Category Archives: Odds and ends

Signs of the times

Someone left a comment in the Savannah entries about that fuzzy plant: a chenille plant. Thanks very much for the information. I can say with some happiness that it has not been at the forefront of my mind, so I’ve not been dreaming of strangely-colored fuzzy caterpillars while I pondered the genus of that plant.

A piece of of spam in my email – 136 out of 138 new messages in that particular mailbox were spam – had the subject “Better life, well-alphabetized”. That brought a smile to my face and reminded me of the very strange family from The Accidental Tourist, bettering their life by alphabetizing their canned goods.

And a few signs that say perhaps charitable donations of dictionaries are in order:

“Congradulations Class of 2006” – on a church marquee. This stayed there almost the entire month of June.

“We celebrate our dependance on god” – the same church, switching to a strange patriotic-type message for July.

“OPEN DAILEY SALES” – a small place I pass on trips to the NOC. According to the painted sign on the building, it’s an auction house.

Self-imposed exile

I spent my Saturday in a bit of a self-enforced “vacation” day. That is to say, I did virtually nothing work-related all day. Since Saturdays are historically slow support days anyway, this is not a huge blow to the ticket system, and although there are always numerous systems-related things I need to get done, nothing so urgent that it couldn’t wait a day. And since my right hand (wo)man is going on vacation this coming week, better for me to take that break now.

Instead of working, I spent the day out and about. First up: the local farmer’s market.

For those who may be here but who have never visited the market, it’s not really a “market” like they have in some cities, with multititudes of booths and a tremendous assortment of good. This is, after all, Jacksonville. However, there is a good opportunity to get some great produce, and you might just find yourself holding up a strange vegetable and asking yourself just what the heck it is.

I went to the market with my mom, as she wanted some silver queen corn, and a lot of it. She likes to shave and freeze it, for those dead of winter nights when you need a touch of summer in mind. This allowed me to introduce her to some things that she’d never seen before in their unprepared state (and in some cases, had never seen before, period): jicama, chayote, yucca, tomatillos, cactus, dried chiles like guajillos and chiles de arbol, tamarind pods. Of course, there were all the other things we know and love, too: tomatoes, beans, canteloupes, vidalia onions, mangoes, papayas, cherries, and quite a bit more.

One of the best things about going to the market is that you can ask the seller exactly where the produce originated. The corn? Ocala. The watermelon? Jesup, Georgia. The beans? Lake City. I can’t think of anything we saw that actually came from this city other than the shrimp ($6/pound, head on), which was from Mayport. I stuck my head in the guy’s cooler to give it the smell test, and it was like breathing in ocean air: fresh and briny, so we picked up a pound as it was only going to be us for dinner.

The rest of our haul:

Clockwise from the left, we have fresh snap beans (pole beans), over a bushel of silver queen corn, raspberries, sweet potatoes, fingerling potatoes, and sugar plums.

Left to right, we have pickling cucumbers (as my sister ate the last of the bread and butters last night and made a request for more), canteloupe, raw orange blossom honey, regular cucumber, fresh vine tomatoes, mango, and blueberry honey (from NJ).

And some cherries.

Missing photos: the shrimp and the watermelon. All of it is fresh, all of it smells wonderful, and it’s dirt cheap – the most expensive thing we purchased today was the corn: $12 for that huge bag. The honeys were $5/each, and the rest? So inexpensive as to be laughable. The only thing we missed were the peaches. We arrived at around 10:30, but because the market opens at 6 AM, the peaches were long gone by the time we arrived. Next time, an earlier visit is in order, to ensure we’re able to get some of those. I was tempted to buy a 30 pound bag of vidalias, and bunches of chiles, but decided that I should figure out a place to store them first, then bring them home. For the purposes of our Challenge, the market will work out well. Since we’re heading into high summer, it’s a great bounty to be had, and if you’ve not checked out your local market, you should.

Next up? A trip to St. Augustine.

Continue reading Self-imposed exile

Claves a la victoria

That means “keys to victory” for those of you who don’t habla. It could also mean that you’re watching too much Copa Mundial.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been waking up off and on (more on than off lately) in the early morning hours with a horrible burning sensation around my sternum. With or without puking, it typically goes away within a couple of hours.

Not so yesterday, where it last well into the night. About noon yesterday, if I’d not known any better, I’d have thought I was suffering a heart attack because the pain just would not go away. But I wasn’t, and it did, eventually. However, it also resulted in a grand caloric intake of one cup of formula. Today, faring slightly better with no food to speak of yesterday, I’ve managed three cups. Which is likely more calories than I usually take in by mouth, so that’s good, but which means no solid food today, so that’s bad.

The dietician thinks it is likely reflux, but it’s quite strange: I don’t eat for a few hours before going to bed, and when I do wake up with the pain, it’s always a few hours after that. So we’re talking about six hours, generally, between the last time I eat and when the pain starts. It only happens after I’ve gone to bed (no pain any other time), and it’s still happening even though I’ve added a couple of pillows to raise myself up a bit so as not to lie entirely flat – visions of my recliner-sleeping days, although not such a severe angle.

