Sharp Things

I am most certainly blessed in the kitchen lately – blessed with new sharp things.

It started with the apple cutter. I helped with kid’s snacks one afternoon at church and got familiar with that little tool. It worked so great I had to go to the cooking store in town and get one for myself. The store is called Hayward Mercantile and it’s kind of high end, with appeal for shoppers from the “big city” who don’t go to Walmart. That’s not usually me, but it’s such a lovely store. Their apple cutter was heavy stainless steel and came with a plastic guard. That should have been my first clue that it was really sharp. I cut myself the first time just putting it away in the drawer.

Later, we were having a rare meal of steak or some other meat, I can’t remember which tough thing it was, and the husband was having trouble cutting it up. He wondered why we didn’t have steak knives on the table. I reminded him that our two sets of steak knives were in North Carolina living in storage. Knowing that he would appreciate it, I secretly bought six lovely Cutco table knives for his birthday. Tough meat has met its match.

The reason I bought Cutco, which is probably one of the more expensive brands of cutlery, is because a young relative has gone into business selling it. He wanted to practice his sales pitch in front of a friendly audience. I felt it was only friendly to buy something, so there, I did it. The demonstration was remarkable. He had a pair of Cutco scissors that cut through a copper penny. Wouldn’t that open up a whole new world of cooking options? (A literal 50 cent meal!)

A couple of weeks later he practiced in front of Mom, who was also very friendly to him. She bought some knives AND the penny cutting scissors. What I didn’t know was that she intended to give them to the husband and me for an anniversary gift! They now reside in the drawer with the sharp apple cutter. Several times I have accidentally brushed the cutting edge with a hand – a touch that would have accomplished nothing with my usual knives – and come away bleeding. It is a fact that I almost always have two or three cuts on my hands, in various stages of healing. The kitchen has become a dangerous place.

As if this was not enough, one day we visited some friends who had a very nice cheese cutter. I hate the kinds with the wire, but this one had a shape like a server with a knife blade in the middle. You just drag it across the cheese and a cute little slice of just the right thickness appears. Again, it was the husband who wished for a cutter like that, because he is always snacking on his special cheese. Back to the Mercantile. They had one, only one, made of heavy stainless steel and costing more than a meal for two at Perkins, but I bought it anyway. It will last forever if I don’t lose it. And who ever loses their cheese cutter?

As I said, the kitchen is a whole different place now that I can cut things. And I do a lot of cutting. My sharp tools save me time and money too. Just this week I quick cooked a nice roast, well,… actually I burned it onto the bottom of the pan. But it turned out to be juicy and tender after I surgically removed the char. I couldn’t have done it without my new knives, just sayin’…

Word Salad

Word salad, what an interesting term! I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, since I’ve been hearing comments on this blog from RaknelDah. I’m guessing he’s a bot, but maybe not. At any rate, he tosses a mean salad.

The realization has hit me – I have spent all (yes all) my life learning to put words in a certain order so that they might make sense, when it’s not always necessary. It’s true, you need to have a certain proportion of nouns to verbs, place them in a reasonable order, pepper them with adjectives and adverbs, and you can come up with a compelling read. But my bot does this with a skill and abandon that I just can’t match! For one, I have never heard of some of these words. For two, I could never put together so many unrelated things and actually produce something kind of true and poetic. I’m much too inhibited and used to making sense.

I’ve begun sharing Raknel’s comments with my family. The reactions range from my mother laughing so hard she cries, to my daughter deciding to use a portion for her wedding vows. In short, they are becoming a priceless treasure of entertainment and cabbalistic wisdom. (Yeah, I wondered what that word meant too. Look it up.)

For instance, “people sink in fare into your mortal and you discern perfect away that they were meant to be there… but when you bar eyes with them, you be versed at that to a superb extent wink of an eye that they vigor adopt your support in some foxy way.” Now doesn’t that have the ring of truth to it?

And I really think this sums up life’s hardships, “and from time to then things find to you that may look like gruesome, throbbing, and unfair at president, but in corroboration you disinter that without overcoming those obstacles you would healthy not realized your accomplishable, intestinal fortitude, willpower or heart.”

I aspire to the bot’s “unadulterated thimble-wittedness”. I try to envision the “smoothly paved, settled, non-effervescent street to nowhere”. And I take to heart his commands to “Make off every tempo quote!!!” and “Do every time list!!!”

