Noir Fest and Dinner: Out of the Past (November 1947)

October 3rd, 2014

This week’s movie is Out of the Past. The female lead, Jane Greer, was unfamiliar to me. She has one of those faces that are so, so lovely and perfect that if you’re me you forget them instantly. I much prefer someone slightly unusual looking, like Barbara Stanwyck.

I looked Greer up, and bango bingo, there she was in Twin Peaks. I didn’t think she was great in Out of the Past, but I think she was perfectly matched as Norma Jennings’ mother: wide-eyed, glib, and with slight undertones of psychosis underneath, like Norma and Annie. That’s just my reading though.

Kirk Douglas and his many clefts and dimples smarmed his way through each scene. But, sadly, not chewing quite as much scenery as he did in Lust for Life, which has to be one of my top ten movies. In addition to the extremely photogenic cast, it was also shot well and just interesting to look at.


UK title, after the original novel

Look at the cartoon of Mitchum! He looks like a Looney Tunes gangster.

Foodwise, this is a fun week. I got my mitts on the actual real-deal Gourmet Magazine, fully bound and gathering dust downtown. I was giddy, or perhaps it was the offgassing of decaying old journal pages.

This is the Thanksgiving issue for 1947, and it contains recipes for turkey, stuffing, holiday snacks, and side dishes as you might expect. The template was already in place for modern holiday magazines.


Doesn’t that turkey look..uh…look at the time!

I love this cover artist. It’s hard to tell in my terrible reproduction, but he had a real way with crystal objects, which show up on his covers repeatedly: goblets, flagons, decanters. Also notice how the salt cellar lurches towards us to show us its innards while the (sweating?) turkey is shown almost from the side. I have always maintained that perspective is for jerks. Also that crystal “bone” propping up the knife? WHAT IS THAT CALLED? HOW QUICKLY CAN I GET ONE???

I should confess I am not at all familiar with Gourmet Magazine as an entity. I never subscribed or picked it up. I am very aware of Gourmet‘s last editor, Ruth Reichl, and have read some of her memoirs. I understand that this was a big deal, important magazine. Since I started cooking in the 1990s, however, what caught my eye was impossible looking things on the cover of Martha Stewart Living, so that was my manual of choice.

I’m a little surprised I never jumped into it, actually. When I was a kid I used to collect old magazines that I would find at flea markets, like Life. I always thought I would make Important Feminist Collages with them, or at least frame some of the ads, but I could never bear to cut them up. I put them on my coffee table, as if it was June 12, 1961 at my house or something.

With that preamble out of the way, I should jump in to the amazing year 1947, a year before Ruth Reichl was born. The ad sections were full of gift ideas, including regional specialties from all around the country, such as Grade A syrup for Vermont, and nuts from California.


God it’s so true

There was also the theme of what I think of as the “angry wife” running through this issue. I’ve only reproduced one cartoon that shows it, but there were multiple cartoons featuring angry women and their hapless spouses.


Here’s your fucking toast asshole

I mentioned this to my majordomo of cocktails, John Smythe, and he expressed surprise that this was present.

“I would think the audience for a cooking magazine in the 1940s would be women,” he said. “It seems weird to have a bunch of sexist comics throughout it.”

I would think so too, but after looking at several issues, it was so upscale and aimed at food geeks (which were at one time known as “epicures”), who obviously had money to spend. These aren’t articles about how to bang out a meal and get it on the table in less than an hour, how to reduce your grocery budget–in short this is no Good Housekeeping. I didn’t count, but there seemed to be an equal number of men and women contributors via the letters section (“Sugar and Spice”) and in the recipe requests section (“You Asked for It”). The letters often started off with statements such as “My wife/husband and I loved the recipe for fricasseed coswallop and would like to know if we could substitute…,” which leads me to think that being an epicurean was often a hobby that was shared between spouses, much like today.

However, someone would need to fund such a lifestyle that involved the possibility of traveling on your appetite, procuring exotic, expensive ingredients that were often available only via mail order at the time, and I am guessing that someone would probably be a man.


I choose to pretend that this is what hotdogs in a bathtub used to be called. If he dumps you, call me bae

I opined to John Smythe that we also shouldn’t underestimate the role of internalized sexism. I wish I would have said it that elegantly, though. What I said was something like, “You know how shit is all fucked up around women and they think it’s all normal?” There was lots of handwaving too. Quick, someone get me a TED talk.

There were some bright spots, though. I have no beef with this. I love to see some ladies getting their gimlets on. Fallen arches, AMIRITE, ladies?

The standout in this issue for me was a folksy article by a Colonel S.P. Meek (“Aided and Abetted by Edna Noble Meek”) on what amounted to a recipe for barbecue and another for roasted duck, which included a lot of chuckle-ly anecdotes and asides from his wife, including one about intimidating the barbecue recipe out of an African American cook, whose dialogue is written in what is supposed to be Mississipi dialect.

The article is called “I Like Good Food” because apparently the editor was struggling for a unifying theme in this grab bag of wtf, and possibly because, “I Am an Entitled Old Cracker” was taken up in the previous month’s issue.

The Colonel, who is no Calvin Trillin, speaks:

The barbecue is to Southern California what the fried clam is to New England, the tamale to Texas, and the hot dog to Coney Island. I wondered at the alleged superfluity of good barbecue cooks, and in the interests of gastronomy I made of martyr of my stomach and stopped at sixty-five barbecue stands in the course of twenty miles of driving and sampled the product. Some were bad and some were worse, but patience was finally rewarded. At a little place near Montecito, I found food that started the tears of recollection flowing and I sought the cook that I might weep on his neck.

[Spoiler alert: Colonel Meek did kind of the opposite of neck-weeping next.]

“Git away from me, white man,” said the Ethiopian brother when I attempted to carry out my program of rejoicing. [Good instincts.] “Ah ain’t done nothing the sheriff wants me fur.”

“Son of Ham,” I demanded. “Ah you from Miss’sippi?”

He recognized the accent.

“Boss, Ah is. Cap’n, howdy suh. Admur’l, ohduhs from yo’all is ohduhs. Guv’ner, what does yo’all want?”

“Boy,” I said solemnly, “I’m the Representative of the United Amalgamated Pure Food and Correct Cooking League of the World and Adjacent Universes. In fact, I’m the Lord High Grand Exalted and Otherwise Prominent Gazinkus for Southern California. My orders are that you tell me how to cook that barbecue.”

“Bobbycue, Gin’ral? Yessuh, Senatuh, Ah’ll shuah tell y’all.”

We have it all, really. A (God I hope) fictionalized African American man who addresses the Colonel by a thesaurus’s worth of honorifics, is afraid the authorities want him, and can be hornswoggled by a high falutin’ made up title. Not to mention the illustration.

At this point I am thinking, in between bouts of nausea, “GOURMET. Pull the other one, it has bells on.” Looks like SP Meek was a real dude though, a hack writer who obtained a degree in Mississippi but didn’t really grow up there.

There was also a Turkish recipe–obtained from a real Turk! Just like the real barbecue when he happened to find a Southern transplant barbecue cook in Southern California. Despite all of this busted-ass, Walter Mitty-esque creative license, I found his recipe for wild duck a la Bordeaux interesting (obtained from a gen-yoo-ine Frenchman!) and I settled on that as my entree for this week.

