Burgundy sunflower

Burgundy sunflower
Crescent Moon Designs Henna Art

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Starting to think about the new year

From #reverb10: Prompt: Achieve. What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.

I want to achieve financial independence in the next year.  It will give me a sense of security and the freedom to know that if the water heater goes postal (as it might), we can replace it; when the neighbor talks to us about replacing the fence between us, we can contribute our share; when we go on vacation we will be able to stay as long as we like and get to all the places we want to go.  If one of the parents gets sick, we can fly back to TN or NYC to be there.  Financial security will give us peace of mind.  And this year, I want to achieve financial security through the fruits of my creativity -- through writing, editing, henna, and other things that I make and sell.

10 ways to achieve that feeling today?
1. Visualize, 2. Write every day, 3. Let go of anxiety, 4. Look at art, 5. Read good books, 6. Read inspiring blogs, 7. Connect with creative people, 8. Maintain friendships and support system, 9. Brainstorm with supportive people, 10. Take care of daily health needs (exercise, vitamins, eating well).

That is what comes to mind right now.  I might have a different list tomorrow.  Try making your own list.  Share it if you like.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Two Days after Christmas

And all through the house, the tvs are blaring what newscasters grouse.  The snow has stopped falling, but the winds are so strong.  Three people shovel the walk, but the wind returns the snow along.

It's a mess on Staten Island. 15 inches of snow and falling.  50mph winds and all airports are closed.  It's cold and yucky outside, but at least the snow is pretty -- sparkly and white for the time being.

I do not miss snow.  I like that it's light-reflective and pretty and you can sculpt it...but I dislike the cold, the slush, the shovelling, the difficulty in walking because of snow and ice, and then melting and black ice....give me rain and mud any day.

The topic from #reverb 10 today: Ordinary joy. 

Our most profound joy is often experienced during ordinary moments. What was one of your most joyful ordinary moments this year? It's a good day to contemplate joy...  Joy is that the house is full of leftovers so we could be socked in for a week and still have plenty to eat.  Joy is warmth and internet connection.  Joy is hope.  My greatest joy this year is difficult to pin down.  Certainly, the replacement of my arthritic and worn out hips was a major event and the joy of living without debilitating pain is euphoric.  Then there is the joy from creating and my creative energy which was blocked a bit by pain is now fully flowing again.  Since the surgeries, I have learned how to silkscreen, do silk painting, make little do-dads with henna and am rekindling my writing.  I have come to the epiphany that my purpose, my work, must include creativity and self-expression since those are my strengths and to hide them or try to minimize them just makes me miserable.   

Joy comes from living, loving, and creating... be always happy with excellent taste and flavor.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The week-end before Christmas

The Christmas anxiety has full and settled in.  So much to do before we visit the in-laws... Sometimes I would prefer just to have a quiet holiday at home...or even better, spend the 10 days in Hawaii with my husband....and just him...no other relations involved...

However, that is not the way things are.  So I am channelling my anxiety into making my annual Christmas bread and taking photos of our feral poinsettia.
Our volunteer poinsettia by the side of the house.

Natasha's Eastern European-inspired Christmas Bread somewhat like Vanocka
This recipe varies from year to year as I learn new techniques or decide to try new fillings.  This is the recipe from this year and it's highly influenced by Peter Reinhardt's The Bread Baker's Apprentice.

The soused fruit
1/2 cup golden raisins (it's imporatant that they're golden)
1/4 cup chopped prunes
1/4 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup chopped dried apricots
1/2 cup brandy, whiskey, or sherry, or a combination of all 3.

The "sponge"
1 cup milk (or homemade milk kefir)
2 tsp dry yeast powder
1 cup bread flour
Mix together in a large bowl and cover with lid.  Let brew for 1-4 hours, depending on your schedule and the heat of your kitchen.

