lot.

Square Foot Gardening has grids that go on top of the squares to mark off the 1' squares. To be honest, I think they request that you do this because they want your neighbors to ask you what the heck you're doing and why you have grid marks on top of your garden. Then you can tell them about this book you read, and they'll get interested, and POW! another book sold. In spite of that, I do think it will be helpful to visually see what space is available when I plant. I am not very visual, so I need whatever help I can get.

Besides, I love organization, and a garden demarcated into squares is right up my alley.

We build the grids out of cheap wood lath and connected them with bolts and nuts. That way, they'll be able to be collapsed and stored in the garage after harvesting time. The composite won't ever rot, but those grids certainly would.

We finished it late in the afternoon and managed to carry it to the backyard. Besides being extremely hard, composite is also extremely heavy.

I'm really pleased with the way it's shaping up and am eager to get it placed into its permanent home and get the soil in it. Right now, there's a large pile of compost on a drop cloth on my back patio.

Of course, since this is the Midwest, the temperature has dropped twenty degrees and it's gray and rainy. This, too, shall pass, and you'll find me outside playing in the dirt.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Recipe #11: Grilled Pears with Honey

It's a bit of a stretch to say this counts as a recipe, but I did look at a recipe before making them. I didn't follow the recipe, but I looked at it. Almost the same.

I recently discovered the joy that is grilled pineapple. I looked online to see what other fruit can be grilled and found this recipe for grilled stuffed pears. I don't have hazelnuts or pear nectar, and I decided they probably didn't need to be stuffed at all.

I quartered two pears, sliced out the core, brushed them with honey, and stuck them on the grill.

They're... pretty good. I felt that the honey flavor somewhat covered up the yumminess that is pear. I don't know what would happen if I just slapped some pears on the grill. Is there enough sugar in pears to do any sort of carmelization? If not, could I use Splenda brown sugar or something besides honey? They take about 10 minutes to grill, so I would want to make sure the "sugar" carmelized and didn't burn. I'm not sure how I would get Splenda brown sugar to stick, but pears and brown sugar sounds awfully good to me.

Cooking is tricky. It doesn't come naturally to me. I feel that there is a world of information that I need and don't have. In the spirit of that, today I purchased a voucher for a cooking class. They offer a vegetarian one occasionally, and I am going to try to sign up for one that's offered on the 25th. I've also been trying to find a nutrition class but haven't had much luck. (I think I don't know where to look.) I'm left with the feeling that I should have tried to retain the information I learned in health class.

In related news, I also ate grilled asparagus and a grilled portabella sandwich last night. (I mentioned I loved my grill, yes?) DELICIOUS. Andrew made hamburgers for himself and the friend that was over, and it's surprising to me how turned off I have become at the sight of meat. I never liked cooking meat, even when I ate it, but now just watching those red clumps on the grill kind of turns my stomach. I'm a delicate flower.

After dinner, there was an extensive planning session about my gardening plan. I'm very excited about it and will post more soon.

Onward and upward.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blood Orange

The universe has been trying to get me down.

I'm knitting a sweater. It's beautiful. I have most of the knitting done--just the bottom band, button band, and collar left. And it's radically too large. I'm still not sure what's going to happen to it. Right now it's in time out--the second time for this sweater, let it be known--until I figure out what to do next.

I had my follow-up appointment with the surgeon this morning, who said that my incisions look fine. This is good, but I really intensely dislike going to the doctor and therefore got myself all whooped up about it for no real rational reason. As an added bonus, then I got whooped up at myself for being irrationally whooped up, sending me into a cycle of whooped-upness.

The surgeon told me at my initial appointment that he wanted me to have an endoscopy done to make sure my esophagus wasn't damaged from the years I've been fighting GERD and taking acid-reducers/blockers. Today I scheduled the endoscopy for May 30 because I'll be off work. I guess that's a benefit of being a nonJew working at a synagogue: I can schedule endoscopies for Pesach because I have the day off. I don't want to have an endoscopy. I don't want to be made loopy and not be in control. Control is good. No control is bad.

At work, the database crashed in a spectacular and fire-filled manner.* I spent a long time trying to find the corrupt records and reconnect the front and back ends all whilst muttering, "Master's degree in THEOLOGICAL STUDIES, fortheloveofallthatisholy. No technology degree. Computers run by black magic. How come nobody ever asks me about women in Buddhism? THESIS on women in Buddhism. No thesis on networks." The real bitch of this is that, although I did fix the corrupt records and got us up and running, the underlying problem of why we lost the connection in the first place hasn't been fixed or even identified. And I don't know how.**

I ate lunch at my desk while sifting through thousands of records in various tables. It was one of those lunches where you don't really remember eating and so your body spends the rest of the afternoon telling you you're hungry while you pointlessly try to remind it of what it ate for lunch.

