Vicious Cycle

I have fallen into a bad sleep pattern, not completely by choice, and it’s killing me. The things that are in my control that I am doing wrong are; eating too many carbs that make me feel lethargic, then drinking too much caffeine to over come the carbs ingested, staying up too late watching the worst possible TV the Academy Awards (where were the real movie stars?) and other unnecessary TV viewing, playing too many games on various Apple devices that serve no purpose, but keep my brain moving when it should be slowing down.
Things that are out of my control are; the shade in my room is out being repaired and the sun is coming up earlier, Russ not sleeping through the night thanks to jet lag, or the need to get up at four in the morning to go to the airport, Shay thinking that once Russ leaves the house at 4:20 AM she needs to wake me up to take her out and give her breakfast.
Because of the need to get up to go to the gym there is no sleeping in to make up for the bad habits of the night before and the cycle starts all over again. I have tried to go to sleep slightly earlier, but I have just not been able to fall asleep no matter how tired I am. I know that I am the cause of this issue. I hardly have any real excuse not to eat cleanly, stop caffeine at noon and go to bed at a decent hour, but I have not been able to follow through with that plan so far.  
Russ is away in freezing Chicago tonight so I should have started my catch up on sleep plan today, but I have already eaten the wrong foods and had iced tea late into the afternoon. Damn the yumminess of that tea, it is such a terrible addiction. But it is the only thing I am eating that has no calories. And the more tired I get the less will power I have. This is the most vicious cycle ever. And damn, The Batchelor is on TV tonight. At least it ends at ten. How am I ever going to make myself fall asleep by then?  If only I can keep Shay asleep long enough not to insist on my getting up in the middle of the night.  It’s like have a new born again.


Oscar Fashion

  Tonight Carter and I settled into the big sofa in front of our new TV to watch the red carpet pre-Oscar show. This year I have seen fewer of the nominated pictures than I ever have so I don’t have a lot of opinions about who I want to win. Instead Carter and I have been studying the dresses.
From the early stars who came in, like Olivia Wilde and Saoirse Ronan it looks like dresses without any visible means of support were going to make a big show tonight. Fashion without foundation is not something I can ever pull off, not unless I am purposely trying to have a big wardrobe malfunction. I am wondering if they have their boobs so taped down that they are not afraid of an escape?  
Just when I thought that the Oscars was all about “no bras” Kerry Washington came along with a Versace leather breast plate gladiator topped dress. Hooray. At last a look that was designed to hold everything in the right place and looking their best.
Not that I am ever going to be going to the Oscars, but I know that what the stars wear gets translated out to the real world. Please, knock off designers, take up the looks that women can wear bras with, most of us need them.
Enjoy the show. I hope that Chris Rock is funny and I am able to stay awake to see the big awards.


Why You Should Buy Good Condiments

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I am not boasting when I say that I am a good cook. Just ask my husband or any of my friends or dinner guests who cherish an invitation to our table. I was not born this way, it took years of loving food to get this way. One might deduce that loving the taste of food automatically makes someone a good cook, but I know plenty of foodies who have gotten that way without ever heating a pan in their own kitchens.

 

After all these years of cooking I have become an intuitive cook, meaning that I can just throw things together based on what I have on hand and it usually tastes good. That level of kitchen confidence comes only after years of tasting lots of different food combinations. Since I can’t teach that I try and write recipes down now because I almost never would remember how or even what I made in the past, when someone begs me for a recipe.

 

Not everything I make is gourmet or complicated, but I try to make everything yummy. When someone asks me for cooking advice my best and easiest thing to tell people is to buy interesting condiments and use them to spice up a simple protein like a piece of grilled chicken or fish.

 

I am not talking about basic mayonnaise or ketchup, but coriander sauce, mango chutney or the Myer lemon relish I used tonight on salmon. I pan cooked a piece of salmon with nothing but salt and pepper and once I plated it I dabbed a spoonful of the fragrant lemon sauce on top. It basically was a two-ingredient dish, since salt and pepper are never counted in the recipe world, but it was fabulously tasty. The best part is it took barely five minutes to make.

 

So my suggestion for expanding your cooking repertoire is just peruse the gourmet condiment aisle at the grocery store. Pick out something you have never tasted, read the label; it usually will have a suggested use. Try it! Most condiments don’t make it to your local store without a bunch of people tasting it and liking it, so there is little risk for you to buy it. Put it on chicken because everything goes on chicken. Suddenly you will be a gourmet cook and it only took two-ingredients.