The next step
1 cup butter
5 whole eggs (or the equivalent of egg beaters)
1-1/4 tsp salt
zest of 1 lemon or a few drops of lemon extract
The soused fruit (all of it, including the liquor)
1 cup water
Mix well and then start adding
all-purpose unbleached white flour, or unbleached white wheat flour, or bread flour -- whatever you have, 1 cup at a time
Mix with a spoon until it gets too bulky.
Now take off your rings and start mixing by hand, adding 1/2 cup of flour as needed until dough seems cohesive, doesn't stick to your hands and has the texture of a baby's butt.
Leave the dough in the bowl and cover again for 1-3 or so hours, depending on your schedule and the warmth of your kitchen.  It will not rise completely double.  You might think the dough is lazy, but it's really just full of heavy stuff like egggs and butter...

While the dough is rising, it's a good time to make the almond paste filling.
1 bag of almond meal from Trader Joe's
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup Torani or Monin almond syrup (usually put in coffee)
Mix together until mealy, but not too wet. Set aside until time to make loaves.
OR, you can buy a can of almond filling if you can find it.  I couldn't find any this year.

When the dough has risen as much as it's going to,
punch it down and knead a little bit.  Take a knife and cut into 3 or 4 pieces (depending on how large you want your loaves).  Knead the dough into a rectangle, then fold over 1/3 and fold over again until you have a smaller rectangle.  Knead that down and repeat the process.  Then flatten the dough to the length of your bread pan and as wide as you can.  Cover with a thin layer of almond paste and roll (like a cinnamon roll).  Roll it around a bit to make sure the seal is tight.  Put in a bread pan (I like to line mine with parchment paper because it keeps the pans from getting messy) and let rise for 1 -2 hours.  Repeat process with other lumps of dough.

After it rises,
Bake at 325F for about 40-50 minutes, or until toothpick (or bamboo skewer) comes clean.  Let cool and enjoy!  Makes great presents.

Friday, December 17, 2010

Lesson Learned

I am participating in a reflection on the past year through reverb.com. I started a  few days ago, late to the party, but it's still useful.  Each day, a new prompt arrives, and it spurs thought and reflection, and sometimes some writing.

Today's prompt from Tara Weaver (author of The Butcher and The Vegetarian): Lesson learned. What was the best thing you learned about yourself this past year? And how will you apply that lesson going forward?

I learned a lot this year, but I will venture that the most important thing I learned was to listen to pain, work through it, and keep exercising.  Exercise gives me energy that lasts through the day. After my last surgery, I started waking up an hour before my husband and I use that time to do my exercise video workout.  I figure anything from 30-60 minutes per day has got to be good.  My muscles are getting stronger and my flexibility is returning.  But the best part is the increased energy.  Once the chronic pain of the arthritis was removed, euphoria set in and I had a torrent of energy and ideas and I struggled to keep up with.  This, of course, was not a level that I could maintain.  Sadly.  I am now back to my normal self.  I force myself to get out of bed and turn on the dvd player, but once I hear that peppy music and hear the instructor's encouragement, I'm off and walking.  And then I feel great!  This is a good new habit that I intend to nurture in the new year.

Regular cardio exercise also has improved my mood -- I have less anxiety and feel more on an even keel. I also have better concentration. (This could also be influenced by an absence of chronic pain.).

So the lesson actually learned this year is that I need to exercise every day for 30-60 minutes, and I've managed to make it a morning habit.  We'll see what I can do when I go to visit the in-laws for 10 days in the cold, damp, and freezing (did I mention that it's cold?) NE... but at least I've got a routine at home.

Of course, there are lots of lessons I need to learn and make habits....but one step at a time, regular exercise is a pretty big one.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Jobs and Work

Mike Rowe talks about Dirty Jobs

I just finished watching Mike Rowe ruminate on work and the nature of work and his previous conceptions and changed visions and I realize that Work and job are two different things.

You clock into a job, you fulfill your duties and you can't wait until break, lunch, quitting time.  You do your time and then you retire.  Jobs are for only the money.

Work is what you do.  When I view taking care of the husband, house and cats as work instead of a series of chores, it has meaning and dignity.  That's not to say I enjoy cleaning those litterboxes or vacuuming, but I can see them in the bigger context of my work. It is, unfortunately, undervalued and underpaid, but it needs to be done and so I do it.  Do I have a passion for housework?  Not really.  I do have a passion for my husband and my cats and for cooking and living in a nice place.  Work is how I maintain these things.  It is never done.  There is always something else that needs doing, but every once in awhile I can sit at the table and smile because I know dinner is delicious, the spouse is happy to be home and the cats are sleeping on the sofa.

