Archive for February, 2009

Asthma, COPD and Pulmonary Fibrosis, Oh, My!

February 25, 2009

Recently I failed a spirometery test; the nurse conducting the test, I’ll call her “Ratched”  made me do the test SIX times.   Each time she said “You can do better than that!”  quite vehemently as if  I were a recaltricant toddler.  

Honestly, after the fifth time I did consider lying down on the floor and kicking my legs, resisting any police intervention with the famed toddler limp body technique.

However, being the obedient, still-intimidated-by-authority-figures-despite-being-a-grown-woman,  person that I am, well, I just blew in the damn mouthpiece again. 

AND failed again.  At which point Ratched “tsked, tsked” me, and handed me pamphlet that advised me not to smoke  (I don’t, and never have, other than once, at 17, when I wanted to punish my anti-smoking ex-boyfriend by lighting up.)

(Yes, that is crazy.) 

and to avoid asbestos and radon gas.

Great, two more things for me to worry about.  Is my office infested with asbestos?    Is my basement slowly poisoning me?  And my children? 

At my super fun doctor appointment last week I left with diptheria, pertussis and tetanus coursing through my veins, a freshly examined vagina and a prescription for an inhaler.

No, Rotund Reader, I haven’t begun exhibiting any signs of autism. (Not yet, that is!)

Tomorrow, I get to go to my doctor’s office for a repeat spirometer performance.   I get to do the test, then use the inhaler, then do the test again, to see if I show improvement.   If so, the likely culprit of my breathing issues is asthma.   If not asthma, it could just be severe wimpy-itis, COPD, or pulmonary fibrosis.

Nevertheless, whatever the outcome, I’m just glad that this time he’s leaving my coochie alone.

He really thought it was about the eggs.

February 25, 2009

It’s the arguments about nothing that are the most worrisome.    

If you feel loved, respected, then you assume the wrong sized eggs are the product of an accidental purchase, not due to lack of caring.   Not due to someone “never listening,” not due to your other half  making a “passive aggressive attempt to hinder your stress-reducing desire to bake.”

A heated argument about nothing is really an argument about EVERYTHING.

Everything that is wrong in your relationship. 

He doesn’t listen.

You nag.

He listens even less.

You nag even more.

You don’t feel heard or appreciated.

Neither does he.

And there isn’t an easy solution.  Especially when both parties feel wronged.  

It’s easier to hang out with friends, focus on kids, worry about the house, bake a cake, then it is to solve what seems unsolvable.

So, I exercise, go to movies.  Drive the kids to activities.  Work.   Have fun with friends, enjoy life, for the most part.

However, something is missing.   The something that makes me cry over love songs.   Despise romantic movies.   Avoid old boyfriends.  And eat another brownie, when, actually I’m full.

TWD #8: Caramel Crunch Bars

February 24, 2009

Me:  “Honey, do you like the bars?”

The Hubs:  “Not really.  Did you make them right?  I think you made them wrong.  They are crunchy.  And kinda oily.”

Me:  “Yes, I made them right!  And they are called “Caramel Crunch Bars, so yes, they are SUPPOSED to be crunchy.”

But maybe not oily….

Other things that went wrong this week:

1.  I had a terrible wedge-y all during spin torture class.

2.  I yelled at my kids for not doing their chores.

3.  My husband and I argued about NOTHING……   TWICE!

4.  I never managed to take a picture of the caramel crunch bars. 

I am ready for this month to be over!  Thank goodness it’s almost March.

If you would like the recipe, it’s available at Whitney’s blog, What’s Left on the Table.   (Researching the oily issue, I think my butter must have been too warm when I started the recipe.  And, overall, while not a favorite, the bars did taste pretty darn good. )

Shouldn’t it really be “Approximately Pi Day?”

February 23, 2009

Last night my son sprung it on me that he has to make a t-shirt and poster for Pi day. Pi day isn’t until  March 14 but the project is due THIS FRIDAY.  Crap.

Why do children do that?

Anyway, the theme is…..

 

Wait for it… 

 

 

 “The Pi is the Limit.”

