All posts by Annette


As regular readers know, I’ve been avoiding using my feding tube, preferring instead to munch away by mouth and start eating real food again. Tonight, though, defeat: I had to pour some formula down the tube, along with a crushed up pain pill.

When I went to speech therapy this week, the pathologist pointed out that it takes me so long to eat and I use so much energy that the calories I’m eating are pretty much being chewed away. Since my meals are not very large, and thus not many calories to begin with, it’s a battle.

And the battle is not currently going in my favor. Today when I stepped on the trusty scale, it hovered between 110 and 111. This bothered me a little, as I’ve been making a great effort to eat more often and eat more calories. Obviously, though, I have so much going on that it isn’t working the way I’d planned.

So, a cup of formula entered my life again, after about a month of none. Depressing.

Also deepening my mood a bit is this piece of crap server that gave me fits today as I attempted to get the one and final account moved from it. It put me behind in my prep work, as I had to make a couple of trips to the NOC, so no smoking of the ribs today.

What I did get done, today, though:

Updated the application we use for support with no trouble at all, and finally went to bed at 5 AM, getting back up at 9.

Went to Home Depot, got a replacement handle for the sliding glass door, some chairs, charcoal, hickory, some plants, potting soil, and pots. Then not one but two trips to Publix for miscellaneous supplies, including the things my mom and sister needed for items they suddenly wanted to add to the menu.

I got the membranes removed from the ribs and got them rubbed. Three slabs of a spicy rub, three of a milder rub. I also made two batches of brownies with nuts, one without, the barbeque sauce, and made dinner for my sister, mom, and my brother, who is up from Orlando for the weekend.

But what this all boils down to is that Sunday morning is going to be quite active. I’ll need to start smoking fairly early in order to have them ready for the 2 PM Bash – four hours of smoke, at least, and I don’t think all these ribs are going to fit even on my large smoker all at once. I figure I’ll start four of them early, then have the great smoky smell teasing people as they arrive. Also on tap for Sunday is all the other prep that didn’t get done: the guacamole, the salsa, the remoulade, the fruit. I’m debating on the cookies, because I just don’t think I’ll have the time or energy for them. And of course, there’s the actual cooking of the hushpuppies, burgers, dogs, shrimp (boiled and grilled), and grouper (grilled and fried).

Here I sit, debating on whether or not to eat. I’m not terribly hungry – in fact, I’m not hungry at all – and this makes it difficult to get motivated for food. But I know what the people around me would say (Eat!) so I suppose I need to do that and then grab a nap so I can begin the new day slightly refreshed at least.

Calm before the storm

Today after a series of shopping trips for the previously mentioned supplies, I took my sister to dinner at Biscotti’s. She had to work this evening, so I figured I better feed her before she went. Since there was no way I was cooking anything (well, not anything that could qualify as a “dinner”), off we went.

The sweet potato-roasted red pepper soup was, as always, delicious. She had the beer cheese soup and pronounced it quite good. For dinner: parmesan crusted scallops with risotto and a lemon thyme buerre blanc for me, gemelli pasta with a cauliflower veloute for her. The scallops were excellent (so say us both), the pasta only so-so (according to her, but a gentleman sitting next to us said he liked it, so I suppose that qualifies as a mixed review). They also had a hazelnut-boursin crusted tenderloin on the menu, and that looked excellent, but I didn’t think my abilities would have matched my ambition on that. When my sister went to work, I stayed and had a capuccino to ensure that I maintained the proper caffeine level in my body.

Now, it’s time to begin work on some of the things we’ll be enjoying on Sunday. In the wee hours of the morning, I’m doing some maintenance work and replacing an application we’re using, and this damn server is giving me fits about moving the last four accounts, so I can tell this day is going to be another long one. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), the four servers we have inbound did not arrive today, which means Tuesday for the setup of those. Plenty of recovery time from the Bash before then.

Laying in supplies

Usually – at least in some places – when you say you’re laying in supplies, you’re either preparing for winter or for a long siege (if you’re one of those nutbag militant types). In our case, however, it’s for the Big Bash. Food, accompaniments, and the supporting cast are rapidly filling up the fridge, freezer, and pantries. Since the painting I wanted done is done, it was time to turn my attention to laying in the supplies. This is done, of course, around handling some business-related items, including moving the final few accounts from my problem child server.

So, those who will be in attendance and not ask, what’s planned?

Thus far, we have:

20 pounds of shrimp
10 pounds of grouper
27 pounds of ribs (which seems like a lot, but is really six slabs of about 4.5 pounds each)
4-5 pounds of chicken breast
Burgers, dogs

I am still on the hunt for someone who can supply me with live blue crab on Sunday.

