Deciphering Arthritis

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to give the whole ‘gluten free’ thing a try, to see if it helps with my inflammation and non-rheumatoid rheumatoid arthritis.  I have mentioned on Facebook that I’ve been having this pain, these problems, and several people mentioned to me that their pain was significantly managed by going either gluten free, dairy free, or both.  I’ve also talked to people for whom these options did not make a whit of difference, but they at least gave them a try.  The first two weeks I was gluten free, and now for this last week, on the recommendation of a friend for whom the combination of gluten and dairy was the issue, I’m  going gluten and dairy free.  Yesterday was day 1 of this horror, and today is day 2.  My fear is, what if it helps.  Will I then need to go entirely gluten and dairy free, for the rest of my life, in order to keep this condition at bay?  Ugh.  I hate that thought. I’ll do what I need to do, but seriously, gluten and dairy are two of my favorite food groups.

Yesterday, I also tried a yoga video that I get as part of my Amazon Prime membership, “Easy Yoga for Beginners with Christine Wushke”  I woke up stiff and in pain, as I do most mornings.  After the yoga video, I still had my pain, but the stiffness was markedly reduced.  That’s a step in the right direction, I’d say.  If you’ve ever done yoga, you would likely say this is the easiest yoga sequence EVER, and mainly works on stretching your back and legs.  There are a total of 2 downward dogs, a few warrior poses, and a lot of resting poses.  The J who used to take yoga regularly and could do all of the poses fairly easily would laugh at today’s J, barely able to get into the posts.  Today’s J can’t do a downward dog properly, because it hurts my wrists far too much.  I can modify the pose by being on my elbows and forearms rather than on my hands.  So this yoga sequence is a good thing, basic and forgiving, and I think I need to make it a part of my daily routine.  See what that does for me.

At my last appointment with my rheumatologist, she doubled my dose of one medication.  You have to ease into it, as it is sometimes hard on the stomach.  So I started with 1 pill a day, then was up to 2 pills a day, then she put me on 4 pills a day, and said if that was too much, back off to 3 for a bit.  4 pills a day was horrid, my stomach felt like crap all day, and I pretty much wanted to throw up.  Gross.  So I pulled back to 3, which was much better.  Today I went back to 4, and thus far I seem to be handling it fine.

So, I’m feeling a tiny bit better.  Is that due to the yoga?  The medication finally starting to work?  Just a good day?  The no gluten/no dairy diet?  I don’t know.  I sure hate the idea of no gluten or dairy forever.  But a friend on Facebook, who I did know in real life back in High School, said that her husband also has an auto-immune issue (gout in his case), and he deals with it by eating some gluten and dairy and red meat when he’s feeling well, and then if he has a flair, he cuts back to a super limited diet until it goes away.  That’s something to consider, at least.  Of course, that only works if these foods are a trigger for me, which I just don’t know yet.  The key is to get to where I’m feeling better, hopefully, and then reintroduce these foods one at a time, and see if the symptoms come back.

For now, I just want this current flair to subside, so going shopping for an hour doesn’t bring me home in so much foot pain, so doing every day things doesn’t leave me worn out at the end of the day, and maybe I can do a proper downward facing dog, arms and all.


Wild is the story of Cheryl Strayed, a woman destroyed by the death of her mother. Cheryl has fallen into a seriously self-destructive spiral, shooting up heroin, having sex with strangers, sabotaging her marriage. One day she hits her own version of bottom, and while in a drug store, spies a travel book, for hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, and she sees some sort of peace there. Her mother was that rare, truly good, happy-in-spite-of-it-all person, and told her many times to find the beauty in life, to let that beauty find her and wash over her. So she decides that the way to come to terms with the person she has become is to hike this trail…from the Mexico/U.S. border up into Oregon. She has no experience hiking, no experience with her camping equipment, no knowledge of what she is getting herself into. But into it she must get.

Along her journey, we are shown many flashbacks of her life up to now…life at home with her mother and brother, her mother’s illness, her marriage, her self-destructive behavior. She is struggling with these memories, and not so much trying to absolve herself or find forgiveness for her sins, but rather to come to terms with who she is, and see if there is a glimmer in there of the woman her mother wanted her to be.

I really liked the movie a lot. Reese Witherspoon is definitely an Oscar contender for her performance as Strayed. Laura Dern (who isn’t that much older than Witherspoon) did a fabulous job as her mother. Go see if it you get a chance.

Still here

In years past, I have often, if not always, participated in NaBloPoMo, posting on my blog every day for the month of November. This year, it didn’t even occur to me. What did occur to me was to not post even one blog post for the month of November. “What if I take the entire month off?” I thought, “would the world end?” Of course not. If I don’t care, then why should anyone else? Those heady days of busy busy blogging are long gone, at least around here, and no one worries if I don’t have anything to say for a week or two. Or maybe a month.

But tonight I’m sitting, sipping wine, watching old reruns on TV. Ted’s at work, Maya’s upstairs doing homework. I’ve got a good book next to me that I’ll dive into after I finish this, so I thought I’d say hello.

In my last post, I mentioned several books that I had put on hold at the library. As sometimes happens, three books came in at once. This is a situation that can stress me out. The books are all due in three weeks, and what if I can’t get through the books in time? When the books are popular, I can’t renew them. Rats. The first one I read was “Let me be Frank with you”, by Richard Ford. It’s 4 novellas in one book, all around the same time. Frank Bascombe lives in New Jersey, and the stories all take place in the months after Hurricane Sandy, though they don’t all relate to the storm. They’re internal stories. Not much happens. Mostly Frank observes and considers what is going on around him, trying to figure out his place in the world, how to do the right thing when he’s not always sure what that is. I liked it a lot, and I would recommend it to anyone, whether or not they’ve read any other of Ford’s books about Bascombe.

Next is “This is the Story of a Happy Marriage”, which is a series of essays by Ann Patchett. Thus far she’s writing about the experience of being a writer. I’m enjoying it, and I think there’s a lot of good advice there. Next up could be short stories by Tom Perotta, or it could be the new Felix Francis book. I’m looking forward to that.

It’s that time of year at work, where things get busy. Busy busy busy. I like being busy, but I don’t like everything about it. I don’t like how we sometimes are made to feel guilty for wanting to take time off on weekends. I don’t like how my company, this year, decided that the day after Thanksgiving is not a company holiday. Jerks. Thankfully, my immediate boss isn’t a jerk, so I have that day off.

