Eating out

During the lockdown sessions in radiation, one of the (many) things I told myself as I waited to get through each session was that when I healed enough, I would return to some of my favorite places to eat, and continue my quest of trying a new place each week.

One of those favorites was Yoshi’s, a sushi restaurant. A dear friend of mine took me out to dinner a couple weeks ago for my first dinner out in public in a year, and my first choice was Yoshi’s. Alas, they have closed, so we went to a backup sushi place instead, which was good enough, but not quite the same.

However, the public dining experience was not altogether bad. This past week, since I have been without a proper refrigerator while awaiting delivery of my nice, shiny, new one, I’ve eaten out several times at Biscotti’s, a bistro-type place near where I used to live. Tonight, once again, I ate there and finally had the tuna tataki I had promised myself during those long months of treatment and recovery. I’m happy to say I finished all of it, plus a cup of soup, and a few tiny bites of a small mocha chocolate-mousse torte with chocolate ganache. I’ve found that really sweet items like the torte kill the fillings on the right lower side of my mouth. I’m not sure why this is, and why non-sweet things do not (although I do experience some pain if I’ve been eating quite a bit and chew on that side), but I’m betting there is some valid physiological reason for it. I suppose I’ll have to ask my dentist about that during the next trip when they see if I can open my mouth widely enough for a real cleaning.

In any case, we (the royal we) are making progress, I think. I am not the patient sort with myself, though, and progress is not fast enough, in my opinion. Since it can’t be changed, though, I suppose I’ll have to keep hammering away at it.

The new fridge arrived this morning. It’s very pretty, and now needs to be filled. That’s my plan for Friday, along with making brownies and a test run at that chocolate-hazelnut tart. Any taste testers available?

De-tubing

In our last episode of visiting the medical staffs at various doctors’ office, yours truly promised to keep using the tube and pour a couple cups a day down it until the scales stabilized. I have to confess that’s one promise I’ve not kept. I’m not entirely sure why this is the case except for the fact I can’t stand using it, the formula makes me queasy (or worse), and now that I’m eating more real food, it smells worse than it used to when it was only formula going down. Smell, you ask? Why yes. Because the tube basically goes into a hole in your gut that’s continually trying to heal itself, you not only get gunk around the tube itself – this is why it always has to be dressed and can’t just lay against the skin – you also get a small but continuous amount of gas escaping from around it. Now, this is not noticeable, really, to anyone but the person carting the tube around with them all day long. Namely, me. And I’m getting pretty sick of all of that plus having to constantly readjust it around my neck to avoid having it get tangled up with itself. It’s painful, even after all this time, and it’s a little odd to be talking to someone and trying to adjust the tube at the same time. They always wonder just what it is you’re doing with yourself there – not quite the faux pas of a baseball player adjusting himself on national television, but annoying and sometimes embarrassing anyway.

So I’m considering going forward with scheduling a date to have it removed. Unfortunately, that date will have to be after the big bash on Memorial Day weekend, and I know I will be out of commission for the day after it’s removed and possibly for part of the next day since the procedure is almost the same as when they put it in. Nothing like being pumped up with air like a ballon and then having to let the air dissipate naturally. It hurts and I hate it, but there’s no way around it in order to get the tube removed.

I know this is going to be a bone of contention with those around me, and it was a lifesaver during and after treatment, but at this point I simply think it’s time for the tube to go.

Missed opportunity/duty calls

So I missed a chance to cook for some people I’ve never cooked for prior to this point. Something intervened, naturally, and the window of opportunity closed. I’d like to be able to convince people to screw up at more convenient moments for me, but I expect this is a futile endeavor. I think it would have been quite a good meal, even if what popped into my head when someone was casting about for suggestions didn’t actually make it on the final menu. However, it did give me an idea for a menu to make at some point for my steady tasters or whatever group happens to be around at the moment:

Pan seared pork chops on sweet potato pancakes with pan gravy; black bean-mango salsa; roasted asparagus with lemon zest (or haricots verts if asparagus isn’t available); jalapeno cornbread.

I’ve added that to my collection of Things to Cook One Day. I’m hoping One Day will arrive at some point soon and there will actually be people with regular schedules and ready appetites to eat whatever it is that strikes my fancy at a given moment. Otherwise I’ll have to start chasing after strangers on the street, begging them to try the food while assuring them that I’m not crazy or trying to poison them.

Feed me, Seymour!

Party time is creeping up on us. If everyone we’ve invited comes, we’ll have 30-40 people here. What, then, of the menu?

Here’s a rough outline of what I’m planning.