 

If you discover you like that condiment you may want to learn to make it from scratch, but only if you really want to learn to be a better cook. But it is no crime to just continue to buy jars of relishes, sauces, spices, oils and other good ingredients to help add flavor to your simple foods. People will consider you a gourmet cook and you never have to tell them how you do it.


Wood Parmesan?

  

Today on NPR I heard a snippet of legal news about a Western Pennsylvania woman, the president of two family owned cheese companies, who was convicted of a crime of mislabeling cheese. Specifically it was Parmesan and Romano Cheeses that actually did not include any of those cheeses in them. What authorities found is that the grated cheese products included other cheeses and, wait for it, wood pulp. The woman is probably getting probation and has to pay a fine of $500,000.
Now I know some of you might be outraged that you could have paid close to $14 a pound for fake Parmesan, and for that I don’t blame you. The thing that intrigues me is that this woman completely missed the boat in making even more money from her fake cheese.
I think anyone who can make something taste like Parmesan, but has fiber in it, (cheese alone has not fiber) and has fewer calories than Parm could have made a killing. Since the human body can not really digest wood they would end up running through you and not contributing to any weight gain. If you made that wood tasty, well now you have a diet “cheese like” sprinkle.
This cheese woman is no marketing whiz because diet products sell for so much more than regular products. If she had just marketed her “cheese product” as Parmesan flavor she never would have gotten in any trouble.
Of course she would have to list her ingredients on the label, but how many people really understand that cellulose is wood? It was the nutrition label where she could have made her killing since it would be fewer calories than REAL very fattening Parmesan.
I am not condoning lying, especially about food, But if she could make this stuff taste good she was on to something. My only question is, “what kind of wood was she using?” If there is a Parmesan tasting tree out there I want to start a tree farm. Imagine what kinda of market there could be for Parmesan tasting tooth picks? One tree could make billions of tooth picks. I could be realy happy sucking on that tooth pick to help curb my cheese craving, especially since it would be calorie free!


Missed A Good Napping Opportunity

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Yesterday, as I was lying face down on the treatment table in the doctor’s office, awaiting the fourth in a long line of vein treatments I am undergoing as a leg improvement project, I heard the weather warning signal blast away on my phone. The nurse said, “it”s just tornado warnings.”  
Since I had already gone to my zen place so as not to feel any pain I ignored the warning. When I was finally treated, bandaged and stuff snuggly into my compression sock the doctor said, “go now and be safe in the weather.”  
I got in the car and never looked at my phone, nor turned on the radio and blissfully drove myself home. The sky was very dark in the direction I was going and I did notice the swirling clouds, but chose to ignore them as they were moving away from my house as I pulled in the drive way.
I had things to do to get ready for the book club I was holding last night so I ignorantly went about my business with no TV, Internet or radio interruptions. I got a few emails from people saying they were not going to venture out in the weather and I wondered why.
Later last night after all the people left my house I opened Facebook to find many postings of friends close by who were sheltering in place in interior closets or basement rooms. Pictures of kids wearing head lamps, doing homework shoulder to shoulder with their siblings in a place not big enough for one, let alone three or four.
Apparently the weather was much worse in some places near me than it was at my house. I am thankful that my friends are all safe, but I am mostly sad that I missed a good excuse to take a nap while sheltering in place. I have been very tired and unable to fall asleep early for the last few nights and a nap really would have served me well.
Carter asked me where we should go if we ever realized that a warning was serious and I mentioned her bathroom as the safest spot in the house. But that would not make the best place for me to nap, so I would have settled for under the bed in Russ’s office. The bed is the first antique I bought and as an old rope bed it is extra tall so I fit fine underneath it.
I have decided that I need an app that changes weather warnings to a voice that comes out of my phone saying, “quick, take cover and grab a nap while sheltering in place.” That is a command I will follow.