Maybe you’re wondering how the arthritis thing is going. It sucks, is how. Here I’ve been healthy my entire life, and suddenly I feel pain almost all of the time, in various parts of my body, and I don’t know how much worse it is likely to get or if it will ever go away. I finished the prednisone two weeks ago, and the pain has been coming back ever since. Actually, it started coming back when I was tapering off of the prednisone. But since I’ve been off entirely, the pain is worse. I hate it. It’s not nearly as bad as it was before I started the prednisone, but the fear of whether it will come back is scary. I’ve read about rheumatoid arthritis, and everything I read sucks. I try to keep focused on the knowledge that every person’s body is different. Every person reacts to medications differently. Sometimes issues like mine mysteriously go away. I cling to that, hoping that will be my story, and that this almost-but-not-exactly rheumatoid arthritis will go away and life will be pain free. In the mean time, swimming helps. Ted bought passes to our local community pool, and days that I go are generally better than those that I don’t. Did I mention work is busy right now? Sigh. Also, sleeping with my wrists in braces helps. Also, wearing my bite guard helps, because the discomfort in my hands seems to make me grind my teeth, which make my cheeks hurt, and also maybe gum recession gets worse. I feel very sexy, with my hands in braces and teeth in a guard. Blech. Taking some new meds that so far I’m not allergic to. They take a couple of months to kick in. So let’s see. I sure hope they work, and that things get better on this front.

What else. Maya’s liking her job at her elementary school. She’s starting to think about where she’d like to transfer when she’s finished at the local junior college. She isn’t enjoying her time there, sadly. She does have several friends nearby, but no one at school to hang out with. I hope things get better there.

Thanksgiving is coming. We’re going to Ted’s parents’ house, where the plan is that we all chip in so no one person has to do everything. My contribution is cranberry sauce, yams, rolls, and vegetables. Pretty easy stuff. Really, none of the Thanksgiving dishes are that complicated, so I’m not sure why some people get so stressed about it. Maybe if it were at my house, and if it were anyone but loved relatives, it might be more stressful.

I was supposed to go see my Grandma yesterday. We got a call at 7:30 in the morning, that Grandma had been in too much pain all night (arthritis in her back) and hadn’t slept. Ugh. My poor Grandma, tiny like a little bird, in so much pain. I don’t know why her being tiny makes it worse. She just seems so frail and vulnerable, I guess. Which she is. She’s also amazingly strong. Strong in her spirit and heart, frail in body. She told me that the only way to avoid this crap is to die before you get to be her age. I need to put some thought into this whole process, and what I want when I get to be old.

The plan right now is to go see Grandma next Saturday. I hope so. Maybe even if she’s not feeling better, I’ll go. A difficult decision. I should likely leave her alone and let her rest, so she doesn’t feel like she has to be up and feeling well when I’m there. On the other hand, sometimes having someone come and visit makes her feel better. I know it would make me feel better.

That’s it. Nothing else here. I hope you’re well, that November is treating you well thus far.

Friday Randomness

OK, I know I said I don’t care about baseball, or sports in general, but I must admit I got sucked into this series. The drama of it all captivated me, and the scores kept flopping from one team to the next. First SF kicked KC’s butt. Then KC kicked SF’s butt. Back and forth, and it sometimes felt like you weren’t watching the same teams from one night to the next. After the first game, when SF won 7 to 1, I was kind of disgusted with the local press. It was very smug and sure of SF superiority. Sort of like, “Of course we’re going to win, it’s an even year. That’s what we do.” It turned me off, and I was kind of hoping that Kansas City would teach San Francisco a thing or two. Which they did, the second night, when the score was 7 to 2, with Kansas City winning. Then it looked like SF was going to take the victory, with the next few games either close or SF winning. Until Tuesday’s game, when the Royals kicked the Giants butts, 10 to 0. Ouch. That one was painful to watch, and actually we gave up, took a walk, and did other things. Then there was Wednesday’s game 7, which was a real nail biter of a game. I’ll admit, I did other things while watching. But that 9th inning…Bottom of the 9th, Giants to Royals 3 – 2, a runner on 3rd base, two strikes, GAH. That is the drama of baseball. This guy whacks it hard enough, the game could be over. Or, it could go into a stupid amount of innings, like the game a few weeks ago that went 18 innings, and something like 6 1/2 hours. Blech. But no, the guy hit, Panda caught the ball, the game was over. We squeaked that one, and we learned a bit of humility along the way. Today’s the parade, which means traffic will be hell going into SF today. Glad I don’t commute, and I wish Ted didn’t have to.

I love Facebook. You may have read some of my blog posts about my time in Alaska, and I’ve mentioned my friend Amy Derocher, who lived across the street from us. Well, I discovered a group on Facebook the other day, “You know you’re from Fairbanks when…”, where people go to tell their tales. Mostly they fall into two camps, those who were there in the 50s and 60s, and remember the big flood, and those who harken back to the 80s, and talk about what store is now where another store used to be. I was only there for 5 years, from age 4 to age 9, in the early 70s. So anyway, I posted a link to a blog post I wrote several years ago, and Amy Derocher saw it and commented! Of course, I have her name spelled entirely wrong, both the Amy and the Derocher, but still, how wonderful! So we did some FB chatting between the two of us, and it turns out she lives in Santa Cruz, just a couple of hours from here, and she has a beautiful horse. I think I may have to go down there and visit sometime, and bring some pictures to share. Amazing.

I just started a new book, recommended by blog friend Simon, The Vanishing of Katharina Linden, which may have the best first sentence I’ve ever come across. “My life might have been so different, had I not been known as the girl whose grandmother exploded.” So far, so good. I’m really enjoying it.

I’m also really enjoying watching “Call the Midwife” on Netflix. I recently noticed that many many of my Facebook friends were talking about it, how much they loved it, how well done it is, etc. So I thought I’d give it a try. If you haven’t seen it, if you like period dramas, I suggest you watch. It’s post war London, the East End, and there’s a group of nuns and nurses who serve as midwives to the community. It’s an era and neighborhood where there doesn’t appear to be any birth control, where women have baby after baby after baby, even though there’s not really enough money for one or two. There are, quite expectedly, lots of scenes of babies being born, all gooey with their umbilical cords looking all blue and alien. I love it. I love the characters and the story lines. It’s produced by BBC and shown on PBS here in America. The first 3 seasons are on Netflix.

Ted and I went to a movie and book shopping the other day. We saw “Dear White People”, which was very good, but maybe not as good as the reviews might lead you to believe. Still, I liked it quite a bit and I’m glad we saw it. We then went to Moe’s, an independent bookstore in Berkeley, which has been around since 1959. My parents likely went there often in their college days, amongst other places. I found several books I wanted, one of which I bought, Why Teach, a book that seems to conform very closely to my own beliefs about education…that the best major to be is an English major, because that’s where you learn to think and grow and be. (I was not an English major, I’ll admit. International Relations for undergrad, Comparative Literature for my Masters. Comp Lit is very similar to English, but the books you read are not American or English, they are instead from other countries.) That the current university system is doing students no favors by catering to them and praising them and inflating their grades, instead of teaching critical thought.
I also saw a couple of other books that I wanted, but couldn’t afford, so I wrote them down and put them on hold at the library. Better for the bank account, and also because we have little room in our house for books, sadly enough. I have the following books on hold:

  • Nine Inches: Stories ~ Tom Perotta
    I’ve read a couple of other books by Perotta, The Leftovers and Little Children. His subject matter is generally very dark, but I like his writing and am interested to read his short stories.
  • Let Me Be Frank With You ~ Richard Ford
    I read what I think is Ford’s most recent book (until this one), Canada, which I really enjoyed. This one is going back to a character he’s had in other books, Frank Bascombe. I read Independence Day, which has the same character, but I don’t think I’ve read The Sportswriter.
  • The Bone Clocks ~ David Mitchell
    I loved Cloud Atlas, the only other book of Mitchell’s that I’ve read. I’m looking forward to reading this one.
  • This is the Story of a Happy Marriage ~ Ann Patchett
    I think my favorite Ann Patchett book was Bel Canto, though I’ve read a few others as well.
  • California ~ Edan Lepucki
    Now we’re getting to a new author, at least for me. I’ve not read anything by Lepucki before, but I keep hearing really great things about this book, so I’m hopeful. I’m number 75 on the list, so it will be awhile.

