All posts by Annette

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…

The Last Supper

The last real, home-cooked meal in this house, anyway. This week will be the Week From Hell as we slide toward the move date. Although I don’t hate moving with the passion of a thousand fiery suns, I don’t consider it to be a fun process, either. Along with the moving issues, I also have two followup appointments with my oncologists, one of which will no doubt be ready to schedule another PET scan to see how we’re doing.

But back to Sunday night and the last real meal I’m making in this house. On tonight’s menu, a trio of items requested by one of my sisters.

Blackened mahi (grilled during a very light rain that won’t do much to assuage our current drought-like conditions)
Stuffed tomatoes (as she missed the first round of these zucchini, portabello, and gruyere-stuff beauties)
Brown rice (not very exciting, but what she wanted)

I also made a remoulade sauce and a mango-papaya salsa, as that same sister had not yet carved up the mango and papaya I had gotten her for some kind of fruit bowl she was going to put together. Before they completely disintegrated into mush on the counter, I thought it might be time to throw together something using them.

Here’s a closeup of the mahi with some of the salsa.

I seasoned the mahi the way I used to eat blackened mahi. I neglected to keep in mind that not everyone likes food as spicy as I do, so my sister and her boyfriend got a bit choked up over their first bites. With a couple squeezes of lemon, some judicious scraping off of the seasoning, and some remoulade, they both enjoyed it (and he took the leftovers home).

And then, the tomatoes. I mentioned that my sister had missed them last time (she was ill). This time, however, she ate hers and then took half of mine, when I could not finish it. It’s quite a tasty dish, and I can see this one becoming a most-requested item.

As everything is being packed this week, this was the last full meal I’ll prepare. I’m considering doing a couple of slow cooker recipes, since there would be minimal prep and no requirement of my full attention. Slap it on a disposable plate, and there you have it: dinner. I must say, though, that I can’t wait to get into the new house, especially because it means I’ll have my own cooking utensils back at my disposal. I still need to buy a refrigerator for move-in, though.

Sunday night also marks almost two weeks since I’ve fed anything down the tube but water, to flush it out and clean it. The problem with this, of course, is that I’m generally unable to eat very much at a single sitting and thus unable to consume as many calories over the course of a day as I am by dumping a few cups of formula down the hatch during the day. As a result, I lose weight fairly rapidly. Stepping on the scale at the grocery, I found myself shaking my head in disbelief: 115 pounds, down from 118 just a couple of weeks ago when they weighed me at my surgeon’s office. No doubt Monday will bring with it a lecture from one of the medical oncology nurses when they weigh me in there as part of my followup, and another lecture on Tuesday from the radiation oncology nurses when I have my followup appointment there. But I did have my daily dose of ice cream!

M:I III – Mission: Mundane

Have you ever seen those behind the scenes, or “making of” shows, where they detail the making of a movie? In particular, if you have ever seen a montage of a director calling out “Action!” “Action!” “And…action!”, then you’ll be in familiar territory if you go to a screening of M:I III.

As with all reviews, this contains spoilers. If you have already seen the movie, or just don’t care, read on.

Continue reading M:I III – Mission: Mundane

Let them eat…cookies

Something I neglected to mention about the other night’s cooking expedition: cookies.

My mom likes white chocolate macadamia nut cookies. My sister wanted some chewy chocolate chip cookies. I decided to do both.

Everything seemed to go so well. Creamed together the butter and the sugars for each. Sifted together the dry ingredients, and slowly incorporated those into the wet after adding the egg and vanilla to each batter. Chilled the dough.

And yet, something went awry.

In both cases, the cookies spread much more than they should have. Instead of being slightly puffy, nice and chewy, they became flat disks that were crispy instead. Tasty. But crispy. Not what I was after.

I’m not entirely sure why this happened, unless the creaming incorporated too much air into the dough, or the silpat caused the spread. The next batch of cookies is going into the oven on parchment paper, to see if that has any effect on the amoeba-like spread of the dough as it bakes.

Stuffed

Not me. Not yet, anyway. I’m not to the point where I can eaat enough real food at a sitting to reach that point.

Still, coming up with things people can eat – and then creating those things – is great fun and enormously gratifying. It may not be the prettiest food that I’ve ever seen, but it tastes good, and in the end that is all that matters.

Menu from Thursday night:

Chicken with lemon-basil sauce
Potatoes and onions au gratin
Zucchini, portabello, and gruyere stuffed tomatoes

My plate.

From an eating standpoint, the chicken proved much more difficult than the fish from a couple of nights previous. Of course, chicken (beef, pork) is a lot tougher than fish, too. The potatoes were almost impossible for me to eat, as they suck all the available moisture out of my mouth, so I didn’t get very far with those, although they were tasty. By far the highlight (for me) was the stuffed tomato.

A cross section of a stuffed tomato.

This was soft enough and the individual vegetables carry enough of their own moisture that it was much simpler to eat.

The other diners, having none of the eating issues I do, declared the meal a hit, and cleared off their plates.

I’m planning one more meal here, for Sunday, as next week is moving week and it will be rather frenetic around here. Saturday morning is a trip to an annual event called World of Nations. This is an event where about two dozen countries are represented, and visitors to the event can examine crafts and such from the countries, but mostly people go to sample the food. I know I do. I intend to do the same this year, even if my samples are very small. There will be pictures, of course.

A return to eating. Sort of.

For the past week, I’ve been trying to avoid eating through the tube. For the most part, this has been pretty successful: I’ve not had any formula for several days now. instead, I’ve been eating ice cream, soup, and runny mealy foods like grits and cream of wheat.

Last night, highly frustrated with the tube and the associated nastiness that goes with it – such as pieces of skin that pop out from around the incision as it continually tries to heal itself, which cannot be removed until they dry up and separate on their own, for instance – I decided that I really, really wanted it out. As soon as possible. The only way this is going to happen is if I can take in enough calories that I don’t lose much further weight and send myself precipitously toward malnutrition. As faithful readers will know, the tube has been my companion since September of last year, and was the only route of eating for me until just last month.

The problem, of course, is the food. My jaws are not strong enough to eat a number of foods, and the muscles get quite tired very quickly. And then there is the entire issue of my mouth drying out too quickly and not being able to control the food so as not to have it adhere to the top of my mouth or get caught up between gum and cheek. My hunt lately is for things that are soft enough for me to make my way through, moist enough that I don’t need an entire bottle of water to get it down, and healthy enough that I’ll get the nutrients I need without having to fall back on the formula.

Thinking about it in the afternoon, I decided that some fish would be nice. The evening’s menu:

Tilapia filets, pan-seared, with a chile-lime butter
Steamed zucchini
Corn shaved off the cob
Salad (for the others – salad is a bit ambitious for me at the moment)

I ate almost all the zucchini on this plate, about a third of the filet, and some of the corn. Corn presents a challenge because of the skin and the individual kernels that have to be controlled.

My taste buds are still not back to where they were before, most likely because of the continued healing and the granular tissue that covers parts of it. This is why I opted for a spicier butter for the fish, to ensure that something got through. It was all quite good, even with my limited sensations. The filets were dusted with salt, pepper, and paprika on both sides prior to being seared in a saute pan with some light olive oil.

Chile-lime butter:

1 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 jalapeno, finely diced (can substitute almost any chile; serranos and thai chiles would work well)
2 tablespoons of finely diced shallots
2 teaspoons lime zest
Juice of one lime

Mix all ingredients together thoroughly. The butter can be made days in advance. I made this shortly before dinner, then put it in the freezer to firm it up while things were cooking. A spoonful of the butter went on the seared filets as they were plated. The butter would also go well with chicken.