is Lily Tomlin’s movie.  There are other actors, such as Sam Elliott, Julia Garner, and Marcia Gay Harden, and they all give nuanced, wonderful performances.  But the story is that of Lily Tomlin’s character, Elle.  Elle is a 70-something grandmother, recently widowed by the death of her long term love. She is a writer and poet, who is down to her last few dollars when her granddaughter, Sage, comes to her for help.  Sage is pregnant and needs money for an abortion, so off they go in search of funds, either collecting from friends who owe Elle money, collecting from Sage’s sometimish boyfriend, selling valuable (?) belongings, or borrowing money from an ex.  Whatever it takes.  Tomlin hits all the right notes.  Notes of grief for her loss, love for her granddaughter, her ever present wit and sharp tongue.  I don’t know if Tomlin will win an Oscar for her low key, pitch perfect performance, but she’s certainly in the running, and I expect she’ll win a few other awards along the way.

Our hot dry burning state

imagepicture of lovely drought resistant landscaping

California is a bit of a mess right now.  OK, more than a bit.  I’m sick of this damn drought, as I’m sure everyone else in the state is.

Everything is dry dry dry.  August is generally dry.  We rarely get any measurable wet between May or June and October.  But this was the dryest winter on record, so we started out dry.  Ugh.  We’re under orders from our Governor to reduce our water use, which is a good thing.  But it sucks.  So many dead lawns everywhere.  Then there are the people who continue to water their lawns, oblivious to the suffering around them.  One green lawn, reminding us of the way things used to be, surrounded by brown dead lawns, reminding us of what is.  Then there are those who landscape with bark and drought tolerant plants, reminding us of how things ought to be.  We don’t have a lawn, we have a tiny front area and a small back area, both more patio than yard, and it’s all bricks.  We have a hodgepodge of plants around the perimeter of the back patio, filled in with potted plants.   There once was a theme to the perimeter plants, meaning there was some sense of cohesiveness, but there are goddamned eucalyptus trees on the other side of our fence, and they pretty much do their best to kill whatever is below them. So the plants that we put there on purpose have all died years ago, and whenever I get a potted plant that outgrows its pot, in the ground it goes, and good luck fighting the eucalyptus.  None of that is due to the drought, just the neighboring trees and my general neglect (don’t water enough, don’t fertilize often).

So here we are, taking our drought showers and saving water in the sink (like when you rinse an apple) in a pitcher to water the plants, and I assume that we’re all in this together.  Until I find out that we’re not.  The central valley, my home for many years of my mis-spent youth, is fertile ground for many many crops, including the big money maker, nuts.  Mostly almonds and pistachios, which are big deal money makers.  If you’re a tomato farmer, or a corn farmer, you can decide to let your fields go fallow in years of drought.  But trees need water, you cannot fallow that field.  You can let your trees die perhaps, but that’s awfully expensive, and I don’t really expect anyone to do that.  But then I heard the other day that some farmers are actually PLANTING almond and pistachio trees now.  NOW, in this horrible drought, when there is simply not enough water.  Why?  Because the drought has driven prices up, so there’s good money to be made.   But wait, you may ask, how will they water these trees, if there is no water?  The answer is depressing.  There are some huge aquifers under the valley, vast underground lakes, which are being pumped dry.  These aquifers have been there for generations, and farmers generally do pump some water out in dry years.  But they’re pumping so much out, they now have to get much bigger drills,  the ones used for fracking oil out of tar sands, in order to reach the shrinking water levels.  Which is making the valley sink.  How can we possibly be so damned stupid?  I mean, yes, you have to feed your family, you want to employ people and keep the economy from collapsing around you.  But to increase production now of all times, seems beyond selfish.  It makes me want to take a long bath, and I hate baths.  How, you may ask, does the government allow this?  Because they’re elected by the farmers, and our water rights in California were put in place almost a hundred years ago, and not much has changed.  There are changes coming to the water rights rules, but those won’t be in effect for at least 5 years (I think maybe it’s 10, but I’m not positive), so what use  is that?

And then, of course, there are the fires.  Fire in California in the summer is pretty much a given, but this year’s fires are acting differenttly than they have acted in the past, likely because the trees are SO dry, and the weather is generally hotter than it has been before.  So that’s fun.  Last Saturday, we decided to get out of dodge, which was a good thing because the wind had shifted and was sending smoke down our way from the lake fires, which aren’t really that close.  Our town is at the foot of a mountain, and you coudln’t even tell there was a mountain in the area, it was so smokey.  It smelled bad, and made me worry for those with breathing and heart problems.  We went to Monterey, which is right on the ocean and lovely and cool and just what the doctor ordered, aside from the long  drive getting there.  It took us almost 3.5 hours from here, which would generally be a bit over 2 hours. Ugh.  We should have spent the night.  So the fires are burning, (not just here, the whole west coast), and they are using active duty military to fight the fires, as well as convicts.  It’s a mess.

