A Family Vacation, Complete With Mooses and Other Excitements

Starting before the vacation: I took Beloved to the hospital on Friday, Feb 28 with a fever of 103 degrees, chills, vomiting and pain. Before he was done, he had been given about 14 litres of fluids (IV), pain meds (IV) and super antibiotics (IV). He figures he got stabbed with needles about 40 times in the 5 1/2 days he was there. If he wasn’t needle-phobic before (and he was), he is absolutely needle-phobic now. Doctor’s diagnoses: strep throat and cellulitis. (Medical note: cellulitis is an infection (“-itis”) in the cellulite layer of the skin. It has nothing to do with weight as both fat and skinny people can get it. It hurts like hell.)

We were concerned that he would not be out of the hospital before Thursday, Mar 5, but he managed to come home on Wednesday. So he got a better night’s sleep in his own bed before we began the Grand Tour of Local Restaurants.

Because of our disabilities, and especially with him just out of the hospital, we can’t really “do” all the tourist-y things when people come to visit. We can’t walk up the Avenue of the Redwoods, go into most of the shops in Old Town Eureka, or any other activity that requires standing/walking for extended periods of time. (And for us, extended is pretty much anything over about 15 minutes. Sigh.) But we bygods make sure that our visitors are well fed, and in a wide variety of cuisines.

So Beloved’s parents (hereafter referred to as “MIL”, Mother-in-love, and “FIL”, Father-in-love) landed in Sacramento on Wednesday the 4th, spent the night there and then drove up to Eureka on the 5th. They got in about 5, giving us just enough time to get them settled in the hotel and then taking them out to the beach for the sunset. (A tradition for us, since the first thing we did once we got settled in the hotel upon *our* arrival was to go the beach for the sunset.) And then we took them to the same place that was our first introduction to Eureka, Annie’s Cambodian Restaurant. Amazing and good, not quite Vietnamese, not Thai, not Laotion, but a sort of blend of all three. Annie’s crab puffs are the best we’ve ever had. Of course we also established the sharing all around of every dish, something done pretty much everywhere we ate in the 9 days they were here.

Because MIL and FIL had a car, they could do some sight-seeing on their own and they did so enthusiastically. They drove north to the Avenue of the Redwoods; walked up the hill and back down again, went on the skyway tram to view the trees from above. They were going to drive on up to Oregon (a short jaunt) but the fog came rolling in so fast and so thick that the decision was made to come back to Eureka. What’s the point of going anywhere when you can’t see anything?

They did a lot of poking around in Eureka on their own. When we joined them (mostly at meal times) we rode with them, rather than taking two vehicles everywhere. So MIL, who does the driving, got a good feel for the traffic and how the streets are laid out. That’s a really good thing because they are considering moving out here, to be near to us and to get out of the hell most people refer to as “Northern Virginia”, or NoVA for short.

EurekaSailorWe got to see the old sailor sculpture in the harbor, something I had only seen pictures of before. He is much bigger than I was imagining and I had Beloved take some photos so that I can attempt to paint or draw him. I’m sure that he’s been recreated in pretty much every medium, but I haven’t done it yet so I’m not worried about other people’s paintings or sketches of him. Driving up to the sailor took us through some protected wildlife lands, actually fenced off with signs about not crossing over the fence. We saw a pair of elk, which my MIL laughingly refers to as “mooses”. So now we’ve got a new word for when we drive out looking for wildlife… we are looking for those mooses!

Like I said, we began with Cambodian food. We also fed them Chinese (two different restaurants, one which does “comfort” Chinese, the sort you’d be used to if you ate Chinese food in the 1970’s; the other is familiar but doesn’t fall under the “comfort” heading. They also do sushi, which we made his parents try…and it was not something they really wanted. That removed the two sushi restaurants off of our list.); we fed them Vietnamese, Thai, Mexican, Greek, German, GREAT steaks, “American Diner”, pizza and one place for organic breakfasts and another for incredible bagels. We also showed them our donut shop which is run by Asians so you can get an order of Chinese food and then get a couple of donuts to go with it. They are, by far, the very best donuts I have had in a very long time. Dunkin’ Donuts got NOTHING on “Happy Donuts”.

We did show them some mundane things, like Costco, Walgreens, RiteAid and our Co-Op grocery store. If they move here, they’ll want to know where things of that nature are located. We also did some looking online at some rentals, to help them understand that with the enormous decrease in the cost of living (by coming to the West Coast, specifically Eureka), they can afford a 3 bedroom house for significantly less than they are paying for a 2 bedroom apartment in NoVA. And by significant, I mean anywhere between 4 and 6 hundred dollars per month less. We were not subtle in our hard sell, trying to encourage them to make the decision to move here, even though our friend had suggested subtlety. We don’t do subtle.

We were glad to see them–it had been almost a 1 1/2 years since we were last together, right before we moved. We had a really good time with them (and we ate really well!) but the physical toll was tremendous for both of us. I figure a healing and restoration time of at least 3-4 days, possibly longer. Fortunately, we have a minimum of appointments this week.

We had actually started our physical therapy (pool therapy), but with Beloved having a bazillion holes in his skin, I cancelled our sessions for last week and this week. We are scheduled to return next Monday, and we’ll see if we can make it. I need to call my psychologist and get an appointment with him, since I had to cancel the last one. Beloved sees his PCP, partly as a follow up to his last appointment with her, but also as a follow up from being in the hospital. He also has group therapy and his gaming group on Friday. So it’s going to be a very quiet week.

MIL and FIL took us shopping on Saturday at Costco and Co-Op to refill our larder and refrigerator. So we’ve got food–and we’re still working on leftovers–but how much cooking either of us is up to…is a good question and I don’t have an answer for that right now.

When they arrived, MIL handed me an Adroid tablet that FIL had gotten as a “retirement gift” and they couldn’t make it do very much. I’ve got it up and running, with various apps that I wanted and I’m pleased with it. Except for one thing: I cannot, CANNOT, make the damned thing acknowledge the 64G SD card I put in it, except as a storage unit for music and photos. And I’ve got enough apps that the internal memory is pretty much full; I’d like to move some of that over to the internal (already there, can’t be changed out) 4G SD card, but it doesn’t seem to want to let me do that. There’s got to be a way, otherwise no one would take the tablet because it wouldn’t/won’t hold all the apps wanted. Oh well, it’s an IT conundrum that I will continue to wrestle with.

I was very glad to have it because it was a calming thing for me to be able to use it, thereby tuning out all the people around me. My pain this week was high enough that even my Vicodin didn’t do much more than tone it down; with high pain comes a vague nausea, so I was eating just a little bit of this and that most of the week. I have had tremors most of the week, but especially during times of higher anxiety. When we went to get steak (at a place that is very carefully designed to look like a dive bar–but it sure isn’t because the bathroom is immaculate!), I actually had to put in my earbuds to block all of the noise. I was on the verge of tears without them. They worked so well, I have gotten a box of actual earplugs, in pink because they’re made for the ladies (we have smaller, more dainty ears!) and they came with a holder, so I can keep a pair in my purse and use them as needed.