This brings us around to adding yet another doctor visit next week. I really have to get my cholesterol checked again, since I’ve not been taking the lipitor since last year, and we’ll have to see about this reflux issue. It’s a strange issue, and only really started in the past couple of weeks – coincidentally, when I started eating out again, and usually after a certain combination of foods. We shall see what happens as we move into The Challenge and the eating out takes a back seat to eating in.

Speaking of eating in, I’m pushing around ideas in my head about things to cook. If you have any special requests, feel free to send them along or post in the comments. I’ll see what I can do.

And yes, I am working at taking care of myself. The lectures, they don’t stop…

For Saturday: a trip to the farmer’s market and a journey to Le Creuset, as I could really use a dutch oven (French oven, I suppose, since it is, after all, Le Creuset). Braising, you know.

A sleep, not so sound

Ever since I can remember, I’ve had trouble sleeping. That’s an all around problem: not only have I had trouble getting to sleep, but also trouble staying asleep. This leads to a rather vicious circle, really, since I will eventually get to sleep, then wake up a couple of hours later, feel like going back to sleep, and then have issues falling back into slumber. It can lead to some rather interesting days if the previous sleeping sesssions have been particularly bad, as it’s a bit akin to sleepwalking through a fog on a path that isn’t very well lit. Most of the time, I can get about four hours or so of actual sleep – even though it may take me six to get there – and that will be fine for me.

I’m not entirely sure just when it all started. I know I’ve never been much of a sleeper, unlike my siblings, who would happily sleep their way through a dozen hours. There is no real rhyme or reason to the cause: it isn’t dietary, it isn’t stress, it isn’t any strange phobia. I can say that throughout radiation and chemo, I slept longer and better than I can recall ever sleeping. Not that I would want to have that be my method of getting decent sleep time in, mind you – certainly that would be a bit of an extreme just to gain a few hours of naptime. but it does solidify for me the thought that to get a “normal” sleep, I have to be totally exhausted. Once that exhaustion is assuaged, though, my sleep pattern goes directly back to what it was.

Someone once asked me if I dream at all when I sleep. Sure I do. My sleeping dreams, like my waking imagination, are quite vivid and I do recall most of the details. The same person asked me if I had nightmares on a regular basis. No. It’s quite rare that I’ll experience a nightmare, in fact. So my insomiac-like behavior can’t be blamed on that, either.

Right now, I can feel myself reaching that point of exhaustion that might actually allow me to sleep through the next five or six hours with minimal interruption. My eyes are crossing as I type this, and I have to close one eye in order to finish. Since the work I was doing (moving two gigantic accounts between servers) is completed, this is as good a time as any to test just how tired I am and just how quickly it will take me off into downy sleep.

To write, perchance to not edit

A bit of a metaphysical chat with a friend tonight, touching on the topic of writing.

I always wanted to write. Since I was young, my head has been filled with the byproducts of an overactive imagination. For the past dozen or so years, I’ve been carrying around ideas that would, were they to be formed, make themselves into novels.

So why, one might ask, do I not write? Good question, and one I ask myself over and over as I berate myself for not doing just that.

My internal editor will not shut its yap. I hear that little voice saying the same things over and over: that writing stinks. That piece is too private, too personal. That section over there is an idea that’s been rehashed forever, can’t you be original?

And there is the other side of writing, too, the side that wouldn’t be for publication necessarily, but is more an exercise to stretch one’s wings, to let the words flow about whatever topic is uppermost in the mind. A friend of mine tells me that I’ve not posted anything personal in some time, and this is true. Even my insertion of some personal details in the midst of a larger post are incidental. That same little voice yammers about how personal stuff should remain just that way, how deeper thoughts on subjects make me sound like a pretentious git, and how someone else has already said it – better – before I ever got to it.

So what’s the solution? Hell if I know. I’m just typing a stream of consciousness thing here, trying not to edit as I go along. It’s incredibly difficult, and for someone like me who is generally in control all the time, frustrating not to be able to control this as well. At times it almost feels like a failure of character not to be able to spit out the things that are stuck in the brain cells under my skull. I feel like I am awash in words that will never be written, in things that will never be said. I can’t decide if that’s a trgedy or a blessing.

Scraps and peelings

He may be an Olympic champion, but that doesn’t mean he’s any less of an ass, at least on television. If anyone saw the immediate post-race interview, where Shani Davis gave one sentence answers to two questions (and one said answer was all of three words: “I feel great.”), they’d probably immediately think, as I did, that it’s just another fine example of a self-absorbed jerk that we’ve seen enough of this Olympics, thank you very much. After reading that his mother cried racism at the US speedskating team/coaches and that he’s not much of a team player, it’s no wonder to me that the other skaters, and to some extent the coaches, don’t have many good things to say about him. Fortunately, he’s offset by Joey Cheek, who not only didn’t gush about himself after winning (hello, Chad Hedrick, yes we know about your grandmother), but has donated his winnings to Right to Play.

I’m lusting after smokers. Not the human kind, obviously. The grilling kind. I think a nice applewood-smoked pork loin would be delicious, among other things.

The other night, the fam had steaks. Cut from a large sirloin tip, dusted with spices, and then seared off on a cast iron grill pan on the stove. Smelled great, looked perfectly medium rare when they dove in. As I as pouring formula down the tube, I thought a perfect accompaniment would have been some onion confit. I don’t know if they could stand the making of it, though, considering it takes many hours and would fill the place with oniony aromas.