The question, of course, is “will it rain this winter?”  Will we have a real nasty beautiful wet winter, the kind that puts water in our reservoirs, lakes, rivers, and streams?  The kind that erodes coastlines and sends people’s houses sliding down hillsides in a bunch of mud, and floods the same towns that always seem to flood in wet years?  We need one.  We need an ugly winter, the kind that punishes a lot of people who live or drive or walk in the wrong place at the wrong time.  We may get it.  There’s talk of a strong El Nino brewing off the coast.  But there was similar talk last year, and it didn’t happen.  There’s talk about that high pressure system that sat off the coast of California last winter, forcing the jet stream north, forcing the wet and cold to punish the rest of the country with record snowfalls, while we sat here with gorgeous weather, watching, longingly.  That high pressure system that may or may not be out there again this winter.

I love California.  I love San Francisco and Tahoe and Monterey.  I love Napa and Bodega Bay and Sonoma.  It hurts to see my beloved home in such dire circumstances.  Sometimes we talk about moving, to get away from the drought.  Wondering if we wait to see how things turn out, if we’ll blow it and our house will be worthless. Hard to believe with current housing prices being so stupidly high, but I guess it’s possible.  I don’t want to move.  I love it here.  I want to stick it out and see if things get better.

Did I mention the little earthquake we had last week?  It had the decency to wait until almost 7am, and wasn’t a big one, didn’t do a lot of damage. (My friend’s hat fell off of her bookcase)  That was the only damage I heard of at first, but then it turned otu that several water mains busted.  Maybe because of the earthquake, maybe because the pipes are 90 years old, I don’t know.

Poor California.  I hope things get better, soon.

Thai Chicken Salad

Thai Chicken Salad

Gorgeous photo found here, along with the recipe.

On a lighter note, thankfully, after the sadness of last week, I think it’s time for a recipe.

One item I like to order when we go out to eat is either a Chinese Chicken Salad or a Thai Chicken Salad. I like the crispy crunchiness of it, the sweet and tangy and (sometimes) hot of it. Delicious.  The other day it was 102 degrees, so the idea of a salad for dinner appealed to me.

I’ve tried to make an Asian chicken salad once before, but it sucked. It was too sweet, kind of gloppy, all around wrong. I’m not a good enough cook to figure out a recipe on my own, so I rely on folks who are so inclined. So I looked online, and found this recipe.

The best thing about online recipes (and sometimes an annoying thing about them), is that they have reviews. The reviews can warn you if a recipe is truly crap, or if there are revisions that you might like. Too sweet, too gloppy, too whatever. This recipe received an average rating of 5/5 stars, and the 200 comments were all of the “this is SO GOOD” variety, that I decided to trust it.

I’m so glad I did. When I serve a salad for dinner, I feel like Ted and Maya are disappointed. They both like salad just fine, but generally prefer it as a side dish. Tonight was no different, at least at first. But once they had had a few bites, Maya said she really liked this dish, and it’s a keeper. Ted agreed. I don’t think he was quite as enthusiastic as she was, but he was OK with it. That’s a win when it comes to serving a salad for dinner.

I followed the recipe as is, except that I added roasted chicken breast and roasted peanuts, and I omitted the edamame she had. Chicken for protein, peanuts for crunch. The sauce is delicious, and the only ingredients I didn’t have on hand beforehand were rice wine vinegar and ginger.

I liked the blog where I got the recipe, Once Upon a Chef. I think I might try her Peruvian chicken next, in honor of our yummy neighborhood Peruvian restaurant.

Thai Crunch Salad with Peanut Dressing
Slightly revised from a recipe by Jennifer Segal
Servings: 4
Total Time: 30 Minutes

For the Thai Peanut Dressing

1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
2 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, from one lime
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons honey
2-1/2 tablespoons sugar
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1-inch square piece fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes (J’s note, I forgot the red pepper flakes, so I put them on the table for those that wanted heat, aka, Ted)
2 tablespoons fresh cilantro leaves

For the Salad
2 bone-in chicken breasts, skin on (J’s note, this is not part of the original recipe. I added the chicken.)
4 cups chopped Napa cabbage or shredded coleslaw mix (J’s note, I’m not terribly fond of regular green cabbage, though I do like Napa Cabbage, so I used that)
1/2 head red cabbage, chopped
1 cup shredded carrots
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced into bite-sized pieces
1 small English cucumber, halved lengthwise, seeded and thinly sliced
2 medium scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup loosely packed chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup roasted salted peanuts

For the dressing, combine all of the ingredients except for the cilantro in a blender and process until completely smooth. Add the cilantro and blend for a few seconds until the cilantro is finely chopped. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

For the chicken, preheat oven to 375F. I use my toaster oven for this, so it won’t heat up the kitchen. Sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper, and roast for about 45 minutes, or until it’s done to your liking. Let cool, and shred the meat. Discard the skin (or eat the crispy skin while hot, if that’s your thing. That’s sometimes my thing.)