Regarding the tremors: I talked to my dad about 2 weeks ago and we got to comparing ailments. He has tremors (bad enough that he can no longer make jewelry) and he suggested that what I have are Essential, or Familial, Tremors–something that is inherited 50% of the time if you have a parent who has them. The doctors don’t know what causes them and there’s no real treatment, although there are some medications for people whose tremors have gotten significant enough that they are embarrassed by the shaking, like when you’re out with people at a restaurant. I know that I have problems holding a fork steady without being stressed… add in the anxiety and I can barely get any food in. Takes two hands–one to hold the fork and the other to hold the food on the fork. I use my natural eating utensils whenever possible–you know, my fingers!

I will be asking about my tremors at my next PCP visit, if only to get the proper diagnosis added to my (ever-growing) list of diagnoses. And speaking of doctor’s visits, my long term disability  (LTD) insurance company (Reliance) has found a doctor who will do an independent evaluation of my condition so that the company can make an assessment about whether I am really disabled or not. And if I am really disabled, according to them (because I am, whether they want to say it or not), they will send a check with a year’s worth of backpay, and then continue with a monthly check. And if I get SSDI, the LTD will pay the difference between SSDI and the insurance benefits, which means about $400 per month more. We sure could use it.

I have two weeks to gather any paperwork (like my health records) and fill out the forms the doctor’s office sent me. I think it’s the new patient forms–and there’s all kinds of mentions of being able to go after the patient for money if the insurance company doesn’t pay for it. HAH! They can try. We already have about a quarter of a million dollars in combined *unpaid* healthcare costs. We’re going for bankruptcy… hate to do it, but we need to “wipe the slate clean” so that we can eventually qualify for a mortgage. I have a pre-approved VA loan, as long as what we want to move into meets their requirements. Needless to say, we need our home to be ADA compliant–and I might start looking around to find out what kinds of grants we can get that would help with the costs, especially since we’re talking about getting a new house. We’ll buy land and then have a manufactured home delivered there. The VA’s requirement for railings on every stairway will not matter, since we’re going for a single floor.

I’m not sure what was harder to deal with this past couple of weeks: the pain or the stabbing awareness that I can no longer do a LOT of things I took for granted as recently as 2 or 3 years ago. Watching my MIL (65 years old) and my FIL (almost 80) walking into the stores, carrying OUR stuff upstairs so that we wouldn’t have to…real slap in the face, let me tell you. Makes it very easy to slip into despair, since I’m already chronically depressed. I really appreciate my meds because without them…and I don’t mean the Vicodin. So recuperation, such as it is, consists of keeping my movements to a minimum to help control the pain as well as doing meditation and some self compassion exercises to help control the negative feelings. (Check this out, from Toni Bernhard: How to Talk to Yourself . Toni suffers from chronic illness, but also uses her Buddhist beliefs to find that Middle Road, even for us, who are having to ride an accessibility scooter on that road.

So that’s where I’m at, just trying to keep on making it through life, one day at a time.
Namaste!

 

Summer Vacation (In Place)

Back story: Beloved’s sister, my sister-in-love, hereafter referred to as “SIL” is a costume designer. An amazing, creative costume designer. Who is 2/3 of the way through grad school in IL to gain the paper proof of her abilities known as The Master’s Degree. She’s not only been burning the candle at both ends, but in the middle and anywhere else the wick dared to peek out. So Beloved and his parents managed to convince her to come visit us as a well-earned and much-needed break from the grueling millstone of school and shows and summer jobs. And after talking to her, Beloved got the vacation extended from 4-5 days to 9 full days in beautiful, calm Eureka.

And the curtain on our Summer Vacation goes up:

We picked her up at the local airport (a single baggage claim area, one gate, and everything but the Pepsi machine closes at 8 pm) on July the 2nd. She looked tired and from more than a full day’s travel (a 7 hour layover in Sacramento to catch the puddle jumper up to here). But she was happy to see us and we were happy to see her. We grabbed a bite to eat at the almost only place open 24 hours, the local family diner, then took her to her home away from home motel room. (Trust me, there’s no room in my house for her, and besides, she has some modicum of privacy, of which there ain’t none at all in my house!)

Next morning (or later that same day, depending on how you look at it), we gather her up and the meals begin…during these 9 days that we had with her, we took her to all of our favorite places to eat, carefully planned so as to maximize the number of restaurants we could fit in with us only eating 2 meals a day. We hit Walgreen’s and Target for some of the little things she forgot, to replace an extension cord that the TSA absconded with on her flight out here, and beach paraphernalia such as a chair, bucket (for seashells) and a hat. We hit Old Town one day, having lunch at the Cafe Nooner and then she and I walked around the shops. Well, she walked, I rode my new(ish) scooter; Beloved went back to her motel and hung out until called to fetch us for dinner at the next restaurant on our list. We repeat that process a day or two later to hit the local thrift stores–which she may have actually enjoyed more. SIL has been thrifting most of her clothes for a long time. She found some great stuff–and I didn’t do too badly myself!

We had Chinese food, Vietnamese, Thai and German. We had Mexican food and California sushi, as well as Japanese (traditional) sushi. All of it fresh, most of it local, some of it organic. A better quality of food than most people eat and a sure fire way to help her restock her body’s energy. Lots of sleep and days of doing nothing in particular, just what the Doctors Brother and His Wife had ordered. I have to admit, living right by the ocean, the only kind of food we didn’t feed her was seafood (other than in the sushi and that’s not everyone’s idea of seafood, even if it is fish!)–Dungeness crab season ended as she arrived, so we’ve put that on the “To Eat” list for the next time she’s here.

We showed her Eureka, our Costco which has a lot of organics (probably due to local demand for it), our house and the little town we live in (south of Eureka). We went to the fireworks show on the 4th–first one I’ve been to in years. For a small town, it was downright impressive–about 20 minutes long, with fireworks I’d never seen before. We sat at one of the Boardwalk down on the channel where the boats go through to the ocean–and the marina resides. Lots of people, but all of them happy and pleasant. We even had a puppy cuteness overload with the people next to us having 3 puppies, maybe 2 months old…awwww.

We took her to the beach. Four or five times in the time she was here. The first time, we hit the jackpot with the wild life. She was happy to see all of the dogs, which we also enjoy. (Or as Beloved points out, there are only 3 rules for this beach: don’t turn your back on the ocean, beware of the rip tides, and if you have an earthquake, assume tsunami and move to higher ground.) But some of the other things we had talked up to her also showed up–a flight of pelicans, almost in slow motion, passed over our heads, a serious photo op if ever there was one. She got to see not just one, but FOUR horses, being ridden on the sands. We also saw those little bobbing brown heads that are seals. And of course, the surf fishermen, the kites, the terns and other shore birds and, last but certainly not least, the ever-changing, ever-eternal ocean.

I was very glad to have this time with her. It’s the first chance that SIL and I have had time together without a major holiday and everyone else around. And lest you think that I monopolized her time, I made sure that she and her brother had time together without me as well. Maybe not as much as she and I did, but hey, they already knew each other. Even with the limitations of our disabilities, we had a great time having her here and found that we could push ourselves to the point of being able to spend as much time with her as possible. We only had to beg off from a couple of late night talk sessions–and she allowed as she was tired, too–so that wasn’t too bad.