Beginning a little later today, I’m making cookies and brownies, mixing up the rub for the ribs, and making the barbeque sauce. Saturday’s plan:

Smoking the ribs
Making the guacamole, no doubt with assorted taste testers giving immediate feedback so it can be served appropriately on Sunday
Making the mango-papaya salsa, again with taste testers poking their noses into it
Making the fruit salad
Making the cocktail and remoulade sauces
Making the coleslaw
I might be able to sneak in a batch or two of bread and butter pickles as well

Then Sunday, it will just be putting it all out and firing up the grills.

Still unclear is just how many people will be here. We had roughly estimated somewhere between 30 and 40. Yesterday and today have both brought mentions of additional people coming along. No matter how many people are here, I think it will be great fun. If you’re in the area and at loose ends, feel free to join us. Email me at for directions.

The sweet smell of success

Or at least paint. Given the size of the rooms in this house and how much circulation there is, there really is no lingering aroma of paint hanging heavy in the house. But while the painter was here, whipping through the remainder of the work, there was a hint of it in the air – the smell of progress. He finished very quickly and very neatly and the main living areas are now complete. It looks great, and the colors are superb.

Dinner tonight: szechuan beef, fried rice, and chicken lo mein. It takes quite a lot of water to get through a meal. I’ve blown through three liters for two small portions of food. I think some ice cream is in order.

Some days really are longer than others

Now, we all know that the days are all the same length, really, give or take a few nanoseconds. So perhaps that should be some days really seem longer than others. Sometimes people ask us what goes on behind the scenes – what is it that they never see about what we do? And specifically, what does one of my days look like?

Let me tell you about some of this atypical day.

My day actually began yesterday morning. At around 2 AM this morning, as I was wrapping up some work, one of the servers started behaving very erratically. After working on it a bit, I decided to just start moving everything off that server to another. Piece of cake, right? Not this time. I had thought I would simply run a backup and then restore it to a new server we brought online. Again, not this time: the server would not stay up long enough for the backup to complete. Think of it this way: you’re on your computer, writing a paper or doing some other work that requires about an hour or so. But your computer keeps crashing on you about every 15 minutes. It’s annoying, and difficult to get anything done. It’s the same with servers. If for some reason they won’t stay up for extended periods of time, it’s difficult to get some things done to make it easier to recover when you move files to another server.

So, since the wee hours of this morning, I’ve been babysitting this server and moving files off it as quickly as I can given its relative instability.

To add to the fun, just after these issues started, I had an incredibly upset stomach, the likes of which I’d not experienced since treatment. At around 3 AM, I wound up puking up what I’d eaten several hours before, which was unpleasant to say the least.

And to top off the fun, at around the same time as all of this, another server just died completely. It wouldn’t return from a reboot, and in fact, stopped booting at all. After puking and cleaning up, I hauled myself out to the NOC to take a look at the thing. Replaced the cards for the primary SCSI drive, replaced the fan, replaced the cables, and nothing. I did, however, manage to bring it up in a fashion so I could retrieve the last good backup that had run from the night before so it could be restored to another server. That restore took about an hour or so to complete, with all the cleanup items, like reconfiguring certain options to match the original server, following after that.

Finally this morning, I managed to grab about an hour or so nap, then got back up and started working again on the original server problem, continuing to move accounts to other locations.

Then, a bright spot: we get a call that the painter we had lined up (who bailed previously, being too busy) would be available after all. That meant I had to get myself showered up and head to Home Depot for some more paint and miscellaneous items in order to be home before the painter arrived. As soon as I stepped into the shower, the delivery guys showed up with the new mattresses. This is actually a good thing. Since I can now once again sleep lying down instead of at a 45 degree angle (because choking was a very real hazard during treatment and well into recovery), this means that for the first time in a long time, I’ll be able to sleep in a bed. As soon as I attach my head and footboards and put the sheets on it, that is.

Off to Home Depot, where one guy is working paint. I join the crowd of about 15 waiting to give mixing instructions. There are other things I need, but naturally, you can’t leave the queue until you place your order. I wait, the clock ticking in my head, since the painter is supposed to arrive wihtin the hour. Paint in hand, a few things grabbed that are needed in a dire way, such as screen for the sliding doors to the patio, and I’m rushing back to the house.

And here we are, running up to about 32 hours in this particular day. The painter has arrived, and is working on getting the last of things finished tonight. I’ve eaten once since 10 AM, and I’m debating what to do about some sustenance here. Can’t leave the house, although the painter looks like he’s making great progress, and who knows, maybe I’ll be able to make it out of here to do just that.