For the salad, combine all of the ingredients in a large bowl and toss to combine. If serving right away, drizzle the peanut dressing over top and toss; otherwise, serve the dressing on the side so the salad doesn’t get soggy.

Life’s Still Sweet and Sour

One of Maya’s high school classmates was murdered last week. She was 19 years old, home for the summer after her first year of college, an engineering student in San Diego. She was bright, well liked by so many, a star on the High School track team. Her whole life ahead of her. An ex boyfriend from several years ago rang her doorbell before 7 am, and shot her, then shot himself. I think her parents were there and saw her die. She was not a close friend of Maya’s, but she liked her, and it’s so damned shocking and horrible and makes me think ugly thoughts, like, “If you’re suicidal, be decent and don’t take anyone else out with you”, which of course is cruel in its own way, and makes no sense, because clearly the ex-boyfriend (Stanford, engineering student, 2 years older) was out of his mind with something. And a better, more charitable thought is just wishing he weren’t in so much pain to begin with, or that he had gotten all of the help he needed. The young woman’s mother is a Nurse Practitioner at Maya’s doctor’s office, and has cared for her several times. I don’t know her well, but it hits too close to home.

Ted’s uncle died last week. I’ve never met this uncle, but he lived with Ted and his family for awhile when Ted was 19 or 20, and he liked him a lot. He was a good man, well loved by the family. He was far too young to die. It’s a shock to the family. It’s upsetting and sad and Ted’s dad has to deal with the first loss of a sibling. He comes from a large family, so he’s not alone by any means. But gah.

You know what? Skip the sweet. I’ll get there, but this one is just sour.

Hopping on the Band Wagon

ice cream

I’ve seen this ‘recipe’ around the internet, and there’s even a device you can buy if you want, rather than using a food processor.  I decided to give it a try, as I had some very ripe bananas, Ted is cutting back on his dairy, and we have some vegan friends who might enjoy this.  So here goes…One Ingredient Ice Cream, or, more truthfully, frozen banana puree.

  1. Slice a very ripe (but not TOO far gone) banana into 1 inch or less coins.
  2. Put sliced banana in a freezer bag or other airtight container, and freeze overnight, or at least four hours.
  3. Put frozen banana slices into food processor, and blend away.  At first it will look like frozen shards of banana, but if you stick with it, they will smooth out into a creamy batch of banana, the same consistency as soft serve ice cream.  If you want to add other ingredients, now is the time.  Peanut butter, cocoa powder, Nutella, whatever floats your boat.  Clearly, this will make it two ingredient ice cream, or however many things you add, but that’s between you and your brain to figure out.
  4. Pour into airtight containers and freeze to set.  You can skip this step and just eat it creamy and soft if you so choose.

Guess what?  It doesn’t taste like ice cream.  It tastes like bananas.  But it’s sweet and creamy and cold.  I made mine with chocolate syrup added in the mix, then more chocolate syrup and some nuts to serve.  It tasted like a banana split.  I don’t think anyone would say, “Ice cream?  No, I’d rather have a frozen banana.”  But if you have some really ripe bananas you want to do something with, or if you are making dessert for a vegan, this could work. Give it a try if you’re into such things.

Herndon Road

On my way to Grandma Wells funeral on Wednesday, I happened to drive past Herndon Road in Ceres (right off Highway 99), which I’ve always wondered about. My great-great grandfather owned a house and small orchard there back in the 40s (and for years prior), when they were constructing Highway 99. The govt. bought the land from the family to construct Hwy 99, and as part of the deal, the streets were named for family. I suspect that a few names may have been changed over the years, because I couldn’t find 2 I was looking for. But I found Herndon Road, of course, which was the family name. (That part of the family is from Herndon, VA) Then I found Joyce, which is only a block and turns into a Hwy on-ramp, but was named for my mom when she was very small and the only grandchild. My great-great grandparents house was on the corner of Joyce and Herndon. I also saw Nadine, which was named for my great aunt, and Eugene, which was named for my great uncle (who died as an infant). Apparently my great grandfather lived on the corner of Nadine and Herndon, which had once been a part of his father’s land. I didn’t see Virginia or Florence, which I think used to be there, and were for my Grandma and Great Aunt Flo. And I think if there was a Eugene, there would have been one for my other great aunt, Roberta, who died as a child.