Ribs, rubbed and smoked, with homemade bbq sauce on the side (smoking on Saturday)
Chicken, burgers and dogs for those who don’t like seafood (not many of those people)
Guacamole & chips – a huge batch, which will look similar to the picture I posted down a bit
Homemade salsa
Baked beans (made by someone else)
Potato salad (made by someone else)
Homemade hummus and pita
Coleslaw
Fresh fruit
Homemade pickles (and possibly a try at Wickles as well)
Grilled veggies
Shrimp – boiled and grilled, with homemade cocktail and remoulade sauces available
Blue crab, steamed with Old Bay, assuming we can procure these on a Sunday
Grouper – fried and grilled, with chile-lime butter and a roasted garlic/herb sauce available (both of which would also go well with the shrimp)
Hushpuppies
Salad
Fresh bread, depending on me
Cookies – chocolate chip, white chocolate macadamia, madelines (maybe)
Apple tart? Chocolate hazelnut tart? (maybe) – Any voters who would like to cast their ballot for one or the other or both?

Some of these things can be made ahead of the party, of course: pickles (way before), sauces, salsa, coleslaw, desserts, bread, salad, guacamole. The ribs will be done on Saturday before the party Sunday. That will leave Sunday with prep only for the actual grilling and frying. I think it will all come together nicely.

Before the party, though, the painting of the foyer/living room and kitchen must be completed, and we must continue to put the house in order.

I am looking forward to being able to try my ribs for the first time since I started making them for other people. I won’t be able to eat much of them, but a taste will do. The fish will be easier to handle, and I do love some grouper. It should be a great day to be gathered around with everyone. And of course, if you’re reading this, we know you (every if we only have just met you!), and you’re in the area, come on along a week and a half from now. Bring your swimsuit and a towel or two. Eat and make merry with us.

Full of spirit’s melancholy And eternity’s despair

Since there is no way my hand would hold up writing this out on paper, and my writing would never keep up with my brain the way my typing does, once again, the electronic version wins. Skip if you’e not interested in things non-food related.

I remember during treatment that the medical folks (and the counselor types) said that there would be low points – sometimes, there would even be incredibly low points where doubt and other things would take up space in my head. They weren’t referring to the treatment itself, but the mental fatigue that sets in as a byproduct of trying to survive the intentional damage being done to your body in order to remove the traces of the invited guests that have taken up residence. These low points, they said, could come during treatment itself, or even on the upside of healing once treatment is over.

I recall only a couple of points during treatment that I would deem low, since I, like many others going through it, was in such a fog from a couple weeks onward that so much energy was taken up just getting through the day that pondering too closely on anything was out of the question. One moment I do not remember well. The other I do: breaking down completely and apologizing to my mother and one of my sisters because they had to take care of me so much. It’s always been my job to take care of other people, you see.

Continue reading Full of spirit’s melancholy And eternity’s despair

Lockout

When I was a kid, I walked everywhere. When we lived with my Grandmother, my uncle – only a handful of years older than me – and I would walk to the movies, to the park, and anywhere else. When I got a bit older and into junior high, I finally got a bike of my own. From then on, I rode everywhere: to the park, to the community pool, just around the neighborhood, along the well-worn paths in the woods, and anywhere else there was enough space for me to squeeze through.

These memories came back to me the other day when I locked myself out of the new house. I have never, in all my years, done this. Of course, it’s rare that I have a door with a lock on both the handle and a deadbolt. Generally speaking, the places I’ve lived are deadbolt-only types. So it was without thinking that I stepped out the front door to pull my baby herb plants under cover in preparation for the severe storm that never arose and let the door shut behind. I must have missed the one way exit sign on my way out. I’d also locked the back sliding glass door to the patio. So, with no phone, no keys, and no id, and with an eye to the blackening sky, I plopped myself down in a chair.

Where I promptly fell asleep for about 20 minutes or so. It was a combination of many things: fatigue, the soft gurgle of the pool as the pump ran, the pines trees swaying in the increasing wind, that same wind gently nudging the chimes outside, and then whistling through the screens on the open windows as it gusted, the distant rumble of thunder promising something it would never deliver…

I awoke to the sound of a few raindrops hitting the top of the patio roof, and thought the storm had finally arrived, but as I roused myself, I realized the sun had broken through and the seven raindrops were all the rain that would be coming. So I hauled myself up and out to find a phone to call someone with a key to get over and let me in.

Overall, I was outside for almost two hours in enforced idleness, almost half an hour of which was spent napping. I can think of worse ways to spend a late spring day.

The walls are dripping

Sounds like something out of a horror movie, doesn’t it?

I’ve been painting off and on for the past two days, in between working, errands, replacing light bulbs, doing some minor repairs, installing a cat door, and so on. But let me say that the walls are not dripping. They are, however, showing the signs of a paint in progress. Sunday I went out and picked up wallplates based on the choice made from the samples I had: solid brass, but with a brushed silver-like finish. They look great against the green tea paint in the foyer/living room, and just as great against the butter cookie/cocoa colors that will be in the kitchen when I get there.

Sunday night was also a night for the first cooking in the new digs. Simple fare, since unpacking is still in progress and the place is in a bit of disarray. Hamburgers, grilled out by the pool. I tossed some bacon in a disposable tin and grilled that as well. Other items on the menu: fresh fruit, sliced tomatoes, corn on the cob, homemade bread and butter pickles, and guacamole. I have pictures of this food, but unfortunately cannot put my hands on the data cable for my camera at the moment, so the upload will have to wait since the memory card from this camera does not fit in the memory card slot on the laptop. use your imagination for now.