I could, however, do with a job or two... just to get some money flowing in... nothing wrong with that...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Does a work of art have a subject or a spirit?

This is the question for Deep Thought Thursday for Nov 4, 2010 from Alyson B Stanfield's blog, ArtBizBlog: for the business of being an artist.

Of course, there is no one correct answer.  But it does give me pause to think about what I create.  Usually, it's not about anything in particular, but is blank canvas that becomes something when decorated.  A white silk scarf that gets color and pattern or a hand that goes from naked to one with a lacy Moroccan or Indian bridal style creation.  Or it is a collection of ingredients that find themselves arranged into a pie.  Tonight's creation is a pumpkin coconut pie in a graham cracker crust...
Now that's a work of art I can sink my teeth into.... and I think I will!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Time keeps on tickin'....

I recently read a blog post on TeeZeeTee about the Human Clock Project.

Remember when there was an installment artist who made a giant calender made up of people looking at each other?
This is by artist, Craig Griffen.
Well, he did a human clock a while back with photos of people holding up cards with the time on them. And now he is asking people to draw the time and mail him the postcards.

How could I resist such a challenge?  So I clicked on the link for the humanclock - mail clock and there is a computerized gizmo that gives you a time to draw (you can also click a link if you want to choose a different time for some reason.)  And once you're done drawing, you send it to the humanclock project.  It needs to be received by January 8, 2011, so time is running out.

This is my drawing.  I used henna on paper (naturally, as a henna artist), let it dry and sealed it with Polycrylic.  It smudged a little bit from being rehydrated with the sealant, but I'm pretty happy with it.  I chose the sunflower for my drawing because it is a kind of plant clock, following the path of the sun during the day.  And my assigned time was 3:38.  I signed it on the back.  And off it goes into the mailbox!  It's so cool being part of a large project!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Creative Every Day

I just joined the Creative Every Day Challenge by artist, Leah Piken Kolidas.

The challenge is to do something, anything, creative every day.  Pretty simple concept.  And actually, implementation is easy, too, since being creative is not just about writing or painting or making a work of ART.  It's about attitude and approach.  Yesterday I made a creative Thanksgiving dinner.  It was still within the parameters of a traditional turkey dinner, but due to my Mother's diet restrictions, I was challenged to make it gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, al-dente free.  So I used coconut milk whenever I usually used cream or condensed milk, and I used gluten-free bread for the stuffing.  And I made a gluten-free gingerbread cookie crust for the pumpkin pie -- which wasn't the best, but can be improved on next time.
Close-up of an Aeonium taken by N. Papousek

Today, we went to a native plant garden and I took a photos to serve as inspiration for silk paintings -- or just by themselves.
an agave taken by N. Papousek

Being creative every day is going to be a fun adventure!

Sunday, November 21, 2010


I recently went for my 6-week post-surgery check-up and received the "All Clear" to drive again!  Whew.  I am eager to get back to my life again!  The PA said everything was looking good.
This is a photo of the x-ray of my hips.  Surgery done by Dr. Robert Powell.

The surgeon had told me that these replacements weren't the most beautiful surgery he's done, but because my hips were a bit irregular, he had to use parts of different replacement kits so that it all worked for my structure.

I think they're beautiful.  Titanium and blue chromium sockets.  There is no friction now between the head of the femur and the socket.  There is no more deep arthritis pain.  The human body is an amazing structure and medical science is a miracle.

I have no more hip pain.

Ok. I concede that I do have muscle pain, but considering how much the muscles were moved around during the surgery and that some were cut through and have to rebond, my amount of pain is minimal.  I feel so much more energetic now and ready to get back to my regularly scheduled life.  The difficult part is trying not to do too much too soon.  How do I know what is too much?  Obviously, a hike up Cowles Mountain would likely be too much.  But how about dancing at a party?  Hula hooping?  Doing basic exercise videos?  The doctor was vague and said it was better to err on the side of caution.