These were the two sides of my family coming together for me, as my Grandma whose life we were celebrating was my dad’s mother, and my great grandfather was on my mom’s side.

The money from that deal (eminent domain) paid to send my mom’s generation of cousins to college, I believe.  So maybe not interesting to anyone else, but it was interesting to me.  And kind of sad, because the neighborhood isn’t great.  The houses all looked pretty run down.  I considered trying to figure out if one of the houses might be the old farmhouse, but none of them looked like good candidates for that.  Certainly a poor neighborhood between a highway and a Home Depot is not what the land looked like 75 years ago.  Nice though, that the corners of Herdon and Joyce, and Herndon and Nadine, are still there today.

Grandma Wells

Grandma on Horseback
My Grandmother Wells died a couple of weeks ago, and yesterday was her funeral. It was sad, because she’s gone, and she was a wonderful, if complicated woman. I met her when I was 22, at my Grandfather’s funeral. Though she had only learned of my existence a short time before, she welcomed me with open arms. Listening to my father tell the story of her life, being born in Shasta, CA, and moving to Ohio (down near West Virginia) as a girl. Riding a horse to school, opening her own beauty shop, eloping with my Grandfather (who may or may not have been engaged to someone else at the time). She convinced him to move to California, and they made a life together in Modesto for many years, in the house he built out of a garage. There she raised my dad, and for a short while, his younger brother Bobby, who was institutionalized because he had Downs Syndrome, which was sadly what they did back in the 40s. He lived with the family until he was about 3, and then taken away, which was devastating to my Grandmother, and I don’t think she ever recovered from it. When in her early 50s, she got a job running reports for Gallo Wine, and ended up working there for 30 years, finally retiring at the age of 82. She would have been 99 this September.

Listening to my sister talk about childhood memories of trips to Modesto to visit, made me ache all over again at not knowing my dad’s side of the family growing up. My mom made the decision, or perhaps let it make itself by simply not taking action, based on several factors. The largest was her own abuse at the hands of her stepfather, which made her wary of men being around young girls, even though she knew at every level that my father was a good man and not capable of such things. I don’t think she necessarily made the decision consciously, but there were no men in her life from the time I got to be about 9 years old. When she got pregnant with me, she actually thought she was already pregnant, and didn’t put 2 + 2 together until I was 4 or 5. Suddenly the timing of my birth (at 5 lbs, though if she had already been pregnant, I would have been about 4 weeks overdue), and the fact that I looked so much like my dad, clicked. By then, my dad was married and had my sisters, and I don’t think my mom wanted to intrude upon that. So we went along that way, with me thinking my dad knew about me but not caring, until I was 21. Then my mom got in touch with my Grandparents, and asked for my dad’s number. He was in his car the following week, coming from Oregon to meet me.

I’m so thankful for that, because he is a wonderful man, and I feel so very loved and cherished by him, my step-mom (not my sisters’ mom, they divorced decades ago), and my sisters. I have nieces and nephews who I love and enjoy and adore. But I do feel sad sometimes, knowing that when my sisters were visiting Modesto, I was just down the road in Stockton, and we could have had time together every summer. I could have gone to Oregon to visit. It could have been, but was not.

Maya was thinking these same thoughts, and getting angry at my mom on my behalf.  I’ve spent a good amount of time angry at her about this very thing, but have made the effort to let that go. Knowing that while what she did was wrong, she truly did her very best for me and my brother, and it does absolutely no good to hang on to anger about what cannot be changed. If we had a time machine, and could go back, of course I would try to change this part of my life, and also have my brother know his father as well. But I can’t, so I have to let it go.

So, I didn’t know my Grandmother the way my sisters did. I know her only as my adult self. I have fond memories of going to visit her in the cool mornings, planting flowers in her yard, helping her to prune back vines that threatened to take over her shed and fence. Memories of bringing Maya to visit when she was a baby. Having lunch with her many a time, and having her tell me to ‘drive defensively’ as I got in the car to go home. She helped to pay for Maya’s preschool education. She included me in every way she could from the day we met. She was a kind, sometimes stern, often awkward woman, and I loved her very much.

One thing I discovered after she died was of her love of horses. I do wish I had known that sooner, though I doubt we would have gone for long horseback rides or anything.

It was sad losing her, but hearing the details of her long life was really nice, and of course getting to see my family was wonderful, as always.