MENU

Dinner:
Wild Duck a la Bordeaux
Cauliflower Gourmet
Sweet Potato Balls

Dessert:
Spiced Nuts

Cocktail:
Blood ‘n Sand

RECIPES

Dinner was kind of a mixed success, as usual, when I am at the helm. I have never met a recipe I won’t run off the road.

I buy my ducks at a dodgy Asian market near me. Not all Asian markets are dodgy, especially in Seattle, but this one assuredly is. It’s funny, because a million years ago when I first moved here, it was the nicest, hoity-toitiest supermarket in the city. This is well before the rise of Whole Paycheck. I look at the scuffed and cracked tiles on the floor, stained with streaks of something being dragged across them, and I think about how I used to buy fancy candy to sneak into a movie here. Or wine. And now, head-on duck.


A terrible vanitas to non-delight you

[Smaller child, walking past disembodied duck head on counter: "IS THAT A DUCK HEAD THAT IS SO COOL."

Larger child, returning from school and walking past disembodied duck head on counter: "IS THAT A DUCK HEAD EWWWW."]

I also picked up a couple of frozen rabbits for next week’s dinner. I couldn’t find them right away because the freezer they used to be kept in was broken and walled off with a display of Mexican cookies (more red flags for this market really). I waited at the meat counter and was behind a guy who was impatiently yelling about the fact that he was in a hurry as the meat cutters intermittently popped in and out of the back room.

Finally it was my turn, and the impatient guy was having some huge slab of halal meat cut down.

“Do you still have rabbit?” I asked a meat cutter.

“No, but we have dog. HA HA HA.”

Me: :|

Impatient Guy followed us over to the rabbits’ new home (in a fish case, why did I not figure that out myself) and said, “Rabbit! What do you do with that? Barbecue?”

“You can poach it in wine, broth, and herbs. It’s very tender with a delicate flavor.” He looked a little surprised to hear this answer come out of a disheveled woman with out of control hair that looked like fuzz on a traumatized coconut, a hoodie, and pants with paint stains, I think. Maybe he expected me to say “YEEHAW I AM BBQ’in WITH MY HUSBROTHER.” My point is that I did look like white trash yesterday (if the Ugg fits).


DOCTOR IT HURTS WHEN I DO THIS

Since it wasn’t a wild duck and was super fatty, I decided I didn’t need to cover the duck as the recipe called for. We’ve been having issues with grease smoke in the house from roasting birds, so I made a little foil drip catcher that would let grease go in but not back up. This meant basting was out, so I soaked the dook in the spiced wine for about 45 minutes before it went in the oven. I funneled the spiced wine back into the bottle and poured it over the duck every so often while cooking in lieu of a baste.

I did more of a chicken roast with it (higher heat than called for). It was nice, but I wish I would have cooked it even higher so the fat would have rendered better. But it was a lovely rosy color, and I hear you lose some of that when you cook it high.

I got a little flame effect while serving, and I regret adding the lime juice to the brandy before pouring. Oh well! I am looking forward to using the ducky leftovers. I am thinking soup with duck egg and buckwheat noodles.

The sides were actually my favorite, particularly the Cauliflower Gourmet.


And it gave me an excuse to buy tarragon vinegar. YESSS


HEY MY EYES ARE UP HERE WHAT’S YOUR PROBLEM

I went to talk to P. like this and casually asked him a question, which he halfway answered before triple taking on my lumpy jugs. Twas awesome.

Once removed from shirt, soaked in a solution of vinegar and saltwater, and cooked, cauliflower gourmet called for a bagna cauda sauce to be poured over the whole boiled heads. I have never served cauliflower whole, but it wasn’t as unwieldy as I thought it might be, and “made a nice presentation” as Beeton would say.

The sweet potato balls were unremarkable, and reminded me a lot of Victorian potato rissoles. I didn’t want to get gluten-free bread crumbs, or make them, so I minced cashews and tossed in some coconut flour. I took this inspiration from a former-favorite of mine, peanut-crusted chicken.

Drab to look at, but it worked somewhat well. The drawback was that the cashew bits didn’t cling as I thought they would, since I did not use an egg dip as for rissoles. The balls had less of a structure than they should have, but were also less heavy and gluey as the rissoles always were. The coconut flour browned nicely, though. I would do this coating again with an egg dip.

I finished them off in the oven because I knew the sweet potato had gotten so cool that the frying wouldn’t totally warm them through. Instead of butter and cream, I used about 1/2 cup of my own kefir. Why not go with lower lactose, I figure.


Pan fried and ready to go in the oven.


After they came out, they were quite soft. But good!

The dessert was my favorite kind, which is to say, premade. In all my days of candying things, I have not seen a recipe that called for dipping the nuts into the egg whites in a strainer. How did I miss this small piece of cooking brilliance?

Scooping the nuts out of the sugar was a different story. All of a sudden I was like, ARGH, catboxy!

Another outstanding thing about the spiced nuts was the fact that they contained SO. MUCH. CLOVE. I am a HUGE fan of clove. When I was a kid I ate clove candy and gum, and graduated to clove cigarettes (sigh) and I will often just chew on a bud if I’m hanging around the house. The recipe calls for many other baking spices, but it is a TABLESPOON of clove to 2 cups of sugar. Holy shit! If you bake, you know that most recipes call for a much more moderate quarter teaspoon or so. It is a background flavor that adds all that “mmm mmm there is a cozy food blanket in my mouth and now I have something to live for this winter and it is apple tart.” These nuts were more like KICK YOU IN THE FACE gingerbread.

I am told that clove was often used as a numbing agent in dentistry in the mid-century and for that reason many older people hate it. So this recipe surprises me a little. A+, will totes make again. I had so much extra sugar and egg wash that I made almost an extra cup of walnuts, because I knew I would not save the mixture. Oh, I also consulted with my My First Cookbook and did them on 300F for 40 minutes instead of 250F for 2.5 hours because that seemed a bit overkill.

I didn’t get a final picture and then I sent the leftovers home with my sister for her boyfriend, but trust that they looked less catboxy when they came out. I spent some time keeping them broken up as they cooled because I WAI crowded the cookie sheet and they wanted to cleave together.

So, the cocktail. I almost arm-pumped when I found this letter. I LOVE THIS DRINK. Thank you, Gourmet Chaos gods.

TOO BAD IT WAS KIND OF TERRIBLE. I really think it was our fault since we went with Luxardo, which was the cherry liqueur we had on hand. P’s feeling was that we should have something like Cherry Heering, so it wasn’t just predominantly ORANGE and SCOTCH and SWEET. Looks like others agree. I was interested to see, also at this link, that the drink was created for the premier of the movie, Blood and Sand [1922]. The name makes more sense now, but also the fact that it’s hung on. Cocktail people love silly names like “corpse reviver.”

Blood and sands are scotch, orange juice, cherry brandy, and sweet vermouth. I love all of those things (with perhaps the exception of sweet vermouth, yuckth). It was not undrinkable, but I wouldn’t want one like that again. We switched to wine pretty quickly.

Thank you 1947! It was fun to visit you!

Advice Wednesdays: Dear Abby, May 15, 1991

October 1st, 2014

DEAR ABBY: I am a 28-year-old, reasonably attractive woman. I dress stylishly and wear subtle makeup. I am very nearsighted and wear glasses because I can’t tolerate hard or soft contact lenses. (Believe me, I have tried.)

