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.

Friday Randomness

Today is the first day of my sabbatical. My company has a newish policy, that every employee has to take a month of paid time off every four years.  This is my month, so I can’t look at my email or do any work of any kind. It’s kind of weird. My regular routine is to wake up, come downstairs, get the paper, and check my work email. I’m in California and most of my coworkers are on the East Coast, so often things have started up by the time I wake up. So this morning I woke up, came downstairs, got the paper, and….looked at Facebook. It’s not so much that I’m DYING to know what my coworkers are doing without me. It’s more just a weird thing to not be allowed to even check.

Another weird thing right now is that Maya is in New York, and we’re not. My parents’ graduation gift to her was a trip anywhere she wanted to go (in the U.S.), and she chose New York. They love New York, so they were happy with that choice. So they flew from Portland, she flew from San Francisco, and they met up there. So far they’ve walked a lot everywhere, seen a Broadway play (Book of Mormon) and done some shopping. It’s weird to wake up in the morning and see her bedroom door open, and know that she’s not here. Not bad, just weird.

So, what are we party animals doing while she’s gone and I’m not working? Today it’s supposed to be 100F or so, so we’re thinking of seeing a couple of movies. We’ll go see the new Woody Allen movie, and then if we’re so inclined, we may movie hop over to see Boyhood again.

Also, we’re eating foods that she doesn’t like. I don’t cater to anyone’s preferences too much around here, but at the same time I don’t generally make items that I know someone dislikes. Last night was linguine and clams, which was delicious. Tonight will either be steak or fish, I’m not sure which. Tomorrow will be steak or fish, whichever we don’t have tonight. Then she’s home on Sunday.

As for my sabbatical and what to do with all of this free time, I have some other plans around the house…organizing my mess of a closet, a little gardening, that sort of thing. But I think I’m going to ease on in, take it kind of slowly, and see how this month off goes. I do wish that my company provided us with spending money along with the time off. Like, “Here’s $5,000, go to Hawaii for a week. Then maybe drive up the coast and see what you see.” But they didn’t.


‘Boyhood’ is the story of Mason and his family, and follows them from the summer of 2002 until the autumn of 2013. At the beginning of the film, Mason is in 1st grade. His parents are divorced, and he hasn’t seen his father in a few years, as he’s been working in Alaska. His father (Mason Sr., played by Ethan Hawke) has come back to Texas and wants to get to know his kids again. Mason’s sister, Samantha, is two years older than he, and is always ready to goad and torture him if she can get away with it. Their mother Olivia (Patricia Arquette) is a loving, though imperfect mother. She reads to them at bedtime, gets them out the door to school in the morning, and does her best to support them, going to college in order to teach. Mason Sr. is a loving, carefree type of weekend dad, taking the kids bowling, buying them gifts, trying to get to know them.

The magic of the film is that it was actually filmed over this same period. The actors came together and worked on scripts annually, and filmed for a few days each year. The director, Richard Linklater, wanted to tell the story of the parent/child relationship, the story of a boy growing up, but filming over more than a decade meant that there were many unknowns in the culture and the world around them, events and changes that would be incorporated into his framework as they went along.

So we have this clever conceit, that the story is filmed over 11 or 12 years, that the actors are growing up and growing older in front of our eyes. That’s enough to make the movie interesting, but it’s not enough to make it good. What makes it good is the writing that is involved, the beautiful cinematography, and the honest, wonderful performances of everyone involved. I don’t think the movie had many missteps.

As with other Linklater films, there isn’t a huge plot. It’s not the story of a boy battling cancer or saving the world or falling in love. It’s the story of a family, and a glimpse at some of the events that occur in the boy’s life over this time span. Watching the boy grow up and be about the same age that Maya was those same years…I don’t know, it touched me and reminded me of how quickly time flies right on by.

It’s a film that has me thinking about it afterward, one that I truly enjoyed. I think I’d like to go see it again, actually. It’s that well done.

Ted and I both really enjoyed the movie, and we decided to do his and hers blog posts. Find his here!