One of the last things she did while here was something that she had asked me to check out and go with her–she was ready for her first tattoo!! I did my research around here and found a one man shop, with a tattoo artist who is amazing to be her first. (But not her last, as she already had plans for several more tattoos in her head…which I think will find solid form on paper now that she knows what tattooing is all about.) And of course, I couldn’t let her go all alone…so I got my 14th tattoo, as seen here:
Purple Butterfly

This is my purple butterfly for Fibromyalgia Awareness, a permanent sign of both my disease and a hope for a cure or at least better treatments for the conditions it brings with it. Amazing scrollwork, very fine lines for the outline, just great work all around–to the point where I may have to start saving up for (and doing in stages) the half-sleeve tattoo I’d like to have on my right arm. The left is saved for a military-style “flash”, where badges are located on the uniform, for a personal tattoo that represents me and the Beloved. The half-sleeve will be a compendium of my life, my children and grandchildren, things that are important to me. I feel that I have finally found an artist I can work with, whose style is very complementary to what I want my tattoo to look like.

So SIL and I bonded through ink and needles, as well as some amazing meals. She is seriously considering basing out of here once she’s out of school, as she will essentially freelance costume design–this keeps her from being limited to one company, one place. I also suspect that her (and Beloved’s) parents may also end up here, having both retired just this past May. They are already making tentative plans to come see us at the end of summer, beginning of fall–and I think SIL’s report will only encourage them to visit us. They want to live near their children, and since Beloved and I are already out here…and SIL may also be, just stands to reason that we will soon all have CA addresses.

This was the closest thing to a vacation we’ve had, almost ever, in our 4 years together. It was fun and tiring, happy and way too short–and I’m so glad we got to share it with her. We are looking forward to repeating the formula of good eats when the parents come out–and Beloved’s best friend, who is to visit us next month. How lucky are we, to have all this good food around us–and to be able to share it with the people who mean the most to us?

Now we rest up and recuperate, back to the usual schedule of doctor’s appointments and preparing for my SSDI adjudication the middle of August. Lots of memories were made this week and a half–and the last place we took SIL to, before putting her back on the airplane back to IL? The beach, of course.

Bay Drive Beach

A Lull in the Holidays

So Christmas has come and gone already.  I’m not really sure where December itself has mostly disappeared to…I know that we spent a lot of time getting paperwork to the requesting company or governmental department.  I also managed to work up an abscessed tooth, so ended up at the free clinic in Fauquier County.  It wasn’t what I was expecting–no overt “poor”-ness, the staff was amazingly kind and helpful (and they are all volunteers).  As they took my health history, they of course asked for medications I’m on–and the first question out of the nurse’s mouth as I began to list them was “Do you need any refills?”  Not yet, but that’s something I’ll be doing soon, as things are beginning to go low–and I need another doctor’s note to appeal the insurance company’s decision to stop paying Long Term Disability (LTD).  Since my health is “self-diagnosed” (no actual blood test or MRI/X-Ray to prove I have it) I have to KEEP proving I have it.  Like it’s just going to go away because they won’t pay beyond the end of the month.  I wish.

So let’s see…what has been going on?

Black Bear Bistro runs a weekly contest–Chef gives a particular kind of meat and then asks for recipes using that ingredient, serving it as one of the specials on Friday night.  The week before Christmas, he said “duck breast”.  I said, “brine in throwback Dr. Pepper and then smoke, serve it with a cranberry salsa and sauce it with a Dr. Pepper/bourbon reduction”.  He said OH YEAH! And I won the contest that week–and the prize?  Getting my recipe made up as dinner for free.  Needless to say, we went to BBB and had it.  Apparently it was very popular that evening.  I know that when they brought mine to me, a man sitting nearby said, “Mmmm what is that?” and then he ordered it.  And it was amazing.  I don’t know what kind of a contract Chef made with the smoke demons, but anything that man makes that comes off the smoker is just beyond words.  Moist, tender, smoky….and I like smoked foods, so I’m a sucker for anything he cooks that way.  (Note: if you like ribs, get the half rack.  It comes and you can just pull the bones out, like playing Jenga–and when you’re done, the HALF rack leaves a pile of meat about the mass of a softball–it’s at least 2 cups of meat. NOM!)

And then we hit the holidays…

We went to Beloved’s parents’ house on Christmas Eve, and Ri and Froggy (and my son, BB!) met us there for the Polish custom of “vigil”.  It’s a tradition where you begin about 6 pm (we started earlier to accommodate Froggy’s 9 pm bedtime) and then eat until midnight when everyone goes to Mass.  MIL made a special (Polish) mushroom soup, and we had pierogies–about 4 different kinds.  So we ate, and ate well.  No one went to Mass, but Beloved and I did spend the night to be there for the Christmas festivities in the morning.

We obviously didn’t have money for presents, but I made 3 kinds of candied nuts and some peppermint bark as a sort of gift.  I made Buttered Rum Almonds, Toffee Pistachios and Ginger Cashew Toffee.  All three were very popular, and MIL ate most of the cashews.  I think FIL like the almonds and the pistachios, so that works out well.  I made enough of the peppermint bark that there was some still at home for Beloved, who has nommed it all down.

Since his parents have been helping us so profoundly the past 4 months, they had warned that it would be a “small” Christmas.  Well, if it was their idea of small, I’d be completely overwhelmed to see what a big one would be.  I had given them a list of gift ideas, links to things on Amazon that I liked…I think they bought almost all of them.  Beloved had also given his list, but included some things that he thought I would like–which they also got.  And we both got gift cards with a generous amount on them.  They gave both of us a Kindle Paperwhite, and it’s wonderful.  I am really enjoying it.  Beloved gave his (old) Kindle to his father and I gave my old one to his sister.  So 4 people got Kindles that day–and his mother was not unhappy because she got her iPod, HAHA! So my haul for the day was 4 shirts, a cotton terry bathrobe (long in length and with a hood, used for actually drying myself off after a shower); a ceramic santoku knife, a couple of specialty chocolate bars (one with chilis and cherries, the other with pieces of ginger), 2 gift cards, a USB Nintendo 64 controller/game pad so that I can play N64 on my computer (and I’m using the heck out of it, playing Ocarina of Time); a framed picture of one his sister’s costume designs that she says “got her into graduate school”.  She gave a different one to each of us, so Beloved and I have to figure out where to hang our two pictures.  And of course, I got the Paperwhite.  WAY more than I expected, WAY more than they should have done–I was totally prepared not to get any gifts at all.  So to get that much was overwhelming.

MIL made a turkey dinner since the sister missed Thanksgiving with us, so we ate that Christmas evening and stayed another night there.  Wednesday, we took said sister and all our booty and headed home.  It was 24 hours of doing nothing, hanging out, reading our new Kindles or in Sis’s case, her new book (the first of the “Hunger Games”–she got the trilogy).  We did go out for Mexican food for dinner, but other than that, we spent our time being complete couch potatoes.   M- & FIL came out to our house to pick her up early Thursday evening.  We made dinner out of the turkey dinner leftovers MIL had sent home with us.  Friday, we ran errands in Warrenton–dropping off the bank statements for Social Services, faxing the lawyer the SSA paperwork I still have to fill out and send back, depositing the last LTD check in the bank and getting the rent check.