However, there are some good spots I would do well to remember:
  • I ate a blood orange. I find them incongruous and intriguing. It amuses me how much eating an orange that is not orange messes with my head. I'm looking forward to putting the peel in my compost bin. I feel it adds a bit of je ne sais quoi to my compost.***

  • We're grilling out for dinner, and I'm going to try to grill pears. I love grilled food. I love pears. I sense something good coming out of this experience.
  • The garden center I like has giant bags of vermiculite, which I needed to find for my Gardening Plan. (Dudes, much, much more about that later, I assure you.) I've read that people have had problems finding it, and I found it on my first try. It's also under $30, which feels good.
  • I had a giant frozen coffee beverage after my doctor's appointment. It was delicious.
It's just one of those days on which I have to work hard to remind myself that the glass is half full. It is, though. Except for the coffee beverage, which is definitely empty.

*Okay, okay. There were no actual flames. It burned up a few hours of my life though. Does that count?

**See aforementioned theological education

***No, I don't really get out much. I'm comfortable with that.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Back in the Saddle Again

Yesterday Emily and I went for my first run in.... well, um, probably three months. Emily has run since then, but I haven't. I honestly don't think I've done any jogging since the first (and only, obviously) 5K in mid-December.

This makes me embarrassed.

It also makes me hurt. Physically, I mean.

I was only able to do a quarter of a mile before needing to walk. I did this a few times, so I technically jogged a little over a mile. I don't believe my lack of capacity to do more was affected in any way by my gallbladder surgery a week and a half ago. I think I'm just out of shape.

I'm trying to be happy with the workout. It's hard. On one hand: I'm not a runner. I don't anticipate ever really being a runner. I just recognize this jogging thing is a nifty way to push myself in doing something that's difficult for me, it gives me time to zone out while listening to angry rocker women on my mp3 player, and it earns a lot of activity points in the WW world. As I love to eat, this is helpful. As a side note, my weight has been stuck since mid-December. I do not think that fact and the fact that I stopped working out at that time are unrelated.

So, on one hand I am not shocked with my lack of ability. On the other hand: I was able to jog a 5K just a few short months ago, and now I've lost that ability. That's sucktastic.

We're going to run again Friday, and I'm trying to bolster my confidence by continually telling myself that it will get easier quickly and that I will be back to being able to run 2 or 3 miles continuously before long.

Which is good, considering we may possibly perhaps maybe be participating in a 10K in June.

I know in the scheme of things, this is small. In my little world, however, it is very big.

This is something I would do if I knew I could not fail.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Failure vs. Fear

You remember my friend Lynn. Recently she sent me an e-mail about something she'd read. The author encouraged the reader to complete this sentence:

If I were not afraid, I would....

Lynn initially thought this would be the same thing as answering the question, "What would I do if I knew I could not fail?" That's inscribed on a paperweight I own and has led me to do some interesting things*.

However, what she found was that her answers were different depending on which question she asked herself. The things she was afraid of were not necessarily the things she would do if she knew she could not fail.

I made my own lists, and my lists were different as well.

This idea of what I would do if I were unafraid is still new for me, but it's been persistently rattling around since Lynn brought it up. I wanted to throw it out into the universe and see if anyone else was interested in making his/her own list. You might find it interesting, and you might not. I, for one, think this is going to lead me somewhere new.

*I have made absolutely no progress on the meditating, by the way. It's still on my list.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Recipe #10: Rice and Peas

We'd received some peas in the bin. I had no idea how to cook peas. I didn't even know if I was supposed to shell them or not. How do you tell?

I decided I'd shell them to be safe, considered that there probably was a smarter way to shell them than the way I was doing it, wished I had a nice Southern woman in my kitchen who could instruct me, and fumbled through.

I went to the cookbook, looked up peas and found one that used rice. As I had leftover brown jasmine rice, this seemed like Fate. I didn't even bother taking a picture until after dinner because I was sure it wasn't going to be anything special.

I was wrong.

My friend Kyle had told me that fresh peas were unlike frozen peas in every way, but I didn't really believe him. I thought it was nostalgia for his dad's garden. It wasn't. I associate peas with tuna noodle casserole, and I thought I hated them both*. The only reason I ordered peas in the bin was because I'm still in my trying-new-foods-because-I'm-a-vegetarian-and-need-variety-and-perhaps-I-really-don't-hate-them-like-I-think-I-do mode. I'd never had peas crisp-ish, and certainly not cooked in a skillet. Boiled, yes. In unpleasant casseroles, yes. Sauteed, no.