Abby, it infuriates me when men (whether they are dates or not), casual acquaintances or co-workers think I should feel complimented when they say, “You’d be much prettier without your glasses.”

I am sometimes tempted to say, “And you’d be even more handsome with a little more hair on your head — or less padding around your middle.” Or, “You’d be a much nicer person if you had better manners!”

Abby, please tell these oafs to look in a mirror before they start giving women fashion advice. Thanks. — FOUR EYES AND WELL-ADJUSTED

First of all, it’s “ouves,” not oafs, derived from the Basque. Did you go to an accredited college? Did you check that it was or just assume? I don’t mean to be harsh, but maybe the glasses are only part of the issue. I think the issue that’s deeper here might be one of credibility. You say that you “dress stylishly” and are “reasonably attractive,” but then you use words like “oafs” and are not stranger to “using scare quotes incorrectly.“ The good news is LASIK is about to become available next year. The bad news is that it’s hard to get out of the habit of sounding like a school marm.

Let me put this another way: when I was ten I used to roam through a forest preserve that abutted my parents’ property. A couple of rivers ran through it, with wide pedestrian bridges spanning the river. In the beginning I spent time on the bridge in the sunshine, amusing myself by dropping pebbles in the river’s leisurely current and playing Pooh sticks.

However, and this is important, I spent so much time by myself that gradually my appearance became quite frightening. My clothes were unkempt and my hair had not seen a comb in so many months it was beginning to clump and seize. You know the old saw: one man’s dreadlock is another man’s shitwig. I was in bad stead, sister. One day I peered over the edge of the bridge and I saw a reflection I did not recognize. However, my unfamiliar visage did reflect the drawing on the wanted poster at the Ranger Station.

I went underground after that. I had one connection to the outside world and it was the jogger who left me store brand No-Doz. We all know the song: WHEN YOU SLEEP IS WHEN THE GRIM-GRAW COMES, OUT OF HIS CAVE, NO TIME TO RUN. I would wait until he had trotted onward and then I would retrieve my prize under a rock next to the tree that was nearest to the bridge: Leafy. Sometimes there was a brief note from him about price increases as well.

Another unfortunate side effect to what I affectionately call my “Walden years” was that I lost all track of time. The leaves had just begun to turn, so I assume it was fall. I was able to play Pooh sticks now with my friend Leafy, who was throwing his head-salad into the water. I went under the bridge to cheer him on as he ambitiously launched four leaves into the river all at once when I saw it: the body.

The raccoon was puffed up like a stripy watermelon, and the air was thick with flies, all gathered for one last hoedown ere winter’s icy claw returned to scrape at our coin slots once again. I readied myself with a stick in case it was in league with the Grim-Graw and would flip over and begin scuttling towards me, ready to suck out the sweet nectar of my skull through one of my eye sockets.

I approached the raccoon’s bloated carcass slowly, stopping every couple of feet to listen, stick at the ready in front of me. I could only hear the trickling sound of the river as it licked the pebbles on its bank, the only motion near me besides the flies was Leafy and other trees blowing their autumnal loads into the water.

Carefully I prodded the raccoon’s body, knowing that if had ingested a pixie shortly before death, its belly would be full of gold. How many bottles of No-Doz then? I cackled to myself. No more smashing the Friends of the Forest box that was chained at the southern trailhead with a rock until it barfed up its cache of tatty singles and pennies.

One more touch and BOOM. The raccoon absolutely exploded like a piñata of decay (whoops, did I just name your death metal band?). My face, which was none too clean after I coated it in river mud a few days before to keep the chiggers off, got even more coated. I barely noticed the feel the gore over the smell, like the smell of a Dumpster, expired chicken, and the corner in my parents’ den that was referred to as the “diaper pile.”

I’m sure you understand what point I’m making by now, so let’s move on. I’m going to guess the real issue is that you look like this:

Do you look like this? IS THIS YOU? That is the only reason I can think of for all the scare quotes in your letter. Those people don’t really want you to take your glasses off. They just think they want that. The glasses are your trademark. What would you look like without your glasses? Like no one, unrecognizable. Or like someone people might actually want to have sex with.

I’m like you in a lot of ways: I realized people wanted to have sex with me until I took my clothes off. Now I start naked, which avoids rejection, and people pay me to put my clothes back on. You see how that works?

“How quickly would I die If I jumped from the top of the parachutes?”

September 29th, 2014

A quick note to say I have a page up now with movies and recipes for my mini-noir fest. I will expand on it this week until it’s done, but this week’s is up. I will link this in my sidebar for easy access as well.

It was, I have to say, a pretty good weekend for me. I managed to get downtown and go spelunking through old copies of Gourmet as planned, as well as pick up an old cookbook (Mrs. Rorer’s New Cook Book, 1898), which includes regional American food such as Hawaiian, Creole, and Mexican. There is a recipe for alligator pear! I had to look that one up (avocado). I also got some new cookbooks, such as Simply Gluten Free Desserts, which looks like one of the best ones I have found, and is a relief with all the October birthdays coming up. It’s kind of like a Moosewood dessert book in its scope and range.

A bit of a mixed bag for the girls, since they are having ongoing digestive problems and Franny is having weird muscle spasms. I am encouraging them to stick with their diet while I am trying to get to the bottom of what is setting them off.

I got a call from Franny’s doctor this morning, who said her “thyroid looked good” with no real explanation of what that meant and I didn’t bother. She tested negative for “everything” so that is that with that doctor I suppose. I don’t believe I can work with her to get to the bottom of this. I feel like I am in reverse Back to the Future where I am playing my guitar at the Enchantment Under the Sea dance but instead of me and my siblings disappearing, I see years of misery in a futuristic photo of my children stuck in my guitar neck! I HAVE TO HURRY. TORTURED METAPHOR. Ummm…line please! Hello?


Day 38: the humans still won’t let me in.

I took Franny to a homecoming football game so she could watch her BFF who goes to a “normal” high school cheer. Afterwards we were to bring her home so she could spend the night. Franny and Strudel spent a lot of time going up and down the stands and I sat with my tablet, reading in the visitor’s section since the home section was packed. The visiting team was from one of the islands and was very, very white. Every cheerleader was wearing a Northface jacket, I kid you not.

On the way home the BFF lamented the fact that all of their middle school cohorts no longer seem to talk or hang out. I feel kind of bad because she is a lovely, funny girl and she is quite lonely right now as the only freshman on the cheer squad. Most of her time is spent cheering so she doesn’t have much of a social life. I know things will change for her, but I remember the suckiness of being new. Franny already has a handful of friends at her new school, which is completely unsurprising.

I fed them fancy brunch the next morning with sweet potato fries, bacon, a scramble, fruit, and various pickles and hot sauces. I seem to have attracted some stray cats in the form of some neighborhood foster kids who tell Strudel they sometimes get cut out of meals at home, and one of them who was over was VERY eager to join our brunch. They are quite skinny. I know that’s not always an indicator that one is underfed, but the way they hoover up all my snacks I tend to believe it. Underfed foster children! :((( There is so much banal heartbreak in this world. I want to adopt all the strays.

The girls went off to a neighborhood fair with rides on Sunday so I am assured that they have caught up and rebonded. I was afraid Franny would lose touch with her busy BFF but they still seem tight. “My mom says she will work to make sure we see each other,” I overheard Franny say. Hee.