Of Course We Had Bad Weather Today

  

One of my volunteer jobs is chairing the Durham Academy Parents of Alumni group. I am not a parent of an Alum, but I started the group as my job on parents council in anticipation of one day not having a child at the school.
It has been a little slow in getting off the ground, not from lack of interest. Our Fall party had to be canceled because weather rained out all Alumni Weekend activities. We did have a successful party before the the winter In the Pocket Concert and it did not even snow.
Tonight was the kick-off of our POA one time book club. We recruited star English teacher Jeff Beirsach to lead the discussion of Edith Wharton’s The House of Mirth. When I first advertised it we sold out all 25 places in record time.  
This being a POA event meant that I was not surprised when schools were canceled and sports teams did not have practice because of the impending tornados coming through our area this afternoon. People started e-mailing that they were not going to be able to come to book club, but I was not going to cancel it.  
Jeff showed up early to help set the room up the way he wanted it. I let him know that it was going to be smaller than we thought, still unsure of exactly how many people would show up. I laid out the drinks and Sara Pottenger brought her yummy artichoke squares, cheese and veggies. Thank goodness people came. At first one, then another, greeting each other like long lost friends. Then people came who had never met each other, but all were excited about the book and learning from Jeff, like their children had.
After getting a drink we all gathered in our circle and Jeff began to give us the background information on Edith Wharton and the book that made it much more interesting than just a group of women sitting round talking about a book. We had a lively discussion and people stayed a long time reluctant to have to go.
The POA book club was a big success! Jeff suggested a couple of other teachers in history and film and phycology that might be good leaders for another POA event. I’m going to be calling them because I finally feel like we have a model for something smart people like to do. Of course, I wish I could bet on the weather because chances are whenever we have an event we are also going to have bad weather.


Nightly Ice Water

  

When I was just seven years old my family moved to the Connecticut house I spent the rest of my growing up years in. It was a crazy sprawling set of two barns that had been moved together to make “a house” if that is what you could call it. When it was first repurposed from barns that were multi hundreds of years old, it was used as the “carriage house, servants quarters and party space ” for the main house next door.  
Half the building was barn siding that you could practically see through where the boards joined together and the other half was clapboard, all without much insulation. It was freezing cold in the winter, despite the furnace that resembled Spike, the fire breathing dragon under the stairs in the Munster’s TV show and took up its own ten by ten room. The summers were no better since no Yankee thought there was a need for air conditioning back in the sixties and seventies.
My seven-year-old-self bedroom was the last room in the string of maid’s rooms. To get there from the main kitchen you had to go through the upstairs dining room, up a half set of stairs, through “the little living room” down a winding set of stairs, through an entry hall and open a secret door, slither down a very narrow hallway that also had a very low ceiling, turn right and go through the maid’s galley kitchen, go through one door in my sister Margaret’s room, navigate toys and books and such on the floor to get to her other door and then one more hallway past our shared bathroom to my room.  
Of course, being such an old house you could take the secret passage way from my room, up the back barn “stairs,” which had no light and were fourteen inch risers and only about four inch treads so I had to climb them like a ladder to pull my seven year old self up into the “big living room.” From there I could go through the “little living room” down the half set up stairs to the upstairs dining room and into the upstairs kitchen.
Needless to say getting to the kitchen from my room was quite an ordeal. Yes, I had the “maid’s kitchen” right near my room, but we never used it as a kitchen, only a passage way when we first moved in and then it became my youngest sister’s room when she was born. It was the furthest thing from a nursery. It had one small window that looked out to a creek that ran under the upstairs kitchen and dining room that were built on stilts then in a tunnel that ripen under our driveway. We affectionately called that room “the inner sanctum.” My sister has every right to need therapy for that.
All this being said is to describe why I had a recurring dream when I was a kid. I loved to have a big glass of ice water on my bed side table, often waking up in the middle of the night to take a drink. It was a huge trip for me to get to the kitchen to get that ice water, especially when we still had to pry the cubes out of one of the two metal ice trays from the freezer. More nights than most I would fall asleep without getting my water and then I would dream of having an electric cold water fountain in my room. Not a white porcelain kind, like we had at school that just spit out tap water, but the kind that refrigerated the water.  
I had the perfect spot for it in the hallway right outside my bathroom, like all water fountains were in public schools. When I would wake up parched from either sleeping in the freezing cold, or the sweltering heat and realize I had forgotten to get my water before bed I would look to the hallway and would envision the water fountain like a mirage. It was a long journey through our big drafty Connecticut barns if I were to try and make the trek to the kitchen. If I went the path through my sisters’ rooms I took the chance of waking them and that would be hell to pay, but if I went the back barn steps I had to climb down the steps/ladder while carrying a glass and that was no easy feat. No wonder I dreamt many times of that water fountain.
I have not changed much, but thank goodness my house has. I still like to have my big glass of ice water on my bedside table, but now I never make the mistake of going to bed without it, even though the journey is so much easier if I forget. The good news is that I no longer have the recurring dream of that cold water fountain. I guess I made my own dreams come true.