Well, I've never been one to err on the side of caution.  I won't start training for a marathon, but I am going to make sure that at least 1 mile of exercise is a part of each day and when the music is good, I will dance.

This is my vision of my new hips!

Monday, November 8, 2010

A mushroom is a mushroom is not just a mushroom

I like to cook.  I may not always create everything from scratch but I do enjoy jazzing up stuff.  Last night was Big Pasta Dinner Night (a revival of a tradition from my husband's bachelor days) and I took out a jar of sauce that I'd gotten on sale at Henry's and put it in the pot.  I tasted it and it NEEDED something.  So I added some garlic and zucchini and chopped bell peppers.  It still needed something.  I added pumpkin puree and it still needed something.  I added a carrot slurry that I mixed in the blender.  And it STILL needed.  That's when I had the bright idea of making it a mushroom sauce.  I added in some sliced buttom mushrooms, and then I remembered we had dried shiitaake mushrooms in the cupboard....and then I saw the tree ears.

Tree Ear fungus growing on a tree.
Tree Ears are found in Asian grocery stores with all the other dried fungus.  Once rehydrated in some warm water, they are tasty and nutritious and an indespensible ingredient in Chinese cooking.  They are not, however, common or even heard of in European cooking.  But I thought, a fungus is a fungus, why not add them to the sauce.

Button mushrooms have a meaty flavor and are delicious in sauce or on pizza (or even grilled by themselves).  Shiitaake mushrooms, once rehydrated, also have a rich meaty flavor.  Tree Ears (or Mu Er as they are called in Mandarin) have a rather chewy texture reminiscent of overcooked calimari.  I'd forgotten this quintessential characteristic of the tree ear.  It has been years since I used to them, and I think the last time I used them it was for Hot and Sour Soup which really needs that texture.

My dear husband was a bit taken aback when he saw black strings in the pasta sauce, but he tried them.  And he did not like them.  He is from New York City where they take Italian food very seriously.  Tree Ears are not a welcome addition into list of approved ingredients.

Sigh.  I didn't mind them, a fact which further highlighted in my DH's mind how much an infidel I am.... the tree ears are now strictly relegated to Chinese cuisine in our household. Maybe they would be good breaded and fried in olive oil and garlic....

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

To blog or not to blog....who and why

I realized fairly early on in this blog that I really have no clue what I'm doing, so I signed up for a 4-week blog course.  It's a self-paced online class designed by Alyson Stanfield (http://www.artbizblog.com/) and Cynthia Morris (http://www.originalimpulse.com/) and our first lesson is to identify whom we envision is reading our blog -- the target audience -- you!

I am writing for kindred souls.  Age is not a factor, but a curiosity and sense of wonder about the world are.  My ideal reader has traveled or longs to, loves to eat a variety of global cuisines, admires science and loves learning about how the forces in nature that shape our world and Universe.  He/She will like henna and may be a colleague.  I hope to generate engaging content so my readers will respond and interact.

Through blogging, I hope to gain clarity about my goals and methods.  I hope the writing process will not only crystallize thoughts but also generate new ideas, especially through discourse with my readers.  I am not an expert in anything, but I am enjoying the learning adventure and hope you, the reader, will enjoy briefly taking a ride with me.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Art or Craft

Art or craft.  This is a topic that comes up a lot among henna artists, and today I was hanging out with silk painters and the same issue arose.  One person complained that there were people "out there" who don't take the art seriously and they production paint and sell things cheaply -- which cheapens the Art and devalues the Artists.... so they should charge more.

Seriously? I think there is a wide spectrum between art and craft and FINE ART and low-end art.  My parents are fine artists.  They SEE something universal and try to convey that with their artwork.  My father has never achieved his goal and thus has never exhibited his artwork.  If fact, I've never seen his paintings and sculptures, but he talks about them a lot.  My mother hasn't quite reached Nirvana, yet, either, but that hasn't stopped her from sharing her art photographs with others.  Me, I'm not sure I do art.  I make things because it makes me supremely happy, and I like to share what I make with other people because it makes them happy.  I can draw flowers for 6 hours straight and if my clients are happy, so am I.  I get into the moment of creating that henna drawing and try to infuse each one with joy.  But none of us are confused about whether or not it's Fine Art.