It’s fun to see exactly how embarrassing I am when Franny has friends over. I was in the middle of writing and said something about “fashioning a cover” for my oil rain lamp since I don’t turn it on in the summer. Was that a smurfy thing to say? Yes, it was. It just slipped out.

“Fashioning! Oh MOTHER you talk so funny!” Franny said. To be fair she says this even when friends aren’t over. But I do feel her distancing herself from me when we have guests. I think it’s normal.

Noir Fest and Dinner: The Maltese Falcon

September 27th, 2014


So Paint very wow

I have nothing of substance to say about The Maltese Falcon that hasn’t been said one grillion times before and better. I liked that the festival opened with the first “true” film noir. I had remembered that it had the trope of voiceover narration, but I was mistaken. Obviously I was thinking of many other classic noirs. I enjoy the film, but more than that I think I liked watching the girls watch it. Strudel’s contribution was, “I have no idea what’s going on, but I like it.” That’s kind of my philosophy for life.

I drove Franny to school the next day and when we were alone she said she wanted there to be a true gold falcon inside of the lead one. “Sam could have been rich and never worked again!” We talked a little more and I got that she definitely grasped the theme of greed and its consequences that ran through it.

“I got something else out of it, too,” I said. “I think it was more about finding purpose in your life and what your life’s work is. Sam was a really good detective and he didn’t make a fortune off the deal, maybe enough to live on for a few months. He’ll continue solving crimes. The Fat Man was already rich; he didn’t really need another treasure. In the end the criminals ran off in pursuit of the falcon, which brought meaning to their sad lives.” She laughed.

This probably says more about my mental state in general right now that whatever Dashell Hammett intended.

MENU

I should talk menu a bit. IMDB tells me that the Maltese Falcon was released January 1, 1941. Wikipedia tells me it was released in October, 1941. I went with IMDB initially and tried to track down the first issue of Gourmet Magazine, which is not available locally. I tried to piece it together with some clever googling. I pulled some dishes out of the eleven course holiday meal contributed by Georges Gonneau from the Hotel Pierre.

Potage Pierre La Grand
Dinde Rôtie Des Artistes (avec Ses Tout Maquillages et Arrangements)
Salade Verte Tendre L’Estragon
Merlans à la Pluche Verte

I found the complete menu listed in this cool book online that I’d be interested in reading all of: Words to Eat By: Five Foods and the Culinary History of the English Language [2011] by Ina Lipkowitz, which includes an epilogue about the death of Gourmet.

Lipkowitz says exactly what I was thinking on first glance at seeing the list of recipes and articles from the scans on Serious Eats: “The forty-eight pages of Gourmet’s premier issue were nothing if not Francophile through and through.”

The notion of a holiday meal being presented in a January issue of a magazine is quaint, even though subscribers to modern cooking magazines routinely receive their issue a couple of weeks before the month printed on the magazine starts. I imagine it appeared on the stands before Christmastime. Today, of course, the January issues of food and lifestyle magazines trumpet eating light and New Year’s resolutions.

To roughly translate the above menu, what I selected was a salad with tarragon, fish fillets in a parsley velouté, a roasted chicken with herbs, and a very springy “Peter the Great” soup.

The soup called for a water base, but I like to add stock. I had some leftover mixed meat stock that I’d made about a month ago with saved chicken backs, veg, and various other bones. I cooked celeriac, celery, onions, and potatoes in the stock until they were tender. I blended it in the pot and added celery chunks to cook for a bit longer, and topped with chervil.

I forgot about how much I like chervil, which I used occasionally in my Victorian year. I really need to grow it next summer.

Somehow I accidentally bought tilapia, which was perhaps in the spirit of just-around-the-corner wartime rationing, but not to my liking. I have no idea how a person accidentally buys a type of fish they don’t like, except to say that I got it out of a frozen fish bulk bin. In this self-imposed cooking reality blog, I am my own wildcard challenge. I had some half and half in the fridge I’ve been feeding my hibernating milk kefir grains with, so I tried soaking the fillets but could not lose the fishy flavor completely. They were enjoyed by one half of the table but not the other.


BLECH

I made the velouté out of coconut flour. It was edible, but not at all smooth like a flour gravy. Next time I will go back to my old Victorian pal, arrowroot.

The dinner came together well. I only roasted half a chicken, having used the other half in a Thai-style soup the night before. I pulled the tarragon out of my mini herb garden that I keep in pots on my back porch.

The chocolate guns and birds went over very well, surprising no one. We listened to some 1940s music while I cooked and during dinner. I think the inaugural night was a success. Next up is Out of the Past (1947).

I look for my heart it’s curtido

September 25th, 2014

An online popular photo editor that shall not be named (that’s enough out of you, “Motofuckit”) seems to be shitting the bed as far as photo editing functions go right now. I gave up and resized my photos in Paint. MS PAINT, I tell you.

Ah well.

I have been eating saintishly this month, which I will probably carry on. My Whole 30 will extend past the 30th day to become a Whole Slow Decline and March to the Grave. Okay, not really. I never hyperbolize, though, do I?

Seriously though, I am eating loads of good fats, and I am rarely snacky in that locust way I always was when I was eating wheat. I always felt like Tantalus because I was always starving and I knew whatever I ate would make me feel bad.

Pineapple tomatoes, which are doing well due to our extended summer here (seems to be over now, if the torrential rain this morning is any indication), cucumbers, homemade curtido by P., sauteed beet greens offa some beets we got at the farmer’s market, and Asian meatballs.

“You’re eating like this every day?” my new endo said. (OR SHOULD I SAY, “friendo??” Too soon.)

“Yes.”

“Well that is a healthy diet,” she said.

I don’t have a scale at home but it looks like based on my weigh in at the last doctor’s visit last month I am losing about a pound a week. Not bad for shoveling in avocados like they are going out of style. I love lazy “fitness.” HA.

Edith is attempting to gain weight. She ate Franny’s entire lipgloss today after the cat knocked it onto the floor. I wanted to go to the store but I am on Shitpocolyse Watch 2014. That has to come out soon, right?? She is such a piglet–almost steamrolled me for the dregs of my bottle of peary last night. That dog loves booze.

AND HUGZ.

Or any attention, really.

Horace might be getting more attention if he could figure out how to get back inside.

SERIOUSLY, BRO? We had one of these in the last house, too.

A nice reader (and I imagine a fully realized human being when not making blog comments) asked if I would post menus/recipes for my upcoming noir festival for a cookalong/watchalong. Yes, of course. Tonight will be rather slapdash as I have mentioned, but after this there will be a full roadmap. With standard “modern” recipes that I won’t have to convert. (Err except for making them gluten free. Why should this be easy?)

I am going to the library tomorrow after they take their bucket of blood at the lab and I will post up the menus/recipes with the films in a “master” post on Saturday. I’ll link back to this on Fridays when I put my results of the evening up (pictures and a brief discussion of the cuisine and films). Feel free to skip Fridays if you are utterly bored by cookery efforts, and I will be posting in between then.

Here is a preview of what my jerks are getting for dessert, since we are really only doing dark chocolate this month:

Falcons and little chocolate guns. (But SJ those look like parrots) QUIET YOU! I defy you to find Maltese Falcon candy molds! Seriously, I would love that. Maybe I should take their little tails off?