Heart healthy, sort of

I had already decided not to cook today, giving myself over to other issues like work, cleaning, and a doctor’s appointment with one of the ENTs.

Work? Did some, took care of some paperwork, etc. Never ends.

Cleaning? Not so much, because of work.

Doctor? Check. My appointment was at 2:30, I finally saw him around 3:30 or so. He didn’t like the way the tissue looked on the left side of my tongue, so took a couple of samples to be biopsied. He also didn’t like the fact that when he poked and prodded it, I couldn’t really feel it. I’m sure it’s more of the same as with the last biopsy, and he said as much, but better to be sure, I suppose. Both the biopsy samples were done without any numbing or anesthetic agents, which was a little interesting, but it wasn’t terribly painful and the bleeding stopped on its own after about 10 minutes or so with no cauterizing agents required. I have to go back in a week so he can have another look, we can talk about the biopsy, and so on. What a way to end the month.

Then, one of my sisters calls. She wants tilapia. No problem, says I, I’ll pick some up on my way back. And so I do, also picking up some grape tomatoes, some mushrooms and bleu cheese-stuffed olives for my mom, some more fresh mozzarella, and some other odds and ends. While I’m wandering about the store, I message my sister: would she like me to pan sear it and make that chile-lime butter again? She calls me, and says no, she wants it breaded (sort of) and baked, the way she does it. I suggest that she cook it, then, leaving me to work. Then the truth comes out: she didn’t really want to cook it. She wants me to do it, but her way, and fix the remainder of the meal as well. I pass. Instead, it’s a do it yourself sort of meal, with a family style serve yourself from the stove and counter, then sit down at the table: tilapia, lightly breaded but heavily seasoned and baked, corn on the cob, and salad. I had a bit of the fish and some corn. I tried some lettuce, but the taste is…off in some way that I can’t quite describe. I imagine if I were like one of the cats and ate grass or the houseplants, that the taste would be similar. It wasn’t completely unpleasant, but it was both hard to eat and tasted strangely, so no salad for me. I’m currently on my second serving of post-dinner ice cream, because I am just craving something sweet this evening for some reason.

Oh, and did I mention that I weighed myself and I’m at 112? Well, there we are. This is one of those rare times where you drop weight faster than you put it on – but I wouldn’t recommend the cancer diet to anyone, really. I’m sure as things settle down this will even out as well.

Tomorrow, no cooking, period. Since the painter we had lined up has bailed out, the next few days will be a painting frenzy to finish up the high points before the bash. I also have new mattresses arriving – and found out this evening that the movers lost one of the pieces of my bed frame, so that has to be addressed – and a speech therapy appointment in the afternoon. I need to start laying in supplies for the Big Bash. Oh, and work, of course, setting up a couple new servers, ordering several more, running payroll, and on and on. There is always too much to do and never enough time in a day.

With that, I’ve finished off the last of the ice cream, cleaned the kitchen, done some billing, and overall I’m just ready for a nap. Some days feel very productive. Today was not one of those days. Perhaps tomorrow will be better.

Meaty subjects

I was really in the mood for chicken-apple sausage tonight. Alas, I got a late start to head out for the food, took one look at the traffic, and decided that a trip over the bridge to Fresh Market would have to wait for another day. Instead, mild pork sausages in casings from Publix – they do make quite good sausage. I picked up some peppers and a nice, sweet Vidalia onion to go along with it. I’d had a request for burgers, too, so grilling tonight was quite the treat for me.

Some people have issues with grilling. They let whatever they’re grilling become hard, dry shells of their former selves. I don’t have that particular problem. I’m not sure why. When it seems done, off the grill it comes.

What’s sausage without peppers and onions? Green and orange bells, Vidalia onion, sauteed in a touch of olive oil.

Sliced a couple of tomatoes and flattened out several small balls of fresh mozzarella.

When you put everything together, you get something a bit like this. Yes, I did manage to eat that entire ear of corn, on the cob. It took me almost 50 minutes to finish eating tonight, and that was without actually eating the entire sausage link.

I’ve really lucked out with the tomatoes, as they’ve not been hard, tasteless orbs of nothingness.

The sausage, peppers, and onion was quite tasty.

The burgers were good as well, according to those who ate them. I probably will not be cooking for the next couple of days – too much to do, doctors’ appointments, speech therapy, cleaning, working to get this joint in order before the Big Bash. Besides, there are leftovers, like the bit of sausage and sauteed veggies that I downed before typing this out and posting the photos…

Bugs of the sea

I always used to wonder who it was, exactly, that came up with the bright idea that lobsters would be something good to eat. After all, they have claws. They’re not pretty. They can be hard to catch. They can be very heavy and not yield a lot of meat relative to that heaviness.