I draw henna designs on shirts and bags and lamps and silk.  They make me happy.  But I don't see them as ART.  I'm a craftsperson.  I do the best I can, but no-one is going to see the meaning of life, the universe and everything by looking at my henna or other drawings.  However, if they make people smile and they buy them, then my work is done.

Money. The silk Artist who was complaining today said that the other folks who sell things for prices that most people can afford were selling themselves short and cheapening all the other artists' work as well. 

I'm all for charging what an item is worth.  But I have to admit that my t-shirts which take 1/2 hour to draw are not worth as much as the blouse I hand-dyed, took 3 days to embellish, and encrusted with swarkovski crystals and glitter.  If I charged what the blouse was worth, it would not sell.  The silk Artist would say it's perfectly OK for it not to sell because you maintain its value that way.  The practical person in me says, "Um, I have to contribute to the mortgage payments and food budget..."  The silk Artist lamented that there are no real patrons of Art anymore....me, too.  I'd love a sugar daddy...um, patron.  But for every Michealangelo who was patronized, there were a zillion guys out there selling their stuff by the Tiber trying to earn enough to pay their mortgage.... and who is remembered now?  Did those popular artists who hawked their wares by the Seine cheapen Michealangelo's work?  No. But I sure hope they were able to pay their bills!

I think there is a place for all of us on the art spectrum.  There's the stuff we produce with as little labor for the results as possible (my t-shirts) and there's the labors of love (my silk blouse -- which I did not sell; I had to give it to a friend b/c I knew it would make her supremely happy.)  The silk Artist creates such beautiful and intricate things.  She pushes herself and her techniques and the artform in bold directions.  The rest of us are inspired by her, but we can't afford her work.  I hope she has a patron....

Anybody want to be my patron?  Hmmm.  Guess I'd better keep making things that sell...

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Henna designs

I really WILL do more henna soon.  Probably tonight on my left hand.  And I'm also planning to go to Spanish Village in Balboa Park on Saturday if I can find and load all my stuff (table, umbrellas, table covering, signs, etc.) that got piled into the garage when we moved in last December...

Right now I'm enamoured with Pakistani-style designs.  I go through phases and right now I'm all about flowers and paisleys strung together.  Love those flowers and paisleys. 

I'm still planning the design I want to wear into surgery.  I drew a phoenix on my shin for my last hip and it helped give me courage.  I could always do another phoenix.... or maybe some lotuses... or probably paisleys and flowers.... I can't reach my shin these days b/c I'm not allowed to bend more than 90 degrees, but I could do my thigh... however, I need to know whether the surgery will be anterior or posterior first!  The doctor said I could have henna anywhere but the surgery site.  Last time I was completely hennaed up!  Right arm was done by local artist, Wardah Halim, and the left by me.  And I had somehow managed to reach my feet and decorate them as well.

Speaking of surgery, I realize how lucky I am that my husband has excellent insurance -- or even insurance at all!  There have been tough times in my life when I had no insurance and even though I was young and healthy, I still needed to have my wisdom teeth removed.  I paid for that for years!  And once I took a bad job because they offered me insurance coverage -- and then it turned out that because I had been treated for gynecological issues in the past, I had no coverage for ANY gyno care!  I didn't stay at that job long... it just wasn't worth the worthless insurance.

When we lived in England we were covered by socialized medicine.  I could go to a clinic whenever I needed at no charge.  And when I had a horrible miscarriage, I was checked into a hospital no questions asked, no forms or cards or copays.  It was such an excellent safety net.  I have heard complaints that only the major problems are covered and that people are on waiting lists for all kinds of things for years.  However, I currently have Kaiser Permanente HMO and the same is true. 