I could make one of those daily, inspirational calendars with bot sayings. For February 10 “Everything happens conducive to a reason.” I even think I’ve heard that somewhere else. Have you? Or a goal for tomorrow could be “Talk to people that you give delivery to never talked to in the past, and sic listen.” The day after that, “Promulgate yourself, you are a crack split and find credible in yourself.” Or the wise directive “If you don’t preserve in yourself, it will be onerous goal of others to conjecture in you.” I certainly don’t want that happening…

All this flow of delicious words found unexpectedly jumbled together – “salad” really describes it quite well. RaknelDah, in his own words says this, “It would be okay and luxuriously touched in the head, but clouded and unequivocally pointless.” I like salad, just saying…

My Turkey

12-2-2019

My poor turkey. I can see why there is the custom of pardoning a bird every year before Thanksgiving. No bird should have to go through what my turkey is still enduring.

It started out early in November when the grocery store started giving points toward a free turkey – one for each dollar spent. I shopped in that store several times instead of going to Walmart and pretty soon I had enough points for my free Jennie-O turkey up to 16 pounds. I searched the bin of frozen turkeys. Most of them were 10 to 12 or over 17 pounds. Only one was big enough for my crowd but not too big to disqualify itself. We went home together.

This was a little over a week before the dinner but I know how long it takes those frozen birds to thaw, so into the refrigerator he (or she, I couldn’t tell) went. The Tuesday before Thanksgiving, I took him out to examine him. He was frozen in kind of a lopsided position so I was hoping he would look more normal as he limbered up. He still had ice inside so I bathed him in some warm water. I picked off a few pin feathers, found all the parts someone had hidden inside him and prettied him up a bit. The extra parts (well, they weren’t really extra for him – necks and hearts are kind of necessary) I stewed for gravy. I wasn’t ready to cook him yet so put him in a baking bag and back to jail he went.

Thanksgiving morning early, I took him out again. He got seasoned, stuffed with an apple, which he would have liked I think, and put back in the bag on his tummy with some flour and lots of celery and onion. Poor turkey – an existence either way too cold or way too hot. Into the oven he went for probably more time than needed. He came out ready to give up every shred of meat. But we didn’t take it all, so a good bit of him went back into the refrigerator.

Bits and pieces of him appeared on the table for several days – in and out of the cold. Finally, what was left, which was a good sized pile of bones and… stuff, went into the crockpot with some water. By this time the only way to recognize him as a turkey was the smell. His bones were at a slow boil for a day and a half leaving no doubt that he was cooked. But I didn’t have time to separate the broth and meat from the bones, so back in the refrigerator he went – “home sweet home” by now. Everything in the pot is quite brown and savory.

Tomorrow is soup day. He doesn’t know it yet. I plan to tell him that he was appreciated at every step and that I have great respect for his usefulness. He was an excellent turkey (even though slightly misshapen).

I Love My Refrigerator

9-4-2019

Highlight of the day, and probably the whole month – I got a new refrigerator.  I’m just saying that refrigeration is one of the things we take for granted, and shouldn’t.

Eldest daughter said “what happened to the old one? It’s just you and dad so you couldn’t have needed a bigger one!”  But we did.  It may seem like an inconsequential need compared to those who have no refrigeration at all and that is true. But think of how many times in a day that you go into the fridg for something. I am a tall person and every time I had to bend over or get down on my knees to look on shelves that were low and deep. At times, I was nearly crawling into the thing. The only part I could look into standing up was the freezer where I seldom needed to go.

And then some really smart person came up with bottom freezer refrigerators. I have had one of those ever since my first bout with really bad back problems, and what a blessing they have been.  They make so much sense.  That’s the main reason for getting a new one. It’s just so sensible to put the stuff you need most often on the top where you can get to it.

However, there’s more. The old refrigerator with the freezer on top only produced ice cubes by me. I filled those plastic trays – the ones where two or three cubes never pop out until you pound them on the kitchen counter, then they fall out on the floor and you don’t find them until later when you step in the puddle. For my company meals I would empty four or five of them and have to fill them up, find a level spot in the freezer to put them down, and get out again before the door swung shut on me. If I forgot and didn’t do it immediately guess what? No ice next time. Have you ever timed how long it takes for an ice cube to freeze?