I gently melted some 70% dark and added a little cinnamon, cayenne, and chopped pecans to the wee falcons. SPICY YUMS.

Did you ever hear the one about…?

September 24th, 2014

Back in the day I used to spend a fair amount of time on internet forums and in irc and whatnot, and whenever people used to mention meeting me in real life I’d say, “Just look for the pink hair…and the goiter.”

HA HA hilarious. Do I even need to finish this Morrissettian-ironical weblog? I guess I should. Bam: I have a goiter. It’s just a baby one, though. Maybe more than one. In addition to a bunch of bloodwork I probably should have had months ago (but I was out of my mind on steroids [see also: Coats--leather--fringe--douchey] and having trouble walking, so I might have missed a few things) I am also having a neck xray. Hooray!

Also I impressed the endo with what percentage of my body is covered in horrific scars. I never get tired of “Stump/Horrify that MD.” Hy fyves all around.

Labs on Friday. Xray when they can get me in. This feels like progress.

So. Let’s talk about something else for a minute. Close the door.

A thing I have done every fall for the past three years or so is go to the film noir festival at the art museum. Two of my formerly favorite things: film noir and having an excuse to go out. I am pretty flat at the moment since I am so part time, so tickets are out. Also it is touch and go whether or not I can even sit in the theatre on any given night for two hours at a stretch right now.

Also I am again with the hating almost everyone. Last time I was in a theatre (Xmastime) I shamed myself by telling this obnoxious lady who asked my whole party to MOVE SEATS when we had gotten there early and there were plenty of other seats in the theatre (true) to GO FUCK HERSELF. I think I may have even asked her if she was born this annoying or entitled or if she had to work at it. I can’t quite remember. A sign I should probably not be out in company, polite or not. I seem to have lost my filter worse than usual.

Postscript, she came down the aisle and sat by me anyway because someone else moved. When the imbalanced collide….

MY POINT. I am having my own film festival at home following their calendar. Well, I cannot find Shakedown ANYWHERE, but I asked a subject matter expert for a substitute. Sorry, art museum, I want to put money in your coffers, but this is for the best. It’s not you, it’s me.

To make my pathetic self feel better, I decided to cook along as well. The first fillum is Maltese Falcon. I decided to look up the release date (January 1941) and I decided to google around for popular food in 1941, what the hell, and what did I see? BOOM: Gourmet‘s first issue. I got on the horn with the librarian I like to harass downtown and she told me they have Gourmet back to ’44.

The plan is to pull a menu from Gourmet each month and year that corresponds to the release month year and the film of the week. Since the library doesn’t have the first issue, I have kind of reconstructed it online. Apparently the “dinner of the month” was an eleven-course French holiday meal. CHRIST, NO. I am going to cherry pick three dishes from it.

It’s fascinating how Victorian the recipes still seem from ’41. I’ll get into that more on Fridays, which will be the day after the dinner and screening. Other than the early Maltese Falcon, the films range from the peak of noir, the late 40s through the 50s and the last one is from 1987 (sun-dried tomatoes that night, for sure).

Okay, team, I am halfway through a 22 of perry and listening to Ice Cube, so this seems like a good point to break. Let me pour one out for my new little friend, Gary.

$15.99, the Price of a Regular Cat Planet

September 22nd, 2014

No, I am still not over Cat Planet.

Last week was rough. I spent a couple of days in bed, including a workday. I worked from bed, which was distracting. Sometimes I spend all day feeling like my heart is going to burst out of my chest. This lasts for about a week and then I get really tired and sore at the end. My body is exercising by itself sometimes.

In the middle of this I took the girls to their doctor for a check up and some shots. It did not go well. I feel like I should chronicle it, so I can remember why I was mad later in case I think about going back there.

I admit I was a little keyed up since I have been spending a lot of time in many doctor’s offices this year, being told various things that sound like guesses or just wrong a lot of the time. I kind of hate everyone, worse than usual, which is making it challenging to go into a medical place and try to wring something out of it. I fall back on my auto-didactic training in manners I fetched up after fleeing Being Raised by Wolves. The lizard part of my brain is going, “Punch them, punch them all, and then steal exam gloves and run out.”

Our serious nurse in Scooby Doo scrubs that I always liked was not in evidence. It was strange to have someone else come out and fetch us. They lumped the girls up in one room and I suggested that they have separate appointments as I requested on the phone, since they are not four. I said “for privacy” and was not snotty about it as I was in my previous statement. The substitute nurse seemed taken aback by this, as much as she could be by anything, I suppose, since she hardly seemed to have a pulse. Her tone was annoyed with every request I made and response I gave. I couldn’t quite figure it out.

She left the room and we all three kind of sighed.

“I wish the regular nurse was here,” Franny said. “She’s good at shots.” Franny hates needles.

Strudel’s exam was fine. The doctor told her to go back on wheat for two weeks to be tested for Celiac properly, and Strudel nodded solemnly. The doctor left the room to go to Franny’s exam room, and we were told that they were out of Strudel’s vaccination, and there was no point in testing her blood, so she got off scot-free for now. Fine, good. I had her go back to the waiting room and I joined Franny.

“So,” I said. “Franny and I have made a list of what’s going on with her so we don’t forget anything.” I handed it to the doctor. “I have hyper- and hypothyroid in my family, and Grave’s disease. This looks like Celiac right now, but I am worried that her thyroid could be involved as well with her energy levels and whatnot.”

She scanned the list of ~30 symptoms and zeroed in on infrequent periods. “Let’s start with female-specific symptoms. You think she has PCOS?” she asked.

“Well. I don’t know. I’m not an expert and I can’t see into her body. I am just giving you everything that’s going on symptoms-wise. Maybe it’s PCOS.”

“It doesn’t really matter if she has PCOS or not, because that’s an issue that affects fertility and she won’t have to deal with that for a long time.” She turned to Franny: “How about birth control? Do you want to be on birth control? It can regulate your periods.”

“I’m not sure,” Franny said. “I’d need to know more about it.”

“Sooo do you think birth control will fix things like her brittle nails and her hair loss, and the fact that she can sleep twelve hours and still be tired?”

“What do you suggest then?” the doctor snapped.

“I was hoping you would test her thyroid, and do the blood test for Celiac disease.”

“Fine, I guess I could rule things out,” she began writing.

“Yeaaah so are you going to just test TSH? Or reverse T3 and T4 and free T3 and T4 and…”

“THAT WON’T TELL YOU ANYTHING.”

“…And I thought maybe testing for Hashimoto’s since there seems to be some relation between Celiac and Hashimoto’s…”

“It doesn’t matter if she has Hashimoto’s because we can’t do anything about it!”

“Like PCOS,” I said. “You don’t believe there’s any value in knowing what’s going on with her?”

“Like I said, we can rule these things out.” She changed tack then, back to birth control, which I am not opposed to, really. I just don’t believe that’s the panacea here. “Well, are you missing school due to your period? Is it interfering with your life and school?”

“It’s not really regular,” she said.

“That’s normal for your age,” the doctor said.

“It’s not really interfering with her life because she’s only having about two a year,” I interjected.

“Oh,” the doctor said. “I didn’t realize.” It was spelled out there on the sheet, and was part of the only section she appeared to have read, but I get it. It was a long sheet.

“I will get the nurse in here to draw your blood, and to give your two vaccinations,” the doctor said, and left.

“So that went well,” I said. Franny started laughing.