Between being out of our own home for 3 days and then having Sis over (while great to see her, and pleasant to be able to offer her the chance to de-stress) and then running errands, we were “done wore out”, as they say. Saturday and Sunday have been sent doing as little as possible, sleeping and playing on the computer.  We both need it–and the weather changed, so I was in bad pain for Friday and Saturday.  With the help of my Beloved, who analyzes everything, we managed to abort a migraine yesterday for me–but he insisted I take a muscle relaxer and they tend to make me…high.  So I made sure I did not do any driving!  LOL

It looks like we will have a quiet, just the two of us kind of New Year’s.  This year has gone by in a blur–and not necessarily because it was going that fast, but because I was so “out of it” for great portions of time.  Don’t remember much of February or March… When you don’t have a schedule, when you’re not having to go to work, it’s very easy for the days to slip by, one after another and then it’s a week gone, then a month and before you know it…seasons change and you have no idea what happened the past 60 days.  It’s part of the reason I am very careful to check the bottom left corner of my computer screen–time, day of the week and the date prominently displayed.  Or I’d completely lose track of “when” it is.

Of course we had visits from Ri and Froggy, since they got here the first week of December.  Froggy is 14 months old, thinking about walking but crawling very well.  He’s a happy, easy going child, like his father was—and seems to remember us (fondly) each time we see him.  Skype has paid off!  Now if I could just get my Lizard to install it so I can see the EG once in a while.  On the other hand, having a mobile baby here meant a certain amount of rearrangement to child-proof and protect the technology from little fingers.  That has had the unexpected benefit of opening up more space and making the main room feel larger.  I suspect that when we are completely done, and things are where we want them, we have the furniture that we want, etc… it’s going to be unique and very different from anything I’ve ever lived in before.

We already have the bed in the living room–and super smart engineer-minded Beloved made the point that we need walk space all the way around it, so why not put it down by the patio door, where we also have to have walk space in the same pattern?  We regain about 65 square feet of usable space that way.  Might not seem like a lot, but when you’re only talking about a 13 by 24 room, you’ll take all the usable space you can get!  That also puts our desks down at the end with the windows, no one is sitting in the pathway to the patio, and we can arrange our desks together better than if they were across the room from each other.  (As they would have been with the bed in its current position.)  Now if we could just get the boxes sorted and taken care of…

Still working on the hellhole of a kitchen.  I am running dishes through a dishwasher that needs replacing since it doesn’t really work the way it’s supposed to.  So it gets clean what it gets clean, the rest I try again and then I’ll hand wash.  It is reducing the amount of things to hand wash to a stack that’s not so completely overwhelming.  I know the knives and wooden things never go in the dishwasher, so I’m okay with doing those…but there are some things that just will NOT come clean in the machine and I’m going to have to do them manually.  Sigh.  I HATE to wash dishes.  Really HATE.  I’d rather do almost anything instead of washing them, so it’s VERY easy to find something else to do and let them go another day.  Did I mention that I’ve got a bit of problem keeping track of time?  Can’t put it off any longer, but doing it in clumps of energy rather than making myself insanely in pain doing it all at once.  And I’m rediscovering counter tops….

Also trying to do more cooking.  We had eggs, sausage and whomp biscuits (canned) for breakfast yesterday; dinner was (premade) Jamaican Jerk chicken breast and sweet potatoes (Beloved also had some white potatoes, mashed up).  It’s quinoa and sausage for breakfast today, and I’ve pulled a marinated in mesquite pork loin out of the freezer to thaw.  Not sure if I’m actually going to roast it, or just make BBQ sauce and braise it (boil it in the sauce, basically) and make pulled pork.  If I do, I’ll get Beloved to make some rice to go with it.  We need to go grocery shopping soon…but not today.  I expect the stores to be busy today with people preparing for tonight…

I guess that’s about it for now.  Have a safe and Happy New Year this evening–do not drink and drive!!  And may your New Year be joyous and blessed!

Namaste!

Summer Springs into Fall

Amazing what can happen in just 14 days (since my last blog).

Chronologically, more or less: I gave my presentation at the International Day of Prayer for Peace and it was well received.  I consider it a major coup that the local Imam requested a copy of it.  There was a good crowd and we ate well.  I had no hummus to take home–and apparently they “tore into” the curry flavored one.

We had a more or less typical week following that, doing the usual stuff although we were both too ill to make it to the chiropractor’s on Wednesday.  I was finishing up antibiotics for a sinus infection and my dearest got something viral.  Did follow up with our administrative duties, making sure that insurance companies, employers and absence management agents were getting the information they needed to continue to provide disability insurance benefits, health insurance and such.  Oops, they weren’t.  So I got on the phone and started calling doctor’s offices then sat and waited for nurses to return my calls.

I also used the juicer to make pure apple juice from about 4 pounds of gala apples.  Let me tell you…it made about half a gallon which did not last long enough to require a pitcher to store it in.  OMG, VERY good.  I saved the pulp and made apple pudding: the pulp, eggs, cream, cinnamon, honey, nutmeg and a little black pepper, with apple slices arranged on top and then cooked over a water bath.  We took that as our contribution to the feast on Sunday when we went out to Delaplane for the Native American event.  Got to meet a lot of people and hope to meet with them again.  Beloved feels drawn to that path, even though he’s pure Polish.  (So even when we juice, the recipe opportunities from the pulp are intriguing–and at the very least, usable for compost.)

So this week began with a letter from his employer saying we can’t wait for the doctor’s any longer, a decision about continued employment must be made and no later than 10 am on Wednesday.  I spent that day and the next trying to find out what was going on with the situation, since I thought I had gotten things in order the prior week.  Apparently not.  I finally got a call from the PCP’s nurse at like 4:30 pm on Tuesday that said he would NOT send the necessary documentation, it needed to come from one of the other doctors involved.  I’d draw you a picture of me freaking out, but it would not be pretty.  Needless to say, I was in hyper-anxious mode.  Thank the gods for a doctor who WILL answer her cell phone, AT HOME.  And who will be happy to help out with an email, assessing Beloved’s ability to return to work (which is NOT).  We haven’t heard anything from his employer, so we’re hoping that was sufficient.  No news is good news and all that.

But the stress and anxiety of that was enough to trigger a fibromyalgia flare up.  Yay.  Took every pain pill I have, every pain pill I can have and still hurt.  Lost my brain somewhere in the process and spend the rest of the week in a fog, with a massive attack of ADD.  Can I have an ice cream?  Ooooh look, a kitten.  Yeah.  That has finally settled down–and btw, I slept 15, FIFTEEN hours Thursday night.  Laid down for a nap at 5:30 pm, woke up at 8:30.  A.M.  Tired much?

Friday I did get the good news that MY long term disability claim agent has FINALLY received all the doctor’s reports.  I only sent the claims form in to her a month ago.  And Monday she will review them and then send them wherever they go for approval.  (PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE!!!)  So I’m hoping to get a check this month, maybe but next month fer sure.  What small furry animal do I have to sacrifice to get that to go through?  ‘Cause I’ll do it, you know I will!

We have also talked to our landlord to determine the level of necessity for applying for a housing voucher.  Turns out it is very necessary–but if we’re going to use a voucher, we will be moving over to the income controlled section of the housing.  Which is not a bad thing, as we will have to go into a two bedroom apartment–just like the one I used to live in when I was out here with the Lizard, since I met the income requirements at that time.  Now what changes they have made for it to be ADA compliant, I don’t know.  BUT the manager JUST HAPPENS to have one coming available, if this other person does not take it, and it would be available on NOVEMBER 1.  So theoretically, if this all goes smoothly and I am approved for the voucher…I could possibly be moving in 3 weeks.