I will say that I tried everything, including tasting one of my pickles for just the second time since I’ve made them. Part of a hambuger, several slices of tomato, a few nibbles of cheese (felt a bit like a mouse on this part, I must say), a touch of the guac (the first I’ve had since I started making it again lately), and what I consider to be my crowning achievement of the night: half an ear of corn, on the cob. I know I’ll be paying for this later, giving my jaws a workout like that, but it was worth it. It’s early bicolor corn, but it was just as sweet as it is during the summer months. No butter, no salt – just as is. Wonderful.

As I told a dear friend of mine, who unfortunately had other plans for dinner – unfortunate for me, that is, as the dining company she kept is quite worthy – there’s nothing quite like grilling out by the pool, sun just setting, a few clouds skittering across the sky, Venus rising, a bit of breeze touching your face now and again…

Follow all that by a good bowl of ice cream about an hour later, and a fine evening of dining. I wish I could say that about the rest of my day’s eating, but there was little of it. I’m trying to be better about that, but I get so busy doing things that by the time I realize the time and think I should eat, it’s getting rather late in the day. perhaps as things calm down from the move and I begin to cook more regularly again, this will get better.

Full moon howling

Part one of moving day draws to a close. I know intellectually that all days are the same length, but some days seem to be interminably long. Any day that involves moving all of your stuff from one place to another qualifies, I think.

Still, it’s nice to be in the new place, even if it looks like someone has just moved in. I took some time out from unpacking to skim the pool. The water is holding steady at about 80 degrees and looks very inviting. Of course, yours truly, with feeding tube still in place, cannot go for a swim. Just another reason to get it removed as soon as my calorie intake is high enough that I stop dropping weight. Official weigh-in weight at the oncologist’s office: 114.4. No one is happy with that.

Speaking of things oncology-related, this moving week brought with it two oncology appointments, one with each of the radiation and chemo offices. They poke, they prod, they want another PET scan, so we’ll be doing that again in the next week or two. Hopefully this granular tissue won’t light up the scan, but since I am still(!) healing, no doubt it won’t be zero and we’ll have to do this again three months from now.

Which is not to say I mind too terribly. After all, I can handle the IV, as I’ve no particular qualms about needles, and the opportunity to sit there in the dark while the glucose makes its way in gives me a perfect time for a little snooze.

But for now, it’s trying to get things in order. Trying to figure out where someone has unpacked something I need. Trying to remember not to push things up too closely against the walls because I need to paint over the next few days. And trying to remember that the post-move gets better with a little time. Just like me.

All boxed up and nowhere to go…yet

Looking around the house, you’d think someone was moving.

Oh, that’s right – someone is moving.

Tonight (or, rather, this morning, as I type this) marks the last night/morning in the old house. Moving day – also known as the Day From Hell – will kick off at 9 AM with the arrival of the movers at the old house and the pest control people at the new house, also at 9 AM. The cable folks are slated to be at the new place sometime between 2 and 5 PM, which means that come noonish, I’ll be without internet connectivity until we’re set up at the new place. Whatever will I do with myself? No email that I wouldn’t have time to check, no surfing that I wouldn’t have time to do.

I painted some sample colors on the walls at the new place and will be painting this weekend. We had come to a decision on a color called Soothing Aloe – a very light green – but one of my sisters hated it and suggested a darker, sage-y color. We went off and pawed through paint card samples at the local hardware place and found a color called Green Tea, which looks pretty good on the walls. We also found Butter Cookie for the walls of the kitchen and Cup of Cocoa for the lower half of the walls (think chair rail height). With some white trim, it will all look fabulous, I’m sure. I had toyed with the idea of hiring someone to do the painting, based on the first run with the original color, which was latex, but the new color is enamel and goes on much better, so it will be a snap to paint, as no primer will be required. Rather odd that all the colors are based on names of food, isn’t it?

By tomorrow evening, we will be ensconced in the new house, figuring out what goes where and where to start unpacking. The pool water temp is about 80 degrees, the water is clear (although it does need a little vacuum), and a dip in that inviting bath might be just the thing after the day we’re going to have today.

And then? Well, of course then it will be time to decide what the first meal in the new place will be, look ahead to all the things that Iwill be coming out of the kitchen – including trial runs of truffles, and start seriously planning for our Memorial Day bash on the 28th. I’ll be smoking a batch of ribs the day before, but the main focus on that Sunday will be seafood: shrimp, crabs (and crab cakes!), grouper, snapper, and if I can find anyone but me who eats them, crawfish. It’s going to be a great party, and if you’re reading this and happen to be in the area, feel free to pop in. There will be plenty for everyone.

Signing off from the old and looking forward to the new…

Reflections on gardening, cooking, and life