Eventually the nurse came back and gave her quite a jab, and walked out again.

“Thanks,” Franny said, to the nurse’s silent retreating back. The door slammed. “Ouch, FUCK,” she said. “The other nurse wouldn’t have done it like that.”

“I know,” I said. “You know, you don’t have to thank people who are hurting you. It’s okay.”

“Alright,” she said. “You okay, Mom?”

“That whole interaction with your doctor made me feel a little crazy and upset. I’m fine. We’re going to keep trying to figure out what’s going on with you.”

The nurse brought back some testing vials and laid everything out for a blood draw. She attempted to find Franny’s vein three or four times and then gave up when Franny started crying. Wretched.

“I’ll get the other nurse,” she sighed. “Even though she doesn’t like to take blood from young people.”

The other nurse, who has been around for years and is a very nice lady, managed to get the blood out just fine, and into the vials that the first nurse had supplied.

“I know you are not our nurse today,” I said, “but Franny has only gotten one vaccination, and her doctor said she was supposed to have two. Would you please ask about that so we don’t leave without it?” She did, and returned, and gave the second vaccination.

“I know you’re a little old, but do you want a lollipop?” she asked Franny.

“YES.” Happy tears followed sad ones. BOOM, bedside manner’d.

We left and everyone was in a pretty bad mood. Except maybe for Strudel, who had escaped a shot and received a lollipop as well, which was the most serious hardcore sugar she’s had all month. I am amazed at this kid who is taking a break from her 7-11 candy binges.

“I don’t want to go back on wheat, Mom,” Strudel said.

“Okay,” I said.

Of course Franny went off wheat after this, and called me from her dad’s house this weekend, reporting that she was feeling much better…until her stepmother pulled some fried herbs off some pasta and told her to eat them and that they were wheat-free. Franny got to show off her giant bloated stomach to them as a result and slept for over eleven hours. It will be a learning process for everyone. I was relieved her dad took it in stride, since this isn’t the first time she’s gone off wheat. He bought her some grits, rice crackers, nuts.

I know I should be grateful for these concessions, and I am, but I read my post about talking to him about trying her off wheat in 2008 (which I linked to in my last post) where he blamed me for her stress and stomachaches. This is why I write things down, even though they make me mad later. It’s important to remember some things.

She says they live on wheat over there–pancakes for breakfast, Cup Noodle for lunch, and spaghetti for dinner. It’s no wonder she reports having a good weekend over there with her dad, but comes home in a terrible mood and is tired and irritable. She usually smooths out by Wednesday or so, and then it starts over again when she visits and comes back.

The doctor’s office called me on Friday, and I did not get back to them in time, so I had to wait until today. I expected a TSH result that would probably tell me nothing, and either a yes or a no on the Celiac. What I got dismayed me. The nurse pulled the wrong vials and drew her blood into them, and so they couldn’t be processed.

“So you’ll have to take her somewhere for a redraw. Where do you want the order sent?”

“Wait, you can’t use the blood that was drawn? So she has to have it completely redone?”

“Yes.”

I chose Children’s Hospital. It is going to suck to break this news to Franny tonight, but at least I will take her to a place that has been nice to us in the past and draws blood from younguns all day long. Fuck.

Pictures, I have so many pictures. My fucking photo editing tool is not letting me resize or crop photos. Also I am supposed to be downtown right now doing research in Gourmet Magazine but I actually wiped myself out from being mad. I am exhausted now. I will drag to the grocery store and try again later this week when I have time.

I could sleep forever but I am afraid of missing my life. As it is right now it feels like it’s down to a little pinpoint. And I do feel a little crazy, because the medical stuff is just expanding. It’s not just me, but I have to take care of my girls’ issues that they inherited partly from me. Some days it is hard to get up, get dressed, and now I am looking at schlepping them to doctors, poor things. Better now than later.

I think about SeaFed and his childhood nosebleeds and daily stomachaches, and the fact that his mother went down with dementia after years of brain fog, and I wonder. As I’ve mentioned P. is doing much better as well and has a mother who has not eaten wheat in years due to her many, many health issues.

As ever I am trying to break the cycle.

I actually kind of miss a year or so ago when my heart would race for a week at a time and I’d be like, eh, fuck it, I am just going to get a lot done since I only need to sleep five hours right now. I’m sorry, body.

TL;DR

Place de la Ladd’s

September 13th, 2014

We were queuing in front of Tasty n Alder this morning, which I love, even though they glutened me. (It’s not their fault. Everything I ordered was wheat-free but they are not officially gluten-free or anything).

Franny asked me what my favorite word was, and I realized it has been flâneur for many years, I think partly because I like the word and partly because I’d like to be one. And then I took the picture and it seemed very appropriate somehow, like a lost Degas from the future. Maybe we were flâneuring for the moment, anyway.

P. brought up the idea of redubbing Frozen so it “didn’t suck.” I think he was just spitballing because we were kind of bored. We took the girls to see Frozen shortly after it came out and I was really underwhelmed. I spent a lot of time thinking about it and ultimately I feel like this article came the closest to what bothered me about it: The Problem with False Feminism. He and I were pretty much on the same page.

“GASP,” gasped Franny. “I didn’t think it was that bad!”

“Well, it’s just not very feminist,” I said.

“I guess I’m not completely a feminist,” Franny said. “Because I liked it.”

HOLD UP.

“Do you believe men and women should be treated equally?” I asked.

“Yes, but….”

“DO YOU BELIEVE MEN AND WOMEN SHOULD BE TREATED EQUALLY???”

“Yes, okay?”

“Then you are a feminist. Sometimes I like Eminem. This does not make me half a feminist or a bad feminist. OKAY?”

“Okay, jeez.”

Then we went to Sauvie Island and walked around in a nature preserve. It was really hot and I felt the effects of the gluten coming on me. My chest felt like it was being crushed, like a panic attack. Then I was very cross for about a half hour, and then I was anxious again. This after 2-3 weeks of preparing every meal at home.

Someone who is very dear to me told me recently that they hoped I was getting some good fall color and I had to explain that we don’t really get that here, and that it is still summer here. We were sweating like dogs and the pups were panting.

We’re staying at P’s father’s widow’s house, which is an old Portland home that used to accommodate servants. I have been having a very strange visit because I am losing some of the old apathy that I felt for so long. We went to our usual favorite store, Title Wave, which is the library sell-off store. I think of it as the anti-Powell’s since it is the size of a small neighborhood library. You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. I get lost in Powell’s.

It was swarmed with people and we soon discovered that they were having a half-off inventory-burning sale. We got 40 books for $11.30. Franny even found some ten-cent zines.

I keep contrasting this visit with the last time we were down here. Most importantly, Strudel did not get hit by a car, but it’s different in other ways. I just feel happier. I was browsing the shelves with intent and purpose. All I found was an Ellery Queen mystery, but that feels like a huge triumph, to enjoy browsing a bookstore and to not be an ADD crackweasel about things.

I spent the rest of the afternoon on my own, with the dogs, while P. took the girls to see his mother. She’s one of those people who can reduce me to tears in about 30 seconds, so I tend to avoid visiting. However, I did not feel like I VONT TO BE ALONE, it was just nice. In April I wanted to hole up in my room and I did.

I never get tired of the dogs, though. Edith spent the afternoon patrolling the backyard and barking at invisible, far-off dogs.