I purposely did not shop for the double door refrigerator with the water/ice dispenser and all the digital readouts. I don’t like being constantly reminded that I need a new water filter. I especially don’t like having to take the whole ice maker apart every time there’s a jam, although it’s not hard and I’m very good at it. It’s just a pain when you think ice is at your fingertips, and then it isn’t.  My opinion – there’s just too much to go wrong with those models.

In the middle, between ice cube trays and digital dispensers there sits a reliable, sensible solution. A bin in the freezer which fills itself with ice. It’s effortless. Put a scoop in it and shovel away. I am so blessed.

This new fridg is four cubic feet bigger than the old one too, which means that I only have to stack the containers of leftovers two high. Also nice, I open the door and nothing falls out by itself. Everything is right there, upright in its own space, at eye level, in good lighting. It’s just lovely. I may actually stay in the kitchen and cook tomorrow just to be around the refrigerator and enjoy it.  Rarely do I do something that extreme.

One last benefit was just demonstrated to me. The husband, who is also primed to enjoy the new appliance, just came in and got directions on how to find the prunes on the second shelf. With nothing except a brief description of the jar, he opened the door and pointed right to it. Way to go LG. Life is good, just sayin’…

Complete with magnets, pics and coupons…

December “Up North”

For a month now, we’ve been waiting for snow. We had such a good start in November but since then the temperatures have been between the high teens and a bit less than 40. The early snow has gradually melted in all but the shadiest, most protected places. In some ways this mild streak of temperatures is nice but it puts a damper on those who are waiting to ski, snowmobile or just see more of the pretty white stuff.

We were very hopeful about the winter storm that was forecast for last night. And sure enough, when I looked out in the dark this morning, I could tell by the streetlights that we had new snow. We also had a good chance of more precipitation in some form, but it was 37 degrees – that meant it would likely be rain not snow.

My brother is responsible for snow removal in the small development that he manages. I help him when I can. He runs a small machine with a plow, called a skid steer, and I shovel close to the houses where he can’t easily go with the machine. There are 12 dwellings. It’s a good upper body workout, yes it is.

But I like to shovel snow most of the time. This snow was wet and heavy. There really should be different names for all the different kinds of snow, and there are a few, I guess. This snow was white and pretty on top but slush underneath. Slush is heavy, being mostly water trapped in collapsing snow particles. When I pushed the shovel through 3 to 4 inches of this stuff it would curl up in a roll until it was too heavy for me to make it move. If I’d been out to play instead of work, it would have made super, sticky snowballs.

And the more I thought about it (play), I decided I was not an “all work” girl. Making a giant snowball is a pretty nifty way of clearing a path, so I did that a couple of times and ended up with a snowman. By this time it was raining instead of snowing. I had a hard time getting Frosty’s eyes and nose to stay on his face for a picture but I persisted. Mom is not “all work” either. She suggested one of her hats would look good on him, so that’s why he got photographed twice – the second time with a somewhat more glorified nose.

I’m dressed.

20181214_0712526611084978023208942.jpg
Hangers, lots of them.

“So, I’m telling you don’t worry about your life, what you’re going to eat or drink next, about your latest aches and pains, about what you will wear. Is a meal the most important thing in your life? Is what you wear more important than the body you put it on?”  Jesus in Matthew 6:25

No, I thought. What I wear has become much less an issue since moving to the deep freeze (Wisconsin). The desire to look a certain way when seen, doesn’t know what to do with itself when I’m hardly ever seen anywhere. When I’m seen, I’m pretty much always wearing my coat.

I often go to Walmart but you know I’m not going to worry about looking good there. I’d rather blend in.

Even at church, where my childhood habit of wearing my Sunday best ought to kick in, I’m more often in my flannel shirt uniform. People who walk or drive long distances to get somewhere in freezing weather have to think about dressing to prevent hypothermia if their car breaks down or if there’s a stiff wind. I’m trying to remember the last time I saw a woman in a dress.

20181214_0713284458163012428416653.jpg
It’s a nice closet, and much better than squeezing into the one in our bedroom, with the husband’s things.