  • The Goldfinch ~ Donna Tartt
    Another new author for me. I keep seeing this one on the best seller lists in the Sunday paper, so I thought I’d give it a go.
  • Damage ~ Felix Francis
    This is the newest by Felix Francis, son of the late mystery writer, Dick Francis. Dick Francis wrote dozens of mysteries, all relating to his first love, horse racing. After his wife died, Dick started pairing up with his son, Felix, and they would write stories together. Then when Dick passed away, Felix kept the tradition going. I won’t say I like his writing just as much as his father’s, but really it’s very close, and I do enjoy being a part of that world. I don’t actually have this one on hold, Ted’s aunt does. But she lives in my same town, and she reads quite quickly, so she’ll read it, pass it to me, and I’ll tear through it before it’s due back at the library. Yay!

Speaking of Ted’s Aunt, Sondra, she works as the office manager at Maya’s old elementary school, which is a public charter Montessori school. I used to be on the board of directors there, and when they were looking for an office manager, I suggested they interview her, as they needed someone organized to come in and straighten things up, and Sondra is without question the most organized person I know. She started working there in 2005. Fast forward to today, and Maya has been working at Forever 21, and hating it. Hating that she works until 11:00 on Friday and Saturday nights, dreading working on Thanksgiving Day and Black Friday and during Christmas break when her friends are home from college. Ted and I don’t like the thought of her walking around the downtown parking garages at that time of night, either, so we end up picking her up after work. Not fun, since we’re old and don’t necessarily want to stay up that late every weekend. So a few weekends ago, I was having lunch with Sondra, and she asked me if I thought Maya might like to come and work at the Montessori, doing after school child care. Um, Yes Please! Maya loved the idea. She truly wanted OUT of F21, but didn’t want to go from having a paycheck to no money (we stopped giving her an allowance…), and this sounded like much better hours. So she applied, which pretty much meant giving them her resume, and she was hired, based on Auntie Sondra’s good word. Nepotism rocks! So she works 3 days a week after school, and is off work at 6, and has weekends free to study or go out with her friends, no holiday working, all of that. Very good news indeed.

Next week is the elections. All of the pundits seem to be predicting a big win for the republicans in the Senate. I hope not. I haven’t even really looked at my voter guide yet, to figure out how I’m going to vote on propositions and so on. I guess I have my homework for the weekend.

I just got an email from Ted…he met Jacques Pepin today! He has been in San Francisco, recording his new TV Show, “Heart and Soul” for KQED, and was at Ted’s radio station to be interviewed. GAH! I’m so envious. I’ve loved Jacques for years. Remember when he had his cooking show, Cooking with Claudine, where he cooked with his daughter? The show where he cooked with his dear friend Julia Child? Sigh. Why not me? He’s like a rock star in my world.

Happy Thanksgiving!

tableHappy Thanksgiving to my Canadian friends! Our Friends to the North celebrate Thanksgiving in much the same way we in the U.S. do. Get together with family, eat some turkey, stuffing, sides, maybe a pumpkin pie. Very nice. My loyal readers will remember that my darling husband, Ted, was born in Canada, and has citizenship there, though he’s not claimed it in any way at this point. Because we are a family that enjoys celebrating life when we can, we like to have a Thanksgiving feast in October, just us, and then again in November, with Ted’s family (my parents came to California last year and joined in, which was wonderful). So I spent the day cleaning and shopping and cooking. Set the table with our wedding china, crystal, and silver. I vowed years ago to start using it more often, but when I said those words, I lied them.  (My little homage to Dr. Seuss there…anyone know which story?) So we haven’t broken out the good stuff all together in years. You know what? It was really nice. The table looked beautiful, the food was delicious (even if I do use Stove Top stuffing rather than making my own), and we had a really nice evening.
Here’s the menu:

We had flowers and candles and wine. It was lovely. Generally, we have Canadian Thanksgiving dinner on Monday evening, but this year it made sense to do it on Sunday, which appears to be more authentic anyway. So yay us! It was a little strange, though, as it got up to be almost 90 today, and the talk is about the Giants and their World Series dreams.

It’s Sunday evening as I write this. The Giants just lost game 2, but it’s best 4 out of 7, and it’s currently 1 game each, so don’t give up yet. (I pretend to care, when one of our local teams get this far. Truly, of course, why would I care? The players don’t know me or care about my victories and losses, so whatever.) Ted’s celebrating Thanksgiving by watching “The Walking Dead”. Ugh. I think I’ll read my book, this is far too gory for me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

* The formatting here is bugging the crap out of me. I’ve fixed this list 3 times, and it keeps getting wonky. I’m going to have to ask you to just ignore how wrong the spacing is on the bullets here, if indeed they are rendering strangely on your screen. For me it’s fine once, then a mess again.

** I had a bit of trouble with my cranberry sauce.  It’s early in the year for fresh cranberries, but I found frozen.  I didn’t have time to thaw them before boiling with sugar and water.  I don’t know if I didn’t boil them long enough or what, but after a couple of hours, they still hadn’t jelled.  I read online to add a little pectin, which I didn’t have.  I remember reading that apples have pectin, and I’ve made strawberry jam with strawberries, sugar, and apples, so I diced up about 1/3 of a Granny Smith apple and threw that in, cooked for maybe 8 minutes, and then let it cool.  I had to put it in the freezer to get it cool in time for dinner, but it worked.   Whew.  Thanksgiving is NOT Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce.

Friday Randomness

We generally have a couple of very hot days in late September or early October. I remember moving to San Francisco back in ’87, and it hitting 100 that October. Indian Summer, they call it. So this weekend was Indian Summer, hitting the 90s after a few weeks of cooler weather. Hot weather requires a bit more water for the plants, water I’m hesitant to give in a drought year. Saturday morning I was watering the plants around our little patio garden, in preparation for a hot summer day, watching a fat black bumblebee buzz around the purple flowers of our potato plant, when I am sure I saw said bee poop. Yes, I said poop. You know how when a bird poops, there’s a stream of liquid that drops down? That’s what it was. A tiny drop of liquid dropping from the bee. Very strange.

I may have mentioned that I gave up my beloved and somewhat dangerous (who knows, I like to think of it as dangerous…gives me a little street cred) diet coke addiction last year. Well, since then I’ve started drinking tea most days. A cup of PGTips, an English black tea, with some milk and sugar. Sometimes I enjoy it, and sometimes it’s quite bitter. I read something on Facebook about tea, and it turns out that perhaps I’ve been (sometimes) steeping my tea for too long. So I looked around and found that the right time for black tea is 3 – 5 minutes. I’ve not timed it before, so what do I know. Anyway, I started timing the steeping of the tea, and lo and behold, no more bitter tea. Lovely.