I don’t know why she’s gotten all toughy all the sudden.

Foreign lands, I guess. They have the opposite effect on me.

There are pictures everywhere in this house, much like most houses where anyone has formed a connection to another human. There’s pictures of her first partner, too, who died a long time ago.

I think about P’s father as I knew him in his 70s and it’s nice to think I have a tiny glimmer of what Strudel might look like well after I am dead and she is an old wizened lady. If only if only we could time travel without seeing the horrible beach crabs and the moon all cracked up. This place is a bit of time machine since there are pictures of him everywhere and it makes me feel so sad. Not just for P., because he lost his dad, but also for myself, who has only had tiny doses of people who are like loving parents.


I know these ears; I live with two sets of them.

An Actual Thing I Actually Just Said

September 11th, 2014

Week Two: the situation turns much, much worse for our party.

It’s the second week of school. I had been counting down to this all summer. A little time alone, which I desperately need as part of my “GET THIS STRESS AWAY FROM ME” regime right now. A little time to write and nap. Shit.

Last Saturday at the farmer’s market Strudel started asking some questions.

“Mom, didn’t you say you could sunburn your eyes? My eyes are burning so bad.”

“You can, but it takes a lot of light exposure, like working on a reflective surface all day or being on the water usually,” I said. We had only been out for about a half hour.

“It really hurts.”

BAM: pinkeye. So I knew she wasn’t going to school Monday, or Tuesday, probably. It cleared up quickly, and Franny caught it as soon as she came back from her dad’s island on Monday night. So now she is home for her second day.

They were fighting in the kitchen, shouting and butt-paddling each other, which is a thing now. Franny was wearing no pants but an apron (making bacon like that, SIGH), so Strudel took the opportunity to paddle at will. What can you do when there is prime rump in front of you and revenge is on your mind? Things escalated and Strudel was getting it good, since her arms are shorter, and she started giving up and fighting dirty. I stay out of these dumb things because they don’t listen to me, really, and they are not really getting hurt.

Yelling! So much yelling I am flinching through my headphones, trying to get my goddam VPN to work…

“MOM TELL FRANNY TO GET OUT OF THE KITCHEN SINCE I AM WORKING AND SHE IS DONE. ISN’T THAT THE RULE MOM ONE PERSON AT A TIME?”

I had reached my limit.

“STOP YELLING SO I CAN MAKE MONEY SO YOU HAVE ENERGY TO YELL.”

???

Crickets. Franny went to her room. The remaining dishes were unloaded from the dishwasher with no further comment.

My new technique is to confuse them into silence.

WHEW SCHOOL STARTED; Or, In Which No One Was Killed/Died

September 5th, 2014

ONE.

JESUS CHRISTO MAN. I thought it was bad when they were little. This tail end of summer was probably one of the worst. But still, very survivable. I am in very good and even temper lately, for the most part. I still get into these hard black moods occasionally where I know I am white knuckling and not yelling at them veeeeery deliberately. Because that would just be mean and pointless. They are just kids, after all.

I did yell last night when Edith’s squeaky alien made its 36th reappearance in the kitchen while I was fixing supper after I had asked Strudel to play fetch outside. I have PMS.

Franny got out of her bitchy mood (mostly) by going to school, though she is very tired now and laments the long, standing-room-only, bus ride home. I try to remind her that if she went to her neighborhood school, it would be 40 minutes instead of an hour, and it would be on foot in the rain and snow (uphill both ways) and she gives me a YEAH YEAH LADY.

She has already made a passel of new friends and they are following her around. It was discovered on the first day that the freshlet group she has fallen in with does not smoke pot or cigarettes (so she says). I said, “Good, that will make it easier to not start, if you’re surrounded by healthy people.” Kids there have hair every color of the rainbow, so she fits right in, appearance-wise.

Yesterday I was having a bad reaction to ghee I had made and was lying in my yard like a useless loaf, with brain fog and covered in fresh blisters that had ripped across my ribcage overnight. Franny came home and loomed over me, dumping her day on me and announced that she had picked her class schedule.

“Japanese, algebra, yoga, a history class where we’re going to design a game like Settlers of Catan but it’s about Ancient Rome, printmaking, and I don’t have time in my schedule for Black Studies and it’s pissing me off. Maybe Farm if I have space. And there’s no women’s studies this semester. Boo.”

“Can I come with?” I said.

JUST KIDDING. I said: “That sounds great, honey,” and then I started crying a little again, because 1. PMS and 2. I am so happy for her. I think she’s going to have a great time. I am so happy she did not choose our neighborhood high school.

“I have a tear,” I said.

“OH MOM. And I’m frontloading science because it’s BORING, so I can take mostly art classes later.”

I hope that this weirdo school makes her fall in love with science. That would be so awesome.

I guess I have less to say about Strudel, because she’s in the same school, just up a level. She’s in a 3-4 split, and is in a minority of fourth graders. The cool thing is that she is kind of over the moon with how respectful, thoughtful, kind, and engaged her new teacher is.

I was sad, sick, and tired in the last school year, and pretty up my own butt (I am still all of those things but in a different way right now), so I did not tell you how AWFUL Strudel’s third grade teacher was, I don’t think. I kind of couldn’t bear to write about the situation.

I nicknamed her Von Hoots because she had a long German name, and we had to make light of things somehow. I was a squeaky wheel about this teacher, sometimes squeaking from where I was stuck in bed, even. I wanted to go down there and arf arf at them in person when things were really bad, but I was having trouble walking when things were the worst. So it was email.

There was an additional complication in the form of an interim principal last year. I really don’t think that helped matters. Von Hoots was a yeller, and would call the kids names, like little brats and so forth. She had a bunny that she would bring in twice a week, which the class enjoyed. After xmas break she announced to the kids that the bunny had died of starvation because she went out of town and forgot to feed it. Strudel said there were tears in the classroom. I don’t think children should be shielded from all reality, but Jesus Fuckity. Sugarcoat the passing of the beloved classroom bunny A LITTLE.

Von Hoots was random about homework. Some weeks she “didn’t feel like” running copies. She didn’t bother scheduling spring conferences, not that we would have deigned to go. Strudel got very high scores on her statewide assessment tests, which was not communicated to us (or anyone) in the spring. We just found out that she qualified to take the advanced learning tests again this year. She takes them almost every year and has been falling shy by about a point or two each time. I am going to contest it this year and see if they have room for her. The kid is already complaining that there is only 30 minutes a day devoted to math. (“ASK FOR EXTRA!” I said.) She wants to find a Mathletes club like Lindsay from Freaks and Geeks. LOL times infinity.

“Today I heard Von Hoots yelling at her new class,” Strudel said yesterday.

“ON DAY TWO??” I asked.

ANYWAY, out with the asshole, in with the newhole.

TWO.

Gardening! I’ve been doing a tiny fragment of gardening. I planted an orange mint plant and a Greek oregano in my patio pots, and P. went out front and made some changes. I had started digging up the front yard but stopped because P. wanted to transplant the mature, large herb shrubs that were in that bed (rosemary, lavender, sage, some bonus heather). I HATE digging in this yard because you go down 4 inches and it is all rock. We have a theory that much of the rock from when this neighborhood was created got dumped in our yard, and topsoil was placed over the top of that.

So he dug holes in the back at the outside of the chicken pen and transplanted them! The yard is looking a bit more garden yardy nice, the way we like it, instead of serious mature shrubs and sad, vast patches of grass.