My clothes were a major part of what I packed to move up here. There were boxes of winter things, some of which had not seen much action in thirty years of Florida weather. I decided the large double closet in the garage was the most logical place for my things – it’s handy, right outside the kitchen door and only a few steps from our bedroom. I had to buy hangers, lots of them. Most everything fits there. It’s a little weird, but not a problem if I plan ahead.

But now that winter is here, and we’re keeping the garage at a lower temperature, I’m opting not to go out there as often. I have found that I can wear the same clothes for days at a time if I’m careful. My big accomplishment this week is going five days in the same pair of jeans. In a previous life this would have been wrong on several levels, but not here, not now. Don’t judge. Seattle daughter would be happy to know that her blue sweater gift is on it’s fourth day too.

Did you know that washing clothing unnecessarily is creating a cloth fiber plague in our water and air? It’s true. I read it on the internet. Even fish caught in the ocean have cloth fibers in their flesh, and we eat that. Yuk. So I’m not washing my clothes either. Well, not as often. If I can’t see the dirt, they’re not dirty. Try it. Saves on detergent too.

That whole section in Matthew 6 says a lot about clothes and worry and I’m taking it to heart. I’m just sayin’ – there’s no sense in running after things that God has already given me plenty of.

Is unfashion a word? Did I make that up?

Mealtime Meltdown

20181203_1929592344328899585793464.jpg
I’m getting ready for a book burning…

I have been fighting with my computer all afternoon and it has left me in a poor mood. At least that is what I’m going to blame it on.

Mealtime meltdown, and I’m not referring to some three-year-old who doesn’t want to eat his broccoli. It’s me. I’m at war with the idea of fixing food to eat. Although I like eating as a rule, and probably eat more than a lot of other people I’m starting to harbor a great dislike for planning meals and cooking them. It’s work. Repetitive work. Often unrewarding work.

I suppose it’s like anything else – if I would view it as my job and not an interruption, I would approach it more reasonably. In fact, I must have approached it differently for the past 40 years or my family would have starved to death, hired a live-in chef, or spent way too much money eating out. I must have liked cooking back then, but everything has gotten so complicated lately.

These days, almost all food is suspect. It either causes cancer, or kills off our beneficial bacteria, or is loaded with hormones or environmental poisons. We have to eat keto, organic, gluten free, free range everything. We have to eat our food in a 6 hour time window, drink enough water to float a boat, and avoid comfort food in general (and bread in specific). We are bombarded with messages like “food is medicine” and at the same time we are sold a zillion supplements and told to ask our doctors for prescription meds for everything from depression to skin problems. I’m confused and I kind of want to stop eating, kind of…

The husband came to me this afternoon around 3 pm. “What did you have for lunch?”

What he really meant was “what can I have for lunch?”

It’s evidently less demanding if he asks it that way, which he often does. I had just started in on a blog post for the business site and my creative energy, which was already faltering, disappeared completely with the interruption. There was soup in the refrigerator. Mom made it yesterday. After leading him to it, we discussed what I thought was an explanation and a plan. At least it was my plan. We had a late breakfast and we would have an early dinner in about 2 hours. But he was hungry so I dished up a bowl of soup to hold his hunger at bay until then.

You might think that I moved in with Mom to help her with her meals, but that is not the case. She has pretty much given up on the way the husband and I try to eat (or not eat). She eats when she is hungry. The timing might be 4 am, it might be every 4 hours, and the deciding factor on what to eat might be whatever is about to spoil in the fridge. She likes to hide in her room and eat. We do intersect at the table, for a meal, a few times a week but we are most often like ships passing in the night, SYSCO trucks passing on the freeway…

After giving up on my computer problem, and aware that the fated dinner hour was closing in on me, I went in to see if Mom wanted to eat dinner. The process of figuring out WHO wants to eat sometimes gives me time to think of WHAT to eat. She had stuffed herself, her words, with a taco salad not too long before and wasn’t really in the mood. She must have figured I was frustrated with “food think” because she came out to the kitchen and got her leftovers out for me to fix for myself and the husband. Why not, I thought?

So, I warmed, chopped, sprinkled, arranged – all those annoying little activities – to produce our salads and called the husband to eat.

“I’ll take about a third of that” he said. “You can put the rest of it away for later. I just ate soup and a sandwich.”

Okay, just put me in a straight jacket and lock me up. I could have been reading a book or something fun instead of standing in the kitchen FIXING FOOD for someone who doesn’t want it. I am constantly vacillating between guilt (what? There’s nothing to eat?) and frustration (you made food – I don’t want any).