Parada New Peru

Several years ago, the parking lot for our local BART station was converted (at least partially) into a couple of large buildings, with real estate for shops, parking, and restaurants on the first floors, and apartments up above. This change pretty much coincided with the crash of our economy, and likely for that reason, much of the retail space remains empty. There is a Starbucks, of course. There is a ‘brow bar’, a ballet studio for the toddler set, an insurance agent’s office, and a place to take your dog for training and play. About a year and a half ago, we noticed that one of the store fronts was rented, but development didn’t happen. It just sat there, for about a year. I don’t know the story, if there were funding issues or what, but several months ago we finally saw some movement, and a lot of work going into a new restaurant. It finally opened about 2 weeks ago, and it was worth the wait.

Parada New Peru is the latest offering from chef Carlos Altamirano. He is a well renowned chef in the Bay Area, with a Michelin starred restaurant, La Costanera in Half Moon Bay, three other restaurants, and several food trucks delivering his food to the area. If I had known all of this before hand, perhaps we would have made a reservation before walking over for dinner on our 22nd anniversary. As it was, it was more like, “Want to try that new Peruvian place?” “Sure!” So off we went. We arrived at about 5:15 on Friday night, and were told they were booked solid until 8. We had a play in SF at 7:30, so that wouldn’t work for us. They suggested we get take out. OK, but the atmosphere is nice, and it’s our anniversary, and we wanted to sit down for a few minutes at least. There was a table in the small bar area that was reserved for 6:00, so they let us sit and have a drink and an appetizer, then we took our main course to go.

We started with the cebiche (the Peruvian spelling of the word I’ve always seen spelled ‘ceviche’) tasting, which included 3 cebiches: Pescado (fish of the day), Chino (ahi tuna), and Mixto (fish, prawns, and calamari).  They were all delicious and complex.  One had a little heat, one was tart, and the third was maybe a little sweet.  My favorites were the tuna and the mix.  So good.  I had a glass of wine, though I have no idea what it was.  Just that it was white.  Ted had a Manhattan, which he declared good, but not the best.  He wasn’t a big fan of the orange peel in his drink, but otherwise it was good.  For our main course, I had the  Lomo Saltado, which was a delicious stir fried beef tenderloin, with onions, tomatoes, soy sauce & shoestring fries.  Oddly, it came with both fries and rice.  I like both, so that was OK by me.  I’m not familiar enough with Peruvian food to know if this is normal or not.  Seemed like a lot of starch.  Ted had the Langostino Crocantes, which was crispy quinoa encrusted wild Mexican white shrimp with sweet potato gratin & Inca Kola BBQ.  It was delicious, though a little more sweet than he wanted.  Perhaps that was the gratin.  Both dishes were really good, the ambiance was lively, the wait staff friendly.

I didn’t feel like our waiter knew the menu as well as he should have, but it’s a new restaurant. Give it some time, and I’m sure they’ll have it all figured out.  I wish the prices were a little more reasonable, as our casual dinner ran about $100 for the two of us.  There were plenty of staff on hand, the rent is high around here, and it tasted like the ingredients were all top line and really good quality.  I hope it does well, and I look forward to going back. Welcome to the neighborhood, Parada.  Glad to have you here.

The Mersault Investigation

Image from the New York Times

This man, your writer, seemed to have stolen my twin Zujj, my own description, and even the details of my life and my memories of my interrogation! I read almost the whole night through, laboriously, word by word. It was a perfect joke. I was looking for traces of my brother in the book, and what I found there instead was my own reflection, I discovered I was practically the murderer’s double. I finally came to the last lines in the book: “… had only to wish that there be a large crowd of spectators the day of my execution and that they greet me with cries of hate.” God, how I would have wanted that! There was a large crowd of spectators, of course, but for his crime, not for his trial. And what spectators! Adoring fans, idolaters! No cries of hate ever came from that throng of admirers. Those last lines overwhelmed me. A masterpiece, my friend. A mirror held up to my soul and to what would become of me in this country, between Allah and ennui.

The Mersault Investigation is Algerian journalist Kamel Daued’s first novel, the story of the younger brother of the un-named Arab in Camus’ The Stranger. In The Stranger, a Frenchman named Mersault  murders the Arab on  a hot beach in Algiers in 1942.  He is tried for his crime, but convicted for his uncaring attitude about the world, most specifically the death of his mother.   The Mersault Investigation picks up in the current day, with the Arab’s much younger brother (he was 7 when his brother died) telling his story, and to some extent that of his brother, to an investigator.  In this telling, The Stranger was not written by Camus, but rather by Mersault himself.  

The Arab, Musa, was murdered that day on the beach.  His body was never recovered (which makes no sense as in The Stranger the lawyers know how many bullets were in the body), and his family was thus not able to prove that their missing Musa is the same person as the Arab killed on the beach.  The mother lives in constant misery at the loss of her eldest son, and the younger brother (Harun) grows up feeling alone in the world, secondary to his brother, detached from his surroundings.  He tells of the days after the murder, then about a period in 1962, at the time of the Algerian revolution from France, when he is confronted with the murder anew, in unexpected ways.