Someone I know is in a bad way.  She has a severe tooth infection with no insurance, neither health nor dental.  She can't afford to pay for her anti-biotics and painkillers because the full cost is too much.  She just lost her job and has no income at the moment.  It's a really scary situation: out of work, in excruciating pain, and unable to afford care or prescriptions.  And I know she is not the only one out there.  There, but for the Grace of God, go I....

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Confessions of a foodie

Perhaps I should have called this blog, musings from a food-aholic... I love food.  I love making food.  I love eating food.  I just don't like the dishes.  Oh well, can't have it all....

Unfortunately, a love of food and eating has facilitated weight gain.  I used to be very skinny.  In high school, I barely weighed 100lbs.  But after a blissfully foodie wedding at the age of 30 to the love of my life, we have been blissfully chomping our way through life.  When we lived in Baltimore, we ate crab cakes and kung pao chicken from China Chef in Catonsville (which might not still be there...) -- and Vaccaro's.  Bill brought me Vaccaro's cannolis and pignoli cookies for our first non-date.  We went there for later dates and talked into the night over hazelnut cappucinnos and The Nina, the Pinta and the Santa Maria -- ridiculously large sundaes made with homemade gelato and topped with deliciousness... I knew he was my man.  I made him garlic pizza and he pledged to love me forever.

Now, after 17 years and much culinary delight, I find myself at 166lbs.  Which at my height makes me dead center average for my age group, but 25-30lbs overweight according to the BMI charts.  I've gone up, but it's hard to get below the 166 threshold.  And, of course, it's mostly on my belly (the most dangerous place for fat) and under the arms... I used to not care so much.  But osteoarthritis has changed my mind.  Each extra pound adds extra pressure on the joints, predisposing natural ones to arthritis and artificial ones to wear out faster.  I just got a new hip, and I'm getting another one.  I want these to last as long as possible, which means I need to lose about 25-30lbs.

This is not an easy task.  I wasn't able to exercise before my first surgery because my hips just hurt all the time and movement didn't help and I had such a pronounced limp that it strained muscles.  Since my left hip was replaced, I started exercising again -- at first with exercise dvds with Leslie Sansone, and then to timed outdoor walking, and now I do about a one-mile loop around the neighborhood (which takes about 19 minutes) and a half-hour video between 3-5 days a week.  I think things are starting to fit better, but my DH says he can't see any change.  How frustrating.  But at least I know that an hour of exercise 3-5 days/week is really good for my cardiovascular system (and my whole family has high cholesterol and a history of heart disease), bone density and muscle strength -- so even if I get frustrated with my lack of weight loss progress, I can notice a lower resting pulse and lower blood pressure (just in 5 weeks!).

So I must admit that since I'm exericising enough to stimulate weight loss, and I'm NOT LOSING... then it must be what I'm eating.... or rather the portion sizes.  We eat healthy food.  Lots of low-fat protein, vegetables and whole grains. We cleaned up our diet as soon as we moved out of the dorm and into our own kitchen. (except for the month-long ice cream binge before surgery...) But I must be eating bigger portions than I should.  This is tricky.  I must learn to be satisfied with less, to not leave the table with that happy, full feeling, but to learn to eat less.  Not easy, esp. since I like food and eating.....

Tonight's successful experiment: New Mexican Frittata
1 8 X 8 pyrex dish
1 large potato, sliced into thin slices and layered on the bottom
a light coating of shredded Mexican cheese (low-fat version)
a layer of posole (cooked hominy)
and 1 can of black beans, drained and rinsed
a light coating of shredded mexican cheese
5 roasted Sandia chiles from Hatch, NM
2 yellow squash, sliced
1/2 can red enchilada sauce (actually, for the next time, I'll use a whole can and add it to layers in between)
more shredded cheese
1 medium carton of eggbeaters
1 egg
Layer ingredients as you go. Pour egg mixture over top.  Bake for about 1 hour at 300F until golden brown and puffy and a bbq skewer comes clean.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Here we go again

Kaiser called today to give me my appt for my second hip replacement: Sept 30.  9 weeks after my left hip was replaced.  Two weeks notice is a bit sudden, but I'm not gainfully employed so there's nothing really to plan.  I'm actually looking forward to the surgery and recovery and the being able to walk without pain again...