We’re watching a new TV show (new to us, not new), “Call the Midwife”. It’s a PBS show. I like it a lot. Comparing it to some other shows that we have watched on Netflix, this one is not so bingy. The stories are compelling, the characters well acted, and the writing smart. It’s not bingy (or binge worthy) because the stories (thus far) seem to wrap up at the end of each episode. So you’re not pulled into one episode from the next. ‘we watch one or two episodes a night. I like it quite a bit.

Last Saturday, Ted and I went into the city to try a newish Thai restaurant that opened in the Parc 55 hotel, the hotel where I worked during my college years. It was written up in the NYTimes magazine. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but we got there and it was closed. They don’t serve lunch on weekends. Dumb. So we ended up eating at a restaurant across the street, the name of which I don’t even remember. Ted had a delicious burger. I had a mediocre egg dish that I wanted to be better than it was. The woman at the table next to me had a yummy looking crab and egg thing, which I didn’t order because it’s not crab season, but perhaps I should have. I had a (virgin) Bloody Mary that was different than any other Bloody Mary that I’ve ever had. A traditional Bloody Mary is kind of thick, with Worcestershire and maybe Tabasco. This was thin, like maybe it was squeezed from tomatoes that day. It didn’t have a kick. It was tasty, so I didn’t send it back. But I wouldn’t suggest it.

I then went to a movie while Ted went to work. I went to see “Gone Girl”, which I really enjoyed. It was a fun movie about bad people. I won’t say more, though Ted reviewed it here.

Fun new fact, one of the medications I’m now on for my arthritis crap has a nice side effect, which is that I’m much more susceptible to sun exposure. We walked from Ted’s work to the hotel on Saturday, which was about 20 minutes on a hot day (I think it hit 94 later that day). I got sunburned. Not just pink, but burned where it hurt and was itchy, and sometimes it feels and looks more like a rash. Blech. Looked online, and the side effects are….susceptible to sun exposure. Rats. And this one I need to be on for quite awhile. My doctor is talking years. I wonder if the susceptibility goes away after awhile? I hate drugs. Except when I love them (because they help me with whatever problem I’m facing). UPDATE: Turns out it’s not just a sunburn. It’s a rash, which was maybe exacerbated by sunburn, but now is on my legs as well, which were not sunburned, or even exposed to the sun. So I’m allergic to the long term medication that was supposed to help me with my arthritis. Solution, short term, is no more of that drug, up the Prednisone for a few days, then see where we are next week. SO MUCH FUN.

I’ve had two friends that don’t know each other suggest that I might enjoy reading ‘Outlander’, so I’m giving that a try. I think I’m maybe 40% of the way into a very long book. I like it, and I think I’ll watch the show when I’m finished. The thought that pops into my head, though, is, “Do I want to read ALL of the books, or maybe just the one?” I think I’ll read the one, then watch the first season of the show, and see where we are at that point. Some books are so different, and so much better, than the TV shows that come after. Others, not so much. I find this story compelling, but the writing isn’t F. Scott Fitzgerald or anything. I might do just as well watching on TV. We’ll see.

If I say “Ebola”, will that freak you out? I know that it’s not airborne, but still, it’s a scary disease. My friend V-Grrrl’s husband was on the flight with the poor man who died in Texas, from Brussels to the U.S. Her husband is fine, thankfully, but still…it’s scary, and easy to say things about proper safety precautions and so on when you’re a thousand miles away. Not so easy to be nonchalant when the unfortunately infected person is squeezing past you with their luggage.

Anyway, it’s October, and I’m looking forward to cooler weather, maybe making some split pea soup soon. Hope you’re enjoying and it’s not too hot (or too cold) where you are.

Eggplant Involtini

picture found here. Isn’t it gorgeous? Mine looked nothing like this, as you’ll see below.

Just in time for ‘Meatless Monday’, I bring you a delicious recipe for Eggplant Involtini, which I found in my July/August issue of Cook’s Illustrated. I swear, I don’t know why I subscribe to this magazine. I find one recipe maybe every 4 issues that I want to try, and then only half of those turn out. So I subscribe for a year, then blow it of for a couple of years, then I get sucked in again. Somehow I got sucked in again this year, and my results have not been great. Mostly the recipes I’ve tried haven’t been stellar. And really, I like my cookbooks to have beautiful glossy photos, which Cook’s Illustrated does not.

Anyway, enough bashing of the magazine. Yesterday, while I was deciding what to make for dinner, I thought I’ll pull out a couple of issues and see if anything looked good. This recipe for eggplant looked pretty good, and I remember when it first came in the mail, thinking that I’d like to try it in late summer, when eggplants are at their best. (Are eggplants at their best in late summer? I don’t even know. It just seems like it, like they’re similar to tomatoes in that way.) I’ve never heard of Eggplant Involtini before, but it looks a lot like Eggplant Parmesan, and this recipe looks to be a little lighter, as it is not fried nor breaded. Results? Delicious. It was indeed a little lighter than Eggplant Parmesan, though still hearty enough for a delicious dinner. I’m going to put in my vote here, again, for Pomi brand tomatoes. I used them in the sauce, and I find them far superior to the canned brands. Get them if you can find them. They’re in a red and white box, and the ingredients are: tomatoes. Nice, yeah? Because the tomatoes are not treated with calcium chloride or salt, they don’t keep their shape very well. The box has a picture of diced tomatoes, but they come out looking almost like a puree. That’s OK. Give this one a try, you won’t regret it.

Eggplant Involtini

  • 2 large eggplants (1 1/2 lbs each), peeled
  • 6 tblsp vegetable oil (I used olive oil)
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • Pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 (28 oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, drained with juice reserved, chopped course (no, use the box of Pomi)
  • 1 slice hearty white sandwich bread, torn into 1 inch pieces
  • 8 oz (1 cup) whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 1 1/2 ounces grated Pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tblsp chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tblsp lemon juice

Pre-heat your oven to 375 F Degrees.

Peel the eggplants. Cut them lengthwise into 6 slices. Each slice should be about ½ inch thick. Trim the rounded ends so that they will lay flat.

Cover two baking sheets with parchment paper and spray them generously with cooking spray. Place 6 eggplant slices on each baking sheet.

Start with the first baking sheet. Brush each eggplant slice with two and a half tablespoons of olive oil (you use the 2.5 tbs olive oil to brush all of the slices) and season it with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Flip each slice and do the same thing for the other side. Repeat the same process for the second baking sheet.

Place both sheets in the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until they are tender and lightly browned. To ensure even baking, switch and rotate sheets half way through the baking process.

In the mean time, make the filling. Place 1 cup of ricotta cheese, bread crumbs, ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, ¼ cup chopped fresh basil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, and ½ teaspoon salt. Stir until they are all combined. Set aside.