I love math teachers.  They are so willing to be silly. 

I guess I should be glad that it isn’t “Ruby in the Pi with Diamonds,”  or “Slumdog Pionairre.”  

“American Pi” might be interesting.   (I heart Stifler’s Mom.)

Anyway, I’m seeking any and all t-shirt/poster suggestions , because  Taylor’s and my brainstorming session was more like a brainovercastday.

February 19, 2009

At the grand old age of thirty-seven I am applying to a local university.  You see, I am a BIG LOSER.  And not of the weight-loss variety.  (Damn!)  Of the “start college, drop out of college, start college, drop out of college, start college, drop out of college” variety.

(Yes, it took me a LONG time to get my shit together.)

Thus I have decided to take last year’s personal economic downturn and turn it into Swedish Visiting Cake.     (Really you HAVE to try that recipe.  It’s like sugar cookie dough in cake form.  Wrapped in kittens.)

I have 108 hours of college credit towards a math degree.   But, really, what are the odds that, now, seven years later, I can still do calculus?   (Five out of four people say I have a NEGATIVE 37.4% chance of  computing the derivative of f(x) of anything!)

I’ve filled out a FAFSA, applied at a university and am now working on a scholarship essay.  The assigned topic:

” Why obtaining a college degree is important to you, and why you are applying for scholarships”

 Wouldn’t working in the scholarship office, reading all those essays be really exciting

“A college degree would further my career.  Blah, blah, blah.   I am applying for the scholarship because it would remove the burden of paying for school from my family.  Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.”

I’ve written the essay once.  A plain, practical offering with correct punctuation, grammar and spelling.  Not being seventeen, I’ve even avoided using text/IM speak.  Not a single LOL in the whole damn thing.

However, I haven’t submitted it yet, as the lack of personality, the limp lifelessness it portrays is mind-numbing.   Thus, I’m attempting a re-write.  A re-write that is more humorous, yet still formal enough for the situation.

And I’m struggling.  

There seems to be no “in-between” for me.  Either I’m “striving towards the life long goal of completing a bachelor’s degree while rasing two teenagers and working full-time” or:

“I would like to earn a degree because, otherwise I will continue to be a big fat loser.  I mean, really, who doesn’t have at least a bachelor’s degree?  Losers.  Losers that lose.  For example, I bet the gangly, stringy-haired lady that makes my pizza at Casey’s gas station doesn’t have a degree.   And, if my current job ended, guess who would be the new chubby, limp-haired lady at Casey’s, trying to work her way UP to pizza maker?  Me.  Then I’d have to cower in shame when all the other mothers, those skinny perfect bitches, bring their manicured nails in to giddily grab a sugar free iced tea with lemon?  THAT’S why I want a degree.

Why do I need financial aid?  For one, my husband took a commission-only job last year.  In other words, he spent almost a full year digging our financial grave.   My bank balance?  Well, let me put it this way, some days when I swipe my debit card for gas, I REALLY hope it doesn’t get declined.   Plus, do you have teenagers?   Damn, those kids are expensive.  Their braces are worth more than my car!”    

I know, I know, NOT appropriate.   

My friend Tom recommended that I add a humorous tale from my real life to make my essay more interesting and real.   Good suggestion.  However, I’m struggling to come up with an anecdote that doesn’t involve poop, vomit or getting flipped the bird

Plus, I’m constrained by the essay being only one page.   Most of my best stories, the ones that involve well-endowed one armed men, for example, are at least a page and a half long.

Any suggestions?    

I only ask because I doubt my own judgment.  Not too long ago I filled out a job application, and, in an effort to be funny, put “Hambone” under the area for “Other names by which you are known.”   (At the time I thought that was VERY funny, but it strikes me now that they probably meant the name I use on stage.  You know, “Jennifer Ferocious,” or maybe, just maybe, they meant my maiden name?)

I did not get a call for an interview.   And I REALLY can’t afford not to get a scholarship, so this essay has to be good!  (That’s why I’m asking the internet, LOL.)  

  

This site is temporarily unavailable.