I cooked the peas in (fake, somewhat healthy) butter, threw in some leftover asparagus we had grilled, and then added some more butter and leftover brown jasmine rice and heated it through. I scooped some on two plates and ground some black pepper on it.

Who would have guessed this would be so delicious? Now I'm wondering if I should be planting peas in my garden...

*I feel it must be said: Even if I were not a vegetarian, I would have no desire to eat tuna noodle casserole.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Recipe #9: Oven Roasted Potatoes

I receive e-mails from Vegetarian Times, and they recently had one with different oven-roasted potato recipes. I read one and thought, "I have potatoes. I have olive oil. I have kosher salt. I have black pepper. Why not?"

They were... fine. I think they need to have more spice on them, and they need to be eaten more promptly after being removed from the oven. It was a beautiful day (the only beautiful day in decades--it's rainy and sad again today) when I made these, so we decided to cook asparagus and burgers--meat and non-meat--on the grill as well. The timing could have been done better.

Anyway, they did turn out better than the sweet potato fries I tried shortly after becoming a vegetarian. That recipe had said that you couldn't use too much black pepper. That recipe was wrong.

This is something I may try again. I'm really ready for another big win on the Recipe Resolution front.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

On the Flip Side

Surgery is over and recuperation is trucking right along. The first few days were horrible, but they're finished. Today is the first day I've been home without Andrew, and I'm restless and bored. I take that as a very good sign.

Random bits:
  • HGTV is a powerful thing. I found myself caring whether or not this couple got their basement ready to rent out and how families staged their home.
  • The paperwork for gallbladder surgery makes a casual mention of "heaviness in the chest and shoulder pain" that might arise from all the carbon dioxide gas they stick inside you to puff you up so they can muddle about inside your abdomen. In my case, at least, this translated to excruciating pain in my right shoulder that was far worse than any pain from the incisions. It lasted for days. I am worried about my chi. Apparently things don't move around my body very quickly.
  • When planning all the fun entertainment I could enjoy while off from work, I neglected to take into account that I would feel so rough that much of the time would be spent lying in bed staring at the wall. Unfortunate.
  • Spring came while I've been inside. It's beautiful outside today.

Thanks for the positive thoughts. It's good to be nearing normalcy again.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Toodle-oo, Gallbladder

Back on February 14 when I posted about the second part of our vacation, I said this about our last day at sea:

Saturday was another At Sea day , and it brought its own adventures. Perhaps another day for that story.

Well, today is that day.

At lunch that day, I started to feel badly. I went to lie down. A couple hours later, I was up with horrible pain in my upper back. For the next several hours, I was either throwing up, hoping to throw up, or constantly trying to move to find a position in which I wouldn't feel like I was going to die from pain. We eventually ended up visiting our lovely ship doctor, and he gave me an anti-nauseau injection, a short run of antibiotics, and instructions to take a pain killer in forty minutes.

I love Percoset. It only took one dose, and I was able to go to sleep.

The next day we spent thirteen or fourteen hours in a minivan driving home. I ate nothing but Saltines for fear of further angering whatever was angry from the day before.

So, I went to see my regular doctor on Monday after we returned, and he said it was either my gallbladder or my stomach. That Thursday I went for an abdominal ultrasound, and it was my gallbladder. I should note that Andrew thought it was my gallbladder even as I was in the throes of agony. Smart guy, that Andrew. I should also note that he was a trooper and took very good care of me. Nice guy, that Andrew. I shall keep him.

I had said if it was my stomach I was blaming my dad and if it was my gallbladder I was blaming my mom. One of my sisters, who also has gallbladder problems and should have surgery, said so many of us have problems that we should get Have and Have Not t-shirts to wear at our family reunion.

This week, she sent me this:

I shall wear it home today from surgery. It should be noted that I'm wearing a t-shirt that reads, "Delicate Flower" to surgery. I feel better if the peeps at the hospital know what they're dealing with.

Em brought me goodies to work yesterday: a greeting card of monks riding a roller coaster, pencils, a whirly-fan-thingie, some silly putty, and, the piece de resistance:

Em says his name is Bladimir Lenin, and he's my replacement gallbladder. If I get scared, I am to hold him high and shout, "That's Bolshevik!" I'm actually leaving him at home because I'm afraid I'll do just that when I'm high on drugs. One must protect against oneself.

Bladimir is part-Irish. I can tell by his accent. He's hand-sewn and really, really fabulous.

As an added bit of fabulosity, he also came with a pocket containing a Half-Priced Books gift card. Nice play, Bladimir.

Send positive energy my way. Right now I'm all right except for the expected anxiety and acid reflux strong enough to burn holes in upholstery. Since I can't eat or drink, I'm stuck with it. Luckily, in a few hours they'll knock me out and I won't have to feel the fire in my esophagus.