The only reason that doesn’t make me freak out is because I can’t do it.  Someone else will have to.  And….all we really need is for people to show up with their cars….take stuff and put it in the car, take it about half a mile away and put it more or less in the corollary spot in the new place.  We still have at least half of our shit (you heard me) in boxes, so that’s easy enough–and they all go into the second bedroom for me to bring out and unpack one at a time.  Instead of being piled up in a corner of the living room like they are now.  We can rent the $20 UHaul for the furniture and mileage…will be more getting to and from the UHaul store than it will on the actual move.

So think good thoughts because it looks like perhaps the time of being hung over the precipice by the gods and taunted with the sharp spiky rocks at the bottom of the chasm is done and things will actually improve to the point we can stop eating anti-anxiety meds like mints.

We hit the farmers market yesterday and failed miserably at spending less, but we do have some awesome produce.  The plan is for tomato, bacon and basil sandwiches today at some point.  I also intend to make salsa for my beloved man.  Doing my laundry now and going to tackle the kitchen, a little bit at a time as I can–got to get enough done so that The Man can make meat sauce for pasta as dinner tonight.

Synopsis: still sore, but not as bad.  Head is not as fuzzy or I wouldn’t be blogging.  I feel mostly tired and may end up napping–“he” has already gone to lay down.  I need to put my wet clothes into the dryer, which means I will probably putter around the kitchen for a little before coming back out to the computer and sitting/resting for another little while.

This next week looks rather active.  Our friend is coming over to spend the day tomorrow so I will implore her to do the dishes that require hand washing.  Beloved and I have phone calls to make and hopefully one of them will get me an appointment at the VA for the housing voucher, which we intend to go to DC on Tuesday to beg for.  Wednesday is back cracking day and Friday we have doctor’s appointments.  I am also preparing to cater a dinner party on Saturday night for about 8-12 people.  It is a Virginia themed meal, with VA wines being paired up with each course, made with something that is also local.  My friend is a  major wino…I mean, wine lover and has chosen the bottles.  Here is the menu:

Butterkase (German “Butter cheese” or another very mild cheese) fondue, with apple slices (voignier)

Williamsburg Peanut Soup (chambourcin or Cab Frank)

Pork (loin or chops) stuffed with chopped apples, onions, pepitas (squash seeds) and bread crumbs with (fresh) thyme and garlic
(If I can get a loin, I will ask the butcher to spiral cut it so that it would lay flat, then spread the stuffing on it and roll it up like a pork loin jelly roll.  If I have to buy chops, I will get them thick enough to cut a pocket for the stuffing.  If I have to do chops, I am also considering cooking them in parchment paper)  (Chardonnay)

Sides will be quinoa (cooked in the rice cooker and seasoned with butter, salt, pepper and grains of paradise*; looks like couscous and tastes like sweet corn) and whatever fresh green vegetable I find at the market, possibly a cucumber salad.

Dessert: “Apple Pie” (petit manseng)  Wherein the apple is gala, it’s in a custard and may or may not have a crust.  But if it does, it will be a crust made with vodka or apple brandy because that makes it flaky beyond words.

*Grains of paradise: a spice used a LOT in Colonial America, from Africa, also known as crocodile pepper.  Tastes like pepper, ginger, and cardamom.

My friend has a cider that he wants to share, but says that it will go best with something that is spicy, so I may make hot nuts (every kind BUT peanuts) so that as guests arrive, they can munch on those and sip cider.  Incidentally, I intend to use several different kinds of local apples, so that each course that has apples has something different.  And if I can find VA peanuts, I will make the peanut butter that the Williamsburg soup recipe calls for.

I will get the things done ahead of time that I can, so I am able to meter out my ability to do that day–and make it through the meal.  I also want to make cinnamon almonds to take to our doctor on Friday as thanks for helping us out last week.  Guess I’d better get the damned kitchen clean.  Sigh.

I’m still pleased with the cleaning products I have made.  MIGHT have hit on a good recipe for shampoo, but further testing is required.  I have also started the old-fashioned ritual of brushing my hair one hundred times at night.

And another random thought, as it occurs to me: we have been Skyping with my son and his family, but we do not have a webcam.  Well, Beloved will be putting together his father’s new computer (when it all delivers, tomorrow) and in those boxes, there is a webcam for us.  Guess we’ll be talking to the Froggy and he’ll be able to finally see us as well.  Looking forward to it!

So life goes on, with good days and bad days.  The change in seasons means more change in the weather, which affects both of us deeply (literally–in the long bones of my legs especially).  We are still in a bit of a limbo because no final decisions have been made about our status-es.  Stati?  If my long term disability benefits would kick in, that would be at least some income, and of course the housing voucher is a major godsend if I qualify.  I feel like I’ve hit a bit of a plateau with my fibro meds and not sure that they are as useful as they could be.  Will be discussing that with the PCP the 23rd of this month.

If we didn’t have the uncertainty, we would not be unhappy with our lives.  In fact, things aren’t really bad, other than no income.  Hope to have that solved soon.  In the meantime…we just go on, one step, one day at a time.

Namaste!

Ch-ch-ch-changes….

Turn and face the strange…

So I blame my son.  He has been kind enough to let us share his sign in for NetFlix and Beloved has been watching documentaries.  Lots of them.  On a variety of subjects, but many of them are about food.  And he is (justly) inspired and eager to try some of these new ideas about eating in our own diet.  Me, I’m feeling overwhelmed by it all.  Raw food, Vegan agendas, making juice, eating 6 times a day.  Good grief.  As I told him, I’m NOT spending my whole day in the kitchen.  Oh and green products for cleaning.  We’ll talk about that in a minute.

Part of the problem is that I do agree with him on a great deal of these changes.  We need to eat organic–in fact, if you didn’t know, here’s the hierarchy for buying your food, especially produce: organic over non-organic.  Local over imported organic.  Local organic trumps all.  Pastured beef, pork and poultry, including eggs.  Organic meats are not necessarily the same as pastured; organic means they can’t pump them full of antibiotics and they’re probably not all piled on top of each other.  Pastured means that animal walked and grazed, you know, like back in the olden days, before industrial food.  In other words, the animal is eating what it was designed to consume, making it healthier and therefore better for you.

Beloved has been a sponge, absorbing lots of information.  Most of it good, some of it questionable, some of it … well, not agreed to.  After much discussion and negotiation, here’s what we’re going to do add, one small step at a time–because trying to add it all at once makes it unsustainable.  And this is about sustainability–both for us, in our habits of eating, and in the foods we eat being sustainable and healthy in their production and (lack of) processing.  We are going to eat more raw food, aiming for 51% of our food (by weight) to be raw or at least not heated above 110 degrees.  This does not include just fruits and vegetables.  We are both very fond of sushi and rare beef (even to the extreme of steak tartar) so there will be some raw animal flesh in our diet.  We have a juicer now (thanks to his mother, who got it as a gift and never used it), so we will make juice out of the vegetables we cannot consume in sufficient quantities to get the nutrition from them, such as leafy greens.  Beloved has a problem with leafy greens because of his lap band surgery.  The idea is to juice the vegetables and then use that as the liquid in the Vitamix blender, adding fruit for a more nutritionally complete smoothie that is easier to drink than one made all in the blender, which has been too thick from all the pulp.