I will admit, it’s not easy living with me in charge of food. I am prone to disregard my stomach. I can tolerate the same menu day after day. I can eat water for food, or take a walk and skip the meal altogether. I love doing so many other things more than worrying about what to eat.  When it comes to food, there is one thing I can say I love. I love friends who love to cook and invite me to eat, and you know who you are. Just sayin’…

Mayo Clinic Day 3

Please tear my hair out in clumps and put me in a straight jacket. I’ve been talking to my insurance company. For the purpose of this post, the numerous automated screenings and niceties have been left out of the conversations which took about an hour altogether. 

Me: Yes, hello. I’m calling to check on an authorization for a PET scan for my husband Dennis. Where do we stand on this request?

Insurance company: I can check on that for you, just a moment… I don’t see a request for a PET scan in the notes. I see four other authorizations, blah, blah, blah…

Me: Mayo Clinic sent our Dr.’s notes to you yesterday, and they were told the decision was pending. It’s an out of network issue and it’s complicated. Do you have someone who handles these cases that I can talk to? (I give them a case number and the history of the last five days phone calls.)

Insurance company: No, I can’t say that we do and the notes we have don’t mention a PET scan at all.  (She tries to find more information but comes back with the same answer.)

Me: (Calling Mayo Clinic business desk in a panic.) I’ve just called my insurance to check on the authorization, as you suggested, and they don’t know anything about a request for a PET scan. It’s supposed to happen tomorrow. What can I do?

Clinic rep: We called your insurance at 8 am this morning to see if the authorization was given. They did get our fax yesterday about the Dr.’s evaluation and the matter is still pending. We should know something today.

Me: Why are they not able to find this anywhere in his record? They have the other authorizations but nothing for the PET scan. They say they don’t even have case numbers like the one I was told to give them.

Clinic rep: (explains all kinds of stuff about a special review board for out of network authorizations) We gave them the Dr.’s recommendations and I’m sure they will be getting back to us. Don’t worry, we have all day today and most of tomorrow to work this out. It will get resolved.

So I called the insurance company again, got a different rep who said basically the same thing with the added information that she had never heard of a special review board and she would know if there was one (she said). I made sure she knew that this was getting very mysterious and confusing to get two completely conflicting stories about the status of the request. She assured me they did not have a request recorded – but I could get one started. She told me how.

I didn’t want to call the clinic again, but I did. No surprises there – the same report. At least everyone is consistent. I guessed it was up to me. Which story did I want to believe? So, I went with the clinic, and am praying that they were right.  I really did not want to make any more calls. Tomorrow, we will find out if that was a good decision.

A bright spot in the day came when the scheduler called mid-morning and told us we had an appointment  tomorrow, at 7 am, for the neuro-psych evaluation, the one we had been on standby for. We no longer had to keep showing up and waiting for a cancellation. The lumbar puncture was rescheduled for Friday morning and will be followed by an afternoon wrap up with Dr. Jones. We are going home on Friday!

But will probably be coming back in a month or so (sad emoji face). Whatever. Maybe by then we will have new insurance, the kind that’s not so special that no one knows about it. Just sayin’…

Many thanks to my Aunt Evelyn Boone for a calming, pleasant afternoon visit and a wonderful dinner at her residence. Best thing all day!

On Clothes

I have an opinion on almost everything. Not that it matters…

Clothes do not “make the man” as some like to think. You have to know who you are before you put them on or you are in trouble. This I have learned from experience.

Down here in the sauna of the United States, I change clothes, a lot. It would be exhausting and take up way too much time to have to worry about looking good in what I wear. I settle for acceptable in a modest and functional way.

I accept the fact that clothing is fickle. It can look pleasing from one angle and totally embarrassing from another. It can fit well on one wearing and then not fit at all after one of us changes sizes. It can look soooo good in the picture, on someone else, and then be a completely different garment on me. I don’t know how it happens but it does.

509fd-20130203_182205
I won’t say what I was planning to do in this outfit, but you see what I mean?