February 17, 2009

I heard a rumor today, that our blogger bashes are sorely in need of some new blood; in that spirit, I’d like to extend my sincerest invitation to:

The Mimes and Mummers Alumni Association

Furries for Obama

Members of the National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association

Everyone I’ve friended on Facebook

All used car salesmen in the area (We’d love to hear about the LOW, LOW payment! And, certainly, we want the warranty.)

Of course, many of these people probably don’t ACTUALLY have (or comment on) blogs, but I guess that’s no longer really the point of a “blogger bash.”

I just wonder, why the focus on attendance to an event that charges no admission, raises no funds, and has no focus other than chatting about blogging?

TWD #7 Devil’s Food White Out Cake

February 17, 2009

It’s a given:
1. If “Napoleon Dynamite” is on TV, I’ll watch it.
2. When I drop off the kids at school in the morning I will say “Have a great day. I love you!”
3. And they will respond “Yah, whatever.”
4. If I’m a passenger in your car I will say “SLOW DOWN!” (To which my fifteen year old recently replied, “I’m going SEVEN.”)
5. And, if there is cake, I will eat it.

Even if it might be salmonella-tainted from undercooked frosting.

Oh, and I’ll even feed it to my family (and family friends, the lucky ducks!)

I guess this post should be entitled “A Tale of Two Cakes,” or maybe, “Bakers with Malfunctioning Mixers Get the Poos Blues.”

To make a long story short, I bought a cheap stand mixer at Walmart. This mixer:

p2160004-small

If you are tempted to buy this clearance mixer, do not do so! Otherwise, you, too, will be telling the tale of “_______ and the No Good, Very Bad, Possilby Lethal Whisk Attachment.”

I tested out my new appliance making this weeks “Tuesday’s with Dorie” pick, Devil’s Food White Out Cake, suggested by Stephanie of Confessions of a City Eater.

This is a great recipe, yet my first attempt at this cake was not a success.

First I forgot a key ingredient in the cake-the boiling water, and my cake came out a bit flat. Tasty but flat. (I think that’s probably also how my husband describes me to his co-workers, LOL.)

Then, attaching the whisk to the mixer I added the 242 degree simple syrup to the egg whites and beat it for about five minutes. This is where the mixer earned it’s FAIL status, as the syrup pretty much solidified in the bottom of the bowl, because the whisk wasn’t long enough to reach the bottom inch of the mixing bowl. (Um, yah, and that also solves the mystery of the slow beating egg whites.)

I’m pretty sure the un-mixed-in simple syrup was unable to heat the egg whites to the point of being technically safe to eat. But, somehow this didn’t strike me until AFTER we ate the cake and I had a stomach ache. (And a stomach ache on Valentine’s Day is quite the romance killer!)

I guess the crumbled cake topping covered up the fact that my icing was basically whipped egg whites!

Yesterday I remade the cake remembering the boiling water and it had a wonderful, light crumb and great chocolate flavor. Plus, it was surprisingly easy to cut horizontally and stack without breaking.

And the frosting was a dream, marshmallow-y, amazingly light, white, bright and fluffy. Of course, I did have to beat it with my hand mixer for an incredibly long time, but it was worth it.

p2160040-small
Devil’s Food White Out Cake, now “Salmonella Free!”

TWD #6: Floating Islands

February 10, 2009

Friday night, serving a cookie to my son, I asked “How is it?”
Mr. Picky replied, “Ugh, not very good; I don’t like marshmallows.”

“Taylor, those aren’t marshmallows, those are white chocolate chips.”

He proceded to eat four more.

The mind is a powerful thing.
Or:
A brain is a terrible thing to taste?

I know it’s something like that.

Recalling the marshmallow/cookie rejection, I decided not to tell my daughter that Shari’s “TWD” pick for this week, Floating Islands, are meringue, as she’s a meringue-hater.

Instead I told her “it’s a dessert with a creamy base, a floating island made of beaten egg whites and sugar, topped with strands of hardened caramel.”

I’m really surprised that she didn’t pick up on that, as one of the questions she got right last year in Scholastic Bowl was “What are the two main ingredients in meringue?” (Egg whites and sugar.)