To make the tomato sauce, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large ovenproof skillet. Add the garlic, ½ teaspoon salt, oregano, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Stir them with a wooden spatula and cook for 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and cook in medium low heat, until it thickens, about 15 minutes. Cover and set aside.

When eggplants are baked, let them cool for 5 minutes. Do not turn the oven off. Heat the broiler.

Using a spatula, flip each slice over. With the widest side of the eggplant slices facing you, evenly distribute the ricotta mixture onto each slice. Starting from the widest end, gently roll each piece and place it, seamed side down, in the pan with the tomato sauce.

Bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Allow it to cook for 5 minutes.Place it in the oven and broil for 5 minutes for the eggplants to be browned and the cheese to cook thoroughly.

I wanted mine more saucy than was shown in the pictures I found, so I made a bit more sauce, and then covered the eggplant bundles with sauce before broiling.
See? Saucy. Not nearly as pretty as the more defined looking recipe from ‘Cook’s Illustrated’, but I don’t regret it. I love sauce. I do notice the difference between a professional photographer and me, with the vibrant colors and all.

This was a delicious recipe, and I look forward to having it again. I guess I’ll stop slamming the magazine for awhile.

Saturday Randomness

It’s a sunny Saturday morning, and I’m in a random sort of mood. Let’s see if I can get some truly random stuff up here, instead of narrowing down to one topic, shall we?

I finished my book last night, “Horse Heaven”, by Jane Smiley. I’ve tried to read one or two other of her novels, and haven’t really enjoyed them. But I loved “Horse Heaven” so much, this is a second reading for me. It’s a story of horse racing, told over a two or three year period. There are a large cast of characters, including 6 horses, and the people who surround them. It was a slow read for me…I’d go a couple of days without picking it up at all, and then dive back in. Last night, I read from maybe 11pm until 2am, when I finished. Having such a large cast of characters, and having read it so slowly, I have already forgotten how some of the horses came to be in their particular situations…so I guess I’ll have to poke through the book a bit before I return it to the library.

We had a smidgen of rain the other day. Some areas got as much as 1/2 inch, and power went out for maybe 12,000 people. “How can this happen?” you might well ask. It wasn’t even a storm, just a dripping. Happily, our local newspaper described how it can happen. When it’s been dry for so long, dust and dirt can accumulate on the wires. When the wires get wet, I would think especially with a dripping rather than a storm, that dirt and dust can turn into mud. Mud can conduct electricity, which can then knock the power out. Interesting, no?

I’ve started receiving the bills for my lab work to diagnose my health issues. I take back all of the crap I said about my insurance, because even though I pay the first $5,000 in medical expenses, they have contracts with the lab that bring the bills down significantly. How significantly, you may well ask? The total of lab work (not dr. visits or x-rays) came to $1,763. My share of that is about $125. The lab company wrote off the rest, due to their contract with my insurance company. Whew. Of course, when I see a bill like that, I then think, “What if I didn’t have insurance, and I then had to pay the full $1,763?” That would indeed be horrid. So I’m counting my blessings on that one.

My darling friend Dorothy’s mother passed away a couple of weeks ago. Poor Dorothy is in so much pain right now, missing her mom dearly. It makes me so sad to see her so sad, and of course I remember well how painful and downright confusing those first weeks (hell, months) were. I can tell her that it gets easier, but not really better. Ugh. Dorothy gave me her mom’s walker, which is one of the fancy ones with a seat and wheels and brakes and so on, which I am going to take to my Grandma. I know my Grandma will get good use out of that.

Which makes me think about my Grandma. I went to visit her while I was on sabbatical, but now I have a good reason to go visit again. I think I’d like to bake something yummy to bring Grandma and her sister, my Great Aunt Flo. What to bake? Cheddar biscuits, like they have at Red Lobster? Brownies? Scones? Cookies? Maybe I should bring some soup, that they could have for a real meal, rather than sweets. Maybe I should bring both, a satisfying soup and something sweet. I need to stew on it a bit. Ted did suggest that I might make this recipe for Cookie Dough Brownies, as he could then try them. And gosh, when I look at the picture, I think they do look like something the ladies would adore.

Yesterday I went to lunch with a friend of mine, Denise. Maya and her daughter are friends from High School, and swam together for a couple of summers as well. Ted and I have become friends with Claire’s parents, Denise and Scott. Denise loves a local restaurant, Hot Basil Cafe, which serves both Thai and Indian cuisines. She generally gets the Pad Thai, and I generally get either a seafood curry or muttar paneer. Sadly, Hot Basil has closed (rumor is that they will move to a new location), and a Mexican place, Guacamole, has taken over. We both like Mexican food, so we thought we’d give it a try. We thought it would be a sit down restaurant, like Hot Basil was. Instead, it’s more of a fast food place. Locally owned, but you know…you go to the counter, order your food, they cook it and bring it to you. The owner was friendly and knowledgable, and helped me decide what to order. The one thing I said, though, was that I need to have guacamole on my tacos. This is imperative. The guac is the most important part of the meal for me. The tacos didn’t come with guacamole, so he said I’d get a side order. When the tacos came, of course, there was no guacamole. The waitress was nice and brought some for me right away. The tacos were good. The restaurant was clean. I think if I were craving a taco, I might go there. But it’s not the same nice sit down experience we had before, and I suspect we won’t be going back for our monthly lunches. Certainly not because of the guacamole issue, but because we’re more interested in something a little fancier. I do hope that Hot Basil reopens nearby.

We finished watching ‘The Killing’ the other night. Ted watched closely, and I watched in that distracted way I sometimes do. Like when I fall asleep during a key moment, or decide to go to bed while he binge watches 3 more episodes. From what I saw, it’s a really good show, and if you’re at all tempted, you should give it a try.

Lastly, my Grandma in Portland (as opposed to the close by Grandma) is turning 98 this month. 98. That’s crazy. I wish we could visit her for her birthday. She suffers from dementia, and wouldn’t recognize us, but she would be happy for the company anyway. My family up there will go see her, which is good. Sometimes it’s hard living far away from family. Like summer, when my nieces and nephews and my dad all have their birthdays. Or late fall, when my sisters and step-mom all have their birthdays. I do wish we could be there for all of these little family get togethers. Maybe some day we’ll move up there, who knows. On the plus side, Ted’s family all lives here, so we do get to attend lots of birthday parties, little get togethers for Labor Day or the 4th of July. So it’s not like we’re really missing out. Just that we’re missing out, if you know what I mean.

I’m typing this post on my iPad mini. I find my posts written here are more prone to typos (small screen, tight keyboard), so forgive me if you see any. I also don’t like the interface the Word Press app has for inserting pictures, so you get no pictures today.

Too Much Information

Well I was pretty down on Tuesday, having a bit of a pity party, have to go on a crappy drug for 3 weeks. I don’t know why I’m such a baby. It’s 3 weeks. I remember when I had to stay at the hospital the night before Maya was born, I felt so sorry for myself that I cried. Of course, there were hormones involved, but I’m not sure my reaction now would be any different without them. I just hate taking drugs and staying in hospitals and all of that. Antibiotics don’t bother me, I’m used to them. Birth control pills are fine. Allergy pills, OK. But when we get more serious, I get wiggy.