The story is deftly told, and explores not only Harun’s identity in the shadow of his dead brother, his brother’s identity in the shadow of The Stranger, but also Algeria’s identity and people as well.  


Malcom is an 18 year old boy living in Inglewood, CA.  He’s a geek, dreaming of Harvard, if he can just survive the last months of High School in a neighborhood overrun by gangs and drug dealers.  Malcom’s best friends are equally geeky and bright, and the three of them ride their bikes through the mean streets of L.A., hoping to end up in college…while statistics say they are more likely to end up in jail.

Malcom and his pals (Diggy and Jib) are into early 90’s hip hop, have a punk-ish band, and mostly try to stay out of trouble.  They’re good kids in a rough world.  Dope is like a John Hughes version of Boyz N the Hood.  It’s rough, there’s real danger there, and the fear is that these good kids will get sucked into a world much rougher than they’re prepared to handle.  But there’s an optimism and lightness to it, so while you fear that they may get sucked into situations they cannot handle, you’re rooting for them to come through it cleanly and safely.

Ted and I both liked this movie a lot.  I highly recommend it.

Looks Like it’s Time for a Meme…

I came across this meme on my friend Carla’s blog, and I thought I’d bring it over here.  I’ve read some good books I could tell you about.  I went to see my Grandma again, and I could tell you about that.   I could even dredge up some thoughts on the horrid flooding in Texas and the horrid drought here, and tell you how it doesn’t rain in California this time of year, so if we DO get any, it will be tiny amounts and not help in the greater sense at all.  No real rain until September if we’re lucky, more likely November or December.

But no, all you get is a meme.  Sometimes my brain just works that way.  As in, hardly working at all, lazy lazy brain.  So, here goes.  The rule for this meme is that you must come up with an answer to each silly ‘question’, and the answer must begin with the first letter of your first name.  So all of my answers will start with J.

  1. First name : My first name?  Or just A first name?  My first name is J.  Duh. Or, as we used to (so eloquently say in Jr. High, “No Doy”. Or is that spelled, “No Doi”?)
  2. An animal: Jaguar.  Jackal.  Jackass.  Jellyfish.  Have I told you about the time Maya and I found a jellyfish washed up on the beach in San Francisco, and I could see its pulse (which makes no sense, because I don’t know that they have a heart),  and Maya convinced me to pick it up and get it back to the water.  I used a plastic bag to protect myself if it should sting me.  SF has now banned plastic bags, so I don’t know what would happen today.  Or if the bag would have proteted me if it had stung.  But it was a happy moment, watching it float away on the tide.
  3. A boy’s name:  Justin. Or Jack.  My two nephews. 🙂  There’s also Jeff, and Jason. Or my friend Cherry’s son, Jacob.  Or Tracy’s son, Jeremy.
  4. A girl’s name:  Julia.  Janet. Janice.  Jane.  I know, I’m only supposed to give one.  So what. My blog, my rules. My great-great aunt, for whom I was named, was Julia.  One of my most darling best friends is Janet.  Maya used to have a toy cat named Jane, who had wings.
  5. An occupation:  Judge. Janitor. Jailer.  Justice of the Peace.  Jelly maker.  Journalist. Juggler.  Jockey.  There were a few years there that I really wanted to be a jockey, despite not having spent time around horses.  Or, not enough time.
  6. A color:   Jaundice.  Is that a color?  Jet.  Jade.
  7. Something you wear:  Jeans.  Not Jeggings.  Never Jeggings.  Jackets and Jodhpurs and Jewelery.
  8. A drink: Julep.  Jagermeister.   Blech to both, though I’ve never had a julep, so I shouldn’t speak to that.  I don’t think I’ve ever had Jagermeister, either, actually.  Let’s stick with some lovely chardonnay by J vineyards, shall we?
  9. A type of food:  Japanese.  Jello.  Jam.  Jerky.  Jalapeno.
  10. Something found in the bathroom:  Jean Nate after bath splash.  OK, not MY bathroom, but there was a time when I was a kid that I used to buy this for my mom.  I don’t know if she actually liked it, or just used it to make me happy.  And my Great Aunt has some in her bathroom that is probably 30 years old.  I’ll bet that smells lovely.  As in, not.
  11. A place:  Jet plane.  On a jet plane, on my way to Paris or Milan or somewhere wonderful and lovely.  Or, conversely, Joliet Illinois, which I remember passing on I-80 on our drive from San Francisco to Philadelphia, back in ’94.  Jerusalem.  Japan. Jaipur.  Jamaica.
  12. A reason to be late:  Stuck in Joliet.  Not a GOOD reason, but a reason certainly.  Or perhaps, stuck in a traffic Jam.  Or, Just because.
  13. Something you shout out:  JESUS!  If you’re Christian, it could be, “PRAISE JESUS!”  If you’re not, it could be something you shout out in exasperation when someone almost rear-ends you on the freeway.  Or something you say at the end of ‘Planet of the Apes.’