The pulp that we are separating out with the juicer can be used as an additive in cooking, or I can just compost it, so all that rich plant matter does not go to waste!  And we will benefit from all the nutrition that is in the juice, which we have not been getting.  We’re looking more closely now at vitamins and minerals, in addition to things like protein, carbs and fat counts.  We take a multivitamin because we’re not getting all of our nutrition from our food–in fact, no one is.  The food we eat today is nutritionally deficient to the same types of food from 1950.  Why?  Because of industrialization and commercial preparation of most of our foods.  Let’s talk about this for a moment.

99% of all the corn grown in this country is NOT eaten by us.  It’s also not shipped overseas to be eaten by any human.  Instead, it’s processed.  And processed.  And processed.  Into things like High Fructose Corn Syrup, Xanthan gum, ascorbic acid, maltodextrin, monosodium glutamate, caramel and caramel color, polyvinyl acetate, stearic acid, and so on.  Hundreds of products, not many of them look like food.  But they are IN your food.  If you really want to freak out about corn, watch “King Corn”, a documentary that will make you flip.  And stop eating corn products.  You CAN eat CORN–but it must at least look like what we all think corn looks like, or obviously come from corn, like pop corn, tortilla chips and etc.

Monsanto (http://www.monsanto.com/Pages/default.aspx) is quietly genetically modifying all kinds of foods–and has been for years–without any idea what that will do in the long run.  It’s more about making produce that won’t spoil before getting to market, plants growing to a uniform size with uniform sized fruit or vegetables so that they can be commercially (mechanically) picked and handled.  Like the long stemmed roses you buy, you get one thing but not two–the roses have long gorgeous stems, beautiful flowers…and NO smell.  So these genetically modified foods are also lacking, usually in taste and often in both taste and nutrition.  Most of Europe refuses to have Monsanto products and in fact, Poland has completely banned them–but here in the US, most consumers don’t even know who they are and how very much they are affecting our health.

So let’s look at the average American’s circle of life:
1.  The agribusiness, industrialized farms produce fruits and vegetables that are deficient in many nutrients.  They are sprayed with petrochemical pesticides and weed killers; in fact, some of the plants themselves have been genetically modified to exude pesticides from every surface (which in at least one case has led to human male sterilization after ingestion of same).  They are harvested by machine without regard to optimum ripeness, shipped distances and kept long enough that any nutrition they might have had is generally gone before they are sold.

2.  The industrialized meat production is worse.  Animals are packed together in spaces so small that they must be mutilated (chickens have the top half of their beak cut off; pigs have the tips of their tails removed) to avoid damage from attacks from their neighbor.  This closeness increases the incident of disease, so that 80% of ALL the antibiotics made in the US are given to animals.  It is in the meat and we ingest it, increasing OUR resistance to various antibiotics and we wonder why.  The animals live a life of squalor and torment and are killed in a state of terror, which floods their bodies with all kinds of chemicals, affecting the taste of the meat–and the nutrition it might–MIGHT–have.

3.  This industrialized is sent to factories for further processing into convenience foods, or shipped to your local grocery store.  Either way, when you buy it, you have no idea how much nutrition it really has, what other chemicals it might contain, and what it is going to do to your body if you consume it.  Americans also have no idea what real serving portions look like, so are generally eating way more of this stuff than they are supposed to.

4.  You cook dinner or you eat out.  You try to be healthy by having a vegetarian or even vegan diet, but you’re still buying stuff that is industrially produced.  And then you can’t explain why you feel tired all the time, why you’re always sick, why you’re fat or not losing weight…well, the next bit is going to make you scream!

Everybody lives with stress, right?  What does stress do to your body?  Apart from the obvious things we all know, stress and the “fight or flight mode” we all tend to live under destroys your body’s vitamin C.  NO WONDER we all get sick!  So to counter stress, take mega doses of Vitamin B-3 (Niacin) and MEGA doses of Vitamin C.  I mean mega, above and beyond the RDA, like 2 or 3 times the amount at least.  You CANNOT overdose on Vitamin C.  Large amounts of niacin can cause flushing, like hot flashes from menopause, so go easier with that.  Just try it for a week and tell me I’m not right.

We have found it makes a difference, and Beloved’s sister bought her vitamins on Sunday and then texted him on Monday that she didn’t think it would work that fast.  Just saying.

We had already made the switch to organic and pastured food wherever possible.  Adding raw is less of a problem for me, who was subsisting on veggies in a bento box long before we met…HE, on the other hand, will have to learn to eat them.  Leafy greens as mentioned are a problem; other certain vegetables can be an issue as well so it will be a lot of trial and error to find out what works and what doesn’t.  We’re also looking into spirulina (blue-green algae) as an additive, plus hemp powder and flax seed/oil.  I have discovered that he will eat chopped salads, regardless of what is exactly in them. (Made one with chopped zucchini, onions, tomatoes and an Oriental style dressing).  He and I both will eat summer squashes (zucchini, yellow) that are hot but NOT cooked–so stir fries and barely steamed.  I don’t mind winter squashes (pumpkin, acorn, butternut) cooked and mashed.  I also like root vegetables (turnips, rutabaga, parsnips) either raw or cooked and mashed.  Now I’ll have to figure out how to sauce them to add interest and variety for us to eat them.

We’re eating Raw Revolution bars and prefer the lemon flavored one.  One of them can serve as a snack; two would be a meal.  Probably the single largest change for Beloved will be learning what is really a serving.  He has years of his mother serving a large plate, filled with protein and carbs, with a small little plop of vegetables (that he often wouldn’t eat since she cooks everything until it’s beyond dead).  He’s discovering that 3 or 4 large scallops are actually a serving and that 1/4 pound of salmon is, when presented properly, almost more than he can eat.  (Meat portions should be 3 or 4 ounces or the size of a deck of playing cards).  So we are going to try to live with a more Japanese approach to food: small plates, measured portions, more fish then meat.  (Side note: yes, the fish costs more, but you are buying less.  6 – 8 ounces of good quality fish, depending on what kind and we like tuna and salmon, runs between $7 and $20 per pound.  So even at $10 for 6 – 8 ounces of the most expensive, it’s actually only $5 per person and that makes it incredibly cheaper than buying that same fish if someone else cooks it for you. And it’s healthier.)

We are also using the European shopping method–although we’re not going quite daily on what we need for that day’s meals, but we will be shopping for less items more often, to ensure that we’re getting fresh fresh fresh!  This serves a dual purpose–aside from getting food, we will have impetus to shower and dress and go out more often.  It’s very easy to just sit around in your robe day after day without realizing that’s what is happening.  So having to go out to forage will be a valuable part of our stated desire to walk more.

I did say that we would talk about green cleaning products.  The documentary to watch for this is called “Chemerical” and it convinced us that getting rid of commercial cleaning products would benefit us, especially me with my fibro.  It’s an accepted fact that housewives have a 54% higher rate of cancer than other groups–because of all the contact they have with those household cleaners.  I was a stay at home mom for 13 years, so I’ve had my share of exposure.  Beloved believes that if we can reduce the chemicals, both in our food and in our environment, we can reduce the inflammations of my disease, perhaps even to the point where I might not require medication and wouldn’t that be amazing?