My daughter might not know:
“What personal pronoun is subjective case, first person singular?” (No clue, I don’t even know what that means!)
or
“What scientist was the first to use the telescope for astronomy?” (Galileo?)

But she knows her ingredients! (Her other SB strength is Harry Potter facts; I’m sure that’ll help her on the ACT.)

Saturday night I made the creme anglaise, bringing milk to a boil in one pan, while whisking egg yolks and sugar in another. I carefully tempered the eggs with the milk, stirring the concoction over medium-low heat until it reached 180 degrees.

Which took TWENTY minutes!

Twenty minutes is a LONG time to continuously stir.

Okay, honestly, my twenty minutes went more like this:

Stir!
Unload top rack of dishwasher.
Stir, stir!
Read over the recipe.
Stir, stir, stir!
Pop some tea in the microwave.
Stir, stir, stir, stir!
Drink some tea. (Burn tongue.)
Stir, stir, stir, stir, stir!
Unload the bottom rack of the dishwaser.
Stir, stir, stir, stir, stir, stir!
(You know what? “Stir” no longer even looks like a real word!)
Load the top rack of the dishwasher.
Stir, stir, stir, stir, stir, stir, stir!
Pet the dog. (Wash hands)
Stir, stir, stir, stir, stir, stir, stir, stir!
Drink some more tea (Darn, now it’s cold!).
Stir, stir, stir, stir, stir, stir, stir, stir, stir!”
Finally 180 degrees! My creme anglaise was fairly thick but still rather yellow.
It didn’t look quite like the picture in the cookbook.

Hmmm….. “dog-pee-in-the-snow” colored creme anglaise. (Which was not helped by the addition of vanilla.)
What’s a girl to do?

I strained it into a ceramic bowl and refrigerated it overnight.

Sunday night I made the islands, beating room temp egg whites with a pinch of salt and a quarter cup of sugar until it held stiff peaks.

Once the meringue beaten egg whites and sugar were ready, I gently used an ice cream scoop to drop the white blobs into a pan of simmering milk, cooking three or four at a time for about a minute and a half per side.

Weebles wobble but they won’t fall down.
Meringue quivers but it won’t flip over.

I set the islands on waxed paper and then refrigerated them until they were ready to serve.

After positioning a beautiful white island in the center of each pool of snowy dog urine creme anglaise I went about preparing the strands of caramel.

I used a small skillet, rather than a sauce pan, and brought water and sugar to a boil. Luckily caramel should not be stirred (or the sugar might crystallize) because my stirring arm was still pretty tired from the night before. (And that’s why I DID NOT rock at Wii bowling, yessirree.)

Excuses, excuses.

Anyway, the sugar water took a long time to come to a boil and I kinda got distracted. (Yes, I was unloading/reloading the dishwasher AGAIN! (brief aside: Um, whose dish month is it anyway?))

And my caramel, well, let’s just say it had “charred undertones.” It was also pretty darn thick, so I added a touch of heavy cream to thin it.

I used a fork to drizzle the caramel across the top of the islands and distributed one to each member of my family. Even to the lackadaisical dishwasher.

Taylor said “What is this?” And then wouldn’t taste it.

My husband was lying facedown, possibly dead or maybe just listening to the radio. (“You know how I know you’re gay? How? Because you like Coldplay.”)

Reagan and I sat down to eat ours.
Creme Anglaise? YUM YUM YUM YUM.
The Meringue? YUM YUM.
The Caramel? I think I pulled out a filling.
p2080002-small

Anxiety in All Things

February 5, 2009

Some of the blogs I read participate in “Grace in Small Things;” the bloggers list, each day, five small things that make them thankful. I’ve adopted the habit whilst I wile away the early morn in bed (rather than on my treadmill, where my ass really should be!)

I made a rule for myself, no easy outs, no being thankful for my family or my friends, those are too obvious. Instead I try to come up with five new small things each day.

So far I’ve been thankful that I’m not that tree-wart-virus guy from the Discovery Channel and that I don’t have eight (or fourteen, for that matter) kids and a bitchy wife.