This all started in March of 2008 when I was trying to get fit by jogging.  I had started adding miles to my routine and rediscovered the 6-mile loop at Lake Murray.  One day I decided to push myself a bit and I ran 5 miles without walking and at 5 and a half miles, I felt a ping and then a sudden sharp pain in the groin.  I limped back to the car and drove myself home, took 2 advil and thought that was it.

But that wasn't it.  So after a few days of severe pain, I went to the Dr. and got a diagnosis of groin strain.  4-6 weeks of rest should do it.  But after 6 weeks and some strong painkillers and a week off work, I was not doing any better....after a few months of pain, I switched doctors and got an x-ray which showed that I had severe arthritis in my hips.  How can osteoarthritis, the degeneration of cartilage happen so fast?  In one moment I went from pain-free to deep, chronic pain.  But apparently, cartilage has no nerve endings so as it is wearing away, there is no pain until the bones touch -- and that's what must have happened that day in March, the last of my cartilage rubbed away, and my bones clashed...

I went through Physical Therapy, standard for a new diagnosis of osteoarthritis, but it only exacerbated the pain.  The surgeon recommended replacement.  The physcial medicine doctor recommended alternative pain control. I wasn't ready for surgery.  I'm too young, I thought.  But a few months later, I decided that the pain was too great to continue with guided imagery and cox2 inhibitors....so I asked for surgery.

6 months later, I was checked into Sharp Coronado for the best healthcare experience I've ever had.  The aneasthesia wore off without major side effects.  The nurses were devoted and kind.  The food was great.  AND, there was aromatherapy!  Lavender shoulder massages, peppermint to help keep me from getting queasy, lemongrass lotion for a morning wake-up.  Delightful.  They even gave my Mom free lunches!  But what was better was as soon as I was conscious I knew the deep pain was gone.  All I had to do was heal from the surgery.

It has turned out to be a very fast recovery.  Within 3 days of coming home, I switched from the walker to a cane.  After 3 weeks, I ditched the cane as well.  I was cleared for driving as soon as my stitches were removed. And right now, at 7 weeks post-surgery, I have no pain in my left hip and a wide range of motion.  I'm still not allowed to touch my toes...but I can do practically everything else...except the right hip hurts....

So I'm grateful that my surgery was scheduled so quickly.  I'll have to miss vending at the Bedouin Bazaar -- which is a shame b/c it's one of my favorite events.  But it's a small price to pay for getting my life back.  Chronic pain is exhausting and it contributes to depression.  It certainly interfered with my ability to work since I could only stand for 15 minutes at a time. And it's, well, painful -- even with cox2 inhibitors and narcotics.

Looking forward to my regularly scheduled life in about 5 weeks....

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday is when I get things done.

Most of the time, I feel that time just slips by.  I check my email and facebook and the next thing I know it's time to make dinner.  But Sundays are different.  On Sundays, the husband sleeps in and I can tiptoe out of bed and change into my exercise clothes and go for a brisk walk.  I love these morning walks.  Often the marine layer is just beginning to clear and the light is getting sharper as I progress through my standard 1-mile loop.  I love seeing all the variations in my neighbor's lawns.  Some are perfectly manicured (in fact, my neighbor across the street putters in his front yard every day!) and some are more like ours -- unmowed, dry, but not too chaotic.  And then there are the yards that make our yard look wonderful.  I like that our neighbors are all different; we fit right in.

After my walk, I make the coffee and feed the cats and start making breakfast.  Sunday morning breakfasts are delightful.  My husband wakes to the smell of coffee and muesli toast and we spend about an hour eating, talking, listening to NPR week-end edition and reading the paper.  It's sublime.

Then he heads to the office to work on his research and I do the weekly cleaning.  Today I was more energetic than I've been in a long time so I managed to clean both litterboxes, vacuum, wipe down the sofa, water the garden, do 4 loads of laundry, dye 2 lots of silk, wash the dishes, wipe down the kitchen, spill dye on the floor which made it necessary to mop.... and then I made the Hatchbakus which DH will grill when he returns home.