So here is the before, from when I attacked in July:

The left open square is now short sunflowers that were planted too late! But it’s okay. We might get a couple of blooms before October.

Here is now:

Winter greens surrounding the quince tree that we planted in the spring, and garlic to the right of that. I think this is the best use of the front yard. We also want to put up a grape arbor that will shade the living room window in the summer and admit light in the winter.

I was very glib about owning a house, and he agreed to do the paperwork, since I could barely think and was so le tired. Frankly, I was overwhelmed with terror about the paperwork. I think this was more bad brain stuff. I had a lot of anxiety with the bathroom as well, because OMG decisions. I said I would handle the decorating and the bills later, which I have been.

But now: I SEE A BENEFIT!! He planted weird trees!!!

HAZELNUTS, YAY! Okay, not so weird. But I have not lived in a rental here with hazelnuts in the yard.

They get to be friends with the cherry trees at the other end of the yard. We (okay, HE) is going to plant a medlar in the chicken pen. We also have plans for persimmon and gooseberry. We will can like it is 1899.

Also…I mean this for reals this time. BEES. Bees are coming. It was on my list when we moved in, but now I think we can pull it off.

THREE.

I am spending a lot of time with the dogs, as is my life plan, but now they don’t have the stimulation of work, nor do I have Franny to lean on to walk them. When she was here this summer I was having her walk them an hour a day, which was my sneaky plan to get her out of the house into the sunshine for a minute before she went back to Mario Kart and sulking.

I have been trying them out at dog parks, where they can run a bit and I can sit if I need to. Yesterday they made a friend. Cavaliers always find each other.

That is Jackson. His dog walker/sitter said, “Oh, I’m so glad you’re here. He always finds a person on a bench and sits with them, otherwise I do it for him while the other dogs run.” He hung with us. It was cool.

The spaniels enjoy the dog park, but they like to watch. Edith does a little frolicking but Horace stays glued to me and makes terrible singing noises of anxiety. He likes dogs he knows.


Here they are, creeping on the other dogs like ChiMos. Bonus: my teal boob.

They are such good comfort dogs, which is their point. I feel so lucky to have them around, especially in this past year. It is doing me really good to have living stuffed animals that I can hug and hug and that love this treatment. I felt bad when I was too sore in February to have them in my lap, but they adapted. They lay near me now, touching me, and get into my lap with permission. Before February, they would just assume they could jump up, but I said OUCH too many times when I was acutely ill.

Edith is SO SPOILT that not only does she get a lap during Citadels, she also gets a napkin chin pillow.


HELP I AM A TACO NOW

I thought he was alarmed so she put him down and then he begged for more by doing a little dance on the blanket, so she rewrapped him and he was very happy. When Horace wants something, he does a jolly tail wagging dance, and Edith spins in circles. I need to video this.

FOUR.

Speaking of things I cannot eat right now, like tacos, my sister and I went to Leavenworth on the 25th last month. We tootled around for about eight hours, and had a late dinner. I had most of our bottle of wine, since I was not driving, and then I lost my noodles and ate two pieces of bread that were left on the table.

I had been doing so well ordering the right things all day, and ignoring crackers at wine tastings, etc. And I thought, PFFT, who cares, I will have a bummer day tomorrow and then get over it. Well, I slept 12 hours and then struggled out of bed. I was shaking, had cold sweats, a fever, and broke out in blisters on my torso. My brain was sludge and I was instantly depressed. I have drunk more since then and have not felt hungover or flulike the way this was.

So that was my last bite of bread for a long while. Maybe ever. I wrangled P. up for a Whole30 this month, and Strudel is voluntarily joining too, though I am sending her to school with kefir in her lunchbox. She seems okay on fermented dairy. She knows wheat bothers her, as I’ve mentioned, and she said she suspects corn does too. So we will readd that in October.

I did my first Whole30 in May. We’ve been doing Paleo-ish for a few months now, but I let wheat creep back in incidentally, by not checking labels and going out to “unsafe” restaurants and rolling the dice with being cross contaminated. Let me say, I believed all allergies and Celiac was very real, but I thought diets with strict proscriptions and industries around them were extremely unappealing. I remembered Atkins from its big wave of popularity, and thought it sounded CRAZY (I don’t think that anymore now that I understand more of the science around it). Worse, I thought it was a temporary fix, and then where did you go from there?

I am rarely more than 20 pounds overweight (I usually hover between ten and twenty over), but I tried watching my diet for so many years, not really to lose weight, but to feel good and get more energy. I tried counting calories to see what I was doing wrong. I could not shake the last ten pounds even when I was training like a maniac to take the cop physical test in ’08. One fall I tried going back to healthy vegetarian, as opposed to the “french fry” vegetarian I was in college, and I felt worse and gained weight and bloat. I ran screaming back to meat.

Ultimately, sadly, the only diet that was working for the past 2-3 years was to eat as little as possible throughout the day so my stomach wouldn’t hurt. I worried about how little I ate sometimes and marveled at how I still didn’t lose weight. Perhaps I had shot my metabolism, I thought. I was afraid of “acid stomach” (searing stomach pain that could last 24 hours) and producing room-clearing gas in public and at work. I started my day with a giant coffee, a yogurt, and a shot of apple cider vinegar, which was a hack I’d found for preventing the acid stomach and heartburn (another attempt to chip away at my symptoms, like tea tree for my rosacea). I let myself eat on the weekend and felt horrible. This chart could have been written about me.

Meat, LOTS of veg, some fruit and nuts is working. So this diet I can see doing for life. No measuring anything, except eyeballing proportions of carbs/fats/proteins. No calorie counting. I am not bothering with “gluten-free substitutes.” I had long lost my taste for pastries and those kinds of sweets, anyway. I think I knew on some level what was making me ill. My hair has stopped falling out. People who see me often have complimented the state of my skin, which looks better than it has for ten years. My spark still comes and goes. There is nothing like brain fog to kill your joie de vivre. Sometimes I am sad and sometimes I have okay energy and have to tell myself “Okay grandma, don’t overdo.” The diet aspect is pretty easy because we’ve been doing GF in fits and starts with the girls to see if it helped their stomachaches (it always did).

My clothes are already looser, and it’s not just bloat lost. It might be weird to be thin, since I have pretty much looked the same (carrying my winter coat around with me) since I was about nineteen or twenty. I gained that weight in college and I remember my mother panicking about how “obese” I had gotten (that lady is just a delight). I just accepted that I was kind of round. I yam what I yam, I figured. So that is a smaller consideration. I still wake up marveling that I don’t have a splitting headache every day, that I can drink moderate amounts of wine with no hangover, that I don’t spend all night rolling over on a huge puffed stomach after dinner. I keep touching my skin, which is smooth, unless I have a hives day. Hives day used to be every day.

ANYWAY. Whew, coming down off the soapbox. Also, no judging. And no Crossfit. I like my walks and yoga, thank you. I don’t care what you do, as long as it’s right for your body.

I forgot to bring my camera to Leavenworth, so we went and had our likenesses made. I need to find a frame, because this is going in a place of honor in my house. My face already looks less puffy than it does here. This picture is extra special, because it is also secretly August 25th The Last Day I Intentionally Ate Wheat. I will never have a Victorian year again, unless it’s a gluten-free one. HA.