I will leave it to you to do the Internet research for more information about green cleaning products, but I will tell you what supplies you need, to make your own and you’re going to be shocked when you see how simple it is:

Tap water
White and Cider Vinegars
Arm & Hammer Baking Soda
Arm & Hammer Washing Soda
20 Mule Team Borax (by Dial Corporation)
Glycerine
Isopropyl Alcohol (Disinfectant/Sterilization)
Hydrogen Peroxide (Mold and mildew killer)
Castile Soap (Dr. Bronner’s)
Liquid Castile Soap (Dr. Bronner’s)
Tea Tree essential oil (Disinfectant; kills virus, germs and fungus)
*Optional: Lavender, lemon and/or peppermint essential oils

From those things you can make each product you need to clean everything in your house, including you and your clothes.  I have already begun with a 50/50 solution of water and white vinegar as a spray kitchen cleaner.  It does not leave a vinegar smell, which I thought it would, and everything I wipe is amazingly clean and smooth.  I am using liquid castile soap to do the dishes and they are really “squeaky” clean, with no detergent haze.  I am using the borax/washing soda/salt mixture for the dishwasher and putting white vinegar into the rinse aid receptacle.  It’s doing a bang up job.  I can hardly wait to make the laundry soap.

I know I sound like a hippy convert, but…we did just fine back in the day with the natural ways of growing our food and cleaning our house.  There’s too much money in industrial food, industrial cleaners and the healthcare BUSINESS for the corporations to be concerned with minor things like nutrition, sustainability and keeping us healthy.  Far more money can be made if we stay sick than if they cure what ails us.  Fibromyalgia is a relatively new disease, and there are other diseases that we never heard of before the Industrial Age…why is our country, with its ability to grow food, the pollution laws that limit what companies can put into the environment, why is our country filled with sick people?  Have you LOOKED at the size of the medication aisles in any store?  Lots of things to treat your cold or your allergies, but no cures.  Why not?  All this time scientists have had…where is the cure for the common cold, for AIDS, for diabetes…oh, that’s right.  Not enough money is curing, much more to be made in treating.  Have a pill.

So we’re making our choices, one step at a time.  I feel better when I’ve had my niacin then when I haven’t.  I like the idea of cleaning the house with products that won’t send me into asthma attacks (like chlorine does).  We’ll try all the things he’s learned about and we’ll keep the ones that work for us.  And do you have any idea how completely pissed I will be if I could come off of my meds while I am in my own home because my nutrition is correct and I’m not breathing in volatile compounds from cleansers?  If it’s the industrial world around me that’s making me sick?  If it’s the industrial world that’s making all of us sick–and we don’t have to be except that someone, somewhere is getting rich off of it?

Sorry, don’t mean to rant but it’s dreadful to think that somehow there is this conspiracy to keep us fat dumb and happy–and ill.  I can only do what I can for myself and share this blog with you so that you can, perhaps, choose for yourself a better way–not even necessarily MY way, but to know that there are options and choices for how to treat your fibro, things you can do that may make you feel better and isn’t that worth it?  This does require a commitment to being even more hyper aware of what’s going into us, adding being aware of what’s going on around us and generally choosing to live a life that is healthy, sustainable and makes us happy.

Namaste, and I hope you find what makes you happy!

 

 

Reunited and It Feels So Good

I won’t ask you to read through our joyous reunion and the huggy kissy lovey stuff.  Let’s just say that it happened and leave it at that.

So we’ve been settling back into our routine.  Beloved continues to adjust to the new meds and is doing very well although because they are new and he’s not used to them, it will take some time to learn what is “normal” for this medication and his body.  Now we can turn our attention to more pressing matters, like where’s the money going to come from.  No paychecks since February is starting to be…boring.  I hope to get more money from my short term disability claim–they paid out a week but then wanted “more” documentation to continue benefits.  The insurance company and my doctor’s office played phone tag for about 2 months and FINALLY got it together last Friday.  I look forward to hearing from the insurance company tomorrow or Wednesday with the happy news that a check for the past 7 weeks is in the mail.  In the meantime, I am still trying to do things and differentiating between Pain, Aches and Soreness as subtopics for the every-present question of what hurts.  Now it’s more of “how” does it hurt in order to determine my general well-being each day.  Oh for a husband with an engineer’s mind and way of looking at things; he quantifies everything and needs to have me do that so he knows how today relates to yesterday.  Is it better or worse, or is it about the same?  So I am learning how to make those fine distinctions so that I can accurately rate my health.

So.  I have Pain.  I always have Pain.  I don’t think I’ve ever had a day where there was not some pain, some where.  And one does get used to it.  However, I also have some soreness–muscle aches where I am using them for the first time in a long time.  Like taking up running or learning how to play golf, there are muscles that ache from use, not from undefined reasons as most of my Pain does.  Other than fibro, I mean.  My legs are sore because I drove 7 hours on Wednesday after not driving at all for almost 3 months.  I am very thankful for cruise control or they would be even more sore.

I cooked today.  I also got the dishwasher loaded and run.  Major accomplishments, sigh.  I made Lebanese style rice–uncooked basmati rice mixed with a cooked combination of fried onions,garlic, pieces of vermicelli (NOT cooked but fried in the same olive oil as the onions), black pepper, mint, and cinnamon, which was then all cooked together in the rice cooker.  Mild flavor but a nice change from “plain ole rice”.  Also made homemade mac’n’cheese — with some minor adjustments.  Not macaroni but orzo and farfalle (rice shaped and bow shaped pasta); cheese part was a creamy sauce of pasteurized but NOT homogenized local (pastured cows) milk and muenster cheese, fried onions,  roasted garlic and oregano, black pepper and just a dash of nutmeg.  I suspect that my right arm will be sore tomorrow because I had to carry and lift pans as I drained the pasta, put it into a large mixing bowl and then added the sauce and stirred it all together.  Can we say NOM!?

I had movie passes so beloved and I went to see Avengers on Saturday–good movie and without giving anything away (I hope) I will tell you that hubby’s favorite line from the movie is “Hulk?….Smash!”.  If you go to see it, STAY TO THE BITTER END OF THE CREDITS.  There are TWO “easter egg” clips.  Well done and the other movies leading up to it made it interesting to see how a god, a millionaire tycoon playboy, a somewhat idealistic man from the past and the others interacted–and the movie dealt with that very well.  I especially enjoyed how Captain America had to deal with his being “out of time” and not recognizing the current pop culture icons, etc…not knowing about computers…instead of them glossing over the time and giving him an equal standing with the others.  In fact, at one point, he says “I know that one! I recognize that!”, which was very cool.

So we’re just doing our usual thing, which is not much.  I want to start blogging about industrial versus organic/farm fresh foods and will probably add another section to this to do it.  We’ve changed our diets to get rid of things like high fructose corn syrup and aspartame and I would like to share what we’ve learned and give links to whatever I can find that will help you all choose a better way of eating.  So keep an eye out for that.  Dunno how fast I’ll get to it, just doing a teaser here.  I must do laundry or go naked and frankly, that’s not an option.  Not if I want to leave the house.  So laundry it is.  Need to wash towels as well.  Unload the dishwasher and put in the bits from eating today.  Think about what I can cook for dinner tomorrow.  Nothing earth-shattering, but it’s pleasing to me to have these small domestic things to do and that I CAN do.

I just keep living one day at a time, one moment at a time, moving from this moment to the next “this” as it comes in turn.  Will report back to you again in a week or so, barring major developments or something enraging me enough that I have to blog about it.  They’re calling for thunderstorms tomorrow, so that may be interesting…sit out on the porch and watch the show if the wind isn’t blowing the rain too much.

Namaste!