Finding Carter & Awkward

I can’t say I ever expected to find entertaining drama or comedies on MTV. I am old enough to remember when it was brand new and played videos all day, and that was revolutionary and cool. No TV shows, no reality TV, none of that. Just videos. As far as TV goes, I’m not a fan of reality shows. I’ll admit to being hooked on season 2 of ‘The Real World’ back in the mid 90s, but that was only because it was filmed in San Francisco, and we were homesick living in Philadelphia. Also, while it was kind of stupid and contrived, it didn’t have all of the truly fake situations that modern shows have. Like sending people to Hawaii or stranding them on an island, or whatever.

Anyway, I didn’t think I’d ever find a TV show on MTV that I’d want to watch, until last year, Ted started watching ‘Awkward’. ‘Awkward’ is a teen dramedy about a girl, Jenna, who is struggling through the very awkward phases of high school. Her parents had her when they were in high school themselves, and are ridiculous parodies of parents in so many ways. The thing is, it’s well written. It’s funny and serious and poignant. Season 2 recently ended, and now she’s finishing up her senior year. What’s funny about the show is the clever dialogue, the ridiculousness of it all, the parents and other adults who are, of course, immature in comparison to the teens. Jenna’s main concern is boys boys boys. That’s really the only thing she ever seems to care about, this boy or that boy or whatever. So that’s a little boring, and I do wish she’d get a real problem. But then again, I remember being a teen, and so much of my stupid brain being taken up with boy questions. Does he like me? Why? Why do only the boys I’m not interested in like me? OK, he likes me. Why doesn’t he call? Should I call him? Blah blah blah. So boring. And yet, the show gets a lot of it right (though not accurate to any real teens I’ve ever met, just accurate for the feelings involved). I recommend it.

This year, they’ve added another teen drama that we like even more, “Finding Carter”. Carter is maybe 16, and reminds me of a young Jodie Foster. More in her looks than her mannerisms, though there’s a bit of that, too. Carter is an only child of a single mom, and she and her mom are incredibly close. Trouble is, her mom abducted her when she was 3, and is not really her mom. Carter and some friends get in a bit of trouble, enough that records are pulled on her, and somehow connections are made that were never made before, and she is reunited with her real parents. Trouble is, she doesn’t like her real parents. Well, she kinda likes her father, but her mother is an intense police officer who lost the joy in her life when her little daughter was abducted years ago. She’s focused on trying to find Carter’s abductor mom, who has gone into hiding, and squelches all of Carter’s ideas of how life, and family relationships, should be.

It’s well written. It’s funny sometimes, but the story is compelling, and the characters pull you in and make you care about them. It’s 3 episodes in now, and at least the first 2 are available on Hulu, as is “Awkward”.

These shows are not “Downton Abbey”, “Game of Thrones”, or “Orphan Black”, but they’re good in their own right. Who knew? Quality TV on MTV. Not me.

New Order and Concert Etiquette

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Our friends Marilee and Paul had planned to see New Order in San Francisco on Friday, but life (ok, work) got in the way, so they gave the tickets to us. I was SO into New Order back in the late 80s. I loved them. Ted and I saw them in concert in 1989, where New Order was headlining with the Sugarcubes and PIL (Public Image Limited). The Sugarcubes couldn’t get the audience interested, and PIL were great. New Order was boring, and a lot of people left before the concert ended. So I wasn’t sure that I would pay to see them again, but since Paul and Marilee gave us the tickets, and gosh, we do love their music, we went.

I’m so glad we did. They were great, we had amazing seats, and it was a LOT of fun. Kind of different going to a concert for a band that was huge all those years ago, though. Most of the people were in their 40s and 50s, which is fine because we’re in our 40s, getting closer to 50, but somehow in my mind we ALL should have been younger. So we had really good seats, and the venue is such that when you’re sitting, even if you’re sitting behind a really tall man, you can still see the stage. I can’t tell you the last time I saw a concert without the filter of a tall man’s head right in front of me. The downside of this is that people were mainly sitting, not getting up and dancing. So I found myself wondering, “Is it OK to get up and dance? Would it be rude to the people behind me?” I looked at the people behind me a few times, and I decided they were very dour Russians, who had perhaps not had enough vodka to loosen them up, because they were just sitting there. Not smiling, not appearing to be into it at all. This put a bit of a damper on things, and I didn’t dance.

Until they played “Bizarre Love Triangle”, and then all bets were off. The guy in front of me looked over his shoulder politely, wondering if it was OK to dance now, and when he saw that I was up, he smiled a big smile, jumped up and started dancing. So that was the scene. Sit down for the slower songs, jump up and dance for the hits. At one point I looked back at the Russians, and they still looked dour, but they were singing along to the music, and appeared to know every word. So that made me feel better, like even if they weren’t dancing, at least they were maybe enjoying themselves.