That’s my list of J.  Perhaps not worth much, but at least it got me to post something.  Whew.

Life’s Both Sweet and Sour

Yesterday was Ted’s birthday, which was a milestone year, as he turned 50!  We had a lovely party, with family and friends, laughter and perfect weather.  Perfect weather was important, as we had not the room inside, and most of us ate at tables in the back yard.  He received a LOT of bourbon, his favorite spirit, and we ate drank and were merry.  It was a great day.

It was especially nice for me, because my brother Richard was here.  I haven’t seen Richard since our mom’s memorial in 2008, and it’s been far too long.  He lives in Juneau, Alaska, which is an expensive flight and hotel combo, so we haven’t been able to make it up there.  I do hope we can make it sometime, as Ted has not yet been to Alaska, and Juneau is fairly stunning in the beauty department, with lots of lovely hikes and amazing views, and the best fish I’ve ever had.

The reason he was in California was very sad, however.  My mom’s younger brother, my uncle Forrest, passed away on April 21st.  He had been sick enough to worry his daughters for a couple of months at least, but only sick enough to really scare us for a couple of weeks, and to be honest, we’re still not entirely sure what went so wrong as to kill him.  He was only 67.  He left behind a wife and his two daughters, all of whom are broken hearted, as well as three grandchildren, and his dogs, who are missing him and wondering when he will come home.   We are most worried about my Grandmother, though, who has been in poor health herself for the last several months, and has now outlived 2 husbands and all 4 of her children.   We’re worried this last loss will be the undoing of her.  She is holding up the very best she can, and says that at least she had her children with her as long as she did, and she is thankful for the time she had with them.   She’s the strongest person I know, in her 92 lb body and broken heart. I do hope she can recover from this.   His memorial was Saturday evening, and was a lovely chance to celebrate his life with family, friends, and his coworkers, all who loved and respected him greatly.

So this has been an emotional time, full of joy and sorrow, laughter and tears.  I’m glad Richard was able to stay long enough to celebrate Ted’s birthday with us.  I’m glad we had a chance to come together as family and friends to celebrate Ted’s first 50 years.

Miscellaneous Stuff

Avo Bagel
Look at that awesome breakfast. Bagel, toasted, with avocado and lemon pepper. That’s it. So delicious. Served with OJ and tea (PG Tips, a bit of milk and sugar). One nice thing about Facebook is that some people post pictures of their food, and you can choose to be inspired by their pictures. I’m not sure I would have come up with this combination on my own, so thank you Facebook!

Then there’s this…the Gluten Free Museum. Famous paintings, with any offending gluten removed. Click the link to see more awesomeness.

Are you a fan of the ‘Little House’ books, by Laura Ingalls Wilder? If so, and if you like knowing the background behind these fictional books, I recommend the newly released “Pioneer Girl: The Annotated Autobiography“. It’s an amazing amount of research into almost every detail of Wilder’s unpublished autobiography, “Pioneer Girl”. Wilder first put her memories down and tried to publish them as “Pioneer Girl”, which is the story of her early life. The story is not written for children, and has some darker elements than the ‘Little House’ stories. The decision was made that the stories would better be told as children’s books, and Laura and her daughter Rose worked through the same material, and they turned into the ‘Little House’ stories that we all know and love. The difference between reality and fiction is sometimes jarring. That she had a little brother, who died as an infant, I knew. That the infamous Nellie Oleson was a composite of several girls in Laura’s youth, I knew. But that Jack, Laura’s beloved brindle bulldog and constant companion, was actually given away when Laura was 4…that was too much for me, and I thought I was going to have to breathe into a paper bag to keep from passing out.

If you’re looking for a good book to read, I really enjoyed ‘The Precious One‘, by Marisa de los Santos. I’ve read a couple of her other books, and I really enjoy them. They’re light enough to be an easy read, but I love her writing and her lovely use of language.  Without giving anything important away, this is the story of Taisy and Willow, sisters 18 years apart in age.  They share the same father, who is imperious and overwhelming and towers above their lives. They’ve only met once before, when Willow was a baby, when Taisy comes to stay for a short time at the request of their father.  Taisy is determined to find answers to how her father turned out to be the man he is, the kind of man who would leave her, her mother, and brother, and start over with a new wife and daughter.  Willow is focused on her dislike and jealousy of Taisy, and trying to navigate the treacherous waters of High School, after a life of being home schooled.