 

The Chef, the Bistro and Amazing Food

This is the story of how I fell in love with Black Bear Bistro.  (www.blackbearbistro.com)

Black Bear is located in Old Town Warrenton, right on Main Street, across from Iron Bridge and next door to Molly’s Pub, down near the courthouse.  The first time I went there was after I had met my beloved and he took me.  We had Lobster Mac’n’Cheese, French toast made from Great Harvest bread (Great Harvest is just down the road from Black Bear), and other things I can’t remember now, only that they were awesome.

Living in Manassas meant that we didn’t go out there very often.  One time when we went, Paul asked Todd (Eisenhauer, the chef) what bribe it would take to get his curry recipe.  Todd just grinned and said, “Let me get a pencil and some paper” and proceeded to give it to us.  He actually SHARES his recipes!  Most chefs do not, and in fact would be horrified if you asked for it.  And just so you know, it’s amazing curry.  He actually does several different kinds–and this was his yellow curry, served on a bed of rice with a choice of meat.  And what meat!  Paul got it with beef–pieces of beautifully grilled flesh, laid on top.  I took a bite of this meat that hadn’t gotten any sauce on it yet and couldn’t believe the taste.  When Paul tasted it, he said, “It’s fruity” and that’s when Todd (who was walking past) told us that it was grass-fed beef.

I blame him for the fact that the only kind of beef we buy now is grass fed.  It’s sweet, it’s tasty–and even though it costs more, it is worth every penny.  For one thing, you don’t have to eat as much.  And for another, it’s healthier for you, since there’s no corn in it.  It’s always better to eat something that has fed on its natural foods instead of being given something that will kill it.  (And if you don’t know what I’m talking about, watch the documentary, “King Corn”.  It will make you sick and make you switch to organic, grass-fed, pasture-fed…in other words, back to what your meat was eating before he corn industry came along.

Paul and I had no problem agreeing on going out to Black Bear after our wedding, for the celebratory feast.  When we wanted to order champagne–and explained to Chef Todd why, he told us that the splits he had weren’t that good, so he’d open a bottle of the good stuff and sell it to us by the glass.  He brought the bottle to the table and sabered it open–cut the top off the bottle with a knife (well, okay, so it wasn’t actually a sabre) which was impressive.  And by the time dinner was done, he told us that he was paying for the bottle.  Not only a good chef, but a very nice man.

I called my daughter during our wedding dinner to tell her that we had gotten married (the ceremony was Paul, the minister and me.  VERY small wedding).  While I was talking to her, I happened to look up and see Todd walking by.  I said to my daughter, “The chef has just gone by in a Pittsburgh Steelers jersey….with the number 75 on it.  Do you know whose that was?”  Well, she’s a little young to know about Mean Joe Green, so I told her.  And then I told her, “And the jersey is SIGNED.  And the chef is wearing it like a regular shirt!”  She asked me to knock him down (gently) and take it–since she’s a Steeler’s fan.

When we moved out to Bealeton, Black Bear was on our way home from work in Manassas.  Oh, the torture…having to stop in Warrenton for dinner.  We started going  regularly enough that most of the staff knew us by name—and we knew theirs as well.  The menu changes each quarter, for as Chef Todd so eloquently says, “It’s local.  If it’s not local, it’s from Virginia.  If it’s not from Virginia, it’s from the East Coast.  If it’s not from the East Coast, it’s from the US.  If it’s not from the US, it’s not in my kitchen.”  He also has a very, very vegan/vegetarian friendly menu, so even though I gush about the organic grass fed beef, he does have more than one choice for those who eschew their meat instead of chew it.

We enjoy taking our friends and family to Black Bear.  Each time, we are rewarded with yet another meal that proves our enthusiasm and verifies our opinion.  The ribs…oh dear gods, the ribs….either on a sandwich or as a (half) rack for dinner.  Let’s put it this way, they run out of ribs on a regular basis.  Get there early if you want ribs.  Chef Todd apparently has one of the fire gods on his side, because the ribs defy human explanation.  Smoky, sweet, still juicy, like the ribs you’ve dreamt about…but in real life.  Not too heavily sauced, perfectly fall off the bone done…something to be experienced because the words do not manage to describe them adequately.

Of course that’s true about pretty much all of the menu at Black Bear.  Smoked crab and cheese dip…lobster mac’n’cheese (which the chef took off the menu for a while because he was “so tired of making it all the time”—popular just a little?).  Probably the only thing on the menu that neither Paul nor I like is the Andrew’s Bacon Habenera Sauce.  But neither of us likes habeneras, so you’re on your own for that one.  Chef has a sausage supplier that is fabulous…and because they are handmade, there can be a little difference between them from one visit to the next.  And he’ll give you that supplier’s business card so that you can go buy a boxful of your own.  Even the honey he serves is local (from an apiary just outside of Culpeper, about 35 miles away) and it’s name is Wicked Bottom–and it’s RAW honey.  Almost time to buy some and begin eating a tablespoon of it every day to help with the allergies.  Oh and they also sell the Wicked Bottom lotion bar–it’s a solid lotion, beeswax, shea butter and I don’t know what all else, but Chef swears by it and I am finding out that he’s right.  Anyone who is washing their hands as often as a chef…and still has nice hands, no cracked skin…must be using something good.

Chef does the cooking, but doesn’t do the baking (he can bake, says he…he just doesn’t want to).  So the desserts are made locally, also organic and farm fresh.  Amazing desserts…flourless chocolate cake; white chocolate cinnamon mousse; pies of all sorts.  One time, Paul got the sweet potato pie for his dessert.  Now Paul is a Super Taster.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supertaster) So when he describes food, he uses some of the same terms you might when tasting wines.  And this sweet potato pie, while earthy and sweet and the crust was nice…was hitting all of his taste buds except for one part of his palate.  We had a lively discussion with our waitress about what could be added to the pie to hit that spot.

Oddly enough, his parents were taking us out to lunch the following day…at Black Bear.  So I got up that next morning and went shopping.  Buying local or organic, I got the ingredients for the results of the discussion we had had the night before.  I made a ginger-lemon caramel sauce, adding finely chopped organic Granny Smith Apples and pecans just after the caramel formed so that the apples would not be soft.  Paul tasted it and agreed that it was just right but for one thing: black pepper.  Yep, it needed just a dash of pepper.  I added it and he declared it “just right”!

When we got to Black Bear, I asked our waiter if the the Chef was in–and when I found out that he was, asked to have him come see me with a piece of the sweet potato pie in hand.  Chef Todd found us at our just desserts…and so he tasted the pie naked, and agreed that it needed “something”.  I put some of my apple chutney (can’t think of a better descriptive name) on it…and the chef ate it.  Then went back for seconds.  Success!  I held out the container with the rest of the chutney and he (accurate word here) GRABBED it from me…and ran off to the kitchen, clutching it and saying as he left that anyone who ordered the pie that night would get this on it.  (And a few weeks later, we were in and mentioned it to our server who told us that the staff in the kitchen were wondering where that came from and that it did, indeed, go out on the pie!  I am very proud that I made something that he considered good enough to serve to his customers).

And one last story: we finally got to take Liz, my daughter to Black Bear just last week.  We stuffed her full of good, good food (and a grapefruit mimosa!  Better than orange mimosas, from fresh squeezed and organic grapefruit…omgnommy!)…and when Chef Todd came by, we introduced her to him–and told him that she had said I should take his Steelers jersey.  He laughed and said that yeah, he wore it.  What was he supposed to do, hang it on the wall?