Still, there’s something sublime about lobster when it’s done right. Broiled, grilled, boiled, sauteed – I can’t think of any way I’ve eaten lobster that has been bad unless it has been cooked to death or drowned in some sauce that hides the natural sweetness of the meat.

And tonight? Another successful meal that had as its focus the big bug of the sea.

Split lobster tails, angel hair pasta, salad – a work in progess.

Some of the split tails that remained after everyone had been served the first round.

The rest of dinner. The orangey stuff in the front is a chili vinaigrette that was quite tasty on the lobster and the pasta. My water. I go through a great deal of water during a meal, to help get the food down.

The beginning of my plate. Alas, I still have to skip the salad, as I just cannot manage lettuce at all. I did, however, eat quite a bit of the pasta and both halves of this particular lobster tail.

Gratuitous sleeping kitty photos from earlier today.

And then, there was dessert, after we sat around outside by the pool for awhile, talking and digesting the main course. This was my first time making a chocolate-hazelnut tart, and the recipe was sort of made up as I went along. Unfortunately, I failed to write down the proportion of the ingredients. That should make it even more interesting to try and recreate this for the bash next Sunday.

Hazelnuts (or filberts, if you prefer) need to be toasted and the skin peeled before you use them. These were roasted in a 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes, then wrapped in a dish towel to steam for a few minutes. Some vigorous rubbing in the towel, and the skins pop right off.

The other ingredients were mixed and the hazelnuts added.

Then the lot was dumped into a deep dish pie crust (didn’t make this – I was trying to neaten up the place a little for our dinner guest so they wouldn’t think us total slobs).

Baked at about 275/280 for an hour and a half. This leads nicely to the dessert course, with a tall glass of milk.

There was one lobster tail left over. I do believe I hear it calling my name, along with one of the leftover cobs of corn…

Tomorrow? Mom has requested hamburgers and more corn on the cob. So those will be grilled, but I’m thinking about sausage. On the grill. Perhaps some chicken-apple sausage. With a side of zucchini, done some way. That would be nice.

Bok bok bok

That’s what a friend of mine says to me from time to time.

But chicken was on the menu tonight, so it popped right into my head as I was pounding out chicken breasts to prepare them for slathering and rolling. The slather? After sprinkling the newly-flattened breasts with salt and pepper, I layered on some spinach and some gruyere, then rolled them up and secured them with toothpicks. Those went into the oven while some long grain rice bubbled on the stovetop. Since my brother and his son were surprise guests this evening, I broke out one of those ubiquitous blue boxes of mac and cheese for the kidlet, since he is not a big rice eater. Add some sliced tomatoes, and presto, a meal is made. It was good enough – the eaters ate it very well – but unfortunately, I could not really taste the chicken very well. The healing continues.

I also came to the realization today that the remainder of the painting will have to be done by someone else. Between the moving, the painting, the cooking, and the work of setting up new servers, switches, and reboot ports, I’m achy and exhausted, so something has to give. Since it certainly won’t be the cooking, and my real work must take precedence, that means paying someone to finish the cutting and trim in the living room/foyer (which is almost completed and which looks great in this color) and to paint the kitchen. I don’t suppose it helps that I stepped on the edge of something while coming down off the ladder this afternoon and managed to fall – but managed not to land the roller on the floor. Small victories.

Something amusing about hazelnuts. I’ve been having a hard time finding them at the local stores, so went to Fresh Market, which certainly should carry them, right? However, the first person I asked, who happened to have a significant southern drawl, had no idea what hazelnuts looked like. I thought for a moment. “Filberts,” I said. “Have any of those?” They certainly did. Now I have hazelnuts for the chocolate-hazelnut tart that will be part of Sunday’s dinner. Let that be a lesson: when in doubt, remember where you are and name things accordingly.

Dinner Sunday: grilled wild Maine lobster with drawn butter and a chili vinaigrette (for those so inclined) atop a small bed of angel hair pasta, salad, corn on the cob, chocolate-hazelnut tart.

Let there be pork

And there was pork, and boy, was it good.

Tonight’s menu.

Pork tenderloin with a maple glaze
Roasted sweet potato wedges
Roasted asparagus with lemon zest

This was my plate.

A plate for someone arriving later.

And dessert, for those who can actually eat bread-y type desserts.

For Saturday, I’m considering spinach and gruyere-stuffed chicken breasts with a lemon buerre blanc. That depends on there being someone around to eat, of course, and I think there will be. Should be good. Those of you in the area…well, you know.