Most concerts you go to, there is a huge screen, or many huge screens, and there are cameras on the band, so people beyond the first 3 rows can see them playing and singing. Not so with New Order. They barely spent any time in the spotlight at all, mostly just playing and singing, with lights or maybe a video on the screen behind them. We hypothesized that they didn’t want to look old, which they likely do, just like their fans. Or maybe it wasn’t even them up there playing, and they wanted to cover up that fact. Who knows. I would have liked to see them a bit more, but it was OK with the videos.

There were two encores. First, they came out and played a few songs from their days as Joy Division. Ted noticed that one of the Russians behind us was openly weeping at this point. Perhaps he was a friend of Ian Curtis, the Joy Division member who killed himself lo those many years ago, and whose face had been shown on the screen. Or perhaps he had had more vodka than I thought. The second encore was brief, and they played just one song for us, “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”, which seemed like a perfect way to round out the show. We had a great time.

Kefta Dog with Roasted Tomatoes

A few weeks ago, a shocking thing happened around here. I turned on the TV to the Food Network, and there was an actual cooking show being aired! I know you’re thinking, “No J, you’re confused. That was a cooking COMPETITION, or else it was a show where Guy F guy drives around and takes HUGE bites out of greasy food”. It wasn’t. It was an actual cooking show, where the host makes a recipe, and you decide for yourself whether you might like to try the recipe at home. I was in so much shock that I ended up watching an episode of ‘Sandwich King‘, a show I of which I had previously been unaware. I’m glad I watched, though, because amongst other items, he made a delicious looking ‘hot dog’ on the grill that I wanted to try. 1st, I like hot dogs. 2nd, this was made from lamb, and is really closer to a kabob than a hot dog. 3rd, it had slow roasted tomatoes, which I love. 4th, at the end of the episode, he and his family ate all of the various sandwiches he had prepared, and his wife said this was her favorite. So I added it to my menu, and a few days later, I made the dish. It was a hit, so I went ahead and made it again for the 4th of July.

The lamb is more the texture of a burger than a hotdog, so it’s very easy to eat. You could skip the bun if you were so inclined, but I would caution you NOT to skip the roasted tomatoes, because they’re killer. And the sauce is good as well. The other day, Ted took some of the leftover roasted tomatoes, some leftover sauce, some roasted chicken, and some kick ass cheese we had sitting around and made himself a delicious sandwich. So keep that in mind…the recipe makes more tomatoes and sauce than you’ll need, and that’s not a bad thing. Also, I saw no need for the skewers. Seemed like taking the dogs off of the skewers would just be an opportunity for them to fall apart. So I merely shaped into the right shape and length for my hot dog buns, and grilled as is. Worked perfectly.

Kefta Dog with Roasted Tomatoes

Oven Roasted Tomatoes:
4 Roma tomatoes, quartered
1 teaspoon olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Kefta Dog:
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
4 cloves garlic, grated
1 shallot, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound ground lamb
Olive oil

Infused Greek Yogurt:
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
1 packed tablespoon fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon tahini paste
1/2 teaspoon granulated garlic powder
1/2 lemon, juiced and zested
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper


Special equipment: 6 wooden skewers

For the tomatoes: Preheat an oven 325 degrees F. Toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread them evenly in a roasting pan with a rack inside if possible (the rack helps allow the tomatoes to evaporate water). Let them roast for about 1 1/2 hours checking for hotspots in your oven (rotate the entire pan if needed).

For the kefta dog: Preheat a grill pan. Combine the coriander, cumin, paprika, allspice, cayenne, garlic, shallots and some salt and pepper, and mix. Mix in the lamb in small pieces so the seasoning distributes evenly.

Mold lamb into 5 1/2-inch-long hot dog shapes onto your skewers. Drizzle each with olive oil. Place on the grill pan, and cook on each side for about 4 minutes, for a total of 7 to 8 minutes.

For the yogurt: Add yogurt, parsley, tahini, garlic powder, lemon zest and juice into a mixing bowl and incorporate well. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the kefta dogs with the infused yogurt and roasted tomatoes.