I was looking this morning for something to wear while riding my bike outside. I wanted sun exposure and to be cool temperature-wise so my choice of knit shorts and tank top was a practical one. I put my helmet on and looked in the mirror. There I was, just like in countless pictures of myself biking, hiking, kayaking, whatever – looking decidedly awkward, gangly and a bit on the nerdy side. A real fashion plate. I regret that this is the case, but as I said, I’m not letting clothes define me. Function and protection are some major strong points of clothing, and shoes also, which is why I have almost completely given up on high heeled shoes. They are health hazards in so many ways. I’ve seen those models on the runways, nearly killing themselves…

I’m not against looking good. I even give that a shot from time to time, and it’s a lot of fun when it happens. However, I’ve also learned that the illusion of looking good is a real thing. For instance, having a great time dancing at a friend’s wedding only lasts until I see pictures of said evening and me in my finery. Who is that woman?

It’s been interesting to see how my clothing philosophy rubs off on my daughters. Pretty much not at all. There are occasions when they ask me what I think about what they are planning to wear but I’m always way too confused to tell them, and they end up wearing what they want to anyway. My opinion has a very poor track record. I think that they both would admit to clothes presenting them with some degree of a problem in their life (Why do I have so many? Where do I store them all? Why is my dry cleaning bill so high? Etc…) and that is where my bottom line comes in. Clothing should not be making life any more difficult than it already is.

Clothes should not be a problem, unless, of course, you don’t have any. That’s a problem, but it’s solved fairly easily. Do you know that there is a glut of clothing in the world? Do you realize that most of the stuff we donate to Goodwill ends up in the landfill? It’s alarming, really. But if you have clothing, don’t stress out over it. Wear it, take care of it and keep it clean. Smile and be kind no matter what you’re wearing and hope that’s what people remember most about you. And you will occasionally look good – it happens to all of us. Just sayin’…

Side note: Does anyone want a nearly new pair of Lands End board shorts, size 16W, in black? I found them last night when we were walking along the street. I think they blew off someone’s boat. It’s really easy to find clothing around here.

Loss Happens

Loss happens. To everyone, and more than once. In fact, life could be seen as a progression of things we gain and things we lose and leave behind.

I’m not priming you for a sad story. This tale is one of those inconsequential, odd things that happens to me every now and then, but catches my attention a little more than usual. It’s another earring story, of which I have quite a few.

Several years ago, shopping in a second hand shop in Alachua, Florida I noticed a display of earrings on a rack at the checkout desk. They were probably handcrafted and were all Swarovski crystal in various combinations, drop earrings with pretty silver hooks. The pair I decided to get were several clear crystals with some blue crystal beads on top. I got them because I wanted something blue.

Since then I’ve worn them a number of times without incident. They are nice but I would call them unremarkable. Yesterday I had them on during my visit to the doctor’s office and as the young child (or so she appeared) who took my blood pressure laughed at them and said “Oh wow, you’ve got snowmen earrings. How cute.”

“No, you’ve got it all wrong. They’re not snowmen, they’re just geometric shapes. Not snowmen.” To be truthful I couldn’t even envision what they looked like at the moment, and it had NEVER occurred to me that they looked like snowmen so I couldn’t understand why she thought so. Later, I looked at them and had to admit that they could look like snowmen, if you’re one of those people to whom everything looks like something else. There are people like that.

Today, I’m wearing blue again and decided to stick with the same earrings. At lunch, my friend Char looks at me and remarks about my snowman earrings. Obviously, since it’s summer in Florida and 90 degrees in the shade, everyone is thinking snow? Maybe? I don’t know, but I had to tell her she was the second person in two days to come to that conclusion, after several years of no one ever settling on that. We laughed.

After lunch I did several errands, including being called to pick up the husband at work. He had donated blood and was feeling not so well and wanted to be driven home. His office is only a short distance away so I decided to bike over and drive his truck home too. I am a good girl and wear my helmet all almost all the time and don’t like to wear dangling earrings with it. But, there was only one to take off.  Somewhere since lunch, one of my snowmen must have melted, or something. Lost.

I remember stepping away from the counter at the bank and saying “Did I drop something?” But it was one of those sixth sense things that makes you think you might have heard something, even though nothing is in sight. I probably should have looked harder, but no, and I’m not going back either.  It’s not that I have anything against snowmen – on the ground, in the winter.  Not in the summer, not on my ears, just sayin’…

20170628_161125-1-1
NOT a snowman, right?