Hatchbokus are a new invention, a variation of the Hamboku.  Hamboku is the Korean word for hamburger and Bill's halmoni (grandmother) made fabulous hamboku with scallions, fresh chopped garlic, more garlic, an egg, some sesame oil and a dash of soy sauce.  My innovation was to put kimchee on the grilled hamboku.  My mother-in-law said she'd never heard of such a thing.  Kimchee ON a hamburger?  Now she thinks it's the best idea since rice cookers.

Hatchbokus are hamboku with the inclusion of chopped New Mexican roasted green chiles from Hatch, NM. This is the first year we have found them fresh roasted in San Diego and we are trying to collect, eat and freeze as many as possible.  If you have never tried them, you might be lucky because roasted green chiles are like crack, heroin, and cocaine...though I have never tried any of those substances.  Roasted green chiles are flavorful with a great pepper taste, a smokey overtone and just enough heat to make sweat pour down your forhead and onto your enchilada.  And then, after that first chile tasting, you crave them.  We spent 2 glorious summers housesitting for a friend in Taos, NM back when we lived in Austin, TX.  On our first night we had dinner at Fred's.  Green chile chicken enchiladas.  The next morning, we sought out a cafe that served green chile sauce over fried eggs and potatoes.... then we had to have green chile tacos for lunch.... and the addiction was established.  When our job was finished, we filled our cooler with fresh roasted green chiles and smelled heaven all the way home.....

Austin is a foodie town with eclectic tastes.  And it was not long before we discovered that Chuy's had a green chile festival every year.  So we were able to satiate our cravings.  Then we moved to San Diego.

What a culinary shock!  No tex-mex, no Texas bbq, and no green chiles.  Over the years we have adjusted and grown to love Rubio's and Smokin' Joe's bbq, but we had no access to green chiles.  It was a tough withdrawal, but we managed.  Last year I discovered that a few Albertson stores carried frozen green chiles.... and they were an acceptable substitute.... but this year, we found Richard Utter and his chile roasting stand at the farmer's market in Little Italy!  And yesterday, he was roasting at Whole Foods in Hillcrest.  We are in green chile heaven!  But the season is short, so we must work quickly to fill our freezer for the winter.  And in the meantime, we are inventing new uses for the chiles and today's invention is the Hatchboku....

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The beginning

The first post always seem so momentous, as if I must make a grand statement or at least explain the meaning of life, the universe and everything.  But I am not so large-brained as to have any answers...or even good questions.  But I do know a good recipe for sesame noodles, and that sounds like a good start.

Sesame Noodles, serves at least 4
2 tbl sesame paste (found at your local Chinese grocery; it comes in a small jar with lots of Chinese writing and the friendly words: Sesame Paste.  What differentiates this from tahini is that Chinese sesame paste is made from toasted sesame seeds and the flavor is rich and round.  You can substitute tahini or peanutbutter for sesame paste if your area has no Chinese grocery, but the flavor will be VERY different.)
1 tbl soy sauce (read the ingredients; must include soybeans.  If there are no soybeans on the list, it isn't soy sauce)
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tbl brewed tea (either black or green or iced unsweetened)
2-10 cloves garlic crushed (if you have a Chinese or Korean grocery in your area, you can find fresh minced garlic in the frozen or fresh vegetable sections.  It's much easier than crushing your own.)
1 tsp grated or minced ginger
2 tsp toasted sesame oil (my favorite brand is Kadoya, found in Chinese and Korean groceries)

1/2 thin noodles (linguine or the noodles that look like linguine in the Chinese or Korean grocery)
1/2 lb mung bean sprouts
1 tbl toasted sesame oil
4-6 cups of water.

Directions:  Make a cup of tea.  Put water in pot to boil.  Mix sauce and set aside.  Water should be boiling by now.  Add oil and noodles.  When noodles are almost ready, add bean sprouts.  Bring to a boil again, then drain and rinse.  Rinsing with cold water keeps the noodles from becoming a large sticky clump.  Add sauce to noodles.  Garnish with chopped scallions and toasted sesame seeds.  Chill thoroughly.

Even if you choose not to use chopsticks, do make slurpy noises while eating!