So I was feeling sorry for myself, going on a crummy drug, but only a low dose, and only for 3 weeks. Took my first dose Wednesday morning, and within 18 hours, I was starting to feel improvement. I woke up in the middle of the night to turn over, and god almighty, it didn’t hurt. Well, maybe it hurt a tiny bit, but not shooting pain from my foot or wrists or hands. That was a relief. Thursday I had a ton of energy, and felt SO much better. Everything that had been hurting, still hurt, but dialed down to a much more bearable level.

Now it’s late on Friday, and no real change from yesterday. The pain is greatly diminished. I’m glad for the drug. Side effects, if they occur on such a low dose/short term, are reversible. So now I’m moving on to thinking of natural remedies that might keep me from pain going forward. One thing is, it’s kind of overwhelming. So many people have come to me with arthritis remedies or other solutions that have worked for them. I think the path to what works for me could be a long one, and I’m wondering how well they will show if I’m already on the long term meds. I’ll need to talk to my doctor about it, I guess.

What I’ve heard is that different solutions work for different people. What I have to figure out is if any of them work for me, assuming this crap even comes back (which I hope it doesn’t). So far I’ve heard:

  • Raw Apple Cider Vinegar & Raw Honey. I’ve been trying this, but as my inflammation has been so bad, I take it with my Aleve, so I don’t know what’s working and what doesn’t.
  • Tart cherry juice. This one is good for gout, and when I was worried that was my condition, I was drinking that. Also taking Aleve or Ipuprofin, so I don’t know if it worked or not.

What I do know about these two remedies is that if they were helping to relieve pain at all, they weren’t working to prevent the inflammation that kept coming. One test for inflammation says normal results were 0 to 15 units of whatever. Mine was 600.

  • I’ve since heard of turmeric making a huge difference for some people, and worked well for my step mom. Though my MIL’s mother ate curry every day and still suffered from arthritis.

  • Ginger. Some people drink ginger tea, others eat dried ginger. Both work for some people.

Then there are the elimination diets.

  • One friend says that gluten made a huge difference for her. She felt better within 2 days of giving it up, and suffers for it if she so much as eats a muffin.

  • One relative went through different options, like gluten and dairy, before hitting on red meat. Giving up red meat worked for him and brought his arthritis under control.
  • There’s the anti-inflammatory diet, which includes some vitamins and supplements, but mainly focuses on eating a lot of variety of vegetables and fruit, and limiting the processed food in your diet.
  • One friend has issues with her endocrine system, which ended up having to do with her body’s ability to absorb potassium. This presented itself as severe arthritis and had her in a wheelchair for awhile.

What to do? Well, eating healthfully I mostly already do, though I’ve been known to go solo on the sharing size bag of Kettle Chips from time to time. But most of our food is whole, made in our kitchen, with the best ingredients we can afford. Beyond that, I don’t know. I think I’d prefer to go for vinegar & honey, turmeric, and maybe cherry juice as a first step. I’d rather not worry about gluten and dairy yet. I love gluten. I love dairy. They’re my two favorite food groups. If I had to give them up, of course I would. But it would suck. Mostly I feel overwhelmed by it all, and I don’t want to go through a ton of tests if I don’t have to (my insurance sucks when it’s needed, though it’s fine once I’ve paid the $5k deductible). It feels like too much information sometimes. All coming from caring friends who want to help, and have first hand experience with what they’re using. I’ll be glad when all of this is over, I think. Still hoping that it will be like so many weird things, and once it’s treated, it will simply go away and leave me alone.

Foot Update

Last week I had an appointment with a rheumatologist, who said something akin to, “wow, that’s weird, I don’t know.” So she took a ton of blood tests. Great, because my insurance is High Deductible Insurance, which means I pay the first $5k out of pocket, before insurance kicks in. Probably I’ll hit the $5K mark just in time for the end of the year, and then it resets. Grumble grumble single payer grumble grumble.

Anyway, tests needed to be taken, and taken they were. Since I last discussed the issue, the pain and swelling has gotten much worse in my feet, with one of them intermittently puffing up like a sausage. Gross. The pain isn’t horrid, it mostly itches when it’s swollen. Also, my hands are now hurting like crazy, to the point where I sometimes can’t sleep well. Mostly my sleep has not been affected, but the hands sometimes give me a bit too much grief. I can’t wear my rings, and one of my fingers won’t straighten out completely, because the knuckle is too swollen. Yuck.

So I went to my doctor two weeks ago, and she took a few tests (not too many, because I requested not too many due to insurance), and they all came back negative.

My friend and her husband came over with their kids to use our pool, and he (he is a physician) suggested that instead of seeing a podiatrist (I had an appointment at the time, but have since cancelled it), I should see a rheumatologist. So I did.

Today was the follow-up visit, where we discuss my test results and a solution. I had a dream last night that my tests came back as inconclusive, which was a little upsetting, because I do want to know what’s going on. Guess what? Tests were inconclusive. What they said was that I have Inflammatory Arthritis. What they did NOT say is what caused it. So now I get to start on a 3 week course of low dose prednisone. I’ve read a lot of crappy side effects of prednisone, so I was hoping not to go there. But since it’s only 3 weeks, hopefully it will just relieve my symptoms and I’ll be better, and I won’t have to deal with weakened bones (osteoporosis runs in my family…my Grandma broke her hip at age 40) , weakened immune system, TOO much weight gain (most people gain some on the drug), a fatty deposit hump on the back of my neck, glaucoma, blah blah blah. It’s a serious drug. Anyway, I get to take that for 3 weeks, plus another anti-malarial drug which works to help my immune system stop from doing this to me in the first place.

I’ve been taking shots of raw apple cider vinegar and raw honey, but not so much the epsom salt baths. I’ll try one tonight and see if that helps at all. I told my doctor I was doing the vinegar/honey thing, and she said, “I’ve heard of that…how’s it working?” Sadly, I couldn’t really say, because at the same time I’m taking the shot, I’m also taking Aleve in double doses. So I don’t know. But it’s an anti-inflammatory combo, which works well for Nance, so I figure it certainly can’t hurt. Thanks for the suggestion, Nance!

So that’s where it’s at. I’m not feeling well, and am looking forward to feeling better. I was sure hoping this would turn out to be a virus that would resolve itself and just go away. Perhaps it would, but the pain and discomfort is getting to be too much, so it’s drugs for me. Sigh. I hate going on drugs. I really do. Oh well.