Ted and I went to see ‘Wild Tales‘, which was in town for about 15 minutes.  We’re fortunate that there’s one theater in town that plays independent and foreign films. I knew nothing about the movie going in, except that I wasn’t interested in any other movies that were playing, and that it was a foreign film. It’s a series of stories with a common theme, and that’s all I will say. Also, fairly dark, but not horrific, and pretty laugh out loud funny in some parts. Ted thought one woman in the audience was going to choke, she was laughing so hard. I’ll be watching for it to come to Netflix or something, so I can see it again.

Whew.   Now you’re all caught up.  I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve posted…I blame my iPad.  I don’t really like the WordPress app on it, so I get frustrated and don’t bother.  For this post, I pulled out my old laptop.  I should do this more often, clearly. I’ll leave you with the knowledge that Maya is now 19, and that we had a lovely weekend celebrating. Also, if you like to laugh, go look at this.

Antibiotic Therapy

I’ve been doing some research into the treatments for Rheumatoid Arthritis, and the options are mostly crummy. Even the more innocuous drugs seem to have long term use risks, which don’t thrill me. I’ve been on sulfasalazine for several months now (I think I started in October), and I’ve not seen any good results yet. It takes time. So I looked around some more, and found a somewhat old school yet unconventional treatment, which is long term tetracycline use. You take a low and slow approach, taking 100mg of a specific tetracycline 3 days a week. Like other RA treatments, results come about slowly slowly slowly, often 6 months or more, sometimes a year or two. When I looked at the roadback website set up for followers of this protocol, I saw a ‘current protocol’ and an ‘historic protocol’. Current says take 200mg daily, historic is the more intermittent dosage. So I took this information to my doctor, and said I’d like to try it. She doesn’t have a lot of faith in the treatment, doesn’t think it will likely work, but she is willing to let me try it, and wrote me the prescription that I wanted. She prescribed it for 200mg daily, which I took for a week. I felt like crap. Somewhat sore, but really nauseous and sick to my stomach. So I looked a little more closely, found the intermittent dosage, and decided to try for that instead of the amount prescribed.

No difference is pain as of yet, but the feeling like absolute crap is gone since cutting back on my dosage. I’m glad for that. I gave myself a treat this weekend, and took some prednisone Friday and Saturday, which really is wonderful and takes away so much pain, and gives me a reasonable amount of energy. I cleaned up the back yard. I did some other chores. I felt like myself. I love that stuff. I do wish that I could stay on it, but I cannot. It’s too dangerous. So I took a smaller dosage yesterday, and a smaller still dosage today (you’re supposed to taper off, not just go cold turkey).

So now it’s back to no prednisone, giving the antibiotics a chance to work. Apparently tetracycline does not give you issues that some other antibiotics give…no resistance to antibiotics, no yeast issues. I am taking a probiotic to help my gut.

A lot of the people on the website say they get marked relief from going gluten, sugar, and dairy free. I tried those, and saw no difference. I had some blood work done awhile ago to look for food intolerance. I’ll wait to hear what the test results say before I decide whether to give these another try or not. I’m happy to eat more healthfully, but am not eager to eliminate entire food groups, so hopefully that won’t become necessary. I do see that for many people, they only need to restrict these food groups when in a flare, and most of the time it is not necessary. So that’s another consideration. A lot of people on the road back website discuss lyme disease, leaky gut syndrome, and so on. I don’t have any symptoms of lyme nor leaky gut, except for my RA.

I’ve tried several things to help. Acupuncture is known to give some relief, but didn’t help me. Vinegar and honey helps some people, but I haven’t noticed relief. Diet changes have made no difference. Yoga helps some, at least to relief stiffness. It doesn’t do a lot for pain. Swimming helps with energy and stiffness, but again, not much of a pain reliever. I’ve gotten into hot tubs twice, once with immediate relief, another time not so much. I even resorted to taking a bath (with epsom salts), but I hate baths so much, it just made me tense, which is the opposite of what it’s supposed to do. I’m taking turmeric, fish oil, and vitamin D. I’m thinking I should try some kind of meditation, but I haven’t gotten there yet. I have had a couple of massages, which generally feel good, but don’t help my joints. I am hoping that the antibiotic treatment works, that I can get off of the sulfasalazine, and get my groove back.

I’ll tell you, this whole thing has been an education for me. Not necessarily one that I wanted. I feel sort of like I’m bouncing back and forth between snake oil salesmen and big pharma. I don’t ally myself strongly either way. I’m all for figuring out the least harmful way to help yourself, and trying to go from there. Wish me luck.