Half full, people. The glass is half full.

See you on the flip side. I'll be the one in the cool t-shirt with the stuffed gallbladder.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Recipe #8 - Quinoa and Parsnip Rosti

Tonight was Recipe #8, again from Mark Bittman's book.

Here's the nice cookbook holder Andrew gave me for my birthday:

This is the second time I've tried to put a picture of the cookbook holder on the blog, and the blog deleted it again. Luckily, my SD card is still in the computer. I wonder what the blog has against this holder?

Anyway, tonight's recipe was Quinoa (pronounced keen-wa, in case you, like me, am new to the world of quinoa) and Parsnip Rosti.

I am not exaggerating when I say to you that the only word in that recipe name I was familiar with three weeks ago was "and." The produce bin had parsnips in it last delivery, so I looked for a recipe that told me what to do with these things that looked like albino carrots. I had read about quinoa in Vegetarian Times, so I decided to go with this recipe.

Plus, it looked like a giant latke, and latkes are good.

Trader Joe's was out of plain quinoa, so I went with a blend of red quinoa, Israeli-style couscous, baby edamame beans, etc.*

Some things I learned:

a) When the recipe tells you not to peel the parsnips until after they've been boiled, there is, perhaps, a reason for it. It would behoove you to trust the cookbook author, who, you should note, gets paid to write recipes and probably knows a bit more about what he's doing than you do. You, after all, thought parsnips were albino carrots.

b) If you choose to ignore this, you should at least listen to the portion of the recipe that says, "Allow parsnips to cool." Trying to grate hot parsnips is not fun.

c) There's something in Trader Joe's Harvest Grains that gets very hard in this preparation. Chew carefully lest you break a molar.

Besides those tiny hiccups, I really was impressed with the resulting dish:

After cooking the grains and parsnips, grating the parsnips, and mixing the two together with some salt and pepper, you squish the whole thing into a big skillet on top of some melted butter. Whether the lid goes on remains a point of debate in my house, but you let it cook for 20-25 minutes** and then do a magic flipping thing and cook the other side for about 10 minutes.

Mine didn't hold together perfectly, but it was pretty tasty and a fun adventure. I think I may try again with shredded carrots and straight up quinoa. And maybe cumin. 'Cause cumin makes everything yummy.

* Basically, I bought the bag of Harvest Grains and used half of that. It sounds much fancier if I list what was in the bag of Harvest Grains, but I realize that's not very accurate.

**Mark Bittman says you'll know when it's ready. He overestimates my abilities.


Did anyone watch the show Good Morning, Miami? Of course you didn't. Nobody did but me. I tend to like shows that nobody else likes and therefore they get canceled.

Not that I'm bitter.

Anyway, it's about a (gasp!) morning news show in (double gasp!) Miami. See how clever their title is? Constance Zimmer plays a sarcastic employee, and Mark Feuerstein plays the guy determined to turn the show around.

At a staff meeting, Jake (Feuerstein) announces that their age 18-56 male demographic is up X%. Penny (Zimmer) remarks with fake excitement, "Oh, good! We got Bob back!"

I was reminded of this when I noticed I had another blog follower. I'm now up to eight or some other number that can be counted on two hands.

Thanks, Bob*! Welcome to my blog. Unlike Penny, my excitement is not fake. I appreciate that you are reading.

*Not her real name, although that would make for a more linear line of thought.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

In Case My Fears Are True...

...and Winter never ends, I've just finished another scarf and hat for Andrew.
The scarf is the Hot and Now Scarf from Exquisite Little Knits, sort of. Andrew likes his scarves really long, so I cast on 200 stitches, and I switched colors after every three rows for a total of eight stripes. This was knit holding the yarn double on gigantic (size 13) needles, so it didn't take long at all. Of course, with 200 stitches on each row, even doing 26 rows (8 stripes x 3 rows in each stripe + cast on + bind off) feels daunting.

The scarf was made to match this hat:

Whether or not it does so is a matter still up for debate. In this picture, the hat is still wet and blocking, but as this wool hat has been wet and blocking for two full days, I've abandoned hope of getting a picture of it on a human head. This is the Fake Isle Hat, and I love it as well.
All this love is very good considering I had to put my sweater in time out. Things were going quite well until I tried to put my arm through the armhole and found that it was too small. I need some time away from it while I try to decide if I'm going to go with sewing surgery (done by my mom) or just rip it out and try to figure out how to make the armhole bigger as I knit it the second time. I'm pretty sure I'm going to end up with the frogging option, but the thought of doing so still fills me with dread, so instead Look At Pictures of Hat and Scarf!