Putting the blame where blame is due

Walmart.   I know, Walmart sucks.  They drive out local competition, all of the little mom and pop stores.  They pay their employees crap wages, so low that many full time workers qualify for government benefits, such as food stamps.  They are a crappy company, and I avoid them like the plague.  I do not shop there, and I will not shop there.   I keep seeing little memes on Facebook, about how wealthy the family is, and how they refuse to pay decent wages, and how horrible that is.  I agree.  However, they are acting within the law.  There are many, many other companies out there paying minimum wage, whose employees can qualify for government benefits, and who therefore are costing taxpayers money to subsidize their companies.  Add to this the tax revenue not collected due to low wages, and they’re costing us even more.  Social Security and Medicare both have employee and employer portions.  So the employee pays 1/2, and the employer pays 1/2, and both of these are based on a straight percentage of wages.  So if the employee makes less money, Walmart pays less in Social Security and Medicare taxes.  Thus, the practice of paying such low wages not only costs taxpayers (including Walmart employees, who do pay into these things as well as the rest of us) by the benefits they receive, but also the lack of money brought into programs that sorely need funding.   Of course, employees who make less also pay less in income tax, at the Federal, State, and Local level (where applicable).  So that’s less money the government has to pay for these programs, as well as less money for everything else, from roads to bridges to schools to wars they want to fight.    We blame Walmart, but really, they are acting within the law.  If the minimum wage is so low that a full time employee being paid minimum wage still qualifies for government assistance, then that speaks to the need to increase the minimum wage.  It needs to be higher.  It needs to be high enough that an employee working full time does not qualify (or need) assistance feeding themselves and their family.   I despise Walmart, but here, I put the blame on Congress, and on the American people for not demanding a living wage.

Another example of putting the blame where blame is due.  I keep seeing stories about how airline passengers are getting into fights over reclining seats.  The person in front rudely decides that he or she would be more comfortable with the seat reclined (THE HORROR), and the person behind rudely decides that he or she would be more comfortable without the first person’s seat grinding into their knees, and perhaps they don’t want to be able to diagnose dandruff on said first person, either.   Words are spoken, insults exchanges, and sometimes, it comes to fisticuffs.  Don’t we all remember when it was not a crime of etiquette or common decency to recline our seat and have a little snooze?  When that miniscule recline of the seat in front of us didn’t mean crushed knees?   Those of us who are over 40 perhaps even remember when the seat in front being reclined didn’t mean that the person next to the window was trapped.  The fights occur between passengers, and somehow it has become rude and almost hostile to recline your seat.  But really, the blame there lands soundly in the lap of the airlines.  Airlines that cram in more seats than the plane comfortably allows, pushing us closer and closer together, until the sight of a heavy person walking down the aisle fills fellow passengers with terror, because WHAT IF THEY SIT NEXT TO ME AND I CAN’T MOVE (all of this while Americans get larger, so DUH, it happens more and more).  Airlines that cram in more rows than the plane comfortably allows, causing altercations over reclining a seat.  It’s ridiculous.  And the airlines say, “Want more legroom?  Pay for more legroom.”  They have sections of the airplane that boast more legroom.  But those seats of course cost more money, often a lot more money.  So what if, instead of cramming us poor folk into steerage, they instead charged everyone a bit more money, and had fewer seats on the plane?  I do understand that the profit margin for airlines is small, and that we consumers have brought this upon ourselves, by being willing to fly on less comfortable airlines in exchange for less expensive flights.  If we refused to pay for the cheap seats, and instead stuck to airlines that had better leg room and wider seats, it would not have come to this.  I’m not sure how to turn this one around, unless it’s to try to find airlines that do offer these things to everyone on their flight, and only fly those airlines, and perhaps write letters to the management of these airlines telling them WHY we chose them.  That might make a difference.  Me, I don’t fly often enough to even know if such airlines exist, domestic flights with enough leg room that reclining ones seat doesn’t cause World War III.



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We were unceremoniously shaken awake at 3:20 by a 6.0 or 6.1 magnitude earthquake. If you’ve not experienced a major or semi-major earthquake, let me tell you that it’s mostly the noise that assaults you, at least if you’re indoors, and assuming there’s nothing falling on your head. We have sliding mirrored closet doors, which make a lot of noise rattling around. The walls rattle. The roof rattles. Yes, you feel the bed shaking, and if the lights are on, you might notice the lights swaying.

There was a time when I enjoyed earthquakes. They’re generally small enough that there’s no real damage, and it can be kind of fun to feel the earth move around a bit under your feet. What I used to like was how everyone is busy doing their own thing, thinking their own thoughts, and then suddenly for a few minutes, everyone is thinking about the same thing at once. “What was that? Was that an earthquake? I’d say that was a 4.5 at least”, that kind of thing. You can turn on the talk radio stations, and that’s what everyone is calling in to talk about. “My pool was sloshing water for a good 10 minutes after the quake.” “Watch out for aftershocks!” “Remember ’89?” “At least it wasn’t ‘THE BIG ONE'”

That all stopped in San Francisco in 1989, when the Loma Prieta earthquake caused so much damage, and killed so many people. The stories that came out of that one were horrid. I remember thinking that the building I was in was going to collapse with Ted and me inside. That was the first time an earthquake scared me. I don’t generally fear them now, but I don’t like them either.

The earthquake this morning didn’t scare us. But it was loud and unsettling, and reminded us that maybe we need to get on putting together that emergency kit that we so often discuss.

What’s wrong with my foot?

I’ve been loving most of this whole sabbatical thing. It’s really nice, and some days I have plans with friends or family, while other days I don’t, and both are really nice. Maya has started school at our local community college and is in the process of settling in. I feel like I dodged a bullet with her not moving out, because if she were in college in VT or NY right now, I’d be pretty darned sad.

Amongst the relaxation and enjoyment of having time off, however, I’m having some weird kind of health issue with my foot. Feet. Legs. What could be wrong? I don’t know. The pain started in the big toe of my right foot (if I had said My Left Foot, we could have discussed Daniel Day Lewis. I’ll leave Nance to think about him for awhile, and see if she gets back to the rest of the post or not.) It felt as though I had strained it by doing lunges that were too deep or something. I had indeed been doing lunges, as part of my exercise routine, but I thought, gosh, if I strained it, wouldn’t I remember? Maybe not. So I backed off on the lunge type workouts. It got worse. I went to a party where one of the hosts (Ted’s lovely cousin) is in the final steps of getting her degree to become a physical therapist. She looked at it and wondered if perhaps I had an especially tight calf, as sometimes a tight one thing can affect other things. She suggested I might try stretching out my calves and Achilles tendons as part of a solution. So I did. It felt good to stretch them, but then I went to a yoga class and pushed it too hard, and then my knees started hurting. Did I tell you that the other foot (My Left Foot….talk to you later Nance) had started hurting? That the entirety of my feet were now hurting, not just the toes? No? Rats. So of course, I did the only thing that a normal person would do, and I went online and looked for symptoms. Gout. I have gout. Big toe pain = gout. That’s what the internet says, and why would the internet lie? Now I don’t eat a heavily protein diet, nor do I drink red wine (alas), nor do I eat organ meats (gross). But the internet also told me that dehydration can cause a flair up of an underlying case of gout, as can a sudden spike in consumption of caffeine. A little caffeine = good for gout relief. A lot of caffeine = bad for gout.  Did I forget to mention to you that I have recently fallen in love with a nice latte once or twice (ok, three times) a week? There’s a Starbucks right down the street, and it’s so easy to pop in on the way back from a morning walk. The habit started, I think, when I was on Jury Duty a few months back, and for some reason I was groggy and thought a little coffee might be a good idea. I can’t drink coffee straight, or with just a bit of cream, because my stomach doesn’t react well. But a latte has enough milk to keep the demons at bay, and ever since Jury Duty, I’ve been popping over there more and more often. Anyway, to a normal person, 3 (ok, maybe 4 sometimes) lattes a week wouldn’t seem like a lot, but one thing I’ve learned over the years is that every person is different, and every person’s body reacts differently to the world in which it lives. I mean, I had doubled over in stomach pain, go home from work pain from coffee, and I was drinking that perhaps 2 times a week. The doctor couldn’t believe that was enough to give me grief, but when I quit the coffee, the pain went away. So…here I am with an online diagnosis of a disease that I don’t want, and the medication for which I do not want.