But I’m finding that the exercise is backfiring as being thankful, oddly enough, brings out the anxiety gnomes and the stress hobgoblins.
For example:
1. “I am thankful for my RAV4. It’s been a wonderful car and has 190,000 miles on it and never needs repairs.”

“Hmmm.. but 190,000 miles, that’s a lot. It’s sure to break down soon. What if it does? We can’t afford another car. Shit!”

2. “I’m thankful that my kids have been getting along very well lately.”

“Is that really good? What if Rea starts hanging out with Tay and being nice to his friends and one of his friends gets a crush on her and she gets pregnant and instead of being a lawyer she ends up dropping out of school and having many a bairn?”

3. “I’m thankful that we have healthy food.”

“But, really, is it healthy? Is all the Splenda I consume causing cancer, right now, maybe in my pituatary gland? What about the four pounds of butter I purchase a week, for baking? Maybe my arteries are already clogged.”

4. “I’m thankful for my casual workplace, which I love.”

“What if I get laid off? I’ll have to get a ‘regular’ job. One that precludes the wearing of flip flops, and possibly mandates the wearing of heels. I hate high heels. Plus, what if I can’t find ANY job, even one that requires dreaded footwear?”

5. “I’m thankful for my kids’ good grades.”

“But, really, they don’t spend much time doing homework. Just an hour a day so maybe they are learning a bad lesson, not much work + good grades = extrinsically reinforced laziness. And Tay, he has a 3.75 GPA but is only ranked 16/54. That’s not even in the the top quarter of his class. What if he doesn’t get into college? Or does, but doesn’t qualify for any scholarships?”

It’s not pessimism, so much as superstition; there’s a little part of me that honestly believes, “If I worry about it, it won’t happen.”

Crazy, I know.

And, yes, I have discussed this with a medical professional. Who prescribed anti-anxiety meds.

However, the thought of not worrying filled me with worry. I worried that if I didn’t worry, I might not worry about something I SHOULD worry about and it would have possible (ta-dum!) worrisome consequences.

(Hmm.. I guess my husband, in counting his blessings, can’t include “mentally healthy wife!”)

TWD #5: World Peace Cookies

February 3, 2009

This weeks Tuesday’s with Dorie recipe is “Word Peace Cookies.”

They are quite delicious, no matter what my son with the unsophisticated tastes says. He thought they were “too salty.” But then again, he doesn’t like guacamole or grilled cheese. He’s a weirdo.
p2020074-small

Poo on him!
And on my boss who told me recently that she “leaves the salt out of most recipes.”

p2020078-small

I love salt.

In fact, a world without salt would be quite tasteless. (Heee heee)

I made the dough on Sunday, sifting the flour, cocoa powder, salt and leavening into one bowl and beating butter til light and fluffy in another. Granulated and brown sugar were added to the butter, followed by vanilla and then the dry ingredients were briefly beaten in and the chopped chocolate was mixed in via wooden spoon.

For the chocolate I used a mixture of Nestle semisweet mini-chips and Scharffen Berger 70% Cacao Bittersweet Chocolate that I finely chopped.

At this point the dough looked like small pebbles so I was a bit worried. Nevertheless, I scooped it out into two piles on seperate pieces of waxed paper, picking up the edges of the paper, sling-like, I used the paper to press the dough into shape, easily forming two cohesive logs.

I sliced the chilled dough into 1/2″ rounds and baked it, a cookie sheet at a time, for 12 minutes. I did end up with a bit of crumbling during slicing, but the dissassembled pieces were easy re-attach, nevertheless, I ate most of them!

Upon removal from the oven, the cookies were sprinkled with salt. I couldn’t find the recommended fleur de sel in my area, so I used large grain sea salt, sprinkling four to five grains on each cookie.

You can see the salt in this picture:
p2020089-small
Oh, and make sure you note the terribly “ungreen” foam plate.
Fancy!

Yes, these are salty cookies-in a good way. Very chocolatey with a wonderful sandy texture. I can see why they are named “World Peace Cookies.” Thank you so much Jessica of cookbookhabit for your excellent selection.