Since then, my knees have also started hurting.  Not all of the time, but bending them to their full extent is very uncomfortable.  I did a workout the other morning that included, in the cool down, getting into ‘child’s pose’.  If you know that yoga pose, you know that you bend your knees a lot.  It hurt in a weird way, as though the knees were very tight, as if they weren’t meant to bend that way, which they most definitely are.  I don’t know what that’s about.

Seeing me hobble down the stairs one morning, knees and feet giving me grief, Ted suggested that I might want to go see Dr. Backie Crackie (our chiropractor), and see what he thinks. So off I went. Dr. Crackie doen’t think it’s gout, as I don’t have enough of the symptoms in his book. He said generally the pain is much worse than I’m describing, for one thing. Though he’s only seen maybe 5 gout patients in his career, which is long and illustrious. He did say that if the Physical Therapist’s idea was right, he should be able to relieve my pain by giving me an adjustment. OK, that’s a start.

The cracking felt pretty good, and gosh, I haven’t been in awhile. I should go more often. It does loosen up my back and neck and even opens my sinuses. But it didn’t help the pain. The pain felt a little different the next day, but not much, and now it’s back where it was.

So I bit the bullet and made a doctor’s appointment for next week. I do want to know what’s wrong. I did notice a bit of edema (swelling) in my right foot last night. I’ve not paid attention to that before, so I don’t know how long it’s been that way. It certainly isn’t that way all of the time, and the pain does not correspond to the swelling. First thing in the morning is the worst time. I come downstairs, drink 3 or 4 glasses of water, a bit of cherry juice (I’ve heard sour cherry juice is good for gout), take an Alieve, and stretch my calves. I wish I knew what was wrong. I hope my doctor can diagnose something, and that it’s simple and doesn’t require medication. Don’t doctors always want medication? I hate medication. To be more accurate, I worry about the side effects of so many medications. So first is to try to get a diagnosis, and then to see if there is a natural way to deal with whatever is going on. Thus far, drinking some sour cherry juice, stretching my calves, drinking more water…all of these are easy and don’t have any bad side effects, so that’s something.  I’ll let you know what the doctor says next week.

Edited after Rain and Alley’s comments to add:  Maybe it will turn out to be that I’m going barefoot around the house during my sabbatical, and not drinking as much water as I do when I’m working.  Maybe it will be my newish shoes pinching me in a weird place.  I’m hoping it’s something like this, and not something more serious.   But I guess I want to rule out something worse, because I’ve not had anything like this happen to me before, and my shoes, while new, are the same brand of summer sandals that I’ve been wearing for 8 or 9 years now.  And I’m not on my feet enough to cause all of this grief…I don’t think.  We shall see.

Friday Randomness (again)

Here I am, one week into my paid sabbatical.  The first few nights, I confess that I had nightmares about things happening and not knowing what was going on.  Those were lame and boring, and I’ve let them go by the wayside.

Friday we went to a couple of movies…the first being the new Woody Allen film, which was OK, but I’m not a huge Woody Allen fan, and I confess I started to fall asleep.   Ted bought be a frozen latte, and we went back in for round two, which was Boyhood again.  Really liked it the second time.   Saturday we went on an interesting hike.  The highway that runs up and down the California coast is Hwy 1, and there’s a stretch just south of San Francisco called Devil’s Slide.  So named because the treacherous roadway has been partly washed away during many a storm, and when you don’t have to worry about the roadway below you falling into the angry ocean, there’s always the rocks above falling down and crushing you.  Not good, very dangerous.  Several years ago, someone finally raised money to build some tunnels through the rock slightly to the east of Hwy 1, and thus circumvent this particular danger.  After they finished, they converted the old Hwy 1 into a hiking/biking trail.  Hopefully no one will be stupid enough to go biking or hiking in the midst of a big winter storm, so the danger should be minimized.  Though I do wonder at the expense of maintaining it merely for pedestrians.  Oh well.   We read about this months ago when it first opened, and thought it might be interesting to go some day and look at the stunning beauty of the Pacific ocean without the speed of being in a car.  So we did, and it was lovely and interesting and almost worth the traffic we were stuck in getting there.  Here’s a picture of the roadway at its worst, after a storm in 1995.

So that was interesting, and Ted wrote about it here.   I really liked the sight of a lone cypress tree hanging on to the side of a rock on the wrong side of the mountain….it made me think it was saying, “What?  How did I end up HERE?  Get me DOWN!”  Ted has pictures of that, and also pictures from Sutro Heights, a tiny park up above the Cliff House in San Francisco, about which I’ve read several times, but hadn’t seen myself until that day.  It was a good day.

Maya came home, tired and happy, after her visit to New York.  Now she wants to move there, and has decided that we should all move there together.  I like New York quite a bit, so perhaps if I win several million dollars, she’s on.   Then again, we also saw some gorgeous homes right next to the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco, where we went when my sister and her family were visiting on Monday.  The Palace is gorgeous, and I would simply adore to live in that neighborhood.  Maya says it’s the home of the 1%, though I suspect she is wrong on that one.  It’s the home of the 10%.  Really well off doctors, some investment types, but probably some people do actually work for a living.  Anyway, we spent some time with my family, enjoyed the kids, getting to know my sister’s boyfriend a bit more, seeing swans in the pond, that sort of thing.

Then we came home and ran back out again, to go to dinner with Maya’s girl scout troop.  This was their final outing as a troop, and it was bittersweet.  They’ve been together like this for 10 years, and it’s sad to see them break up.  But also, nice to see them grow up, which is what causes the break.  They took last year’s cookie money, and spent every penny of it on dinner (and appetizers, and drinks, and desserts) for themselves and their moms, and one grandma who has been the treasurer for the troop this whole time.  It was really nice.  Shocking how much we spent, but a nice hurrah for the group.  As the leader for the last 2 or 3 years, I should have written a nice speech or something, but since every mom there has been the troop leader at some point, it didn’t seem appropriate, and I hate giving speeches.  So we just let it go.

So far, this sabbatical thing has been working out pretty well.  I’ve gotten some chores done, and more on my list.  Some socializing done, and more on my list.  I finished my book (Beloved, which was devastating), and have started another.  I’ve had a nap or two, and have gotten some exercise.  I can only imagine how quickly these next 3 weeks are going to fly by, but I intend to enjoy them for now.  Happy Friday.